Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CUD and Democracy: An exchange

This is an exchange I had with EZ Post reader. Those who are tired of reading simple principles parroted here ad nauseum could take a well-deserved break from the blog.
Deliberative Democracy?
(by Alem Belay)
Dear EZ:
Before I go on, please accept my gratitude for your tireless updates over the past several months.  Knowing what it takes to do what you have done, I truly admire your commitment.

Now to my point.  I have been hearing and reading stories regarding "dictatorial tendencies" or non-collective decision-making by some Kinijit leaders.   I take in  these stories and think of a couple of things.

The first is that, as this is the first genuinely inclusive opposition party that really integrated itself into the fabric of Ethiopian society, people have made it more than what it is.  They seem to have forgotten that this party is made up of individual human beings who are fallible.   It has and will, stumble, fall, fracture, make mistakes, and go through all the follies other human-formed organizations must, at one time or another.  Therefore, it should not surprise anyone when Kinijit fumbles.  Somehow though, because of their amazing ability to galvanize the Ethiopian people before and during the 2005 elections and their fearless confrontation with the government, leaders of Kinijit have been elevated to the status of super-human beings who can do no wrong.  Some of the leaders, sadly, have also come to believe this.  As recently as a week ago, one of the leaders has said that the party made no mistakes! This is the type of belief that will fracture Kinijit even faster. ( If you ask me, the mistakes that Kinijit made actually extended the life of a regime that was on the verge of committing suicide.   But I leave this discussion for another day.)  Also, let's not forget that these are politicians with big egos. ( People with small egos don't get into politics.  If they do, they stay on the fringes performing supporting roles.   For these folks, the view is always nice from the cheap seats.)  So, when one politician with a big ego feels that his/her name is not seen in as a bright a light as the next politician with a massive ego, all kinds of dynamics occur, including leaking stories such as "so and so is a dictator, while I, on the other hand, am a true democrat who believes in 'deliberative democracy'."   Some of the rumors about 'dictatorial tendencies' certainly emanate from such petty attitudes.  One thing we must convince ourselves of is that we do not elect politicians for their purity in every aspect of their lives.  We follow them for their ability to bring people and resources around worthy causes and getting the right things done to help their constituency/country. 

Second, this thing about the so called "deliberative" democracy needs to be looked at seriously.  There is no proof that communal deliberation is always a good thing.  However, the generation that cut its teeth when socialism was in vogue seems to think that every decision has to be deliberated upon.  Veering slightly off tangent for a second, one of the worst sins of Kinijit was its need to 'deliberate' with the public whether it should join parliament or not!  How ludicrous was that!!  At that time my thought was, "if these people get to power, are we going to have to meet every other day at Qebele to tell them how to decide on every issue?" 
A strong leadership is required for any organization to succeed.  On the other hand, if the concept of  "deliberative democracy" is taken too seriously, the organization will become paralyzed and polarized.  Executive committee members with such belief may expect consensus all the time.  If they lose a vote, they accuse the winning side of dictatorial tendencies.  By the way, what is democracy, if not the dictatorship of the majority?  If our ideals happen to hold freedom high, we should not fear dissention in the ranks.  On the other hand, we need strong leaders who are committed to the cause of freedom and work hard to rally people around that cause.  History, contrary to what we were taught under Marxism, is not always made by the masses.  It is, on the other hand, littered with deeds of individuals dedicated to a cause -- good or bad.

Therefore, Kinijit, as unbelievable as it may seem to those with eyes deliberately wide shut, will fall prey to individual fallabilities.  Remember, even Lidetu Ayalew was once a member of Kinijit.  It is as certain, as the day is long, that others will also leave the party and  new ones will join.  This is not weakness.  It is just how the life of the party will continue (no pun intended here)
There will be some bad days in the not too distant future when secrets will come out that may embarrass strong supporters.  Again, we need to move on knowing that these are just growing pains and that even worse things could come down the road.  


