Ethiopianity or Ethnic Federalism: A brief response to Professor Andreas Eshete’s The uses and Abuses of Cultural Diversity: African Past and Ethiopian Present by By Teodros Kiros
Federalism has two moments: A Political moment and cultural moment. As a political moment, politicians use it to control the governance of the population, particularly when the polity has a rich cultural and linguistic diversity; as a cultural moment politicians also use it to redress past cultural afflictions.
Andreas is right that the African past and the Ethiopian present have sought to address the cultural moment, but he is silent about the abuses of the second moment in order to accommodate the second crucial cultural moment. The examples of flagrant abuses of cultural diversity that Andreas cites are Apartheid and institutionalized racism in the USA. Andreas claims that, So far my claim on behalf of federalism is that it enabled both Ethiopia’s survival and the establishment of legitimate political authority – - two foundational accomplishments without which the pursuit of other public aims is unthinkable. Thanks to federalism, many who felt they had been renounced by their birthplace were now persuaded not to renounce Ethiopia but instead to join together to form a legitimate political order for peaceful mutual cooperation.
Contra Andreas, I claim that the current regime is in fact abusing cultural diversity as opposed to using it constructively to sculpt a democratic Ethiopian personality culturally equipped with a rich idea of Ethiopianity, which is part and parcel of the glorious Ethiopian past, which enabled the historical Ethiopian people to resist colonial penetration and racial enslavement.
Furthermore, the Ethiopian present is infact a classical case of a shameless abuse of the culturally and linguistically diverse modern Ethiopia by forcing Ethiopians to wear a new political identity-against their will. They are being forced to identify themselves as Oromos, Tigreans, Amharas, Gurages, when they are insisting that they are Ethiopians first and them members of ethnic and language groups.
The modern regime, as evidently articulated by the architects of the Federal constitution is insisting that there is no ethiopianity, nor a unified Ethiopian State. I call this claim, most elegantly staged by Philosopher Andreas Eshete as the abuse of cultural diversity in the politics of the modern Ethiopian present. This thinking is foreign to classical and modern Ethiopianity. To make matters worse, modern Ethiopians are also being brain washed to secede from historical Ethiopia to defend their ethnicity.
Classical Ethiopian emperors fought very hard to preserve the territorial and psychological integrity of the historical Ethiopian nation by forging unity out of diversity and not the dismemberment of unity through diversity. True, there have been significant injustices rendered against certain ethnicities in the past, and Andreas is right in pointing them out, but these injustices can be redressed by a new Federal constitution with powerful protection of human rights, under the rubrics of ethiopianity as opposed to Ethnicity, as is the current practice, which is dividing Ethiopians and putting them on a dangerous path.
Indeed, it appears that federalism is being used to control the political space of the Ethiopian population, so as to control their very movements by locating and relocating them-against their will. In these intricate ways Ethiopians are being observed from the palace and their life chances are dependent on their docility and their forced willingness to follow the rule of the law, which they did not legislate. The accommodation of cultural diversity does not necessitate the creation of new political Spaces. The creation of the new political spaces in nothing more than a tool of control, a method of subjugation and an instrument of governance, all of which are flagrant violations of deliberative democracy.
This response is sketch of a longer scholarly article, in which I would like to invite Professor Andreas to engage in a democratic dialogue on the behalf of the Ethiopian public. I know Professor Eshete loves his country as much as I do, and that we are merely expressing this love differently, a function of our human diversity and our sincere understanding of our Ethiopianity.