In-depth

For Ethiopia’s political tribes, it’s 2005 redux

Once more, irreconcilable blocs are vying for power

One of the common fallacies bedevilling contemporary Ethiopian political analysis is presenting the 28 years of Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) rule as uniform.

Instead, there were three phases:

  1. 1991-95, the EPRDF-era takes shape: The transitional government and shared rule; stabilization of the country; and 1993 Eritrean referendum.
  2. 1995-2005, politics occurs within EPRDF: The first two elections in 1995 and 2000, the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war, the 2000 Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rupture.
  3. 2005-2018, EPRDF is tested, retains power, falls apart: The open 2005 election, its violent aftermath, reinstating a centralized authoritarian regime, growth and decay, sham elections, protests, the fall of Hailemariam’s government.

Within these three phases, the 2005 election was the critical event—and right now it is more important than ever.

It not only shaped the course of the EPRDF era, but also displays stark similarities to the current alarming situation the country is in. The parallels are such that in many ways we are revisiting 2005, with one bloc committed to multinational federalism and another looking for an election victory to pave the way to revise the constitutional order. Indeed, with Ezema’s backing for a constitutional amendment to resolve the current legitimacy crisis, and the National Movement of Amhara’s proposal for wholesale constitutional revisions, that campaign is arguably already underway.

Despite being the most competitive, and being referred to as the benchmark of pre-election preparation, the 2005 polls ended in dispute over the results and at least 330 deaths as security forces cracked down post-election on street protests. Shocked by the result and the opposition reaction, the EPRDF then rethought its strategy and seemed to decide the nature of Ethiopia’s opposition meant the country was not ready for multi-party democracy. Increasing authoritarianism ensued.

Those existential issues that created the 2005 tragedy have not progressed to policy debates in the subsequent 15 years. Instead, this time around, the opposition from the Oromo-dominated south is calling the upcoming election a referendum on retaining the federal system.

Once more, irreconcilable political blocs are vying for power in a first-past-the-post contest in a weak institutional environment.

Arguably, the 2005 election showed that the anti-multinational camp is not willing to share power with identity-based regionalist powers, partly as they revile the constitutional system and consider scrapping it the only worthwhile political objective.

Meanwhile, arguably, the federalist EPRDF was willing to do so, including accepting joint administration of major cities with the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) led by the late Hailu Shawel, although it moved quickly and ruthlessly to constrain the opposition-run Addis Ababa administration’s power.

Zero sum

EPRDF had in fact already showed signs during the 1991-95 transitional period that it could share executive and legislative power. During that period, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) occupied a handful of cabinet positions like the Ministry of Education (introducing the Qubee generation) and the Ministry of Information. This short period of power-sharing was the only one in modern Ethiopian history. It shows, regardless of how fleeting it was, that the federalist camp has the potential to work with its opponents—albeit opponents that were ideological allies on the issue of state structure.

Indeed, former OLF leader Lencho Leta has said since his return to Ethiopia that one of his regrets was not doing enough to try and work out differences in the 1990s due to his youthful revolutionary convictions. That led to the group’s withdrawal from a coalition government after clashing with TPLF, military defeat, decades in the political wilderness, and fragmentation of the movement.

In 2005, the anti-federalist camp allowed foreign meddling in the form of an activist European Union election observation, sanctions, and proxy interventions by NGOs like ActionAid. It was also willing to use ethnic intimidation, with one leader declaring that the Tigray minority should go back to where it came from, and it toyed with undemocratic methods to achieve power. For example, in his article ‘Kinijit in the 2005 Elections’, Melakou Tegegn recalls: “In early 2005, in an address at an election debate on the issue of labour and trade unions, one of the Kinijit leaders at the time, Lidetu Ayalew, said that if the EPRDF rigged the election, the Ethiopian people would topple it in a Georgian and Ukrainian type of revolution.”

The zero-sum fight that was inspired by the hardliners in CUD/Kinijit during and after the 2005 vote installed in the psyche of the opposition the belief that EPRDF/TPLF is a force not to work with but a party that needs to be vanquished—a belief that was greatly strengthened by the EPRDF’s violent response to the November 2005 demonstrations. The struggle was thereafter pursued by violent means from neighbouring countries, including a proxy war in Somalia, looking to Eritrea for assistance in armed opposition, and nurturing partisan and unreliable media, such as ESAT.

Regardless of how much effort is made to hold a free and credible election, once again undemocratic action may well prove tempting to sway the outcome. In 2005, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) coalition led by Merera Gudina (now Oromo Federalist Congress leader) and Beyene Petros accepted the outcome and took up its seats in parliament. However, Hailu Shawel pronounced that CUD would not join parliament. Its supporters continued to protest and refused to take up elected positions, including the mayorship of Addis Ababa that was Berhanu Nega’s to occupy.

