Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeOpinionEthiopia’s disintegration is neither inevitable nor a necessary evil

Ethiopia’s disintegration is neither inevitable nor a necessary evil

Paulos Milkias _ Ethiopia Disintegration

Paulos Milkias Ph.D.

This is a brief rejoinder to Dr. Hambisa Belina’s article which appeared in the January 29, 2024 Ethiopian Insight with the rhetorical question, titled, “Is Ethiopia’s disintegration an inevitable and necessary evil?” The author’s anti Ethiopian statements in the article are totally outrageous. To start with, Dr.Hambisa’s proposition that Ethiopia’s disintegration is not only Inevitable but Necessary is a long shot. It is also malicious. 

Dr.Hambisa states that Potential harms of disintegration must be weighed against consequences of holding a country by force, a problem that even the most developed nations of the West are facing or have faced in their historical journey. Take the current struggle of the United Kingdom against the Irish Republican Army, the demand of secession from Britain by the Scottish National Party (SNP,) the ruckus forced on Spain by the Catalan separatists, as well as the secessionist Basque group, the ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty party) which has pugnaciously fought the central government in Madrid for half a century. the demand for independence from Denmark by the Faroe Islands, the Venetian independence movement in Italy, the .sporadic uprisings of separatist movements in France – in particular, in Brittany, Corsica and the Basque region. 

But our greatest lesson due to its enormous and momentous magnitude should come from the American Civil War. of 1861-1865, which tore apart the United States, leaving a trail of destruction and loss in its wake. The tenacity of nationalist leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln, saved America from total disintegration. Nevertheless, it cost the lives of some 750,000 fighters. The American civil war also caused heavy economic devastation to the agriculture based  South leading to widespread poverty and infrastructure destruction. The North likewise suffered paramount economic losses due to the costs of the war effort. 

There was significant social disruption since sundry communities all across the country were torn apart by the conflict. Families were divided since men enlisted to fight on opposing sides, leading to emotional and psychological scars that lasted for generations. Infrastructure damage due to the war was very vast. Railways, bridges, roads, and buildings were ravaged beyond belief. The war also created a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions, with millions of people displaced, injured, or left destitute. Civilians endured food shortages and outbreaks of disease. 

The civil war in the end left enormous Psychological Impact on the U.S.: Overall, the American Civil War exacted a heavy toll leaving scars that would take decades to heal but the legacy of the sacrifice shaped American society and politics to make it the richest and most powerful nation in the world today.

To suggest that disintegration will produce a better outcome than what has transpired in Ethiopia over the last century and a half is an oximoronic idea..Dr. Hambisa hopes for “smooth and orderly birthing of new democratic states’after Ethiopia was dismantled. But what if the so called .New and Democratic States, he suggests, end up being Bantustans, a la defunct Apartheid South Africa or today’s Somaliland that hangs by a thread in limbo?

Dr. Hambisa suggests that today, western powers entertain commitment to holding Ethiopia together. But this is another oxymoronic idea. Can the author present proof for this banal statement? Their plan is actually not to keep a strong, united Ethiopia. On the contrary, the west would like to see Ethiopia, and for that matter the whole of Africa, dismantled for the purpose of divide et impera

Dr. Hambisa approaches the subject nonchalantly, but breaking Ethiopia apart definitely has serious consequences. Take the case of India breaking up into two in 1947 just at its ;independence from Britain. The partition of India in 1947 into two separate nations, India and Pakistan (including East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh), based on religious lines (Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan), led to numerous negative consequences which are: 

  1. The division triggered one of the largest mass exodus in human history, with millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs fleeing their homes to move to the side of the border that aligned with their religious identity. This resulted in widespread displacement, communal violence, and huge loss of life.

2.The subdivision led to communal riots and violence between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, resulting in significant loss of life and property. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, but it is believed to have been in the millions.

3.The community severance disrupted trade and economic activities, particularly in regions where groups had coexisted for centuries. Businesses were abandoned, and infrastructure was damaged, leading to economic instability in the aftermath of the separation.

