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Ethiopia: An Alternative Approach to National Development

Daniel Kendie
Henderson State University

The existing Ethiopian constitution that is based on ethnicity should be discarded and replaced by another constitution that recognizes territorial nationalism, which manifested itself in historic Ethiopia as regionalism or provincialism. The historically established status of the provinces of Arussie, Bale, Gondar, Harar, Shoa, Sidamo, Tigrai, Wollo, Wollega, and so on, would have to be restored. A federal constitution which corresponds to Ethiopia’s historical experiences, but modified to suit its present conditions, and based on such principles as the rule of law, state secularism, a bill of rights, a system of checks an balances, political and economic pluralism, including the legalization of political parties that are organized on the basis not of ethnicity, but on political philosophies and ideologies, should be presented to the Ethiopian people. An Ethiopian state organized in such a manner would be stable. It would also be in a much better position to conquer poverty, to solve its problems with Eritrea, its former province, and to intensify development cooperation with all of its neighbours in order to help speed up sub- regional economic integration. Why an alternative approach to national development? What is wrong with the existing
system? Why should the present constitution be discarded? Since Eritrea was an Ethiopian Province, how did it become independent? These and similar other questionswill have to be addressed first before proposing what measures should be taken to ameliorate the situation. For this reason, a brief account of the country’s history needs
to be provided.

Language Groups and National Unity

Given its geographic location, physical size, population composition, and resource endowments, Ethiopia could have played a crucial role in the economic transformation and integration of the countries of the Horn of Africa. However, its relative underdevelopment and the tenuous nature of its national unity have kept such a possibility out of its reach. At the root of its underdevelopment, which is itself the root cause of civil conflicts, is the lack of an enlightened and informed leadership which could have taken timely and decisive measures to address the country’s developmental problems and guide its transition from one stage of development into another. Conflicts over power and resources are driven principally by economic interests and are sustained by them. The uneven distribution of resources and of infrastructure, as well as environmental degradation and widespread poverty, creates propitious ground for violence. Given state repression and politically motivated sociology, including the policy of divide and rule, economics is overlaid on ethnicity, and economic problems pass for ethnic conflicts.

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