That split the CUD, with one side arguing that participating in parliament would legitimize the government, and the other that it was necessary to accept the partial gains. The hardliners won the day. Protests, chaos, and a deadly crackdown ensued, including the mass arrest of opposition leaders. The political and existential threat felt by EPRDF increased the regime’s harassment of opponents, using both legal and non-legal means. However, most of the CUD-elected MPs did eventually take up their seats in the months after the CUD-organized protests in 2005 and the arrest of its leaders.

Analysts Medhane Tadesse and John Young argue that it would not have been a surprise if EPRDF undermined, monopolized, or even postponed the 2005 election due to the TPLF’s 2001 rupture and the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea. But instead they were committed to upholding the constitutional electoral schedule, and opened the political space in advance of the vote, presumably as they expected an easy win regardless. The subsequent campaigning period was therefore the only one that was accepted as fair by all parties.

Consolidating disintegration

Regardless of the transitional turbulence, Ethiopia is in a much better position now than 15 years ago to justify postponement given COVID-19—although some already were accusing Abiy’s administration of employing a chaos and tension strategy to convince a conservative society that they should choose security over a competitive election. But the relevance of 2005 to the delayed election is also its effect on the psyche of an electorate that views the 2005 election as the benchmark of a competitive democratic process.

During that period, the opposition, particularly the main grouping, CUD, campaigned effectively, using government-controlled media, and by organizing rallies and discussions. The people therefore know how free and fair elections should be conducted, and it will be far harder for the ruling party this time to use its incumbent advantage to dominate proceedings without significant blowback.

From its action following the 2005 fallout, it’s clear that the ruling coalition concluded that there was no hope of sharing power with the anti-multinational federalist, urban elite forces. Similarly, Meles and allies also decided that it was impossible to deal with Eritrea’s ruling party due to its involvement in the internal politics of Ethiopia, after Asmara assumed the 2005 trauma made the ruling coalition fragile, and Isaias started acting on his long-held dislike of multinational federalism by supporting opposition elements. EPRDF’s subsequent change of course was expressed in an escalating response to Eritrean cross-border provocations, and upping its diplomatic campaign to isolate Eritrea and Ethiopian groups that associated with Eritrea, such as Ginbot 7 and Oromo Liberation Front.

Furthermore, since the Ethiopian civil service largely opposed the ruling party in 2005, Meles declared in parliament that, regardless of qualifications, he would assign a security guard as a minister as long as they were loyal to EPRDF policy and had the discipline to implement it. In retrospect, these post-2005 shifts brought mixed results: there was rapid growth and development, and thus it proved that a sensible top-down policy direction, even if it is implemented by semi-educated cadres, can achieve results.

Led by the incomparable Meles, whose political acumen was often acknowledged even by his die-hard detractors, EPRDF also attracted international acclaim. “Boosted by relative political stability and spectacular—if deeply uneven—economic growth at home, the former guerrilla leader from Tigray transformed Ethiopia from an object of international pity into a powerful actor that has commanded increasing global attention,” Harry Verhoeven from Georgetown University wrote after his death in 2012.

However, the decision made after the 2005 election to fill the civil service and even the executive with political loyalists without consideration to merit started to show its downside the moment the state-led economy started producing returns. Corruption, cronyism, and repression rotted the regime, including the justice sector. The result was a lopsided system that handed 99.6 percent of the seats in parliament to EPRDF control—Meles and allies had created a de facto one-party state in under half a decade, as they had begun to do in the late 1990s.

From there, the civil service became subordinate to the parallel party structure, the youth became increasingly frustrated at the lack of opportunities, and the EPRDF’s smothering system of societal control. The result was by 2014 demonstrations started that eventually led to the prime minister resigning four years later. After Hailemariam Desalegn stepped aside—and due to the shaky transitional nature of Abiy’s administration, which has involved the return of long-exiled opponents of EPRDF—the political struggle has restarted where it stopped after 2005.

Federalist suspicion

Albeit after employing reckless methods to take down the EPRDF regime during anti-government protests, the federalist identity-based political bloc is showing again, just like EPRDF in 2005, that it is willing to compete for power within the constitutional structure.