4.The breakup created deep social divisions along religious lines, initiating mistrust and animosity between communities that had previously lived together peacefully. These divisions continue to impact social cohesion in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh today.

5. The severance necessitated the division of administrative structures, including government institutions, law enforcement agencies, and public services, which posed significant challenges in terms of governance and administration.

6.The mass migration resulting from the separation of Pakistan (and Bangladesh) from India led to a refugee crisis, with millions of people forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in unfamiliar territories. This strained resources and created humanitarian challenges for all three countries.

7.The partition also resulted in contentious border demarcations, particularly in the Punjab and Bengal regions, leading to ongoing border disputes between India and Pakistan, which have sparked several wars and continue to be sources of tension, the most notorious one being the unending dispute in Kashmir..

8.The division left a legacy of hostility and mistrust between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, shaping their foreign policies and interactions for decades to come. The unresolved issues stemming from partition continue to impact bilateral relations between the three countries, the first two developing nuclear weapons and thus watching each other warily and living with a tenuous  balance of terror. 

Dr. Hambisa’s assertion that the main argument in favor of striving for an orderly disintegration relates to the cycle of war created by constant efforts to hold Ethiopia together is spurious . Ethiopia was not kept together by force. It was kept together by a natural centrifugal force. There were times when the country was splintered into war-lord enclaves as during the Zemene Mesafint but it came together through what can be depicted as miraculous when Tewodros II arose in 1855 and reunited the country.

Another spurious point raised by Dr. Hambisa is that Ethiopia was created as a dependent colonial empire with the assistance of European imperial powers parallel to the multipronged wars of conquest waged by Emperor Menelik II in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is clearly far off the mark. The European Imperialists attempted to splinter Ethiopia into tiny enclaves based on languages, not to unite it as a sovereign entity. In its short five-year occupation, that was exactly what Fascist Italy did [ironically to be replicated by Meles Zenawi and his minions in 1995). 

How preposterous that Dr.Hambisa should go to the level of asserting that during Menelik’s reign, “the fragmented Abyssinian states,” when centralized, came to wield state power and settled their people (meaning Amharas) in the territories of Oromia, Somali, Wolaita, Sidama, and other southern nations and nationalities. Here he is, of course, obliquely referring to the Neftegna phenomenon. Yes, there were selective settlements in the reunited regions to keep law and order, but the Neftegnas (meaning gun-bearing men) were not only Amharas. They, in fact, comprised a motley collection of other ethnic groups- particularly Shoan Oromos. So, implying that the Amharas misappropriated the Southern inhabitants is to say the least, a spurious allegation. In the majority of cases, local land owners known as balabbats controlled the property of their region since siso [one-third] of all southern lands measured by qalad were kept by the balabbats, be they Oromos, Somalis, Wolaitas, Sidamas, or any other people of southern nations and nationalities.

Dr. Hambisa asserts that Ethiopia’s leaders, from Menelik II to Haile Selassie I, Mengistu Hailemariam, Meles Zenawi, Hailemariam Desalegn, and Abiy Ahmed, have all confronted the seeming impossibility of holding Ethiopia together without resorting to brute force. Granted, but can the author mention any sovereign nation in the world that does not use force to protect its territorial integrity?

Dr. Hambisa states that the Fanno group that arose following the end of the Tigray war (3 November 2020 to 3 November 2022.) feared being forced to return the” lands unconstitutionally annexed from Tigray,” so they turned their guns against the Abiy regime. What a preposterous idea. As the former governor of Tigray, Leul Ras Mengesha Seyoum testified Wolkait, Tegede, and Raya were never part of Tigray. The annexation to make them part of Tigray came about only after the EPRDF controlled by Meles’ Hiwahat party promulgated it in 1995. 

