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The Cracks In Ethiopia’s Federalism Are Getting Larger –  By Kebour Ghenna

Kibur gena
Kebour Ghenna

As a nation, Ethiopia today is divided in pieces, the way the victorious liberation lads wanted it. Their vision was, I assume, to create a Switzerland styled federal state but with something extra…chuzpah!

They, of course did not take into account all the rivalries among Ethiopia’s diverse peoples and regions. They did not realize that the devolution of power to the regions will strengthen the dominant nationality in each. They did not realize they lacked the necessary wisdom and experience to lead a complex nation like Ethiopia. So here we are today with an Ethiopia, beleaguered by ethnic nationalism and dissatisfied youth.

Now, people often ask “what else could they have done?”

It may have been challenging to find a solution to the enormous problems Ethiopia was facing at the time. But the option imposed by the victorious powers in 1991 was absolutely not in the interest of Ethiopia. The three main problems of the 20th century Ethiopia were poverty, inequality and lack of political representation. The partitioning of the country along ethnic lines was therefore a price the country has to pay to TPLF to win its ‘wholeness’. It was presented as the only possible path to peaceful development and ‘stronger unity’, when in fact it was a precursor to its disintegration.

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If we want to look at history for lessons, we know that dividing Ethiopia up is not the solution; it would in fact only help to kick-start another long-term human tragedy, with Ethiopia’s population paying the cost. Knowing all this, if these proposed solution are not in the Ethiopians’ favor, who would then be the true beneficiary of a “new Ethiopia” segmented and splintered along ethnic lines?

Figuratively speaking imagine someone taking a person’s brain apart and lay out the neurons, vessels, white matter, etc. side by side on a very large table, and expect the disassembled brain (parts) to be greater than the whole brain. Actually, as parts, nerve cells can’t do much of anything….If you know what I mean!

Today ‘new’ national questions are reemerging in their most extreme forms (secession, irredentism, or the expulsion of minorities) at a time when the federal government’ remains unable to reform the country. Unfortunately, once these disruptive positions continue to solidify, their proponents could not abandon their commitment to their particular solution, making the pursuit of peace and prosperous stability unattainable.

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Indeed, the massacres of innocent lives and the resulting ethnic cleansing that we witnessed in the last weeks are just strong manifestations of political disintegration. There is nothing ancient or indigenous about sectarian and ethnic conflict in Ethiopia. The killings of a particular group of people i.e. Somali, Oromo, Amhara etc. is the result of relatively recent conditions created by corrupt governance and the destruction of much of the fabric of Ethiopia’s national society. This government has created the conditions for our societal failures. It has, deliberately or not, allowed systematic actions and in-actions that has led and is leading to the callous massacre of ETHIOPIANS.

Who is responsible?

Confronted to the tragedy, the Prime Minister tried to suggest, that this was a border crisis between Oromos and Somalis and to present itself as a peace maker, I find it height of hypocrisy. For God’s sake what we have witnessed in South-East Ethiopia is a civil war, Ethiopians killing Ethiopians!!

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We’re heading towards an abyss… and no one cares. Certainly, we don’t care. People get what they deserve.

How long can this go on?

We don’t know for sure. But we know at some point, though, the gods stop laughing… and tomorrow comes. So stop on relying on verbal attacks on this and that group in general, stop using selective repression on the most radical nationalists, and stop introducing the deterrent effect of the specter of military interventions. Those will simply not be enough.

A crisis is an opportunity.

The government and the party may control many things… but not everything… A national inclusive and transparent political renewal is in order.

Wake up, before it’s too late!


  1. The arrogant Seye Abraha the core member of TPLF(with idiologie organised east african gangsters) once said: we can creat a war for the ethiopian people and control it so that the out come of the war is useful for his gangster organisation. Here is one of the exampels what we have seen in the war between the two brotherly people oromo and somale. One of the great problem ethiopia has is that our intellectuals have great difiiculty to understand who these gangster tplf is and for what this tplf stand.

  2. The author of the above trash article is entitled to his opinion but not to his own facts. What is certain to have failed in Ethiopia is not the ethnic federalism form of state but the absolute centralism that has bedeviled Ethiopia for over a century. Absolute unitary dictatorship (one language and one religion policy among others) had been tried fiercely and in earnest in Ethiopia from Menilik to Haile Selassie to Mengistu for over a century but it failed and failed miserably. The TPLF has continued the same old tired unitary militaristic dictatorship with a facade of federalism. Ethiopia has never tried federalism of any form nor democracy in its history. How can we conclude that something has failed when we have not tried it whole-heartedly in the first place? What type of experimentation is that? Is the writer not blaming the form instead of the substance? The reality in Ethiopia that has been out there for everybody to see for the last 26 years is Ethiopia has been suffering from a super centralized TPLF autocratic, barbaric and terroristic rule. I believe the writer knows very well that what exits in today’s Ethiopia is not any form of federalism but an absolutely centralized TPLF dictatorship. The above argument about the failure of federalism (whatever its form may be) in Ethiopia falls flat in the face of the reality on the ground in Ethiopia.
    The above article makes sense if and only if we accept the hypothetical premise that Ethiopia has had a democratic system for the last 26 years. Otherwise, how can we blame ethnic federalism as the cause of the crises we are seeing unfolding in Ethiopia today or for the last 26 years to be more precise because federalism never works without democracy? If we don’t accept the premise that Ethiopia is a democracy today, then blaming ethnic federalism for the country’s crises is not only absurd but it is also like indicting someone who has nothing to do with the crime and it might also be an intention to divert our attention away from the real problem.
    Just for the sake of argument, let us assume that what the writer says is true and agree to abandon ethnic federalism. If that is the case, then we have to also abandon democracy because democracy has also failed in Ethiopia today. I hope the writer would not argue with the same zeal as above that democratization is successful in Ethiopia. If the writer is arguing that the democratic experimentation has succeeded but it is only the ethnic federalism that has failed in Ethiopia today, then it is worth considering going to other forms of federal systems. If the writer agrees that democracy has also failed in Ethiopia today, then there is a fallacy in his argument because true federalism (whatever the form may be) cannot be implemented without democracy. Democracy is an essential pre-requisite for any form of federalism. If the writer agrees that democracy has also failed in Ethiopia today, we have to then (according to him) abandon our struggle for democracy as well and leave the TPLF dictatorial regime alone to rule Ethiopia with iron-fist for the foreseeable future? The reality is that what have failed in Ethiopia over and over again for over a century are dictatorship and centralism. Ethnic federalism is the only realistic solution for the birth defect and chronic ailments Ethiopia has been suffering from since its inception. The pre-TPLF Ethiopia for which you are nostalgic was a heaven for you doesn’t mean it was the same for everyone. The pre-TPLF and the TPLF Ethiopia is the same hell for us and we in the freedom camp are striving to create an Ethiopia that is free, fair and just, an Ethiopia that treats all its citizens equal, an Ethiopia that is democratic, ethnic federalist that we all call home and proud of.

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