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A minority domination and ethnic federalism in Ethiopia

By Berhanu G. Balcha

Ethnicity and federalism have become the major factors in organizing the political and territorial space in Ethiopia since 1991. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had started its movement for the liberation of its ethnic territory from the central Ethiopian administration, has advocated ethnic- federalism by vowing to reduce conflicts and equalize the diverse ethnic communities. As a result, the overall centralized structure of the previous regime has been replaced by a ‘federal’ system consists of nine ethnically and regionally delimited regional states.

The ‘ethnic- federal’ experiment of devolving public sector powers to ethnic groups goes against the centralized nation-building project of the previous regimes. The previous regimes used a different model; they gave much emphasis to ‘Ethiopian nationalism’ as a unifying concept and promoted centralization rather than regional or ethnic autonomy. The rule of the emperor was based on absolutism and concentration of power on the king himself through a patrimonial network of power, resource and privilege accumulation and distribution system that benefits the rulers and their few collaborators at local, regional and central levels. The major orientation of the imperial state was to use the state power for voracious appropriation of resources mainly from the peasantry in order to reward the few ruling nobilities, viceroy and their clienteles that maintain the survival of the highly centralised state. Although the brutality of appropriation and mode of domination differ from place to place due to the historical process and mode of incorporation into the centralized state structure, the expansion toward the south accompanied with the assertion of the cultural superiority of the core and the serfdom and exploitation of the people of the south (Clapham 2002: 10, Teshale 1995: 176, Bahiru 1994, Messay 1999). In the process, many of the southern Ethiopian peasantry were turned in to serfs in their own land when the ‘ownership’ of their land was transferred to the emperor, nobilities and loyal followers of the imperial authority. Though the predatory state had showed some favouritism based on provincial ethnicity for functional purpose, it promoted ‘state nationalism’ and ‘national integration’ with the perception of national identity as the mirror-image of the ruling elite’s ethnic and cultural manifestations in terms of language, religion and, self-proclaimed moral superiority and military triumph over others. It is indisputable that language proficiency plays a significant role to determine better access to education and employment by putting in a relatively disadvantageous situation those groups whose language is not used in employment and education.

The military regime, after 1974, repeatedly stressed that it preferred ‘socialist’ solution to the nationalities question but promoted militaristic nationalism by means of authoritarian and highly centralized political system. It initiated, however, few measures like broadcasting radio programmes in Afar, Somali, Oromiffa and Tigrgna languages, establishing national research institution for studying nationalities and finally drawing a new internal boundary based on linguistic and territorial bases. Most importantly, it made a radical shift in the landownership in 1975, particularly in the southern part of Ethiopia by destroying the exploitative and unjust land appropriation of the nobility and others. Although the radical change had abolished serfdom by distributing the land to the peasants, land remained the property of the state and thus made the peasantry highly intervened and controlled by the state. Nevertheless, it did not make any attempt to link ethnic rights with politics or governance issues. Rather without any regional or ethnic prejudices, it imposed its greater centralization and brutal governance system, controlled at the core by junior military officers regardless of their ethnic affiliation or orientations. Militaristic state nationalism blended with socialism was promoted by hoping to obliterate regional and ethnic movements. However, excessive centralization backed by ruthless coercion did not abate regional and ethnic movements. Rather, it exacerbated internal turmoil and massive resentment of the population, which provided a good opportunity for the expansion of ethnonational movements that finally overrun the state’s centre in 1991 by defeating the military regime, and introducing a rhetoric of ethnic autonomy and ethnic entitlement.

Ethnicity: a theoretical challenge and empirical nuisance

Structuring of society and politics on the basis of ethnicity has been viewed by many scholars as a risky approach for the reason that politicisation of ethnicity could excessively awaken ethnic consciousness and unleash ethnic groupings at the expense of shared identities and interspersed settlements (Horowitz 1985, Messay 1999, Clapham 2002). It is held that ethnic entitlements could give much more leverage to blood relationships and ascriptive loyalties in place of rights and duties (Kedourie 1993). It could also promote the rule of kin, instead of the rule of law, because ascribed ethnic solidarity is more important than merit and other achieving qualities in the ideology of ethnic entitlement, therefore sharing the same genealogy will be a reassurance for assuming political leadership. Ethnic entitlement can also be used by ethnic leaders to gather justification or legitimisation for autocratic rule in the name of their ethnic community. Most importantly, the adulation and preponderance of affinitive or kinship ties within societies would pose formidable barriers to build tolerant multiethnic societies (Ali. A. Mazrui 1967).

