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A Framework for Transitional Federal Governance

A Framework for Transitional Federal Governance

Abebe Teklehaimanot (Major General)

Nov 16, 2021


Ethiopia is in grief because of grinding civil wars. The economic debacle and diplomatic mess are accelerating state failure. Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have joined hands and claim that they have enough power to control the capital, Addis Abeba if deemed necessary.


The federal government has declared that the condition is beyond the control of the armed forces and needs mobilization of the whole population and proclaimed a state of emergency.  Amhara regional state is amassing forces with a sense of betrayal by the Federal government. Bilzigna is adamant and refuses political settlement. Therefore, the discussion on Transitional Federal Governance is assumed to be after the demise of the ruling group.


There is a need for an urgent and comprehensive system to transform the country from the darkest movement of its history or disintegrate peacefully. Is it outrageous to aim for peaceful dissolution when it is not possible to continue as a country?  We have to make hard choices, and they have to be made promptly, however bitter they may be.

The most egregious way of solving the Ethiopian complex and overwhelming challenges is to deal with the crisis as a government V rebel group dispute. This approach will only take us to absurdity. An innovative system that reflects the reality on the ground should be applied and bring a sustainable solution. A Transitional Federal Governance (T.F.G.) is becoming the order of the day. There is a need to formulate a framework grounded on the country’s political, socio-economic structures.

 The article aims to provoke discussion on the issues by all stakeholders and come to some agreeable terms. It begins with the concept of conflict transformation with some examples and deals with decisive conflicts in Ethiopia. The ebbs and flows of the Ethiopian state are explored with the aborted Republic as a landmark. Finally, the nature and content of Transitional Federal Governance to save the peoples from another emerging calamity as a country or otherwise is discussed.   

 For this article, nations mean entities that formed the multinational state of Ethiopia, including those labeled as nationalities and peoples in the constitution. This paper assumes that a comprehensive ceasefire agreement/Interim government is in place.

1.  Conflict and transformation: the bases for Transitional Federal Governance

The nature of conflict and its transformation should be the basis for T. F. G, understanding that all conflicts are about safeguarding values and material interests no more, no less. There is a need to organize an enabling political and institutional mechanism whereby these interests and values compete peacefully within a democratic environment to attain peace.

Lederach, John (2003:05)[1] describes conflict transformation;

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It is the scientifically sound language because it is based on two verifiable realities: conflict is normal in human relationships, and conflict is a motor of change. Transformation provides a clear and important vision because it brings into focus the horizon on which we journey-the building of healthy relationships and communities, locally and globally.

 If conflict is a motor of change and is expected, the existence of conflicting parties is a blessing for the incremental progress of human beings. What is abnormal and reactionary is the attempt to eliminate conflicting parties by administrative actions and by force. Though conflicts and incompatible parties are as varied as the diversity of the society, there could be two or more conflicts that may decide the fate of peace and stability in a state.

All conflicts are identity conflicts based on socio-economic (class), ethnicity, religion, race, gender, etc. For our Arada elites[2] who declare that they don’t have an identity except for Ethiopian cosmopolitanism, it is advisable to read Amy Chau's[3] book and understand how tribal they are. Chua, Amy (2018:41) notes, Humans aren’t just a little tribal. We’re very tribal, and it distorts the way we think and feels. But not all group identities are equally potent”. For those who falsely pride themselves cosmopolitan, she (2018:06) asserts that “American elites often like to think of themselves as the exact opposite of tribal, as “as citizens of the world” who celebrate universal humanity and embrace global, cosmopolitan values. But what these elites don’t see is how tribal their cosmopolitanism is.” She asserts that the non-recognition of identity politics in U.S. internal and foreign policy is one of the fundamental causes for political problems internally and defeats in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. assertion

 In developed democratic/dictatorial systems, the motors of change are the conflicting interests and values of the ruling and the working classes and allied forces to them to different degrees. Vertical[4] conflicts between the higher and lower classes and horizontal conflicts within the upper classes, working classes, or other identities. The conflicts between the Republican and Democratic parties within the establishment and the right- and left-wing conflicts inside each party could be an excellent example of horizontal conflicts. There is no strict boundary between vertical and horizontal conflicts. They are intermingled and depend on the context.


