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4:23 pm - Saturday July 31, 2021

Ditch the ethno-centric constitution: Ethiopia deserves better. Tadesse Walle (PhD), London

Ditch the ethno-centric constitution: Ethiopia deserves better

Tadesse Walle (PhD), London

 

The ethno-centric constitution is a recipe of ethnic xenophobia, prejudice, inharmoniousness, and disintegration of historical Ethiopia, including the nefarious, reprehensible vision of narrow nationalists, ethnic warlords with no iota  of ideas on  how to   construct civic society, with no grasp of post-modern vision and rationality, compatible with our 21st century dynamic changes.

 

Abstract: 

The intention of this Article is to provide a causal analysis of the current mayhem surrounding the Ethiopian ethnic based constitution and its appalling practice on the ground.  The narratives of ethnic politics are all about alleged self-identity, rejection of other identities, ethnic cleansing, ethnic discord and taking genocidal actions against other national groups as recently demonstrated in Mai-kadra, Benshangul – Gumuz, parts of Oromia region, Ataye, Guraferda etc.  The  unfathomable ethnic driven  insurrection in Tigray as demonstrated in  Sekuture Getachew’s confession of  appalling  pre-emptive strike, the so called 45-minutes light-speed  (“መብረቅ”) annihilation and  bravado against Ethiopia’s  honourable national  army,  committing heinous crime against them, confiscation of 70-80% Ethiopia’s artilleries, the firing of missiles and rockets from  Tigray region into the Amhara region and Eritrea, TPLF’s continuing terrorist activities (junta is a misnomer) including  collaborating with the Ethiopian current  foreign adversaries, act of treason,   is  driven by ethnic blindness and the craving to undo Ethiopia . Therefore, this must be a call   for all Ethiopians, opposition parties ( good beginning to witness, NAMA, BALDERAS, EZEMA, ENAT, TDP -coming together) who believe in the Ethiopian unity and sovereignty to take immediate action to save the people of Ethiopia. Action to save Ethiopia as a country and to change the course of nation building in the interest of the Ethiopian people and not in the interest of this or that ethnic group, well beyond the scams of ethno -nationalists, the historical toxics of our time. It is highly conceivable, if not arguable, that the ethnic warlords (TPLF) who recklessly fired missiles with impunity into the Amhara region and beyond (one would note, the missiles fired had hit Bahir Dar, environs of Gondar and Asmara, inflicting  collateral damages) could have dropped nuclear bombs if they had one!  Above all, it is the intention that matters.  

 But the firing of missiles into such territories, has put the position of TPLF and its cohorts within the ranks of former Nazi Germany. One could draw a parallel to that  Abraha Desta’s, (from Tigray) ethnically driven rhetoric and that of  Adolf  Hitler , as he promised to fight to get the land back if any “square meters of land taken from Tigray….” referring to Wolkait and Raya. This was exactly what Hitler  called for: “blood and soil” (blut und boden – Germen) when he slaughtered and displaced native Slovaks and the Baltic population. This is not an isolated incidence, but a continuation of decades of Amhara revulsion, cleansing and genocide particularly  since the TPLF seized  political  power by historical accident: hatched a bogus legal instrument (except for some Articles) ethno-centric in essence, with a view to lawfully dismantle Ethiopia : ironically, they are now in effect dismantling themselves.

 Secondly and most importantly, this piece is intended to argue that the Ethiopian people deserve a better constitution against the scam of the existing ethno-centric one, intentionally designed to unravel the Ethiopian historical state.  TPLF’s mantra and fabrication of  a ‘historical unjust relationship within the Ethiopian state’ denies the very basis of state formation and the particulars of Ethiopia. Its historical analysis is ahistorical and biased.  It is  a myth, unfounded, flawed, and concocted: learnt from the irrational vision of Stalinism, which is now thrown into the dustbin of history.  If at all, there was a ‘historical unjust relationship within the Ethiopian state’,  arguably, it must have been under the TPLF ethno-federal state, the cause of all mayhem, draconian division of  regions,  extra-judicial killings of both major and minority ethnic groups,  instigating ethnic turmoil, including the current political standoff with mis-led  US president Joe Biden and others: such misleading was made possible with TPLF’s integral, time tested character of deceit, fabrication  and  misrepresentation of facts in one or in different forms.   TPLF leaves no stone unturned if it works for itself , ethnic identity at the expense of Ethiopia, though this has nothing to do with ordinary Tigrayans who have always been in line with the Ethiopian credo; whose sons and daughters have sacrificed for the quest of Ethiopian unity and integrity.