On the other hand, scholars concerned about ethnically fragmented societies suggest that in order to reduce ethnic tensions and conflicts, it is imperative for multiethnic states to engineer accommodative structure in order to achieve peaceful coexistence (O’Leary 2002, Lijphart 1994; 2002). A prominent scholar in the field of ethnicity, politics and power-sharing in multiethnic societies, Arend Lijphart (1994) advises for designing ethnic power sharing arrangements or consociational model in segmented or divided societies. According to Arend Lijphart that successful political accommodation of diverse ethnic groups could be achieved through recognition and devising appropriate institutions for accommodation and power sharing. In his discussion of consociational politics, Lijphart enumerated four necessary institutional arrangements in accommodating diversities. These are power sharing government (grand coalition), mutual veto, proportionality and segmental autonomy (Lijphart 1977). In his discussion Lijphart outlined the necessity to have proportional representation from all significant groups, a protection for minority groups and a territorial autonomy or non-territorial division of power or functional autonomy. Although Lijphart’s consociational democracy is criticized for its high reliance on the good will of elites, it can be used as a model for engineering appropriate institutional structures in places where diverse ethnic groups are competing and fighting for controlling the state power.

In line with Lijphart’s argument other scholars suggest also that stability in culturally fragmented countries increases if these countries adopt a political system characterised by proportionality, grand coalition, federalism and strong veto points (Steiner et al 2003: 82). Ethnic federalism is suggested as a relatively preferable institutional arrangement in case of geographically concentrated ethnic groups. Federalism can provide an autonomous space for power exercise and a space for expression for territorially concentrated homogeneous ethnic groups. In such case it could reduce demands for separation and other tensions associated with secession.

However, scholars like Donald Horowitz (1985 & 2002) and Basta Fleiner (2000) argue that ethnic arrangement as a means to ensure ethnic self-government could further radicalise ethnic problem by turning ethnic demands into political principles rather than providing a remedy or cure. In this connection, federal framework based on ethnic coalition could be very unstable form of government, because ethnic elites could be possessed by their own sectional self-interest to pull apart the framework or the coalition. They could also be constrained by their ethnic community if they concede much for the sake of cooperation. Horowitz (2002) therefore argues that federalism should aim to create an integrative dynamics by encouraging ethnically heterogeneous groups or political units to work together within a shared structure that can provide incentives for inter-ethnic co-operation. For Horowitz, non-ethnic federal units could help to forge common interests, other than ethnic identities, among people living within the same federal units in order to compete against the other federal units beyond ethnic interests. Horowitz believes that the remedy for ethnic problem is institutionalisation of ‘ethnically blind’ structures and policies that could reduce or undermine ethnic divide. However, he recognises that in a climate of elite competition ‘a fear of ethnic domination and suppression is a motivating force for the acquisition of power as an end and it is also sought for confirmation of ethnic status’ (Horowitz 1985: 187). ‘An ethnic contrast that has produced an extraordinary amount of conflict in many African, Asian, and Caribbean states is the juxtaposition of ‘backward’ and ‘advanced’ groups’ (Horowitz 1985: 148). Thus, Horowitz advises that ‘if indeed ethnicity and ethnic organisations provide security to groups in an uncertain environment, then attempts to replace or outlaw them may have the effect of increasing insecurity’ (Horowitz 1985: 567-8). It could be essential, therefore, to recognise the importance of power-sharing and territorial devolution. Territorial compartmentalization with devolution of generous power can have tranquillising effects in countries with territorially separate groups, significant sub-ethnic divisions and serious conflict at the centre (Horowitz 1985: 614). It is very vital to consider the importance of timing in engineering a political process and structure, because ‘accommodation long delayed may be accommodation ultimately denied’ (Horowitz 1985: 617).

