Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 28 March 2006

Ethiopia Needs a New Political Arrangement, Not a Leader


By Apee Ojulu*

Mar 28, 2006 — In “Mother Ethiopia is Crying for a Leader,” Sudantribune.com/March 26, 2006 Biadeglegne Tesfaye articulates the need for a leader to lead Ethiopia. Unfortunately, his hope for the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) to produce that leader, replace the ruling Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) and deliver the country to a promised land is anything but a fanatic dream.

The political parties and leaders that created CUD intended only to restore past Amhare Empire in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Democratic League (EDL); All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP); United Ethiopian Democratic Party-Medhin Party (UEDPMP) and Rainbow Ethiopia: Movement for Democracy and Social Justice (REMDSJ) all intend to restore Amharo Empire (See Reference 1). These four parties shared two common goals that were to take power and restore Amhare Empire. They anchored these ideas in the CUD to reconstitute an Amhara centralized Ethiopia through three specific political programs.

First, CUD leaders plan to amend Article 39 of the Ethiopian to reassert Amhare grip on power in the country. Article 39 grants citizens in each regional state of Ethiopia the exclusive rights to elect their own representatives to local assemblies and national parliament, the rights to govern their region, control their resources and teach their own languages in their respective schools in their regional states (see reference 2). CUD leaders detest Article 39 very much for precisely because it weaken Amhara control over other Ethiopians, by placing Amhara language and culture as secondary respectively in each regional state. Their leader, Hailu Shawils, the chairman of CUD, asserts in an interview with Robert Wiren, “We believe in the unity of Ethiopia and not in article 39” (see reference 3). Shawils intends to take away Article 39 and replace it with direct rule. Direct rule CUD intends to recreate means an Amhara from far north of Ethiopia who never had any contact with, say, Binshangul Gumuz region would be appointed to govern Binshangul Gumuz and this Amhara would expect the local population to follow his policies without resistance like predecessor governors Menlike, Haile-Selassie, and Mengistu Haile Mariam sent that led only to domination of non-Amhara and non-Tigrean ethnic groups.

Second, CUD leaders plan to prevent Ethiopians from converting to Islam, and discriminate against those Ethiopians who are already Muslims. CUD key leaders have described growing conversion among some Ethiopian communities to Islam as a threat to the Ethiopia Orthodox Christian character, and repeatedly they say they would never tolerate a new religions taking over Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians, mainly Oromos and other oppressed ethnic groups, these CUD are talking about converted to Islam as a way out from the domination of Amhare and their cousins, Tigeres. By embracing on an attempt to prevent Ethiopians from converting to their own religions of their choice, the CUD stands ready to discriminate against Ethiopians who are now Muslims, either directly or indirectly through policy choices.

Last, CUD leaders plan to reopen the issue of the Eritrean port, Assab, meaning they still question the independence of Eritrea. CUD leaders remain adamantly opposed to the idea that Eritrea took its port of Assab and willing to recover the port by whatever mean necessary. Yet CUD leaders’ intention to do whatever necessary to recovery Assab is an imperialism venture, and brings only a destructive war which definitely marginalized ethnic groups in Ethiopia would shoulder as is often the case in hours of need, by being forcefully sent to front lines as were the case during the Ogeda war with Somalia, Eritrea war of independent and past wars.

In addition to three programs CUD leaders plan to implement, Amhare region, CUD’s political base, sent Emperors Menelik, Emperor Selassise and Colonel Mengistu Halie Mariam in the past to rule the country and they, in turn, built an Amhare Empire over other nationalities. These leaders implemented policies that were “characterized by hierarchic social stratification and authoritarian tradition,” as Abiyu Geleta rightly observed (See Reference 4). These Amahro social stratified the entire society where the Amhare was the rulers and other ethnic groups that made up the majority the ruled population. Each Amhare leader brutally extended these systems of internal imperialism over nationalities within the country to centralize the state in the Amhar-centric state. Emperor Menelik and his predecessor, Emperor Selassie tried to “Amharaziation” the entire population to erase the national question in the minds of many nationals within the Empire. Each of these leaders, Mariam and Selassie, used different strategies to implement this domination over other nationalities but they tried, as Edmond Keller observes, to erase “national question.” Mariam, at least publicly, adopted a “scientific socialism” approach as way to solve this pressing national question (See Reference 5).

All in all, each of these regimes, though different in characters, tried to build an Amhara-centric Ethiopia state. Amhare revisionist intellectuals like Tesfay and their intellectual allies elsewhere paint a different picture about these leaders then their actual pictures. These revisionist intellectuals made two arguments. Some argue that Menelik, Salessie and Mengistus did their best most for the country during their times, and other argue that they were dictators that their rules did not benefit Amhare region or people. The tendency toward separation among nationalities within the country or instability is the fault of Meles Zenawi and his TPLF. These revisionist intellectuals are arguing tendency toward separation in the country lies on the leadership of Meles Zenawi and his advisors in the TPLF, because they have dissolved power to the regions that are not now able to exercise it effectively, but to destroy the unity of the country with.

It is true that Meles and his advisers in TPLF have committed a lot of crimes against all nations in Ethiopia. Thus no doubt that Zenawi has done his part to increase the tension in the country. He had authorized his military forces to commit genocide/ massacres in Gambella, Sidama, Ogeada, Beni Shaugi, and Oromia. In final analysis, however, he is not totally responsible for division to the level that Amhare revisionist intellectuals claim he is- that Meles is the only person responsible. Amharo past rulers were the ones implanted ills in the country by building a hegemonic political structure that privileged Amhare in culture, politics, economic and social the past Amhare rulers created that now CUD intend to replicate.

In sum, CUD is not more a democratic political party compared to the current Meles Zenwai’s regime. In fact, CUD is more extreme than the Zenwai’s regime is and, if is to take power, its policies would more extreme policies than Zenwai’s. Thus, for the sake of economic development and peace for all nations inside Ethiopia, each nation in the country should be allowed to choose either separation or create some union with other nations within the country and outside. The current Ethiopia state is a mess and we should not continue to pretend like CUD and other unionists continue to do that the mess in Ethiopia right now can be cleared up and reformed. Ethiopia has existed for over two thousand years of Ethiopia state and the current mess existed through out these years.

* Apee Ojulu is a citizen of the greater East Africa area and is the Editor of www.gambelatoday.com, a website which is devoted to publishing news and commentaries on issues concerning Gambella state, Ethiopia and Sudan. He can be reached at api@gambelatoday.com



1. Coalition for Unity and Democracy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_for_Unity_and_Democracy

2. Ethiopian Constitution http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Hornet/Ethiopian_Constitution.html

3. Robert Wiren. 2005. “Hailu Shawil, Chairman of the
Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).” Les nouvelles d’Addis (April)

4. Geleta, Abiyu. 2000. Ethiopian System of Domination and Its Consequences. The Sidama Concern Vol.5. No.4, pp.5-10. [on-line]

5. Asafa Jalata. 1998. Oromo nationalism and the Ethiopian discourse: the search for freedom and democracy, p. 109-124

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