Mehretab Assefa 09/07/09
Little Knowledge is dangerous. Little knowledge with evil design is deadly. The self appointed experts of the so-called International Crisis Group who are “working to prevent conflict worldwide” are predicting catastrophic eruption in Ethiopia. In Ethnic Federalism and Its Discontents the pseudo intellectuals are forecasting what is going to take place in the coming election unless the government is willing to drink their magic concoction. Their intuition is based on the fact that the EPDRF “has radically reformed Ethiopia’s political system. The regime transformed the hitherto centralized state into the Federal Democratic Republic and also redefined citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds.”
Ethnic Federalism and Its Discontents when cleared from the Perplexity of its abounding Verbiage lies open to this easy Answer. The whole world knows that the political system is radically reformed. The transformation is neither inexplicable nor heretical. Its foundation is neither nebulous nor is its propagation unknown. It is the outcome of a long-drawn-out armed struggle against “the hitherto centralized state” of the imperial order in general and the military rule of the Derg in particular. Accordingly, the defeat of the old order necessarily transpires in the redefinition of citizenship, politics and identity. And ethnic based identity is an ascending phenomenon throughout the world therefore not a specifically Ethiopian issue. Whether you call it multiculturalism, diversity, or cultural constellation it is nothing but ethnicity. What makes the Ethiopian case different, to the point of enraging the self proclaimed high priests of International Crisis Group denomination, is the fact that Ethiopia has taken the initiative in tacking a global phenomenon to its specific condition.
If the thinkers in the Group are employing a universal blueprint in their analysis, then the Federal System in Nigeria not to mention that of Switzerland is Ethnic based. If on the other hand they prediction is based on the particular situation in Ethiopia. I am afraid to say that their knowledge about Ethiopia is trivial compelling them to spew such idiocy. The example they gave regarding the Somali-Oromo conflict is specious to say the least. There is nothing inherent in Ethnic groups that compel them to resort to violence. As the authors pointed out its competition over resources that push all types of social groups not only ethnic ones to engage in conflicts. Inter or intra Ethnic conflicts are the order of things in the present world. In Africa the two “democratic states” of Kenya and South Africa are not only susceptible they are actually powder kegs ready to explode. While the former exhibited a dress rehearsal in the last election whereby over a thousand people died, the latter is struggling to free itself from the Apartheid era institutions by engaging in all sorts of social carnage.
Of course social problems such in Kenya and South Africa do not attract the analytical attention of the International Crisis Group because the real culprits that foment the social discords are the “Ethnic free” whites. As long as the latter maintain their privileged status the analysts are oblivious to what is taking place right under their nose. If there is a case in point where the situation is reaching a critical point it is Kenya not Ethiopia. At least in Ethiopia a bunch of Africans are taking the initiative to forge a relatively peaceful path to an uncertain world order. When push comes to shove, the peoples in Ethiopia are the only ones left to set things straight.
The first thing that the so-called thinkers have to know is that Ethiopia and its peoples have the right to define themselves just as Europeans are creating a common currency and policy against migrants from Africa. They have to stop imagining Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular as perpetual late-arrivals to modern conditions always looking for Western guidance.
The newborn image of Africa is obtained by the man-child yardstick. As far the crisis group is concerned not only Ethiopia has to accept their idiotic wisdom, but also to pay the price in case their poisonous potion wrecks havoc. To that end, they are not different from their historical forebears of the 19th century Mission of Civilization, the White Man’s Burden; 20th century Development, Modernization, Dependency; and 21st century Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law and Transparency.
In conclusion, whenever a Western interest group hallucinates and sees a blazing fire where there is no smoke, I believe that part of Africa is on the right path. Accordingly, when the International Crisis Group witnesses peace, progress, and hopeful future in Ethiopia without the canonical episteme and economic blueprint stemming from the West it becomes enraged and relapses into a state of hallucination confusing its fantasies into facts.