ETHIOPIA: ETHNIC FEDERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS – crisisgroup.org

September 4th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by its chairman and prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has radically reformed Ethiopia’s political system. (more…)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by its chairman and prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has radically reformed Ethiopia’s political system. The regime transformed the hitherto centralised state into the Federal Democratic Republic and also redefined citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds. The intent was to create a more prosperous, just and representative state for all its people. Yet, despite continued economic growth and promised democratisation, there is growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict. The international community should take Ethiopia’s governance problems much more seriously and adopt a more principled position towards the government. Without genuine multi-party democracy, the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia’s polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilise the country and region.

The endeavour to transform Ethiopia into a federal state is led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has dominated the coalition of ethno-nationalist parties that is the EPRDF since the removal in 1991 of the Derg, the security services committee that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. The EPRDF quickly institutionalised the TPLF’s policy of people’s rights to self-determination and self-rule. The federal constitution ratified in 1994 defined the country’s structure as a multicultural federation based on ethno-national representation.

The government has created nine ethnic-based regional states and two federally administered city-states. The result is an asymmetrical federation that combines populous regional states like Oromiya and Amhara in the central highlands with sparsely populated and underdeveloped ones like Gambella and Somali. Although the constitution vests all powers not attributed to the federal government in them, the regional states are in fact weak.

The constitution was applauded for its commitment to liberal democracy and respect for political freedoms and human rights. But while the EPRDF promises democracy, it has not accepted that the opposition is qualified to take power via the ballot box and tends to regard the expression of differing views and interests as a form of betrayal. Before 2005, its electoral superiority was ensured by the limited national appeal and outreach of the predominantly ethnically based opposition parties. Divided and disorganised, the reach of those parties rarely went beyond Addis Ababa. When the opposition was able to challenge at local, regional or federal levels, it faced threats, harassment and arrest. With the opportunity in 2005 to take over the Addis Ababa city council in what would have been the first democratic change of a major administration in the country’s history, the opposition withdrew from the political process to protest flaws in the overall election.

The EPRDF did not feel threatened until the 2005 federal and regional elections. The crackdown that year on the opposition demonstrated the extent to which the regime is willing to ignore popular protest and foreign criticism to hold on to power. The 2008 local and by-elections went much more smoothly, in large part because the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) was absorbed with internal and legal squabbles, and several other parties withdrew after their candidates experienced severe registration problems. The next federal and regional elections, scheduled for June 2010, most probably will be much more contentious, as numerous opposition parties are preparing to challenge the EPRDF, which is likely to continue to use its political machine to retain its position.

Despite the EPRDF’s authoritarianism and reluctance to accept genuine multi-party competition, political positions and parties have proliferated in recent years. This process, however, is not driven by democratisation or the inclusion of opposition parties in representative institutions. Rather it is the result of a continuous polarisation of national politics that has sharpened tensions between and within parties and ethnic groups since the mid-1990s. The EPRDF’s ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups that vie over land and natural resources, as well as administrative boundaries and government budgets.

Furthermore, ethnic federalism has failed to resolve the “national question”. The EPRDF’s ethnic policy has empowered some groups but has not been accompanied by dialogue and reconciliation. For Amhara and national elites, ethnic federalism impedes a strong, unitary nation-state. For ethno-national rebel groups like the ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front; Somalis in the Oga­den) and OLF (Oromo Liberation Front; the Oromo), ethnic federalism remains artificial. While the concept has failed to accommodate grievances, it has powerfully promoted ethnic self-awareness among all groups. The international community has ignored or downplayed all these problems. Some donors appear to consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia, but they neglect the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences.

Nairobi/Brussels, 4 September 2009

Read the full report here

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    What do you suggest? Majority to be ruled by manority? Why didn’t you Condemne the crime commited against oromo? Are Amahras still lobbying
    for amaharization of Ethiopia?

  2. Queen Eleni
    | #2

    The big story make short;

    What is ethnic federalism? For Instance in the illegally and unhistorical created so called oromia (the name no one knows from where it came), lives more than 65 Ethnic groups. So, what is your Ethnic federalism(Kilil)?

