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What Ethiopia Is Up Against

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09/18/12

  07:38:02 am, by admin, 937 words  
Categories: Ethiopia

What Ethiopia Is Up Against

What Ethiopia Is Up Against

Messay Kebede

 
A friend recently sent me a video presenting Sebhat Nega’s defense of the TPLF constitution. My friend was rightly amazed at the dismissive and arrogant nature of the defense.  My reaction wandered a bit in the direction of assessing the origin of the defense: I could not help but ask what torturous path led a Tigrean to a defense erasing the shared legacy of a very long history.  Let me first briefly summarize the content of Sebhat’s discourse.
Sebhat refers to a hypothetical situation where opponents intent on dismissing the TPLF constitution succeed in seizing power. Sebhat emphatically predicts the inevitable disintegration of Ethiopia and the outbreak of war.

According to him, the TPLF constitution is the foundation of Ethiopian unity. It originated from a consensus of all the peoples of Ethiopia and remains the sole guarantee of equality. Since equality is the basis of unity, any change altering its main principles inexorably entails the collapse of unity. In his assumption, this almost happened in 2005 when forces inimical to the constitution scored important electoral gains. If the movement had not been violently crushed, it would have certainly resulting in war and disintegration.

By way of illustration, Sebhat takes the case of the United States. The foundation of the American federation is the Constitution, which, if changed, will entail the disintegration of the country. For Sebhat, what Ethiopians have in common with Americans is precisely that for both of them constitutional consensus is the source of nationalism. Just as American nationalism is tied to a constitutional document, so too Ethiopian nationalism derives from the TPLF constitution.

I leave out Sebhat’s illusion that the TPLF constitution originated from a consensus of all the peoples of Ethiopia when we know too well that said consensus was imposed on powerless peoples by the victorious Tigrean and Eritrean guerrilla armies. However, the illusion metamorphoses into arrogance when Sebhat compares the TPLF constitution with the American Constitution. The latter promotes individual rights while the TPLF constitution gives primacy to group rights, that is, to ethnic belonging, the consequence of which is that it works against national integration by isolating and nurturing ethnic states. States in Ethiopia are not administrative units that decentralize power and empower local communities but ethnic enclaves that create national borders within the nation and grant them with the right to secede.

What is most appalling and utterly false is Sebhat’s declaration that the fundamental act of being Ethiopian is an outcome of the TPLF constitution. How could it be so when what we all know so far is that the Ethiopian state and society have their origin in the distant history of the Aksumite kingdom and that their cultural features and history testify to a long and uninterrupted legacy that equally involved Tigreans and Amharas?  Even our recent history defines Yohannes, not as the emperor of Tigray, but as the emperor of Ethiopia. The unequivocal reality is thus that Ethiopian nationhood is defined by history, and not by the acceptance of the 1994 constitution. Here we can extend to Ethiopia Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement, to wit, "Europe was created by History; America by Philosophy." Rather than the constitution begetting Ethiopian nationhood, it presupposes it as the object of its rectification. This reversal of the correct order is typical of the thinking of the TPLF and is reflected in the first statement of the preamble in the form of “We, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.”

Let me ask a question: when the guerrilla army of the TPLF marched into Amhara territory and finally into Addis Ababa and seized state power, were we supposed to assume that Ethiopia did not exist yet? But then, there is nothing that prevents us from qualifying the march as an invasion of foreign troops, nay, as a colonial conquest. Since I am sure that Sebhat will contest such a characterization, then why does he keep defining Ethiopianness by a constitution when the country existed for a long time prior to the writing of the constitution?

What Sebhat is in reality revealing is the conditional nature of his Ethiopianism. He is Ethiopian so long as the constitution, imposed by the TPLF and conducive to its hegemony over Ethiopia, is the supreme law of the land. What this means if not that Tigray will not agree to remain within Ethiopia if the TPLF loses its hegemonic position. I cannot speak for all Tigreans, among whom many are dedicated Ethiopians, but Sebhat’s position shows that the leadership of the TPLF has been and still is appropriated by individuals who have always posed the issue of Ethiopian unity in conditional terms.

This conditionality explains why many pro-Ethiopian activists and intellectuals consider Sebhat and his likes as nothing more than stooges of the EPLF. Yet, their support for Eritrean independence is just a logical conclusion of their conditional Ethiopianness. One cannot be conditionally Ethiopian while being a resolute defender of the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. Moreover, the hegemonic goal of the TPLF could hardly accommodate a rival organization like the EPLF. Both ideological consistency and interest dictated the TPLF’s determined effort to oust Eritrea from Ethiopia.

