Federation of Nation States: The only viable option for Ethiopia

Mersea Kidan
[email protected]


In a recent panel discussion held recently in Addis Ababa, one of the most prominent scholars in horn of African intergovernmental and intragovernmental relations, Professor Medhanie Taddesse, recommended loosening the federal system in Ethiopia as a way out of the predicament the country is in. He declared it as the only way to save Ethiopia as a country. I cannot agree more. As many scholars in Ethiopian politics explain, Ethiopian politics has been a field of competition between the centrifugal forces at the periphery and the centripetal forces at the center.

Since the formation of modern Ethiopia, the central forces have been trying to create a homogeneous Ethiopia along the cultural and political lines of the Amhara nation. Many prominent Amhara scholars and community leaders like Professor Mesfin Woldemariam and Professor Asrat Woldeyes have been arguing that Amhara is not an Ethnic group but rather an idea of forming an assimilated homogeneous nation called Ethiopia. Anyone who accepts the Judo Christian culture and speaks the Amharic language is Amhara regardless of the individual’s ethnicity declares one of the top proponents of this thought, Nebure’ed Ermias Kebede in his Amharic book titled “Ethiopia Ye’Alemu mefareja”. He argues that the terms “Amhara” and “Ethiopia” are synonymous and that if one is Ethiopian then he/she is Amhara.

But it is not only the Amhara elite who tried to create an assimilated homogeneous nation. There were other efforts to replace the Amhara in the domination. Notable among those are, the conquest of Ahmed Ibrahim Ebn Al Ghazi A.K.A. Giragn Ahmed to form an Islamic caliphate all over Ethiopia in the 16th century and the expansion of the Oromo in the 17th century. All these futile efforts to form a unified homogenous nation have costed a lot.

There is no need to spend words to show that the effort of the central forces to create an assimilated homogeneous Ethiopia has failed.  While many ethnic groups like Gafat, Yifat, Timuga and Bulga have been assimilated and swallowed under the Amhara Judo Christian culture, most of the larger ethnic groups like Oromo, Tigray, Somali, Sidama, Wolaita and so on remain intact.

In modern Ethiopia, the centrifugal forces in the periphery have been fighting for self determination of the nations they represent. Most notable among the peripheral forces are the Tigray People’s Libration Front (TPLF), Oromo Libration Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Libration Front (ONLF). These forces paid a lot of sacrifice to defend preservation of their nations against domination by the central forces. They were able to topple the unitary government in 1991 and formed a federation divided along ethnic lines (nations and nationalities). Even though the new constitution of the federation gave right to nations and nationalities the right to self-govern, the fact on the ground was that the central government led by EPRDF had a structural control over all the states. This situation rendered Ethiopia to be a dwarf empire that is neither a fully unified empire nor a federation of nation states. Neither the member nations have become self-governing states, nor the central government was able to unify all the peoples as one nation.

If Ethiopia is to survive as a country, both the central and peripheral forces need to face the reality and find a middle ground that can accommodate both the need of nations to self-govern and the need of the central forces to keep the country together. PM Abiy’s effort to appeal the central forces with rhetorical promises of unifying the country as one nation while in fact the peripheral forces are gaining momentum is a dangerous slippery slope. His promise of a unified nation is just a myth. Ethiopia as a country has passed the tipping point towards becoming federation of nation states and there is no possibility of returning to a unified homogenous nation.

The central forces need to accept this reality and prepare themselves to engage in a federation of nation states. But at the same time the peripheral forces need to face the reality that seceding from a country and forming a new country would not guarantee lasting peace and that there is little possibility of such a phenomenon in today’s international politics.

One key issue that needs to be addressed in this situation is the fate of the ethnic Ethiopians. These are citizens of the country who are not able to or do not want to identify themselves along ethnic lines (nations and nationalities). With most of the elite of the Amhara finally joining the peripheral category, the only remaining central force is the ethnic Ethiopians which include the vast majority of the population of urban central Ethiopia like Addisababa, Nazret/Adama, Diredawa and other major cities. The federation will need to device a way to accommodate the right of the ethnic Ethiopians. Specifically, Addisababa should be allowed to be the state of the Ethnic Ethiopians.

