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HomeOpinionIs Ethiopia’s problem ethnic federalism or the politics of hate?

Is Ethiopia’s problem ethnic federalism or the politics of hate?

ethnic Federalism _ TIbebe
The author

Tibebe Samuel Ferenji

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

My sixth book titled “Ethnic politics and the challenge of saving Ethiopia” was ready to be on the market in November 2016; however, the fast-changing political climate in Ethiopia made it impossible to release my book. The turmoil that has been lurking beneath the surface exploded into a meaningful and effective mass protest in November 2015 that led to the demise of the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and brought new and meaningful change in the Ethiopian political landscape. The euphoria in the country and the “rise of Ethiopian nationalism of the moment made the book title irrelevant, so I thought.

As time went by and some of the political actors who contributed to the demise of the EPRDF began to depart from the political train that brought change in Ethiopia, I began to question if I understood Ethiopia’s problem at all. I began to reexamine whether Ethiopia’s problem is ethnic federalism or something else. In the first version of my book, my research about India, Switzerland, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan, Yugoslavia, and Canada federal systems indicated most of them have ethnic features. Although countries like Nepal and South Sudan have faced enormous challenges in implementing their federal system, countries like Switzerland and India have made ethnic politics work for their people.

Unfortunately for us, despite the reform and the demise of the EPRDF, the political turmoil has continued. The reform brought hope either to change our political system or make the current ethnic federalism work. On the other hand, the reform also revealed the true nature of our political elites that made this writer conclude Ethiopia’s political problem is not ethnic federalism but the politics of hate.

There are several Ethiopians who believe ethnic federalism is the solution for our multi-ethnic and divided nation; and there are many who believe ethnic federalism to be the source of Ethiopia’s problem. This writer believes a federal system based on geography instead of ethnicity to be a better solution to govern Ethiopia. However, the question remains, even if we have a different system of government other than what Ethiopia has today, can we change the politics of hate that has been weaved into our political fabric?

Reexamining our political culture may shed some light to support the position I have taken. We learn from our history Ethiopia’s political culture has been marred with violence and war. During the Emperor Haileselassie regime, our country was divided with class, i.e., the Feudal and the peasant; during the military regime, Ethiopia was divided between the right-wing and the left-wing ideology, and there was a division within the right wing and the left-wing camp. Examining the history of the TPLF, EPRP, MEISON, EMALEDEH, even the DERGUE, we learn that it was not ethnic politics that was the catalyst for our political culture. The TPLF did not massacre the TLF members because of ethnic politics; the EPRP engaged in “White Terror” because of ethnic politics. This writer strongly believes that it is because of the politics of hate that our politics were divided into class, ideology, and eventually ethnicity. It would be naïve to believe that our nation would be stable if we got rid of ethnic federalism.

The problem we have is deeper than that. Those who want to take power by any means necessary will never stop spreading their hateful messages to wreak havoc into our nation until they rule Ethiopia with their iron fist. Recent political events have revealed those who wholeheartedly believe that they are destined to rule will spew their toxic political messages until they get what they want.

Those who have been waving the Ethiopian flag masking themselves in “Ethiopian nationalism” claiming that they oppose ethnic politics are unmasked and their true nature is revealed to the entire world to see. These hypocrites vehemently opposed the TPLF asserting that the TPLF introduced ethnic federalism to divide Ethiopia. However, their recent activities and statements make it clear they opposed the TPLF simply because the leaders were of Tigrayan ethnicity. They have made it clear in their public statements that “Amhara means Ethiopia and Ethiopia means Amhara.” Some have said publicly and unashamedly “non-Amhara Ethiopians should submit to the Amharas as religious people submit to God as Amharas are the creators of Ethiopia.” We are at such a low point in our country’s political life.

The so-called Ethio-nationalists who have claimed to struggle against ethno-nationalists strongly believe that they have the right to decide who is fit to be an Ethiopian and who is not. These political dwarfs supported the reform movement for two reasons. Their primary reason was to get rid of Tigrayans from power and their second reason was hoping to take power directly or indirectly. When their extremist comrades did not get power directly, they supported the reform hoping to rule the country indirectly. When that failed, they revealed their true nature and began their campaign not only against the ruling party, but also against the Oromo people in general.

