Ethiopia at the crossroad of Ethnic Challenges
The current crisis in Ethiopia is reflective of unfinished business. That unfinished business is the country's national question and the illusive democratization that has been Ethiopia's impassible problems for the last half a century.
Small reforms at the top, which the Addis government is designing as a band-aid, could only be as good as a temporary fix. Here is a list of some of the salient issues one needs to take into account when analyzing the critical problems Ethiopia has to tackle.
The government in Addis Ababa, which was baptized by the Tigrian Liberation Front (TPLF) in the hands of the late Males Zenawi, has walked back on its promise to establish a genuine federal system and address some old-aged national oppression.
Current Ethiopia looks nothing like the political structure envisioned in the current constitution of that country - that is a federal system where power is equitably shared by nine ethnically based states.
As if that was not enough, the leadership at the top of the EPRDF, which came to power as one of the most revolutionary groups in Africa, has quickly turned into a conglomerate corrupt cartel and began amassing wealth.
It suffered the post-Mandela syndrome of South Africa where ANC leaders became corrupt after liberation. As a result, neither the EPRDF nor TPLF is no longer the vanguard that they had claimed to be some time ago. Things got out of hand since Meles Zenawi passed away.
As corruption weakened the legitimacy of the governing coalition, the Oromos have grown more ambivalent about historical injustice. The ensuing riots in Oromia region inadvertently revived the old Oromo debate of whether to secede from Ethiopia or not.
Many Oromos harbor the ambition of establishing an Oromia state in the Horn of Africa have. Because of such an ambition, even if the next PM is an Oromo, hard to predict, that may not entirely satisfy the historical anger Oromos harbor.
Another riddle about the crisis can be located at the doorsteps of Amhara elite. It has never been a secret that most Amhara elites are not supporters of ethnic federalism, and the Oromo-Amhara alliance, therefore, is only a temporary one.
In addition, there are some butter and bread issues that fan the current crisis. The land question tops an issue that has never been resolved in both rural and urban areas. The Oromos claim to have been rendered a multitude of landless peasants or residents of urban squatters.
The land question surfaced at the unveiling of Addis Ababa's master plan. The plan has supposedly expropriated many Oromo residents in the outskirts of Addis Ababa.
Adding insult to an injury, massive youth unemployment throughout the country is another serious culprit in the crisis. In a population where 65% is younger than 30 years old, joblessness is a recipe for disaster. This is so because the annual rate of population increase is outpacing jobs creation.
With all these issues, the government does not seem capable to arrest the crisis, mainly in Oromia. We have to yet see any real plans to convince QEERA Oromo youth to stop riots and stop killing innocent civilians or burn private properties. For sure, the re-imposition of emergency measures have not worked in the past and may not work now.
Ethiopia will not see any calm days if EPRDF continued to represent only four ethnic groups out of hundreds of nationalities.
It is this very Orwellian inequality the fans unrest. The current system of housing power in four ethnic groups to the exclusion of others creates a political inequality in a country that had historically wronged many nationalities.
Somalis are the first to advocate for change. That change, if not satisfied, could re-energize forces for a complete liberation. EPRDF should either open membership to all or wither away.
One thing seems undeniable truth, and that is EPRDF in its current form has outlived its value. From here one, it would appear to be a liability on the country.
Whether the next PM is Oromo, Amhara or from the South should not impact any group negatively. Especially, if the next PM comes from Oromia region, Somalis need to pay particular attention as to who that individual is one that supports violence against Somalis, or one committed to robbing Somalis of their rights, the Somali leadership must re-assess the situation.
Faisal Roble, a writer, a political analyst is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development, and Project Implementation.