Transfer of ideas: from Central Europe to Ethiopia
Japan had been an inspiration to the Ethiopian Emperor since his youth, first of all thanks to Tokyo’s then-shocking victory over the Russian Empire in 1905 (Russell 2009: 102). Second, Japan became the most successful non-Western country, which modernized without giving up its tradition and culture. This proved that modernization without Westernization was a clear possibility (Clarke 2011: 12-13). In Haile Selassie’s second year on the Ethiopian imperial throne, he granted his realm a constitution (rh? ^‘T0?/"^' hige menigisit, literally ‘the law of the government, kingdom, state’) in 1931 (1923 EC). His then Minister of Finance, Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariyam (+АЛ гЬФСЧТ +АЛ ‘"ICJ’T13 tekile hawari'at tekile mariyam, 1884-1977), who drafted this document, closely modeled the first Ethiopian Constitution on the Japanese Imperial Constitution of 1889 (Shinn and Ofcansky 2013: 100). In turn, Meiji Japan had borrowed its own first constitution from the German Empire’s Constitution, promulgated in 1871 (Kazuhiro 2014: 48-51). In this way, the Western (or rather Central European) model of centralized ethnolinguistic nation-state became the initial model of ‘modem’ (Western) statehood that was adopted for Ethiopia through the intermediary of the aforementioned Japanese Constitution. The ethnolinguistic nation-state, as implemented in Ethiopia, came together with the slowly coalescing policy of Amharization - that is, the ethnolinguistic homogenization and assimilation (or cooption) of the elites of the country’s other ethnic groups (Baxter 1983; Girma Awgichew Demeke 2014: 16-21; Levine 1974: 148-152, 117-119; Triulzi 1983: 118-125). Amharic was promoted as the country’s sole national and official language, and a de facto ban was imposed on the development of other languages. This policy became official when the Revised Constitution was promulgated in 1955 (1948 EC). Article 125 proclaimed that ‘[t]he official language of the Empire is Amharic’ (Cooper 1976a: 188). The goal was elusive ‘national integration’ (hTff DTK) ânid hâzib ‘one people, nation’), despite the fact that the Amharas accounted only for one-third of the population, while Miaphysitic7 Chr istians at best just for over half of the inhabitants (Levine 1965; Levine 1974: 148-152; MacLeod 2014: 41-42; Triulzi 1983: 118— 119). Germany’s ethnolinguistic nationalism and the entailed ideal of the ethnolinguistic homogeneity (‘purity’) of the nation-state (cf SundhauBen 1973; Welch 2004) were part and parcel of the ideological package of this Western model of statehood adopted in late imperial Ethiopia.
Unsurprisingly, the Soviet-Derg (£C°7 derg ‘committee or council’ is the translation of the Russian term совет sovet ‘council,’ usually rendered as ‘Soviet’ in English),8 which overthrew the monarchy and seized power in 1974, built its popularity on the promise to end the aforementioned policy of ethnolinguistic homogenization (Amharization, Amhara domination), among other things.9 To this end, the revolutionaries included in their 1976 program of the National Democratic Revolution of Ethiopia (NDRE) (Ph,TCAP 414^4? h 41 СТ УС0!^ ye’ïtiyop'iya bihêrawî
dünokirasïyawï abiyot pirogranï) the right to self-determination for Ethiopia's numerous ethnic groups, speaking a wide variety of languages (Praeg 2006: 70). The Soviet-Derg regime was increasingly supported by Moscow as an element of the Soviet Union's global ideological and military struggle against the United States and the West (Patman 1990: 150-202). In return, following the Kremlin's official ideology of marxism-leninism, Addis Ababa borrowed the principles of Soviet nationality policy10 and adopted.