(by Ethio-Zagol)
Dear Alem: 

Thank you for the comments. You have certainly raised three very important issues. Let me first deal with your skepticism of deliberative democracy. I didn't use deliberative democracy as a synonym to public deliberation. Neither did the CUD during the election. Obviously, if the concept of political equality is taken in its fullest sense, it may call for direct mass participation. But that undermines the value of deliberation - political discourse based on information, attention to the issues and understanding of the interest of others. Political equality taken in that sense also puts another ideal - non-tyranny of the majority- at risk. It endangers the non-political rights of the minority - freedoms of the moderns - unless we put those rights as trumps and, therefore, as constraints to democracy.  During the election the CUD, I remember, had proposed putting those rights as inviolable values. Yet it didn't go far with that because putting rights as trumps needed the total overhaul of the constitutional provisions which clearly deny the judiciary the power to interpret the constitution. So the choice for the CUD then was to adopt the conception of deliberative democracy, a conception which reconciles deliberation based on the idea of public reason, political equality and non-tyranny.

The devil, however, sits in the details, and I have to agree that some of the application of that conception during and after the election was rather messy even though I don't count the example you raised - the public debate about joining or not joining parliament - as one of those messy applications.

Now to your second point. I fully agree that there is a tendency to grandiosity among us, the pro-democracy camp. We may have made Kinijit, as you said, more than it is. I think it is the nature of the other camp and the history of other political groupings which have caused this tendency and the tendency has definitely fed the egos of some politicians in kinijit.  That is why we have to be very careful in avoiding the equation I raised in my earlier article when we analyze something like the recent problem in Kinijit. An important personality in the organization may have serious complaints against the democratic decision of the council or any authoritative body. We may side with him on that, and criticize the decision of Kinijit as a party. But that doesn't reduce the value of democracy as ultimately on balance the decisions that are made democratically are better (whatever the value) than the decisions that are made undemocratically. That doesn't also mean that the person who has serious complaints can make the party hostage to his whims.  If you remember, some of the grievances Lidetu aired against the democratic decisions of the council were rather serious, and at least demanded our investigation. Yet he made the wrong move in his attempt to split the party, and was finally shown the exit door.       

I also take your third point about the value of strong individual leaders to heart.  We need them. The party needs to give them power and resources to organize and rally people around worthy values. But the power has to come from the party. The leaders shouldn't assume it by themselves based on self-evaluation. That is usurpation of power.  






Anonymous said...

" he made the wrong move in his attempt to split the party, and was finally shown the exit door."

UDEP-Medhin has gone! This time who will show the exit door for whom???

In the Kinijit Council AEUP has the Lion's share! It is evident that AEUP will show the exist door for Kestedemena BB group!!!

Anonymous said...








Anonymous said...

"deliberative democracy" is taken too seriously"
What is really too seriously? If democracy is not group decision what is it then? Where do you draw the line between "strong Leader" and a dictator?

Anonymous said...

now you are taking to yourself. Kinijit is nothing but collections of feudal leftovers. Kinijit has nothing to democaracy and never will. This is party which can not handle its problem democratically. It is driven by hate than reality, logic or needs of the people of Ethiopia. Peace for my people

Anonymous said...

ye denkoro leqso meleso meleso:
CUD did not and will not exist with people who have diametrically opposite agendas. They may all agree in getting rid of EPRDF but once that is accomplished, the purging of one another would begin. Unfortunately, the first goal can not be accomplished since all is focusing on the later goal first and formost.

Anonymous said...

This is something enjoyable.
Please make this a regular part of your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your effort on keeping the blog.

I pretty much agree with Alem’s analysis
Let me add few points. The apparent in-existence tradition of democracy in Ethiopia has a lot to do with the inherent challenge in CUD, including the egocentrics.
When you have a party entrusted, by the majority, to lead for freedom and democracy and as the same time crippled itself bickering on basics of democracy, the advantage goes to the incumbent to justify it position in power.
Kinjit has to be certain and confident in its decisions, regardless what people might think.
Some of the choices made may seem wrong in the short term, has to be looked to its long term advantages. This group can not accommodate every peace loving society’s agenda.