 All other conflicts, including gender, race, religion or ethnicity, etc., are blended in one form and reflect the main conflicts. The existence of values and interests of the entrepreneurship of the upper classes on the one hand and professional, manual, and menial workers of all types (middle and lower class) on the other is a necessary condition for progress. However, the systemic deficiency of accommodating interests and values may lead to destructive conflicts and chaos when the political and institutional mechanisms do not allow these forces to compete peacefully for what they stand.


As an illustration, exemplary centuries-old American democracy could be imperative.

Stiglitz, Joseph (2012)[5]  , winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and former Vice President of the World Bank, highlights that Americans want to shy away from class analysis. However, he indicates that they are heading “from social cohesion to class warfare” and explains why:

For years there was a deal between the top and the rest of our society that went something like this: we will provide you jobs and prosperity, and you will let us walk away with the bonuses. You will get a share, even if we get a bigger share. But now that tacit agreement between the rich and the rest, which was always fragile, has come apart.

To substantiate his argument, “The Occupy Wall Street” movement went beyond Wall Street, and their slogan became “the 99 percent”. According to him, the fundamental problem is “A Democracy in peril” as reflected by the decay of the system that transformed the cornerstone of democracy, i.e., “to the people, for the people by the people” “to one dollar, for one dollar, and by one dollar.”  It means the process of safeguarding interests and values by peaceful means are narrowing dawn and unless rectified could be the source of destruction.


Conflicts in emerging Sates

In developing countries where class differentiation is at an early stage, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., are becoming the prevailing identities at the center of conflicts and transformation.  Kaplan (2009:09)[6] highlights the saliency of identity:

The dominant force driving identity is different in different places. In some regions of the world, religion is the defining aspect; in others, ethnicity; in still others, language. In much of the Middle East, for instance, a region of old and deep-rooted identities, not nationality, not citizenship, not descent, but religion, or more precisely membership of a religious community, is the ultimate determinant of identity.


2.  The case of Ethiopia: Conflicts among nations are decisive

The current environment must be placed in the broader context of structural and socio-political dynamics that have provided fertile ground for many critical aspects of civil wars.  A society where the value of universal human rights is low, contending classes are in the process of formulation, a win-lose political culture of elites, bad subsistence economy, a highly diverse population with more than 80 ethnic/national groups, and weak state institutions.


 In all aspects, Ethiopia is in the process of a fundamental transition or disruption. Two contending camps have been locked in conflicts with one another glaringly for the past 60-70 years. As a developing state, the main conflicting parties are not the working classes and the upper classes. Horizontal conflicts among nations and vertical conflicts between “multi-nationalism and Pan Ethiopianism” decide the country's fate. Religious, class, gender, etc., conflicts hibernate in the glaring conflicts, though at times manifest intermittently.


Before 1991 “multi-nationalism and Pan Ethiopianism” might have been the main and the decisive conflicts. After the introduction of the Transitional Charter and FDRE constitution and with partial implementation, nations began to assert their identity in all aspects, political, economic, socio-cultural, etc. Tigray is farfetched; moreover, all nations are in the processes of an accelerated and continuous metamorphosis of nationhood. It is happening to no return. Ethiopiyawint has begun to be ingrained in the masses.


The majority of elites of all nations (except Amara) supported the new constitutional arrangement because they struggled for it. Particular attention should be given to the Amara nation because of the denial of its elites until recently. Some elites preached the non-existence of that nation. Others pronounced that it is degrading for Amara to organize itself as a polity because it is Ethiopia's architect. Instead of appreciating the constitution that recognizes its existence (as all nations) for the first time and organize to struggle for other remaining legitimate concerns, they tried to denounce and disregard the system and become the source of conflicts with other nations.


