ETHIOPIA & THE HORN I

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It seems the current definition of the Horn doesn’t include the two Sudans. A while back the whole Sudan was considered part of the Horn, but that conception seems to have faded away, particularly after the secession of South Sudan. Whether the Sudans will be reconsidered as part of the Horn in the years to come is something that remains to be seen. Be that as it may, the ongoing flux of geopolitics seems to have worked its way, also in our region. Positions of countries that were taken for granted for a long time are now changing rather swiftly. The currently evolving relations between countries of the Horn are aspects of this changing global reality!
Ethiopia and Eritrea are making amends. We are not going to belabor this point, as it has been dramatically demonstrated, to all and sundry, in the last few weeks. By the same token, Eritrea and Somalia are restoring formal diplomatic relations. We can realistically expect good relations to be established also between Djibouti and Eritrea, maybe sooner than later. Such goodwill will certainly pave the way for more cooperation between the four countries of the Horn. If the current trend continues it might not be long before closer political arrangements between countries can be forged across the width and breadth of this once rife with violent region. Confederation or even Federation might not be out of the ballpark, so to speak! There are two visible motives why such political configurations might come to fruition. Today we will examine some of the internal imperatives, to be followed by relevant sequels.
In all the four countries of the Horn, objective conditions exist that compel the reconsideration of the seemingly various trajectories these countries have been pursing. Ethiopia, as the core country of the horn is regarded as a trendsetter, in many regards. In the last half a century, it had managed to execute radical changes, both in its polity and policy. From Imperial Ethiopia, whose polity was dominated by highland Christians (for thousand of years) to a Marxist regime that promulgated the most radical land tenure system in Africa, Ethiopia proved, time and again, its willingness to experiment with far reaching ideas to secure peace and stability. Despite the number of protracted wars the Ethiopian state waged against both outsiders and organized insiders, the country as a whole had always displayed an open attitude towards new and more cohesive projects with a view to foster its long-term strategies. Ethnic federalism is the latest to be tried in this land of diversity. This overarching policy ruled the land for about three decades, with mixed results. Time has now come to also rethink this paradigm, may be in toto!
The ethnic federalism launched roughly three decades ago has yielded tangible results, some positive and others not so positive. Most importantly, this paradigm demonstrated to the world, especially to neighbors, Ethiopia’s resolve to try all means necessary to tackle its recurrent internal problems/strife consciously and deliberately. ‘Taking the bull by the horn’ was the phrase favored by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Again, it would be preposterous to thoroughly evaluate the experiences of the last three decades in this column. We will only pinpoint to the combined outcomes that threaten to unravel the federal state of Ethiopia!  We are inclined to believe that Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism, despite its benign features, is implicitly predicated on ethnic favoritism. Adhering to such principle is tantamount to reading the ‘universal declaration of human rights’ up side down, so to speak! When abrasive ethnic consciousness is regarded as the height of enlightenment, all other rational discourses tend to be relegated to the back burner. There are plenty of examples to illustrate the various consequences of such an emphatically stated constitutional program. When ‘collective rights’ outshine ‘individual rights’, the tendency is to have instinctively organized entities (along ethnic lines) impose their will on individuals. As a result, critical reflections as part and parcel of ‘freedom of expression’ suffer immensely, to say nothing about other activists’ issues of whistleblowing, organizing, etc.!
Unbridled collective rights has fostered, maybe inadvertently, wide spread organized crimes in Ethiopia. It is not without reason qualifiers are used when discussing the Mafiosi: the Irish Mafia, Sicilian Mafia, Russian Mafia, etc. The current PM Abiy Ahmed has already coined the phrase ‘Daylight Hyenas’ to describe our homegrown Mafiosi. To be sure, these ‘Daylight Hyenas’ exist in all regions of the country and tend to operate in unison. For example, opportunities were limited or even fully closed to the ethnically unaffiliated, particularly in the domains of the regions. At times, even native inhabitants of a region were excluded from all considerations (state, market, civil society, etc.) if they were reluctant to support the reigning policy of favoritism. Disfranchising and disempowering those deemed competitors, in the sphere of politics, economics, etc., became the pastime of the ethnically obsessed, as this platitude shielded their incompetence, inhumanity and gross corruption! To further such shallow ends of the degenerate politicos, some of the critically inclined mavericks, both from within and without, were targeted for elimination. The highly organized Mafiosi State that operated behind the scene was empowered to execute such tasks along with its creation in the private sector, namely the parasitic oligarchs, both domestic and foreign! By the Ethiopian ‘Mafiosi State’, we mean a clandestinely operating state that leverages the apparatus of the formal state and the ruling party (in a highly coordinated manner) with the clear intention of undermining the rule of law to fulfill criminal desires! What is to be privileged, if one cannot flaunt one’s position of being above the law to ordinary mortals? This was the motto of the Mafiosi state, which has effectively undermined the current federalism from within! See the various articles from the Ethiopian Diaspora next column and on page 44.
If truth be told, ethnicity-targeting violence is to be expected, particularly in a country where regions are legally encouraged to prefer ‘their own’, as opposed to ‘the others’! This not-so-subtle and institutionally built-in alienating sentiment was elevated to the highest echelon of all the country’s state organs. The failure to dismantle this lopsided and disempowering governance structure, along with the heinous Mafiosi State, which was behind many of the injustices and atrocities, is what ignited the country from below. This comprehensive socio-economic ailment was initiated, to a large extent, by the degenerate elements of the TPLF and later expanded to all the other regional parties and states. Patiently waiting for the ever-receding ‘deep reform’ from above, the sheeplets (the youth) finally lost it and took to the streets. The rest, as they say, is history!
The whole episode of ethnic federalism serves, once again, as another illustration of Ethiopia’s inherent willingness to try non-conventional methods/approaches to come up with lasting solutions to what ails its complex existence. When such attempts fail, the country seems to be ready and willing to embark, yet again, on another wave of reform, with determination to sweep the old and replace it with the new! Ethiopia seems to openly uphold the following obvious truth; the only thing inevitable in the whole universe is change, and it should be embraced, not feared.  “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate. But, it is fear.” Gandhi. Good Day!