Is Federalism a threat or a treatment to Ethiopian Unity?

(By Berhanu)

The rationales why states of the world are unitary, federal or hybrid governance systems, in one way or another, are to sustain territorial integrity and create national consensus. The pre 1991 Ethiopian state building followed the centralist-unitary path through cultural assimilation pursued by successive regimes.

Through the post-1991 federal system, the rights of the nations, nationalities, and peoples have been more or less respected as federalism combines elements of national shared-rule and regional self-rule. And, this has already been able to emancipate the nations, nationalities and peoples from the past injustices and oppression.

The project of establishing and assuring equality among the Ethiopian multicultural societies is already done. In other words, this task has already been accomplished by EPRDF thanks to the martyrs who did this millstone achievement.

However, this task is not something that should be pronounced every day for it was already built on a strong foundation by constitution and practice.

Hence, from now on, the track has to be changed to rebuilding the ever cracking sense of unity as a single strong country by the makings of nations and nationalities and peoples of the heterogeneous societies of the country.

Here what we should take in to account is that ethnic-federalism was a foundation but not an end for Ethiopian unity.

Since that groundwork is already in place for the last 26 years, this first phase of state-building scenario is by now accomplished. As a result, the contemporary major task of the government, the societies, NGOs and other stake-holds should be on reconstructing the unity of the nation.

Besides, as I have explained earlier the first phase is already done, therefore, it is no use in celebrating the day of ‘Bihare behare-Soboch ken’ (nations and nationalities day) for its output is beyond that cerebration and no even magical power could have the capacity to reverse the already confirmed issue of equality of the countries’ ethnically and religiously diversified peoples.

Accordingly, my recommendation would be let the ‘Bihare behare-Soboch’ celebration day be converted to ‘Ye-Andenet Ken’ day celebration. Here, mind you!!! I am not undermining or opposing the very concept of ‘Ye-Bihare bihare-Soboch equlenet’, but I am trying to say that it wouldn’t be constructive on celebrating it for it has already been set in cement in a very tangible and empirical manner.

Let’s give the right medicine to the right prevailing disease!

Currently, most of the sporadically exploding public protests in many regional states of the country are resulted in due to the government’s excessive preaches on the phase one project which has unknowingly resulted in major formidable cracks on the unity of the country.

A blatant recent empirical evidence on this concern is easily available on the Media. Last month’s war of words furiously exchanged between the Ethio-Somalia and Oromia regional governments have shown us that the propagandizing ethnic-federalism has already trespassed its requirements and jumped to the level of threat from its earlier optimum level of treatment for the country.

When a particular regional-state government speaks against another one as intruder and expansionist, when it expels or kills specific ethnics who are fellow citizens, when a particular regional-state government deploys a military force against another compatriot regional-state, it is undoubtedly clear that the overdose-medicine used for ethnic-federalism propaganda would end up fragmenting unity of the nation.

When constitutionally legitimate power of the federal government is taken over by a particular regional-state’s government, it would be naïve to deduce that we are living in a country where there is a strong unity among the diversified societies.

Federalism without a strongly and unitedly established country is dysfunctional, and the vise-versa is also true. In a well-diverse countries like Ethiopia, democratic-federalism is a base and necessary condition but shouldn’t be a tradeoff with the country’s Unity.

Due to the zero-sum game-oriented political culture and intra-elite tension, for quite some time the country has been experiencing problematic state-building accompanied by instability in some regional-state. This has repeatedly wrack havoc on the unity of the country.

The upper-limit or the ceiling of constructing ethnic-federalism is already irreversibly founded. Therefore, nowadays, it is advisable for the government to resume building the nation from a unity perspective over the already built foundation of federalism. Hence, let ‘Hidar 29’ be a day of unity which would tacitly indicate the already acknowledged and ripen diversity.

Factually, it is those peoples who used to fight for crowning of ethnic-federalism, are by now requesting for the blossoming of unity. In other words, they are appreciating for the relatively successful establishment of the phase-one project, but have had enough on it, and now found themselves thirsty of unity. Therefore, catching up this lagged second-phase project should markedly be the remained foremost task of the government.

Teaching and inculcating the societies with ethno-nationalism is by now an indispensable element if the country is wanted to continue as a sustainably united nation. I am optimistic because we have begun to see some epic ethno-nationalist leaders within Oromia regional-state government. Thanks to OPDO which has been able to create such young leaders which could be taken as an exemplary act for the other regional-state governments.

Those gear-changers can also be potential path-finder leaders for the tattering federal government in the near future, because they are the once who have the aptitude to compile ethno-nationalism and democratic-nationalism and able to promote them shoulder-to-shoulder, which are mandatory ingredients for our unity.


Berhanu Tsegay is a resident of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a Masters Degree holder in Development Studies. He can be reached at +251943-304555 or [email protected]

more recommended stories