In-depth

Ethiopia’s ethnofederalism: fact and fiction

While aspects of Ethiopia’s ethnofederalism may be detrimental, removing it altogether could end up causing more problems. 

For at least a year, Ethiopian elites have been divided on whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to keeping, changing, or ending ethnofederalism.

For some, his rhetoric about Ethiopia’s renewed greatness and the support he gets from Ethiopianists signals a desire to end ethnofederalism. For others, his Prosperity Party (PP) remains the vanguard of ethnofederalism, much like EPRDF, its predecessor.

Meanwhile, Abiy’s public discourse and actions have not conclusively settled the matter. His Medemer book does not seem to take a strong stand on ethnofederalism’s future, and Abiy recently wrote that “Ethiopians can now imagine a future based not on ethnic chauvinism, but on unity.” Promoting “unity” is often seen as a euphemism for ending ethnofederalism.

Ethnofederalism is one way for groups to share power in diverse, divided societies. Accordingly, Abiy’s commitment to keeping or changing ethnofederalism has repercussions for groups who see themselves as staying in or being shut out of power. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) certainly saw itself as a shut out, which can at least partly explain events leading to the ongoing civil war.

Whether Ethiopia can successfully embark on a liberal democratic transition also depends on ethnofederalism’s future. On the one hand, elites who believe Abiy wishes to end ethnofederalism may be less willing to support or participate in democratic elections, perhaps even resorting to violence. On the other hand, if Abiy’s central government centralizes power away from the regions, it may risk negating liberal gains made during 2018.

Given that Ethiopian ethnofederalism is such a high-stake issue, it may be helpful to step back and ask “what exactly is at stake and how did we get here?” To this end, it is important to explore three questions. First, what is ethnofederalism, and how common is it around the world? Second, what causes ethnofederalism, or rather, why do those in power choose to implement it? Third, what are the consequences of ethnofederalism, particularly for outcomes such as violence, the ‘hardening’ of ethnic identities, and secession?

What is ethnofederalism?

In contrast to unitary systems, federal states are those where the central government controls some jurisdictions while the units (regions, states, provinces, republics, etc) control others. Jurisdictions may include, but are not limited to, education, taxation, or security policy. ‘Simple’ or geographical federations circumscribe units more or less arbitrarily. By contrast, ethnofederations circumscribe units to deliberately contain ethnic or linguistic groups in their historical homelands.

Scholars differ in terms of how many federal units must be ethnic homelands for a system to count as ethnofederal. For some, ‘‘at least some, if not all, the constituent units of the federation [must be] homelands controlled by their respective ethnic groups.” This describes Ethiopia’s arrangement since 1992, where some units are controlled by their respective ethnic groups (e.g., Oromia, Amhara, and Tigray) while others are not (e.g., Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) and Gambella).

For others, “at least one constituent territorial governance unit [must be] intentionally associated with a specific ethnic category.” This describes Ethiopia between 1952-1962, where only the Eritrea province controlled specific jurisdictions. Whether we opt for the first or second definition determines how many countries count (and have counted) as ethnofederal.

Important current ethnofederations include India (e.g., ethnic Tamils in Tamil Nadu), Russia (e.g., ethnic Adyghes in Adygea), and Pakistan (e.g., ethnic Punjabis in Punjab), among others. Some (infamous) historical examples include the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. These latter three ethnofederations broke up in a spectacular fashion and have thus received much scholarly attention. In particular, Yugoslavia continues to inform much of the popular pessimism about ethnofederalism and “Balkanization.” (Of course, it is rarely acknowledged that Yugoslavia’s ethnofederation helped manage a highly ethnically divided society for over four decades.)

This definitional point is important because some observers have tended to see Ethiopia’s ethnofederation as a unique (and perhaps uniquely evil) system. Some even associate it with apartheid. Whether or not such antipathy toward ethnofederalism is justified, it hangs on a common misconception about ethnofederalism’s commonality. To be sure, aspects of Ethiopia’s ethnofederation, such as the second parliamentary chamber’s (the House of Federation) role in adjudicating constitutional disputes, are unique.

