Viewpoint

A flicker in the gloom

If Abiy succeeds in transforming EPRDF into a single party, at least it will offer a possible—albeit still highly risky—way out of the morass by presenting two distinct political choices.

Ethiopia’s situation is incredibly complex and dangerous. Nevertheless, beyond the recent tragic events, perhaps the first signs of a light at the end of tunnel are emerging—weakly flickering in the gloom. The strong push by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to create a new party from the ashes of the ruling coalition could set in motion a process to exit the current crisis. Yet, it is highly unlikely to be a peaceful one.

The current political context in Ethiopia is characterized by ineffectiveness at federal level and a gaping power vacuum at regional level, except in Tigray. Generally, authority at the grassroots is unsteady. It is either only nominally in the hands of powerless local officials, or in those of emerging informal local groups of influential personalities or new community groups, frequently armed. The two main symptoms are the persistence of insecurity and frequent occurrence of nominally ethnic-based clashes.

This vacuum starts from the top, and spreads through the EPRDF party-state’s chain of command. In Addis Ababa, the confusion inside the ruling circles is palpable, as demonstrated by conflicting official statements over the night-time drama at Jawar Mohamed’s residence that led to protests and deadly violence.

The EPRDF is a Front only in name. The opposition remains scattered and disorganized, although Oromo parties at least remain in discussion with each other. Elections are widely considered as a lifeline, but the schedule is overly ambitious, given the lack of conducive conditions for polls.

From this situation, two strategies present themselves for the political classes:

The first, to proceed to elections in May, come what may. This strategy is supported by a wide range of political forces, including the Prime Minister himself. The oft-stated reasoning behind it is that a postponement would only exacerbate tensions further. Following an election, it is argued, newly elected MPs will finally be legitimate enough to build a coalition which can set the course to resolve two key issues: the type of federalism to be adopted and the degree of economic liberalisation to be pursued.

The second, to defer elections and agree on something akin to a transition period towards orderly elections, or even constitutional reform. This strategy is supported by those who fear that the closer voting day gets, the more tensions will rise. Ultimately, far more important than adhering to the electoral schedule, they say, the survival of the Ethiopian state will be at stake. Therefore, holding premature polls is deemed too risky.

There are key obstacles for the first strategy:

Security problems are frequently mentioned as decisive. But elections cannot bring the crisis to an end if the political landscape is not clarified in advance. The voters should be offered clear electoral options, so that they can decide with at least a minimum degree of knowledge and confidence what the parties represent.

At the current conjuncture, however, the competing ideological positions are radically different not only between different political groupings—which is normal—but also within the EPRDF, and, furthermore, inside three of the four coalition’s parties, namely the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) and Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). Currently, voting for any of this trio would not mean making a clear statement on Ethiopia’s future political settlement.

In addition, what legitimacy would MPs possess if it cannot be guaranteed that the elections will be reasonably fair and free? Particularly so, when the PM himself admitted that he cannot take this for granted. Abiy aims for “a relatively free and fair election as compared to the previous elections.” But this would be far from sufficient. Taking the long view, it is notable that previous elections lacked even the minimum requirements of freedom and fairness. What guarantees are in place to give the electorate confidence that the upcoming polls will be any different?

With regards to the second strategy:

The idea here is that elections should only be held after a minimum of consensual rules are set through a process of dialogue between a wide range of stakeholders. While this should restore some calm, even adherents to the plan agree that a pre-condition needs to be met for such a process to succeed. That is, a pivot of the political class towards compromises in order to establish basic rules to proceed lawfully, orderly, and peacefully towards elections. But why, amid the present toxic stalemate, would this turn out well in the next few months when the political class has been unable to reach a compromise—not only since the beginning of the crisis but throughout the last half century?

Towards bipolarity

Amid this deadlock emerges a third strategy:

This is an impulse from the top—from the Prime Minister himself. Abiy has noted that he cannot assert his authority and wield his influence over EPRDF. Thus, he seems to have decided to try and force into life a new organization, tentatively reported as the Ethiopian Prosperity Party (EPP).