As Walker Connor (1999) articulates that ethnonational movements’ are found worldwide, they ‘are to be found in Africa (for example, Ethiopia), Asia (Sri Lanka), Eastern Europe (Romania), Western Europe (France), North America (Guatemala), South America (Guyana), and Oceania (New Zealand). The list includes countries that are old (United Kingdom), as well as new (Bangladesh), large (Indonesia), as well as small (Fiji), rich (Canada), as well as poor (Pakistan), authoritarian (Sudan) as well as democratic (Belgium), Marxist-Leninist (China) as well as militantly anti-Marxist (Turkey). The list also includes countries which are Buddhist (Burma), Christian (Spain), Moslem (Iran), Hindu (India) and Judaic (Israel). (Connor 1999: 163-4).

Ethnic associations and ethnic parties have been discouraged and banned in many countries and in majority cases due to fear of the presumed radical and destructive backlashes of ethnic demands and ethnic rights. Vindictive horrors of ethnic conflicts, genocide and ethnic cleansing in cases like in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Nigeria and also unrelenting and destructive ethnic strives in places such as in Sudan, India, Malaysian, Sri Lanka and others are signalling the recalcitrance nature of ethnic demands and also indicating the difficult challenges connected to ethnic entitlement and ethnic rights.

However, in his cross-national study of communal based conflicts, Ted Gurr (1994) shows that ‘ethnic identity and interest per se do not risk unforeseen ethnic wars; rather, the danger is hegemonic elites who use the state to promote their own people’s interest at the expense of others (Gurr 2000: 64). Thus, he warns that ‘the push of state corruption and minority repression probably will be a more important source of future ethnic wars than the ‘pull’ of opportunity’ (Ibid). Horowitz also asserts that even if ethnic problems are intractable, they are not altogether without hope; ‘even in the most severely divided societies, ties of blood do not lead to ineluctably to rivers of blood’ (Ibid. p. 682). Power-sharing and coalition political frameworks that could encourage inter-ethnic cooperation by ensuring recognition of some prominent group’s rights could be one option to minimise group’s resentments and mitigate destructive conflicts.

A paradox in Ethiopia: a tiny minority and relatively poorer region demands and monopolises federalism

In the Ethiopian context, the TPLF was inherently and structurally deficient in establishing a genuine accommodative federal political framework in the country. The TPLF officially and proudly claims to represent the Tigray province and the Tigray people. The Tigray people constitute only 6 percent of the total population of Ethiopia, a very tiny minority in Ethiopia’s ethnic configuration when compared to the Oromo and Amhara people that represent about 35 and 30 per cent of the Ethiopian people respectively. The Tigray province has been relatively the most impoverished, environmentally degraded and highly vulnerable to frequent draught and famine. Without siphoning or supplementing resource from the other part of Ethiopia, it is unlikely that the province could sustain the current, though still precarious, life standard. Conceivably, therefore the TPLF’s ethnic empowerment discourse could damages more the interest and benefit of the Tigray elite and the TPLF, if it is to be implemented genuinely. The TPLF and the Tigrayan elite would have lost their privileged position with a genuine ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia.

As a result, the TPLF was not interested to create a genuine ethnic coalition government and a genuine ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia that would certainly put it in a gravely disadvantageous position. More importantly, the Tigray province, a home of the TPLF, would be the least to be benefited from a genuine federal arrangement in Ethiopia, therefore the TPLF has not worked for a genuine federal arrangement. From the beginning, the intention of the TPLF has been a sham federal arrangement through a superficial ethnic coalition arrangement. Hence, it has been embarking on sustaining a political travesty via EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Force) that would assure its hegemonic project by using ethnic rights as a discourse to attract and subdue the disoriented ethnic elites.

Ethnic rights and ethnic entitlement have become an attractive inducement for many of elites from various ethnic groups to fell so easily in the trap of the TPLF’s manipulation and machination. Many of surrogate ethnic parties, which have not have any legitimacy from their respective ethnic communities, have become an instrument of the TPLF’s hegemonic desire, as they have been easily susceptible to TPLF’s rewarding or/and coercing power. In this case, the TPLF has been consistent in its core policy in promoting first and foremost the interests of the Tigray elite.