But at the 11th hour, “organize and be armed as a people” is the motto, and Ethiopiyawint becomes a footnote. Ato Lake Ayalew Anteneh, the Minister of Revenue and a high official of the ruling party does not expect Ethiopia to safeguard the interests and values of the people of Amara, whatever the degrading “Rist” maybe. This is what he wrote in his Facebook account on the first week of Nov. 2021.


አለም ምንጊዜም የአሸናፊዎች ናት!
የአማራ ማንነትና ርዕሥት የሚጠበቀው ከማንም በፊት በራሱ በባለቤቱ እንጅ በማንም ሊሆን አይችልም :: አይገባምም :: ስለዚህ ያልወረስነው ትውፊትና እሴት በፍፁም ለቀጣይ ትውልድ ልናስተላልፍ ስለማይገባን የትግራይን ወራሪ ሀይል በያለበት በመደምሰስ ክብራችንንና ነፃነታችንን እንዲሁም ርዕስታችንን በራሳችን መስዕዋትነት እንጠብቅ ::ምክንያቱም አለም የአሸናፊዎች እንጅ ለተሸናፊዎች ስላልሆነች የማንም ቡራኬ አያስፈልገንም :: ለዚህ ደግሞ ብቸኛው መፍትሄ የግልና የቡድን ፍላጎታችንን እንዲሁም ማንኛውንም ልዩነታችንንና ሰበቦችን ለጊዜው ከአዕምሯችን አስወግደን አንድ ሁነን እንደሺ ሺሁነን እንደአንድ አፍከልብ የሆነ ውጤት የምናስመዘግብበት ብቸኛው ጊዜ አሁን ነው :: ስለዚህ ራሳችንን በአሸናፊነት ማማ ላይ ማውጣት ነው :: ደግሞም በሀገር ጉዳይ ከመጡብን አማራ አንገቱ አንድ ነው ::


 Amara nationalism that was abandoned mainly by its elites, is blossoming at a faster rate. It can be a force of stabilization and democratization when it gets out of leadership crises.


Nations of Ethiopia have many shared histories, religions, cultures, and interests. But they are also wildly divergent, starting from the name and flag of the country, state formation, boundary, understanding history, culture, and religion. Objective asymmetric demography, geography, natural resources, and mode of production could be the source of unity and prosperity, but at the same time, if mismanaged, could trigger unhindered destructive conflicts. When elites of nations are at their best, peace and prosperity nurtures. When they are at their worst violent conflicts prevail. But it is not this or that, and most of the time, conditions are “in-between.”


The Best of the politics of nations is to believe diversity is an asset, to accept that though there are differences and tensions in values and interests, they are not fundamentally contradictory that cannot be reconciled. Appropriate shared, and self-rule systems based on individual and group rights would be valuable for all in politics, economic scale, security, foreign affairs, etc. If handled well, understanding that conflicts are natural and a source of progress resolves and transforms them by peaceful means and through dialogue and compromise.


  A nation itself is also a home of diversity, class, religion, gender, culture, tribes, etc. These apprehensions can be continually smoothened when the entities try to develop and expand their values and interests to recognize others within the nation.


The Worst is politics based on assumptions of outmoded and expansionist nationalism. It is identification with one’s nation and support for its interests and values to the exclusion or determinant of the values and interests of other nations.  The exclusionist politics narrative goes like this:  our nation is superior and should get extra benefit because we have been the guardians of the Empire, numerous in number, possessors of natural resources, civilized, etc. This kind of nationalism could also be a fundamental source of destructive conflicts within the nation. It denies diversity, tries to suppress groups and citizens’ rights, and may develop a parasitic class in the nation's name.


 Pan-Ethiopianism and multinationalism

As long as Ethiopia remains as a state, there would be natural tensions between Pan-Ethiopianism and multinationalism. These conflicts could be progressive motors for the country if nations accept the right of individuals to organize based on citizenship and the formation of “unity” parties as grace and constructive competitors. Aggregating all their resources (human and material) based on their consent benefits all nations, especially during globalization.

