Photo - General Tsadkan Gebretensae

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General Tsadkan Gebretensae’s piece on Ethiopia’s current political challenges. triggered heated discussion on social media and elsewhere on the internet. One of those reactions is Prof. Messay Kebede’s review posted on EthioMedia.

Gen. Tsadkan have sent HornAffairs his response to Prof. Messay Kebede.

Dear Professor Messay!

I would like to thank you for taking your time not only to read but write your views on the basis of the piece I wrote. Again, I thank you for your kind words and encouraging me to dig deep into the roots of the problems our country is in.

The purpose of this short note is to acknowledge that I have seen and read your comments, and would like to say some few things to clarify my point of view.

1. With regard to how I see the situation in our country now and my intentions, you have clearly captured it, when you say “the stake is non-other than the survival of Ethiopia……”. The solution “implementation of Democracy……on the verdict of the people”. This is right.

2. Yes, I have said, and characterized the struggle of the people of Tigray led by the TPLF, as basically democratic and revolutionary, even though I did not say “solid deeply engrained tradition of democratic methods ……”. I think any popular armed struggle in a country like ours; (economically agrarian, politically feudal society; with a long uninterrupted history of autocratic rule, no tradition of democracy); can’t produce the type of democracy you described. Nonetheless the issue that the people of Tigray fought for; under the leadership of the TPLF; was democratic (struggle for all democratic rights), and it was revolutionary; because we fought for a revolutionary change in Tigray and the whole of Ethiopia against a tyrannical regime. By the way, I would like to pose a question: what are the characteristics that one would measure against; whether a popular armed struggle was democratic or undemocratic?

3. The form of struggle, tactic to achieve the objective was, armed struggle. This necessitated some restrictions on democratic ways of managing organizational affairs. In addition to this, we claimed to be “Marxist Leninists”. We followed the Leninists organizational principles. There could be an argument on the issue whether the whole Marxist Leninist ideology and principles of organization are undemocratic or the other way around. This will be ideological and will not take us anywhere at this stage. Even with those limitations, (limitation that emanate from the society where the struggle was born, and the limitations that were necessary to effectively conduct the armed struggle); I believe the TPLF did well and followed democratic principles. This is why I say the TPLF was democratic and revolutionary. But it was not without defects and challenges. I believe; after the capture of state power, the limitations, that are pointed out above, the socio-economic situation of our country; with the democratic deficit we had during the armed struggle; coupled together allowed the gradual evolution and dominance of the undemocratic characteristics of the organization.

4. I don’t claim to know all the knowledge on the political economy of the Developmental state VS Neo liberal political economy. But from the limited readings of the issues, I know there is a huge tension between the need for intervention of the state in economic activities, and the requirement to have stable political environment for the implementation of long term projects undertaken by the state. For a sustained and effective intervention of the state in the economic affairs, political stability is a requirement. This could be achieved preferably by democratic means or by all other means including using coercive measures (if all other measures fail). For me; using coercive means is not acceptable. At the same time, we can’t leave the economy to market forces alone, hence we shall manage and control the role and involvement of the state in the economic affairs of the country, which means democratic governance. I think this is a huge dilemma for a country like ours (Economically backward, multiethnic), which is necessitated by our socio economic situation. Under such a situation the democratic governance; I think will help us navigate through towards the establishment of a sustainably developing economy, and building a democratic society. I would assume this process will take time and a huge effort to galvanize the support of the population. I think this is the lesser evil that we have to accept rather than attempt to go in a rush, and possibly ruin the whole thing.

5. You have criticized me for being naïve and utopian, and even indicated that I could be accused of trying to prolong the life of the TPLF. Your reason to throw all those accusations at me is, my focus at the current constitution as a basis to peacefully resolve the problems we are in. I don’t think I am what you said I am. On the other hand, I am pragmatic and realistic. I am trying to identify what could work based on the realities on the ground. I don’t see any other frame of reference, for the whole country to initiate peaceful; orderly; managed change, except on the basis of the current constitution. The other alternative I see is to fight and resolve our differences. I don’t take this as an option to discuss. If it comes it will come by itself and I think the final result will be mutual destruction. That is how I see it, hence the call to avert the other scenario that I discussed. With regard to the current constitution; as much as you don’t agree on article 39, I think many Ethiopians within the Oromos; the Tigrians, the afars, Southern nations and nationalities, the Somalis, and Amharas etc. will feel comfortable with the article in the constitution. Besides; this is the only document that has been accepted by the people of Ethiopia to serve as the basis for governing the country, though I know there is strong opposition to some of the provisions including the article mentioned as well. The same thing goes to other issues you raised. My point is we need to have this frame of reference to use as a basis for a peaceful change, even to change it at a later stage constitutionally.

