Distorted Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia BY Mohamed Hassen.

May 10th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

In 1991, as the result of military ruling collapsed, Ethiopia established a federal System creating largely ethnic-based territorial units, its framers claiming they have found a formula to achieve ethnic and regional autonomy, while maintaining the state as political unit. The initial process of federalization lasted four years, and was formalized in a new constitution in 1995. The Ethiopian ethnic federal system is significant in that it provides for secession of any ethnic unit.

The leading party EPRDF consisted of four parties; although, TPLF led the regime. TPLF working hand and gloves with Eritrea rebel at the time had deliberately designed a controversial article 39 so that EPLF should have created its own government and it succeeded to make Ethiopia a country without a port.

The secession clause is one of the most controversial issues in public discourse in Ethiopia and its Diasporas communities today. The TPLF and EPLF soldiers had disarmed Oromo Liberation Front and put them in jail; even though, the honey moon of TPLF and EPLF did last for a short period and we all knew that they had bloody war claimed the lives of 70 thousands innocent people in 2000.

Opponents of ethnic federalism fear that it invites ethnic conflict and risks state disintegration. The Ethiopian state, they worry, may face the same fate as the USSR and Yugoslavia. Others, of an ethno nationalist persuasion, doubt the government’s real commitment to self-determination; they support the ethnic federal constitution per se, but claim that it has not been put into practice. To many critics, the federal state is a de facto
one-party state in which ethnic organizations are mere satellites of one ethnic organization, the Tigray Peoples Liberationits Front (hereafter referred to as TPLF), the leading unit in the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (hereafter referred to as EPRDF). Finally, those who consider Ethiopia to be a colonial empire sees the federal exercise as yet another colonial trick, and advocate “decolonization.” Supporters of ethnic federalism point out that it has maintained the unity of the Ethiopian peoples and the territorial integrity of the state, while providing full recognition to the principle of ethnic equality. It is important to examine objectively whether ethnic federalism is a viable way of resolving conflict between ethno nationalism and state nationalism. Now that the ethnic federal experiment is more than two decades old, it is possible to make a tentative evaluation of its performance. According to a
reliable data, the ethnic conflicts have been exacerbated in the last two decades and more conflicts have been emerged in Ethiopia. The main ones are Somalis against Oromo, Oromo against Harari, Afar against Somalis and within Somalis etc. etc.

I posed a key question, not only about the conflict but about whether the current liberation fronts be it OLF, or ONLF should have the controversial secession sentiment is valid: “The question has hovered over Ethiopia Federal System from the moment the Deg regime collapsed whether TPLF, EPLF, ONLF or ONLF join their cousins fighting in its zone: Was the battle for Ethiopian power the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition fronts, or was it fundamentally a tribal civil war?” The brute answer was a tribal civil war and all the fronts have shown its ugly heads once they got a power seat.

This is the essential question because there are two kinds of school of thoughts in Ethiopia: “real united country approach” with long histories in its territory and strong national identities (Amhara, Tigray, Oromo, Somali, Afar, Gurague etc); and those that might be called “tribes with bullets approach,” or more artificial regions with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of EPRDF powers. Those have been trapped inside their regional borders myriad tribes and sects who have volunteered to
live together for centuries and have fully melded into a unified family of citizens if they are not organized along the nation and nationalities line.

They are Somali Region, Afar Region, Amhara Region, Trigray Region, and
Oromo Region to name a few. The nations and nationalities and sects that make up these more artificial regions have long been held together by the iron fist of EPRDF powers, kings or military dictators. They have no real “citizens” in the modern sense. They have asked to forcefully endorsed the identity of their nation origin aka balkanization of apartheid South Africa. For example, the balkanization disease has not only gone through the people in homeland, but the Ethiopian who live in Diaspora. On April 9, and
10, Ethiopian officials visited 14 cities in North America and discussed the Growth Transformation Plan. According to a reliable information that I got from Minnesota, clash of clans had surfaced among the Somalis.

The President of Somali Region Abdi Mohamud Omar had welcomed his
own sub clan Ali Ysuuf of Ogadeni and did not want to see any other Somali clans who inhabited in Somali Region. These had a created a tension among the six other Somali clans had formed an organization to fight under the banner of unity of Ethiopia and distanced themselves from the ethnicization. On one occasion, the President of Somali Abdi Mohamudd Omar had insulted the counselors in Washington DC Embassy because
they did give a preference to his own sub-clan during the conference. It seems that the Meles regime is doing deliberately to foment tribal conflict so that he elongated his Power. For instance, Somali Region President has spent 90, thousands dollars during his visit to North America, but two millions Ethiopian Somalis are on the brink of starvation in Somali Region.

