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The Political Perspectives and Tendencies of Power Play in Ethiopia

By Hadgu Ataklti Gebremedhin
Tigrai Online, Feb. 13, 2019

Introduction: Ethiopia is considered by many as ancient African country bordered by Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. I think, the concept Ethiopia, the state Ethiopia and its border are recent inventions, unlike the dominant public opinion of thousands years history. Ethiopia as a concept is a hoax, as a state has birth defect, as a political arrangement has handful contending power players. The Ethiopian political arrangement is not yet really a finished issue.

Political Perspectives and the Power Play in Ethiopia: The Ethiopian political arrangement faces with and challenged by conflicting perspectives. There are different political perspectives that can be compromised and reconciled. Some of these political perspectives could jeopardize some of their insignificant interests for more significant interest of the country.

But, here, I am going to talk about the four political perspectives that cannot be compromised and reconciled. They are believed the genuine ways out for the age long national questions and interests in Ethiopia. The following perspectives considered to define politics of the state and the area by their proponents. They try to look by and solve Ethiopia's political arrangements and the long standing issues of geopolitics, power struggle, movements in the vicinity area.

All the following four political perspectives have the potential to herald and to redefine the existence of Ethiopia, and its interest and the geopolitics of its vicinity. Let me discuss them one by one.

I. Federalist Political Perspective: This thought and perspective widely held by the federalist proponents. They recognized Ethiopia contains diversified ethnic, language, culture, religion, identity … among others. The way out and to go is to establish a federal system and structure that recognize all these diversities. This unified federalist statehood political thought assumed as the long awaited remedy for the two antagonistic liberationist and unitarist political thoughts.

The late ethnic, linguistic, history and psychology based multi-national federal system has something to say based on this perspective. That federalism is, or considered as, an outcome of the 60’s mobilization and struggles of politicized ethno-cultural communities and legitimizing the real diversity on the ground. Those who stand in favor of that federal system strongly disagree with the advocates of a unitary system.

II. Unitary Political Perspective: This is an extension and remains of the imperial political thoughts. They have an elusive and meaningless concept of Ethiopia and Ethiopianization as the political practice and goal of the proponents. Ethiopianization is associated with, but not limited, Amharic language, religion of Orthodox Tewhado Christian Church, Amharic naming and the like political practices and assumptions. Ethiopia as a concept and Ethiopianism as a unitary political thought is an Abyssinian and later Amhara invasion of cultures, identity, language, of some indigenous peoples in southwards from the north. It is an invented concept and political thought for some Ethiopians. It is not an internalized and embedded identity, political thought, and culture for meaningful number of Ethiopians, but an induced and invented one.  However, the unitary political thought attempts to unify the whole population on that elusive and meaningless concept and political thought. This can be shaped and changed as time goes based on the orientation, ideology of the unitarist at power.


Nut commonly, Unitarists are in favor of centralism, dominant culture by using assimilation policy for absorption of minorities. It is a political idealism, for there is no real notion of what Ethiopia, Ethiopianization, and Ethiopiawinet is. The federalists are in favor of federalism, multiculturalism by using celebration of identity to balance among forces of the unity. It is a poetical realist, for there are real diversities in the ground and genuine interest the constituent to be unified for a common interest. The final of both seems the same but the means they used. They can be said, respectively, unity based on will or stick.

III. Separatist-Nationalist political Perspective: There are some self-cognizant nationalist political elites in Ethiopia. We can go back to the time of imperial and military regimes. Their political and power structures were threatened by different nationalists. They were commonly known for their firm liberation fronts. Now, these views and perspectives are not dead, may be dormant.  Some of them considered Ethiopian state is meaningless, alien and induced statehood for them. They appear to claim that Ethiopia is not ours so that we can form our statehood and liberate ourselves from that Ethiopia. It is a kind of true, genuine, multiple quests for the formation of autonomous states or new statehoods. But the nature of these quests generalized as political thought of nationalists or liberationist or separatist perspective. Their basic essence of political thought is the so called independence.

IV. Reformist Political Perspective: This is a political thought that has motive, objective and reason to redefine the so called Ethiopian state and its conception. It could be to recreate Ethiopian state or to create new states from Ethiopia and the states around it. It may go to the point up to redefining the horn of Africa.

The centralization, control and coercion that characterized both in the process of imperial expansion and the governance of the country afterwards is seen as defect in the formation, conception, power consolidation of Ethiopia. The agreements of Ethiopia and colonial powers, the imported Ethiopian map by colonial powers and state formation has also worsened the Ethiopian defect at birth.

In addition to that, the Oromos, Somalian, Tigrians, Afar, Erob…are found in Ethiopia and, at least in one more, other country around the horn. This is the reality that checks the defect of Ethiopia at birth. These Ethiopians wish to share their common identities with the people outside of Ethiopia. The reason is that, these people do have some common historical, physiological, and political, makeups, but found themselves fall apart. That defect causes many problems and people yearn to redefine the political arrangement by either include these brother people to Ethiopia or to form other statehood with them or to redefine themselves as a unit of a new federation to Ethiopia.


Meanwhile, there might be a diaspora people who do not worry much about these perspectives. Because, meaningful number of Ethiopia’s population is a diaspora. The population is scattered; it has dispersed people, language, culture that was formerly concentrated in different places. Now, the state is populating by diaspora population. The capital is a typical example for this. They do not know and sense more the origin, language, culture, religion, identity and even names of their grandfathers. By diaspora I do not mean they are people from ancestors of Europe, or Latin or Arab or the like foreigners and immigrated in to Ethiopia. In the opposite case, I do not even mean they are Ethiopian who do not include people from the prescribed ancestors. In my intension the term diaspora represents people who do not clearly recognize and sense their ancestors’ culture, identity, language, background or have intermingled ancestors. Apart from the diaspora population the four perspectives are widely entertained in meaningful number of Ethiopian population.

Conclusion: Most distinguished scholars, in Ethiopia and these who have concern in Ethiopia, discuss with the first two perspectives, but not the other two perspectives. The reason is, I think, even our scholars have habit of discrimination and exclusion of the real political tendencies and perspectives people really have in the country, due to the influence of autocratic and exclusionist regimes, submissive behavior of the people and undemocratic culture we have in the country. However, some of these perspectives have active movements with current, active members where there are dormant and unorganized movements. In terms of political thought and perspective they are alive and meaningful. These four perspectives will have the potential in the power play in the state and the horn in general.


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