Pro-democracy activists in Ethiopia are preparing for a massive twitter campaign to denounce the ways in which the neo-neftegna regime of Abiy Ahmed is artificially manufacturing crisis and blaming it on the multinational federal arrangement.
I want to make a couple of points about the subject matter of this campaign. The concern being expressed by the activists is very real and imminent. Abiy wants to get rid of multinational federalism and I think he sees himself as someone sent by God to save Ethiopia from ethnicity. So the strategy has been to manufacture an artificial crisis to justify this eventual political settlement. In the last few months, we have heard cries of genocide, ethnic cleansing and what not – all an integral part of the PM’s Make Ethiopia Great Again (MEGA) vision. If the multinational federal order is seen to be the cause of all of Ethiopia’s historic ills and misfortunes, then, that creates the discursive environment necessary to dismantle it. You orchestrate an apparent crisis, and you use it to justify and legitimize a predetermined political goal – Remember those days when Addis Ababa was bombing itself and blaming it on Eritrea?
Some members of the international community are being briefed behind the scenes that the multinational federal arrangement we have in Ethiopia could lead to violence, civil war or a breakup of Ethiopia or that it is simply unworkable. There is no doubt that a multinational federal order is a difficult project to manage, particularly with an opportunist leadership with absolutely no regard to the wishes and aspirations of the invisibles, but what are the alternatives? Ethiopia has tried a unitary system. Hailesellase’s insistence on total power led to the eventual secession of Eritrea. Derg has been fighting with ethno-national forces its entire tenure. EPRDF addressed the question of nationalities at the level of state structure and ideology but the federal system did not work as a federation. TPLF stymied the federal project to protect its narrow interests.
The only way forward for Ethiopia is a democratic multinational federal order where multiple identities are celebrated and co-exist along one another. National groups should have a region of their own (with mechanism for protection of minorities built in) and should work to consolidate a common state that belongs to all – that state must be consolidated by the rich and diverse cultural heritages of all its people.
The Prime Minister says he wants to preserve the federation but truth is that he wants to dismantle it as soon as it is possible to do so and replace it with a more unitary system where he would reign more or less as a king. Just like he dissolved EPRDF and replaced it with the unitary Prosperity Party, his ultimate goal is to do away with the current federal order. If what he said a few days about the Prosperity Party (that it is multinational) is anything to go by, he could create something with zero legitimacy and insist that it is a federation and that it is multinational.
Just to be clear – the Prosperity Party is not multinational. Just because there are individuals called Mustafe, Shimelis, Mufariat etc does not mean that it is multinational. These individuals are there representing themselves, not their nations. And that is a critical difference. PP is unitary through and through. One entity. One party. One leader.