The same thing is going in Somali Region. Many Somali clans had sent a letters of complain to the Federal Government. This attested how much the
introduction of article 39 and zoning had destroyed the fabric of Ethiopian society. The people of Ethiopia had lived for centuries, intermarried and fought together to make Ethiopia a land that had never colonized.

Currently, ONLF, OLF and G7 political Organizations are meeting in North America and we urged them to focus on the unity of Ethiopia to dismantle the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi and to echo the uprising of Arab World.

Finally, sadly, we can’t afford to divide Ethiopia along nations and
nationalities line. We have got to get to work on our own country. If the Diaspora is ready to take some big, hard, urgent, decisions, shouldn’t they be first about fighting for freedom, justice and rule of law in Ethiopia? Shouldn’t he first be forging a real unity that will go beyond nations narrow outlook that weakens all the the unity and true Ethiopian identity and a budget policy that secures the Ethiopian dream for another generation? Once those are in place, I will follow the Meles and his gang to be routed out from the power seat as Mubarek and Ben Ali had been relegated to the history bin.

  1. Ghion
    | #1

    Frankly speaking you guys who are on the opposite (wrong) side of history are so distorted you have lost touch with reality and obviously have become the impediment of the Ethiopian society.
    I am for a democratic change in our country however never by virtues of violence and by extreme anarchism, which is what what you so called the you know it all Diaspora oppositions are.
    You wanted to macro manage the Ethiopian domestic and international affair and alter the current political situation of Ethiopia from afar and be counted with indigenous Ethiopians that live in their country, how pathetic is that!

  2. Sheger
    | #2

    I didn’t even read your article sir. But when you say, ethnic federalism,
    Do you mean languej or people? I think that can give an answer to a lot of question.

  3. Lager Hun
    | #3

    All what you say is another cycle of the thousands of laments by the feudo-bourgeois remnants who have been exploiting and suppressing the
    nations and nationalities of Ethiopia under the guise of Ethiopian Unity.

    However, the great peoples of Ethiopia’s ears are not open to such treacherous and outdated propaganda campaign because these peoples have
    already come to know and exercise their all rounded rights they have been
    thirsty of for centuries. Unfortunately, these rights are not visible for you remnats and tips of the long hands of neo-liberalists. Lackeys!!!

    I would like to pose a question: why do not you ‘keberos’ put off
    your ‘lemd’ of the sheep and stand eyes open for the renaissance of your dear country if you believe that Ethiopia needs change and development?

    The peoples of Ethiopia are out of your hands and imagination now. And
    do not fabicate things. Rather, take a drink from the sacred water of the Great Abay River and sprinkle your body too, so that you can come to your senses and see the reality vividly. ‘Miskinoch’!!!!!!!!

  4. Mohammed saeed
    | #4

    I wonder this man is considering him self as historian,I am an eritrean but i fade to see him in our tv(ERITV) swallowing & vomiting the idea of our tyrant Isaias Afwerki. Its a joke for me to hear from him the history of indians,chinese, srilanka…. BUT I want to tell u that dont say more about eritrea. we Know how we came hear well, dont disturb our political process by shouting a lot about ur lord Isaias. Go to ogaden & recalculate ur loss.How could u hide yourself in a tyrants monarchy to attack another tyrant.

  5. Solomon
    | #5

    I am very critical of the tyrant Meles and what he is doing in our beloved country. I live in North America and the truth here is the Diaspora here is so much divide in a very narrow minded philosophy to the extent that the Natives here are really confused and will ask questions like ” are you from Ethiopia or Oromia or Tigre ? ” Although the root of this question is Meles Zenawi, the diaspora here are so dump to follow his divisive policies and still saying they oppose meles….Stupidity that is hard to explain !!

  6. Tazabiw
    | #6

    Dear friend, I read your article,
    The only long term solution to our beloved Ethiopia is unity. Respect voor individual rigths. Religion (orthodox, moslim…) Ethnicity ( Amhara, oromo, somali..) are secondary we have to leave it for individuals. I do not see any reason why we should divide our conuntry in sthnic lines- which is impossible. it is only possible for those who rule the country (TPLF)by the principle of divide and rule. Let’s fors them to stop this stupid game.

