Federalism and the Ethiopian renaissance
By Fanowedy Samara
May 19 2011
All these tremendous peculiarities and identities of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples were ignored for ages. They were also mercilessly oppressed and exploited for centuries. Likewise, they were deprived of their basic human and democratic rights. Consequently, they were forced to live as secondary citizens in their own country. This was the very destiny of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia until the demise of the military Dergue rule in 1991.
Of course, there were various seeds of inequality and mutual mistrust among these nations, nationalities and peoples sown by these irresponsible unitary regimes to consolidate their own rule. These bitter seeds had their own contribution in maintaining and elongating the exploitative and oppressive regimes in the nation for they put meaningful hurdles against the unity of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples. Thus, the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia made to fight each other for ages while in fact they did not have conflicting interests between/among themselves.
However, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples never crippled their hands and minds even for a single second. They, rather, tirelessly struggled against the brutal regimes of their ages. The Bale, Gojjam, Tigray farmers’ movements as well as the student movements of the 1960s were among the notable ones of their struggles against the oppressive and exploitative regimes.
Thanks to the unreserved and tireless struggles and remarkable sacrifice of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, they pressurized the then dictatorial regimes in various issues. As a result of their esteemed struggle against the cannibal regimes, they ensured their fundamental human and democratic rights through promulgating their common treaty-the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE).
The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) opened a new prominent chapter of political history in the nation. It ensures human and democratic rights of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples for the first time in their history. It closed each door of exploitation, oppression and inequality once for ever. And hence, the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia interred in to a new era of equality and mutual cooperation to safeguard and ensure their common interests which they paid unreserved sacrifices for.
The preamble of the FDRE constitution starts saying “We the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia”. It recognizes that the nations, nationalities and peoples are the real owners and beneficiaries of their own constitution. Furthermore, this phrase indicates that the constitution is the real manifestation of their sovereignty and equality as well. They are also strongly committed in full and free exercise of their rights to self-determination to building one economic and political community founded on the rule of law and capable of ensuring a lasting peace, guaranteeing a democratic order, and advancing their economic and social development. The preamble also ensured that the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia are determined to consolidate, as a lasting legacy, the peace and the prospect of a democratic order which their struggles and sacrifices have brought about.
All the nations, nationalities and peoples have become the sources of every sovereign political power for the first time in the political history of the nation. Article 8 of the FDRE constitution strengthens this by stipulating that all sovereign power reside in the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. This Constitution is an expression of their sovereignty. According to paragraph three of this article, the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples shall be expressed through their representatives elected in accordance with this Constitution and through their direct democratic participation. Thus, direct participation of citizens has become an integral part of the constitution to ensure their day-to-day economic, political, social etc demands.
This Constitution for the first time ensures that all political powers spring from the free will and interests of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. Today, they are not passive receptors of oppression and exploitation as what they had been for ages. They are, rather, the real sources of every political power in every level of the government structures. Moreover, they have become the real motors of the ongoing development endeavors of the nation to ensure the bright renaissance of the nation. Their diversity has also become the manifestation of their unity and strength.
Equality of the Ethiopian languages, religions, beliefs, traditions, cultures, etc is constitutionally ensured without any discrimination. No language, religion, belief, tradition or culture etc is inferior or superior to any other language, religion, belief, traditions, culture etc. This is quite a new political chapter in the history of the country. Thus, federalism becomes the best political instrument in creating one political and economic community through empowering every effort to develop and maintain once language, religion, belief, tradition, culture etc which in turn enhances the Ethiopian renaissance.
Today, the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples have unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession. Furthermore, every Nation, Nationality and People in the country has the right to speak, write, develop its culture and language, to express, develop and promote its culture and to preserve its history. This constitutional right is the result of their unreserved struggle, in fact. This also enabled them to rectify the wrongly attached perceptions between/among themselves and go hand-in-hand to eradicate their common enemy-poverty.
Moreover, they do have constitutional right to full measure of self government that includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory these Nations, Nationalities or Peoples inhabit. Their right to equitable representation in the state and Federal governments is also constitutionally ensured.