Obviously, the perceived fragility of the system subsequent to the demise of Meles Zenawi now drives TPLF people to blackmail Ethiopians. If the TPLF does not rule, Sebhat promises the deluge. Is this not to admit that two decades of forceful enforcement of the constitution were not enough to generate even a semblance of consensus? What a brilliant achievement! Sebhat sounds like those children who agree to play with other children provided they always win.

17 comments

Comment from: Gragn Ahmed [Visitor]
Gragn Ahmed

It is sad both Tigray alites and Amhara historians are fabricating stories and denying history of the people at this juncture.

There is nothing wrong with ethnic federalism. There is no problem with group rights as long as it does not violate individual rights. American system is not perfect nor is Ethiopian federalism. for all I hate Wayane and for all I hate neftegna historians, I must agree that ethnic federalism is a good thing that came out of oppressed Tigray people by their fellow Amharas.

We know Eritrea actually was more Ethiopian than Oromo or Ogaden. Even Ogaden was more Ethiopian through Gragn Ahmed than was Oromo under Wako system or the South under haiya Muslims or Tona.

The Amhara Menelik II changed the land scape of Ethiopia. The word Ethiopia has been used to refer to the North portion of the present Ethiopia for so more than 3000 years as known by the Greeks. So to use Ethiopia for the South simply is wrong. In fact, we need to change the name Ethiopia itself first if we want a new identity. The old identity of Ethiopia simply can not be worn by everybody any more. The more Messay Kebede pushes hard to install the old system of Menelik II he will lose more territories. Still he is writing about his own feelings than about us- those we hate to associate with past history and be associated as well with that excluded fairness to the South and East.


09/18/12 @ 10:05
Comment from: Gragn Ahmed [Visitor]
Gragn Ahmed

It is sad both Tigray elites and Amhara historians are fabricating stories and denying history of the people at this juncture.

There is nothing wrong with ethnic federalism. There is no problem with group rights as long as it does not violate individual rights. American system is not perfect nor is Ethiopian federalism. for all I hate Wayane and for all I hate neftegna historians, I must agree that ethnic federalism is a good thing that came out of oppressed Tigray people by their fellow Amharas.

We know Eritrea actually was more Ethiopian than Oromo or Ogaden. Even Ogaden was more Ethiopian through Gragn Ahmed than was Oromo under Wako system or the South under haiya Muslims or Tona.

The Amhara Menelik II changed the land scape of Ethiopia. The word Ethiopia has been used to refer to the North portion of the present Ethiopia for so more than 3000 years as known by the Greeks. So to use Ethiopia for the South simply is wrong. In fact, we need to change the name Ethiopia itself first if we want a new identity. The old identity of Ethiopia simply can not be worn by everybody any more. The more Messay Kebede pushes hard to install the old system of Menelik II he will lose more territories. Still he is writing about his own feelings than about us- those we hate to associate with past history and be associated as well with that excluded fairness to the South and East.

09/18/12 @ 10:07
Comment from: Observer [Visitor]
Observer

You hit the nail right on the head, Mesay Kebede. This is one of the best summary of what TPLF is all about - they question the existence of the motherland unless they rule!!!

09/18/12 @ 10:31
Comment from: Alem [Visitor]
Alem

Dear Prof. Messay: I know you know Sebhat is not unaware of what you are saying. The issue for him is to keep Ethiopians divided [and pit one against the other] by raising apocryphal histories such as the one you mentioned. Was not this exactly what the late Meles was good at? Another aspect of Sebhat’s strategy [and of scholars Ghelawdewos, Tecola, Kiros, Asayegn, etc] is to send “scholarly” distractions so the important and the urgent remains confused. The same thing happens when a group dutifully waits at the ready to neutralize any comment or article disfavoring the ruling minority. In other words, Sebhat and his cadres are much more organized and effective than the majority who seem not to be able to find their voice!

09/18/12 @ 11:20
Comment from: Lenin [Visitor]
Lenin

perfectly analysed, it has always been with conditions that TPLF agreed to ethiopian nationalism. Leopard can’t change its spots… as the saying goes… TPLF was founded based on the separatist movement, they didn’t start an idea of reforming the ethiopian state and therefore in reality the only changed their position based on the assumptions that they will be ruling ethiopia under the pre-text of EPRDF otherwise they would prefer to go back to their separatist ideleolgy. However their retarded plans have come unstuck as have burnt their bridges with EPLF and have no hope building singapore in tigrai