This potential party will not merely be an EPRDF expanded to include affiliated parties, adopting representation proportionate to their regions’ size, population, etc. Instead, it would mean the creation of a new party. One which would turn its back on the past ideology and organisation of the EPRDF. Its unifying factor would be his person alone and his philosophy of Medemer. Abiy Ahmed wants to build EPP to cement his power, now and in the future.

The former Zone 9 blogger BefeQadu Haile recently stated that according to the PM’s recently released book, the main values of Medemer are “National Unity, Citizen’s Dignity and Prosperity”. Nothing substantive is mentioned about group rights, nothing about diversity. In short, nothing about ethnic federalism.

In addition, in his statement after the recent mayhem, Abiy focused on reconciliation at the grassroots level, mediated essentially by religious leaders and elders. He did not utter a word about politicians or parties. In a press release, he also sent a strong warning to the so called “enemies”, stating: “We won’t stop the journey we have begun. We will continue, uprooting the weed and taking care of the wheat”. And further, “we will pay whatever price it takes to make sure that the prosperity of Ethiopia and its people will be realized.”

As hostilities against Abiy rise in different circles, his journey to try to concentrate more power into his hands brings to mind Ethiopia’s age-old attachment to the teleq säw, the Big Man. Presently, this trend is fueling discontent.

But, above all, if the EPP comes to life, the development will likely lead to a political choice between an “Abiy pole” and an “ethnic federalist pole”.  The hope is that, thereafter, the currently diverse and divided multitude of political forces would then—more or less—gravitate to either of these two poles. This could be the beginning of a clearing-up of the political landscape:

On both sides, this rift would be based on sincerely held political beliefs and, in the long run, ethnicity should diminish in importance. Thirst for power and control over and access to resources—which go with in the present oligarchic system in Ethiopia—will undoubtedly also play a crucial, if not primary, role.

Obviously, TPLF, the Oromo opposition, and parts of ODP and SEPDM—possibly even the strong Amhara identity wings of ADP and the National Movement of Amhara—would gravitate towards this latter, “ethnic federalist pole”. While Abiy’s EPP would perhaps be more allied with one-nation, Ethiopianist political forces, such as the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (Ezema) or movements like Eskinder Nega’s Baladeras Council.

Risky strategy

Nevertheless, it is highly probable that the rift over the EPP, which has already deepened the splits inside the EPRDF, will, in the short-term, only deepen the country’s ongoing crisis.

Moreover, it is not at all clear if the risks of further party splits have factored into Abiy and his advisor’s strategic calculations and contingency plans. Thus, in the meantime, I share the fears of commentators, such as Tsedale Lemma, Awol Allo, Birhanu Lenjiso and others who “ring the alarm bell” with convincing arguments that this (third) strategy of creating the Prosperity Party may, at first, breed further instability.

And, in addition to the risk of exacerbating deadly tensions, another question is if Abiy’s primary focus is really to move towards a democratic transition—or if it is to cement his power?

Jawar seems to share this concern. He has, since his return from exile, stood by the PM and his reform and reconciliation process. He only began criticizing Abiy openly once the latter proposed to create a unified party. Jawar then accused the PM of “taking Ethiopia back to ‘the old ways’ of authoritarian rule”. On this, Tsedale aptly noted: “Jawar Mohammed drops a bombshell when he not only outlined the dilemma of the new party, but set forth the possible scenarios, as a result of it, of a ‘constitutional crisis’ (quite frankly convincing), and which, he says, may culminate in snap elections regionally and nationally.

This is an indication that Abiy’s intention to push ahead with creating the EPP worries not only the EPRDF coalition and Abiy’s ODP, but also those political forces—outside the party-state apparatus—that helped bring him to power.

But what might be the actual impact of Abiy’s bold forward step? In every scenario, it would break the deadly day-to-day political routine of the highly fractured party-state and the opposition. The cards would be entirely reshuffled.

The PM’s move is, however, risky. Abiy could fail. ODP’s former leader and still popular figurehead, Lemma Megersa, has expressed in party meetings his opposition to the merger. Abiy may be obliged to backtrack if he cannot garner the full support of his closest allies, which is far from certain at this stage, or if opposition is too strong.

