Ethiopia at an Ominous Crossroads | by Ambassador Herman J. Cohen

Ambassador Herman J. Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

January 02, 2018

Article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitution states:

“Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.”

This Constitution was adopted in 1994. and ratified in 1995. Between that year and the present, the “right of self-determination” among the country’s nine official “states,” within the official federal system, has never been implemented. On the contrary, political, economic and security power has been exercised centrally within the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of parties with a Marxist-Leninist ideological heritage. The party members of the coalition are:

• Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)
• Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO)
• Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM)
• Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM)

Within the EPRDF, political, economic and security power has been controlled exclusively, until the present, by the hierarchy of the TPLF, whose insurgent military arm defeated the former dictatorship, known as the Derg, in May 1991. In that month, the TPLF marched into the capital city, Addis Ababa, and proceeded to establish its authoritarian rule throughout Ethiopia, with, of course, the exception of the former province of Eritrea, which won the right of self-determination and secession through its own military efforts.

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As of the end of 2017, the TPLF’s control of Ethiopia has begun to disintegrate. The two EPRDF coalition members that rule in Oromo and Amhara states, the OPDO and the ANDM, no longer accept directives from the ruling group in Addis. Ethiopian national military forces are operating against dissident groups in Oromo and Amhara states that host about half of the Ethiopian population. Police in these areas are not on the side of the federal military units.

Violence has broken out in the southwest between the Somali and Oromo states – and there are indications it has been provoked by the TPLF hierarchy to punish the Oromo state for its growing dissidence from central authority. Desperation is widespread. Upwards of 750,000 have been displaced, and both sides have participated in ethnic cleansing. Tigrayans in the Gondar region of Amhara State have been targeted for their ethnic background. Universities have been closed due to ethnic violence among students.

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What are the causes of this breakdown in public order in Ethiopia?

• Use of lethal force has been the first reaction to disagreement from unarmed civilians. The killing of students on the steps of Addis University in 2005 established an infamous precedent.

• The educated younger generation is heavily unemployed. Prospects for those with diplomas are dim.

• Economic power and accumulated wealth are concentrated in the hands of the Tigray political hierarchy within the TPLF.

• Authoritarian power is exercised arbitrarily; farmers are evicted from their ancestral lands in order to lease massive acreage to foreign industrial agriculture interests.

• The regime exploits ethnicity to divide rather than to unite.

If the reports of the regime inciting cross border conflict between Somali and Oromo states are true, then it is clear that Ethiopia’s prospects for national reconciliation within a democratic dispensation are still a long way over the horizon. It is time for ruling elites to understand that the opposition is not seeking revenge, nor is it seeking to confiscate the individual wealth of politicians. The opposition wants to assure the implementation of Article 39 of the constitution within the full meaning of the term “self-determination.”

Read Aloud:   Zehabesha Daily Ethiopian News December 11, 2018




  1. Mr. Cohen,

    You and the other evil political elites of USA and those of UK are responsible for these. You procured and installed the traitor gang as leader rather as obscured demolisher of Ethiopia.
    Already for more than 27 years, you have taken care of the economic, political, intelligence/military and diplomatic capacities of the traitor gang (TPLF).
    Eventually, your arrogant states (USA, UK and other sister states) fabricated political solemn like agendas such as anti-terrorism and security, in line which the supports to TPLF were further strengthened and camouflaged.
    You made sure since the beginning that no Western media should make and air/publish any news/story regarding what have been happening against Ethiopia/Ethiopians by TPLF (your agent to destroy Ethiopia).
    You are committing all kind of crimes against Ethiopia/Ethiopians for more than 1/4th of a century:
    – various ethnic specific genocides;
    – mass murder using sterilization and other health related techniques;
    – various state inflicted terrorism acts against Ethiopians;
    – giving away treasures/wealth and sovereign resources of the nation;
    – and more.
    But, unexpected human ambition is evolving to punish and vanquish arrogant states: USA, UK and the partners of destruction and human misery. Hopefully, Mr. Trump is becoming a prime agent for that.

    • Rasdegen, I agree Cohen is an evil man. He is doing business. He neither represent nor Americams. So bashing the whole Europe or North America for the mess created in Ethiopia by Amhara elites does not make sense. Sir, blame your savage Amhara aparthied rulers who created TPLF, OLF, ONLF, EDU, EPRP, EPLF,…. You are the root of cause of all the problem. It your King Menelick who invited Europe gave them Eritrea. The western society is not perfect, but they are feeding Ethiopians everyday because it is you who started starving millions of people to death and killing people your read terror. You can not blame Euorpe, America for all your own evils that you created in Ethiopia by demonizing and insulting people. Now you are insulting the whole Europe and North America? Trump is the best ever. You must be stupid man. Cohen is doing business. He is lobbying and he get paid for anything he write attack TPLF. He get paid by Issayas. You have no clue what Cohen is after. Blaming others is just stupid. Insulting other is stupid.