  7. selamyihun
    | #7

    We need to know that we cannot go back as before i.e 1995 but the thing is moving also positively,and at the same time all ethnic groups in Ethiopia are equally important in building together as one nation with diversity.some are struggling not bring change and enhance integral development but power.

  8. Kirubel
    | #8

    Ethiopia has changed since the fall of the Derg regime and it will continue to change for better as no one can roll back the wheel of history. Meles’s government is not a forever government it will leave the stage when the time comes. The spirit of Ethiopia and Ethiopians will never be defeated no matter how much pressure our internal and external enemies exert. The current ehtnic federal arrangment implemented by TPLF in Ethiopia is a direct copy from Italiy’s Fascist leader Mussolini( Try to find and see the old Italian maps made in the 1930-40′s.) You will be amazed!! It was a colonial plot to divide and rule the Ethiopian people. It is a disgrace that a so called Ethiopia’s leader could be an instrument of a colonial ruler. Time will come when our people will come to realize the true nature of TPLF’s agenda and as Mussolini failed TPLF will fail. The spirit of Ethiopians cannot be defeated. Please do not forget that the Tigrean people are the true sons and daughters of Ethiopia. They are still under the merciless repression of TPLF – haven’t you heard what happened in Makele recently during the protest march?

  9. aha!
    | #9

    Thanks for elaborating this issue of ethnic fedralism and secessionism in in your narrative form, which I was hammering on for the last four years in a modular context in order to identify the parties with national agenda and ethnic agenda in terms of Ethiopian Nationalism/Ethiopiawinet and Ethiopian National Intersts. Since the fate of the silent majority of Ethiopians is in the hands of the elites both abroad and in the diaspora the political leadership of the teletafi and loyalist opposition parties need to align themselves to Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian national interests by denying support and/or acknowledgement of ethnic federalism and secessionism insitutionalized and constitutionalised by TPLF as a spearhead as shown in Article 46, Article 39 (1), article 8 and whatever article the balance of power of the branches of government,private property ownership as one of the means of production in a catipitalistic system of government are in, and the implementation of existing articles that contributed to human right violations and freedom of the individuals in order to engage in a common cause for an uprising/reaction to freedom from autocratic rule/ethnocratic/ethnic dictatorship, totalitarianism under ethnic federalism and secessionism to replace it with a democratic system of government with pure/laisse fair capitalism or mixed economy.

  10. kenyalfal belachew
    | #10

    ante yalkew hullu leknew egnam enawukewalen.
    chigrachin zare yejemere sayhon k 1966a.m.
    abron sishegager zare derese.ende zarewochu.
    gibtsawuyan bisakalne noro meche enwared neber.
    tlant derg zare woyane bedimocrasi sem qume siqilun
    yasayoutal hizbun slehonem ye1966a.m.ayinet medcem.
    be gulebetegnoch indaynetek inde gibtsochu meketatel
    weyane yiwudem ethiopiawint yilemlem.liyounetachin mekurachin new

  11. ጉረኞች
    | #11

    Listen woyane cadres and Eritrean tribalists!!! whether you read the article or not your input is not valuable here since you are the destructive elements that should be eliminated from Ethiopia. In any event, the writer has put the fundamental issue oppositions are facing today succinctly and accurately. OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7 have to come up with clear and unambiguous statement on what they have agreed to the state hood of Ethiopia. Any deception with political rhetoric will not work to forge unity among oppositions.

  12. Gash Polisu
    | #12

    Mohamed Hassen,

    you have have written an important piece which, im my view, could pass the test for its objective and balanced approach. Most of your ditractors are either TPLF mercenary bloggers or simply confused guys who could no get your message.

  13. Sheger
    | #13

    We know about this balehibet errga talk and history. But we can actualy can stand on the ground with out any body’s help aexept Gods and every body’s,
    And keep both foot going forward with out hurting anybody.

    If some people think they have gown wrong of what they suppos to be?

    I am a child of king David and King Solomon of Israel. And I am black and Israeli and so are my family and the people of Erhiopia Who are Ethiopians and Israelis of cours not all of us but many of us.