These Amhara extremists talk about democracy day and night but have no clue what democracy means. For them democracy is only when what they want is implemented in the country. They demand for the constitution to be changed whether others agree with it or not; they talk about the rule of law only if it applies to others not when effort is made in their region to uphold the rule of law; they talk about peace and stability while funding those who are engaged in armed struggle to destabilize Ethiopia. If the cause they support is accepted, they do not care about others because they believe that they are first class citizens whose demand must be honored. These feebleminded have proven repeatedly that their political umbilical cord is still wet and think the country’s political power should only evolve around them.

Because their ability to think through what they say and they do is clouded with hate, they are unable to garner enough support to move their political agenda an inch. The recent statement made by Dawit Woldegiorgis on one of the mouthpieces of extremists Youtuber indicated, these extremists are out of touch with Reality. Dawit indicated that in his imagination he was in 4 Kilo when the so-called Fano showed a strong beginning at its initial stage. This is a clear message that what Dawit and his comrades hoped for has failed miserably. What makes it more saddening is these ethno-centrists have divided their few supporters into their sub-tribe enclaves creating conflict within their own ethnic group making the challenge complex. Although their effort to make a dent in changing the government has failed, their hateful message is echoing from one corner of the world to another causing problems in Ethiopia. What we are witnessing from the extremist Oromos, Tigrayans, and Amharas is their willingness to collaborate with Ethiopia’s enemies no matter what the cost is to the people of Ethiopia. These useful idiots are licking the Eritrean dictator, the Egyptian regime, and Somalia’s weak government shoes hoping to get financial, military, and propaganda support. These extremists all have competing interests and have one objective- Removing an elected government from power and ruling the country by force. This writer strongly believes, even if these extremists move forward to achieve their objective, they will destroy each other along the way because they are incapable of working together.

It is with this in mind that I am forced to revise my book’s title from “Ethnic politics and the challenge of saving Ethiopia” to “hatemongering politics and the challenge of saving Ethiopia.” It is undeniable fact, that Ethiopia experienced the cycle of violence way before ethnic politics and ethnic federalism has been introduced into our political landscape. I don’t think blaming ethnic federalism as a source of our nation’s problem brings us to a solution we need any closer. We must accept the fact that our nation endured political violence because those who wrongly believe they are destined to rule and those who want to be kings and kingmakers are spewing their toxic politics and poisoning our political landscape. Fortunately, these hatemongers have no clear strategy, have neither practical experience in the art of war nor theoretical knowledge of garnering public support for their cause. Those who hold PhDs and other educational degrees who are either leading or collaborating with the extremist ethno-centric are nothing more than “talking heads” with little to offer other than a YouTube sensation. Most are retirees from their career who have never contributed an iota of ideas for betterment of Ethiopia and engage in Ethiopian politics as sort of leisure activities. This writer believes that Ethiopian scholars should see Ethiopia’s problem not from ethnic politics perspective but from the politics of hate perspective. If Ethnic Federalism is not a problem for Switzerland and India, why is it a problem for Ethiopia?

May God protect Ethiopia and her people. Happy Easter to all!

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


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  1. I strongly believe the old country has been and still being wrecked by bigots who push the politics of hate. Ethnicity has been out there for millennia and will go on to exist forever. Nothing is evil about federalism based on ethnicity. What gave this arrangement is it being so easy to be hijacked by bigots. These bigots are smart alecks who are well equipped with how to feed on the raw emotion of the hapless and the gullible. They tell that young and desperately unemployed Oromo youth the reason why he/she is destitute. They tell him/her it was because of that Amhara, Tigre, Afar and Somali. Those bigots in Amhara region tell that gullible Amhara youth Oromos have this natural born hatred for you. They talk only the news of bigots killing peasants in Oromia and they never tell him how millions of Oromos banded together to protect their Amhara neighbors and in the process losing their own lives. It is heart wrenching saddening for me.

    Thank you Brother for posting this conversation inducing piece on this esteemed website.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  2. An insightful and informative piece about the so-called liberators of the Amhara people and their educated enablers who you correctly described as educated idiots. The retired and retarded PhDs who lack common sense and practical wisdom were trying to provide an educated cover to a repellent ideology of hate. Dawit Woldegiorgis is nothing but a power-hungry war monger who wouldn’t hesitate to sale his soul to the highest bidder as long as it suits his end game – the pursuit of power above all else. As the saying goes, there is no fool like an old fool.

