Ethnic Federalism

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The analysis part will be divided into two main sections. The first part will focus on Institutionalization of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia by first assessing the factors that led to its institutionalization, how its adaptation proliferated in terms of the ethno-nationalist Vs Nationalism nexus, power decentralization and its urban manifestation (focused on Addis Ababa). The second part will analyze, the adaptation of the developmental state ideology within the ethnic-federal state of Ethiopia. The focus of analysis will also be on the issues of nationalism, divisions of power between the state and the regions and the urban manifestation of the ideology with regards to Addis Ababa the integrated development plan. This part will also draw on the analysis of ethnic federalism so as to capture the realities of introducing a developmental state ideology within an Ethnic-federal state.

The Pre-Federalism Era

This section covers the historical background that led to the establishment of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia. The nations and nationalities question that was prominent in the 1960s and 1970’s downfall of the imperial period (1974) and the military regime (1991) are shaped by the history of the Ethiopian state formation of the 19th century and wars of incorporation (Gudina, 2007). The history of state formation has been a source of contention with diverging views as some scholar perceive it as a reality as the assimilation (by the north and central) resulted of the periphery resulted in the ‘Ethiopian Nation State’ (Reference-Gashaw and Others). Thus, situating Ethiopia as a state with three millennia of statehood (Zewde, 2002). Contrary to that, the view by ethno-nationalist group characterize it as the colonization of the south undertaken by Abyssinia (the north and central Ethiopia) with the urge of building an empire state (REFerence-on Habtu). expansion to the peripheries entailed a spread of the northern system of peasant-lord relationships to the newly incorporated areas.. In some areas, primarily in the lowlands, the Emperor expropriated land and the peasants who previously owned soil there had to buy it back from the state (Donham and James, 1988:38-39). The introduction of these systems supports the colonial paradigm’s thesis that the Abyssinian expansion included exploitation and subjugation of southern peoples. The arrival of the Abyssinians led to violent conflicts in many areas and the newcomers applied brutal methods to pacify those who showed resistance (Marcus 1995: 67). (Aalen, 2002) Emperor Menelik II is considered to be the architect of modern day Ethiopia in terms of geography and ethnic and language composition as a massive portion of the nation’s landmass (the south) was annexed during his reign as he had a stronger military power to win over resistance (Vaughan, 2003).

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The two outcomes of this process are; one with the inclusion of the south by the Amharic speaking Christians, the created a system with ethnic divisions that could spur conflicting dynamics. And secondly, with power moving southwards, a new economic interest was exhibited (Vaughan, 2003) and the new capital Addis Ababa was established by Menelik II (International Crisis Group, 2009; Affairs, 2014). * A more nuanced view would be a historically evolved empire state (Levine, 1974) that geographically expanded by incorporating adjoining constituents through conquest to secure economic and political interests, sharing similar to how most states were formed worldwide (Marger, 2012).

The newly formed state brought together different ethnic groups with more than 80 languages and various culture; resulting in a multi-ethnic state (REFERENCE). The state formation by the Shewan Amhara elite resulted in what can be viewed and social engineering with regards to the attempt to create ‘One Ethiopian Nation’ (Gudina, 2007) moving from geographic assimilation to a cultural one. The imposition of orthodox Christianity religion, Amharic language and ethos were evident with preachment of Ethiopian unity (REFERENCES). The perception of the united Ethiopia and what was regarded as national identity for the ruling Amhara elites was a replication of their own culture (Markakis, 1994).

Apart from cultural imposition, a feudal system of exploitation was institutionalized (Tibebu, 1995; Halabo, 2019) where the northern control continued. Annual tributes we levied on conquered communities and northern soldiers ‘Neftegna’ or local elites ‘Balabat’ assumed the responsibility of collecting and administering taxes (Aalen, 2002). Land was owned by those who held administrative power reducing the role of indigenous people to ‘Serfs’ adding to the ethnic and religious rifts (Clapham, 2019). This centralized system continued after Menelik’s death through his successors, most evidently by Haileselassie I (1930-1974) (REFERENCE). The feudal system’s political control of indigenous people, established political and military control points proliferated in the south coupled with assignment of administrators from the north resulted in ethnic domination of the south (Tibebu, 1995). 


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