For example, regardless of the former affiliation of Birtukan Mideksa, who was deputy chairman of CUD in 2005 and later founded a party called Unity for Justice and Democracy (UDJ) in 2008 after being pardoned from a life sentence in 2007 (she was re-arrested that year for breaking terms of her pardon), federalists supported the reorganisation of the electoral board and gave its new chair, Birtukan, the benefit of the doubt that she plans to deliver a fair and credible 2020 election. That is despite the fact that UDJ was firmly within the anti-multinational bloc,

In fact, there are enough reasons to be suspicious about the appointment of leaders of democratic institutions such as Birtukan, who were one way or another influential during the 2005 election. As well as the electoral board chief, Daniel Bekele, the current Human Rights Commissioner, was jailed after opposing the EPRDF as an activist while working for ActionAid. While knowing these individuals are not federalists, there is no campaign to delegitimize them—but the new appointees should know that other contenders are watching their every move. There have already been allegations against the board about the process of dissolving EPRDF and registering Prosperity Party, which is considered an addition to the anti-multinational federalism bloc by opposing regional elites.

Instead, so far, it is the Ethiopian nationalist bloc that is trying to find a way not to commit to an electoral process, arguing, like former G7 leader Andargachew Tsige and ex-Derg official Dawit Woldegiorgis, that the constitution should be suspended and a transitional government formed. Those calls are likely to increase now that the elections will not be held before the government’s term ends.

There has also been a growing suspicion of collaboration, favouritism, and alignment between the Berhanu Nega-led Ezema and Prosperity Party, and also between Abiy and Berhanu, in view of Ezema’s vocal backing of the dissolution of the ruling coalition and support for Abiy’s administration. As in 2005, there are signs that the anti-multinational camp, now buttressed by Prosperity Party’s unitary structure and Abiy’s pan-Ethiopian tendencies, is using backdoor pressure on the civil structure and democratic institutions and creating vulnerability by allowing foreign meddling from Eritrea, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the West.

But this time the risk is higher than 2005.

The political narrative is no longer dominated by Addis Ababa and its Amharic-speaking elite. Indeed, the narrative is not even occurring in Amharic. It is clear now there are at least three main political power bases: Tigray and Afar; urban elites, including the PM himself; and the Oromo-dominated south. Add the heightened political consciousness produced by protest movements, social media, and regional structures, and Ethiopia’s political constituency looks sharply demarcated.

Déjà vu

This deepening cleavage has been driven by recent increased polarisation and insecurity. For example, famously, Berhanu Nega could not even leave his car in Bahir Dar. The National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) cannot campaign in ethnically mixed Oromia towns, Jawar Mohammed would be unwise to step foot in Amhara, and TPLF leaders are marooned in Mekele.

By the time Hailemariam’s government collapsed—due mainly to protests by the multinational federalist bloc over TPLF predominance and maladministration— there was nothing Ethiopian nationalists wanted to retain from EPRDF rule. It is therefore re-treading the same path as in 2005: challenging and destroying whatever EPRDF created, including the existence of identity-based federal structure; and seemingly with a new powerful backer: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. These days, the struggle to retain the EPRDF constitution and its structures are not coming from the defunct EPRDF, but regionalist elites from Tigray and the Oromo-dominated south.

The current situation therefore presents comparable opportunities and risk.

When politics resumes in earned post-pandemic, we may see Oromo and Amhara nationalists face off again over Addis Ababa and other issues, tugging at the cohesion of the federal government. Meanwhile, Tigray looks set to keep behaving like a member of a confederation, raising the risk of conflict if Addis Ababa pulls fiscal levers to try and bring it into line. There is ongoing counter-insurgency activity in Wellega and there was another de facto state of emergency across the south long before the national COVID-19-inspired one. But the fact that the ideological divide is now so clearly defined—multinational federalist versus its opponents—is a good opportunity for Ethiopia: as it is unlikely either side will be the absolute winner, there will have to be some form of negotiated settlement.

The key takeaway from 2005 should be that EPRDF managed to dissolve the Ethiopian nationalist camp post-election using repressive methods that gave it no chance to come back. That total rejection led the opponents to turn to violence. The Prosperity Party government does not have the economic and security capacity—mainly due to the rushed nature of the new party’s creation, the destabilizing nature of the crushing five-year protest movement, and the restructuring of the security apparatus after TPLFs withdrawal—to sink the federalist camp. If it tries, serious and sustained violence might erupt.

Further cause for concern was that the build-up to the now-delayed election compared unfavorably to the excitement of the pre-2005 election. This is because the Prosperity Party government was fast restructuring the nation against the Oromo federalist tide that brought about the 2018 reform. This is making the opposition lose hope and, in parts of Oromia, return to asserting their position via insurgency and civil unrest. The 2005 election was unique in holding so much hope as the first competitive election and one that could set the country on a democratic path. The country is not as naive this time around.