  3. Tebebe,
    Both ethnic federalism and the politics of hate are intertwined. Ethnic federalism serves as a tool for promoting hate. When individuals gain special privileges through ethnic federalism, they are able to fuel their hatred effectively. They garner support from a group of people who share the same ethnic background. This ethnic division makes it challenging to establish a common goal and a unified way of thinking.

    By the way, you are one of the promoters of hate. By aligning yourself with Abiy, you indirectly advocate for the politics of hate. Abiy harbours hatred towards the Amharas, and you often express appreciation for him despite his marginalization of the Amharas in various ways. Supporting a figure like Abiy is truly irrational.

  4. The advantage of ethnic federalism is protecting the interest of each participating ethnic group and anyone that opposes it has a different agenda which is to exploit or manipulate the other ethnic groups. So why the Amaras are against ethnic federalism is it will prevent them from taking advantage of other ethnic groups and resources that belongs to them by the virtue of being owners of the community they live in. We had seen when people were led to believe that they have common goals and it turned out those who somehow found themselves ahead of others by using unfair means and methods were taking advantage of the weaker ethnic groups to the point where the rest did not matter.

    Regimes like the present one know what their job is, which is to protect the interest of every ethnic group, by not allowing anyone to exploit others unfairly. So, if there is something missing in the country currently it is that no one is exploiting anyone. If the Oromos or others were exploiting any ethnic group and the current unrest and movement was to avert that, people would have listened, but we all know that the Amaras want to take the country back to where it was, where it should be only them who will have the upper hand in the country.

    They can do that in their own region and no one will prevent them unless what they are doing is destructive to their own people or ethnic group and unless there arises an ambitious group such as Fano that wants to be at the helm because they just felt it is their right and they want to take advantage of the situation for their own gain and interest. Conclusion is the nation has to unite even more in order to keep this kind of predatory behavior away form them.

  5. After TPLF and its pseudo partner organizations invasion was completed in Addis Abeba, there was a so-called conference or something I do not recall. In this conference I remember Tesfaye Habisso’s speech. I remember him because he was a staff where I was working in the then called Water Resources And Development Authority. He said “ I thought Kambata was meant created for cutting sugar cane”, and other statement that I dno’t recall. So instead of “hate politics” I would say it is “victimhood politics”. Because unless you portray yourself as a victim you may not develop hate like a magnitude that is observed in the country.
    It’s common to see those who are shielded in ethnic politics throw in anything that would help them to advance their narratives to get support in their respective community . Assefa Jallata Oromuma god father and other Oromo elites used Nazified philosophy portraying Ethiopia as a colonizer as if Oromos are not a part of key player in modern Ethiopia. Not only Oromo elites Eritrean Dr. Bereket Habte Selasie states in his book “Conflict & Intervention in the Horn of Africa” states Italy’s annexation of Eritrea with Minilik’s expansion to south. The only difference between them is ..” while Minilik’s Ethiopia was a feudal stat that placed a feudal ruling class over its conquered peoples….Italy was budding a bourgeois nation-stat…” but he never bothers to consider the colonization characteristics, such as segregation, keeping white race etc. Also, most Eurocentric Ethiopian historian from John Markakis, Parick Gilkes and others the contributor Ethnic strife in Ethiopia. In genera the animosity targeted to Amhara is not seen in any country that was liberated from white minority rule in any country.
    Unfortunately, targeting and demonizing Amhara in a state media killing in mass, throwing in prison and doing what ever necessary to silence the discontent is the norm of the country. During Derg Amharas from Wollo who settled in Wellega were massacred in mass displaced. On the other hand, Oromo political elites and activist claims Wollo as north Oromiya. It is a clear statement that shows what they need is the land not the habitant. Since Woyane came to power all possible atrocities has been done still is in progress. And yet you are saying Amhara extremist really? What do you mean by that?
    I found that you are jumping here and there without having a thorough knowledge about what you are writing about. EPRP engaged in white terror because of ethnics’ politics really? Do you know why Dergue called it white terror? I bet you do not know.
    In general, I found your scribe is nothing more than gossip between likeminded individuals over a coffee or a glass of beer. I found it a waste of time reading your article.


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