6. I did not say or assume that “the foundation of the government is good but implementation is the problem”. In fact, I pointed out the problems in the government and the ruling party. I even went further and said the problem is systemic. That is why I suggested that those problems could not be solved by the ruling party alone. That is why I suggested that there shall be a structure where all political forces and the populace at large through various forms of organization, shall participate and reach consensus on the way forward including revising some of the laws and reorganize some of the institutions, especially those related to elections. The objective of which shall be; to enable; the creation of a level playing field for all political parties to compete freely and fairly in the coming election. Above all I think this process will be instrumental in the development of trust and confidence of the population in the integrity of the political system in general which is greatly lucking at present. It goes without saying that I see the ruling party as one of the main actors and part of the process.

7. I have noted your point where you say the constitution was meant not to be implemented by its architects, it was meant to cover up other intentions. I disagree with you. The issue here is: given your perception of the constitution, there is no room for constructive dialogue to resolve the problem we are in; peacefully. The option we will be left with as people will be to dig our trenches and fight, the result as I said earlier will be mutual destruction. Nobody will be a “winner” in such a violent undertaking. Even if by any chance there comes a “winner” political group, that could come in any form; those “liberators” will demand their share of power for another decade or two. The same cycle will continue again. I don’t think this is an option for our country.

8. I did not have the intension to go into deep theoretical discussions, which I see no practical results coming out of it at this time. My desire is to reach an agreement or consensus (whichever one choses) on the state of affairs in our country, and to look for realistic solutions pragmatically. In an effort to enlighten the general public I might have ventured into some theoretical arguments in my previous paper, the intension was to explain some issues. In this regard; in my opinion policy difference that emanate from ideological differences, like Neo liberal political thinking, versus what is now popularly known as critical thinking, or for that matter other political thinking; could not be resolved by political debates among scholars and political elites. Those long standing differences are resolved and ought to be resolved by the verdict of the electorate. It is clear that we have differences that emanate from our ideological orientation; those can only be resolved by the choice of the electorate in a free and fair election. At this stage what I would say is; let all of us commit to a free and fair election and accept the verdict of the electorate.

Thank you very much!

Gen. Tsadkan



  1. Thanks to Lt. General Tsadkan’s prompt response to Dr. Mesay’s opinion. This should show to Dr. Mesay how candid, respectful, civil and free from emotion one should be in discussing an issue as important as the future of our country. Lt. General Tsadkan’s response clarifies several points which, I believe, will help Dr. Mesay and many others of the same political persuation to reflect long and hard on issues. Unless they moderate their rhetoric, propegating animocity to underme and topple the government will eventually be destructive.

    To help the discussion, I left the following omment on a certain page. Believeing in its relevance after I saw Lt. General Tsadkan’s response to Dr. Mesay, I have reposted it below with minor changes:

    “It has been a couple of days since I read Lt. General Tsadkan’s essay on the situation of our country. I found him comprehensive and thorough in approach and analysis and honest in his suggestions.

    I realize that opinions on the essay vary from support to mixed to outright rejection. Dr. Messay’s reaction falls in the mixed one. He srtarted by praising the General and then by attacking his ideas. I called it an attack because Dr. Messay seems to have missed the central point the General wanted to convey – save the country from disintigaration and its people from chaos.

    I feel that the General rightly identified a document on which Ethiopians – irrespective of their ethnicity and political leanings – can work on together to address the political and other complex problems of our country: the constitution. There is no political document of concensus or national political norm or principle or general understandig ( written or unwritten) on which everybody agrees right now. Unless all stakeholders in the political game come together to draw a new document which seems unlkely as things stand now, the constitution provides a way out to the impasse. Both the government and the opposition (including the armed and violent ones) invoke some important articles of the constitution when it serves their purpose. That is to say – article related to law and order by the government and democratic and human rights by the opposition. As the General suggested, respect of the constitution and rights enshrined in it will surely change the situation in Ethiopia.

    Unless the constitution is taken seriously by both the government and the opposition, the country and its people will face serious problem. First, a sizable portion of the opposition supports the constitution because of article 39. From his writings and speeches, one can easily understand that Dr. Mesay is opposed to Article 39. It is sad that he wanted to make Article 39 an issue before democracy since democracy might make the implementation of Article 39 irrelevant. Second, only the constitution restrics the army from contention for power and ensures its peaceful transfer from one party to another. Should one oppose this? Not in his right mind.

    Does it matter matter who drafted and adopted the constitution or what its weaknesses are at this juncture if it can be used as a workng document in the absence of any other? I don’t think so.

    Accpting the constitution as a working document presupposes certain things the opposition including Dr. Mesay might not like. If the constitution is upheld, the government stays because the constitution states power is not to be taken by a means other than election. Should this be an isse if democratic rights are respected? I don’t think so. And that’s what the General said. To me, his concern is that the risk to the country and its people is enormous if the government including regional governments fall. His concern is founded. He called the government to respect democratic rights including free and fair elections and live by its outcome which means orderly transfer of power without chaos.

