Most people have formulated their own perspectives pertaining the mounting problems in Ethiopia. The political and social repercussions of post-Hachaallu assassination are clear to all. Perhaps, one factor many tend to overlook is the economic impact of the internet shutdowns. When Ethiopia shut down the internet for 30 days back in 2016, Brooking estimated that Ethiopia lost $8,539,355 in GDP. Whenever a dictator feels like shutting down the internet for one day, he is costing the people $284,645.16. Derg 2.0 shut down the internet over the last 15 days- costing the country a whopping $4,269,677.50. This amount is worth more than four Nobel Peace prizes.
Still, most people talk about the accumulating problems in Ethiopia. Reporters continue to expose the ongoing death toll, property damage, and extrajudicial assaults against civilians. But comprehending the cumulative problems can only take us half-way. The most important factor is the solution. What is to be done? Or, how should the country proceed? The Medemer hodgepodge failed to bring solutions. Medemer failed to go viral. But how does something become viral?
Epidemiologists tell us a disease outbreaks (becomes epidemic) when it meets three conditions. First, there must be a sufficiently infectious pathogen. The Abiy mania (or, medemer), is no longer infecting people. Second, there must be plenty of interaction between different people. We see people interact. But even the PM’s ardent supporters hardly mention medemer. Third, enough of the population must be susceptible to the pathogen. People are no longer fooled by the regular sermons the PM and his cronies give. It has been a while since PP fans started providing support because they deem PP as the lesser evil. When one asks them why they support the PM, they say “We’d rather have him than Jawar, OLF, or the TPLF”. PP supporters know this is a lesser, nonetheless, evil.
Again, epidemiologists would tell us the Ethiopian people have developed “herd immunity” to medemer pathogen. They would reach this conclusion by applying the SIR model, i.e., calculating the Susceptible, Infectious, and Recovered people. A pathogen becomes a major endemic if the number of susceptible people exceeds the recovered people. Most Ethiopians were susceptible to his sermons when the PM took power back in 2018. Today, the number of Ethiopians susceptible to the PP propaganda has dwindled. Most Ethiopians have recovered (woken up) from the PP propaganda. That leaves a small number of PP cadres in the middle still willing to spread the Derg 2.0 propaganda. This minority will perish from the PP pathogen just like the plasmodium carrying mosquito which dies before biting another human target. The protest in Oromia, the resistance in Tigrai, the demand in the Southern Nations, and many others prove that Ethiopians have developed herd immunity to the PP.
At last, the overwhelming majority of Ethiopans have acknowledged the impact of the PP pathogen on the political, economic, and social well-being of the country. But understanding the PP problem can only take us half-way. The most important factor is the solution. What is to be done? Or, how should Ethiopia proceed? The solutions camp is divided between the Walleligne and the empire camp.
The empire camp is the most archaic group whose solution can be traced to Ethiopia’s first written constitution. The July 16, 1931 Constitution defines Ethiopia as an assimilated entity serving one Emperor. Let us take Art. 1 and Art. 6 of this antediluvian constitution.
The Ethiopian Empire and the Succession to the Throne Art. 1. The territory of Ethiopia, in its entirety, is, from one end to the other, subject to the government of His Majesty the Emperor. All the natives of Ethiopia, subjects of the empire, form together the Ethiopian Empire.
Art. 6. In the Ethiopian Empire supreme power rests in the hands of the Emperor. He ensures the exercise thereof in conformity with the established law.
The above articles define the Ethiopian polity as an assimilated entity subjected to the whim on one single emperor. The 7th emperor under Derg 2.0 (2018-present) represents this camp.
The Walleligne camp is the self-determination camp. Wallegligne wrote an essay back in 1969 to rebut the empire camp. Walleligne called the empire solution a fake nationalism mocking the diverse reality of the country. The present constitution, drafted in 1994, derives inspiration from Walleligne’s pioneer essay on self-determination. The national liberation movements which sprouted in the 1970s are inspired by Walleligne’s groundbreaking essay. Walleligne cornered the empire camp as follows:
What are the Ethiopian people composed of? I stress on the word peoples because sociologically speaking at this stage Ethiopia is not really one nation. It is made up of a dozen nationalities with their own languages, ways of dressing, history, social organization, and territorial entity.
…it is not only the right but the duty of the most conscious nationality to first liberate itself and then assist others in the struggle for total liberation. Is that not true of Korea? We do support this movement, don't we? Then, what is this talk of tribalism, secessionism, etc.....?
Walleligne scolded proponents of the empire camp calling advocates of self-determination tribalists, secessionists, etc. by telling them they have no moral ground to support struggles for freedom worldwide.
It must be clear that the empire and the self- determination options are mutually exclusive. They cannot be reconciled just like acid and base of the chemical world. So, the question is this: should Ethiopians opt for the 90-year-old imperialistic-assimilationist model, or its revolutionary alternative that Walleligne penned 50 years ago? It is high time for Ethiopians to chose between the two solutions. The challenge is to facilitate the mode through which these options might be entertained. The most efficient way forward, in my opinion, is to let Ethiopians stage a referendum. A region whose majority of constituency chooses either one of the two models gets to establish its own polity. Anyone who dislikes that model could move to the alternative model.
Ethiopians infatuated with the “Ethiopia-tikdem” model could opt for the empire model. These Ethiopians could form their own sovereign polity. These people may call their polity united Ethiopia or any nomenclature they fancy. Similarly, Ethiopians who prefer self-determination could opt for self-determination. These Ethiopians could decide either to establish their own polity or gather under a confederation. They may call their polity Ethiopian confederacy or something along those line.These two polities could coexist by adhering to the principles of non-interference and sovereignty. The two Ethiopian polities should refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs. They also get to respect the principles of sovereignty where all relations take the form of official diplomatic relations.
Ethiopians have developed herd immunity to Derg 2.0’s medemer pathogen. They have witnessed enough problems. Now, they need to contemplate the most efficient solution going forward, short of bloodletting. Ethiopian’s have grappled with two mutually exclusive alternatives: assimilation vs. self-determination. A referendum enables regions whose majority constituency opts for assimilation to form their own polity. A referendum also bestows regions who prefer self-determination to establish their own order. Anything short of referendum will oblige people to choose with their foot against a dictator who costs the economy $284,645.16/day by shutting down the internet.
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