  2. Herman Cohn, what are u taking about.u crazy old guy. u played a key role to put TPLF in power now u are trying to play another role to disintegrate Ethiopia into small pieces. We do not want u to play any role in our politics. Your sensless idea does not represent the with of the major opposition agenda.You stupid, useless ,moron.Still u do not understand us and do not mess us any
    more. We will solve our problem without u.

  3. Herman Cohn, what are u taking about.u crazy old guy. u played a key role to put TPLF in power now u are trying to play another role to disintegrate Ethiopia into small pieces. We do not want u to play any role in our politics. Your sensless idea does not represent the oppositions agenda.You stupid, useless ,moron.Still u do not understand us and do not mess us any
    more. We will solve our problem without u.

    Lemma hsilu 
    January 2, 2018 at 1:19 pm

  4. Ambassador Cohen – with all your accumulated knowledge and political savviness how did you fail to predict such will be the outcome when you were at the London conference? You’re now telling us what we knew then as if it just happened last year. Twenty Six years ago, you were at the center of partitioning out Ethiopia to the gun wielding and ethno centric groups. Namely, the EPLF and TPLF. Since then the country has been divvied up along ethnic and language fences to help the TPLF remain in power.
    What is clear is this: EPLF and TPLF were no better than the Derg while they were in the bushes nor after they took power. Their atrocities to their own people then and now is sky high. It is simply mind boggling as to why a seasoned diplomat like you wakes up at the eleventh hour? If the United States of America wants to effect change in Ethiopia, it can. After all, the Western countries are the ones who are propping up TPLF through their endless loans, military assistance and in other numerous ways. But, if change is like what we saw in Libya, Iraq and Syria etc.…. it is not change for the better, it is a destruction of a country for the worst. We do not need that! I am hopeful the Ethiopians will unite and work out something worth without seeking revenge against one another.
    Change in any political system will eventually come. After all, the Soviet Union disintegrated in front of our own eyes after seventy years of mayhem and killings. In the 1960’s at the height of the Vietnam War there was a song by Buffalo Springfield called “For what it is worth”. I quote from the lyrics:

    “There’s something happening here
    what it is ain’t exactly clear
    there’s a man with a gun over there
    telling me I got to beware
    I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
    everybody look what’s going down
    There’s battle lines being drawn
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

    Currently, no one knows exactly what is going on in Ethiopia. However, one thing is clear, people are fade up of being kidnapped, tortured, and killed as well as to be a second citizen in their own country. Something is happening and going to happen. What it is not clear yet! The ambassador will be useful to the Ethiopian people by sharing the suffering of Ethiopians by the current regime, to the State Department and the European countries. The Ethiopians already know how sadistic the regime in Ethiopia is. They do not need to be told!

  5. Sir,
    It looks like you have misunderstood the objective of the major opposition now.It has nothing to do with article 39 whatsoever . What the oppositon want now is to get rid of the Ethno-centric and facist TPLF, that came to power with your help, 26 years ago. You may have already forgotten it but we Ethiopians do not. You will always be remebered for many years to come. Thank you sir for your concern.

  6. Thank you so much please try your best to save children weyane is killing
    Our mother father children pregnant woman

  7. Mr. Cohen, I respectfully think reference point for your analysis is completely flowed. Art. 39 is not the solution but the source of all our woes in Ethiopia. Self determination of Ethiopia’s peoples has never been subject by colonial domination by foreign forces. Therefore, whom are we saying should gain independence from whom ? Amhara Tigres Oromo and all Ethiopia’s ethnic groups are poor and neither have a desire nor capacity to subjugate each other. What Ethiopians need is what you failed to broker in 1990 in London a genuine power sharing agreement where armed forces are dissolved, tribalism or ethnocentric governance is banned by law and the people of Ethiopia decide what form of Government they want they are mature enough to do so. Presidential or parliamentary, federalism or unitary or confederation etc. Please stop experimenting your failed brand of engineered governance on Ethiopians it has done enough harm already !

  8. I for one consider you a petty, immoral soldier of fortune, you are bereft of conscience, one element humans are endowed with. When you presided over Ethiopia’s destiny, you were sure that Ethiopians, except the secessionist Tigre and Eritreans were excluded. AS if that was not enough, you served the Tigrean occupation force as its lobbyist. If you are not the most contemptible character, what is?

  9. Ambassador Cohen, your guilty conscious would not give a peace of mind what you have done to betrayed and deliberate act on against the wish of the Ethiopian people at that unforgettable the London conference in 1991. we Ethiopian people do not need any more distraction from you or your represent government. we will get our country back from your mercenary TPLF at any cost. what ever you are trying to muddling Ethiopian complex politics is not going to work because our problem is ours and it only solves by ours. Ethiopia and Ethiopian will over come from our crisis creating by your mercenary brutal criminal gangster TPLF. I can assure that Ethiopia will unite and fight from our common enemy and we rise again.