    The way things go in the country right now might precipitate military takeover – invited by the government or without invitation. Given our history, military rule will not be a pleasant experience. The military is capable to stop mass uprisings anywhere in the country and rule by a decree for a decade or so without a risk of overthrow. If the government falls and military takeover is avoided miraculously, it is fair to assume the chaos in the country will only compare to that of Somalia. For someone with open eyes and ears, the recipe for mutual destruction is already in palce. The suggestion that the diaspora oppostion which has started talking to each other lately will reign on the chaos in the country is simply a hope that will never realize.

    This is not fear mongering, but a call for the government to come to its senses and avoid an impending disaster. The General called the government to respond to the demands of the people openly expressed in the recent uprisings and demands of other millions which have not taken it to the streets. The General does not seem tobe worried about diaspora opposition or the weak opposition in the country; his concerns are lack of respect of democratic rights and free and fair elections. Would the government listen? Let’s cross our fingures.

    As to Dr. Mesay’s opinion, his criticism of the General’s essay is off the mark. He goes into what all of us have known for decades: what TPLF was and actually is, why the constitution was put in place and its shortcomings such as Article 39 and land issues, etc. If he disapproves the General’s suggestion that the government respect the constitution which means it also respects democratic rights including free and fair elections, it is fair to expect him to put forward a better alternative. Did he suggest any alternative? No. Not at least openly on his present opinion. From his previous speeches and writings, it is clear that he is for toppling the government no matter what comes in the aftermath.”

    Thanks again.

  2. Seems you guys are already discussing something sensible. The question for the General though, which the good prof also impliedly alluded to, is where have you been for so long and weren’t (and aren’t) you part of the problem, architecture of the regime? You cannot just turn around and mix with the sheep. In other words, many of those who think you are merely acting (discursively) to neutralize the clamor for change. Yesew chuhet ayikemu, General! If you really mean what you say, do something that the whole nation will remember and honor you for years to come. If you mean it, we believe you can do. Otherwise, leave the discourse to the sort of the Prof whose job it is to discourse. Soldiers do things, do not discourse; unless you are also one of the type of our ministers who goes to Phd after being a minister of a government of 100 million souls. BTW, it would be a crime to go to school for PhD for a minister if we were a sane nation. Ours is crazy government, crazy people, on the cliff dancers. Why would a minister go to school– and how did become a minister if he still had to go to school. This is not a colonial administration where the colonist race has to learn and govern at same time. There are millions of qualified Ethiopians, go back to school and comeback when you have your degree. don’t both at the same time. Last, I thought I’d tell you that I found it super funny to read DR Arekebe thanking ministry of Trade and whatever for giving him office space and data— seriously, Dr. Arkebe???

  3. I read both articles of LGT and Dr. Messay’s. I admire the cool headedness of LGT on all his artciles. I found his articles unique by there is name calling in it. Dr. Messay may love his country, but he is erratic, inconsistent, emotional and hard to follow him. His hyper reaction in the support of the violent Oromo protest was a litmus test about him.

    I agree with Dr. Messays so on his perception of the following:
    1. His opposition to article 39 is very valid, I have never met any Ethiopians who has fallen in love with articles 39. On article 39, I bet most enlightened Ethiopians against article 39. Thus he has a point on that.
    2. The constitution is designed not to be implemented? I agree with Dr. Messay. The constitution is fake because as LGT himself mentioned in his previous articles, EPRDF never use the constitution and we have seen laws made over night and enforced on the legal system. The constitution is a smoke screen or cosmetic only . It is meant to to be used for real. Article 39 is also part of it. And even if the constitution is applied, it is against the unity of the country and it designed either to scare or to divide the country. My perception the article 9 is used as tool to scare people so that they can respect each other otherwise, article 39 will be invoked when there is trouble simmering and in short article 39 is designed to protect the whole system during political crisis.

    In my opinion, the constitution was imposed by the ruling party and OLF, the constitution did not emanate or originate from the public discourse. Elite Ethiopians were excluded during its development and only OLF and TPLF are the architects. People from different ethnics might support it now because they have been brain washed by it to serve the system and however, article 39 is inadvertently designed to dismantled Ethiopia by creating more gaps and even denying Ethiopians mobility within their country.

    I disagree with LGT that article 39 is supported by the people and its benefits.

    I agree with LGT the way forward is to implement democracy fully and peacefully. We have to build on what has been achieved instead of destroying everything to start from scratch which will also require another 30 years. We must believe in equality, transparency, accountability, impartiality and implement democracy. To do this we have to start from the existing platform and build things on it in a much better standard. National issues must be discussed honestly based on our short term and long term national interest. Anything driven by hate or chauvinism will not get us anywhere.