    First of all, this has done by group of bandits; TPLF and EPLF to express their hate towards Ethiopia, to implement anti Ethiopian foreign elements policy that assisted them for years and to take anything they want as they did and still are doing.

    Kilil? What is it? What is the historical and legal justification to draw any line and calling it as a state with in a state; Ethiopia? The woyane kilil is just the kind of bandit act no more no less. We Ethiopians and the world know how Ethiopia/Abyssinia looked like even before the Gragn(a bastard Somalian agent) war( Ottoman/Arab Islam against Christian Ethiopia) in 1522EC(1529) -1536EC(1543).

    With the Christian European help, the Islamic invaders were defeated from the Ethiopian soil. But the damage remained. Millions of people lived there have been killed, immigrated to the north or forced to change their religion.

    This situation became the best way to the galla Migration from the corner of today’s balie. All gallas were at the time Nomads and always on the move looking grass to their animals. It was in their nature to take lands from others and keep it as their own as we see today in Northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia with some Tribes.

    The mass and brutal galla Migration did able to occupy the Ethiopian highland with limited resistances as the previous war was badly affected the area and damaged the country central administration the same way as we see today in Somalia.

    The Mass galla Migration took 300 years (1550-1850) and on the way many native people have been killed, forced to accept the Galla way of Life or immigrated. That is why the Oromo in central and other part of Ethiopia are naturally looks different than Oromos living in the Oromo Original territory Deep in the South and northern Kenya..

    The point is that the TPLF created Kilil will never ever accepted by the Ethiopians. Ask the Sidamas about it. Ask the shewa Amharas about it. Ask kefficho and other Ethnic groups about it. 95% all disputed territories today are in the Illegally TPLF and Shabia created Oromia. 5% are in Tigry. Do you think any Gondere will accept wolqite-Tegede, Humera, Alem wuha Zuria and others its natural territory taken by little bandits like (A) Boy Sebhat who is a childish and sick individual and will be forgotten or accepted? NO.

    It is about Time.

    Until then, read the book called “YE GALLA Tarik written by an Ethiopian monk, Traveller, historian and writer with name Abraha who was born in the south. The book is written in 1595. Read also other world historians including Arabs who visited Ethiopia time after time mainly in the 13, 14, 15 and so on century. such as Arabs, Europeans, Chinese and so on have long contact with Ethiopia. You find in their books about the rest of Ethiopian groups in the region but not the Oromo (new name to the Gallas since 1974). The only international writer who mentioned in 1898/1906 about the Galla existence in Ethiopia was a Russian writer/traveller. In his book, you find no single work saying “Oromo”. He was calling them with the name they always had ‘Galla’ (Gada system is a corrupt word from Galla).

    The point is that the Ethiopian at least the past 500 years true History will guide all Ethiopians. Not the bandit woyane and shabia Kilil and blah blah

  3. Ogina
    | #3

    No surprise, Only European colonizers and Abyssinians villify the question of nations in Africa as some thing “ethnic”. None of them dare to call European nations as such. Any ways, we can persuade Abeshas, but we will wait till the Europeans change their negative attitude on nations in Africa. Canthey tell me why Germans can be called as a nation and Oromos be an ethny? Enjoy here:

    “Persuading Amhara elites to accept and respect Self-determination

    It is clear that only Amhara elites and few Amharanized elites from other nations are against “ethnic” federalism and self-determination of nations. Genuine “ethnic” federalism is the compromise solution for all nations in the region to live together – achieving both national independence and regional integration. The position of Amhara elites regarding the federalism and self-determination made them to be not suitable to cooperate with the elites of other nations against TPLF regime. Amhara elites do prefer unconditional Ethiopian unity rather than self-determination as a precondition for the possible alliance to be forged between Amhara democratic forces and Oromo freedom fighters. Oromos tend to accept this precondition, only if Amhara elites also accept Oromos’ precondition aka making Afaan Oromo the only working language of the federation instead of Amharinya. Oromo elites make such a demand to make Amhara elites to notice how wrong is their cry for unity with Amharinya as the only federal language. Then, in a common house aka “NEW Ethiopia” they suggest to build, the working language must be only Afaan Oromo. Will they then stay to be pro Ethiopian unity and anti ethnicity, even if Amharinya will be demoted to only local language of Amhara region and if Afaan Oromo will be promoted to be the only working language of the Ethiopian federation? I am sure they will not! In case they will stay further to be pro-Ethiopianity and pro-unity as they seem to believe now, let’s then try this NEW version of Ethiopianity with Afaan Oromo instead of with Amharinya.