However, there are certain quarters that intentionally divert this daylight reality. They purposefully state that the constitutional right of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia to self-determination, including their right to secession, would disintegrate the nation and hence promote poverty and backwardness of the country. They also suggest Ethiopia should be divided among geographical units of administration by ignoring settlement patterns, language, identity, cultural and psychological make ups, social backgrounds and consent of the people concerned.
Advocates of this premises intentionally committed two fundamental fallacies. In the first place, they preached forced unification without the full will and consent of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the nation. Ethiopian history, however, reveals that forced unification push the nation in to endless chaos and political mayhem for centuries. It was also the prime factor for the existed poverty and destitution of the country and its peoples. Furthermore, forced unification approach never realized the real unity of any country throughout the world, so did in Ethiopia . Thus, the only practical and proper remedy of unity in a democratic order is coming together through the free will and full involvement of all the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples under their common treaty-the FDRE Constitution.
Regarding development, article 43 of the FDRE constitution ensures that the Peoples of Ethiopia as a whole, and each Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia in particular have the right to improved living standards and to sustainable development. Moreover, it stipulates that Nationals have the right to participate in national development and, in particular, to be consulted with respect to policies and projects affecting their community. And practically, Ethiopia is securing rapid, successive and equitable economic growth in the last successive seven years. All the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the country are equally benefiting from the rapid economic growth on the basis of their participation and contribution to the development efforts.
The FDRE constitution also equally recognizes the equality of all the Ethiopian Nation, Nationality, People, languages, religions etc without any sort of discrimination. Hence, it closed all the possible doors of mistrust, conflict and disagreement over the identity question. The fundamental question of all the Ethiopian Nation, Nationality and People has been shifted from identity to development, peace, democratization, good governance etc (For the identity question is precisely addressed in the FDRE Constitution). That is why they are unreservedly working to emancipate their mother country from abject poverty and backwardness through their collective efforts. Thus, the main tenet of the advocates of the territorial integrity of the nation regardless of the objective demands of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples has become invalid and irresponsible.
After all, Nations, Nationalities and Peoples could not secede because they are given constitutional right to secession. Normally, secession is the result of oppression and exploitation. And no body can prevent secession while oppression and exploitation is a rule in a given nation, be it in the North or South Pole of the globe. That is, it is not the right to secession that disintegrates the nation; it is rather, prohibition of these basic human and democratic rights that inevitably lead to disintegration and fierce catastrophe. World history tells us that nations, nationalities or peoples proclaimed independence to escape the existing inequalities that prevail in the “older nation” no matter whether the constitution of the “mother country” allows secession or not. Hence, no one can prohibit secession for it written in the constitution while at same time prevailing oppression and exploitation. On the other hand, no nation or nationality can secede because it is constitutionally ensured right. After all, the world has become a global village in which unity and cooperation are the main instruments of economic as well as political powers. The European and African Unions and many other Asian cooperative organizations are some of the manifestations of the need for unity. So, there is no need to create forced unity while unity has become the real source of both economic and political power in this modern age. This is practically witnessed in Ethiopia in the last 19 democratic constitutional years.
The constitutional right of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia to self-determination including the right to secession ensures that Ethiopia is their common country in which they live together under mutual understanding and cooperation. It further guaranteed them that any sort of violation of their constitutional rights would be automatically unaccepted and void. That is, Ethiopia has become the equal home of all the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples in which they live under mutual cooperation to fulfill their common interest and collectively fight against their common enemy-poverty.
Today, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples are found at the eve of their 5th day. The 5th Nations and Nationalities Day to be held on 8 December 2010 would have a great contribution to promote the positive image of the country in which all the nations, nationalities and peoples get promise to ensure the implementation of the 5 years growth and transformation plan along with promoting their own socio-cultural values. Thus, federalism and the rapid, successive and equitable development of the nation have become two sides of a coin without which the Ethiopian Renaissance would be impractical.
Hence, the fundamental tenet of the opponents of the FDRE Federalism, particularly article 39 of the constitution, is unrealistic and erroneous. Thus, the FDRE Federalism ensures the development and democratic needs of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, although the arm-chair critics of the system present piles of unfounded counter premises. Moreover, federalism has been the real remedy to rectify historically unjust relationships between/among the nations, nationalities and peoples and to further promote their shared interests. Thus, federalism enabled them to have a common vision- to realize democratic Ethiopia and emancipating the nation from abject poverty thereby ensured its renaissance.