Revisiting Ethiopian Federal Constitution

Preceding two governments had given constitution that they thought would solve political problems of their times. Only constitution of 1994 tried to tackle fundamental problem of the empire. The national question was what was shaking the empire mostly starting the 1960s. Whatever the content may be, worth of a constitution is known only on implementation. It requires politically conscious peoples, law abiding, honest and selfless leadership to worth more than the paper it is written on. It was lack of selfless and honest leadership that forced Oromo youth to take up arms against the federation. The preamble to Ethiopian federal constitution of 1994 begins by saying:

“We the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia: Strongly committed, in full and free exercise of our right to self-determination, – – -. Had it been promulgated as said the outcome could have been different. Those concerned had never been asked their will. For some it was the time of jubilation and for others time of tension. Some that questioned it were either suppressed or banished. No significant voice challenged the givers after that. The Transitional Charter of July 1991, that preceded it laid down that a Constituent Assembly will be formed from the people to draft a constitution and present it to peoples’ referendum. However, the alfa partner, TPLF/EPRDF drove out all partners, drafted the constitution with handpicked assembly, and proclaimed it itself. That was early indication of a failed revolution. TPLF wanted to govern like its predecessors not like ideals of youth that formed it. TPLF’s control looks likes Darg at the beginning where it used to assign soldier representative of the Darg besides officially appointed civilians. There were Tigrean cadres for every state president. Its Ethiopia, in name and structure was federal but in practice and function it was not far off from unitary and colonial.

However, in the making of the constitution several local and international experts have participated. They have studied ample federal models but there is no precedence for this type. Many overlooked the colonial history of the Ethiopian empire and tried to follow models of democratic countries they studied. Unless that relation is taken into consideration, assuming that all beneficiaries are Ethiopians cannot solve problem of the region. For many if there be a future union even the name Ethiopia is subject to reaffirmation. As to the fiction of three thousand years there is no institution in Abyssinia that old. The oldest existing institution may be seventeen hundred years. For public consumption the constitution seems implicitly to have taken the colonial information into consideration and has tried to address the national questions. In principle the right of nations to national self-determination was recognized in article 39, though obstacles were place for practicing it. It needs more boldness to admit Ethiopian political history in which facts and fictions are mixed up. “Wax and Gold” has no relevance here. Lies and distortion of facts played major parts and are continuing to this day. For example, in Ethiopia the people are told that Alexander the great was super human and his winged horse can pierce mountains. They now also tell Tawahido church is 3000 years. If they lie ones, it is difficult to believe all they say.

TPLF/EPRDF the confused left, was not politically mature enough to handle the change properly. For this reason, it continues the lying tactics. Its advisors did not trust the other political organizations and some even encouraged in purging them and forming a one-party system. They wanted to experiment with TPLF/EPRDF not so much on implementation of the constitution as much as they did on their national

interest, in particular “free market” practice. Though they thought getting a good student in their leader, deep believe his followers against capitalism cannot washed away overnight. After him leadership went bizarre. PM Abiy may be their man but he failed to handle contradictions within the empire. The only solution is solving the colonial question. And that is through peaceful negotiation, if that fails resorting to arms alone is inevitable.

TPLF springs from autocratic political tradition. Revolutionary principles it tried to adopt could not overcome the decadent tradition. That is why the talk did not go with the walk-in understanding democratic process. Nafxanyaa colonial system leaders that call themself “Amaaraa” totally rejected empowering nations, nationalities, and peoples. They understand that it will destroy not only their exclusive interest but also them as a group. Amaaraa that supported the new constitution were despised as gluttonous (Hodaam Amaaraa) Amaaraa by party of the nafxanyaa who had been out of their country for a hundred years. They are pointing to individuals while the whole group left peoples they originated from in poverty and darkness, while enjoying colonial loot alone for hundred years. Though impoverished those left at home, have got psychological boost feeling superiors to the colonized. That did not save them when piled up grievances resulted in their fall and a new constitution. The constitution prophesied a federal system and the right of national self-determination among others. It was to help the empire in Luling down rebellious colonies. But it was not appreciated by stubborn nafxanyaa system hopefuls. They focused on age old grudge they have with Tigaaruu not continuation of their common polity.

Had the constitution been drafted by elected Constituent Assembly and approved by referendum of each nation, nationalities, and peoples its preamble could have been almost perfect. After departure of Wayyaanee many political organizations joined what they assumed to be force of change, taking Article 39 as guarantee and taking for granted the constitution will thrive. The way Oromo nationalists understand federalism is a voluntary union of willing nations, nationalities, and peoples according to laws, rules and regulations declared by elected Representative Assembly from which one can walk out when one feels it necessary. Colonialism and one man, nation, or group dominance will henceforth become history. Sovereignty of each member of the union is to be recognized. It is from this sovereignty that federal power emanates not vis versa. Its powers and duties are to be defined by the union. Mostly things that cannot fairly and neutrally done by the states is assigned to it. Call that Federation or Confederation that seems the best to cool down the present situation. The empire has been practicing unitary system of oligarchic rule devoid of democracy. That is their problem in adjusting to the change. It is an empire formed by colonizing several independent peoples. Each of them had their own territory, independent existence and are not ethnic/gosa (tribal) groups within Abyssinian kingdom. Therefore, it is erroneous to call it ethnic federation rather than union of equals and the free. The colonizer considers nations, nationalities, and peoples not to be equals to it but created to serve it. That it is not it is going to learn the hard way.

From its formation it is difficult to classify Amaaraa as ethnic or tribal group. It is a group of gangisters that developed into a feudal ruling class. It considers itself the only nation with several tribes and ethnic groups under it. It does not recognize all others had independent existence. It is because of this attitude of the colonizer that chaotic situation exists in the region. Structure of the empire it created is not yet

dismantled. It is accustomed to rulers that are willing to abandon their background and take personality the Amaaraa nafxanyaa define for them. Because rulers this time are those that did not hide from which people they came, they are losing acceptance from it. When Oromo say, it is Habashaa government, it calls it Oromo government. Though few people among them are Oromo system they serve was established by Habashaa. They in total consider them as aliens and Oromo. Oromo for their elites is an invader not Ethiopian, though when it comes to accountability, they claim to have built the empire together. Some opportunist and naïve Oromo are seen taking pride in this. They want to deny their participation was as totally assimilated individuals and to mention their origin was a taboo; as slaves, askaris and forced labor. Oromo had never had a union with Habashaa voluntarily as a nation. All Amaaraa elites’ hullaballoo is about justifying their continuance to have upper hand in governance of the empire as before. All feudal class like them has phased out and it is time for them too to diminish. With demise of their system people of the region will have a union as African siblings, setting a way for genuine union of all Africa. All that will start with confederation of equals; nations, nationalities, and peoples under the dying Ethiopian empire. Oromiyaan haa jiraattu!

Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!

Ibsaa Guutama

June 2023