Dr. Hambisa jumps to site global examples and thus points out that regions like Quebec in Canada have peacefully held referendums on the question of secession. Yes, but Canada has a working not a sham democracy. Last but not least, Dr. Hambisa deliberately refrains from pointing out that in both referendums, the people of Quebec chose to remain part of a United Canada. I firmly believe that under the right circumstances, with democracy guaranteed, all Hbashas ( i.e., Ethiopians and Eritreans) would follow the example of Quebec, and we would return back to the federal structure laid in 1952, which was illegally subverted in 1960. thus leading to the start of the Eritrean War of Independence in 1961.Venceremos! If not us, our progeny shall overcome all obstacles and live in peace in the united legendary land of Prester john… 

About The Author

Paulos Milkias, Ph.D.[McGill] , is Professor of Political Science Concordia University, Montreal, Canada


Hambisa Belina’s article which this rejoinder rebuts is found at the
following website:

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of 


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  1. Cher Prof Milkias,
    You said “….i.e., Ethiopians and Eritreans would follow the example of Quebec, and we would return back to the federal structure… .”
    No. Merci! Ethiopia has already Tigray, its own Quebec. No need for another. May be when US and Canada unite.

    • Agreed.

      In fact, there was a similar movement two decades ago promoting ‘confederation with Eritrea’ spearheaded by, I believed then, by Eritreans who saw clearly the coming economic collapse of the “tiny nation” after “independence” from Ethiopia. Eritreans had it good all around when the now ‘tiny nation’ was part of Ethiopia, with unhindered economic benefits such employment at all levels of government, freedom to engage in any trade (which they exploited to the tilt), access to resources, free education locally and abroad through publicly granted scholarships, etc. Their separation from Ethiopia was good riddance for Ethiopia. Afoworqi thought that tiny nation would be given a second chance for unhindered access to benefits from Ethiopia again when Abiye opened the dialogue with him, but that was not to be. Perhaps that explains the cooled relationship recently.

  2. Dr. Hambissa acknowledges the illegal occupation of historical Tigray lands by the Amhara forces. Tigray has many Oromo friends because Oromia is the gift of Tigray to the Oromo people whom the Amhara call late comers or expansionists. The regional power Tigray will not allow the Fano forces who are emboldened by their victories against the Oromo dominated government army to invade Oromia.

  3. I am farenji, Greek from Athens. I lived and worked in your beautiful country for more than 5 years, i left just 1,5 years ago and i am also married to a Gondarian woman.
    If i could give my honest and respectful opinion, let me elaborate.
    When i first came to Ethiopia bira was 15bir, shekla tibs was 40bir. I show friendly proud but humble at the same time!! I show Muslims and Christians living n working side by side, marrying and attending each other funerals and sharing their meager food. I show how kind you were to each other and how kids would grow up in the streets with no family but with the whole kabele looking after them. I was amazed, proud of you, because you showed real civilization! And i fell in love with the country.
    Then i started to notice that my Gondarian friends had not travelled in their own country, they never been to Lalibela, not Mekele or Axum ofcourse they never been to Awasha, or Harrar. I couldn’t understand why, i thought maybe they couldn’t afford it it…. ( Here i want to say that my experience happened to be mostly with Ahmara therefore my writing about them, but i fully realise that if chance had brought me to my Oromo brothers i would be saying that same story, with only some names changed.)
    Then i noticed some people hating on the obviously better looking house of Tigreans and informing me that that as Tigrean house. Then i heard some derogatory words about Oromos but i couldn’t detect any hatred. Maybe jealousy and ignorance… But then the Oromos youths and the Ahmara youths, which means 80% of Ethiopia united and changed your government.
    I was talking to my friends about the amazing energy on the streets with all this youthful population full of dreams, strong and energetic and for the first time with a lot of them holding university degrees. And i was saying, this energy cannot be contained, the educated people are going to take over and advance the counrty out of poverty and to modernity, or any where you wanted it to go. I was on Gondar when Abyi first visited as PM and all the city was outside cheering about their Ahmara prime!! What irony!! How fast did all this change….i am not gonna bore you more, i was in AA when we were expecting TPLF to enter the town and getting prepared. You all know better than me how it went afterwards and how dire is the situation still in many parts of Ethiopia. All this energy that i was amazed by was channelled into war and terror, famine and millions of displaced people. This was a direction dictated by the government. And since its an one man show government its Abyis direction.
    Therefore with the current government I don’t see any signs of progress and problem solving, when money disappear in official accounts and people disappear all the time, war crimes commited from all the sides but no one is held accountable, there is no justice. But this government doesn’t seem be going away soon more probable than not is tha Abyi will become another copy paste african dictator.
    This leaves only one chance in my humble opinion. Push for constitutional change. I have given it a lot of thought and talked with many different people and my conclusion is that its the source of your problems. A federal state to work needs either a Junta or a very strong democracy (like in the US). You have neither now, what you have is the divide and rule invention of the Romans 2000years ago, because divide people are soo much easier to govern. Any time they make legitimate demands from the government, you just turn one on the other…problem solved, now lets get in to robbing the country from all the money and resources and lets make our inner Prosperity Gospel Party circle filthy rich, on the expense of millions of miskin, innocent and desperate people killing eachother for a few cows and a piece of infertile land…
    United We Stand/ Divided We Fall. If i may add my last sentence is that in the end all Ethiopia should somehow reach and touch in the ancient wisdom and civilization, coming from thousands of years of coexistence, from the centuries when you were strong (Ethiopia send food and help to Greece during the 2nd world war) and also at the times when you were at your lows and only 10million people lived in the whole country. Because this is what make you Ethiopian and you carry a heavy name on the whole world! Please, please, please stop your tribalistic foolishness and come back to your senses before its to late.. Do you understand what a victory it will be for the forces of evil if Ethiopia disintegrates like Yugoslavia did?
    Common sense people of any tribe, please come together and give the country its deserved place