At the same time, problems that have arisen or become more acute since Ethiopia formally adopted ethnofederalism in 1995, such as ethnic minorities’ access to jobs or land, are not unique to ethnofederalism. Indeed, ethnically-divided countries with both unitary and federal constitutions face such problems. Ethiopia’s secession clause is also unique; however, ethnofederations need not necessarily adopt such clauses, and Ethiopians could therefore decide to remove it from the constitution and remain an ethnofederation.

What causes ethnofederalism?

It is difficult to determine the beliefs and goals of elites who choose to implement specific political institutions. Elites may be under international pressure to adopt ethnofederalism (e.g., in Bosnia and Herzegovina), or they may be under domestic pressure from groups who threaten violence if their demands are not met. The latter was certainly true of the Soviet Union, where Lenin and Stalin adopted ethnofederalism against the backdrop of mobilized Georgians, Armenians, Estonians, and so on.

Whether the pressure is domestic or international, I want to emphasize the following point: ethnofederations tend to be created after unitarist alternatives are perceived to have failed. Ethnic groups may resent their status in unitary polities or in geographical federations. Such resentment can turn violent and even threaten to collapse the state.

Perceptive elites may see benefits to choosing ethnofederalism even if they find it otherwise unsatisfactory. For example, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru opposed ethnofederalism as a distraction from economic concerns centred around poverty and development. Yet, as aggrieved ethnic groups protested their status, Nehru gave in.

Many Bolshevik leaders saw ethnofederalism as, “not just wrong, but heretical…[ethnic] nationalism, after all, was nothing more than a clever invention of the bourgeoisie designed to deceive and divide the working classes of the world, pitting them against each other, rather than against their true oppressors.” Yet, the Bolsheviks knew they could not attempt to realize their communist ideal without endorsing ethnofederalism.

This causal point is important because it is sometimes argued that TPLF (as the founding participant in EPRDF and loudest voice in Ethiopia’s 1990s constitutional debates) chose ethnofederalism in order to “divide-and-rule” Ethiopians. The reasoning here seems to be that TPLF wanted its competitors to squabble over regional-level crumbs instead of coordinating to take the national-level pie. It is plausible that ethnofederalism serves this function. However, we must be careful not to infer the cause of some institution from the function that it serves.

Whether or not TPLF had bad intentions in choosing ethnofederalism, it is undeniable that it perceived the explosive potential of ethnic grievance in Ethiopia, much like the Bolsheviks and Nehru. There is some controversy over whether historical injustices faced by Ethiopian ethnic groups have been exaggerated for political reasons. However, it is uncontroversial that these groups believed themselves to be intensely disadvantaged under recent imperial administrations and the Derg, which were both unitarist systems. These grievances fueled several insurrections under Emperor Haile Selassie I and a civil war under the Derg. Accordingly, TPLF saw ethnofederalism as a potential solution to this costly chronic instability.

Ethnofederalism’s consequences

That recent Ethiopian history is, among other things, one of ethnic division, leads to our final question: Are the consequences of ethnofederalism such that these divisions become more pronounced or destabilizing? Although ethnofederalism may be linked to a host of outcomes—say, its relationship with democracy and development—scholars have focused primarily on consequences related to ethnic identity and violence. Although Ethiopia’s current ethnofederation has neither disintegrated nor produced any secessions (Eritrea seceded before ethnofederalism’s formal adoption), some observers worry that these outcomes are inevitable.

Critics of ethnofederalism make roughly two arguments about its consequences. First, ethnofederalism endows titular groups with control over formal institutions such as police. This enables them to more effectively secede or to commit violence against ethnic minorities with impunity. Second, the existence of ethnic homelands causes individuals to identify first and foremost as members of their group, and only secondarily with the state. This second argument also has some resonance in Amhara, where an Amhara identity was not particularly salient before the region’s creation.