With the recent change with in EPRDF, and its fragmentation, the peripheral forces are gaining more muscle in the regions they control and the peoples’ nationalism along ethnic lines is getting stronger. At the same time the central federal government’s control over the regional states is waning. So, the only viable option is to help each nation in Ethiopia become a state and make Ethiopia a federation of nation states. That was the intent of the constitution from the get-go.

Jul 9th, 2019

Mersea Kidan

Minnesota, USA


  1. Professor Medhanie Taddesse is not a credible and serious scholar to earn the fame of prominence. As all the Tigrai elites he was never heard or known to oppose or speak against the heinous crimes the TPLF fascists and racists were committing in Ethiopia.

  2. Amara political elites to replace colonists of Africa by and large have succeeded in creating Ethiopia that speaks Amharic as a legal national language of Ethiopia whereas English, French, Portuese, Spanish and Arabic have only informal national languages status. If are Ethiopian and do not speak Amharic, Ethiopians of all ethnic groups will presume that you were born and outside Ethiopia.
    Amara also culturally dominates in food, music, books and movies. Amharic is taught in all schools and universities unlike the upcoming languages of Oromo, Tigray, Somali, etc.
    Even the present level of socio-cultural development, Amara is interchangeable with Ethiopia. It just dwarfs all other Ethnic groups due to the legal status of Amharic which made its use pervasive, fed government documents all in Amharic, Tv and radio newspapers,books, movies. EPRDF Caccelerated semitization, especially Amaranization, as prestigious,more than any Ethiopian govs beforebit. Power devolution to ethnic groups to govern themselves and nurtures their languages and cultures has not shown presumed effects because the federal gov held semitization to a high esteem and orestigious. New borns, as a result, are still being given Amara or Tigray names in Oromo, Sidama, Kambata, Gurage, etc.

  3. Mersea,

    Professor Medhanie’s thesis is, Ethiopia is in ethnic turmoil now because unlike European empires the Ethiopian empire failed to disintegrate into several nation states resulting in Tgray, Amara, Oromo, etc. etc. states fully independent from each other. To him, that is a bad thing the country has tried to fix but miserably failed. And the way forward is confederation reinforced by democracy and elections that might lead to a real federation.

    I wonder why the professor suggested confederation first and then federation while he resents that the Ethiopian empire has not disintegrated into independent states as European empires did. Maybe it’s because he knows that most of the European empires have not ended up in independent states. Some have adopted federalism (geographic or/and ethnic) while others have adopted unitary state rule. Both are working effectively even if there are still ethnic entities in all of them.

    I’m not a student of history as the professor is, but my limited research on nation-states forming process teaches me that it is bloody.

    The European empires that the professor mentioned evolved into nation states after destructive wars. The Austria – Hungary Empire which disintegrated into Austria and Hungary has led to the First World War. In brief, a Serbian ultranationalist assassinated Austrian archduke the act of which forced European empires such as Russia, France, Germany, Britain, etc. to take side with one or another and perpetrate carnage on millions of people.

    In an attempt to create a Turkish nation state, the Ottoman Empire had to carry out genocide on Armenians – forcing them to leave Turkey to Syria on foot crossing vast desert. It has also to force millions of Greeks to leave Anatolia to Greece which Greeks reciprocated by forcing millions of Turks to leave Greece.

    The Russian empire has also made similar atrocities on minorities between the two world wars. To a certain extent, the Second World War was also about race (ethnics). Example here is Holocaust.

    The massacres and ethnic cleansing that happened in the 1980s in the former Yugoslavia was also about forming nation states.

    Unlike the professor, I do not appreciate nation-state formation in Europe. In all situations, it came after bloody wars, genocides, displacement of millions from where they have lived for thousands of years.

    Is war, genocide and displacement that the professor appreciates when he talked about nation-state formation in Europe? Definitely. The concern is the Ethiopia is faced with the same old problems European empires faced before their lapse to nation-states.

    The professor’s suggestion that we should begin with confederation is a bad idea. In a world where multi-ethnic empires evolved to both federalism and unitary states, we’re not in short supply of choices. Confederation only facilitates the emergence of problems European empires failed to avoid. We don’t have to follow the same destructive path. We have to learn from the failures of others.