  4. Greetings Angelos Mavros,

    a). So, you are >>>>>”farenji, Greek from Athens.”

    b). I also visited Athens, Greek

    c). Your Article is commendable.

    d). Your ending line is fantastic.

    e). You appeal to the Ethiopian People with these words: “please come together and give the country its deserved place”

    f). Will Ethiopians hear you?

    g). Let factual history be the JUDGE.

    h). For some sudden reason, there is intoxicating air in new Ethiopia.

    i). No wonder Ethiopians are flocking out of Ethiopia ——– like any other people.

    j). I wonder. if the French saying. is true: C’EST LA VIE

    k). So, does it mean that one of the most wonderful countries in the world will end-up in the gutter?!?!?!?!?!?

    ——————–WE SHALL SEE (*) —————

    (*). By the way, ‘DESTROYING’ is easy than building up.

  5. Dear Angelos Mavros

    Thank you for all your thoughtful views and golden advice. Σας ευχαριστώ για το μήνυμά σας.

    You are right, as you said: “They should stop their tribalistic foolishness and come back to their senses before it’s too late.” Many African nations coexist peacefully and do not take an excessively tribalistic stance, in contrast to Ethiopia. This fatal and toxic mentality is costing Ethiopia millions of priceless lives, including children. The bigots, incarnated demons, assumed it would only last and impact one ethnic group, but the worst-case scenario—unprecedented in history—is wreaking havoc across the nation. The Amhara people, who feed the entire nation, are in danger of starving to death, being uprooted, and fighting an unending war against their own brothers and sisters. Surprisingly, Ethiopians are known for their generosity and their deeply held religious beliefs. They embrace hospitality and welcome guests with open arms. Nevertheless, the political elites instilled in them an excessively tribalistic mindset that hindered them from adhering to these principles. Abiy Ahmed and the elites changed the inherent values and long-held beliefs of Ethiopians. They ought to give up on their stupid tribalism. They ought to quit acting so stupidly tribalistically! They ought to quit acting so stupidly tribalistically! They should stop their tribalistic foolishness! They should stop their tribalistic foolishness!

    Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.(James 4:7)
    Resist the devil ==all devilish acts and demonic thoughts
    You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too;1 Corinthians 10:21

    Ephesians 4:27-29 do not give the devil a foothold.
    “A Big No”” should also be directed towards all those men who propagate and encourage tribalistic nonsense, as they are agents of Satan. By doing this, Ethiopia will be delivered! Yes! Amen!!!


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