By Kebour Ghenna
Two views dominate the political space in Ethiopia today. The first, argues the one sure way to build the new Ethiopia is to blend the diverse peoples into one through assimilation, integration, and intermarriage. For this group, diversity is an ornament, and unity the main goal. Becoming Ethiopian for this group has nothing to do with birth, ancestry or ethnic identity, but a state of mind, heart and beliefs.
The second group claims that Ethiopians should belong to a particular national group, first, and then work towards unity. Individuals must look backward to their ancestors before looking forward to their posterity, they say. For this group difference and diversity precede sameness and unity.
The federation of the last twenty seven years has not made possible a cohabitation based on solidarity, cooperation and respect for diversity. As a matter of fact it accelerated the drive of significant number of ethnic nationalists to advocate for their separate identity. And although organized mass ethnic cleansing remains isolated and episodic, what we saw so far should worry us all.
Today the danger of Ethiopia’s disintegration is quite obvious to all serious observers. Just visit our universities where students and administrators tolerate and uphold ethnic segregation, look at how local authorities differentiate between their “own” and the “strangers” for delivering services and you’ll realize there is little chance for brotherhood and unity. Check out the regional states, they are increasingly becoming independent from the federal government, thereby legitimizing ethnic separatism. During the first EPRDF reign, whatever central control existed depended on EPRDF’s party structure, now that it weakened it’s increasingly unable to keep up with all that is happening. It’s sufficient to say that the dysfunction is getting worse, not better, further deepening he adverse effect on the economy.
The next upcoming national elections, which PM Abye promised to be the freest election ever, will be dominated by over ninety percent of ethnic based parties competing to turn Ethiopia into the national state of the majority “nation” ethnically defined. In constitutional terms, the ethnic nation will become sovereign: the Oromos in Oromia, the Amharas in Amhara and so on. Minorities will certainly be excluded from among the primary bearers of sovereignty. Thus the post-EPRDF transformation will be from TPLF dominated Ethiopia to state chauvinism, in which the state will be dedicated to rule by that part of the population that formed the majority nation, ethnically defined. Others will be excluded politically, and soon, in many cases, physically.
Dear readers, we don’t pretend to see the future. We just watch and try to understand and argue that there should be more reflections on the upcoming elections. We should be careful not to reduce democracy to voting, and not assume that ballot box using the western model will be sufficient to resolve Ethiopia’s political mess.
There must be a better way to give voice to the people. There must be some original ways to halt the current dismantling of Ethiopia into smaller ethnic based states. Breaking up Ethiopia is not the will of the people. It never has been. What the people want is to retain a form of federalism that is open to a plurality that makes diversity, in all its forms, an advantage.
The government of PM Abye should do all it can to stop the political rhetoric of enmity and partition that is escalating across the country. For a start, his administration should ban all ethnicity based political parties from participating in electoral politics, exhort the media for its failure in combating “nationalism”, and officially contest article 39 of the constitution which allows Ethiopia’s regional states to self-determination. This would gain him further admirations (not that he needs them) for daring to tackle such complex challenges.
On the issue of the 2020 elections, the PM should postpone the lection, and put in place a grand coalition government for the coming three years, to debate and implement social-political reforms, expand citizens’ political participation, and establish a system of government that is more efficient with a more solid legal base.
Would you support or oppose postponing the election?
Let’s hear your views.
Editor’s Note : This article appeared first on Kebour Ghenna’s facebook page
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