From the beginning, the hegemonic ambition of the Tigrayan elite or the TPLF has been the major factor in blocking an effective power-sharing federal government in Ethiopia. The TPLF single-handedly dominated the constitutional drafting process and the procedures for establishing an elected government that replaced the transition government. The TPLF was more interested to promote its project in reasserting the hegemony of the Tigrayan elite in Ethiopia. The Tigrayan elites have been very nostalgic about the past glory and standing of Tigray in the history of the Ethiopian state (Aregawe 2004: 576). Marcus states that ‘Tigrayan felt marginalized, even though the Tigray had participated in Emperor Menelik’s empire building and in Emperor Haile Selassie’s effort to establish a nation’ (Marcus 2002: 221). Kinfe Abreha argues also that ‘the Tigrians also resent the unfair historical process through which the Tigrians overloardship of Emperor Yohannes IV was lost to Menelik II, leading to the gradual decline of the region from the citadel of the Empire’ to a quasi autonomous one’ (Kinfe 1994: 159). He writes that: ‘The Tigray resistance is naturally the outcome of the gradual decline of the region whose human and material potentials was spent in the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. It was the case of a candle that consumed itself while giving light to its surroundings’ (Ibid.). Adhana also claims that Tigray, defined by its predominant Christian character, formed not only a durable component of the Ethiopian nation but was also part of the backbone of the Ethiopian state and thus ‘everything that defined the Ethiopian state was a result of Aksumite invention and innovation.’ (Adhana 1998: 43). These assertions may reflect the disquiet of the Tigrayan elite on lost pride due to ‘a humiliating sense of exclusion from the important centre of power’.

Is the TPLF empowering ethnic groups?

Many critics have accused the TPLF for excessively empowering ethnic groups, however the real practice has been that the TPLF has co-opted elites from the various ethnic groups who have not make an effective resistance against the dominance of the Tigrayan elite in the Ethiopian state. Here, the most important point to understand is that the TPLF has not been an honest force in implementing a genuine ethnic federalism. Actually, the TPLF is not giving a real power to the ethnic communities, but it is promoting surrogate elites and ethnic entrepreneurs from various ethnic communities who have facilitated the expansion of its influence and rule in their respective areas. The implication is that the ethnic federal arrangement has been used by the TPLF in order to extend its authority beyond its own territory in order to make the Tigrayan elite a dominant political and economic force in the Ethiopian state.

Although the TPLF claims that it has been struggling, first and foremost, for the rights of the Tigrayan people for self-determination, its legitimacy in Tigray has not been confirmed democratically. Nevertheless, it is evident that the TPLF has been able to secure immense moral and political support from some section of the elite of Tigray because of its ‘commitment’ for the reassertion and promotion of the Tigrayan nationalism. It is becoming clear that the ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia has been used by the TPLF to establish the hegemony of the Tigray nationalism over other nationalisms, including the ‘Ethiopian nationalism’. Though it is difficult to know whether the Tigrean people as a whole support or benefit from the strategy of the TPLF, there is ample evidence that some of the Tigrayan elites have been benefiting significantly in getting a dominant political and economic position in disproportionate to the share they should have been given in accordance with the ethnic entitlement principles of the motto of ethnic federalism as it has been proclaimed by the TPLF itself.

According to the principles of its own ideology of fair and equal representation of ethic groups, the TPLF, which represents the Tigray province with its 6 percent of the Ethiopian population, should have assumed a minority role, if its intention has not been a minority ethnic hegemony via ethnic federalism. Because it has operated contrary to the rule of its own game, the TPLF is operating as an instrument of coercion and domination rather than equality and freedom. As a result, the ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia has been characterised by economic monopoly, militaristic domination, and brutal suppression of the rights of the majority of the Ethiopian people, by the TPLF. In a nutshell, the ethnic federal project in Ethiopia has become a device for the implementation and protection of the hegemonic position of the tiny minority Tigrayan elites who have been aiming to have a dominant control of resources that the Ethiopian state controls and generates.