But why might critics worry about ethnic identity-formation? Briefly, ethnic identities are thought to be ‘sticky’, in that individuals cannot easily change them and may view outsiders with hostility. This is less likely the case with class or ideological identities: I may be lower-class and liberal, but this can easily change. Also, it is unlikely that I view the middle-class or ideological moderates with much hostility.

Proponents of ethnofederalism concede that ethnic identities are sticky. But, they emphasize that, because ethnofederalism is usually implemented after unitarist systems have failed, such identities were likely ‘hardened’ for a long time prior. If anything, according to this second camp, ethnofederalism may be a stabilizing system as it affords groups what they have wanted all along, namely control over important jurisdictions. This even discourages them from seceding.

As an example, consider the relatively stable process by which ethnic Siltes voted to separate themselves from ethnic Gurages in 2001. Perhaps their Silte identity has now ‘hardened’, but one must compare this outcome with a hypothetical world where they did not separate, saw themselves as second-class Gurages, and possibly resorted to violence.

These paradoxes of ethnofederalism—that it seemingly makes the same outcome more and less likely—have led scholars to focus on specific background conditions. In other words, the productive way forward consists not in asking “Are ethnofederations unstable?” but rather, “Under what conditions are ethnofederations unstable?”

Broadly speaking, there are two important conditions when it comes to ethnofederal stability. The first condition concerns how ethnofederations are created. The second concerns how much the central government respects regional autonomy.

Whether ethnofederations ‘come together’ voluntarily (e.g., Canada), are created by elites in order to ‘hold together’ the country (e.g., India), or are forcibly ‘put together’ by dominant groups (e.g., the Soviet Union) has implications for stability. Unsurprisingly, ‘put-together’ ethnofederations tend to be the least stable, as ethnic groups resent their forcible incorporation and resort to violence or secession.

Although Ethiopia is usually classified as a ‘held together’ case, beliefs that TPLF forcibly ‘put together’ ethnofederalism are a source of continuing dissatisfaction. Indeed, critics bemoan the exclusion of pan-Ethiopian, Amhara, and Oromo (specifically the Oromo Liberation Front after it fell out with the TPLF in the early 1990s) interests from EPRDF’s constitutional convention.

A second important condition for ethnofederal stability is the degree to which regional autonomy is respected. If ethnofederalism is managed by dictators, it should be no surprise that ethnic groups become aggrieved. Dictators rarely respect constitutions, especially provisions that decrease their power relative to autonomous regions. In fact, observers have noted that Yugoslavia’s disintegration followed the attempts by the Serbian-dominated government to restrict regional autonomy.

Put more provocatively, Yugoslavia disintegrated not because it was ethnofederal, but because it was not ethnofederal enough. This has resonance in Ethiopia where many attribute problems of ethnic conflict to TPLF-EPRDF’s decades-long authoritarianism and unwillingness to genuinely concede autonomy to regions. And this has continued relevance as observers who worry that Abiy’s alleged commitment to unitarism will further aggrieve ethnic groups who appreciate ethnofederal autonomy.

Paths forward

Ethnofederalism is not the ideal constitutional design, but it is sometimes the most realistic option for countries with histories of ethnic marginalization and violence. Ethiopia is one such country. Marginalized groups see Ethiopia’s ethnofederation as a hard-won achievement that rectifies this history. As such, ending or radically changing ethnofederalism would provoke dissatisfaction, some of it destabilizing. This is not the path forward.

However, the above discussion points to at least two changes that would improve Ethiopian ethnofederalism. First, because ethnofederalism is more stable when regional autonomy is respected, Ethiopia’s central government should act accordingly, devolving greater fiscal and political powers to regions while refraining from intervention. On the one hand, this would appease ethnic groups that want self-rule. On the other hand, this could help demonstrate to critics of ethnofederalism the value of genuine autonomy by revealing to them that what they bash as “divide-and-rule” may actually bring them tangible benefits.