    If the Arab world thinks that Ethiopia has some thing to do with some od them bieng black or some thing? It might be true but
    If they are Ismaelitys to begin with they are probably or most difinetly mixed people to begin with, no matter how they
    Like that or not or tald to like or hate that or not

  14. Sheger
    | #14

    I know I am contradicting my self on this one, but can’t you see where I am coming from?

    For one thing I forgot my SABANESS but not Ethiopiawenet.
    Or Israelninet. But I didn’t forgot any of it at all. Do you think about me? May be, besides I just don’t know that. Or should I? I don’t think so and I don’t may be want so. If you know what I mean. And may be that means some thing.

  15. Sheger
    | #15

    What does it mean any ways?

    I believe it just mean “Ethiopians” or Ethop.

  16. aha!
    | #16

    On the Toronto conference, ” Declaration of Unity of Purpose”, which a form of AFD, holding their ethnic agenda in their sleeves is bound to fail like the one preding it. The same for the conference on the armed struggle led by Dr. Berhanu Nega. To that effect I agree to the idea put fort by Mohamed Hassen for all faction tp coalesce on the Unity of Ethiopia, if that all means resorting to original, autonomous provinces, with various ethnic groups, focusing on dismantling ethnic and seccessionist politics and/or policies of TPLF/eprdf regime. Simply calling for the Prime Minister to “Go” does not address to the party called TPLF/eprdf and the ethnic federalism and secessionism as core political issues incompatible with Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian nnational Intersts, nor the implementation of democracy and capitalism.

  17. Sheger
    | #17

    Saba wasn’t just black, she was half Israeli and half black or Ethiopian in the naming, So was Moses’s wife.
    Ethop was brother in law of Moseses, Mosises wife and her brother Ethop come from a father named Jetro, a high priest from Midiam and from people of an Ethiopian family as long as the name Ethop is not there for distruction of your though or the though, of cours not for me or about me. But before we say any of this we should say that Ethiopians and Israelis lived with together as slaves in
    Egypt. And Ethiopia was a home of Esraeli and so on of immigrants at the time of the Phero. And the rest of the history
    To that and you have the………I would say the modern world. But is it? I think it is better to say…..some thing els. But I know for sure there is GOD.

  18. From home
    | #18






    Thanks for telling us meles came with a Somalia passport in 1991 and he his massacring the country for two decades.

  19. Sheger
    | #19

    And I am a family of all of this people. Wether I am told or not, I feel it and I live it, for what ever end. I hope it is for some good and for the best of all of us. I am sure some time we can ask God “why families?”

    I am note him but he can answer it ” because nothing works with out it” or I am about Family’s, or who is going to teach
    Who about ……with out having some responsibility and care and love and unity and so on……..so I say One love one God one World. Not just because I am understanding, I live in the world, who ever I might be or I am. not any of us are
    Out side of it any ways.

  20. aha!
    | #20

    As far as I can understand, we are one people, one nation mixed over millenia by marriage, immigration or war among the feudal sustems, and that love conquers the world and God is God of love and the christian, the Islam and Jewish and the orthodox religions have one God and live in the same planet. So why I say why scramble for ill defined ethnic boundries, create boundry dispute as the case was with ex-Ethiopian Province Eritrea, and now between Ogaden region and Oromo region, etc., why hang on on maintaining ethnic feralism and secessionism in a country, where the ethnic populations thrived in cooperative and copetive fashion for centuries like species populations in an ecosytem, into self-rule and separate development strategy as if expecting the different organs in an organism to function indepenentely, originating from the same cell unit in all the organs specialised to perform different funtions, but not to be independent of each other enough to secede from each other. Those the maxims upon which the liberation movements, the teletafi, and the loyalist opposition parties are based on, contrary positive intergration of the ethnic populations in a natural process governed by a truly democratic system/governance.

  21. Sheger
    | #21

    This is to “from home” ……may be we should kick the Bantus all the way Back to Cameroon, you never know we might be OK then………just jockeying…….I don’t want no Somali killing me no more…. If you know what I mean.

  22. Sheger
    | #22

    Or should we call them the BANTUS” the BERSEWOS?

