Combustive Mixture: Federalism & Authoritarian rule

7 mins read

By Jawar Mohammed

“An exercise in Yugoslavia’s Federal system of government collapsed because a single ethnic/ religious group (the Serbs) dominated and excluded the rest. The Soviet federation disintegrated through prevalence of authoritarianism and absence of democracy” commented Abay Tsehaye at recent conference organized to discuss Ethiopia’s federal experiment. 

He was right except that he is repeating the same thing in Ethiopia. He is right that multinational federalism and authoritarianism are combustive mixture. That is because adoption of federalism under authoritarian government sets off multiple contradictory developments.

On the one hand, federalism codifies and legitimizes multitude of identities making national identity congruent with its territorial border (perceived or real] short of full sovereignty. In other words, ethnic groups are allowed if not encouraged to showcase their distinct identity and also promised full self-governance over their homeland and share of power and wealth. They learn, work, worship in their language, pledge allegiance to flag of their homeland and so on. This leads to heightened consciousness. On the other hand, the persistence of authoritarian system means although the state is formally decentralized political power remains centralized.

Despite the promise of autonomous self-rule, in reality, nations do not possess power over their territory and do not necessarily get fair share from the federation. Moreover, in theory federalism assumes states of the federation horizontally compete and collaborate over their shared power and wealth. Yet, centralized power of authoritarian system means decisions on resource allocation are made centrally and passed down vertically. There is little to no horizontal bargaining.

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In replacing unitary state with federalism the system assumes that nation building would be achieved through gradual voluntary integration driven the market place of politics. Yet lack of horizontal competition, compromise and interaction among regions means the market place is closed and there is little chance for integration. The interaction of these two contradictory developments would pave way for further contradictions.

First, codification of identity heightens nationalism. Second ethno-national groups are ‘given’ their own homeland, but denied the real power to govern or utilize resources. It is like telling someone “this bread belongs to you. You can hold it. But I am going to eat and give you the leftover, if there would be any” . This makes the person not just hungry but also angry. Third, consolidating and maintaining dictatorship usually requires the ruling clique using a given group (economic class, social group or military faction) within the country as its support base.

In multinational state ,the social base of support for the authoritarian system is almost always an ethnic group. To maintain loyalty and cohesion of the base, the authoritarianism system exercises favoritism. The resulting inequality further intensifies misgivings by the excluded groups. The longer the authoritarian system stays, the broader the disparity and the more intense the grievance.

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Combination of all these developments leads to rapid erosion of identification and loyalty to the state and the political center. With its legitimacy and support among other nationalities depleting, the center gradually but surely weakens.

Interestingly, the regions gain strength by tapping into grievances of their group and exploiting the nom. But more importantly, although authoritarianism denies them real power, federalism give them governing structure and bureaucracy. Sure the regional administrative/bureaucratic structure serves as vehicle for centralized rule by center. But as the center weakens, regional political entrepreneurs begin to utilize these structures to assert themselves. The center could respond to such erosion in two possible ways; suppress or tolerate.

In tolerating it hopes it can tame and contain. But as the center is unwilling to concede real power fully, the concession do not satisfy the regions. Instead it makes them salivate for more. They utilize the increased power and resources gained through the center’s concession to build their capacity and flex their muscle to win further concession. Unable or unwilling to give further concession, the center would attempt to suppress. However, its capabilities have depleted and unlikely to regain the level of control it once had.

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Unless an equilibrium where enough concession to the regions without killing the center is achieved , tension will continue to raise. Eventually, the center would likely collapse. Since regions have little to no horizontal structural relation as the center is what was holding them together, collapse of the center leaves regions and their political entrepreneurs gaining separate statehood by default or plunge into war in cases of contested territories and enclaves.

Studies show that regions with higher level of consciousness and stronger bureaucratic and military capabilities have better chance of emerging as an independent state while others might fail into the hands of a neighboring new republic.

Generally speaking this was what happened in Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Are we witnessing somewhat similar developments in Ethiopia over the last 26 years? I leave the answer to you. Abay Tsehaye subconsciously admits we are, of course he should be as he and his team has been at the center of it. My advise to all stakeholders is; hope for the best yet prepare for any and all possible outcomes.

Source:- OFC.MADR


  1. How funny and retard is sound, An Islamist extremist dumbo complaining about federal system. KKKKKKK

    ……….indeed stupid.