If Ethiopian nationalists, using the incumbent Prosperity Party, manipulation of democratic institutions, and remains of the security apparatus, essentially ignore the claims of identity-based federal politics and postpone the election unduly without adequate negotiation, or use the current emergency to entrench their authority, there will be trouble, as will be the case if pre-election repression reoccurs when campaigning resumes.

Meanwhile, if they take the advice of the 2005 opposition stalwarts and try to summarily outlaw identity politics, they would risk Ethiopia’s disintegration.

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Modification: On 23 May, in the sixth paragraph of Zero Sum section, a reference to “CUD-organized riots” was changed to “CUD-organized protests”.

Editors: William Davison, Patrick Gilkes

Main photo: The funeral of Addisu Gabriot ended in a protest in which people showed their anger about government killings; Addis Ababa; 10 June 10 2005;  Petterik Wiggers/Hollandse Hoogte

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About the author

Mistir Sew

This is a generic byline for all anonymous authors. The anonymity could be because they fear repercussions, as they are not authorized by their employers to express their views publicly, or for other reasons.

23 Comments

  • The author is trying in futile to create an impression that there is a real struggle between two opposing view of federalists and “anti multiculturalism forces”. The federalism that is at work as we speak, is nothing but a simple divide and rule where the interests of the minority TPLF junta has been served without any checks and balances. Inflaming ethnic tensions and and promoting exclusion has been sold as multiculturalism just so those who control the security would have unlimited access to the country’s resources. You can’t be a multiculturalism advocate while at the same time discriminating against minorities living in your so called killil. An Oromo living in Tigrai is considered as alien in present day Ethiopia and, some are so busy in trying to convince us that we are well off under such a system. No Jose!

    TPLF knew from the get go that the ethnic federalism is designed to only serve its main purpose of plundering the country by creating animosity among its various ethnic communities. The thought was that once their turf was built with the resources mooched from the rest of the country, then the fire would be ignited so that no one can look northward. The equation got mugged along the way when the green pasture tasted too good to depart from. Instead, they started to confuse the people by manufacturing false history, creating animosity and apply coercive forces to subjugate the majority. Finally TPLF ran to Mekelle with tails in between its legs when the falsehood is exposed enough and the discriminatory practice got its halt by the youth who witnessed first hand what it means to be subjugated under a minority’s hegemony. Now they growling from afar as if it has anything left in its arsenal.

    TPLF, being a representative of a minority ethic group should have fought against a system of ethnic federalism where in, if implemented as written, would have bestowed all the powers on to the majority ethic groups. EPRDF as a party has been promoting exclusion by only embracing four parties whose constituency is very different in number. Tigrai with 5 million people was equal as Oromia with 40 million people in deciding the fate of the people. If this is democracy as preached here, then one should beg for the definition of representation for individual’s voting has no value in the context of EPRDF’s application of the term.

  • I am wondering about those poeple who are trying to mess up with the federal system that has been built for decades and is suported by majority of Ethiopians if we put it to verdict. What mafe it vulnerable to attackis that TPLF didn’t implemented it fully as empowering tool/system for the majority of the marginalised ethnic groups in tge country. It didn’t democratized the federation and implemented it genuinely with merit based aproach both in civil services and at senior technocrats(it filled the system with incapable, corrupted and anti-democratic people and system) . In general, TPLF rather abused it instead of making it a genuine, inclusive and democratic federal arrangments that all national and naionalities as a group and citizen’s as individual equally enjoy their rights and see it as a fair system. If it has been implemented well we can manage it lik Canada, Switzerland and other countries which followed the same system/approach and solved their polirized political problem.

    Now there is no way to go back to the old unitarist or coated geographic federalism that don’t redress our past injustice that we face for the past generations. How can a Gambela or Benishangul or a Sidama nation etc, who have been marginalized and removed to center be empowered and move to the center without having a true and autonomous shared rule and self rule that respects democracy and ensure their representation at all levels. Hence, we improve the current federal system by democratising it, making it inclusive and genuine that respects both individial and group rights. Once we practiced democracy, respects the rights of people, and ensure rule of law, we can build trust among people, and even re-arrange any structures or systems that goes against the tenets of democracy and justice.

    • How about yugoslavia and syria for an example. The ethnic model can not be merit based and can not be democratic because its all about being RACIST! Swindling is the name of the game. Even if it has support (which needs tallying) its simply gross and genocidal in african context.

