The Federation in Peril: Why is the EPRDF making the federal structure untenable and unsustainable each passing day?
Dr Berhanemeskel Abebe Segni
For the last 25 years or so, the Oromo people were unconditionally supporting, mostly blindly and at their own peril, the existing system while the EPRDF, whose brainchild the federal structure is, consistently and continuously works to undermine the federal structure in all conceivable and imaginable ways, mostly to hurt and harm the present and future interests of the Oromo people.
The hope the Oromo people placed on the nominal federal structure that it will, one day, grow into something that will work and address the century-old identity and self-administration questions of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities do not seem to find a genuine partners within the EPRDF circle who continue to give dubious and malicious lip services to the existing federal status while undermining and making it bogus.
A Closer look into the existing nominal federal structure makes the Oromo people and Oromia the net total losers in terms of territorial loss, national budget loss, tax revenue loss, business and investment loss, educational loss, and employment losses both at the regional and federal government levels, at Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions, and in the existing international organizations Ethiopia remains member of.
Oromia, a region comprised of almost ten administrative provinces under Emperor Menelik, Emperor Haile Selassie, Mengistu Haile Mariam, is now unequally yoked with eight other smaller regions (federal states) carved out of the four former provinces in pre-1991 Ethiopia.
As a result, Oromia is at a huge disadvantage in national budget allocation, political power sharing, investment(both foreign and domestic), and employment opportunities, and above all territorial losses.
For instance, the former Wellega Province and the former Tigray Province have the same size of population and territory. They used to receive almost about the same size of the national budget, national investment and employment opportunities under Emperor Menelik, Emperor Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam Administrations.
Now, under the existing “Federal Structure” the national budget, investments, and employment opportunities that go to Oromia’s former Wellega Province and Tigray are nowhere to compare. Instead, now, Tigray is compared and contrasted not with Wellega but with Oromia, a region ten times bigger than Tigray.
Take the former Shewa Province. No other province in Ethiopia, in the post-1991 administrative arrangement, is disempowered, dismembered and made useless like the Central, the largest, the most powerful, and the most densely populated former province of Shewa.
The Province of Shewa, hitherto Ethiopia’s political, economic, and cultural powerhouse, in the post-1991 administrative arrangement, lost all its economic, political and cultural power including its main city, Addis Ababa.
The population of this former Oromo province with substantial Amhara population is now disenfranchised into at least seven irrelevant and powerless zones with no political, economic and social voices on Ethiopia’s political, economic and security discourse, and its future.
The situation of the former Oromo provinces of Hararge, one of the largest province, Bale, Arsi, Jimma, Illu Ababor, and Boranna and other former Oromo provinces under previous Ethiopian administration are equally worse or even more bad than the situation in Wellega and Shewa.
The former province of Wallo, once the powerhouse of the Ethiopian politics, is now not even on the map.
In poly made to strategically make the Oromo people and Oromia geopolitically and economically irrelevant, the territorial reach and contiguity of Oromia or former Oromo provinces which normally shares borders with neighboring countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti that used to greatly benefit the economic growth and business relations of the Oromo people by facilitating the flow of goods and services between Oromo people and these countries are cut off.
Most importantly, under the existing federal structure, Oromia is made to lose all its major cities and urban areas including Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Harar, and the commercial hub and the border city of Moyale.
Now, the existing federal structure is telling the Oromo people that the city-state of Harar (one of the cities unlawfully separated from Oromia) and Oromia have equal status, equal budget and equal federal employees which are comparable to the silly comparison and equating the Vatican, the seat of the Pope, with Italy, the country.
A closer scrutiny of the existing nominal federal structure raises more questions than answers on any national questions and long-term political, economic and social interests of the Oromo people in Ethiopia and Ethiopia itself.
One could add a laundry list of issues including the proposed plan to put all local police and militias in each region under the control of the federal government. Then, what is left off the bogus federation? Is this becoming worse than the liquidation of Eritrea’s federation which led to 30 years of civil war?
Ethiopia’s future direction and the viability of the existing federal structure needs to be openly and seriously debated.
As for the Oromo people, unless: 1) Afaan Oromo is made the federal working language, 2) the Administrative status of Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Harar and the commercial hub and border city of Moyale are restored under Oromia National Regional State, 3) the self-administration of the Oromo people are respected, and 4) Oromia’s borders with Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti are maintained, the Oromo people should start debating openly or consider withdrawing the unconditional support they have been giving to existing federal structure in which the Oromo people are the net and total losers.
At least, it is time for the Oromo people to let the EPRDF know that their unconditional support for the existing federal structure is no more unconditional unless the EPRDF Administration immediately addresses all of the demands of the #OromoProtests!