Nationalities day: A Covenant Renewal Occasion
(Teferi Haile 12-11-14)
9th Ethiopian Nation Nationalities and Peoples Day was colorfully celebrated on
December 8 in Assosa city of the Benishangul Gumuz Region. The relevance of
celebrating the day in Benishangul is that while the Regional State is a
fertile and promising section of the country, the people of this region have
for long been victims of widespread national oppression.
related to low-level people-to-people contact the people have struggled hard
and paid a lot of sacrifices to maintain their Ethiopian identity. On the
other hand, because the previous rulers used to look at the region as less
worthy, and because of the interference of outside forces, the people were
forced to look away.
last twenty years have created better and conducive situations for the
people to develop full confidence in their Ethiopian identity. In this
context, celebrating the day in the region eliminates any remaining obstacles.
it improves the attitude of the people. There are those who think of
the region suspiciously. The event was an excellent opportunity to show these
people that the region is indeed a source of unity, peace and development.
These shows that celebrating the day in this region is indeed of great
The Significance of the day
ask why is it important to celebrate the day? We need to allude into three pillars in
connection to this.
we need to look into the constitution. For thousands of years Ethiopia’s growth
was downwards. The country was once at the summit of civilization, as is
repeatedly said. So why did it fall behind? The major concern and talking point
20 years ago was to see if Ethiopia would disintegrate like Somalia or
Yugoslavia, or whether it would continue to survive as a nation.
need to remember the conditions of those times. Nearly a million soldiers armed
by the crumbling government were spread across the country. There were 18 armed
political organizations operating in the country. It was also common knowledge
at the time that all countries that had found themselves in similar situations
did indeed disintegrate. People in Yugoslavia and our neighbor Somalia, having
the same religion and color, were engaged in ethnic wars.
contrast, with the so many nations and nationalities, and coming out of a long
and protracted war, how did we manage to rise up? We need to carefully look
into the secret.
we consider this, the first thing that comes to mind is the constitution.
The preamble of the constitution says:
“we, the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia
are…strongly committed in full and free exercise of our right to
self-determination, to building a political community founded on the rule of
law and capable of ensuring lasting peace…”
is a covenant. Therefore, the constitution is a document that has effectively
reversed the downward movement, the civil war, and the dangers of disintegration.
are celebrating the day in honor of this document. It is a document that
opened the door to a bright future so that we are unified again and start
making new history. This is not a time to simply sing and dance. It is rather a
time to remember the constitution and renew our pledge to protect it. It is a
time to create such knowledge and awareness. Therefore, its political relevance
this document will have life when it is translated in relation to
politics, economy and human rights, and is implemented by institutions. It will
have life when lives of our people change. Therefore, since it is the source
of development, peace and unity, its political relevance is crucial.
when the top leadership, the youth, women, and other members of the society as
whole think of the constitution, they need to remember that it is this document
that has created the stability we are currently enjoying, and it is because of
it that we can aspire for development; we can work and grow; we can travel
peacefully; we are projected from all kinds of attack ; we can stand in union,
and so much more.
are some who think the occasion is just for singing and dancing, which is
wrong. The reason our defense forces do not attack the people, but rather
protect their safety and never violate their human rights is because they were
established in line with the constitution. During distribution of wealth, those
in power do not waste resources, and work fairly because of the constitution. It
is the constitution that tells us that, when problems are created, we have to
teach people and not to use force.
belongs to the people. If we believe people are the source of power, the
constitution says, the people should be educated. People have the right to get
education using the country’s resources, and the government has the obligation
to ensure this. It is the constitution that says no mother shall die because of
preventable problems. Every mother at every corner of the country has the right
to enjoy this and save her life. This occasions makes us think of all this.
know a few people used to embezzle the country’s wealth. There used to be
governments that forced citizens to get involved in wars they never believed
in. This was done using the country’s resources. The current constitution does
not allow this. It is a constitution that clearly states that people are the
source of power, and they have the right to deliberate on every issue that
concerns them and make decisions. If this fails to materialize, then the
government becomes lifeless. Therefore, when we think of this day, we think of
the time when fundamental changes in philosophy came into being in the country.
