Following the camps in Ethiopia, we headed to the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, for the Language of Liberty Institute’s first event in that country. The 2-day seminar on Liberty and Entrepreneurship was organized by two previous Liberty Camp students, Edo Omerčević from the local economic think tank Centar za poslovnu afirmaciju and Admir Čavalić from the local NGO Multi. Both men are founders of their respective organizations and very active in the promotion of liberty and free enterprise .
Some 16 students attended the seminar and we enjoyed instructive discussions on the current state of Bosnia in terms of ease of doing business, taxation, bureaucracy, and government interference in the lives of people generally. Unfortunately, Bosnia’s ratings on these issues are among the lowest in Europe and it is not easy to start a new business. A few of the students were actual entrepreneurs, mainly in the IT industry, and the obstacles that government bureaucracy places in their way are very counterproductive and will not help the country in its economic development.
Bosnia is still recovering from its recent tragic history of the mid-1990s and we had the opportunity visit the Srebrenica Gallery with its haunting images of the 13 July 1995 massacre of thousands of people in this village not that far from the Bosnian capital. The Old Town of Sarajevo was more positive, with mosques, a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a Roman Catholic cathedral all in close proximity to each other, demonstrating the traditional atmosphere of tolerance and pluralism.
This year, Sarajevo will be remembered for the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand on 28th June, that triggered World War I. There is certainly a lot of history here and not far from Tirana, Albania, the location for this year’s ISIL World Liberty Summit from 28 to31 August – an excellent opportunity to take in the beauty of Sarajevo and its important place in history.
Prior to the Bosnia camp, LLI conducted its first-ever Liberty Seminars in Ethiopia during December 2013. Organized by Kidus Mehalu from TEAM and Ethiopian Students for Liberty (ESFL) and supported by ISIL, the seminars were held in the capital Addis Ababa and in Kombolcha, a rural city located about 400 km northeast of the capital, from 12 to 18 December.
Ethiopia, with over 93 million people the second-largest country in Africa, is also one of the poorest countries on Earth. One of the oldest independent countries (at least 2,000 years), Ethiopia was an Italian colony for only 5 years (1936-41), interrupting the long reign of Emperor Haile Selassie who ruled the country from 1916 to 1930 as Regent and then as Emperor until 1974, when he was deposed in a military coup.
Since then, the history of Ethiopia has not been so positive. Although some form of democratic government was installed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had supported the 1974 coup, the country is still heavily under the influence of socialist policies, none more destructive than the prohibition on private land ownership.
The idea of individual liberty resonates very strongly with today’s young Ethiopians and they want to escape the environment of poverty that is now characteristic of Ethiopia. During our “Entrepreneurial Liberty Camp” we discussed entrepreneurship, a way of life that takes maximum advantage of liberty. The critical conditions for successful entrepreneurship: private property rights, the rule of law, and a laissez-faire attitude by the government, however, are lacking and make any but short-term investments difficult in both effort and resources.To the 100+ young people we met at our seminars, we offered a glimpse of what is possible in a world that is free from authoritarian government and artificial restrictions on creativity, innovation and personal initiatives. Subsequent visits will focus on practical steps to engage in entrepreneurial and/or civil activities to improve economic and political freedom in Ethiopia.
We want to congratulate Kidus for a successful year of promoting liberty in Ethiopia and for getting Students for Liberty off the ground in that country. He needs and deserves the assistance of freedom-loving people everywhere to spread the ideas of liberty to the broader community and to make it relevant in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.
LLI certainly hopes to go back to both Bosnia and Ethiopia and continue to encourage the young people in their efforts to promote liberty, free markets and entrepreneurship. We saw a lot of talent among our students this year and they deserve the opportunity to develop and apply these talents and to realize their full potential as individual human beings. The political environment needs to change, and together we can make a difference for the better.