Nevertheless, if EPP sees the light of day, it could be that Abiy and his advisors have also overestimated the number of followers this new party might actually attract. Has not the recent stand-off with Jawar shown that—despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize—Abiymania seems to be on the wane?

In any case, such a miscalculation would mark a dramatic end of Abiy’s pre-eminence. He would be largely delegitimized as leader, or at least his privilege as a reconciliatory care-taker who can lead the transition would evaporate. Consequently, a wide space would open up for other parties to compete for power.

Becoming multi-ethnic

That said, and while all these concerns and caveats are valid, those who strongly oppose the creation of the new party should consider the following points:

A transition to democracy cannot occur without destroying or profoundly transforming the party-state structures of the EPRDF which were hitherto so centralised and consistent. Attempts to break down the old security apparatus have more or less already been undertaken. But this has not stabilised the security situation of country yet—on the contrary. Alongside disentangling the party from the state, should there not be a serious attempt—however risky, chaotic and full of ulterior motives—to reorder the currently fractured political landscape into distinct and coherent groupings? That is, clumped at two poles.

It is true that in order to allow a more constructive rationalising of the political landscape, both the “Abiy pole” and the “ethnic federalist pole”, would eventually need to become decidedly multi-ethnic. Only an embrace of ideology-based politics would allow this new polarisation to contribute to a shift away from politicizing ethnic divisions towards foregrounding political competition along policy divisions.

Pushing paroxysm

Some commentators have questioned the legal issues surrounding the creation of EPP and see the law book as the greatest obstacle to replacing the EPRDF. Taking into account precedents in Ethiopian politics, however, the reality is that legal checks and balances on the party-state are unreliable, as is the case within party organs. During the three main crises of TPLF and later the EPRDF, the rules have been systematically bypassed: during the hinfishfish (anarchy/weakening) phase at the end of the 70s; the dismissal of Aregawi Berhe and Giday Zeratsion in 1985; and by Meles and his followers in 2001 during the tehadso (renewal) phase.

Historically, in Ethiopian political culture, centralism has prevailed over democracy; the highest body can take decisions regardless of the positions expressed by the lower levels. The final winner is absolved of punishment for these infringements. I doubt Abiy will feel bound by party rules or the legislative. His rule so far has suggested he will governs by bypassing the laws if he feels it is necessary. He may well claim that the country’s de facto state of exception justifies whatever changes to the EPRDF he wants to make.

The ongoing turbulence across Ethiopia is getting unbearable. Almost all exits from the crisis seem blocked. The only option may be to slip through any remaining narrow gap. By trying to centralise power and further his authority around a clear-cut political position, premised primarily on his persona and philosophy, Abiy is set to push the crisis to its paroxysm.

Already, if Jawar’s claim is accurate, a group of high-ranking officials had decided—with or without the green light from Abiy—to try to at the very least to intimidate him. This could be part of a strategy to vigorously confront the ethno-nationalist opposition. The consequences, however, were fatal: around 80 people were killed, hundreds wounded. Thus, the widespread fears of worsening conflict are palpable.

Another consequence is that Oromia, the most populous regional state, is openly divided. This includes the top echelons of ODP, who are torn over the federation’s future. Meanwhile, Jawar has suggested that he may now stand as a candidate in the next elections. The positive effect of this is that it could give each pole—Abiy and the ethnic federalists—a hefty individual force for followers to gravitate around.

Amid the gathering gloom, and a possible descent into total darkness, let us hope that the words of one of the founders of the European project, Jean Monnet, prove prescient for Ethiopia under Abiy: “Humans see the necessity of change only when they face a crisis… then it can be a new birth”.

The alternative is almost too awful to contemplate.

Query or correction? Email us

Edited by William Davison and Jonah Wedekind

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Cite Ethiopia Insight and link to this page if republished. 

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About the author

René Lefort

René has been writing about sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s and reported on the region for French newspapers. He is now a researcher and publishes in academic titles such as The Journal of Modern African Studies.

