Grave Consequences if Federalism and its Language Policy is not Corrected

Grave Consequences if Federalism and its Language Policy is not Corrected

By Tadesse Erenso, August 27, 2018


What kind of structure does the Ethiopian federation have today? I would say that what we now have is not really a federation. The basic idea of a federation is that the various distinct parts of a country (especially a country comprising different ethnic nations) should be made a federating unit (or state). Each state should have the constitutional power to manage its unique problems and concerns, to develop its own resources for its people, to manage its own security, and to make its own kind of contributions to the well-being of the whole country. The central entity (or federal government) should manage common matters like the defence of the country, the relationship of the country with the rest of the world (or international relations), the country’s currency, the relations between the states of the country, and general principles like defence of human rights. That, essentially, was the federal arrangement that the fathers of the various sections of our country agreed upon in the 1990s.

But, since then, EPDRF has gradually destroyed this structure and replaced it with a structure in which the federal government is the controller (TPLF) of virtually all power and all resources as well as the power to develop all resources, and in which the states have no control over their resources and must depend on federal allocations of funds to exist at all. The federal government is over-burdened, controls too much money, has become egregiously inefficient and corrupt and, essentially, is destroying Oromia above all. The states are impotent, cannot develop their resources, cannot fight poverty in their domains, and cannot make their contributions to the progress and prosperity of the country. The cumulative effect of all these is that the country and the Ethiopian people have become horribly poor, that most public facilities (roads, electricity, water installations, public administration, etc.) are not working or have perished, that most Ethiopian youths are unemployed and hopeless. The relations between Ethiopia‘s nations and nationalities have degenerated into enmity and hostility. Crimes have made life very unsafe all over Ethiopia. In various regions of the country, and for various reasons, Oromo and other youths are demanding the breaking up of Ethiopia.

Restructuring means that all these must be changed. It means that we must return to the kind of federal arrangement which our fathers evolved in the 1990s – even though we must now have more states than the 9 regions of the 1990s.

The adjustment of power and resource control between the federal government and the states, all of which would take a lot of duties and responsibilities away from the federal centre and transfer them to the governments of the states. The most obvious concern the control and development of resources, and the control and management of education at all levels (though the federal government would still have some role in tertiary education – that is, education at the post-secondary level).  There are many others – but they are too many to be detailed out in this column.  The total effect is that the federal government will be smaller, leaner, control less money, and become much more efficient. The states will become what states are supposed to be in a federation – namely, the dynamic centres of development and growth. Hopefully, our states will resume the competition which used to exist among our regions in the 1990s up to now. As a result a geniune federation supposed to work.

If we re-restructure our federation now, and our states become again the rival centres of resource development, we may begin to see revival, and we may narrowly escape the break-up of Ethiopia. If we continue to hold on to the present structure of our federation as it is, Ethiopia will surely break up – and very soon. Human tolerance for poverty and deprivation in the midst of plenty, and for chaos, hostility, violence and insecurity, has a limit. In Ethiopia, we have reached that limit.