  4. For me Mesay Kebede is an evil person who dreams day and night for elimination of Tigrigna speaking people from the face of the earth. Everyone knows that Mesay was a nighttime political advisor of Col. Mengistu, and an architect of the slogan “Drying the Sea to Kill the Fish”. We used to call him “mauvais” at AAU – which in French roughly mean “evil”. He was notoriously famous for categorically grading all student from Tigray and Eritrea to “D” and “F”. As a faculty we all very well know he does that but who would mess with a man who walks every night to the “Palace”. That was the whole entire reason he immediately flee from Ethiopia as soon as EPRDF controlled Addis. Riots in Oromia, Gondar, etc., all has evil Mesay’s hands in one way or another. He pray the people in Oromia and Gondar to raise their machetes against the people of Tigray. To some extent he has succeeded.

    General Tsadkan, how much far you are from TPLF, you are still a Tigraway. Please stop playing with evils like this. Keep your dignity and loyalty to the people of Tigray. That machete includes you and all yours, regardless and indiscriminately, if Mesay gotten the chance. You will simply be that “dead fish”, and our beautiful land once he call it can’t even generate revenue to buy a piece of chalk “the dry sea”.

    1. What you said may have a kernel of truth but Your comment is the kind of comment that amounts to “throwing fuel on to fire”. I am personally encouraged by this open dialogue between officials former or present and the public at large. This should be supported, not denigrated. It is my hope that more officials and opposition leaders participate in order to lead the nation to a peaceful solution.

  5. Message to LGTG ( L. General Tsadkan Gebretnsae ),I kindly request you to get back to your part and repair it before the country descends into unforeseen human disaster. You must not wait until things get out of control and people start people killing each other. Small mistake can open never ending civil war in the country. As such,do not wait until things get bad and as we see the trend, things are not getting better. The regimes leaders have become Gadaffi and will never badge or listen to public cry. They have 100% in the past 25 years. The people of Ethiopia are not camels to be forced by few people forever how to live. If there is a problem in Ethiopia now, it is only because of the rigid and dictatoral nature of the TPLF leaders. Remember, dictators are always right and they never listen or never badge and we have seen derg did the same, Gadaffi the same ,Sadam did the same and … my appeal to you, please get together you old friends like Siye Abraha, Gebru, .. . and others and save the country before it is too late. Prevention is better than cure. If civil war starts, it will be impossible to stop it because different interest groups will get involved in the conflict. You can see how South Sudan has become so difficult to bring peace. Please, the article you wrote is good, but action is needed more than words now. This is critical time for Ethiopia. There external enemies who will do all they can to capitalize on our differences and there are Ethiopians who are hell bent to do anything to get to power by any means as they told us already. They will do anything to get to power, even if it means helping enemies country. Do not expect the narrow, rigid, ignorant, arrogant TPLF leaders will ever listen to the public. As you can see, Aiga website is telling us all Ethiopians who complain about the corrupt regime are exremists. Who is really extremist? is it the one who force to be ruled by guns or those who people who wanted good system, freedom? Justice, equality? Please do something, be a man of action. As I said, one small mistake can ignite a civil war while people are overlooking what is happening right now.

    Ethiopians are in general decent. They would not kill each other, but the regime has prepared that condition now. The ground fertile for genocide.The regime has prepared ready for interethnic conflict and even genocide. This regime is purely evil and so blind. Please, please get together with like minded and take practical action on the situation. The Woyane Shabia leaders in Arat kilo better listen to you and your comrades than waiting until they get dragged from Arat kilo like Gadaffi. Now for them it may appear impossible, but such scenario can happen suddenly in a country which is ethnically highly charged. Please take my suggestion seriously and do something about it. Do not wait for the regime to do anything. They will never see it until it knocks their offices doors.

  6. This comment is for both the General and Profesor. The first thing we should focus is how to stop the killing of our people. It is not the time to write a long paper about the constitution and democracy. Our people are killed at this time as we are having this discussion. Why it is difficult to ask the government publicly to stop killing our people for General if there is honest feeling or caring for our people. The General should ask the government to stop the killing publicly to be on the people side. The General should ask the government publicly to free Bekele Gerba, Andargachew Tsege, Eskinder Nega…….etc right now! We don’t have a lexurey time to write and read about TPLF’s achievements and shortcomings. People are being killed as we discuss this. You will be judged by history. How many years you are going to live after this, May be 10 years if you are lucky. Just do the right thing for your children to give a better Ethiopia. People are daying to have just and freedom. We know no body will kill you if you stand and reject openly this government. Don’t be a politician on people blood. If you scared as a lot of people do, please keep your silence and we respect that. Nothing will stop the people’s movement like this. Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

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