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19 Comments

  • Ethnic federalism won’t work and should be abandoned in favor of some kind of regional federalism simply because it did not work for over 1/2 century in this country. There are many big countries in the world with conglomerates of ethnic groups but with only regional federalism and maturing democracy. As salvage mechanism, before the country descend into further Chaos, this should be the way forward for Ethiopia. You can not divide the country in to Ethnic borders and maintain peace at all. We have lots of expected boarder conflicts that will break out spontaneously in the future if Ethnic federalism succeeds in Ethiopia or the country breaks down into pieces, let alone now. The TPLF has stolen chunk of land from Amhara kilil when in power. Oromia has border conflict with every other region. The so called Oromia is the land of many Ethnics that were assimilated or destroyed by ormo by force during land stealing or their expansion. The whole eastern Africa is a time bomb in terms of global security with over 100 Millions of population at need of resources. The only way, in long term, to stabilize the region would be through the inception of non Ethnic based federalism based on the right of the individual and prosperity which appears to be rightly envisaged by PM Dr Abiy. We need to know that the current Ethnofederalists have external forces (specially TPLF supported by Egypt, Jawar group supported by Muslim extremists and Egypt) and are not internally Ethiopians. Their goal is the disintegration of the country sooner or later which is security risk for horn and global society. We also need to know that the Oromo are not homogenous culturally, religiously or otherwise as you could see better nationalist at times than nationalists among us as well as there are a lot of them advocating unity with respect. It is very likely they would bite each other even when they achieve succession. We have seen this scenario in recent chaos where the Muslims were slaying Christians, elders and burning church. Dr Abiy through time through security, military, legal advancements as necessary must outsmart the ethinofacsists mongering violence specially the TPLF apparatus and Jawars base. Dr Abiys base should grow teeth and spine to deal with lawlessness, anarchism, violence and all sort of hate speech abundant in the nation with objective of stability. It is simply unthinkable to construct democratic stable Ethiopia while the inflexible TPLF structure and Jawar’s(other Oromo extremist) hate ideology is still alive. The two have to be dealt with in one or another form. If this not possible there is always possibility for the rise of a dictator to provide stability at the expense of freedom ( like Al-Sisi of Egypt)as in the past which probably for ordinary poor citizen may be the only viable option to stay alive and lead their family in limited way.

  • I think you missed the political alignments of political forces as ethnocentric and unionists. There is no way that ethnocenterists from Amhara could align themselves with OLF and TPLF. Therefore, there is no way that the ethnocenterists will be viable political force. That is why they are actively fighting to avoid the merger of EPRDF.

  • Jawar is not a member of ODP; but, he seems to enjoy giving instructions to them. I don’t know how far they will tolerate his interventions.

  • This anlyis might be okay for those who continue to dwell under the old colonial persuasions of the great empire of Ethiopia. That was a unity forced upon all people living in the horn of Africa. Today, that condition and its impact is under hostile scrutiny at it’s best, yet moving fast for the abolishment. There are decisive forces for freedom from the yoke of these backwardness. Then why are these realities neglected?

    Yes, being educated and shaped in colonial pedagogy does not give us the license to ignore reality. OLF and other Nations or Nationality based organizations are here to stay, and we need to start to give them the due respect and recognition while pragmatically accessing their current and potential impacts in the Ethiopian would be power structure.

  • In spite of all the political hysteria against TPLF and its leading role in the creation of EPRDF, for Ethiopia a country without a history and culture of democracy, EPRDF and its concept of democratic centralism has served the country well for 25 years. And at the moment there is a general sense that more Ethiopians believe in federalism than are opposed to it. You cannot merge EPRDF with those who don’t believe in it and wish to undo it. For many of them, undoing EPRDF means excluding TPLF, in which case Abiy himself would clearly fail in his own idea of “medemer” because his new alliance requires “exclusion” of TPLF. New political parties should either accept and join EPRDF, or form their own competing platform and see if they are viable and credible in the eyes of the general public. In the meantime, Abiy ought to hold on to the federal system, stop this endless – bottomless blame against TPLF, and carry on with the elections. There will be enough time after the elections to debate what improvements can be made in the governance of the country.