A second change follows from the fact that ethnic identities can be hard and exclusionary: elites should work to build cross-ethnic coalitions. To take a few examples: It is not only Amharas who believe TPLF engaged in an unhealthy revisionism about Ethiopian history. In addition, opposition to the current Tigray civil war from Oromo elites makes clear the potential for a possible pacifist coalition. Finally, and perhaps most pressingly, a class-based coalition would help address Ethiopia’s most intractable problem: poverty. EPRDF was initially committed to a cross-class coalition before backtracking, particularly after Meles Zenawi centralized power during the early 2000s.

Of course, it is difficult to change politicians’ incentives to intervene in regional affairs or to build coalitions. Reformers would do well to consult a recent monograph highlighting just how many options are available. These include changes to electoral rules, coalition formation rules, minority vetoes, and so on. Given the seeming increase in support for keeping ethnofederalism, this kind of incrementalism presents the best path forward.

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The author is an academic who requested anonymity due to a concern that making their views public could jeopardize future research opportunities.

Main photo: Sidama youth protesting, demanding statehood for their ethnic group—a demand granted in June 2020 after a referendum in November 2019; Reuters

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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.

16 Comments

  • Really beautiful writing to read, so thank you!

    I am not a scholar, but I love the American model of managing power. The US constitution seems to organize itself around the question of preventing the exploitation of power. The elected President can be a ditector but the country needs only be patient for 4 years.

    How can we manage the monopoly of power?
    This is the question for Ethiopia and all Africa.
    Ethiopia cannot gain the respect it deserves as long as it is an incubator for dictators.

  • The author had plainly explained what ethnic-federalism is, why it’s instituted, and if instituted, what might the consequences be.
    The reason he gave as to why TPLF decided to use ethnic-federalism is: “….ethnic federations tend to be created after unitarists alternatives are perceived to have failed.” I disagree with this statement simply because in Ethiopia a genuine democratic unitary system was never tried. There was some hope in the student movement of the sixties and early seventies that a true democratic political system, where every body in the country is respected and treated equally, would be established, but that did not happen. The military junta hijacked the revolution from the students and gradually established its own dictatorship. The Woyane (TPLF) came to power and put the ethno-federal system in place, presumably to empower the historically marginalized ethnic groups, but in reality it was a system used to ease their control of the country and stay in power for the longest possible time–it was definitely a system of “divide and rule’.” Now, the incumbent government is trying to remedy the negative effects of the ethnic-federalism system initiated by TPLF/EPRDF—to me they are one and the same.
    A true, democratic unitary state, a state with a strong central administration, should be an option for Ethiopians to have in this coming election. And if Abiye is pushing for that kind of a political system, Myself and a significant number of Ethiopians are for it. To reiterate, a democratic unitary state has never been tried before, it is a viable option we should consider. Let’s discard our foolish need to identify ourselves by our ethnicity or religion. All peoples in the geographical territory called Ethiopia should make front and center the real enemy facing us, which is poverty. There are enough resources in the country to support us and allow every one of us to have a descent living—provided we embark on a paradigm shift, a fundamental change in the way we see ourselves and others who may be of a different ethnicity or religion. Ethnic politics will get us no where, there will always be one group in power lording it over the others. It may sound simplistic, but in my opinion ethnic politics is a tool used by elites to empower themselves, it was never about the people in the ethnic localities. Let’s stop this ethnic-conflict madness and come up with a political system that treats all Ethiopians equally and with respect. Moreover, please stop bringing up past injustices by previous governments as an excuse for the need of a federal system. In past governmental systems all peoples in Ethiopia were more or less oppressed, save those in power and their cohorts. Ethnic federalism has failed Ethiopia, we’re seeing its consequences.