    Personally, I am for federalism.

  4. Luckily, I have watched it on youtube what the so called “prominent scholar” Medhani Taddesse presented, and was not impressed at all. The contrived reasons he gave to take us all in retreat into confederation can be understood only and if only one considers what TPLF’s interest is. In light of Medhani’s previous presentations and arguments , which are plenty available on YouTube, one can surly say Mr Medhani Taddesse is a TPLF cadre par excellence with a professorial fig leaf . The first example of his Meles’s type of Bait-and-switch argument in his presentation was his pusudo factual bold statements, which most people don’t have a time to check, thus compiled to take his word for it, then based on that false premise construct the people at the conference are left to accept his conclusion. A conference is truly conference when you have the purported presentation is on your hand ahead of time so that to see on what bases that conclusion was reached. (do you remember when meles was asked why he block Voice America and other international medias, his bold face lie was that the united states of America also blocks other countries media) like father, like son, Medhani’s jump into the moon started with his comparison of the formation of Europian states ranging from British, France and Russia nations, and that of the formation of Ethiopian nation, and his conclusion is that our national formation is in equal in par with Europeans except that ours was somehow aborted while the European one succeeded. Medhani must have thought that he is in the company of ignorance is a bliss crowed for him to boldly compare between the formation of Eruropian nation with that of Ethiopia. So his presentation’s stretched, cocky conclusion tries to hit two birds with one stone that is since breaking up Ethiopia might not be palatable to the conference participant he come up with the second best thing , winking at secession craving participant , but giving at the same time a sense of comfort and hope for those who want the unity of the country not to be intact , boldly pushed “confederation”. This “prominent Scholar” with the guise of confederation and with so much enthusiasm and fervor was advocating none other than the complete breakup of the country, Ethiopia. Here is the reason why he boldly constructing his house of card argument to convince us to go for confederation: one TPLF has some a messed industry within the past 28 years by plundering the rest of the country and by channeled resources by borrowing money from international institutions on behalf of Ethiopia people, $52 billion to be exact. So united federal Ethiopia is not going to be a push over for TPLF scoundrels, and if the two major nationalities in Ethiopia, Oromos and Amharas , hold power in proportion to their population they are not going to let TPLF ran amok politically or Economically. But if the country breaks up or instead of Federation there is scattered Confederation states TPLF as the “Prominent Scholar” Crooked Medhani Taddess envisioned would have a field day in running the show. Mersea Kidan of Minnesota– your Photoshop dexterity is second to none– just reminder though Ethiopians are not known in the practice of kamikaze.

  5. You and the so called profesor you are citing forgot the essential problem for all Ethiopian people. Instead of giving what you thought is a fitting solution to Ethiopians you should ask yourselves what is lacking all Ethiopians as common denominator. You quickly find that the problem is freedom, justice and freedom of expression. You will find that every where in Ethiopians living in urban areas and those living in rural areas. You will find that in areas where Amharic, Tigrinya, Afan Oromo, Somali, Sidama, etc is spoken. That is the common denominator and that have not been resolved when what you call peripheral forces have ruled most probably I have gone even worse. If TPLF stands currently accused of horrendous crimes in the capital where diplomats are stationed wait and you will see what did happened inn it’s the region where is ruling with iron fist. Few refugees that made it show it’s brutality. The same applies to the Somali region where entire towns where burned down and we’re visible even from satélite with complicity and watchful presence of the Somali reginal leaders. We will see what happened in Oromia and Amhara once the veil of power are unveiled and true justice commissions are setup to evaluate what was done during the EPDRF rule. It also is curious your add nausimum call of inexistent Amhara domination as the main problem of Ethiopian people. Paradoxical ly you will find Amharic to have words from every other languages and keeps evolving to assimate more new words due to people migrating to urban areas while what you call peripheral forces and their languages accentuate in their purism. Go and see for your self in every town that Amharic is talked as primary or not and you will see diversity. Go and see where Amharic is not spoken and you will see homogeneous people form one ethnic group that almost looks like a society ruled by xenophobia. Amharic has been the dweling and intercommunication of minorities Amharas or not in current ethnic alineatiions. So now you and your pseudo professor should tell as who wants to be homogeneous and who is really the reactionary in Ethiopian politics today that goes and tries to establish it’s own ethnic agenda on others? The Pan-Ethiopian movements or the Ethnic mad dogs?