The best (awfully very few individuals at this time) of the pan-Ethiopian group believe that it is best for Ethiopia if the epicenter of politics is citizenship for the country to flourish. They accept the right of individuals to organize in national parties, and the competition with these entities is healthy and necessary.


Pan Ethiopianism at this epoch is dominated by ultra-rightists and follows extreme Ethiopianism like German Nazism.   This group declares that national parties (they called them ethnic parties to degrade them) shall be banned by law whether the respective people desire it or not. Ultra-rights are composed of Arada elites and, paradoxically, extreme diaspora who have renounced Ethiopian citizenship but try to give a moral certificate for excellent or bad Ethiopians dwelling in their country.


Democratic Pan Ethiopianism is an evolving force to be recognized. However, extreme Ethiopianism tries to attach itself with one or another nation depending on the circumstances but is a negative force to admit as long as it wants to impose its ideals by force on nations.


Ethiopia had embarked on a program to build a Republic as a multinational state. Even though slow, we began to taste its fruits of relative peace and security. Societal development is not undeviating; it generally goes forward but gets stuck somewhere, sometimes one or two steps backward. But it regenerates and advances a forward journey if people can also learn from the nastiest period.


The worst is regression, and we have encountered genocide in Tigray, Ethnic cleansing on Amara, Gumus, Qimant, and war crimes of all sorts, on Oromo, Wolayta, Sidama, etc., in the darkest three years of the country’s history.

 Could this traumatic environment create opportunities? It is possible; we have seen that those on the side of justice and are organized prevail.  We are now solidly aware that justice can take off from “rock bottom” to victory against the motto of 95 million to 5 million. Living aside the bloodsuckers, the Ethiopian peoples can also learn that an attack on one is an assault on all, and blood gush anywhere may overflow everywhere.   The situation could also be an opportunity for people who blindly supported the genocidal war against Tigray and the attritional civil wars in every corner of the country to make some contemplations and repent because they are also draining.


Wouldn’t the Oromo people and their leaders seriously question the Oromo Bilzigna and act accordingly, for summerly executing its youth, imprisonment of tens of thousands and its leaders, lose tens of thousands in wars, not of theirs? Amara are being slaughtered here and there, and there is no leadership to defend them. In search of their power, the Bilzigna group abandoned the interests and values of the people they claimed to lead. Moreover, they are partially responsible for creating enmity with all their neighbors.


 Amara's nationalism is blossoming. That condition could be a fertile ground for democratic and committed leaders to spring up to uphold Amara's interests and values. We have taken two leading promoters of the catastrophes (core Bilzigna) as examples. Otherwise, it is similar in many nations.   


3.  The ebbs and flows of societal shocks and stability: Centralization syndrome of obliteration

The systemic, political, and socio-economic contradictions between the Ethiopian Empire and the Ethiopian Republic are the fundamental causes of the catastrophes that we are in. For this essay, a republic is a state where sovereignty rests with the people, while an Empire is a political unit ruled by dictators of all sorts, “elected” by the people or ordained by God.


A democratic republic would embrace the potentials of all nations, individuals, and other groups by engaging all peoples and continuously flourishing. It transforms conflicts among nations. The dividend of a republic is peace, prosperity, unity, and good standing in the eyes of others. On the other hand, an Ethiopian empire would be a governance of the few (special Ethiopians), a source of permanent armed conflicts and lawlessness.


Centralization is not bad or good by itself. It can be employed to maximize human and material resources for the benefit of human beings. It is an instrument of subjugation and repression of human beings when it is commissioned without their consent. A bottom-up approach, i.e., accepting the self-determination of the individual to decide on its capacity, doesn’t harm others and passes all beyond his ability to communities who may delegate to the next level what is not within their competence. This chain will continue to the nation and then to the multinational state and create a conducive environment for the transformation of conflicts.  For that purpose, the primary factors for continuous disruptions and rare stability need to be studied.