  • The environmental, population and economic pressures are fueling this tension between federalists and unionists. Once people fought over land and grazing pastures and water. Now they fight over jobs. Nothing has changed. Addis Ababa is that lucrative pasture field with infrastructure, thousands of government jobs tied to the bureaucracy…..akin to the grazing pastures of the past. For the unionist camp, they have to come to their senses. Without Tigray changing sides in this tug of war between nationalists and federalists, it will be impossible to change the balance of power. Unfortunately, there is a coalescing of Amhara and unionist tendencies, and unfortunately Amhara Tigray relations are so sour that Tigray under TPLF will never join this unionist camp. If the tug of war continues, Oromo federalists will establish the OLF flag in Addis Ababa within 5 years. Addis is encircled by Oromia, unable to fend for itself. If the unionist camp is very serious about maintaining the unity of Ethiopia it must suck up to TPLF. Yes, you heard me. Tplf has supreme power in Tigray, whether we like it or not. Because the unionist camp is largely led by Amhara intellectuals so soured over the Raya and Welkaite conflict with Tigray, it refuses to see a golden opportunity to bring TPlf to its side to preserve their (and everyone’s) long term goals of Ethiopian national unity. In the meantime, TPLF watches from the side, playing one card against another, using leverage. At the end, no tigrean wants to see Addis Ababa, home to 500,000 tigreans come under exclusive Oromo rule. So wake up and smell the coffee, unionists! Suck up to TPLF (armed to the teeth and the only one that can be a comparable force to the Ethiopian military) and come to some agreements. The final battle ground is Addis, where all the wealth is. Addis will be purged of its non Oromo residents (what was done in Harar), occupied and reduced to a wasteland because its bureaucracy and middle level urbanite workers (mainly from amharas, tigre) will be forced to flee. It will be a dysfunctional city, reduced to rubbles. The global tendency and weight is against the federalists. Ethio federalism carries deeply anti modern tendencies and anti globalist tendencies. Only one kick is needed to dislodge it from Ethiopia once and for all: Tplf coming to its senses and Amhara intellectuals mending their rift with Tigray state.

    • Urge TPLF return the forcefully annexed lands of Welkait and Raya to Amhara. Tigrea will not keep these stolen lands forever. Even if it takes us 1, 2 or 1,000 years to regain our lands, we will fight for it.

  • Enjoyed Lefort’s well thought, fair, and well researched context about Ethiopia. Great work. Thank you the journalist working in an environment where professional journalism is dead. Hope money will never be your priority to cover up truth.

  • “The ongoing turbulence in Ethiopia is getting unbearable” . So true, and also very alarming. You mention an Abiye pole and an ethnic federalist pole. There is another extremely frightening pole-an Oromo hate pole that labels Amharas as “neftegnas” and agitates against all “Abeshas” i.e. anyone who is not Oromo. For them, it is all about vengeance for historical grievances, and they are not interested in democracy or any kind coalition building. Abiye is amazingly clueless of the extent of this hate ideology in Oromia, -he gives me the impression of someone perpetually out of touch with the social and political surroundings. someone like How did he thing to open Unity Park with wax figures of Atse Menelik when he is a hated figure for the Jawar and Queero camp.

    Perhaps Insight can write mo

  • The current administration (Abiy Admin) is being challenged by the same people the PM himself organized. “Qeerroo” was created by Abiy/Lemma and mobilized by Jawar from Minnesota. Jawar had big plan and strategy what to do once the Hailemariam Admin surrendered, however Abiy didn’t have any strategy or plan, the only thing he had in his mind was “POWER” and few tactics. Abiy is not that bright individual, of course he is orator, he is an opportunist just like Trump with less volatile words, he speaks what Ethiopians want to hear, other than that he is power thirsty individual.
    I have tried to study Abiy’s chase moves for more than a year, I have read his books, I have observed the reasoning behind the people who support him, my conclusion ensures that Abiy is naïve about Ethiopian politics, he doesn’t really know the political power game. Specially lately the very people behind PM Abiy are those that are admirers of Menelik and Haile Silasie, however Abiy’s constituency (greater Oromo) is against those kings and admirers.
    How could someone merge two opposite political interests (Menelik lovers and Menelik haters) in the same political program? Call me anything you want but I am speaking the truth. Believe it or not lately Abiy’s supporters are mainly Menelik and Haile Silasie admirers. Considering Ethiopian history and Ethiopia politics Jawar sees the PM affinity with Menelik camp as a danger, this is the root cause of the current friction between Abiy and Jawar. For example why does Jawar oppose EPRDF merger? If you really get into the real reason you will find that it is mainly due to the supporters of the merger, the main supporters of the merger are Menelik camp. You may ask why does Menelik camp supports EPRDF merger? Because they think it will kill EPRDF and weaken TPLF access to central government and they may wish it will be a mile closer to take over the power.
    You may ask why can’t PM Abiy continue with EPRDF program (developmental state and democratic centralism)? In opinion there are two reasons for this:
    1. His sponsors are more interested in economic liberalism and liberal democracy.
    2. He believes he may not be re-elected by his party if he continues with the old-EPRDF program, he is afraid they will step him down after the election. He has betrayed the EPRDF big time.