  2. Mr. Jawar
    You keep talking the people whom you are saying you will stand for them are being killed every single day.What did you do lately when thousands killed by Somali Militia in recent week.When the Oromo youth created chaos on TPLF camp you appeared in news media and boost about it and clam that it is you who planned and organized. Your talk never produce any substance, but your hate propaganda became a cause of distraction. Why you do not shut up your bloody mouth and leave us alone. You do not know nothing about your country history (I am not sure you are Ethiopian or a foreign agent) , now you are trying to preach about Yugoslavia.NON SENSE.

  3. Now I know why The Nefetegna Amharas regard Oromos as the uncivilized. Nowadays, even Somalian region people echoing and regarding Oromos as unwanted and uncivilized.

  4. when some one speaks the truth why most jump to attack or character assassination?. First, let us read and understand the whole points and present our argument instead of judging the book by its cover.

    • Because they are stinky cadres of the barbaric and corrupt tplf-mafia regime. They pose here with different names: as Amharas, as Somalis, as Christians, as Muslims, etc only to incite hatred among people, but we know their true identity. They can’t fight ideas with ideas, rather they resort to the tools of the illeterate – insult, cursing, character-assaijation and so on. They are the same tplf financed Internet-army, the stinky cadres of the corrupt tigrai liberation front savage regime. Don’t worry, their days are numbering very fast.


    Give it Islamist boy, even your warrior prophet Mohammed had failed to convert Ethiopia to Islam.

    By the way what you gone get by weakening and destroying Christian Ethiopia ? 77 virgins in Islamist heaven ? or big $$$$$$ from your master (Egypt) ?

    FYI, We Ethiopians do not trust and value Islamists and their uncivilized backward politics.

    • @ YE GONder JEGNA
      U missed the point or You are trying to create confusion. I am sure u are one of TPLF dog. Ethiopians believe in freedom of religion and Islam and christian are living together for centuries together. U Damn ass can not change this reality. The core of the talk is about Jawar’s Idea not about his believe. COOL DOWN, COOL down TPLF DOG !!!!!

    • Who ? Jawall who ? You mean closet Jahdist.

      Sorry, we Ethiopians do not have no time to some uncivilized Jezebahadist beaver.

      Was he trained in Isis camp ? It is laughable, even Jehadist daydreaming about being rational, fact is an Islamists knows nothing about rationality.

      • U Damn ass TPLF blood sucker.This time we know who u are.Your little God fucken bold headed MELES Zenawi is dead since then you lost your compass. Now you change your name but post the same damn idea.
        DOWN DOWN WOYANE!!!!

  6. introduction!!
    Hi dear Jawar, first of all I would like to say nice to see you in this side of the filed and like to warn you to patient with me and forgive my english (I’m almost half a sleep (not excuse)…..don’t jump!! sit down!! it is not because of you!!! it’s the coffee I drank late last night…..I am sure you’r calculating where I am from….shit there are no emoji here)!!!!!

    I like your argument but not necessarily agreeing to it.Yet, I still give the credit for making one anyway more so if you want know why I’m writing this!