Conclusion

There will be no a magic democratic formula or military adventure that can make the TPLF or the Tigrayan elite a majority group in the present day Ethiopia. A continuation of brutal and forceful rule of a minority rule in long run could lead to a chaotic scenario in which the majority may rise to take a desperate violent action to free themselves from the despotism of a minority group. It is totally unfeasible and unsustainable for an elite from a minority ethnic group to assume a hegemonic position in a context where the consciousness of the people as well as of the ethnic communities is sufficiently mature to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is not. Military force and other deceptive strategies such as co-option of elites, and divide and rule tactics may work for some time, but such strategies can not create a genuine framework that can nurture a workable political system in a sustainable way. The TPLF has got a considerable support from the US because of its tactical alliance in the ‘coalition of the willing’ and the ‘war on terror’, however, it is unwise to rely on external patron in a sustainable manner. Neither the imperial rule, nor the military regime was saved by its external patron. It is evident that the willingness of the people to accept the rule of the TPLF has been weakening. The May 2005 Ethiopia’s election, in which the TPLF forcefully and brutally changed the outcome of the election’s result (as reported by the European Union’s Election observers mission and by all civil society groups in Ethiopia), was a clear message from the Ethiopian people to the TPLF that the Ethiopians are badly in need of a democratic change and they are also ready to make it to happen.
 
(The writer, Berhanu G. Balcha, Ph.D., can be reached at b[email protected])

References

* Adhana H. Adhana 1998. ‘Tigray- The Birth of a Nation within the Ethiopian Polity’. In Mohammed Salih, M. A. and J. Markakis (eds.) Ethnicity and the State in Eastern Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikaninstituten

* Aregawi Berhe 2004. ‘THE ORIGINS OF THE TIGRAY PEOPLE’S LIBERATION
FRONT’, in African Affairs (2004), 103/413, pp 569–592, Royal African Society

* Bahiru Zewde 1991. History of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1974, Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University

* Clapham, Christopher 2002. Controlling Space in Ethiopia in James, Wendy, Donham, Donald L., Kurimoto, Eisei, and Triulzi, Alessandro. (Eds.) Remapping Ethiopia. London: James Currey

* Connor, Walker 1999. ‘National Self-determination and Tomorrow’s Political Map’. In Alan Cairns (ed.) Citizenship, Diversity and Pluralism. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press.

* Fleiner, Lidija R. Basta 2000. ‘Can Ethnic Federalism Work?’- Paper for the Conference On “Facing Ethnic Conflicts”, Bonn, Germany 14-16, December 2000 – Center for Development Research (ZEF Bonn)

Gurr, T. Robert 2000 ‘Ethnic Warfare on the Wane’ in Foreign Affairs, May/June 2000, Volume 79, Number 3, pp 52 – 64

* Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press)

* Constitutional Design: Proposals versus Processes. In Andrew Reynolds (ed.), The Architecture of Democracy, Constitutional Design, Conflict Management, and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press

* Kedourie, Elie 1993. Nationalism. London: Hutchinson

* Kinfe, Abraham 1994. Ethiopia from Bullets to the Ballot Box. NJ: The Red Sea Press

* Lijphart, Arend 1977. Democracy in Plural Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press
 
* ‘Prospects for Power-Sharing in the New South Africa’ in ReynoldsA. (ed.) Election ’94 South Africa: The Campaigns, Results and Future Prospects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

* ‘The Wave of Power-Sharing Democracy’ in Andrew Reynolds (ed.) The Architecture of Democracy: Constitutional Design, Conflict Management, and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

* Marcus, Harold 2002. A History of Ethiopia. Berkeley: University of California Press

* Mazrui, Ali A. 1967. Soldiers and Kinsmen in Uganda: The making of a Military Ethnocracy. Beverly Hills: Sage

* Merera Gudina 2003. Ethiopia: Competing ethnic nationalisms and the quest for democracy, 1960 – 2000. PhD dissertation.

* Messay Kebede 1999. Survival and Modernisation: Ethiopia’s Enigmatic Present: A Philosophical Discourse. New Jersey and Asmara: The Red Sea Press, Inc.

* O’Leary, Brendan, 2002. ‘Federations and the Management of nations: Agreement and arguments with Walker Connor and Ernest Gellner’. In

* Daniele Conversi (ed.) Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World: Walker Connor and the study of nationalism, London and New York: Routledge. pp 153-183

* Steiner Jürg, André Bächtiger, Markus Spörndli, Marco R. Steenbergen, 2003.