    If Abiy had his strategy right from the beginning the frictions we see today could have been minimized or eliminated. He did three important political mistakes (appeasement, alienation and merger):
    1. He tried hard to alienate TPLF, it may have worked to get support from Menelik camp but it didn’t help to get support from Oromo camp, however it helped TPLF to strengthen in short period of time.
    2. He tried hard to appease Menelik camp, this caused to create friction with Oromo elites specially Jawar and hist followers camp.
    3. Merging EPRDF at this time is political naivety.

    If I had to advise the PM, I could have advised him to not try to appease any political group in anyway, try to not alienate any political group either. The strategy should be to communicate your political and economic principles unequivocally to all Ethiopian people, some may follow you, some may reject you but that will be based on “merit/value”, not based on “quid pro quo”. I would have advised him to reconcile with the old guards (EPRDF), have them to be part of the solution. Note that in transition period reconciliation is better strategy than rule of law. I believe the best strategy for Abiy could have been to avoid alienation and appeasement, focus on building democratic institutions. He could have been more successful.

      • As a TPLF supporter, you like the current ethnic federalist system the TPLF created because it gives TPLF disproportional power. Basically, you don’t want any merger of Oromo and Amhara power because that will leave TPLF out in the cold. Therefore you label any Amhara as the Menelik camp to convince Oromos not to form a coalition with Amharas. In In either case, Tigray is 6% of the population and Oromo nationalists or Amharas will not allow you to have more power than you should have. TPLF is a breathing corpse.

        • Hi Hope,
          It has nothing to do whether I want the merger or not, I am just analyzing the current situation and providing my two cents about the current difficulties. You can present your case and provide your evidence for your case then leave it there. You don’t have to label me without knowing my political views. If my response seems TPLF supporter view then I would assume you are implying TPLF supporters have strong argument about their case. FYI I am not TPLF supporter but I am Tigraway.

          You said “you like the current ethnic federalist system the TPLF created”.

          If you ask Afar people about the current federal arrangement (ethnic federalism) they will tell you they are happy with it but they want more of it (meaning they want less central government involvement in their state).
          If you ask Somali people about the current federal arrangement (ethnic federalism) they will tell you they are happy with it but they want more of it (meaning they want less central government involvement in their state).
          If you ask Oromo people about the current federal arrangement (ethnic federalism) they will tell you they are happy with it but they want more of it (meaning they want less central government involvement in their state).
          If you ask Tigray people about the current federal arrangement (ethnic federalism) they will tell you they are happy with it but they want more of it (meaning they want less central government involvement in their state).

          The list goes on, thus the question isn’t whether TPLF wants ethnic federalism or not, the question is does the different ethnic groups in Ethiopia accept outside of ethnic based federal arrangement? If you take Southern people (Sidama as example), they are asking to have their own state, that has nothing to do with TPLF, it is a group right, they want to have their own state to benefit their own people. Democracy is about majority rule and protect minority rights. We have to accept what is on the ground.