 It is contended that civic, liberal, and democratic values of arrangements of a state ( consociation governance ) are by far superior to ill-defined and irrational ethos of ethnicity that relies on Article 39 of the so-called constitution, derived from the 1976 TPLF Manifesto (the manifesto included Tigray’s secession and expansion to neighbouring, then, provinces! Targeting the Amhara as an enemy).

Ethiopia needs a constitution for its people that keeps the integrity, unity, prosperity, stability and sovereignty of its people and its territorial integrity. A constitution that nurtures and encourages ethnic cleansing, irrational division within the ranks of its complex  stakeholders in this 21st century is inconceivable: the drive of ethnic politics poses an imminent threat against each other , no one would benefit out of this debacle and the current Status Quo, ethnic federalism is becoming increasingly unsustainable, appears on the verge of a tragic end (I wish I am proven wrong!) unless clear and decisive  steps are taken before it is too late. The current indicators,  ethnic rhetoric,  ethnic conflict, territorial irredentism , genocide  etc are not encouraging.

Ethnic driven federalism is all about culture of mistrust, it is against inclusiveness, it is all about territorial conquest, bigotry, mythical self, ethnic cleansing, and secession. One would critically examine the March 2021, discussions and issues raised by Parliamentarians  in the presence of Abiy Ahmed (PM). Ironically, those with such ethnic noxious views,  were from Progressive Party officials. One would question if they knew the very essence of MEDEMER and the vision of Prosperity Party?  Or is the pseudo  realm of Shimeles Abdisa being intentionally reiterated?   One would wonder just when and where the lines should be drawn, such ghastly ethnic driven practices  are halted. It was on 6.2.2021, that Abiy (PM)  in his Project Syndicate indicated, “ Ethiopians can now imagine a future based not on ethnic chauvinism ,but on unity, equality, freedom and democracy”. Yes, PM, we are  all   in this together, but the actions taken against terrorist groups such as OLF-Shene  (effectively, recruited, armed, financed with alleged banks robbery during the last three years – refer to  General Kemal Gelchu’s interview and others )  who carried out the Amhara genocide in Oromia region  including in Wolega is not only  disproportionate, but the explanation given as to the actual genocide including the Police chief of the  Oromia region begs the question! .  And most importantly, similar ethnic cleansings in the last three years were not given your robust attention and action! The unlawful killing of a person, normally is a shocking experience and obliges a swift response: Normally, you are expected to show  ZERO tolerance.    Is there any credible explanation or is it your divided? loyalty.  The PM would know the notorious Irreecha massacre (2016) of our Oromo brothers and sisters did not help the TPLF to survive, instead ignited a chain of resistances that ultimately forced the TPLF to cave in its own village – a tragic end.  A state leader with your position must be seen  calling for ACCOUNTABILITY  including Shimeles Abdisa but not under his Kangaroo courts. The following common law maxim from 1924,  probably , would be a reminder, ” Justice must not only be done ,but must also be seen to be done” Are we in this together?

 Sadly, those with  ethnic vision and fake realm , show contempt to anyone that is not part of them, by and large are illogical, intuitive and their unreasonableness puts them on equal footing with an irrational Trump, former President of the USA who scandalously envisaged about blasting the Ethiopian dam who had no clue about the circumstances of the dam nor   Ethiopian’s reasoned, just, and lawful stance of an equitable share of the Nile.  Trump who miserably and materially failed to comprehend what it takes to be an American President, still, could find like-minded individuals in Ethiopia who share his irrational and unreasonable views such as all is “fake news.” Variants of little Trumps are vocals, as Trump misjudged racial inequality and was confronted with reality, he used to say it is all   “fake news”. Our ethnic warlords in the same vein to Trump , have been telling the Ethiopian public “fake news “  after accomplishing  ethnic cleansing and  genocides as in  Western Wellega, , Bensangul-Gumuz etc. The Amhara mass murder before their eyes, have been portrayed as fake news or given trivial explanation when they know it was not.  Alas,   facts and  truth do not exist for them, but facts and truth do not need their recognition to exist. 