* Deliberative politics in action: Crossnational study of parliamentary debates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

* Gurr, T. Robert and Barbara Harff, 1994. Ethnic Conflict in World Politics. Oxford, Boulder, and San Francisco: Westview Press

* Teshale Tibebu 1995. The Making of Modern Ethiopia 1896 – 1974. NJ:
Red Sea Press
 

9 thoughts on “A minority domination and ethnic federalism in Ethiopia

  1. “Ethnicity must be stopped because it is very dangerous for the country. After the mentality of ethnicity is removed from the mind, the other problems will be solved” – Abiy Melesse Bezabih

  2. We nations in Africa suffer from conflicts based on colonial borders and because of disregarding national rights as some thing “ethnic”. This desigantion “ethnic” instead of nation/nationality/people is used by both European colonizers and their puppet African colonizers aka Abyssinians. In reality Africa was borderless, all being called as Ethiopia or Sudan, i.e land of blacks. It is true all of Africa is land of blacks.

    To tackle the present global challenge, Africans are trying to come together and forge an AUG (African Union Government). They are looking at USA or EU as an example. But both can not be good examples. USA is the melting pot for all nations around the world migrating to America and learning english. EU is the Union of well developed and independent mono-national-states, all with their own respective languages good developed and used.

    Africa can be neither a melting pot nor a union of well developed only mono-national-states. The nations in Africa are diverse in development and size. What is good for Africa is to build a union with autonomous national areas for all nations aka “ethnies”

    Based on their size and development, some nations can forge mono-national-state like Oromia. The others, which are too small to have their own state can forge multi-national-state like SNNP of Ethiopia, with all nations having their own Province/Zone, District/Wereda or Community/Qebele as autonomous natonal areas based on their size. Relatively bigger nations like Sidama can have their own autonomous Province/Zone, nations smaller than this like Alaba can have autonomous District/Wereda and the smallest nations like Dorze can have their own Community/Qebele. Based on their geographical position, certain small nations like Agew and Harari can join the bigger neighbour nations like Amhara or Oromia, but have their own autonomy, be it as province, district or community. Such 5 tier organization (African Federation — Mono-/Multinational States — Mono-/Multinational Provinces — Mono-/Multionational Districts and Mono-/Multinational Communities) is the best way of adiministrative Organization for Africa.

    In Short Ethiopian model can be used as that of African, just changing its fake status under Weyane to a very genuine one, for which OLF and the likes are struggling!!

  3. As far as I am concerned I am totally convinced that the national question in Ethiopia has been answered. The land tenure and cultural suppression are now things of past history. What is really confusing some intellectuals and so called lions and reds of ‘national liberation fronts’ is the reality where one very small and virulently ethno-centric group managing and running most of the state apparatus. Whether military of economic, these narrow nationalist goons are the ones who are making the calls. They may have some decoys from other nationalities planted from the presidency to certain ministerial positions but these body-doubles do not have any authority to make any critical decisions. All such decisions have already been made in Makele or nostalgically at some ‘tea room’ in the Piazza neck of woods. Get it? Therefore, if I hear some so-called ethnic liberation fronts flopping their mouth that they are fighting for cessation, I don’t pay attention to their diatribe anymore. If they really stand for the liberation of ‘their’ people, then they should band together with other political groups and wage a struggle in unison. I came to a point believing that all these ‘liberation fronts’ should be given a litmus test right now. I call upon groups and individuals who are in the struggle to create fair governance responsible to the people, to send invitation letters to all such groups and convene a national congress before this year is out. I urge our invaluable son, Mr. Elias to lead such an effort and start sending an invitation letter to the following groups:
    1) ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front)
    2) OLF (Oromo Liberation Front)
    3) EPPF
    4) Other ‘Ethnic liberation groups that are more or less active
    5) All other political organizations such as G7 etc….

    That is the only way we can tell who stands for the genuine emancipation of our people. Otherwise, they are up to no good and may be standing next in line to reign in terror and savagery on innocent people who have already suffered enough for more than 35 years unabated. The conference can be held here in the USA, Europe or anywhere deemed fairly convenient to everyone. And the list of those who declined the invitation should be made public on this website. Let’s go!!!!

  4. “The previous regimes used a different model; they gave much emphasis to ‘Ethiopian nationalism’ as a unifying concept and promoted centralization rather than regional or ethnic autonomy” AT THE EXPENSE OF WHOM?????????