Solomonic Empire

In the process of modernization and centralization (which could be a necessary but impediment at the same, in the state-building process), the absolute imperial regime generated new social groups and weakened old ones. Though limited, the attempt at modernization, like education, agriculture, infrastructures, etc. though restricted, brought about urban dwellers, and nationalism began budding. With no significant role in production, most feudal aristocracy fiercely opposed the modernization project to retain their parasitic status. Ethiopia’s standing in the world was high and was the voice of Africa.


However, the mode of production was highly exploitative in the agricultural center, which was almost the sole backbone of the Economy.  The majority of farmers in the South and West had a slave-like relationship with the masters of the land who were implanted on them from outside their region.  


 To attain peace and security institutions like the army, civilian bureaucracy, etc., and continue with centralization, the system needed capital and human resources, which required a taxation system that became an incumbrance to the peasantry on top of already unbearable landholding systems, especially in the south of the country.  


The last Solomonic dynasty was divisive in governance, alienating Zague, Southern and Eastern Peoples, and non-Orthodox Christians, especially Muslims and, of course, the whole population. Uprisings like the Woyane of Tigray, Bale, Gojam, and Ogaden reflected the people's dissatisfaction in different corners.


The 1955 constitution, which was based on centralization, would not prevent Ethiopia from annexing Eritrea that sparked an insurgency that continued for 30 years. Land to the tiller, the question of nationalities, religious equality, and agonizing standard of living ignited rebellion and brought about the demise of the monarchic Empire. Famine was concealed from its people and the world, which affected millions of deaths in the north and became a catalyst for its downfall.


 An Empire decorated by Marxism: Seventeen years of civil war

The rural landholding system proclaimed by the military government had released the peasantry from feudal oppression and was transformative. However, the partially liberated peasant could not fully exploit his land because of restricted rights, the youth conscription to the army, and lack of support from the government.  Extreme pan Ethiopian nationalist dictatorship started extreme centralization of politics (One party system), Economy (command) administration (that extends to Kebels).  In the name of great Ethiopia, unprecedented political repression with summary execution, political detention, and torture was conducted.


It fully isolated the evolving capitalist class, one of the motors of progress in practice and the primary proclamation. It tried to quash the underlying question of self-determination by force and become the cause of its downfall, among other fundamental issues. Having Africa’s largest army, the system became “a roaming war governance” unable to continue the limited modernization projects and diplomatic standing, could not deliver peace, prosperity, the harmony of society, and be isolated from its people and the world. As if to imitate the former, the Derg Empire concealed famine which accelerated its downfall. Would Ethiopia disintegrate like Yugoslavia or Somalia, was the legacy left at its demise?


An aborted Republic: an experiment of much importance  

The introduction of the Transitional Charter and Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and its partial implementation brought about 25 years of relative peace (the longest in the modern history of Ethiopia), astonishing economic success, restraining forces that were struggling for independence. Ethiopiyawint has begun to be engrained in the masses because of changes in life and partial observance of their rights.  The country became the voice of Africa and the second contributor to peacekeeping in the world.


 Massive education, vast infrastructural expansion, cities, digital era, and peace created new social groups different from the pre-1991 generation with political orientation, deep nationalism, and taste of life.  The beginning of instilling republicanism based on groups, socio-economic, and individual rights combined with the determination and capabilities of leaders allowed the country to observe the fruits of relative peace, economic success, and intense diplomacy.  

However, the behest of a new ruling class which was hovering (like creating the Southern Nations Nationalities and People Region (SNNPR) without full consent of the people and crushing the demand of Sidama people for regional administration, 2005 election tragedy, etc.) even during the introduction of the constitution continued unabated. Based on the concept of “vanguard party” (mingling state and party, persecution of political opponents, lacking transparency and accountability) that is incomputable with a multiparty system, and hence the constitution. Political and civil rights and the right of nations were continuously harassed, state institutions became feeble, the fairness of the share of the pie was being questioned.


