Serious thinkers of past centuries like Charles de Montesquieu, George Buchanan, John Locke and others were the most effective exponent of the separation of powers of government. It’s literally thanks to them that all the constitutions of the world brag about the three branches of government: the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch. According to this principle the Legislative branch is the Parliament and they enact the laws. The Executive branch is the President or Prime Minister, who runs the daily business of government. The Judicial branch is the Courts who interpret the law and determine whether laws are constitutional or not. And yes, the 1995 constitution of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Republic, also adopted the separation of powers as the basis of its system. The problem is we still don’t know how to make it work. Hence democracy has been on hold, or work in progress according to the government.
Actually, real democracy cannot be ordered around or organized in such a heavy handed way. It requires kindness (why not), resilience and grit. The government is trying, right? What more can it do?

In the old days, there was no need for such a sophisticated governance system. To begin with, there was not much distance between governors and the governed. The latter know where the former live…and how they live…and how little difference there is between them. When they didn’t like their master, they chopped off his head. That’s the way things worked.

Fast forward to the politics of our time, with the separation of powers legality, accountability, transparency and availability of necessary resources between the branches of government, democracy was harder to achieve. But then again in Ethiopia, we had a taste of it, although it quickly struggled to move forward. Why? Some say it’s due to lack of vision and audacity of politicians of both aisles of the political spectrum…I say ‘Greed’!

Today citizens’ uncertainties about policy are interpreted as resistance to the party and the government, making it impossible to conduct rational debate. The consequence is that most Ethiopians, have lost the consciousness that they are the masters of their own country, so they don’t care about public affairs.

What would change things? Well, first, reaffirm and strengthen the government’s commitment to the doctrine of separation of powers and the principle of check and balance and its application. Encourage our elites to reflect on any political idea. Let them tell us what is the purpose of government? What does it cost and what benefits does it confer? To what extent the separation of power is practiced. Let’s make sure that our schools and the public ponder on these issues.

Twenty-first-century Ethiopians greatest challenge will be to rebuild the bridges that brings all the various nation and nationalities to base all their actions on the non-historical and more esoteric values of truth, justice and love. Their choice should be between serving human beings or serving history, between thinking ethically or thinking strategically.

They (the wenty-first-century Ethiopians) need to dismiss the temptation to shift to smaller targets – like, say, the person sitting next to you in your office. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win. They need to understand that individual initiative and developing new skills and capital isn’t going to be enough to fix failed systems. It requires first admitting the systems and institutions of the nation are inadequate and need to be completely re-worked from the ground up. It requires for the normal and sensible citizen to stand up, make more noise, and be counted. It requires that we do away with a system that allows a parliament with no opposition, a parliament which ignores the many voices who did not vote for the ruling party. It requires that we give up phony “reform” to demonstrate that the government is still functioning and that it is listening to the people. Reforming the country by tweaking the government machinery is fantasy, and all politicians know it. Any serious reform, therefore, has to start with the total review and transformation of the existing political structures and the reining in of the entrenched powers.

Now on the economic front, Ethiopia’s economic figures look good on the surface, but in reality, our people are becoming poorer and poorer. The unemployment rate remains severe. Salaries are falling backwards. The wealth gap is getting bigger and bigger. Life is becoming more and more unfair. Young people have less money to spend on rent, are afraid to get married, and don’t even feel sure they can afford to eat three meals a day. Hope is harder and harder to see. No wonder most people switch from producing to scheming and speculation, they seek more something for nothing… That’s zany!

We need to turn this around. How? When? May be with the region? The city? A single party? A coalition government? The market? We don’t know, but efforts are required at the level of technical debate, ideas, civil society, and national political parties to change government philosophies and reform. To begin with, we should all agree, that twenty first century government must aim to deliver twenty first century governance solutions. Will that happen?