  5. Mr. Balcha, I am glad that you have not found much evidence as to the impracticality of the overall concept of ethnic federalism. It has been my belief for a long time that the reason ethnic federalism did not work is not because of the inherent ideological problems with the concept, but the half-hearted and deceptive nature of the regime in power. As you are well aware, all the opposition forces have reached an informal unanimous agreement on the impracticality of the application of ethnic federalism in the Ethiopian political environment. Although this position emanated basically from the hatred the opposition forces have towards the current regime, so far no one, to my knowledge, has come forward with a proposal with an alternative working system of governance that may replace the current one.

    As you have correctly stated, the current system of government was established because of the TPLF’s political agenda and its determination to consolidate power among the elites of the party. I never for a moment believed that the TPLF was implementing the plan for the good of the nation; it was a political move to take advantage of the multi-ethnic composition of the population and to be the sole power in an environment of ethnic division and squabble. But that arrangement worked in a manner that has taken the TPLF by surprise and the opposition forces with no ideas to replace it with except condemning it every chance they get. You have correctly stated that the reason that ethnic federalism did not work in the Ethiopian context because it was never given a chance to being with. The effort on the part of the TPLF was never genuine and therefore, the current impasse. And the opposition forces have to come with something concrete to give to the people a real choice in the matter. Even though ethnic federalism is condemned by the opposition, there are quite a number of positive developments that the Ethiopian people have achieved in the wake of its implementation. Let me explain.

    The political system of both Haile Selassie and the Dergue was based on the domination of one ethnic group and one religion. The only difference between these two forms of rule is the emphasis they attached to who should be the dominant ruling class. In short more than three quarters of the population was not represented in one way or another in any meaningful way in the affairs of the nation. The only language that got recognition was Amharic and the sole representative religion of the nation was Orthodox Christianity during the rule of Haile Selassie with some minor modification when the Dergue assumed power. Needless to say, this provided a fertile ground for the TPLF to implement its plan and rule with the consent of the various ethnic groups pretending to champion their cause. And judging from the alliance it created with almost all the ethnic groups by hook or crook, it did manage to come this far. For a minority ethnic group “representing” less than six percent of the population, no one can doubt the political system did its charm to let the regime stay this long. And the question is what now.

    Although ethnic federalism was implemented half-heartedly in the nation, the population of the nine federal regions took full advantage of the system and established a form of governance that will be difficult to do away with. For the first time, all the federal regions have given primacy to their language and are using it in schools, courts, the media, bureaucracy, etc. The population is electing their own representatives in the local, regional, as well as the federal parliaments. More or less, they have their own self-administration. And here is my simple question, what is the alternative plan that the opposition is presenting? Since we have been condemning ethnic federalism from day one, are we going to take away from the people the limited self-administration they have been enjoying and replace it with something that no one has any idea with? I am quite familiar with the counter arguments to the tune of if democratic rights are respected and if the one-man-one-vote system is fully implemented, that will take care of all the political and social problems we have at hand. In principle, I agree with that line of thought except for one minor question. In exercising their democratic rights, what if the people wanted the full implementation of ethnic federalism and to have all the power that the TPLF was afraid to give them? Some might say why would people choose ethnic federalism when they have full rights in a democratic society? All I can say to that is maybe they are distrustful of all the previous regimes and their form of governance and they believe it is in their best interest to govern themselves. This is not something that is the domain of my imagination, but I believe that is the main reason that the OLF and ONLF are in a permanent state of conflict with the regime. The Oromia region is already enjoying a limited self-rule and the same goes for Somali region, but these and all the other regions were never given the full force of self-administration and that is exactly what all of them are demanding. Are we to say to them since we all enjoy the fruits of democracy now, we should all abandon that line of thought and come together as one people?

    From the discussion that we Ethiopians started since the emergence of TPLF, I am assuming that many of the opposition forces believe that it was the implementation of ethnic federalism that tore apart the fabric of our society. And if we all believe that, in a democracy, “… all members of the society (citizens) have equal access to power and … that all members (citizens) enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties” (Wikipedia),
    shouldn’t we allow the people to exercise their freedom and choose the kind of government they desire? I am afraid the opposition forces are entertaining the idea that as soon the current regime is replaced with one that is representing the people, everything will fall into place and all the social problems will find solutions eventually. And it is my hope that we find remedies that is ailing us in so many ways; but have we thought out carefully what those remedies are?