 The zeal for justice within the ruling front dwindled at an alarming rate. Combined with a lack of internal democracy, it produced an opportunistic and corrupt political class. In the process, the FDRE constitution became a ‘paper perfect’ document because its principles were abandoned by the very organization that sponsored it.


 A system that was supposed to be consensus-based became too centralist, hierarchical, and authoritarian.  As if to dig their grave, EPRDF and its allies ‘won’ 100% of parliamentary seats in the general election of 2015. This ignited suppressed dissatisfactions to explode. People continuously protested about six months or so. after the election, especially in Oromia and Amhara.


 The ruling elite squandered two years to make fundamental changes to comply with the people's demands based on the constitutional system. Without a shared vision, policies, and strategies, it elected its chairman and prime minister by conspirator means. The Republic was aborted.


 The shortest and maybe the last Empire.

The new leadership that originated from the centers of the protests was expected to carry on the ideals of the demonstrations. Releasing political prisoners, allowing exiled opposition leaders to return home, slightly opening the political space, etc., triggered euphoria of change. With the promise of change, got remarkable initial support in all corners of the country.


The support dwindled accelerated because it became worse in all aspects of a modern polity, and the pledge for change was a sham. The culpable section of decaying EPRDF seized power and drove the country from bad to worse when it joined and allowed itself to be controlled by the Arada elites and extreme diaspora.


With no clear vision and mission as a governing elite except clutching to power started by dismantling the ruling coalition instead of reforming it as part of its centralization project. It rushed to form a new party without a clear program, structure, and procedure. Without organizational congress, Prosperity was created illegally and became the ruling party.        


Extreme pan Ethiopianist demagogy, divide and rule, warmongering, and deception became the mode Operandi of the amorphous prosperity party. Genocide in Tigray, civil wars, crimes of all degrees, including ethnic cleansing, in almost all regions become the marker of the system. Total disruption of state institutions and religious establishments, economic failure, and diplomatic fiasco become the demeanor of the system.


Destruction of its armed forces and threat to the capital by TDF and OLA triggered desperation. Bilzigna, in its demise, started bombing cities and civilian targets when the limited Airforce capability was severely needed in operational fronts. The state of emergency intensified and targeted the entire Tegaru. Oromos were also targeted.


In the process of change and continuity, one can trace and observe the attempts of modernization and becoming the voice of Africa during the Monarchial and the transformative land proclamation during and Derge Empires, respectively.  How about the Bilzigna Empire? Planting of seedlings? Project implementation of recreational parks with unknown sources and that lacked transparency and accountability? Changing names of institutions, uniforms, and emblems?  The worst Empire that Ethiopia faced until now. 


As if to imitate the last two empires, Bilzigna created a man-made famine accelerating its downfall. 

Three years is the shortest period in the history of regimes of Ethiopia.  Bilzinga’s Empire is the last because of the possibility of Ethiopia embarking on democratization and becoming a republic, disintegrating peacefully or descending to chaos. Nations should decide on their shared fate. They need to form transitional governance to maximize their common interests and avoid destruction.


4.  Formation of Transitional Federal Governance

Never Repeat again should be the maxim of this governance.


4.1 T.F. G should be transformative, not regressive

Civil wars and genocide mean that conflicts have become destructive. T.F.G. is intended to be the first stage to move conflicts to be constructive and a process for fulfilling the gap in the political void created by the demise of the last Empire. Continuity and change should be one of the principles of the process. Continue with the rights enshrined in the FDRE constitution and boost uprights demanded by the peoples of Ethiopia. Continuity means regenerating the relative peace and all achievements of the aborted Republic.


 Change means assessing the fundamental causes of the Republic's failure in laws, institutions, i.e., state V government, party V government, media, etc., federal V region, inter-regional relationships, and interactions between the peoples in neighboring countries. It is a commencement of consensus building in all aspects. More inclusive than the 1991 charter that gives exceptional attention to legitimate concerns of nations. It should be transformative because the state failure in the making would not devolve into complete chaos. If it is impossible to maintain the Ethiopian polity, it should be an instrument to avoid catastrophe by allowing peaceful dissolution or more devolved powers, including confederal systems. 