          EPRDF didn’t create ethnic nationalities, ethnic groups were there for thousands of years but EPRDF recognized them as ethnic nationalities, thus EPRDF didn’t create Somali, Oromo, Afar, Agew, Kimant etc, it just gave them their group right to be recognized and administer their land and people. However the last 28 years it wasn’t implemented properly, it wasn’t real federalism, it was more of on the paper (constitution) but never got implemented 100%. I would say EPRDF was unitary government instead of federalist government, but the constitution is federalist constitution, I would say it is very liberal constitution. In 2014 national referendum was held in Scotland, which means Scotland wants to secede from UK, so what is the problem having article 39 in Ethiopia? Isn’t that the same thing as Scotland asking to secede from UK? That’s why I said Ethiopia constitution is very liberal, it gives unconditional right to self- determination, including the right to secession. So if the constitution allows self- determination, including the right to secession, then you need to have ethnic federalism because ethnic groups should have defined land and territory to apply their constitutional right. The reason why Scotland requested to secede from the union is because Scotland has defined territory and the constitution allows it. In Ethiopia whether we like it or not group right is more important than individual right, however when the economic situation starts to change individual right will be the bread winner. We are not there yet, it will take years to get there, my advise to Ethiopia politicians is they have to embrace ethnic federalism but work towards one nation mentality.

          My central message is/was why PM Abiy got into this difficult situation, my argument is mainly centered on three reasons (appeasement, alienation and EPRDF merger), if you think this is wrong analysis then I would like to hear your analysis. We have to differentiate “wish vs reality”, we have to speak based on facts on the ground. If you think most Ethiopians don’t like “ethnic federalism” then let the Ethiopian people decide their fate, no need to suppress their views and rights. Ask yourself this question, why is Sidama asking to have its own state? Does that look like against ethnic federalism? Why is “Wolayta” asking to have their own state? Does it look like against ethnic federalism?
          Ethnic federalism may not be the end means but at the this “moment” ethnic federalism is “the least worst option”, the only way to get out of ethnic federalism is by making sure ethnic rights are kept and economic situation of the country is improved to benefit all Ethiopians. You have to let the tensions loose first then work towards one nation project.
          All humans have their own biasness, the difference is accepting biasness exists and know how to manage biasness. If your biasness is hidden inside “Ethiopiawinet” then it is difficult to recognize it, however if Tigray/Oromo activists biasness is open to everyone, then which one is good? The one that is hidden inside “Ethiopiawinet” or the one that is open to everyone? you have to be honest to yourself first then try to analyze the situation accordingly.

          • The current federal arrangement reflects the BALANCE OF POWER THAT PREVAILED AT THE TIME OF ITS CREATION. (This is from Gebru Asrat.) There is no consistent logic in the “criteria” used for deciding which ethnic group gets the status of a region.

            In addition, regional constitutions have created second class citizens.

  • Military power matters. You didn’t mention the role of the army.in my view it is impossible yo predict Ethiopian poltics .Just wait and see.

  • Well said Ethiopian Insight . The purported reformist political agendas of PM Abiye is flicker of .hope amidst gloom and doom scenario in Ethiopia. Sure, he is caught between hard rock and hard surface . Election might happen or might not happen in time but he should be upfront about two things if he went to achieve measured sucess. First one is he can’t do away with federalism model . He can fix and improve it in way or another but he shouldn’t try to undermine or temper in any way. Second, he should be honest and consult with various stakeholders, not just few groups or personalities, of any major policy decision and reforms. Anything less is destined for failure.

    • The author’s perception of the strength of the ethnic federalist forces is informed of his observation of the country’s politics under the long existed TPLF leadership of the Ethiopian political arena. His complete ignorance of those who are appalled by the very idea of the ethnicity system of federalism that the country is structured by is nothing short of astounding. Unless we are kidding ourselves, the camp that is projected to be “unionist” is in fact federalist force which believes in an alternative systems of federalism aside from the one rigid form that has been the cause of all ills in the country.

      The Abiy administration’s main problem is the reluctance to enforce the rule of law on those who habitually break it with no consequences. The same security establishment acts with lightening speed when other civic movements are trying to exercise their civil rights, though.

      Jawar from the get go pointed out to those who would listen that there are two parallel governments in the Ethiopian political landscape ..,i.e the Abiy government and the Qerro government. One would assume that such utter intransigence would have met with a strong rebuttal by the Abiy administration. Contrary to the facts , the administration has been very cozy to the demands of the parallel government and goes out its way often times to accommodate them. Koyefeche and the recent lame excuse given by the administration regarding the massacre of innocent lives all over Oromia because of a few Facebook lines by Jawar are perfect instances.