    Read more:
    http://www.ethioplanet.com/medrek

    In short, the best instrument to compel Amhara elites so that they accept and respect the compromise solution aka genuine “ethnic” federalism and to make them recognize the right of nations to self-determination is to demote Amharinya to be the local language and promote Afaan Oromo to be the federal language, i.e a transformation of the empire to a NEW Ethiopia with Afaan Oromo as the National Language!”

  4. Wellega was called Damot
    | #4

    Ogina

    It is easy to see how you are suffering from hate towards others with no reason to be that way. Before talking about others, first tell us about yourself. You have lots of reasons to clarify and see clearly and the right way

    I assume you are an Oromo( the name given to you by the Deruges in 1974). From where this name came from, no one knows including yourself. Because you find it nowhere in the world anthropologist book written before 1974.

    In the Oromo you have three major groups to be classified as three distinct Ethic groups. Then you have 29 Clans, 1000s sub clans and 10000 sub sub clans with in the Oromo. Each clan and sub clan has own tradition, custom, way of life and the likes. You also have 55% Muslims, 40% Christians and 5% animates with in the Oromo.

    Now; look Somalia. Somalia has 5 clans. Namely; one in Somaliland. one in Punt land and three clans with in the Italian Somalia. Technically the three Clans surrounding Moqadisu are fighting for almost 20 years. Almost 100% Somalians are Muslims. All Somalians are speaking the same language, exercising the same culture, tradition and the likes.

    Yet, they did able to stay together as a state ever in their history for less than 30
    Years (after independent till end of adbare). They are choosing first their clan even over their religion let alone united Somalia.

    Now; are you still thinking and talking about creating a kind of new and unknown State called Oromia (new name given to you by shame woyanes no one knows from where they got this name) in illegal way? Boy, even all Ethiopians do agree you to have woyane given oromia, you will never ever manage to rule her as a state even for one day. The many clans, sub clans.., religion, tradition, custom and so on differences with in the oromo will never allow to create a state there. Further more, there are more than 65 Ethnic groups there, 95% the disputed territories in Ethiopia today post kilil are there, the geographical structure is not permitting and with so on reasons, there will be no oromia ever but Ethiopia for ever to all Ethiopians.

    However before anything we have to talk about history. Because history is the only guide to the present and future especially in your case. I can’t go to the detail. Because it is clear and known that you don’t want to hear about that. Because you are breathing about oromo/Oromia a very contaminated, non existed and false air. You are standing on the air without roots to tell about your past. Instead, your silly brain is telling you very wrongly that you can create the woyane given oromia with lies, cheating and so on.

    Boy, you are in the very wrong direction. That will never happen. No one is fool to stand for own right knowing its is his not the other one. Dila, shashemene and the likes are the Historical territories to the ancient Abyssinians(habeshas); the Sidamas. Kefa is the historical territory to the keffichos and the rest. They will tell you how the Galla invasion was brutual in the 1830+ around keffa and the western part of Ethiopia including wellega. The Entire Shewa is the historical territory to the brave and ancient shewans. And the rest has its historical fact before you came in.

    There fore, instead of hating others, think strait and be part of the united Ethiopia.

    As far as Abyssinia. You have no idea what does it mean. The Sidama people and territory was the southern part of the Abyssinian Kingdom. The Sidamas, Hadias, kembatas, welitas, Afars and the likes are the Habeshas. Not as your silly head is telling you with hope you will get them in your side. Remember: the galla migration worst and first victims were/are the Sidamas.

    The difference between Amhara, Tigre, Gurage, Harari and the likes is very narrow and smaller that the differences with in the oromos. For instance; the difference between Amhara and Tigre can be written down with 0 %( none existence). Naturally they look the same, they dress the same cloth. They eat the same food. They drink the same drink. They prey the same religion. They behave the same way. They lived as one people for thousands years. I can go on and on. Do you think few woyanes behaviour would change that thousands years reality.

