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The success of Ethiopian multiculturalism
Thursday, 23 December 2010
By Tesfaye Hailu Ethiopia hosted successfully the 5th International C experience of federation which it has been implementing over twenty years. The conference devoted 15 exclusive papers to Ethiopia. Among other issues : federalism and the democratization process, unity in diversity through federalism, the impacts of regionalization and globalization on federations were presented. For illustration, I have adapted some issues from what could be described very unusual descriptions of about a page and half, sometimes just a page as the entire case studies are not yet released. The meeting which took place from 13-16 December was graced by speeches of distinguished politicians and scholars and are thus cited for illustration. “ Ethiopia's multicultural federalism averted the collapse of the state in 1991 and has successfully restructured state-society relations relations. Such federalism has secured stability stability over the past two decades, providing the longest period of peace since World War II, the tragic-Eritrean conflict and the illl-fated military intervention in Somalia withstanding,” (Alem Habtu (editor) : Ethiopian Federalism : Principle, process, Practice 2010 (p. 27). One main bone of contention is the secession clause of the federal constitution. The EPRDF-led federal government maintains that the secession option is a necessary condition for the survival of the country. Its perception is that the major ethno-national groups believe that the potential threat to exercise the exit option is the ultimate guarantee for their group rights. It further maintains that a democracy that upholds group rights, in addition to individual rights, is a must for the survival of the multicultural federal system. The detractors of such multicultural federal democracy insist on a unitary system based on the notion of an older version of Ethiopia which did not recognize the contributions and rights of Ethiopia's cultural communities. However, this is a false reading of the relationship between the Ethiopian state and its strong cultural communities who have challenged the status quo and demanded to sit as equals in corridors of power. Besides, there is a synergy between democracy, peace and development. For Ethiopia's multiple nationalities, it is: no multicultural federalism, no democracy, no peace, no development, no Ethiopia,” (ibid. p.27). By the same token, Alem Habtu's presentation of Federalism and the Democratization Process in Ethiopia reflects the authoritarian and totalitarian political culture, ethnic inequalities, civil wars, and ethno-nationalist call for self-determination, including secession. “The Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)’s seizure of power in 1991 ended, for the most part, the raging civil wars. The challenge became how to reconstitute the state without the resumption of civil wars leading perhaps to national disintegration... putting in place the constitutional and institutional structures that are necessary for initiating a democratization process,” (ibid. p.20) or breakup of the country became its singular challenge. To secure peace, the EPRDF invited all “liberation fronts,” including the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), to the 1991 transitional conference with the goal of jointly creating a government. The EPLF insisted on a referendum regarding Eritrea’s independence. Following the Eritrean example, the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front), the ALF (Afar Liberation front) and the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) insisted on a referendum on independence. The EPRDF pleaded with them to join the government based on a constitutional secession clause. Thus, the secession clause was an outcome of the bargain to secure peace and unity. “In the initial democratization and federalization processes, a federal structure was a prerequisite to creating an environment for democracy. The constitution recognizes ethnic self-determination, including secession, and political pluralism. It has two unique features: first, it assigns sovereignty to the ethno-linguistic groups who commit themselves to the creation of one political and economic community, while retaining their exit option, and second, it provides for a non-legislative second chamber, which acts as a house of the sovereign ethno-linguistic groups, as a guardian of the constitution and as its interpreter. The promise of the constitution was to accommodate both Ethiopian nationalism and ethnic sub-nationalism, to institutionalize the democratization process, and to demonstrate that secession was not a necessary solution” (Alem Habtu). Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in his interview with the Federation succinctly states the 1991 situation 1991 as : “...to go back to 1991 there were about 17 armed ethnic-based organized groups. That was one of the reasons people expected us to completely disintegrate. So the issue of identity in terms of ethnic identity and how it expresses itself in the political process, the issue of religious tolerance and equality, were the issues uppermost in the minds of people at that time. And so when the federal system was designed, it could not, but be designed to make sure that issues which were uppermost in people's minds would be addressed and accommodated adequately in the new Ethiopia. And that's what we did. As it happens, the various ethnic groups in Ethiopia live in specific geographic locations, so there is a large of element of coincidence between ethnic groups and regional geographic divisions. We made it possible in the Constitution for people to be on top of their own local affairs, to manage their local affairs in an autonomous fashion, to use their own language, develop their own culture and to participate in the common federal political activities on an equal basis.” “The prognosis was not all that encouraging; everyone expected us to disintegrate like the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. That didn’t happen. I think the primary reason that did not happen was that we were able to design a system that would could accommodate diversity adequately, and this for the first time in our history. That system is the federal democratic ystem. And so over the past 20 years I think we have proved the skeptics wrong, we have proven that Ethiopia is here to stay, but to do so on a new basis, on the basis of a federal system, of a democratic system, a system that accommodates the ethnic and religious diversity of the country adequately. So I think that’s the key achievement of the past 20 years,”( Meles). Against the backdrop of the above citations, the stance of the incumbent government to have a adopted a Constitution with a secession clause just to reassure nations and nationalities that the historical injustices would were not repeated was entirely legitimate. “In view of the exacting sacrifices made to win, no nationalist movement would have consented to a constitutional arrangement that would incur risk of a return of the old order and its defining project”... (Andreas Eshete). Prof. Andreas contends “I
http://www.waltainfo.com Generated: 31 May, 2011, 16:02
Walta Information Center think we will also come to feel the need for an animated. To complement and transfigure our diverse identities calls for the cultivation of a new sense of a shared history.waltainfo. federalism has been key to the progress we have made in the economic field. It's the building of Ethiopia.So. Andreas: &ldquo. 2011.&rdquo.com Generated: 31 May.&rdquo. shared public ideals and a shared identity that captures what binds us together as citizens of a single political community with a singular destiny. http://www. Talking of the achievements of Ethiopian federalism over the years. I submit the wisdom of reaching for a sense of the whole that is more than the sum of the constituent parts. To complement and transfigure our diverse identities calls for the cultivation of a new sense of a shared history. The progress that we have made in the economic field has also played a key role in consolidating our democracy because now the people of Ethiopia are building their country. the rebuilding of Ethiopia on a new basis. particularist sense of our common Ethiopian identity. 16:02 . the premier notes: &ldquo. And I wish to conclude the article with the view of Prof.&rdquo.I submit the wisdom of reaching for a sense of the whole that is more than the sum of the constituent parts. shared public ideals and a shared identity that captures what binds us together as citizens of a single political community with a singular destiny. It's a joint project that every ethnic group is participating in equally and it's a joint project that everyone is benefiting from adequately. We call it the Ethiopian renaissance.
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