Abiy Ahmed’s accidental rise to power and reign demonstrates the typical politician capitalizing on opportunity in the midst of chaos, the difference in this instance is that Ahmed’s actions and inactions have evolved Ethiopia’s once political crisis into straight oblivion.
Ethiopia has been devolving, socially and politically. Disregard any economic report that highlights Ethiopia as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, it’s irrelevant. An economy can only be as robust as its political institutions, an economy can only truly grow long-term, and long-term economic growth should be the primary objective, with the trust of its people in its future, firstly, and amongst other things.
What comes next after a two-year armed conflict that resulted in more than one million casualties in Northern Ethiopia and cost an estimated $28 billion, what comes after the country’s growing inflation and stubbornly high unemployment rate amongst young people persists, what comes next as we continue to witness this administration’s incompetence while it brings Ethiopia and Ethiopians to its knees, what comes next as ethnic politics attempted to enter the religious sphere and was supported by Ethiopia’s so-called leader. What should come next is simple, the dissolution of Ethiopia’s experiment with ethnic federalism.
If we apply the same principles utilized in Ethiopia’s constitution to the United States, we would have five states instead of fifty, each five states representing one of the five largest ethnic demographics within the United States ( White Americans, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans). To put it into further perspective, everyone in the South would have to be of African descent, everyone in the Northeast would be of White American descent, everyone in the Central part would be of Native American descent, and the entirety of the West Coast would be comprised of Asian and Hispanic/Latino descent, hypothetically. It does not take one to be a political scientist to easily see the dilemma in such practice. How could this hypothetical social structure of the United States function efficiently? It can’t. Each state is restricted in not just social mobility and economic mobility but social cooperation and the freedom to willfully travel, again, amongst other things; thus completely capping economic growth, hindering social progress, and encourages ethnic tension as reflected in the growing number of extremism in Ethiopia’s regional ethnic-states throughout the years. It secludes everyone.
Ethiopia is currently at a crossroads, in one direction lies the path in which a former European country once took, Yugoslavia, which resulted in the complete break up of the multi-ethnic state into seven independent countries. The other path is the route of much needed reformation and the ultimate dissolution of ethnic-federalism, the Rwandan Crisis of 1994 hints to Ethiopia what it should and should not do if there is anything that we can learn from history. The path Ethiopia decides to embark on will be decided by its people, not Abiy Ahmed.
The Ethiopia in question is only questionable because she has lost her identity. Begging the question, what does Ethiopia mean, and what really has been lost? The first piece that comes to mind is the profound revolutionary article by Ethiopian Activist and Marxist Wallelign Mekonnen “On The Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia” which served and continues to serve as basis for the installment and continuation of ethnic-federalism within Ethiopia. Mekonnen highlights what Ethiopia is, a home to a diverse set of various peoples, cultures, traditions, linguistic feats, and religious followers. This is Ethiopia, this is what makes Ethiopia unique and a symbol for Africa. Although greatly inspired by his work, I must note that I do not believe nor support Mekonnen’s emphasis on ethnic-federalism, I do recognize and acknowledge the necessity to inquire about such transformative change and its root cause but there is a better way.
This root cause, emphasized by Mekonnen and many, including myself, is a disconnect between Ethiopian society in what being Ethiopian means, not everyone is equally represented or even accepted in Ethiopian society and politics. This can be best illustrated through my experience in asking various Ethiopians of varying ages and backgrounds on what comes to mind when you describe an Ethiopian, followed by the off-guard question of whether they believe Gambellans are Ethiopian. Most recognize my intent after answering this set of questions, that there are groups of people within Ethiopia that have little to no representation nor political authority in addition to not being socially and culturally intertwined with each other, I suggest that they should. Nonetheless, Abiy Ahmed’s administration has failed in correcting such issues rather he has intensified it.
Gambellans are Ethiopians but do Gambellans feel that they are Ethiopian is another question that is overlooked and serves as the root to why ethnic-federalism was brought to Ethiopia and why it still lingers. The implementation of solving this dynamic has failed and thus why we must look to another solution.
Equal representation NOT based on the matter of ethnicity but rather on the matter of humanity is the solution to Ethiopia’s ethnic problem, dissolving ethnic-federalism.