The Constitutional Principles
of development and the challenges
of the principles of our constitution is equitable development and equal
opportunities. The second one is making regions of our country enjoy their fair
share from the wealth generated in the country. These two principles have
effectively granted rights which were for long denied of our people.
need to know that regions also have great potentials to develop. When we say
giving equal opportunity, we are talking about creating conducive conditions
for regions to fully utilize their potential and resources within the limits
of their mandate as self-governing entities.
in our country are self-governing ones. Conditions are also favorable for them
to equally participate, with all their capacity, in development and building a
democratic system. Nobody interferes in this. This enables them to enjoy the
first principle of equal rights.
elaborated by H.E. Kassa Teklebrhan, Speaker of the House of Federation:
The Constitution sets up a federal system granting all
ethnic groups the right to self-determination. Regional governments decide on
the matters concerning their territory and people whom they are representing.
All regions have democratically elected parliaments and
governments being accountable to the parliaments and therefore the people. The
decentralization down to district (woreda) level further strengthened this
Today, development programs are locally decided and make
citizens not only to beneficiaries of services, infrastructure and improved
living conditions, but also to decision-makers. The citizens actively
participate through local councils and again in the implementation process.
Almost half of the adult population is represented in the
locally established councils which are elected in free and fair elections for
five-year terms. This high level of ownership is manifested in high
satisfaction levels regarding services.
because of various historical factors, our regions are not on the same footing.
While all are given the full constitutional right to develop, there are visible
differences in their executive capacity to fully utilize their potentials.
the second opportunity for development can be strengthened as the federal
government, with its central leadership role, supports them in various ways in
building their capacities.
constitution states that the federal government supports regions that, for
historical reasons, suffer from lack of executive capacity. There are also
efforts underway that are aimed at ensuring equitable and fair growth in all
we implement this, all regions will get the opportunity to grow equally.
However, regions that do not have the capacity to grow like others receive
support from the federal government. This, is due course, will create the condition
for all to grow equally.
principle avoids the unfair situation in which some regions develop while
others watch on, which, in turn, affects the peace and speedy development in
the country. This will have great contribution for our nations and
nationalities to be beneficiaries.
this point, it has been noted that:
Equity and benefitting the society as a whole is another
important principle, the Ethiopian Government is following in its endeavors to
develop and stabilize the country. This means that the strategies and policies
are designed with the people and for the people. It is taken care for that all
infrastructure improvement and social service improvement is carried out
throughout the country ensuring the constitutionally granted right of all
people to have access to the same services.
Fiscal transfers from the federal to the regional level are
equalizing imbalances, giving special attention to the emerging regions which
had been neglected and disadvantaged by previous regimes. The special attention
given to the emerging regions demonstrates again the solidarity which is one of
the important pillars of the Constitution and the strategies of the government.
does not mean there are no challenges.
one hand, there are challenges in some regions related to execution capacity.
This area is being addressed with the help of the federal government, but the
same should also be done by the regions themselves. There are multifaceted
problems of attitude hindering the utilization of full potentials for growth.
This includes corruption and backward attitudes. Although this is somehow
improving, a lot remains to be done to completely eradicate these. In
particular, effective solutions are needed to address negative attitudes and
action driven by the intention to incite violence and conflicts between regions
that needed support.
are obstacles on the way of development and good governance. When these are
dealt with, it will greatly contribute to the sharing what is available
equitably, and, in due course, allows people to benefit from the development.
These principles are really the right ones. They have been implemented and have
shown tangible results, and must continue.
The Constitution remedied
clearly stated in our constitution, as well as the policies and strategies that
followed it, our vulnerability for risk mainly comes from issues that endanger
our security from the inside.
we look back at the long history of our country and the path previous regimes
followed, we can see that they used to think that dangers treating our country
would mainly come from outside, and the country was somehow surrounded by
enemies. But the main factor behind our vulnerability for risks was the
deep-rooted and worsening level of poverty, which was really hurting the
we consider how the once glorious country came so close to disintegration, we
can easily understand that our vulnerability to risk does not come from
outside. As there was no other alternative to address the problem of poverty,
many tried to remove the governments to pave way for newer and better systems.
is what our history shows. Our country, which was once glorious, started to
decline because of the lack of a system that could accommodate diversity,
nations and nationalities, religions and other social differences. People had
serious grudges because of the violation of rights, including democratic
rights, equality rights, nations and nationalities rights and religions rights.