4.2 Legitimacy of T.F.G.

Emerging from incomprehensible civil wars of great severity, the legitimacy of T.F.G. may be a make and break for the country to endure as a state or fade as polity peacefully. Given that federal authority is melting and the decisive conflicts discussed above, justifiable representation would help in transforming the clashes. The nations of Ethiopia should decide the composition of T.F.G that is to be equitable. According to the constitution, the holders of sovereignty are the nations, nationality, and peoples, and their full expression may decide. Citizenship-based parties should be duly represented based on projected followers, not the number of “Samsonite” parties. Civil association and other representations should reflect the country's demography and the holders of sovereignty.

  "Victory's arrogance" should be avoided in dealings with new problems as well as new opportunities considering confidence-building gestures take time. All compromises necessary are not "gifts" rendered by the victors that could be taken according to the behaviors of the "weak partners."

4.3 General contents of T.F.G Charter

The pursuit of the Supreme Law is very appealing for the nations of Ethiopia. A comprehensive peace agreement should be on the table. Whatever model of a peace agreement is taken (A Dayton-based model is being suggested)[7] , there is a need to adjust to complex Ethiopian conditions and consider the following vital topics.  Taking the FDRE constitution as a framework, integrated power, security, self-determination, and justice could be tabled for organized negotiations in the new Charter.

 Political, Economic, and Foreign Affairs Powers

Power configures peace, and conflict is dynamic, fluid, and complex relationships. It should be at the front and center of the framework for T.F.G. Assuming that Ethiopia will not descend into chaos after the final blow of the TDF and OLA, T.F.G. shall be formed from the possessors of the sovereignty, i.e., the nations of the Multi-National Federation. The participation of the criminal Bilzigna party leaders is out of the question at this stage, though, might have been possible to save lives.  However, banning millions of Bilzigna members from politics should not be imagined.

 Except for Amhara elites, all others seem to be satisfied by the fundamentals of the Constitution. Particular attention should be given to the legitimate concerns of the Amhara nation.  The T.G.F. is tasked with carrying "hybrid self-determination" to create an environment of peace by managing the tension between the binary either/or options of unity or secession within its term and constructing a system whereby nations will decide on their fate. Implementing the Constitution, including Article 39, may produce a solid unity or a peaceful breakaway.

It is a power-sharing government with limited but complicated authority and with the right of a minority group to veto issues that can violate their interests. It is tasked to begin a rigorous trust-building process among nations, facilitate referendums for nations who demand it, and render recognition for those who vote for independence.  A general election with parity of representations for all or those who remain in the federation is also within its authority. The coalition government may agree upon all security issues, including how the Federal Defense and Security Forces are organized, understanding that regional states will hand their internal security. Its term could range from 3-5 years.

Economic stabilization is one of the missions of the T.F.G. It is expected to inherit a devastated economy with empty coffers.  Moreover, solving the humanitarian crises and the recovery and rehabilitation of war-devastated areas are also daunting tasks that would be achieved mainly with the international community's support. A commission may be organized to investigate the destructions and devise appropriate implementation plans.  In case of a referendum and the quest for independence, the transitional Government should arrange for just partitioning resources.

Altering the "bravado" and anti- Ethiopia foreign policy should be the task to be shouldered by the Government of transition. Regional states should have exceptional and parallel relationships with neighboring states based on trans-border conflict dimensions. Tigray and Afar with Eritrea, Amhara, Benshangul Gumuz, and Tigray with Sudan, etc., to name some sensitive interactions. If a member of the Federation votes in a referendum and ascribes to independence, the Government has to facilitate the exit.

  Self- determination

As enshrined in the Constitution, the fundamental aspect of self-determination is not for compromise. That right cannot be implemented without appropriate territories. According to the supreme law, boundaries were organized according to the people living in that area as the home of that community.  The issue of constitutional amendment, especially the attempt to change regional boundaries by force and illegal means, is a dangerous precedent that may lead to uncontrolled violence and expedite the threatening state collapse.