Anonymous said...

Now you are taking after "lewit", the blogger. Why post your doodlings here? Don't you have a job, one wonders?

Or are you trying to justify your unjustifyable midwifery in the split?

See, jibberish like that only serve to confuse not clarify. Unless of course you are trying to latch on to the profeteers circling the demised CUD.

Anonymous said...

In the 2005 election, who voted based on the concept of deliberative/revolutionary democracy???? I am sure even 10% of those voted for CUD don’t know the concept of “deliberative democracy”! It is simply enough to bear in mind the slogans and posters displayed by the public on the 6 may 2005 grand gathering at Meskel square!

The problem of CUD is simply elite power competition!! What is the solution??

CUD as a single party is never materialized! It has no legal status yet!!! Hence it can’t call its council to deliberate on the current conflict! The solution is simply to make null and void the merger agreement signed on the 14 September 2005 and work as a simple coalition as it was formed initially! This will

1-avoid the power struggle which is the source of the current problem car everyone is the leader of its party ,
2- allow them to make a meeting and to work on common issues without killing totally CUD!!
3- Allow the Diaspora to organise different support groups for the different parties without creating a laughable allegation and character assassination
4- Allow a simple and smooth separation of the coalition parties if they are unable to work together

Anonymous said...

Add to that "ad infinitum", friend, and you would capture the collective feeling of your readers.

Spare us the nausea.

Anonymous said...

thanks ez as always interesting.we need such kind of mature dialogue!!!
regarding cud some people seem obsessed about the factions and the power struggle inside the party but unable to see the future. what made cud strong was the coming together of different parties that have common principles despite the presences of a lot of lets talk of the next uedp is on its own and do you think if cud splits will their be anyone who can seriously challenge woyane?if cud is wanted to get strong it should widen its base of support by uniting other parties as well not disintegrate itself with pitty disaggrements!!!!

Anonymous said...

“If cud is wanted to get strong it should widen its base of support by uniting other parties as well not disintegrate itself with pitty disaggrements!!!!”

This was the wish of every supporters! Unfortunately, that is not the case! The character assignation is already started form the two sides! If they are unable to get united, it is better to avoid offending each other and separate smoothly!!!

Anonymous said...

Too much hairsplitting. Lots bogus and unrealistic words copied from Western books, none reflects the reality on the ground. Hadn’t we tried 30yrs ago “as Marx, as Engles, as Lennin” said? The question everyone seems forgetting is that the county is on a cross road, on the verge of disintegration. It is the same question that the CUD leaders are overlooking and fighting each other.

Anonymous said...

Ethiopia has amny enemies and problems. Kinijit is not up to solving any of them. The etiopian people need to look beyond kinijit and move on. From what is happening Eprdf is the only thing there to play with. Kinijit is dead and let us move on and safe our country with Eprdf.

Anonymous said...

I am being very disappoint by this CUD division. I could not believe what I am hearing and what Dr. Nege and his friends did. They shoud have solve their diferences with Eng. Hailu Shawel. I think they (Dr. Nega & co)have been tricked by the diaspora politics. I do not think they did their homework o diaspora's politics. i am very sorry. I was a supporter of CUD until this time. Now I know that I cannot count on these people. They should't betray their comrades. Today they betrayed Eng. Hailu.. tomorrow it is going be someone from theri own circle.. I am not even a big fan of Eng. Hailu. But, the way they handle this situation is a SHAME. I do not think they are capable of running Ethiopia. They cannot be a government, and trust me they will never win, unless they come to the table and solve their proble in a professionsl manner. SAD!
Right now Ethiopia is in good hand with EPRDF and the Meles adminstration.