 It is contended that the existing constitution is the pillar of ethnic strife, is the ultimate legal instrument that allows regional states to distinguish Ethiopians as “natives and “non-natives “owners and non-owners”, whilst silent on the Ethiopian integrity and sovereignty, but implies, de facto, the break-up of the historical state or the material motion of Pan-Ethiopians.  Such a legal instrument that fosters division and fragmentation (using late professor Mesfin’s metaphorical labelling of the constitution – the “animal” (አውሬው) should, and must, give way to a new constitution tailored on civic standards,  socio-economic basis, geographic, ensuring reasoned proportional representation of its constituents under a federal system as opposed to a unitary one.

The federal structure should be built on consociation governance with robust democracy, based on equity and the rule of law. Such a federal republic and its redrafted constitution would avoid elements of Article 39, ( Russia and China had scraped such Articles long ago, it’s forbidden in  South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya etc, ditch this phoney, ethnocratic constitution including  Proclamation No.1/1995, signed off by late Negaso  Gidada, then, President and provide a legal instrument that recognises and keeps the unity and integrity of Ethiopia, the common destiny of its people,  irrespective of ethnic myths and a constitution that guarantees the perpetuation of the Ethiopian state, sovereignty of its people, rule of law and liberal democracy for the home of Lucy, the cradle of humankind, civility, humanity  and civilisation.

 What are constitutions for?

The term constitution comes from the Latin: ‘constitutio’ used for regulations and orders such as the  imperial enactments. Later the term was widely used  in canon law for an important determination, especially a decree issued by the Pope, now referred to as an apostolic constitution”[1]

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines constitution in simple terms:  “constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a societyorganisation or other type of unit and commonly determine how that society/entity is to be governed” (underlined for emphasis).  A Constitution could be written or unwritten; codified or uncodified. It is imperative to note that constitutions could be used or prepared at different levels such as by the states, companies, and associations by different levels [2].

A state’s constitution, the central point of this Article, underpins its principles on what the state is based on, the procedure in which laws are enacted or legislated and by whom they are decreed. Constitutions also limit the power of states and the exercise of such powers. It separates the powers of government into three branches: the legislative branch, which makes the laws; the executive branch, which executes the laws and the judicial branch, which interprets the law. Some constitutions, especially codified constitutions, also act as limiters of state power by establishing lines which a state’s rulers cannot cross, such as fundamental rights [3].

 Thomas Paine provided more complex ideas of what is meant by constitution and what it is for.  “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government, and a government without a constitution is power without right…. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government and a government is only the creature of a constitution” [4] (underlined for emphasis)

 Accordingly, and in plain terms, a constitution gives legitimacy to the government and defines the powers under which a government can and cannot act.  As such, a constitution sets limits both to the powers and procedures to follow and exercise. Under such constitutional arrangements one can plainly explain /adjudge whether a government’s actions are constitutional or unconstitutional, lawful, or unlawful. It is, therefore, contended that the existing ethno-centric constitution was decreed in the  interest of the ruling clique and its cohorts, not in the best  interest of the Ethiopian people. It was not inclusive. It is also contended, that the TPLF played a determining role, participation of others was just a token, in the making and unmaking of the constitution, hence the existing constitution, derived from TPLF’s Manifesto in 1976, must be shredded as redundant and vilified as null and void.