  23. Sheger
    | #23

    Or are they? You never know you know, besides it is Ethiopia and asociets who took them across the seas of the worlds. While they are kicking it to……you know what? It is better not to say this things but I will say it……too much
    Fear some time brings what is at the end of your brains closet if you know what I mean but it is not fear that created this
    It just contributes to it not that I am denying or or saying some thing against their rights and nature of who why are or what they are but when we know a lot of people take their origin very serious to a point of denying who they are or how they look like for what I don’t know but if you look at America people are all mixed up, whits with black and native Americans and all the way vice versa. people should put in consideration to teach who the Americans are no matter
    Who ever it was before and most of them are mixed with the natives any ways and knowing that America is a home
    Of Emigrants even to day the world will keep on changing to some ways. some time you can’t ask any body to be responsible of this things unless it is the person responsible to a point of the individual choices of or love off. Besides you learn to love what is around you. you can’t love what you don’t know. But how ever we all need to learn to accept
    Each other as people of God for he has created all of us and the world.

    I hope I made a point on this. I think it is very important for safety well bing of all of us and for the future, none of us are
    Here for ever anyways.

  24. Sheger
    | #24

    Israel, Plistian, Lebanon, Jordan even Syria should learn some thing from this. Most of them I believ are mix of all kinds
    Of people just like most every body no matter that happened it all most feels like the faith of Israel, sorry. If I said some
    Thing wrong. But how ever this Plistinians and Jordanians and so on are mixed and may be unmixed or both with Arabs
    And god knows who els Israelis. Besides they are most of them musilims. And that is not just that I believe Jordan and
    Lebenan and god knows who els or how big or small was land of Israel. if you want to go by people and security add
    Armenia Bosnia and all the YAYAS in, if you know what I mean.

  25. Sheger
    | #25

    I know some body can say to me “you are on my m.f.closet” but am I? How about the rest? Wee, does that make any sense? No matter who is who, what do we all or no matter who we call our selves or what ever, what do we know about it? With out the moralitys that are set for the world? Do you think all the Tibetians are vegetarians while telling
    Their childerens and people that the fling bug or an ant or a caterpillar could be your grand mother? Come on people,
    I mean this whole thing can go to its point or to the out point what ever I dont even even know what to say, but it can go to to….you know what with out the help of God or any body. Some time I think animals can lough at us……

  26. habtu
    | #26

    when we talk about ateritory we should talk about who is living there?

    Are we talking Ethiopia well every one says port assab ok who is there.

    afar so respect the voice of the people.

    ok are we talking mesawa so who is living there the rashid or saho ethnic what do they want there is no answer from isayase.

    so masawa or assab belongs to who eritrea ???which eritrea????

    the minority tigrigna speakers in eritrea they are same ethiopians tigrai ethnic group.even not 10 % of eritrean population.

    so ethiopian majority and eritrean majority what they have in commen

    they are haijacked from their beloved country ethiopia.’

  27. Sheger
    | #27

    Wether black or chinis or weight or who ever, aren’t we all childrens of Nohe? And what part of the world did Nohe
    Come from? No matter where that is,should we all go their then? stop being funny people. Their are no bad people here but you can make your self one if you don’t bej. You know I mean?

    I think some of us should sing

    Mehede newu enay mesenabete newu
    Belu dehina hunu

  28. Sheger
    | #28

    May God protect us all and he has been and is. Hope we are worth it.

  29. Sheger
    | #29

    Their is evel and their is good. Their is the Devile and their is God. and we all know we are not here to watch a game of some kind.

  30. Sheger
    | #30

    It was the musilims who wor selling christian people no matter how Arab or Black or A jew or what ever the people was and may be who ever the buyer was.
    It was just the musilims that was doing that any ways. To a point to at one time they where expelled from Ethiipia and still are not well come in some ways and places if you know what I mean.

  31. Sheger
    | #31

    I know some people can say to me, m.f.y. All the way up to the thing. But aren’t we or arent the or who ever they are
    Up to the thing or some sort of a thing whether it is to day or yesterday or what ever no matter who might be? ……I beg you people what ever or who ever it is or you are don’t turn your selves or
    Some body in to a thing or what ever God knows.

  32. Sheger
    | #32

    no matter what ever kind of all the way to the thing, I think most of us are not probably new to the talk….. And…..I am not sure about it but read the Songs of Solomon and book of David, I know what happened to the David or the Solomon
    In my country, I can or a lot of us can forget about it or not If that make any sense besides we don’t know
    About the rest or. I mean If I have to ask the question , where are we suppos to live? no matter who ever we are?
    Or is it just the question of the mixed people? which are probably the coming haven or Armageden? If you know what I mean?

  33. Anonymous
    | #33


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