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The Ethno-Language based FEDERALISM has failed in Ethiopia

by Muluken Gebeyew

The ethno-language based federalism crafted and implemented by TPLF ( Tigray People’s Liberation Front) in Ethiopia caused significant rift, conflict, suffering, destruction and death among Ethiopian people.

Ethnic FederalismTPLF synthesised this experiment not with intention to offer better governance and development but as means of controlling Ethiopians by dividing them and inciting one against the other while TPLF rule unquestionably as police, prosecutor and judge.

This type of federation which was new to the world introduced by Meles Zenawi in the early 1990s in Ethiopia with blessing of the West for experimentation, which sometimes known as Zenawism in scholarly world.

TPLF´s elite leaders crafted this experiment while in their field days. As TPLF was minority based party, it can rule the majority Ethiopians ruthlessly only when the majority is divided¸ weak and engage in micro conflict. That is what TPLF put on practice since 1991 when it assumed power under the cover name of EPRDF (Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front).

This futile experiment applied on Ethiopians as guinea pig resulting in grandiose delusion on significant ethnic members of our people who considered themselves as “forgotten or suppressed” during previous regimes. Although this enabled some ethnic faces to be superficially on front bench of power house¸ they have never exercised the wish, ambition and governance of the ethnic origin they “represent” except serving as tool to TPLF. TPLF has never given them green light to dream self-rule or democratic governance let alone apply it. They are using them as machine implementing the TPLF´s heart and mind wicked plans.

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We have all witnessed this experimentation resulted in pain and distress to the majority of Ethiopian people. The outcome is division and conflict among ourselves. We are not able to sit and discuss our common problem let alone solve it. The paranoia¸ hate¸ rivalry and feeling of vengeance instigated in our heart and mind by TPLF through unending day and night propaganda on national media outlets to the public¸ fake fabricated history lessons at school and overt favouritism on practice.

This failing psudo-federalism championed as “respecting people’s right and freedom” is shaking the fundamental structures that hold us together. It is approaching to be beyond TPLF’s control. This can lead to enormous chaos¸ destabilisation and fragmentation which can cost significant human loss¸ suffering and displacement.

Even for those who support the regime¸ the tell tale signs are there and should challenge the regime that ethno–language based federalism as failed. The regional border conflict all over the country either in the north¸ east¸ west or south of Ethiopia resulted in the suffering of ethnically labelled Amhara¸ Oromo¸ Somali¸ Afar, Sidama¸ Welayta¸ Southern people¸ Anuk¸ Nuer, Mezhenger and several other ethnic labelled Ethiopians.

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TPLF’s elite leaders and their subordinates in EPRDF should be aware that this expermination is out of date. The consequence of using expired experimentation would result in death and destruction including the originator. They better find a solution that would bring significant measures that facilitates unity instead of division, fair treatment instead of favouritism, and justice instead of injustice that can hold the whole country together by ditching the failed and expired ethno-based federalism. The regime should facilitate peaceful forum where the Ethiopian people freely discuss and chose the way they are to be governed.

This failed experiment is a danger to neighbouring African countries which can give false hope of phantom ethnic self-governance. Once the conflict goes out of control¸ it would spread like contagious disease in the region and Africa. The Western power and China should exert pressure on the regime to make the correction before the Pandora box open all over.

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Above all¸ we Ethiopians have to wake up and realise this minefield which would result in destruction of our country and ourselves. Once it becomes out of control¸ there would be no way to limit or stop the futile consequence. We should learn from what happened to our neighbours the Somali people¸ former Yugoslavia and current suffering of Rohingya people in Burma. We need to sit¸ discuss, analyse and come up with Solution to our common problem. The Adwa victory against colonialist Italy was united effort which saved our country from colonialism.

We don’t have the luxury of time to wait as the danger is in front of us. We need to unite and change the course of this dangerous fate.


  1. What is your alternative suggestion? Unitary (Andit) Ethiopia?
    Because TPLF applied fake federalism and misused the principle for divide and rule does not mean federalism per se is wrong! And for a multi-ethnic state like Ethiopia, there is no alternative to true federalism. What you cry for (old ways) is still worse than TPLF’s tyranny under fake democracy.
    You are simply implying that the one-language, one-culture unitary autocracy was better. No way!

    The only viable way forward is emancipation of the people from recurrent dictatorship, and a voluntary association of free peoples based on liberty, equality and fraternity. Everybody, who truely feels the suffering of our people under arbitrary rule and excruciating poverty must selflessly search for a way out of the vicious circle of dictatorship, war and famine. That is the only way to help our people. The rest is self glorification!

    • why do you rush to make what the writer hasn’t said. Have you read the article properly? Is there any mention of unitary government or the old way ? the writer rather stated
      ” The regime should facilitate peaceful forum where the Ethiopian people freely discuss and chose the way they are to be governed.”

      “We need to sit¸ discuss, analyse and come up with Solution to our common problem. The Adwa victory against colonialist Italy was united effort which saved our country from colonialism.”

      Hope you don’t rush next time when you read article and make a judgement out of it.

  2. The federalism is the only solution otherwise utopia will cease to exist and they should go further by introducing multiple official languages instead of one official language that gives unfair advantage to one certain ethnic group at the expense of the rest of population.

  3. 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 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? 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.

    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.

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