  • It’s relevant and timely topic, if only
    pondered it seriously and was given this mportant and consequential issue for Ethiopia’s existence as a united entity ike this autho did., but alas it’ hasn’t been happening. Overall, the only downside of this piece is that while the author seems a bonafide federslism side he didn’t it so forcefully and unapologetically as one would have expected , but that is within the border of his personal rights.

    Having said that, let me mention what is fact or fiction in the current federalism system.
    1. The current federslism is pure ethnic federalism in strictly terms is fiction. INo, it’s not No where in the constitution is cites such thing. What is fact it is hybrid system where some large ethno- linguistic groups contain in particular geographic while others not.

    2. Federslism is the cause and mothet-of-all-violence and societal strife is fiction. What is fact that the violence and innjustice in Ethiopian have always been there sincee the Menilik era. The only difference is now that those violence and ethinc cleansings were used to committ in the name of the state.

    3. Majority of the population prefer unitary system at expence of federslism is pure fiction. On the contrary, the fact is that at minimum 60% of citizens support the federslism system, according to a survey commissioned Abiy’s regime and conducted by Afro-Bar last year.

    4. Current federalism is born out born out of faux and fabricated ethnic grieviences or that it was a devious work of the TPLF fiction. The fact of matter is there was hundrended years of struggle among various nationalities for their rights and
    justice.This in system was the only agreed upon of way out in 1991 for all stake holders. If the TPLF hijacked it doesn’t means it created singlehandedly in first place or should be discarded in entirety.

    5. That majority of Ethiopian have mixed background or that federalism system excluded them or tthat being forced upon them one particular identify is fiction. Except pockets of urban centers or emperial settelers, the fact is that majorities belongs to a single ethno- linguistic group or another . As for the role and rights of mixed background , they have a choice and the obvious one is to the paternal side as the Ethiopia’s teligio-cultural and paternalistic norms dictates.

    6.. Ethiopia never had official regions named after its majority of ethnic identity is fiction. Tigrai, Arusi , an Oromo subgroup, and even Eritrean are good
    examples and eventhough Haile Selesie fought tooth and nail he accepted and reduced their territories one third

    7. Abiy is a fan of federslism or serious about trying wholeheartedly fixing it’s shortcomings is ficion. The fact is the opposite. He abundantly showed time and again the contemp he had
    for forfefetlismm ssystems. The war on Tigrai and Benishangul are the proves. He would got rid of it in day one if he could.

    8. Abiy’s regime and his centrlalist clique unilaterally could change the constitution as some would argue is fiction. The fact is that it could lead to multi-fronted and open civil. It’s opening a Pandora’ box tnat one could keep shut.

    9. There would be credible, fair and fair elections in Ethiopia in the foreseeable future and under Abity anf his acolyted and core constituents is fiction . The fact is that the writing has been the wall for three years.

    ……. And much more

  • It’s relevant and timely topic, if only
    pondered it seriously and was given this mportant and consequential issue for Ethiopia’s existence as a united entity ike this autho did., but alas it’ hasn’t been happening. Overall, the only downside of this apiece is that vwhile the author seem a bonafide federslism side he didn’t it so forcefully and unapologetically as one would have expected , but that is within the border of his personal rights.

    Having said that, let me mention what is fact or fiction in the current federalism system.
    2. The current federslism is pure ethnic federalism in strictly terms is fiction. No No where in the constitution is cite such thing. What is fact it is hybrid system where some large ethno- linguistic groups contain in particular geographic while others not.

    2. Federslism and the cause and mothet-of-all-violence and societal strife is fiction. What is fact that the violence and
    Injustice in Ethiopian have always been there sincee the Menilik era. The only difference is now that those violence and ethinc cleansings were used to committ in the name of the state.