      • Dear Good Man,

        Don’t mix up coherent and logical comments I put to share ideas to those people who are open minded and ready to debate. The Syria case is different and there is brutal dictator and there is no dialogue and no practice of self-rule and shared rule under democratice system like Canada and USA. The same is true for Yogoslavia and others shattering empires that don’t respect both group and individual rights which is to redress historical injustice. You and the like to use the word RACIST to further polarize and aggravate the difference. RACISTS are those who don’t respect the culture, languages and identity of others and dream fake unity instead of true unity in diversity that reflects reality on the ground. No one hate to see a prosperous, democratic, united and multi-nationally federated Ethiopia as far as rule of law, justice and democracy is ensured. It is the lack real democracy and genuine federalism that make you to hate it. Is there any racism you are talking about in Switzerland and CANADA who did a dialogue and curvef out such a wonderful federal system. Please ready to learn, feel the pain of others, the majority needs such system and let us not spend discussing about it for all these years. Let us move forward, negotiate, improve on the gaps the current system have and craft a bright future for our children rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.

        • Dear Ammanuel
          Racist is the one who enslave (not literally) others directly or SYSTEMATICALLY. Its a thug of war for resource. The bulliest of them all take it all. And to take it all you play the systematic role when its rosy and the gun when it gets rough. My friend, if i do not subscrobe to your idea, as you said, i am not open minded then SO BE IT. You just dashed democracy there. Like i said its resource centered. Some are posed to gain from a skewed system. Don’t blame the player, blame the game. The game is ethnicity. I stand by my own. Forgive me if i got on your nerves. You wanted a debate and i gave you one. If you read ethnographic history then you might learn a thing or two about people migration and assimilation. Then you will learn that there is no delineated ethnic group historically. To preach hatred and differences in africa is down right genocide and mark my word for it.

          • Dear Good Man,

            Dialogue is important and I understand your concern and I feel your pain that no one should be considered as an outsider in any region as a minority. That is why I advice you to struggle for all kinfs of rights and democracy. The law should be equal for all and the right of the citizens should be respected. On the same note each and every one of us should respect the culture, language and identity of others and that regions we are working and living and even we should work to further empower them as all are our brothers. Rather you seem to advance exploitation of the natural resources of those regions instead of empowering them and redress their past injustice by taking various firms of affirmative actions. You seem to dictate on them being at the center (via forming unitary state or sugar coated federalism without their actual/clear representatio). Don’t try it. It is an uphill struggle for you against all those nations. Rather, you will bring another disaster you are dreaming like the one in Yugoslavia. Instead bring a positive energy and advice for jointly working on a purely civilized and democratic federal system being practiced in CANADA and switzerland. Is there any right abuse or racisim in the ethnic federal state of these two or other developed countries and other fast developing country? There is no discrimination as they have well-established rule of law and democracy. You see the medicine for any right abuse or racism is not what you are talking about. It is ensuring justice, democracy, embracing diversity (inclusiveness) and upholding rule of law. These are the pill for all sides of extremists (for both unitarists and balkanizers). Hence, focus on that and spend your energy on ensuring all democratic rights and accomodating diversity by redressing past injustice instead of trying to go back to tge old, racist and rotten system. Every system whether it is unitary or federal become a curse when you don’t have democracy and when you do injustice against individuals and collective rights. The two are inseparable.

            So don’t create instability and feed ideology that marginalized the people of Gambela, Benishangul, Sidama, Somali, Oromo, Walaita, Kafa, Gamo, Tigray and oppressed majority of the Amhara (in whose name the ruling elites trade) etc. These are the people who struggled bitterly against pure racist system of the feudal regime and also trying to reform fake federal system of the TPLF. To speak truly the TPLF did good job in installing the federal system and trying to empower those marginalized group but in the end they abused/ manipulated it and made it weak to keep their power with dictatorship and anti-democratic practices.

            People or labour force is a resource and we should invest on quality eduaction, and boost our human capital so as to develop and grow. So no one is against free movement of poeple if ruleof law and democracy is tgere. The natural resources, high rise buildings etc, is nothing and can be destroyed at once if there is no democracy. That is what has been done by the succesive Ethiopian rulers and that is why we remain so poor and backward while other nations are growing. Instead of competition on natural resources, le us invest on educating our people including those marginalized people and focus on empowering them. By the way, do you find any Gambela, Benishangul man in key Ethiopian institutions as you see others? Is there Gambela women as a hostess of Ethiopian Air lines? No because they were marginalised for long and only their resources is needed (not the people). So is there any racism more than this. No. That is the reality in Ethiopia and if you are a true Ethiopian try to find how to redress such dirty and unbearable injustice and try to be positive, think out of your box, embrace others and ready for a genuine dialogue to sort out ir narrow down differences.