Self-determination should be interpreted based on the essence of the Constitution, which is consensus.  The multinational federation has deliberately blurred sovereignty as is known in the Westphalia concept when it declared:

"1. All sovereign power resides in the Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples of Ethiopia.
 2. This Constitution is an expression of their sovereignty." (Article 8)

It is in line with the emergence of a "new law of hybrid self-determination." When the state's legitimacy is in question, the binary either/or options of unity or secession should be resolved as a required space of conflict management. As such, self-rule and the shared rule should be fully adjusted so all nations can decide their fate without significant obstacles.


The transition from war to peace is a process accompanied by much uncertainty and vulnerability. It is susceptible when negotiation begins after the genocide, fundamentally different from collateral damages during a civil war. The security of the people could be guaranteed if a friendly federal government is instituted escorted by international assurance with credible monitoring functions.

The notion of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (D.D.R.) or joint command after civil wars are out of the question in these circumstances, at least until the end of T.F.G., an elected government is instituted, and plausible trust is built. Dissolution of TDF, OLA, Amhara special forces, other regional forces, etc., is a no-touch endeavor. However, this disposition could be a source of instability and an uncontrolled civil war.   

 5. Justice

"Justice, peace, and democracy are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually reinforcing imperatives" Kofi Annan

Peace agreements that don't address human rights abuses are doomed to failure in due course because such kinds of accord lack internal and external legitimacy. Appropriate provisions of human rights cement the integrity of the process. Genocide burdens accountability.  Justice is not about the guilt of leaders and other suspected criminals only; it is also about compensating the victims and creating an environment of repetency of those societies that directly or indirectly supported the war. Usually, international human rights institutions and mediators push the call to address human rights abuses in agreements. In our case, it is home-grown and in light of the constitutional order that needs the international community's support.

The transitional Government should organize independent human rights, peace and reconciliation, recovery and rehabilitation commissions, and an impartial judicial system to warrant justice. First, the Government needs to release all political prisoners and those languishing in concentration camps because of their nationality.  There is a need to coordinate with the International Court of Justice to hand over suspected criminal leaders and organize tribunals. 


 Ethiopia was at crossroads even during the high days of the aborted Republic. At this moment, it has become a danger to itself and a troublemaker to the region. Can it continue as a country? No one can be sure. The federal authority is too weak to hold the glue. All regional states are armed to their teeth. Animosity among peoples at an imaginable level. The ruling party has rejected ceasefire and negotiated settlement and is making itself irreverent but a hindrance.


The TDF-OLF coalition that may control the capital, Addis Abeba, might encounter a legitimacy deficit. Though very difficult, there is a possibility of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement with the international community's help. Nevertheless, even if the ceasefire holds for some time, there is no guarantee unless there is some kind of agreement about transitional governance.


This paper argues that the main competitors are the nations of Ethiopia based on their interests and values on the federal and regional levels. Pan-Ethiopian versus Multinational dichotomy is important but secondary. The transitional government should be transformative and not regressive if it is to be worthy. For that reason, devolution of power may be a virtuous incentive for the holders of sovereignty to stay in the federation. It should aim at unity with the consent of the nations only, to avoid chaos and warlord-type devastation between nations. Political, economic, foreign affairs powers, self-determination, security, and justice should reflect the new reality.        


[1] Lederach, John (2003) The Little Book of Conflict Transformation, Good Books, New York

[2] The Arada elites reside in Addis Abeba, are the richest few in the country, that have amassed their wealth mainly through usurpation, control bureaucracy, media, banks, import-export and other businesses, artistic talents, etc.

[3] Chua, Amy (2018) Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations,

[4] My own assertions

[5] Stiglitz, E. Joseph, The Price of Inequality: How today’s Divided Society Endangers our future, W.W Norton & Company, New York

[6] Kaplan, Seth (2009) Identity in Fragile States: Social Cohesion and State Building, Development, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 466-472



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