    3. Majority of the population prefer unitary system at expence of Federslism is pure fiction. On the contrary, that fact is at minimum 60% of citizens support the federslism system, according to a survey commissioef Abiy’s regime and conducted by Afro-Bar last year.

    4. That majority of Ethiopian have mixed background or that federalism system excluded them or tthat being forced upon to to partiticuis identify is fiction. Except pockets of urban centers or emperial settelers. The fact is that majority belongs to a single ethno- linguistic group. As for the role of mixed background , they have choice and the obvious one is the paternal side as the Ethiopia’s teligio-cultural and paternalistic norms dictates.

    5. Ethiopia never had official regions named after its majority of ethnic identity bis fiction. Tigrai, Arusi , an Oromo subgroup, and even Eritrean are good
    examples and even Haile Selesie fought tooth and nail and thus accepted and reduced their territories one third

    5. Abiy is a fan of federslism or serious in trying about wholeheartedly fixing it’s shortcomings is ficion. The fact is the opposite. He abundantly showed time and again the contemp he had forfefetlism ssystems. The war on zTigrai and Benishangul are the prove. He could got rid of it if he in day one he could.

    6. Abiy’s regime and his centrlalist clique unilaterally could changed the constitution as some would argue is fiction. The fact is that it could lead to multi-fronted and open civil. It’s opening a Pandora’ box tno one could keep shut.

    7. There would be credible, fair and fair elections in Ethiopia in the foreseeable future and under Abity anf his acolyted and core constituents is fiction . The fact is that the writing has been the wall for three years.

    ……. And much more

  • this article leaves out a fundamental dynamic: socialism. the TPLF and EPLF were marxist organizations whose ideology did not differ from the Derg’s, just their conception of how socialism could/should develop

  • Ethiopia is not the first country to have multiple ethnic groups. But it is one of the few to deal with ethno-federalism.
    The result is violence as we see everyday in the massacres of Amhara, Oromo, and Tigrayans. What more proof is needed?

  • After Eritrea’s secession had become irreversible, and to pacify the other ethnic movements – Oromos, Ogaden Somalis, and others, ethno-federalism was found to be a pragmatic framework that TPLF and its coalition could devise to hold Ethiopia together. This political settlement was done in good faith, and calling it divide and rule was an expression of political resentment. And three years after Abiy described the past as 27 years of darkness – Abiy, Amharas, and Isaias the secessionist, formed a vengeful alliance to show TPLF/Tigray what darkness really looks like: deliberate destruction, ethnic cleansing, gruesome and unspeakable atrocities.

  • You can not go left AND right. The Nazis have been trying to give their brown some red highlights and it did not fit in. Real communists have been very immune to racist ideologies at that time. Solidarity within the working class transcends race, ethnicity and whatever you may call it.
    Seeing the level of violence, ethnic federalism has already failed in Ethiopia. What is happening now, the ethnic cleansing in several parts of the country, is already the breaking apart of the country. With growing numbers of outlawed heavily armed and extremely brutal militia and grievances amounting, how shall this process be stopped?
    After all: What is the advantage of being attacked with state funded weapons? What is the use of federalism, if you cannot live peacefully in other parts of the country?
    Sorry, but the communist rational view on humanity is lost. Stone age has already taken over.

  • Mistir Sew stated in plain English that keeping the existing ethnofederal system is the best path forward for Ethiopians

    Yes, indeed! The true north for Ethiopia is Ethnic federalism. Pure and simple. Trying to undone ethnic federal will be extremely dangerous and deadly.

  • Very good read, insightful, well-mannered, and a concerned effort, thank you .

    I think it’s very important to note that ethno-federalism doesn’t necessarily follow the logical sequences as alluded by the author, “…because ethnofederalism is usually implemented after unitarist systems have failed ” . The Whole become undone for the sole reason when parts want to feel what freedom is all about.