Not only grudges they understood the consequences of this were grave, so they
opted to resort to armed resistance.
we consider such facts, we can easily see that the main cause of our
vulnerability lies within us, not an invading foreign force. When the new
federal democratic system was first installed, the question of what the basis
for our survival was examined rigorously. It was then believed that the risk
for our country was poverty and backwardness as well as the lack of democracy,
and the need for a condition that could address these issues was accepted as a
the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples are found at their climax
level in fighting against their common enemy – poverty - and thereby to
consolidate their development endeavors through putting their Growth and
Transformation Plan in place. The voice of every Ethiopian in contributing
every possible due to make the Grand Renaissance Dam, which is located at the
Benishangul Gumuz region, real is one of the most remarkable signs of our
unity. Thus, our Federalism has become our common factor to ensure our common interest
that we dreamed of it for ages.
Ethiopia has become a nation where rapid and sustainable development has been
realized even at the time of global economic and financial crises. The secret
of its success springs from its home grown policies and strategies which in
turn are the results of objective demands of the Ethiopian Nations,
Nationalities and Peoples. And the real demands of these nations, nationalities
and peoples’ goes hand-in-hand with the Ethiopian Federal system of governance
enshrined in the constitution.
our constitution, which springs from the free will and full consent of all
Ethiopians, has been ensuring rapid and sustainable development for the last eleven
consecutive years. And the Nation has been entering to remarkable development
shell through joint efforts of all Ethiopians. As a result, Ethiopia has been
associated with rapid and sustainable development along with ample investment
opportunities in the contemporary globe. This is the new reality of Ethiopia today
which everybody may easily understand it without digging more.
Ethiopia as a role model
Economic development depends on a variety of factors
but we can conclude that there are a number of lessons that can be learnt from Ethiopia’s
success. As highlighted by Kassa Teklebirhan in the paper, titled: "Strategies
for Successfully Developing Economies – Lessons from Ethiopia".
First of all, the Ethiopian government immediately
started to correct injustices, committed by previous regimes after coming into
power in 1991. The government immediately adopted the right to
self-determination of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities in order to enable
them to take their destiny into their own hands while providing assistance and
support in terms of fiscal equalization, infrastructure and service development
as well as capacity building.
The federal democratic constitution provides the
framework for equitable development which has been consequently implemented and
pursued by the government. Equitable development might be one of those success
factors to be exported into other developing economies. Equity provides the
basis for a peaceful co-existence of diverse societies because it prevents
injustices and neglecting some parts of the society. Equity along with the
principles of good governance again provides the necessary requirement to
obtain peace and political stability, two factors very much needed for
Another lesson might be the focus on the needs
of the society and the resulting insistence of only applying and implementing
such strategies fitting the context and the needs while neglecting and
rejecting non-fitting ideas. This might involve some less pleasant encounters
with international partners, but in the end governments are accountable to their
people and not to international organizations. The objective is development,
peace and stability not the testing of ideas.
The third feature which might be applicable in
any other country is commitment and integrity of the leadership. The Ethiopian
leadership is highly committed to peace, democracy and development. The leaders
are sacrificing their lives for the improvement of the country and not the
other way round as it can be seen in some other countries. This type of
leadership could be exercised in other countries as well.
Last but not least, Ethiopia’s success is
founded on the insight of the leadership that the people constitute the major
resource of the country. This means that people have to be enabled to be
active, prepared to change their mindset towards development and that the
rights of people have not only to be respected and protected but that all
policies have to benefit the majority of the people and not only small elite
while still being a poor country, has gone a long way during the past twenty
years. Being aware that there remains a lot to be done, the country can be
proud of what has been achieved already. The confidence in Ethiopia as a safe
place for both, domestic and foreign investment has risen significantly resulting
in increasing investments which will again spur economic development.
shall not lose sight of the fact that generations come and go, but the country
continues to live, so these celebrations should be an occasion for renewing own
covenant. We need to take it seriously and honor it for political, economic and
peaceful agenda that it is.
we all came to this world with the identity we were given by chance, it should
not be something to be ashamed of. This education should be given to the youth,
especially at educational institutions. The same should be done at religious
and governmental institutions. If we do this, the renaissance journey that we
have started will have a great chance to continue.