 Historically, since 1789, along with the Constitution of the United States of America,  many constitutions have come into force in one or  different forms [5]   However, it is noted that Ethiopians Fetha Negast – the Glory of kings, (constitution) was written in the 14th century before the American constitution was written in 1787. [6]

 Most states, such as Ethiopia, has embraced both written and unwritten constitutions stipulating the inviolable rights of its citizens. It is imperative that those constitutions are judged, as  Bagdonor noted, “regardless of the form in which rights are protected, in any society, it will be the democratic political process that matters. Political practice and norms of acceptable government conduct which, while not having the force of law, provide constitutional standards which determine the respect accorded to individual rights” [7]

Like most countries in the world Ethiopian constitutions and conventions have passed through a complex of social and historical dynamics. These constitutions were not based in a vacuum including on misguided and manipulative grounds as well as by the TPLF. The Ethiopian state has been shaped and developed by its extensive ancient roots, from pre-Christian times up to the 21st century. The historical development of the Ethiopian state plays a huge role in explaining constitutional orders, both written and unwritten, up to the present era.  The Da’amat state, The Axumite Empire, The Agew state, the medieval Atse state, Zemene Mesafent – the era of the Princess and the modern monarchical period in which the 1931 written constitution was decreed, played part of the historical, ancient state. [8]

 The fact that Ethiopia had no written constitution before 1931, does not mean that the

Fetha Negest, Kibre Negest, Serate Mengist, played no constitutional significance. Indeed, Nahom emphasised, “Ethiopia had sophisticated traditional, unwritten constitutions. The unwritten constitution included the ideal of the monarchy, an imperial court system involving the monarchy, church and nobility in an intricate power relationship” [9]

In the same vein as Nahom, the most celebrated British jurist and constitutional theorist

  1. V. Dicey claims, “The one set of rules are in the strictest sense “laws” since they are rules which (whether written or unwritten, whether enacted by statue or derived from the mass of custom, tradition or judge made maxim known as the common law) are enforced by the courts, these rules constitute “constitutional law” in the proper sense of that term ….”  [10] Further, ‘The other set of rules consist of conventions, understanding of habits or practices which, they may regulate the conduct of the several members of the sovereign power, of the Ministry, or of the officials, are not in reality laws at all since they are not forced by the courts.’ [11]   Therefore, the old nation state, Ethiopia, has enjoyed both written and unwritten constitutions, but of varying degrees and constitutional doctrines.

 

The Derg and the constitution of 1987. 

This constitution embarked on a new direction, a single party system and unitary government. It abolished all constitutions before it, confirmed ultimate state power on the National Shengo, and the counsel of state, yet the central committee and the politburo of the party had the ultimate decision-making power in which separation of powers was a token.

Following the demise of the Derg regime, the TPLF emerged with a new constitution entirely departing from all its predecessors distinct both in form and content, though the division of the country into administrative regions not on ethnic lines, arguably, was not a threat of fragmentation and ethnic conflict. One would note, the secession of Eritrea was masterminded and legally endorsed under TPLF’s hegemony  and now ,they are calling their own secession.

  The Constitution of 1994: designed to unravel Ethiopia.

The TPLF constitution of 1994 embarks on the establishment of ethnic based federalism, concocted a federal multi-party system of governance  in the name of tackling the question of “nationalities”, draconian empowerment of ethnicity, from a pseudo-Stalinist – Leninist perspective and most importantly its menacing motive for “self -determination to the extent of secession.” And this well-intentioned, divisive so-called constitution had another agenda to pursue as is evidently demonstrated in the preamble of the constitution,” by rectifying historically unjust relationships…”  which implied, portrayed, and demonstrated the Amhara as an oppressing and domineering nation that culminated in the Amhara genocide, extrajudicial killing, and territorial incorporation of Wolkait and Raya into Tigray region. As TPLF, feared the revival of the Amhara, it also slashed territories from the Amhara land formerly known as Metekel (part of Gojjam) to form part of Benshangul -Gumuz. Astoundingly, TPLF, had even conceded land to Sudan which used to be part of Gondar, an Amhara territory. In the last 27 years, TPLF, had done everything it could to reduce the Amhara territory and limit its economic foundation to diminish Amhara as a nation including by providing a reduced, forged  census.   In practice, TPLF’s mantra of “oppression of nations”- class oriented, has been used to machinate one against the other and carry out ethnic cleansing including ethnic minorities.   Sadly, Abiy’s reform in the last three years appears very much the same: ethno-centric rhetoric as ethnic cleansing and genocide continued aggravated.

