Federalism – common sense will eventually prevail, even within TPLF

Kebour Ghenna

With Aby Ahmed’s election at the top of EPRDF and government, TPLF’s long standing influence within EPRDF was nowhere to be found. Almost instantly, EPRDF as we have known it, vanished. The resulting reemergence of separatist feeling within TPLF may not surprise many observers.
Is that going to be a problem? To certain extent. If persistent, it can make it difficult to come to a consensus on anything.
Clearly loosing influence in a political party one helped create is not funny…but time to stop acting like a child and start to act like an adult.
So where to from here?
To all those advocating secession..we.’ll be left with what? Several new countries on the African map: Oromia, Tigray, Amhara and so on…. Some new ambassadors… for what? To be irrelevant….be duped, exploited and used!
If there is one country in the world that really needs a functional and effective federal system – with its diversities of language, religion, and culture and a growing population – that is Ethiopia. Our present system of federalism certainly needs total overhaul: an honest, whole-hearted, clearly-stated, precise federalism that is acceptable to all the various regional states’ forming the Federal state.
Let’s work on this project.
The PM’s in-country tours have demonstrated that most people support unity with diversity and co-operation. For these people the only institution of the government that represents all Ethiopians is “federal.” On the other side of the political spectrum, there are few pundits in Oromia, that reject entirely the broader Ethiopian nation in favor for total independence for Oromia. They remind us that previous leaders have left them on the outside looking in, and so now, nothing short of independence is acceptable to them.
Let’s be clear however, separatist sentiments will always be part of Ethiopia’s politics, and Arat Kilo should make sure “normal” democratic politics does not break down and violent separatist movements do not dominate.
What is remarkable is that diverse as we are, MOST OF US (emphasis), Ethiopians, have still no difficulty in referring to ourselves as a nation. We do that not by erasing all linguistic or cultural differences, or squash them into an indistinguishable whole, we do that by working to create a new kind of nation, where citizens of Ethiopia will, say, introduce themselves as an Ethiopian from Afar.
I am confident that for the young generation, neither the national origin nor the religion of any individual would be a handicap … Young Ethiopians seem to easily accept Orthodox, Muslims and Protestants, Afars, Amharas, Guragues, Oromos, Wolaitas and more… They understand one can still be a member of both the Oromo nation and the Ethiopian nation, without injury to either. They understand – Lemma and Aby are good testament to what young leaders can bring to the table – democratic government is only possible among a group of people who mutually agree to sacrifice for each other, to defer to each other, to be ruled by each other. The minute the idea takes hold that the government to which they are asked to submit is not their government but someone else’s, the necessary consent of the governed will be withdrawn – if not wholly, then in part.
To put the whole issue in perspective, we are quite often presented with a model of the United States of America. Whatever their deep divisions as a country, the idea of Americans as part of “one nation, indivisible” is uncontested and, indeed, incontestable. And where there are calls to return powers to the states (which happens from time to time), it has more to do with arguments of efficiency and good government than with any deeper questions of legitimacy. The federal government has a role in national affairs of which many other federal governments could only dream.
The main point is that America has realized the creation of a “political nationality” rooted not in blood or soil but in common values, common aspirations, and common principles of government, all summarized in the Constitution, for which Americans have a reverence bordering on the cult-like.
I am convinced that it’s very much part of Aby/Lema team’s ambition to adhere to the principles of unity in diversity, decentralization in administration, and devolution in authority. I am also confident that the team will politically confront groups that have absorbed the idea, consciously or unconsciously, that real nations are ethnocultural nations.
In an important sense I want to point out the indispensability of the idea of the indivisible nationhood. The whole point of a federation, after all, is to have a federal government – a government with powers to deal with matters that transcend region interests and cross region boundaries. If we succeed, it will mean more progress, justice and power for all Ethiopians.