Federalism guaranteed equality in Ethiopia
By Tesfaye Lemma
Tigrai Online, March 27, 2017
There are different views in connection to the Ethiopian Federalism. Some analysts argue that, the system resulted in narrow and chauvinism that people, particularly the young generation lost its national feeling. However, this argument holds no water.
In the past two regimes, there was a unitary system in Ethiopia that imposes the diversity of the nation. The nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia were deprived of their democratic and fundamental rights in those regimes that triggered ethnic conflicts in the country.
The then officials had exacerbated the demands of ethnic nationalists in contrary to the expectation of many scholars and students who made the revolution a reality. The ruling forces had been taking harsh measures against any political dissent and religious activities.
As a result, conflicts among nations, nationalities and peoples were rife pre 1991 that was emanating mainly from the weak political structure and mal-governance. However, the situation in the country has radically changed post 1991. The existing ethnic federal arrangement has been carried out with the aim of accommodating the interests of all nations, nationalities and peoples in the country.
Despite the tangible importance of federalism in Ethiopia, it is still subjected to criticism. This piece is aimed to bring to the floor whether the contemporary federalism has enabled to strengthen unison or exacerbated conflicts.
Of course, it is undeniable that some conflicts have been seen in some parts of the country due to various intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which some groups and individuals used to connect them to the country’s federal system. These groups who don’t want to see the betterment of the lives of the Ethiopian people usually argue that these conflicts occurring here and there are the consequences of the failure of the federal system.
It is a recent history that, there was a dilemma among a number of Ethiopians and other people concerning about Ethiopia when the idea of bringing together more than 80 ethnic groups with the aim of building new Ethiopia was initiated by EPRDF for the first time in the country’s history.
The real situation on the ground twenty five years later witnessed that, Ethiopia has become one of the model countries in the world in general and Africa in particular for handling successful federal system that resulted in generating unison among the Ethiopian people.
Federalism enabled the country to move forward and the system guaranteed nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia self-governance with high inducement for integration and collaboration.
Ethiopians have now begun to comprehend the fact that their diversity is their beauty. The multiplicity in language, religion, culture and tradition has strengthened their culture of living together without any shallow focus on ethnic belongingness. Many scholars believe that, federalism in Ethiopia is used as an instrument for managing the complex ethno-linguistic diversity of the country and meaningfully reduced conflicts among them. Moreover, it promoted cultural diversity and multi-ethnic political participation.
They agreed with the ruling party’s notion that self-determination, decentralization and constitutionally guaranteeing the rights to secession is the only means to help the country remain intact.
Therefore, the federal structure of Ethiopia has become a means for managing conflicts among nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. All Ethiopians, except those who are interested in maintaining the status quo, have now realized that no one benefits from the disintegration of the country.
It is believed that, the Ethiopian Federalism has ensured the equitable distribution of power and resources among regional states and meaningfully avoided one nation’s political dominance. Besides, all nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia have benefited through social, political and economic rights. Therefore, the Federalism System in Ethiopian, served as a means to bring all citizens together and work industriously, being hand in glove, for the Renaissance of their country.
One of the basic successes of the Federal system is the country’s internal peace and stability; the togetherness has already strengthened. Ethiopia is now in a new phase, where all nations, nationalities and peoples are enjoying equal opportunities. At the same time, the political power of the Ethiopian people has also respected.
Ethiopian Federalism has become a typical model for other African countries in introducing federalism and creating an enabling environment for strengthening democracy and ensuring fast and sustainable economic development.
The reality in Ethiopia indicates that, federalism has become a means not only to manage ethnic conflicts, but also to strengthen the unity of nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. The federalism system in Ethiopia has given representations to formerly marginalized nations and nationalities.
Different scholars who have undertaken researches argued that, federalism in Ethiopia contributes a significant role in managing Ethiopian multi-ethnic societies. It became not only a crucial means to mitigate most of the problems raised among nations, nationalities and peoples, but also to ensure sustainable economic growth.
Since 1991, when Ethiopia was integrated with a federal arrangement as a means for addressing the national questions of Ethiopians that were unfavorably prevailed by the former unitary systems of governments, Ethiopia registered incredible changes in peace, development and democracy.
The Ethiopian Federalism also witnessed the measures taken in granting the right to self-determination up to secession is the only way to sustain Ethiopia as a nation and realize democracy and development in the country.
It helped to construct a political system in which diverse people feel free and equal, able to govern themselves in their own areas, protect and preserve their languages, cultures and traditions.
Ethiopian Federalism has decentralized power from the central government to regional provinces without the central government loosing grip of these decentralized units. This decentralization and the right to session are the two significant factors to enhance and strengthen democracy in the country.
Another achievement of the federal arrangement of Ethiopia is that, the minority ethnic groups, even numerically small, are recognized. They got a say at the national level than ever before in Ethiopia’s history.