  10. It seems that Mr. Cohen is shedding a crocodile tears as if he knew nothing of the evil intent of tplf thugs when they came to power. No one listens to your trash talk. No opposition group has raised the question of Article 39 but to see the murderer regime leave office. You have implicitly made public the intention of the US government to see a divided Ethiopia, which I guarantee you will never materialize at all. Cohen the traitor, keep your hands off my country!! Hope lots of curse will rather come to your country!!!

  11. Why should we give any platform to influence our affairs for Cohen who is instrumental to bring our country to brink of dismantlement. Now he writes about implementation of article 39. Please don’t give any platform for this individual who brought nothing but evil to our Ethiopia.

  12. Mr. Ambassador,

    With due respect, I am sure you know what Ethiopian
    people have gone and are going through now!
    We are asking this fascist regime to step down which has
    nothing to do with chapter 39

    People are fade up !!!

    Our boarder has been opened and land is granted to
    Sudan which may be entery gate for ISIS to slaughter
    Christians like it slaughered 28 Ethiopians 2 years ago

    Unless this regime steps down, peace in horn of
    Africa will be in geoperdy

    People of Ethiopia will never stop until the fascist regime
    Of TPLF sreps down

    You have all the power to intervene in this process
    before some other power gets envolved like 1974
    Ethiopian revolution

    Thank you Sir

  13. The Somali and Oromo conflict is orchestrated by

    All we want is for the fascist regime to step down not
    application of Art. 39, it is passed due

    Ethiopians are determined to sacrifice for their freedom
    They are well aware no other nation will help them, because
    the whole world including USA gave them deaf ear to
    their cry!!!! 27 years

  14. Lemlem

    Please either go and learn English or write in a language you know better

    You are trying to talk nonsense like Woyane. This page is for people who are
    trying to save their nation. Your writing does not have any substance to it

    Are you Woyane fascist or its supporter.

    Please do not post such mesedebia article.

    • To make you happy, Woyane rules , do not make noise . Are you telling me this website for fanatic Amhara only? Fukura ? TPLF you created it. Now you have created another worse than TPLF called Agazian. Agazian is going to march again. If you hate Tigreans, then Agazian is coming

  15. You, the security and state authorities of USA/UK,
    Humanity and societies around the world are in dismay due to your arrogant yet charity censored wars and crimes against the weak and against sovereignty of the Southern nations. If there is terrorist in our times you are the root and the principals. Paradoxically, aid, democracy, human rights, peace, development and environment are your shields.
    You are the cause for the miseries in Arabia, in Africa and beyond. Please refrain from the Bush-Blaire inhuman formula. Their courses caused despair/unrest to humanity. Humanity is less safer now than before their political paradigms. You need to criticize evil inspirations of Bush/Blaire and judge their crimes and correct the ills before it is too late. Stop your Bush-Blaire bluffs and undertakings, now!?

    Mr Cohen, you are messanger of the evil network against Ethiopia and against Africa. You are evil masked with solmen talks.

    The lives and great treasures/identities of the Iraq’s are completely bulldozed due to the Bush-Blaire formula. My own birth nation and identity too are blown up with this neocolonial formula. UK and USA procured a junta group of traitors and installed it as state power in Ethiopia. This traitor junta has been further guided and fully supported rather lionized by USA, UK and the so called international organizations. By doing so, you, USA, UK and your tactical int. organizations have accomplished the following and more against Ethiopia:
    – Ethiopia is landlocked
    – Decades long built national defense, air force and other structures are demolished
    – National treasures, monuments and historical records are destroyed and/or deserted
    – The people of Ethiopia are divided in numerous ethnic lines and made enemy to each other
    – The authentic Ethiopian cultures/values and traditions are systematically cleansed
    – Genocide against varies population groups are committed
    – Sovereign lands of Ethiopia are given away to neighboring states
    – The long term security and benefits of Ethiopians in relation to the Nile are compromised
    – Ethiopians are imprisoned, killed and/or agonizing/anguishing.
    Yes, Ethiopians are outraged, they are engulfed with alight thoughts and ablaze consciences. We have peacefully expressed our displeasures, grieves and discontents in you and in your delegates. We are all over the world with all these devastations rather anger. What do you want us to do further? We are descendants of the just and heroic people. We can’t compromise with our sovereignties and national prides though we tolerate due to our just/love values/learning. We have endured all your masked and vivid crimes against us. What do you think that we are thinking? How do you want us to live? Please, stop your oratory and arrogance in due time and resort to your human senses/values!?
    Ethiopia shall regain its greatness and also once again spark liberty to humanity!

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