Federalism and the Ethiopian development

By Fanowedy Samara fanowedy@gmail.com
March 05 2010

Ethiopia is the origin of human beings and the cradle of ancient civilizations. It is a nation widely endowed with plenty of historical, social, cultural, ecological, natural, religious etc resources and diversities. The nation consists of more than 80 nations and nationalities with their respective cultural, linguistic, religious and other peculiarities.

All these nations, nationalities and peoples with their tremendous peculiarities and identities were ignored for ages. They were also mercilessly oppressed and exploited for centuries. 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.

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 these ages. The Bale, Gojjam, Tigray farmers’ movements and the student movement of the 1960s were among the notable ones of their struggles.

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.

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. They are strongly committed in full and free exercise of their rights to self-determination to building a 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 (Preamble of the FDRE Constitution).

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 country. 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.

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.

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 language, religion, belief, traditions, culture etc. This is quite a new political chapter in the history of the country.

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.

Moreover, they do have the 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 the 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.

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 turmoils 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 economic growth in the last successive six years. All the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the country are equally benefiting from the rapid economic growth on the basis of their participation.

The FDRE constitution also 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 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 striving to emancipate their mother country from abject poverty and backwardness through their collective endeavors. 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 is invalid and irresponsible.

After all, Nations, Nationalities and Peoples could not secede because they are given constitutional right to secession. 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 Pole or in the South Pole of the globe. That is, it is not the right to secession that disintegrates the nation; it is rather, prohibition of this basic democratic right that inevitably leads 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.

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 there would never be any sort of violation of their constitutional rights. 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.

Hence, the fundamental tenet of the opponents of the FDRE Federalism, particularly article 39 of the constitution, is unfounded and unrealistic. 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.