  6. Correction of factual error or intentional distortion:
    Imam AHMED Ibrahim el Ghazi acted only in self-defence against the aggression of Christian Abyssinia sponsored by colonialist Western Europe. He had no plans to form a homogeneous Islamic central government but a autonomous multinations states that would likely be called loose confederation, without having to pay tributes but only loyalty.More like the arrangement of the world order by the USA.

    To form the present Turkish state, Armenians were not massacred. Both the present Turkish and Armenian nationalist movements, Turkish nationalist led by Ataturk, destroyed the Ottoman Empire. British sponsored movements against the Ottomans because they were allies of Germany against which Britain fought WWI, Massacres took place against the turks and Armenians.

  7. Professor Medhanie is a known ethnocentric agent who rose to prominence with indirect and implicit support of TPLF as regional expert. he has written numerous article of mediocre qualities and is better known for his dubious scholarship, especially on the horn of Africa.

    For him, because Ethiopia, unlike European aristocratic systems, did not disintegrated, he prescribes confederation- for one thing only independent nation can become confederation- and with no history nor theory he came out and, to the dismay everyone concerned, prescribe confederation.

    We know there is no no way out of dictatorship prior to industrialization and subsequent demoralization. ethnocracy has been tested and failed- now his party, TPLF, is out from palace, he restlessly and relentlessly advocates the dismemberment of Ethiopia.
    The good professor has to accept the inescapable fate of TPLF’s emergence from center to peripheral politics.

  8. Professor Medhanie is a known ethnocentric agent who rose to prominence with indirect and implicit support of TPLF as regional expert. he has written numerous article of mediocre qualities and is better known for his dubious scholarship, especially on the horn of Africa.

    For him, because Ethiopia, unlike European aristocratic systems, did not disintegrated, he prescribes confederation- for one thing only independent nation can become confederation. Moreover, with no history nor established theory he came out, and to the dismay of everyone concerned, prescribes confederation. Unlike him, Ethiopian’s know the profound divergence between federation and ethnic confederation.

    We know there is no no way out of dictatorship in the absence of industrialization and subsequent democratization. ethnocracy has been tested and failed. Now his party, TPLF, is out from palace, he restlessly and relentlessly advocates the dismemberment of Ethiopia, with utter disregard to other Ethiopians.
    The good professor has to accept the inescapable fate of TPLF’s emergence from center to peripheral politics.

  9. True, the future of Ethiopia as a viable nation-state is sine non quo without genuine and equitable federalism system.let that idea sink anyone who is denying pretending otherwise. Having said that, the notion of suggesing Ethiopia, however benign and foreign import ,as only Judeo-Chridtisn heritage is dishonest and outright insult to over 60 pc of the Ethiopian population, who subscribe to either Islamic and traditional Irrecha faiths and heritage. I don’t understand why some scribes liike Mersea Kidan try in vain to sneak it into public discourse.

  10. Professor Medhhane Taddesse who ? If he is the one I met conference somewhere ( German) in back in 1991 when the Derg fell, he far from neural and honest scholar. He is a Woyane’s ethnic supremesist ideologue in sheep’s clothing through and through. He was arguing tirelessly among the panel including Professor, professor Massay Kabede , among others, how everything would perfect if only adopted ethnic federalism with zeal. Where he has been since then when Tigrain ethnic woyane killing, bulldozing, looting and abusing everyone in the name of ethnic federalism in the last 27 years? Now he is moving the goal post to different direction apparently. What a pity!

  11. Aite Medhanie Tadesse is a notorious TPLF cadre and worshiper of the fascist Meles Zenawi. That is why he lied without any sense of shame. His views are not new because his TPLF leaders have made it clear that Ethiopia would go down in the event they loose power. All his false arguments and outrageous lies are meant to justify the disintegration plots of the TPLF.

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