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HomeOpinionEthiopian-Eritrean Confederation – Genesis of a new North-East-African State

Ethiopian-Eritrean Confederation – Genesis of a new North-East-African State

Paulos Milkias (Ph.D) – Photo credit Ethiopian Development Studies Association

By Paulos Milkias, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science
Concordia University Montreal, Canada

It is time that we stop bickering and forge a robust confederation in the Horn of Africa. For the sake of clarity, confederation is the process of regional union in which the emerging entity is the antithesis of a unitary state but is looser than a federal arrangement. In my keynote speech at the State University of Michigan [April 2019], I strongly argued against the TPLF spearheaded, and EPRDF endorsed ethnic federalism with a proviso of self-determination up to and including secession for its ultimately divisive nature and a possible balkanization of Ethiopia. I rooted for the Indian-like federation of Ethiopia, which was based not on ethnicity but regionalism. My position is still firm that it is only if we adopt the Indian system that balkanization can lead to fissure with the emergence of tiny weak states like those that gained independence from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and are currently engaged in fighting against one another or the defunct Boer conceived Bantustans that became extinct together with the South African Apartheid system that underpinned it.

As things stand now, returning back to the Haile Selassie spawned provincial structure is impractical. Ethnic federalism, for whatever it is worth, has been in place for 30 years. For many nationalities such as the Oromos, it is so well entrenched that it is almost impossible to turn the clock back. Look at Qubé and the fact that a whole generation of Oromos has been raised without learning the basics of the Ethiopic syllabary. Many also do not speak Amharic, which happens to be the lingua franca of Ethiopia by default. I have already argued for following Canada’s example and adapting bilingualism (Amharic and Afan Oromo.) Even better, following the Swiss Confederation example, I propose the adaption of quadrilingualism (Amharic, Afan-Oromo, Tigrigna, and Somali.) In the long run, Somali Republic, Djibouti, and Sudan can join the union under a new name – North-East-African Confederation. If Sudan joins, it would be incumbent to adapt quintilingualism, which will also serve a good purpose for lowland Eritrea

For a start, confederation (political association of sovereign states) rather than a federation (relatively independent states constituted of a strong central government with internal affairs being delegated to autonomous regions) has to be spawned following the example of Canada in 1867, which brought together Upper Canada (Ontario,) Lower Canada (Quebéc) as well as the Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island,) later joined by the Prairie Provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. ) In time it slowly absorbed large swathe of aboriginal land in the North known as Rupert’s Land and North-West-Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador as a confederal entity and slowly morphed into the current federal structure by 1949 and achieved de jure recognition when Canada’s Constitution Act was promulgated in 1982.

The new regional subdivisions of the Horn will have to be reconstituted in such a way that they do not encourage the urge for independence or irredentism. One way of doing that is to add or subtract counties regardless of linguistic configurations such that large ethnic subdivisions like Oromia, Amhara, and Somali will gain some bordering counties with people who speak other languages as a result of which some ethnic subdivisions such as BenishangulGumuz, Gambella, Harari, and Afar may be reabsorbed into the larger entities as was the case during the Haile Selassie and Derg periods. To skirt the curse of ethnic fragmentation, names should also be changed. What is now designated on the basis of linguistic configurations such as Amhara, Oromia and Tigray should be changed to West-Central Province (for Amhara,) East-Central Province (for Oromia), and Northern Region (for Tigray and Eritrea.) Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region can stand by themselves. Considering global imperialist designs and Egypt’s intrigues, this proposal may not be easy to realize, but I wholeheartedly believe it is doable.

Editor’s note : This article appeared first on P2P listserv forum. To publish article on borkena, please send submission to

Photo credit : Ethiopian Development Studies Association Flicker Page

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  1. Commentary, 5 Apr. 2021
    It is VERY SAD to say that Ethiopia [the glorious, independent, proud, the shining symbol of Black African Continent] is destined to be a testing ground and try every conceivable style of liquidating each other until exhaustation and death into pieces. And we. the side line writers, which includes me, will keep on writing and writing and writing occupying our free time — NOT for the benefit of Ethiopia — but only for ourselves to fill the boredom of our existence on Planet Earth — and naturally vanishing one by one. Dear Reader: LOOK AT YOURSELF, PLEASE, and be HONEST at least ONCE in our life time. THE END

    Post Script
    Dear Editor of
    First, THANK YOU, as usual, for the SPACE that enables me to pour my diatribes. If I crossed the RED line — as I mentioned on other occasion — it is your choice and I will NOT have the slightest grudge. In fact, on the contrary, my admiration for your service continue to be boundless , honestly

  2. Some ‘republic’ day dreamers just vowed to commit suicide after reading this insightful article by patriot Obbo Milkias.

  3. My drear brother Paulos, outstanding analysis and insightful recommendations, if anyone in the Eastern African nations is listing. I am certainly hoping you have your guards activated, as you eloquently prescribed it, Is definitely doable and a nightmare to the West, that is to say, the Americans, the Brits, the European fascists, and white supremacists, as well as to the 7 gangsters, that’s why I said I hope you have your guards activated. The last thing the western gangsters wanted to see is a unity of some sort in the black AFRICAN continent and or regional federalism! That will definitely be a cause for serious alarms to the devils of the western world, however, I’m extremely grateful for your fascinating insights, doable political, social, and geographical unity at the behest of these precarious and challenging times for the continent of AFRICA.

  4. Dr. Paulos has with great clarity of thought put the reality of the Greater Horn of Africa (GHoA) region into easy to understand words. He is also very correct in trying not to attempt to “turn the clock back” as it will be more disruptive than constructive. I also thought his view of putting Ethiopia at the center of realizing the confederation the GHoA was very interesting and insightful.
    We need more clear minded analysts like Dr. Paulos that can perhaps contribute positively in a real way for the bright future of our region.

  5. It sounds great in theory but not achievable in that area. Most Ethiopians are uncivilized but very aware of their own tribalism. Lots of people are dying right now and nobody complains about Ethiopians dyng. It is oromos, tigres, amharas and so on dying. They can’t even figure out that they have something in common. People from all tribes are dying which should be a unifying factor. Mengistu was succesful in dispossesing tribe from everyone and that took lots of force. The only way the writers great vision can be achieved is either by bringing force like Mengistu or wait another century until most people realize that unity is power.


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