Ethnicity and restructuring of the state in Ethiopia – By Berhanu Gutema Balcha

June 1st, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Ethnicity has been a key criterion in restructuring the Ethiopian state in federal lines. The cases of dissolved ethno-federal arrangements such as that of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia resonated pessimism about the feasibility of federalism based on ethno linguistic lines. In contrast, some relatively successful ethno-linguistic federal arrangements like those of India and Switzerland have shown the feasibility of ethnic federalism in divided societies. Both, critiques and advocates of ethnic federalism have their justifications. (more…)

Ethnicity has been a key criterion in restructuring the Ethiopian state in federal lines. The cases of dissolved ethno-federal arrangements such as that of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia resonated pessimism about the feasibility of federalism based on ethno linguistic lines. In contrast, some relatively successful ethno-linguistic federal arrangements like those of India and Switzerland have shown the feasibility of ethnic federalism in divided societies. Both, critiques and advocates of ethnic federalism have their justifications. Advocates hold that ethnic federalism could reduce groups’ disparity, promote accommodation and self-rule, encourage ethnic harmony through co-existence and reduce secession or disintegration tendencies (Lijphart 1977 and 2002, Gurr and Harff 1994; Hameso 1997; Kimenyi 1997; Clapham 2001; O’Leary 2002; Osaghae 2006; Kymlicka 2006). In contrast, critiques argue that ethnic federalism could institutionalise ethnic discrimination, obstruct individual citizens rights, strengthen centrifugal forces, introduce zero-sum ethnic competition and generate dangerous reactions like ethnic cleansing, expulsion and disintegration (Lipset 1963; Nordlinger 1972; Ake 1996; Fleiner 2000; Nyong’o 2002; Egwe 2003; Mamdani 2005).

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  1. Gara Beru
    | #1

    The burning issue is not ethnic federalism or otherwise. It is rather about individual rights and the rule of law. Whether Ethiopia needs restructuring or not should be determined once the grassroots are empowered and a legitmate government is installed. Gudayu latamelchin ataruchign silehone, yearda negadewoch sinekabachu lemin hilinachu aymekrachum?

  2. Aha!
    | #2

    Over the past handreds of years of fighting among fuedal kings, Ethiopia had united under one Monarchy. That kind of government had its own set back in land tenure, inability to handle the famine crisis and slow in advancing growth and developement which brought about the downfall of the of the Monarchical system which maintained peace,stability, unity among the the various ethnic groups. It also maintained its boundries and rebuffed aggression from external enemies. The current regime dismantled what has been established over many years of genuine effort to build one strong Ethiopia, where people have to look for Ethiopia first and their Ethnicity second.

    In search of solution for class struggle and resolving the land tenure debacle, I presume the elite went outside of Ethiopian culture went on looking for Communist ideology, and collective farming, which never worked even in the then Soviet Union. The farmers do not own the land and the size of allotted land was too small to accommodte even a family with one child and the farmer does not have the capital, nor the incentive to develop the land, if he is business oriented, nor is he comfortable to work under collective farm system. He is used to “debo” or collaboration at harvest or weeding time with nighbours of his choosing. So, instead of revolting on the Govenment to bring about changes or reform the revoltionaries opted for turning the system upside down. They were anticipating blood shed, but no blood shed took place resisting change/revolution. The ruling class caved in and there were no landlords that put up a fight. Nevertheless the Dergue has put under arrest those of the Royalist, Crown advisors, and high Officials, and assasinated some sixty of the higher Officials. The remaining of the killings, I believe came from infighting within the Dergue and from resistance parties, except for EPLF and TPLF, who were posed in armed struggle similar to what the current regime is facing with as the “Libration Fronts”.

    These incidences came about later on after the revolution has taken shape, when the differnt political factions did not agree with each other’s plan for Ethiopia.

    The first pifall was failing to pursue the reform by way of democratic revolution, as it was initiated in a pannel disscussion, with perhaps peacefull struggle for land reform and other issues. The second reform was the infighting among the dergue members and eliminating each other. The third pitfall resulted from fighting between the dergue and EPRP and mass resistance from the populace failing to adopt the communistic ideology.

    The fourth pitfall is EPLF and TPLF gaining strength with ouside help and internal resistance to dergue regime for its crude handling of the fight with its internal opposition and the National Army.

    With dominance of the EPLF and TPLF factions, which have an agenda for strruggle against oppression of nationalities/ethincs (of which there are sventy two) but settled for five fve to nine ethinic regioins, instead of class stuggle and individual rights of every citizen.

    The ironey of it was that they have unilatterally drafted the constition with the perhaps the participation of their affiliated parties and they also have to govern the whole other etnic regions, by fragmenting the country into ethnic regions, where the major tribes are indocrinated to look into their nationality first and Ctizenship to Ethiopia second. Not only that initiated agression of Oromo against Amhara residing in the oromo region first and among other ethnic groups later on.

    Cessation of these ethnic groups are allowed by the constitution, no matter how difficult it might be and they are fighting for it, in the same way Eritrean province fought for 30 years before it was granted idependence from its previous colonil power Ethiopia.

    It is good you brought up this idea of “Ethnicity and restructuring Ethiopia”. I do not agree to restructuring Ethiopia along Ethnic Federalism. The previous forteenstates accommodate more ethnic groups, than the current one, they should be granted autonomy to form their own state constitution as in the United States. What we need is not dewelling too much into ethnicity of which we have 72 and concentrate on individual freedom and soverneity, and demarcate the land into highlands (dega), wiona dega, lowlands(kola)and rift valley proper and irrigable lands, rather than ethic boundries to develop the land for the common good of all Ethiopians.Furthermore, people should have the freedom to move freely without ethnic indentity card to settle and live/farm anywhere.

    In a democrtic Society land ownership and city properties are private, exept lands requiring protection by the government. Wealth is accumulated through the transaction of land in the form of land for farming or housing construction. The current land holding and financial system do not lend themselves to economic development, except for the priviledged few.

  3. TN.
    | #3

    Berhanu Gutema Balcha has made a decent attempt at a viable option, on the one hand to address the issues of mulitple ethnicites that have to have a representation while adding a possitive and cohessive and centric pull to balance this representation. A much much different approach from that practiced by this adminstration.

    Will it work??? Never!! Ethiopia is an empire. It is addicted to the vultures of the north sucking the life blood of the south for the “gift” of the North’s culture and/or some other irrelevant presumed benefit. It will continue the same way to its end in the near future. After all, the north annexed the south for the soul purpose of unequal sharing. It will be contrary to the empires foundation to have represented and equal sharing. Since the one way relationsip will be impossible this day and age, the north will naturally kill its own created empire soon.

    Thanks God

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