    The point is that free your self from hate. You are affecting yourself not anybody else. 95% the oromos have no idea about you and your similarity evil idea which is creating so called orromia with out any historical and legal rights. You have to admit now that that will never happen.

    Nigeria has more than 550 ethnic groups. Sudan more than 500. Cameroun 250, Ghana, 100. Tanzania 130, d.congo 700, India 1000s’ and so on. Do you think, there also must be self determination?

    USA has all human races, ethnics, religions and the likes. Do you think there also must be self determination?

    The colonial boundary and league of nation mapping nations and nationality is the way the world is working today and it must work in Ethiopia, too. That is why we said and oppose the woyane creating of so called kilil. Because the Ethiopian external and internal boundaries including the 14(13) Teqlay Gizats are known by UN since its creation(1945). .

    That is why Eritrea has the right to self determination. That is why South Sudan is seeking for self determination because the boundary between north and south Sudan was drawn in 1905 and it was known by league of nation(1919) as two separate administrations.

    The question is that even we let alone the Galla migration to aside for a while; what is the legal and historical justification to your oromia to have a state in Ethiopia? There is nothing. There is no Oromia but Ethiopia. All Ethiopians have equal rights to live, work and make a living all over Ethiopia. This is the way the rest of the world is working. Your bla bla hate will give you additional pain affecting your daily life. No more.

    However, I don’t hate you. I just feel you sorry for you. Because you are living a fantasy world to create something illegally with lies, cheat, blackmailing and the likes. Remember: No one is fool.

  5. Ogina
    | #5

    Did I give a chance for a fly to jump on the dirty thing (conflict between Amhara and Oromo)? Here is one fly aka rabid dog aka Weyane cadre farting being camouflaged as conservative Amhara cursing “Galla”! I know the moment I post such “conflict” situation between Amharas and Oromos, the flies jump on the dirty thing they are waiting for!! My intention of posting the above opinion was not to give the flies such chance, but to remind Amhara elites how wrong they are in refusing to accept and respect the right of nations to self-determination including the right of Amharas and Tegarus! Let the flies fart, shit and vomit, but there will never be a conflict between Amharas and Oromos! The time of instigating a conflict between these two BIG nations, so that the fascists rule further, is over!!

  6. hager wodad
    | #6

    Any body can articulate his low self esteem behind the computer by cursing the greatest people of oromo and the wealthiest land My OROMIA. I tell you what? U can never and ever take it away from me -from us. Who told you we are divided? is that mean a kind of your internal complex? i can tell yes!! we are a great ethnic group the original cush tribe rooted, born grown and diversed in the mother Africa -east. we didn’t came from Asia crossing read sea like your tribe. The monk, dedeb debteras and ignorant retarded old amharas manuscript who cares? as long as we are such a powerful and beloved group of people. No matter how you hate us or you give us a nick name every time, we still are ready to live in peace with any body in the horn and the world. If u dont’t respect us and our peace ideology, you can leave us alone. you can stay in your Gojiaaam. Article 39 is there for all of us.

  7. new vision
    | #7

    Voice of America Amahric news is always the master of amharization of ethiopia. They fail to up hold the value of jouranalism. It all show on their presentation of interviews and political analysis. Unless they stop their bias, they journalism contribution is quetionable.

  8. so os lat
    | #8

    ወለጋ- ዳሞት,ባሌ-ጠምባሮ,አርሲ-ደዋሮ,ወሎ-አማራ አምባ እረስንቱ ጠርተህ የቱን ታልፈዋለህ;
    ነገር ከመጣማ ሁሉም ያማረ ነው ምንስ ልታምጣ የትስ ትገባለህ;
    መኖር ያልፈልገ ተስማምቶ ባንድ ቤት;
    ሁሉም ገደል ይግባ መሬት ይልቀቅና ተጠራርጎ ይሂድ;
    ቤቱ የጋራ ነው አይክድም አማራ;
    ሁሉም እኩል ይኑር ሁሌም አብሮ ይብላ;
    እንደ ባለጌ ሰው ብቻውን የምብላት ዘመድን የመካድ ልምድም የለን እኛ::

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