    • All the repetitive ranting about TPLF aside, history will show that TPLF provided the leadership and discipline needed to form the federal system.

  • It appears the author is all over the place in this piece.
    The only takeaway I could gather is that he is a supporter of Ethnic federalism which he labeled as multinational Federalism. I would not call Ethiopia a multinational federal country since the current Ethiopia is not a collection of nations.

    He has also characterized most Ethiopians who do not support ethnic federalism as unionist. It seems that he is of the opinion that unionists (those who support a one united Ethiopia) could not be federalists. He failed to recognize that most Ethiopian unionist who reject ethnic federalism are supporters of Regional Federalism.

    The gross misinterpretation of Ethnic Federalism by Ethno-nationalist in the current prevailing political discourse is simply an abstraction of the facts to fit their own hidden agenda, as demonstrated by TPLF during the past three decades. In my humble opinion, TPLF/EPRDF was a unitary government that governs from the center with iron-fist which gave little to no autonomy for the federated ethnic Kilils. It was neither federalist nor democratic- but an autocratic dictatorship by single ethnic group who were comrades in arms whose central agenda was the liberation of Tigray guided by an Albania form of communist ideology. A bunch of misguided radical youth revolutionaries from Tigray – Viva la. revolución. But the Ethiopian people ought to give TPLF and EPLF credit for their coordinated efforts in the toppling the Mengistu brutal military dictatorship. We should also command Meles Zenawi’s relentless efforts to advancing economic growth and development, focus on alleviation of poverty, massive government infrastructure projects and sound education and health policies. He had also transformed himself and eventually exhibited a nationalist and Ethiopianist stands and stood firm as fierce pan Africanist in the world stage. The transformation from a village guerrilla fighter to a sought-after speaker and a darling of Davos was exhilarating – so much for being a Tigray liberation fighter.

    Let us now circle back to the center piece of the current Ethiopian political frictions between the unionist and Ethno-nationalist. Those of us in the camp of national unity reject Ethnic federalism for host of reasons and argue in favor of geographic federalism. As it stands, Ethnic federalism is nothing but a form of ethnic apartheid which is divisive, tribalist and racist. It is an inherently flawed policy that would not advance democracy and economic development in the age of globalization. It will also weaken Ethiopia as a country both in its economic development efforts and collective security. It only promotes division, inter-ethnic conflicts, and polarization instead of building a cohesive national identity based on equality of citizenship, democratic values, and fraternity.

    If history is any lesson, Benito Mussolini and his fascist Italy regime had effectively demarcated Ethiopia into ethnic Kilils to weaken the Ethiopian nationalism and patriotism to advance his colonial agenda. TPLF after half a century later, once again used Mussolini’s master plan to grab and clinch to power (divide and concur) in the name of empowering equal rights and recognition to the disfranchised ethnic groups within Ethiopia. Well, let us just defer the judgment to history and the Ethiopian people to pass the verdict as to whether or not Equality of citizenship, democracy and freedom have been achieved by the TPLF ethnic Federalism and the current Ethiopian consultation.

    The political elites today need to converge on the common vision of new Ethiopia and must work together to build a democratic nation. All political parties must by law have national character – both in ethnic affiliation, gender, religion etc. and advance a national agenda and political mandates given to them by the constituents – the collective will of the Ethiopian people.

    If the vision is to build a democratic Ethiopia with equal citizenship, where individual rights are supreme and equal opportunity for all citizens are afforded, then a geographic federalism is the way to go.

    A federal form of government where citizenship rights (both individual and group rights) are respected without advancing ethnic division and fragmentation could guarantee a lasting democracy, equal citizenship, and self-governances. It will also advance economic development as well advances “responsible nationalism” based on cohesive multiethnic national identity and Ethiopian citizenship. The notion that only “Ethnic- federalism “form of government could guarantee democracy and equality for all is utterly preposterous and disingenuous. It is the secret burnished political weapon by Ethno-nationalists simply to mask their political ambitions and misguided agendas.

    The political elites should set aside their own personal ambitions and agendas, and look up to those stable democracies and prosperous nations to learn a lesson or two and chart the right path to democracy and economic development –The Ethiopian people deserve less!