Following the tragic end of TPLF, since the last three years, the purported reform has brought   appalling caveats. The notion that the ongoing change is a “REFORM” as opposed to a radical one and that it is the” IMPLEMENTATION of the constitution that matters and not its content is a joke, at best disingenuous and inept. The following constitutional provisions are good enough to show the impending disaster: “self-determination? -excluding others, “ethnic identity” “secession of ethnic groups”, “natives and non-natives”, “indigenous and non-indigenous”, “owners and non-owners”, setting up a huge number of ethnic-militias lawfully, training and arming ethnic-based special forces lawfully as has been evidenced in Tigray region. If this does not show the draconian nature of the constitutions  content, what else would  prove? One would argue that this must have been an enemy mentality, possibly learnt  from Benito  Mussolini who wretchedly failed to occupy and divide  Ethiopia into ethnic lines: God bless Menilik II and Taytu. May their soul rest in peace.

Plainly, the current tragic end of TPLF could and must have been avoided, though self-instigated;    failing of which, what have we planned to avoid similar tragedies?

Abiy Ahmed’s explanation of TPLF’s demise as “powder in the wind” is encouraging but removing TPLF by itself is not an end in itself, the end insight should and must have been getting rid of ethnic politics and building  civic Ethiopia. But removing TPLF, and paying lip service to OLF- SHENE, allowing it to do the dirty work – genocide against the Amhara, would have an unintended terrible consequence. Abiy, would know, it will not be ultra-vires for him to intervene (federal power) in the Oromia region and stop the appalling genocide now. Abiy would know, there is no an alternative truth to the Amhara genocide, unless lessons are taken from Trump’s (US former president) versions of alternative  truths. 

Salient features of the TPLF constitution and the problems of ethic politics.

Ethnicity, ethno-linguistic approach to society and ethnic based territory have been given utmost prominence in this constitution, though ethnic identity has its own sociological, anthropological, and philosophical limitations. The following but not limited to, shows how ethnic discourse continued to date:

“An ethnic group is a large collective whose members are linked by certain cultural characteristics – including the sense of sharing a common past – which they and others see as defining a social boundary between and non-members of the group.” [12] 

“ethnic identity, ethnic classification systems and the implications of assignments to one or another ethnic category are place, time, and context-specific” [13]

To add more to the confusion:

“As the meaning of ethnicity changes in myriad ways across contexts, determining how best to measure it can be challenging. Concepts salient in one study may not be important in another” [14] 

Put in Smith ‘s definition,” If we take a strong and strict definition of the nation, we find that it exists merely as an ideal of those who entertain the concept, an abstract category never attained in practice” [15]

Acclaimed sociologist Max Weber stated, “shared ethnic origin as a social construct, undertaken by a desire to monopolise power and status” [ 16]

A prominent anthropologist Cohen also claims, “the named ethnic identities, we accept, and often, unthinkingly, as basic givens in the literature are often arbitrarily, or even worse inaccurately, imposed” [17]

Further, as defining ethnicity has become a minefield, Erikson explains, “Much of the confusion stems from the fact that, as already mentioned, ethnicity is a new term in the social sciences, even though the word “ethnic” has been used in the English language since the

Mid-fourteenth century, originally referring to pagans, or gentiles, it acquired racial characteristics in the 19th and 20th century to refer to those immigrants of the non-northern or western European descent.” [18]

and continued further, stating, “…. This volatile shift in meaning meant that the people of the developing world have been referred as ethnic tribes, whilst those in the developed world referred to as “people, or even nations” [ 19].

The quagmire nature of its definition has led scholars to define it as “Ethnicity has no essence, or centre, no underlying features or common denominator” [ 20]

In the Ethiopian context and in practice, irrespective of the complex, morass nature of ethnicity, TPLF had chosen an ethno-linguistic approach and irresponsibly divided the country into ethnic lines – regions, although there is no one homogeneous ethnic group in every region and zone.