    there are somethings which I like to tell you about me, I’m not politician or any sort of activist or again tplf internet agents (as it’s mentioned above!!). As you can see from the name I’m from Addis who born in derg and grow up in Ehadeg zemen (let take it at the end of my 20th….you can guess my gender now I hope!!!!!).
    Ok let’s get to the point…… in Ethiopian politics battle ground the well known key players are (TPLF (EHADEG), ONG (you guys…..I know you are classifying your self activists…Jawar sweeeet!!!!! let’s be honest is that the case?? with a big apology I don’t think so(my opinion)), G7, Amhara activist and off course the Ethiopian Somali party…..there might not be key players now but if they continue behaving like they are now trust me they’ll be soon…..if you don’t trust me read more books! by the way I love fictions if you have one…. I was going to say send me one but hold on.. break here….STOP THERE…. I don’t want to be arrested!!!!! Therefore, some are strong players some are week, for now, or tell us which one’s have a chance to be strong…I’m sure you guys must be studying this careful or not??? don’t say off course….listen through your ego just for now.
    let’s start with your case study ‘Yugoslavia’ …. do you want me to be honest with you? (this might appear many time…fresh), I don’t know much about it but it’s a country that break appart similar case with Somalia (or you have some strategic plan you can’t mention Somalia? oops alawaki sami …).Another break here..
    Ethiopian will never be like that but never say never!!!! whyyy? (critical thinking applied 50% right!). The reason I’m write this is not because of the rummer of ‘you are not Ethiopian or never experienced childhood in Ethiopia scenarios as others claim, actually, I believe you are/do but I do not know where (I don’t want know anyway).
    my personal only personal argument is that
    1,In Ethiopia people are religious (not the percentage,get out of the book now…in reality) whether it’s Muslim or christian or Waqqe feta (it’s true Afan Orommo need to be one of the main language and the paper factories will have better business opportunities as a result more job = less unemployment=poverty reduction) so EPRDF might apply it…I don’t mind to learn something new….don’t worry I’m progressive type.
    2, If we say poverty reduction then let’s mention TPLF (EPRDF), the KEY player, have still the cards actually with many choices… can play it with you or G7 or Amhara activist or all of you together why not? then apologies for the past…easy way out….. have a choice of on its own as well … ask endet? as my grandfather used to say ‘endet malet tiru’ (50% more..)….
    by turning the people (at minimum 55%, maximum 75% of it) they governing to their side adding the apology card again………don’t say I know that…. you can’t take my cracking ideas without paying for copy right!
    I know, you are asking how they can turn the people to their side or you guys already guessed some…. trust me mine is different but can’t tell you it’s a million dollar question…you don’t know who can be at the bid maybe Trump!!!!

    3, The ordinary people like me close their ears, live their everyday live (like you do I’m sure) leaving the online on with a hope of TPLF (EPRDF) will come out of the 19th and celebrate 20th soon engaging honestly with peaceful parties on the ground (anyway soon or latter this will be or should be a natural step for TPLF).
    4, The activists or politician with the concept of Ethiopianisim do engage more (if they can skip your/tplf hijacking)
    5, Whether you hijack it from Ethiopianisim’s or manage to wine on your own, if you really want me to be honest….Ok I have to switch off ‘poetical correctness’ as you’ll hopefully know one of the western hidden rule from the ‘speech of freedom’concept? theory? ideology?… I leave the choice of the correct term for you!!! I really don’t believe you guys have that much support from what I observe online and from small scale on the ground…I know you have perhaps substantial subgroup players…..
    to be more ‘evidence based’ and
    as we are breaking the so called ‘political correctness’, (which, by the way, your media need to take some sort of 101 course at minimum.. don’t ask ..I do’t know the scoring scale. I know it’s difficult for you guys to score above 1ish maybe 2…ok it’s ok let me be generous 5…out of 100 is that good enough?. please do’t classify me as a rude person I’m just being honest)
    to conclude the 5th …… dashun mulaw

    6,7,8,9,10 will be in the next episode for now chaw (for some reason my guts is telling me you love every other race except the so called Habesha, is that true? even the Italians???? seriously?? my half Orommo great grand dad apparently died with his first son on those wars…..I need to work with my self to forgive you for that…don’t worry it wouldn’t take me that long, I hate granges unlike you I believe?!!!!!!) need to go to sleep now
    yenege sew yebelen yelalu ene yadekubet people of sweet ADDIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    how did you manage to get to the airport? bole? ehhh? without seeing the flowers of Addis? O I forgot sorry… you must me taken away by the beauty of the Minilik palace!! I know alferdbehem,the first time I saw it (I MEAN FROM THE OUTSIDE OHHHH Gosh)I was just like you it take my heart away….
    In my time (hoping it’s similar with you) I don’t know about the past(that is the fact I can give you evidence if you want!!) Addis is/was like listening to artist alemayehu eshete
    ‘Addis ababa bete (2) konjo lege shega lege alech gorebete (3)
    are endew yemegnushal (2) bemegnot biguazu meche yagegnushal’….
    O sorry he might be Amhara/gurage/south/tigre or can habesha in general, check first don’t take my word…..
    who knows what will happen tomorrow? I should bye nicely ……hahhahaha catch you! I know you will say ‘me’! off course! that’s obvious, minimum you’ll be in east african history books,don’t ask me the page number please!!!!!!!! Unfortunately, I don’t think you would like to be in the book called Ethiopian history…… did I heard you saying ‘it’s ok’…. Jawar Jawar WAKE UP UP UP…. don’t worry it just a nightmare…….you not going to be in that book unless you want to (you can see why I like individual rights more)

