From Empire through Federalism to Empire: No, Thank you!
(By Dr Tsegaye Ararssa)
You know a system is in total decay when it yearns for the very system it demolished. You know the TPLF/EPRDF era, for whatever worth it was, is fast on the ebb when you see its architects desperately long for and seek to imitate the totalitarianism of the Derg. What a poor caricature of the Derg they have become. The very sight of some of the old figures at the core of the system signals total decay, if not the complete senility, of the system.
When you see the people who wrote the constitution wail and groan to renege on the promises of the constitution and to prevent the actualization of the federal system they imposed--if only because of the shake up by the Oromoprotests, later, OromoRevolution--you know that the system has come to its own; it has come back to the empire built on the back of, and against, the Oromo.
When you see elite TPLF/EPRDF cadres and their chosen scholars of power (who were themselves once junior TPLF cadres who couldn't find their way up in the ladder for personal reasons) have lost courage to even mention the self-determination clause of their much revered constitution and strain themselves to hide behind the notion of self-rule as a code word for self-determination; when they hardly recognize the central importance of democracy to any genuine federalism; then you know federalism is only a mask and a code word for empire.
In a recent posh conference organized by FBC and EBC on federalism and development, they go to great lengths to avoid even the word 'self-determination.' They repeat "self-rule" as if mere repetition would make it mean self-determination.
They stress Ethiopian unity and the identity thereof. They talk a lot about shatred values etc but not a single one of them cite what those shared values are. Instead, they blame the quest for freedom and justice on elite-led "local nationalism, chauvinism, lack of democratic nationalism, and corruption".
Above all, they seem to be exercised by the very presence (even the shadowy presence) of the Oromo. In a meeting forced upon them by the fear unleashed upon them by the #OromoRevolution, they avoid to mention the Oromo even when all they are talking about is the Oromo. Never mind the complete absence of Oromos on the panel. (True to history, the Oromo is a present absence!)
In a system that is terrified by democracy as its very undoing, they keep talking about 'democratic nationalism', 'democratic federalism', 'free market economy and property rights', the need for more mobility of 'labour and capital', etc. 'Who killed democracy' in the first place?
What federalism is there in the absence of democracy? What federalism are you talking about in a virtual apartheid state (that bettered South Africa's only by its atrocities)?
What freedom of market, what free private sphere, are we talking about, when even the public sphere is not free because of suppression of democracy?
Mobility of whose capital from where to where? Mobility of whose labour to where?
Why is this mobility always so asymmetrical? Why is it that labour moves always southward and capital northward?
What are these road infrastructures in the south other than what they are as "arteries of exploitation"?
Is there the requisite community, common unity, in the first place to allow a symmetrical and free flow of goods, capital, services, and labour? When has the southern citizen ever imagined the north as his own country? Has it not been only the north that has the unquenchable desire to go south and satisfy their fantasy of conquering the "virgin land" that the south represents?
So whose freedom of movement, whose free enterprise, whose property rights, are the concern here? The answer to all of these questions is obvious.
They talk about the problem of strong regions defying the federal government "in the last two years". Did they forget that the two largest regions in the country (leave alone the 4 peripheral regions who have always been under the unmitigated TPLF military rule) are under the Federal Military Rule sanctioned by a state of emergency and a Command Post routinely terrorizing the people into silence? Has there been any party other than EPRDF in any of the regions lately?
Again, what they are saying is their puppets in Oromia (OPDO) and Amhara (ANDM) regions could not anymore silence the angry mass as they have failed to control the increasingly ungovernable population. And yet all these decadent cadres come together to talk about lack of democratic nationalism, free market economy, regionalism, etc.
Shame on those who, having had the chance to transform an empire to a democracy via federalism, have completely squandered the opportunity and lost the way out of the quagmire as a consequence!
They talk about the imperative of building one "economic and political community" as they seek to suppress the linguistic nationalism of the Oromo and the wider South. What is the community of unspeaking bodies like? Unspeaking because of total suppression of freedom of expression. And unspeaking because of the monolingual state structure that regrets the very existence of languages other than Amharic? What is more self-evident than habesha supremacist conjectures in this? Who said unity can be built only if we all speak one language? Who said that, that one language should be the language of relatively smaller populations?
More alarming is that my former colleague Dr Assefa Fisseha's call for a NATO-like regional security alliance to suppress (Oromo) nationalism. As if supremacist doctrine at home haven't caused enough disaster, the Tigrean elite (that the likes of Dr Assefa, General Tsadqan, and General Abebe speak for), now presiding over the empire, want to reproduce themselves at the international level in the form of a regional/sub-regional security alliance to crush the Oromo resistance to hegemony and to permanently subordinate the latter geo-politically.
They are aiming at a perfect collusion between the national and international regime of terror (never mind they call it security) that conspires to destroy the Oromo. In this, they have only come to their own, to the square one of the colonial empire of the late 19thc that used the conspiracy of the national and the international to produce a subjugated sub-national subject.
The tragedy of all this is that even the intellectual class yearns for a supranational network of terror rather than imagining and working towards a network of alliance for democracy, social justice, and solidarity of the poor mass. Imagining a supranational network of democracy would have been a happy exit for TPLF, too. But now that they are at the helm of the imperial hierarchy, it is in their interest to retract the federal idea, downsize its ambitions for transformation of the polity, scale down on its emancipatory promises, and replace it with a transnational military/security architecture.
As the empire harks back to empire via federalism, the future is bleak for Ethiopianists as the Ethiopia yet to come is fast receding from the horizon. The future would be bleaker for the Oromo had it not been that the youth are facing this squarely in the face and facing upto it fearlessly to enact another future, a better future, a socially just and fair future, a future in which you democratize for and on behalf of the mass, or perish!
As the TPLF elite seek the rebirth of empire in the guise of (a fake federalism), we say "No, Thanks. You can go to your own hell by yourself. But enjoy the ride!" OromoRevolution