    I am not aware if the organized forces of the opposition are talking to each other, and if so, we need to hear from all sides Ginbot 7, OLF, ONLF and others what the nature of the future government of the nation will look like. If there are fundamental differences within the opposition groups, then we need to sort it before the current regime is thrown out; otherwise, I am afraid the quagmire that we are in right now will not go away with the change of government.

  6. Thank you Dr,Behanu G.Balcha for the intelligent analysis on ethnic federalism and its dangers, that has been imposed on the state of Ethiopia by the weyanes for the purpose of making them fragmented,weak.That way weyane will stay in power generations to come.
    Weyanes will not let the military,defence and financial institutions be controlled by any individual or group from any ethnicity besides tigrayan no matter how she or he is competent they would rather give it to incompetent un-educated tigrayan that will safeguard their power.
    Weyane leaders to hide their ill conceived evil intentions as usual will blame Eritrea and Arab countries as they are trying to break up Ethiopia into many mini ethnic states,when in fact it is clear that they are the ones who are tryng day in and out to fullfill their unrealisic dream of conceiving abay tigray and safeguarding it by breaking Ethipia into many ethnic powers.Manifesto tigray of the 70″s is a live document for those who read it.

  7. I will try to explain why such enormous and expensive projects are being implemented in Tigray. According to these sick fanatic and jackass followers of the Diablo from Adwa, Tigray used to be the most advanced nation in the entire sub-Saharan region with advanced civilization that showed sophisticated engineering and science. They tell us to look at the remains in Aksum (Axum) of the stelae and all that. Then, they say, these marauder Amharas crawled out of some woodwork and destroyed that advanced civilization the same way the Huns and Goths destroyed Rome. Amharas were followed by Ahmed Garowe (Gragn) and pastoralists Oromos. That is what they believe and tell you. They have been fighting to restore their glory for centuries, they say. Finally after waging a ruthless battle against the Amharas that lasted for more than 16 years, they say, they have beaten the enemy, the main cause of their humiliation and suffering. They really believe in that they are the ones who brought down the Amharas and Derg single-handedly. That is the main source of their unheard of arrogance and beastly savagery. They have left those barren and rocky hills of their joint and reached the lush green hills and meadows of Gojam, Gondar, Shewa, Jimma, Sidamo, Hararghe, Wollega, Illu Aba Bora, Arsi and Bale-Goba. They have armed themselves to their teeth. I am telling you!! They will not leave or give up their newly-found luxury (empire). They will not hesitate to kill on sight and if overwhelmed also die. That is why they harass even the softest critics, kidnap those outspoken and throw others in jail with out any due process indefinitely. Just look at what they did to Birtukan. First, she was pardoned after concerned elderly group intervened. She acknowledged such ingratiating effort by the elderly group during one of her trips overseas. Then, the Diablo from Adwa reversed his decision and send her back to prison. For life!!! Now come one folks. Just stay with me and think. What kind of a person sends a fellow citizen to life in prison because she expressed her gratitude to a group who were part of the process for her original release from prison? I will try to be a reader of a sick mind. This guy is not normal. He has a twisted mind like one of those pedophiles and serial killers. From now on, I have decided to call this devil hoodlum Ted Bundy!!! My heart goes out to Birtukan and all others who are languishing in prison. I am not a lawyer but I call upon all those able countrymen and women qualified lawyers who live with us here abroad to file a criminal lawsuit against Aduwite Ted Bundy at any federal courts here in the USA and at The Hague. From what I read on this and other websites, there are a lot of criminal acts perpetrated by Mr. ‘Ted Bundy’. If the courts deny the lawsuit, we should keep trying again and again. Some day, someone will listen just like they did about Charles Taylor and those Rwandan Hutus. I will like to see him answer to the charges during my lifetime. I promise you to go down to México and find him the most delicious ‘beles’ he ever had. In the meantime, I will keep crying to God for Birtukan. She has done nothing wrong to deserve imprisonment to life. Nothing!!!

  8. Thank you Berhanu G. Balcha and it is outstanding article that works for ALL of us.

    If the opposition is NOT united and fight against Zenawi regime, the suffering of Ethiopians will be continued.

    The answer is very easy: Respect, Democracy, Freedom for all with out limitation or discrimination. Every citizen is equal under the law or constitution.

    The answer is very hard: implementation and egoism of the power.

    God Bless Ethiopia!!!

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