at least in principle, the practice of ethnoterritorial autonomy for recognized nationalities (ethnic groups). This form of ‘national self-determination’ came in a limited form of ethnicity-based decentralization and a few regional ethnic autonomies, as practiced in communist China (that had also emulated the Soviet Union), and actually in the postwar USSR (Keller 1985: 15; Semahagn Gashu Abebe 2014: 118). In reality, even though the Soviet-Derg regime paid lip service to the nationalities question (like the postwar Soviet government), it actually retained and even fortified the centralization of Ethiopia. The use of Ethiopian languages other than Amharic was allowed only for the sake of literacy campaigns11 (Getachew Anteneh and Derib Ado 2006: 48), but exclusively in the Ethiopie (Amharic, Ge’ez) script (cf Baxter 1983: 137). However, for instance, in neighboring Somalia, Latin letters had been intensively employed for writing and publishing in the Somali language since 1972 (Adam 1983: 33). The establishment of the Workers’ Party of Ethiopia (WPE) (fh.Tf^A'f T'C't [h,UJZ]
ye’îtiyop’iyaseratenyochpariff[îsepa] inAmharic) in 1984 was considered to be an important instrument for consolidating the power of the Soviet-Derg ‘socialist state’ under the leadership of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
In 1987, 13 years after the overthrow of the Emperor, the Soviet-Derg regime adopted a new constitution, which, in line with the Soviet bloc’s model, renamed the country as the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE. VAd'f’Â’T rhîiQæ -R. T h ¿A fT ¿TdlAlH ye’îtiyop’iya hizibawî dîmokirasîyawî rîpebilîk in Amharic). This constitution provided a new administrative structure of socialist Ethiopia. Accordingly, 24 regular (i.e. non-autonomous) regions (hh+^SC AhOf). âsitedader âkababî ‘administrative regions’) and five autonomous regions ((’¿■0 Tti Xhnn,9’:i yeras gez âkababîwoch ‘autonomous areas’) were established. Autonomy was given to the restive regions of Eritrea, Tigray and Ogaden. In addition, two autonomous regions, Assab (for Afars) and Dire Dawa (for Somalis), were formed. The autonomous regions were based on ethnicity only in part, because the de facto objective was to restore the government's control over the areas hotly contested by anti-Soviet-Derg forces recruited from among these regions’ dominant ethnic groups. For instance, the two separate autonomous regions for Somalis were intended to divide the growing Somali ethnic (national, separatist) movement in Ethiopia in the wake of the Ogaden War (1977-1978), when Somalia - with communist China’s support (Thrall 2015: 5; Lyons 1978) - attacked Ethiopia, seeking a unification of Ogaden with the rest of the Somali nation-state (Semahagn Gashu Abebe 2014: 118-119). In sum, the PDRE Constitution allowed only for the establishment of the aforementioned five autonomous regions. Moreover, this document affirmed that Amharic would remain the sole working language of government at all administrative levels. The actual pressing on with the policy of Amharization, though with a (never actually realized) promise of some ethnolinguistic autonomy in five of socialist (communist) Ethiopia’s regions was similar to the model developed in communist China. Over the course of the Chinese Revolution, the communists promised a federalization of the country on the ethnolinguistic principle in emulation of the Soviet Union. After the communist victory, they limited this program to five autonomous regions among communist China’s 27 regions. Nevertheless, communist China remained a centralist unitary state (Hao 2016: 98-100).
In 1991 the leftist (marxist) coalition of ethnic (ethnolinguistic) liberation movements called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, rhTin^ °?tnC ye’îtiyop’iya
hiziboch âbiyotawï dîmokirasïyawï ginibar in Amharic) unseated the military regime, thus ending the Ethiopian Civil War that had lasted since 1974 (Henze 2007: 286-298). The EPRDF was spearheaded by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, rhïinæ ffif) AQT hazbawi wayana harannat tagray in Tigrinya), which, along with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF, UTiOT °?TnC VClff hizibawT ginibar Harnet Eritrea in Tigrinya and 'jjjj j! > aljabhat alshaebiat litahrir
‘iiritria in Arabic), had been fighting in northern Ethiopia against the Soviet-Derg regime since the late 1970s. Both TPLF and EPLF were ethnically Tigrayan in their membership, though the latter organization also included some members from other ethnic groups (alongside Christians), thanks to its state-centered (non-ethnic) pan-Eritrean ideology. The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), which was established in 1960, was dominated by Muslims.12
This former Italian colony of Eritrea, under British administration since 1941, was passed to Ethiopia in 1952. In this way, the imperial administration at Addis Ababa obtained long-desired access to the sea, while the fears of Eritreans were calmed by the UN-sanctioned federal arrangement in which Eritrea was given wide-ranging autonomy, including its own constitution and a multiparty system. The Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea was, however, abolished by the Haile Selassie government in 1962 (Tekeste 1997). The abrogation of the Ethiopian-Eritrea federation was followed by a civil war between different Eritrean separatist movements (e.g. the ELF and the EPLF) and the successive Ethiopian regimes. The provision of an autonomous status to Eritrea in the 1987 Constitution of Soviet-Derg Ethiopia was too little too late (Bereket Habte Selassie 1989). In 1991, following the defeat of the Soviet-Derg regime by the combined efforts of the EPLF and the EPRDF, Eritrea became de facto independent. Two years later, after the independence referendum (1993), it became a de jure independent nation-state (Eritrea 1993). The two governments in Asmara and Addis Ababa maintained cordial relations from 1991 to 1998. However, in 1998, due to disputes over territory and other strategic issues, a devastating war broke out between the two countries. This war ended in 2000, after the signing of the Algiers peace treaty. However, both countries maintained a no-war-and-no-peace style of relations until the signing of a peace treaty in 2018 (Busari and Elwazer 2018).