    • Meles is a pragmatist. I would liken him with Jose Mourinho. When he came to power he had his work cut out for him to aid in eritrea secession initially and followed by tigray. Do not really know if the two were planning in joining up to form a single nation. Hence at the beginning he kept on belittling national identity issues like flag etc. Later when he overstayed his plan and went on his way, esayas had to be angry with him. Then the war that scared esayas. But these days esayas has been my darling for all the right reasons. When meles realized elections are not for him (after 2005gc election), he opted for legitimacy through development. Poor as we are, every km of asphalt road, per say, exagerated the gdp growth cause its from scratch. He had a naive mass identity pychi to carve out, an economy to start afresh (balancing public investment with national productivity), a population to manage (family planning), and a whole bunch of brilliant minds (if not better than him) abroad and home to appeal to and he opted for the spot light and personality cult. He realized later that the monster (ethnic politics) he created was getting loose and he tried in a futile attempt to reverse course to a certain extent but in vain. He was tasked with cleaning up the mess his comrades leave behind. Things plunged into abys after he passed away. But he was not a unicorn and new thugs want to emulate him, thats just funny.

  • Not bad but too TPLF centric. Diasgree with two points: reference to Hailemariam government and classification of Tigray and Afar as one category.

    There was no Hailemariam goverment in practice. Abay Tsehaye, Getachew Aseffa, Samora Yonus and other TPLFites never allowed him to play his role. He was an artificial PM to be remembered in history.

    There is no historical and political justification to categorise Afar and Tigray. TPLFites sucked Afar minerals and destroyed Afar livelihood. The only thing they have in common is boundry. Pretention and deceiption will no more work.

  • Good observation so far, but I would like to throw my two cents again on this debased nagging argument of Federalist versus anti-federalists or centralists or whatever This is not false dichotomy as some would like to argue. It’s fact and true both in t1he past history and as per current political dynamics goes, but only that centralists one as being a reactionary political narrative at this point. Reactionary because we have sent and been through the spectacular failure of that model politically, economcal, socially and administrative wise speaking over hundred year plus. As I mentioned many times, the future of Ethiopia States’survival as a united geographic and political entity with multi-nationals, mosaic identity and multi-faith lies with a strong federalist and democratic model . As a matter of fact, the future of Ethiopia State is sin none qua without genuine federalism system. Furthermore, whatever has being ailing with model during twenty-seven long years of the Woyane’s reign has little do with a real federalism model or ideology bperse . It was a quasi ethnic mongrel system purported as federalism prototype riddled with corruption, ignorance, nepotism, authocratic and repressive rule, you name it. There should be constitiional and administrative remedies and course of correction for those blunders but nothing more. People shouldn’t be necessarily looking solutions to extraterrestrial planets or trying to turn the clock back into less glorious history and era when it’s in plain view.

    • Fear mongering about the nation’s survival is a topic for another day. Argument has never been between Medieval era feudalism (amalgamated with religion) Vs federalism. Infact the corruption, nepotism etc (you noted) is mortaly engraved on the notion of ethnic federalism be it weyane’s or others. Its about resource and the bullies take it all approach. Preaching fraternity while practicing exceptionalism is a cruel joke in a genuine sense.

  • A federal republic in Ethiopia and an economic model that served the country well under the circumstances. It was 27 years of nation-building, a genuine commitment to the well-being of the people and the country. Federalism was a pragmatic solution to the rise of identity politics that was no longer avoidable. Against all odds, TPLF has done all it can for Ethiopia. And now it is for the others, especially the Oromos and many in the South Region, to defend and guard against the weakening of the constitution and the federal order. I think TPLF should cancel the plan to hold its own regional election, there is nothing to be gained in such an election that is not also implemented in other regions. It would be more practical for TPLF to work with the other political groups that share TPLF commitment to federalism and try to influence the outcome of the current national debate.

    • Well then its also logical that each ethnic state should be federated further more into tribal states. Say Tigray being further federated into enderta, agame, adewa, etc. I bet you would reject that out right?. Then Oromia into Arsi, Harerge, ilu, welega etc. The nightmare never ends. Its a social experiment with the devil. I for instance do not want to be bundled with people who simply look like me, cause i may NOT concur with their ideas of life. Thats called the power of individualism, which effuses innovation, business, growth, spontaneity and you name every bit of freedom. 27years with a muzzle of a gun to say the least. Federalism doesnot mean socialism. Federalism is an administrative means and definetly not a repression machine.
      How do you explain the billions of dollars stashed in overseas account?
      I suspect tigray is dreaming of seceding then joining up with eritrea to form a republic with strategic red sea port at its helm. The need to dismantle the giant next door (eth) comes to mind of tigray elites then. Time will tell!