    Just brotherly (in case, your wife get…..)
    I know you are good looking it’s obvious you have my great grand dad blood lucky you….. but no leave you for your wife I think she already know how to deal with your nightmares ….kind regardes bye From east africa, Addis Ababa!!!
    *GET OUT OF THE BOOOOOOOOK for all of you… start to using your natural sense more

  7. SELF GOVERNING (Federal system is the way).

    I do not understand these Extremist Muslims they live enjoy America in federal system but they oppose federal system or self governing to Ethiopia. They trying to convert Christian Ethiopia to another Islamist fanatic country. Look around look these useless camelnridding countries around the world everyone of them in total mess, have no democracy or federal system but outdated Islamist stupidity, included those big gas stations (Middle east). So far backward Islam civilization contributed nothing positive to the world but terrorists and taxi drivers.

  8. You allow Islam to be insult; this means that it reflects your mindset. You can stop the Muslim growing in Ethiopia.

  9. @ Addis and @Ye Gonder Jegna —– YOU Damn ASS

    We all know what TPLF/WOYANE is upto. creat chaos, confusion and change the team or the discussion point into something else. You tried this tactic for years now every body knows it because TPLF/WOYANE/EPRDF stinks. Do not try to create division between Muslim and Christian. We all love each other and respect one another. NOW TPLF is out and its day is continuing.

    NEFSE YEMAR TO Fascist MELES ZENAWI, I know you missed HIM.

  10. Get lost with your outdated philosophy (Marxism and Leninism). We had gone through your ideological analysis during the Derg regime with exception of your delusion of independent fragmented states on the graveyard of mama Ethiopia.

    At this moment in time Oromos donot need ideological rehitotic rather by any means to get protection and rescue from arbitrary and indiscriminate massacre by Somalies.

    In one occasion you had declared war against Gonder Christians and instructed your followers to use machetes to wipe out innocent Christians. Have you tried that you would have faced grave consquences but it was just a talk.

    Now your people Oromos are humilated and degraded by Somalies and you Oromos even brought humilation to rest of the people of Ethiopia that gave unforgettable lesson for Somalies in 1977.

    Where is your machetes now to defend your nation?

    How come hand full Somalies chased away millions of Oromos without facing any kind of resistance from the opposite side.

    Listen Jewar am Wolloye who lost my people had been settling in Assosa by Oromos teamed up with Tigre TPLF. The blood of my people never be left in vain. In my home land Wollo so many Oromos have been settled and live their lives. If Wolloyes had been denied the right to live in your fake Woyane created Oromia region that will definitely be engulfed by Somalies immediately what the hell are your Oromos doing in Kemissie Chefa Harbu Worebabu and other places in Wollo. Repatriate them back to where they belong. Let me tell you for sure the ultimate fate of Oromo that denied Ethiopia will ever be of Burma Bangladesh.

    Your fake Oromia territory will be subjected to entitlement of neighbouring clans and tribes in southern Ethiopia just like what Somalies are doing now. So get ready to deal with it.



  12. I have every posts line by line and I did see any intelligent individual that lice and dice the point Abo Jawhar tries to convey. Almost all of these posts are written out of biased sentiment and emotion. Abo Jawhar, you can call him radical or whatever, but one thing is true about this man. He is one critical thinker and presents his ideas with grace and respect to all. He did not insult anyone.
    As you all know for sure that wayane is suffering from it self inflicted wound and near collapse. It is in chaos and confusion. The infighting for power is reaching out of proportion and foreign aid is drying up and internal revenue is to its lowest level. coupled with corruption, these problems are the major recipe for disaster. If wayane fells to tackle these problems and continue to believe in my way or no way, what Jawhar is writing about will be a reality. So, people, sometime, it is good to listen to what people have to say and digest the idea instead of jumping in to the usual emotional behavior which does not help anyone.

  13. No Islamist will fool Ethiopians.

    Jawar is closet Islamist extremist trying to convert Ethiopia to some backward Islamist country, And that will never happen.

  14. This person has yet written a very real vulnerability of this country!
    An excellent analysis!
    Anyone with slightest understanding of the issue can think seriously about the possibility disintegration of this country.
    Jawar has put it clearly that the country is at risk of disintegration!
    Watch out!!

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