09/18/12 @ 11:30
Comment from: Bekele Winsa [Visitor]
Bekele Winsa

The TPLF’s constitution is designed to maintain the volatile South and Eastern teritories of the modern day Ethiopia annexed by Minilik III than it appeals to the old and historical Ethiopian mentality which is based on Northen Ethiopian existance.
Now the TPLF did not design this because it is a saint organization but because from its long gorilla history, it learned that it is impossible to defeat a gorilla movement by military means in the long run, so it has to device such constitutional system in an attempt to weaken any such movement within. Therefore, TPLF party chose the better of the two bad things after it realized that it cannot get a perfect solution that satisfies everyone. Evidently and as Grangn commented above, the Oromos and the Ogadenians can’t see any reason to remain part of Ethiopia, especially if Eritrea, the prime constituents of old Ethiopia is allowed to ceased from it. Therefore, as president Abraham said” As our case is a new and we need a new solution", it is not difficult to see that the TPLF regime has more progressive answers for the current day Ethiopian problems, (even though they are the ones created it), than the so called educated individuals with static old Ethiopian mentality.

09/18/12 @ 16:35
Comment from: JiJigawi [Visitor]
JiJigawi

I could not agree more with Bekele Winsa. Some of us in the so called todays Ethiopia hate to remember Ethiopia’s recent past history under the Miniliks. Today’s regime run by Tigrai boys are equally repressive for those communities in the East and south.
Nevertheless, we would pick today’s repressive regime over any of its predecessor’s as well as the opinions of people like Mr. Kebede who are nostalgic of the Miniliks and the Sellases just because Melese’s group acknowledged our existence. Others would not acknowledge the existence of an Ogadeni, ethnic Somali like myself to have a place in their envisioned Ethiopia. For them the land is sacred for it could contain a resource but people, as long as they are not of a semantic background can be sacrificed.
Whether you like it or not Sabbath Nega’s assertion is the only one that can keep Ethiopia together. Does anyone remember a democratic Ethiopia? In fact the minute Ethiopia becomes a democratic society where the rights of individuals are respected it will cease to exist as one nation. It would follow the path of other nations that were created by the barrel of the gone like the former Soviet Union. United under repressive regimes and disintegrated under democratic regimes.
Perhaps what Mr. Nega is attempting to tell you all dummy Amara’s is not to ask for individual rights and democracy for it could be the killer of Ethiopia as you know it.

09/18/12 @ 20:28
Comment from: djz12 [Visitor]
djz12

Dear writer,
can you please post the video you mentioned if it is in your possession? It is very hard for me to beleive what you saying without actually seein’ the video. Now a days, it is getting hard reading an objective analysis.

09/18/12 @ 20:45
Comment from: ejole bishoftu [Visitor]
ejole bishoftu

Mr. Messay Kebede,

I agree with what you say.Sebhat does not care for Ethiopia.He just care for Eritrea.He is a secret agent for shabia.Saying this you mentioned also Ethiopia is the northern part.Yes you are right.Oromo land is invaded by Minilik II. History,culture and values of Oromos people had been tried to be destroyed and instead our people were forced to inherit the Abyssinians culture.You need to admit this history.It is fact on the ground.

I personally have no problem to live in peace and harmony with all ethnic groups under the umbrella of one country provided that there is equality and fair administration.

09/18/12 @ 23:25
Comment from: TEDDY [Visitor]
TEDDY

The only references ,on Ethiopian History ,for Sebhat Nega are those
given by Shabya and Tigrai Ethno egocentrists revisionists .Denying the Historical Facts on the foundation of the unity and sovereignty of the country .The same as his spirutual son did compare linking Democracy to the development of the economy as a bed time history .The same as said his Shabyan Bros in 1991 that
Ethiopian History a simple creation of the Amhara elites .Even Derg and
the then so called Marxist Leninist
elites at the End of 70th and the 80th considerering Ethiopia as the creation of Menelike and the Nefetegnia conquistadors . A collection of ignorancies which bring us to the actual Cahos .

09/19/12 @ 03:12
Comment from: marcus [Member]  

Messay Kebede, the glorified Marxist pseudo-philosopher and a passionate Derg cadre, you seem to be totally confused.

The main problem I have with Messay is his lack of credibility.

In Amharic, it is said: “Aya Jibbo, yemayawqut ager hedo korbet antifulign ale.”