In the presence of massively disputed historical, social, cultural, and religious origins of various ethnic groups in the country, with little or no genuine representation of the people of Ethiopia, in essence the TPLF, (forget EPRDF) defined and redefined the political landscape of the country in its own vital, ethnic interest.  This was envisaged back in the 1976 TPLF’s manifesto. The writer of this article, in one of his articles in 2018, stated, “From its inception, the Front claimed with impunity, an extended territory for Tigray, curving a mass of land beyond its historical borders. This in fact is to the irony of the devout sons and daughters of Tigray, pioneers of Ethiopian identity and integrity, who paid incalculable sacrifices in writing greater Ethiopian history with their blood. This futile endeavour of creating ethno- centric states that could neither feed nor defend themselves, for the last 27 years has been against the history, extraordinary narratives of ordinary Tigrayans and its outstanding leaders such as Ras Alula Abanega, Emperor Johannes the IV and others” [… ban TPLF, 2018, can be read on Google]

Thus, the TPLF, with its hegemony, formed nine draconian distorted boundaries, misrepresented, unbalanced ethnic-based states. ‘The five ethnic states named as Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, and Tigray (but have other ethnic groups) and four multi-ethnic regions known as Bensangul-Gumuz, Southern nations, nationalities and peoples and Harari. Addis Ababa and Dredewa regions were designated as federally administered city states (please refer to Article 47 of the 1994 constitution). The political identity of these ethnic groups has been legally recognised in the Constitution, though placing a status distinct from that of other groups, was incredibly phoney and reprehensible.

 The preamble of the 1994 constitution begins,” We the Nations and Nationalities….”, rather than “We the people…”  unlike most constitutions in the world. For example, the Preamble of the constitution of the USA reads,” We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common Défense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” The emphasis here is “WE THE PEOPLE.” PERFECT UNION.

As odd as it is, the TPLF constitution recognises ethnic based identity and not an Ethiopian identity, accordingly one could dissociate itself, or secede from such identity, by encouraging groups to meet up the number games, rectified by the constitution.  Article 8 of the constitution provides that, “all sovereign powers reside in the nations, nationalities, and the people of Ethiopia” – essentially, referring to ethnic identities, distinguished in the respective regions. Accordingly, it could be argued that the constitution could better be explained as an ultimate expression of ethnic sovereignty, not the integrity and sovereignty of the people of Ethiopia.

 The notoriously drafted Stalinist Article 39 of the constitution, a Pandora Box of partition, a recipe of destruction, states, “Every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia have an unconditional right to self-determination including to secession.”  One would note that all existing, ill designed borders of these ethnic groups, are not only incompatible to each other but also incompatible within themselves as there is no homogeneous ethnic group in any of these ill-defined states, garnering potential for ethnic conflict as Huntington predicted in 1993,” …. what is unavoidable with what is undesirable…the combination of ethnic territorial units and ethnic parties’ cumulative cleavages and can have a disastrous effect on national unity and political stability.”  [ 21]

 As strange as it is, and as most scholars envisaged, Ethiopia has now become a country where ethnic conflict, displacement and genocide has become a common occurrence, regrettably, including in its capital, Addis Ababa where Finfinnee Kegna, and by extension Raya Kenga (ፊንፊኔ ኬኛ፣ ራያ ኬኛ] has become a toxic reality to its cultured citizens, who do not bother to talk about their ethnic past as they became Addisabebe.  When this couples with the cagey and deceptive vision, practical steps of demographic change in Addis Ababa and its impending mishap, one would not only question the credibility of the current regime, but also questions the very premises of CHANGE, if it is different – in practice from the Zenawi regime of Ethiopia. Now scapegoating the TPLF is no longer a plausible argument. Ethiopians could forgive but not forget, including the preposterous and infamous ethnically driven covert speech (re: Addis Ababa, Prosperity Party, and its vision!) of  Mr Shimeles Abdisa president of Oromia, though the historical inclusiveness, positive attributes of the ordinary Oromo people, whose sons and daughters fought  and died  for the survival of  greater Ethiopia has nothing to do with his inexplicable divisive and ethnic  rhetoric.  Once again, Abiy’s position re: Addis Ababa to date is not encouraging. Those who administer Addis should not have been necessarily from the Oromo, nor the Amhara,  they could and must have been chosen on grounds of individual meritocracy. For example, the current Somali regional president Mustafa Omer tics all boxes.  Urbane Addis needs civility, modernity, science, business, commerce, and not ethnic rhetoric

 Considering, the toxic nature of the ethnic-based arrangement of society, including the concept and doctrine of self-determination, the UN has provided a workable formula although TPLF failed to learn from it when it decreed its constitution.

