"Dictators are Made and Not Born"

Twenty years after the military regime is ousted, democratic relations have hardly made a progress and Ethiopia is still suffering under autocracy.

The sole difference is just a changed marker, new allies, a shifted social base & international context.

I.e. “the intermeshing of four critical conditions [the
centralization of power, the absence of strong civil society, ideological
justification, and favorable international context” /p.4 (1)] has received a different marker.

In other words,the following line of discussion can as well be valid to the regime of Melese Zenawi.  The imperative of change from below is still missing and genuine democratic relations have been for long stifled in the early infancy, with the consequence of the prevailing one-man dictatorship in Ethiopia.

I would however say, the crucial difference is that Mengistu and his allies have challenged the “solomonic myth” of the Emperor and have done away with the absolute monarchy; and Melese has been attacking the long standing “Ethiopian myth” of the nation-state and is on the verge of disintegrating the relatively advanced formation of the state in a region with long historic records of co-existence under diverse man-made and natural challenges.The consequence: Ethiopia is delivered away to being a prey of the new aggressive form of neu-colonialism in Africa (see Land-grabbing & the recent wholesale of age old Ethiopian National corporations to foreign global “players”)

Please see the following  relevant and persuasive essay on the issue of dictatorship. 

Indeed, concluding with the final inquiry:
The…”four factors were critical in creating dictatorship in Ethiopia, one could
also effectively utilize the same understanding to examine the extent to
which the processes of democratization in Ethiopia and other countries
are facilitated or obstructed by the presence/absence of the conditions
under discussion.”


The thesis of this study is that dictators cannot be made in spite of socially propitious circumstances for their existence. Accordingly, transcending person-centered approaches – which limit themselves to intra-individual dynamics in the explanation of the origin of authoritarianism – I demonstrate how four important factors in concert have contributed to the making of Mengistu HaileMariam of Ethiopia as a dictator. First, the social and political basis for Mengistu’s dictatorship was grilled by his predecessor, Emperor HaileSelassie, who, in order to augment his political position, was deeply interested in the centralization of power. Second, the absence of strong civil society, which could have acted as a counterweight to state power, set the condition for Mengistu’s dictatorial regime. Third, Mengistu and his table companions justifi ed their rule by an emergent ideology whose premises were drawn from the political philosophy of Marxism–Leninism and the social history of Ethiopia. Finally, favorable international context created a structurally conducive atmosphere for dictatorship through the acquisition of appropriate resources that reinforced Mengistu’s militaristic establishment. However, none of these conditions by itself effectively addresses the issue under discussion without aligning it with the remaining set of conditions. Future study needs to focus on other cases in order to see if the same state of affairs were operative in the rise of a dictator.  (I.e. in the case of Melese Zenawi too, my comment)

Keywords: centralization of power, civil society, favorable international context,
ideology, person-centered approach, the social construction of dictatorship

1) http://jds.sagepub.com/content/26/3/295.full.pdf

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