09/19/12 @ 05:49
Comment from: smar [Member]  
smar

I believe that one ethnic or the other hegemony has collapsed and likely the game is over for that . EPRDF has wisely drafted the bright path with overwhelmingly electing the new PM Mr. Hailemariam Dessalegne with out considering his ethnic origin . It is meaningless now for dialog or debating nither Dr. Messay nor Mr. Tseye Abrha . As Ejole said it, no matter from where is his ethnicity as far as he harmonize all religions ,ethics, tribes and teat them equally with freedom to each others cultural identity to live in peace in one umbrella ( our great country Ethiopia ).Say to power mongers no space to manipulate and play at the expense of millions of Ethiopians in the name of opposition who are particularly lobbing in West but with my sincere respect to opposition parties and activists at home land .
Thank you all,

09/19/12 @ 11:41
Comment from: Belay [Visitor]
Belay

I dont know about sibhat nega but there are many who will agree with the notion that reversing the current federal system (constitution) will lead to the disintegration of ethiopia. this is even from those like OLF, ONLF and others who are struggling against the government and their millions of supporters who have been pacified by the new system that is at least seen as being better than before. so when people like messay write next time they need to consider these people, not just those “pro-Ethiopian activists and intellectuals” who share his thought.

09/19/12 @ 12:12
Comment from: Blacky [Visitor]
Blacky

I am sure when the Melessians designed the so called"constitution” their very thought was Tigrian domination of the country forever. The conditional Ethipoianess is generated in the thought that if we lose the power, then we will go our way and form independent Tigrai with a possibility of merging with Eritrea.mm

Now that the fantasy of merging with Eritrea has blown in to the cloud what remains to be seen is if they actually belive that Tigrai could be a stand alone nation in its own right.

Even if we keep the current federal structure, there is no way for woyanes to be what they dream they can. The unbalanced resource distribution that has long been tiltted to favour Tigrai will eventually be replaced by something that takes in to consideration the reality in all the killis. Economics and social factors that are reality in all the killis will be parameters in sharing the limitted resources and there will be no way for Tigrai to bite the small apple with a big teeth anymore.

The winners of this structure will be the Oromos and the Ameharas by the sheer number of their population size and the land mass that the killiles own, not to mention the natural resources that are endowed in those Killils.

I can’t understand why the likes of Sebehat Nega thinks that they have put something out there in a form of constitution that benefits the Tigrians when in fact if applied genuinely could hurt thir interest. Why do they think that The oromos and the Ameharas would not want to go their own way if they feel that they are giving more than what they are getting back. Some of us prefer the country to be one unit and live together by sharing what we have with respect to one another and adheering to a strong rule of low and democracy. Why does it has to be always us aganst them kind of mentality? let’s work to build the country. Let’s refrain from making the big mistakes by entrenching our mind on the issues that are not helpful to all of us. One has not chosen at birth which ethenic group one wants to belong to. Let’s not waste our energy and resources over something that we cant change.

Time to think big !!

09/19/12 @ 14:30
Comment from: What a wonderful World [Visitor]
What a wonderful World

Gragn: Have you seen the 10 poorest countries in the world on www.ethiopianamericanforum.com ? Thank you Zenawi for removing our country from the first 10 group. It is a good farewell !!

09/19/12 @ 17:31
Comment from: Kokeb Tarekegn [Visitor]
Kokeb Tarekegn

I’m tired of diaspora politics. You don’t seem to connect with the people you claim to represent.

Ethiopians have already rewritten history and there is no going back. Thanks, to our PM Meles and his comrades, for taking all factors in to consideration to develope one of the most comprehensive consititution that is serving Ethiopia’s diverse society very well.

If you belive it has defects, then work towards its amendment. But first, you have to respect and comply with it.

If not, you’re simply being a distrcutive rather than constrctive. More importantly, your becoming an embaracement to the rest of Ethiopian comunity.

Kokeb

09/20/12 @ 15:36
Comment from: Wetu Enewta [Visitor]
Wetu Enewta

Messay,

A significant piece which captures the beast known as TPLF in its proper context. The responses on this page indicate to me that you have touched raw nerves–once again! The more the truth is exposed in its proper context, the more tempers flare. Please do not pay attention to the TPLF acolytes–both naive and rehearsed–as they have absolutely nothing more to offer except a legacy of greed, hatred and humiliation. I attribute what little semblance of order and the suedo-change within the EPRDF as the result of the unrelenting pressure from the likes of Messay, Alemayehu, Yilma and thousands of others who never gave up to argue the case for Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet. They did so with unquestionable integrity, sound intellectual reasoning and, in some cases, undeniable sacrifice. They are my heroes as they truly represent the mighty–not with a gun but with the stroke of a pen, as it were. The naive and uninitiated will never understand the incredibly brilliant thoughts expressed by these writers. I believe their ideas will live much longer than the ire of those who wish to denude them with insults.

09/20/12 @ 19:24

rebtel

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