      • Federalism is the recognition of the sociological truth, that there is a diversity of ethnic groups in the country. This truth and the rise of identity politics may not be palatable to some, but federalism allows for regional identity and self-administration within Ethiopia as a nation. The fiction of billions of dollars stashed overseas is a falsehood, an absurdity.

        • Stereotyping, No thank you! Rise of identity politics is a sugar coated butter creamed name for RACISM. Thats also true for white supremacist. Why do you think addis ababa is cramed with people escaping persecution. Regions are becoming increasingly homogenious as opposed to the normalcy of multiculturalism. RACISM baby! Tell that to the people who made us feel caged in a city or place. Alienating (legal alien) the one that does not “belong”, ironically i am welcome in theory (constitution). The sociological truth of ethnic federalism is the british colonial era of DIVIDE AND RULE and incase things get sour you make sure to trend it to a sinister and dire situation. And the dollar spoke a bit in the assassination attempt of esayas, i assume A BIT.

        • Mr. Kidus

          True Federalism is a decentralized form of government with regional states and federal goverment having explicit power sharing arrangements. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or identity. Simply stated, it’s a mechanism for the regional states to having a broader mandate and autonomy to self-govern without interference from the federal goverment on local administrative matters.

          Under regional federalism, every citizen within a state (region) will have equal rights and status as a resident of the state without reference to any ethnic identification. Every one will have equal right to live, vote, hold a public office, having property as a resident of the state.

          Ethnic Kilils in effect creates ethnic apartheid zones.
          Amhara, Oromo, Sidama, Somali, Afar Kilils (state) etc demarcations are simply discriminatory in nature and creates nothing but inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts which eventually leads to displacement, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

          Citizenship rights should be supreme, and residency of a particular region should guarantee equal rights amongst the residents of the state irrespective of ones ethnic classification or ethnic identity.

          In order to achieve equality of citizenship, we don’t need ethnic apartheid zones (Kilils).
          We could constitute both federal and state laws to guarantee equal citizenship and eliminate discrimination due to ethnicity, language, cultural identity and practice, religion, gender etc.

          Ethnic-Federalism is a deeply flawed system of goverment.

  • Idelogically biased! Ethnic nationalism escalation is all about externalizing every bit of problem and being irresponsible. It definitely leads to minority persecution and genocide. It also harbours secession as an ultimate goal, which misleads the majority into believing in a freedom which doesnot exist in the far future, its a delusion bound to fail spectacularly. And propagated by those of ill intent for the nation. The 2005 election failed because it did not incompass the rural oromo majority along with the south. It centered on urban population and the amhara region. The center (oromo) were not ripe enough (disefrenchised) and politics of disunity was taking shape (instiled by the rulers). The time simply was not right, the geopolitics of the world and the technology were not there as well. The state investment led economy model simply dagged too far for the sake of corruption brought about debt mountain and the insueing stagflation further threatning social instability. The recent change has its command center abroad with the cia and the arabs. The opdo structure and the social media was used to lead and organize the protest, while back door negotiation or hand twisting by the west made the transition look smooth, as well as the corrupt nature of the late leaders made them soft and error prone. It takes time to diffuae and correct the tension between ethnic groups and its a must. Its like diffusing a bomb in a movie, and abiy seems to be the bomb squad member.

  • This piece suffers from an ideological bias. To label people like PP and Ezema as anti-federalist/anti-multinational camp is rridiculous! What’s worse is the writer’s allusion that so called ‘Federalists’ are democratic and open to work with their contenders. Really? From the start, there is no such group called ‘Federalist or multinational’. This self-claimed designation is all but a façade by groups who sought to dominate others in the name of ‘self-determination’ and ‘federation’. TPLF claims to be a ‘Federalist force’ but we know what it did for 27 years-only used the name (Federalist) to cover its gross shameless shame (corruption, discrimination, oppression). Oromo Fedrslist Congress, OLF, most Oromo oppositions , all cclaim to be Federalists but they’re the one who persecute, kill and discriminate against minority groups with different culture, language or religion in their region. In realty so called ‘Federalists’ are the worst unitarists, who have insatiable desire to dominate others.

    There are also many other erroneous claims in this piece but I leave it for other readers’ judgment.

    Surely, the writer is not contributing to positive engagement by accusing the other group as anti-democratic and anti-multinationals.

    • I thought i was reading about some other country. The people the writer describe as federalist are people who wants to be in power by using ethnic tension. They can only get vote by playing the ethnic card. They don’t have any vision about the economy or any other aspect of life that would get them vote. They are a cancer for any society.

      • Thought provoking article, the 2 analysis enriched It further. I wonder if Mr. Patrick Gilckes is the former WingatevGeography teacher?

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