 “The UN Charter clarifies two meanings of the term self-determination. First, a state is said to have the right of self-determination in the sense of having the right to choose freely its political, economic, social, and cultural systems. Second, the right to self-determination is defined as the right of a people to constitute itself in a state or otherwise freely determine the form of its association with an existing state” [22] (underlined for emphasis).

Clearly the UN’s charter is self-explanatory, it is about the state and the right of people and not about ill-defined, ethno-linguistic groups that causes a substantial existential threat , which present day Ethiopia should and must learn.

Regional constitutions as designed by TPLF gurus, had treasured the following divisive and discriminatory legal instruments to undo Ethiopia as a country:

  • ‘indigenous’ and non -indigenous “in Benishangul-Gumuz region.
  • ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ in SNNPs’ region. 
  • ‘owner’ and ‘non-owner’ in Gambelia and Harari regions
  • ‘peoples of the region’ and ‘non-regional peoples’ in Oromia region. 

  Accordingly, administrative units’ units of the regional states are in the hands of those identified ethnic groups. Please refer to Article 2 of the Regional Revised Constitution and Article 3 (1,2) of Benishangul -Gumuz. This explains as to why the region has been lawfully cleansing other social groups such as the Amhara. Furthermore, Article 8 of the Oromia’s constitution reads “…the supreme power of the national regional state belongs to the people of Oromo”.  But no other people who live in the region, though, non – Oromo Ethiopians are counted in millions, but are treated as aliens currently facing ethnic exclusion and discrimination by law. It is inconceivable and incompatible that such provisions exist in the regional state of Oromia considering the history of the Oromo people and its reputed culture inclusiveness.

Accordingly, the regional constitutions recognise ethnic groups as ‘indigenous’ people who have the legal instrument and political recognition to own the region whilst other groups such as the Amhara, the Gurage, the Somali etc in these regions are lawfully excluded labelled as ‘non-indigenous’, hence non-existent in their own country, Ethiopia. It is evidently clear these so-called non-indigenous, non-native, non-owners, labelled as “settlers” but Ethiopians, are lawfully excluded from their individual rights as citizens: hence, the legal cause of the current displacement, dislocation, ethnic cleansing and at worse genocide.  

The concocted ethno-regional state system has become a latent threat for the protection of ‘non-regional’ people’s rights in the region or administrative units. In most cases allowing ethnic warlords to fight for more resources, power and territorial gains as has been recently evidenced after the fall of TPLF:  the anti-Amhara rhetoric, empty cry, and bluster for the return of Wolkait and Raya to the Tigray region including by Mulu Nega, chief Executive Officer of the Transitional government. This is a typical case of ethnic irredentism and the continuation of TPLF in one or in different forms. It is contended, ordinary and peace loving Tigrayans do not share this absurdity; Tigrayans are better off  with the Ethiopian people and their natural neighbours.

Ever since the demise of TPLF, its party affiliates have continued to wage a struggle to reverse the existing reform: “we shall secede if Wolkait and Raya are not returned to Tigray” confirms their intention to invoke Article 39 of the existing constitution to secede from Ethiopia. Hence, the scrap of the exiting scam, would mean denying TPLF a legal remedy /instrument to pursue its ludicrous agenda and save Ethiopia from another outrage.

One of  fundamental flaws of Abiy’s reform is that NO accountability of past crimes,   genocide, extra-judicial killings against  the  Annuaks, Oromo, Wolaita, Gurage, Afar, Somali etc  and  gross human rights violations, , forced disappearances,  economic embezzlement by TPLF and its cohorts  have not  been carried out substantively. Therefore, those TPLF affiliates, who  plundered the Ethiopian economy including with potential  treason  culpability  , have blatantly continued to work with the state,  challenge the reform within in the name of  alleging  constitutional rights. 