    The case in point is the successful separation of Eritrea and the pre-EPRDF Tigray; they both sought and succeeded in achieving their objectives to establish freedom from Ethiopia. While Eritrea is still disentangling itself from everything of Ethiopia, on the other hand, it didn’t take long for TPLF to realize an independent Tigray first had overcome the deficit in the critical necessity required to be a sovereign nation, hence the hastily assembled front consist of pows and few disillusioned eprpits was the only way to Addiss and a gradually to a powerful and prosperous Tigray. TPLF effectively manipulated the space between the unitarist and ethno-nationalist blocks and did so for 27 years.
    It’s also important to observe and ponder about the geo-poltical trend and the accumulated lack of trust among the three actors in the last 40 yrs. Some 30 years ago TPLF and EPLF fought against Ethiopia, some 25 yrs ago TPLF and the rest of Ethiopia fought against EPLF, and now EPLF and the rest of Ethiopia are fighting TPLF. Unless these actors come to their senses, Given all the current circumstances, I have to say the next round of fighting will be among TPLF, EPLF, Amhara, OROMO,OLF, and the Ethiopian army.
    So the question is can we acknowledge the legitimacy of others and give trust a chance?
    May the souls of all who died in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and etc.. rest in peace. May justice prevail over those who committed the heinous crimes now and in the past.

  • We should always be attentive of the distinction between ethnic liberation and ethnic federalism. The first is a democratic concept where historically oppressed groups fight to have their ethnic identity be treated as equal. Every modern human being supports this idea. Civil rights movement in the US has the same model.

    Ethnic federalism is more physical. It tries to draw land territories for ethnic groups for whatever reason it might be. That would have been fine if Ethiopia’s ethnic groups lived in clearly defined territories. If the area that was marked as Oromia region consisted of 100% Oromo population, and Amhara territory had 100% Amhara people, then ethno-federalism could have been an obvious choice of federation.

    But as we all know it, and as Tplf knew it in 1991, that has not been the case for a couple of hundred years. The MAJORITY of the people living in the cities of these new regions come from diverse backgrounds. If you call one area by one ethnic name because it is “their homeland”, that would mean other groups are just guests. So those other groups now need ethnic liberation because their administrators only cater to one group.

    Point being: you can have ethnic federalism but not ethnic liberation.

  • Your analysis discount a huge portion of the population namely Ethiopians with multiethnic linage! We cannot even talk about this group with quantitative confidence because the country’s census was designed to ignore it. However, one cannot discount the fact that a significant segment of this group vehemently detest any form of ethnically organized politics–same goes for religion or creed. Going forward, elites from this group will be emboldened to stand against ethnicfederalism, e.g. EZEMA than any one single ethnics group, e.g. the Amhara!

  • Your analysis discount a huge portion of the population namely Ethiopians with multiethnic linage! We cannot even talk about this group because the country’s census was designed ignore it. However, one cannot discount the fact that a significant segment of this group vehemently detest any form of ethnically organized politics–same goes for religion or creed. Going forward, elites from this group will be emboldened to stand against ethnicfederalism, e.g. EZEMA than any one single ethnics group, e.g. the Amhara!

  • This a great essay. Realistically, all marginalized communities will fight for the current system-most probably violently. Ethiopia cannot survive armed insurgency from the wider South.

  • This piece is nothing but the ‘pravda’ of ethnic politics. The writer has deliberately blinded himself/herself not to see what is happening to millions of Ethiopians who have multiple ethnic heritage. These innocent Ethiopians are being mistreated for not choosing one of their ethnic identity over another and are living with an identity that was forcibly imposed upon them by ethnic federalist forces. Even worse, the writer believes that it was ok to lump the southern Ethiopians together but provide others such as Tigray, Oromo, Amhara, Harari etc their own identity. This is selective prejudice that needs to be abolished.

    There is no ethnic politics that does not have the severity of apartheid in it. And apartheid is unacceptable under any circumstance. Ethiopians have seen it and they didn’t like it. Time to get rid of it.

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