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“A Constitution for a Multinational Democratic State-Nation: The Case of Ethiopia”

By Tedla Asfaw

Dr. Negasso Gidada presented his paper on “A Constitution for a Multinational Democratic State-Nation: The Case of Ethiopia” at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on on Feb. 24, 2015.
The argument by Dr. Negasso . Gidada the constitution was not a TPLF Constitution as widely believed by many Ethiopians rather a constitution of “the people by the people ” is inaccurate. Who nominated the drafting commission ? Who was controlling the process ? Was it not the late Meles Zenawi’s TPLF ?

Dr Negaso

Talking about the shortcomings or amendments can not be tackled if we do not agree whose constitution we have now in Ethiopia. It is TPLF’s Constitution which is based on TPLF’s Manifesto of 1976. The goal is to make Tigrai an independent nation after Ethiopia is broken to mini ” independent “states.
After Derg was toppled by TPLF in May 1991 power has been under total control of TPLF. The constitution was drafted and ratified by pro TPLF individuals. Dr. Negasso Gidada denying that is denying the reality in Ethiopia for the last twenty three years or more.
No one is going to be fooled in Ethiopia by the so called Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front ( EPRDF) which Dr. Negaoos on his presentation considered as a party. EPRDF is not a party we all know that. It is a coalition that is led by TPLF.
EPRDF is a facade for the domination of TPLF on political, economical and cultural life of the diverse population of Ethiopia of more than eighty ethnic groups. It seems Dr. Negaso Gidada can change this reality by amending the constitution.
If we accept the TPLF or Ethiopian ” Amended ” Constitution for referendum as recommended by Dr. Gidada then what ? We were told that EPRDF won an election by 99.6 percent ten years ago why we should expect different result on theamended Constitution ??
The Ethiopian people defeat of EPRDF/TPLF in 2010 election by pro unity coalition Kinijit was an indirect referendum onEPRDF and its unpopular constitution of divide and rule.
I agree with Dr. Negasso Gidada the ethnic elites like him at home and abroad support Article 39. For them the Ethiopian ” peoples are under “colony” . They have to be given a chance like Eritrea to vote for independent nation on the line of new map they created in 1991 by brute force.
The big hurdle for this TPLF made Kilils/regions or what Dr. Negasso Gidad call ” nation states ” you need toaccommodate at least 80 ethnic groups. At present such ethnic map is being redrawn in Eastern Ukraine to accomodateRussians at the expense of Ukrainians. In Ethiopia redrawing was done twenty years ago in the name of nations andnationalities by the barrel of gun similar to Ukraine experience underway now.
Dr. Negasso Gidada mentioned the quarrel among various ethnic groups for land and water. That is true. He forgot to mention the ethnic cleansing that forced many Ethiopians under his presidency from Asosa, Arba Gugu etc. Many people were murdered to purify the regions of unwanted ethnic groups mainly the Amharas.
After he left the presidency ethnic cleansing under the leadership of TPLF’s Abaye Tsehai and Shifereaw Shugite was carried out in Gura Ferda and other places in South and South Western Ethiopia. The issue was raised in the parliament after it got wide publicity in the Voice of America Amharic Program. The Southern region/state, Oromos, Somalis and Afars are fighting to establish a homogeneous ethnic kilil/region for future Independence. Will these Kilils survive both politically and economically. Dr. Negasso Gidada failed to discuss this burning issue on his presentation.
I was one of Dr. Negasso Gidada supporters when he joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP), lately he resigned, after he said in public, ” serving as a president of Ethiopia and traveling in all regions, Ethiopians are against separation that was enshrined in the Article 39 of the constitution”. Why then now Dr. Negasso Gidada is telling us that he is still for Article 39 and will put it for referendum. If we run a referendum why should it be different from the 2010 election result, that is 99.6 percent will say Yes to Article 39.
Dr. Negasso Gidada confirmed the deep poverty in urban centers like Addis parallel to infrastructures development, roads, schools, clinics, universities etc. However, the large displacement of farmers which was mentioned by the other panelist, Professor John Harbeson of Johns Hopkins, did not get emphasis on Dr. Negasso Gidada presentation especially the impact of the pending Addis Master plan on the surrounding farmers. Why are the students on the Oromoregion are against this master plan ? Does Dr. Negasso Gidada support the students slogan Oromia for Oromos only ?? Is this not the right given by the Article 39 of the constitution which still has his support ? Who knows Dr. NegassoGidada will change his position for the third time. See you then Dr. !!!!!!


  1. Thank you Ato Tedla for raising important issues.
    There are two sides to the presentation:- presentation skill/communication and the content of the message. I was disappointed on both dimensions. As regards content, I agree with you that I did not see new message coming from Dr Negaso. The amendments he suggested are trivial. The idea of constitutional court has been floating around for decades, so it is not a new proposal. If the nation had an independent and functioning constitutional court, we would not have seen minority dictatorship which Dr Negasso helped to establish, and gross unaccountability during the 2005 election. The post 2005 laws could have been challenged by taking them to a constitutional court. Even in the absence of constitutional court, if the courts had been independent as is relatively the case in next door Kenya, the excesses of the TPLF would have been checked. So as one of the participants questioned the TPLF has no incentive for doing so as it is reaping the fruits of the conquest as is being observed in the recent celebration of its 40th anniversary.
    Dr Negaso contradicted himself on several places. He correctly stated that the preamble to the constitution which states that Ethiopia is the sum of distinct ethnic entities is problematic, and yet he went on suggesting amendments to a document which is wrong from its first paragraph.
    He failed to connect the constitution to the Transitional charter which was reportedly negotiated between TPLF and OLF under the auspices of Isayas Afeworki in Massawa few months before the capture of Addis Abeba and Asmara. Dr Negaso is educated as an historian and he should have told us the origin of the key concepts of the constitution which he wrote. Furthermore, the fact that the constitution was poorly drafted and finalized has been documented as far back as 1998 by Dr Menassie Haile in the now defunct Ethiopian Register. So Dr Negaso should have come to academia with sufficient preparation.He should have been more careful so that he does not make yet another mistake as opportunities in life do not come frequently and do basic preparation by consulting the relevant literature!
    Worse, he still supports the clause which permits separation (Article 39). If this is the case it is not clear why he is not going back to his own OPDO. Still more, he is so naïve in that he went as far as predicting the outcome of a referendum! He argued that regions will not vote for separation! What if he is wrong?

  2. Dr Negasso`s amendment is nothing rather folong the tplf`s documents. Ethiopia should have absolutely a new constitution based on democratic princples and the rule of law not ethnic based constitution. What Ethiopia needs is a modern constitition not fancy tplf/woyane:s. Experts must make the draft which then should be accepted by all Ethiopians and be legislated by the parliament elected by Ethiopians democratically.

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