One would note, since the TPLF and its cohorts came into power, territorial disputes between Tigray and the Amhara, the Amhara and the Oromo, the Oromo and Somali, the Somali and Afar…etc   have manifested indisputably and there is no assurance that this will dissipate willy-nilly, unless the existing bogus constitution, a wicked stain on our history is ditched. Al Mariam in his incisive commentary dated May 2016 noted, “The T-TPLF constitution is one of the slickest constitutional scams in history”

 One would wonder if this ethnic identification and prejudice in essence is different from the South African constitution under colonialism, which identified, discriminated blacks from the white community.  It is time, if not overdue, such draconian, phoney legal instrument is declared unlawful both at a national and regional levels, decry ethno-centric dogma, hence thrown into the dust bins of history: Greater Ethiopia deserves better.

De-ethnicization of the Ethiopian state is paramount, it would be in the best interest of the Ethiopian people except for some  individual ethnic warlords who erroneously see themselves as the mystical messiah of their ethnic group.

Institutionalisation /implementation  of ethnicity via ethnic federalism and regions has meant lawful execution of ethnic division, separation and at best marginalisation, discrimination of people in their own country, Ethiopia. The entire fabrics of ethnic ideology is based on zero-sum game and not on a win-win strategy. It is incompatible to liberal democracy, individual rights, and the core values of civic society.  Ethnic homogeneity is an obsolete and erratic reality, it is against science, rationality, and fairness be it in Ethiopia or beyond. It is myth, a presumed identity! There is no single state in the world, let alone in Ethiopia, where there is a homogeneous ethnic-based state.  It is unfounded except in the minds of ethnic obsessives who are equally, and most notably preoccupied with their own political power and privilege. It is important to note, what Rep. Chris Smith, very recently stated, “…long term stability requires dismantling the system of ethnic division created by the TPLF regime”[23]   underlined for emphasis. Hats off to honourable Smith  for his timely message !

It is troubling, and one would wonder what sort of international image Ethiopia would have following our past history of famine, current vicious ethnic conflicts, displacements, ethnic cleansing in this 21st century? Our international image has been terribly tarnished as ethnic conflict has rocketed in the last three years.  It is shocking to watch the ethnicization of banks, tanks, sports, media and more. This reductionist approach of the ethno-federal state would cost more lives and shatter the economy, the experience in Tigray is an ongoing lesson.  Those who identify themselves with the Ethiopian whole, should raise their games to sustain Ethiopian integrity and sovereignty.  Citizens should, and must, have equal rights before the law, adhere to the rules of law and equal opportunities in their own country. Ethnic and religious based organisations for political motives should be ruled out as perverse. Preserving the Ethiopian historical state and its people is the ultimate duty of a responsible governance and its citizens to hold accountable its government and not vice-versa. Hence, rewriting a constitution, “antecedent to a government…”  is timely and judicious.  

 Contact:  tadessez@hotmail.com

 

 Footnote:

  1. Mousourakis, George (December 12, 2003). “The Historical and Institutional Context of Roman Law”.

2.Ibid

3.Ibid

  1. Thomas Paine, 1792
  2. Jordan, Terry L. (2013
  3. Kebra Negast [ translated version 1996]
  4. [Bagdaonor 1988].
  5. Constitution for a nation of nations, Fasil Nahom,1997. 
  6. Ibid
  7. (Introduction to the study of the law of the constitution, 3rd edition ,1889).
  8. Ibid
  9. John Coakley, Nationalism, Ethnicity & the State, 2012
  10. Ford and Kelly,2005, Braun, 2002
  11. Kagawa-Singer 2001. 
  12. Ethnic, myth and ethnic revival, 1984,
  13. Max Weber taken from (Michael Banton,2007, Nations and Nationalism)
  14. Ronald Cohen,1978.
  15. Eriksen 1993 
  16. Ibid
  17. Smith 1998, Wallerstein,1987.
  18. Huttington,1993
  19. UN charter Article 1, paragraph 2; and Article 55, paragraph 1

23. Washington Update,1 April,2021.

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