The EPRDF government promised a genuine federalization of Ethiopia and respect for the post-imperial country’s ethnolinguistic diversity. The July 1991 Peace and Democracy Conference, convened by the ERPDF, brought together 25 political organizations. This conference adopted a transitional charter (Ph/FP'A'S P7)°7°7C iFCTC ye’Ttiyop’iya yeshigi-gir wek’it charitef) and legalized EPRDF’s consent to Eritrea’s secession. This charter incorporated in Ethiopian legislation the 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and promised multiparty democracy, alongside the freedom of association and speech in Ethiopia. What is more, this document also legalized the right to national (ethnic) self-determination, up to and including secession. In 1992, Ethiopia’s administrative division underwent restructuring with the creation of 14 regions along ethnolinguistic lines. In 1995, Ethiopia became a federation with the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PX.^f’Â'.P ¿»Æod-Aæ T“h¿-iF4? ¿TOAh ye’Ttiyop’iya Jedëralawî dîmokirasîyawî rïpebilîk in Amharic). The 1995 Constitution recognized nine ethnolinguis-tically defined states (regions): Afar for the Afars; Amhara for the Amharas; Benishangul-Gumuz for five ethnic groups; Gambela; Harari (ostensibly for the historically dominant Semitic and Muslim Hararis, though ethnic non-Hararis constitute the majority of the region’s population); Oromia for the Oromos, who constitute the plurality of Ethiopia’s inhabitants; Somali for the Somalis; Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples for more than 50 ethnic groups in the southwest; and Tigray for the Tigrayans. In addition, the Constitution recognized Addis Ababa as the seat of the federal government with an autonomous status. Dire Dawa, which is a multiethnic city contested by the regions of Oromia and Somali, was put under the federal government's control and given a charted status through a proclamation in 2004 (Pff^ST hf)+££C iC+C XT J?yedirëdewa âsitedader chariter âwaj ‘Charter of the Administration of Dire Dawa’). Hence, although the Soviet-Derg regime promised a Soviet-style ethnic decentralization in Ethiopia, the EPDRF actually introduced and broadened it to full-fledged ethnic federalization, as practiced in the interwar Soviet Union (Asnake Kefale 2013: 31-37; Vander Beken 2017).
Nevertheless, the Ethiopian Federation is still a work in progress. For example, to this day, no official map of the country’s regions has been released, for the fear that such a cartographic document might incite ethnic conflicts if the still vaguely sketched administrative boundaries were to be officially confirmed. In 2014 and 2015, many Oromo students protested against alleged changes in the administrative boundaries of Addis Ababa at the expense of Oromia, leading to mass imprisonment, suppression and numerous casualties. In 2016, a wave of generalized protests on different issues, but mainly against the increasingly authoritarian character of the EPRDF government, cost hundreds of demonstrators their lives. More protests followed until 2018, when political prisoners were freed and the first ethnic Oromo, Abiy Ahmed, was nominated to the post of Ethiopian Prime Minister. He embarked on a raft of democratizing and developmental reforms, which lessened the tensions and secured much-needed rapprochement with Eritrea (Burke 2018; Endalk Chala 2015; Sandner 2016). For these achievements, in 2019, Abiy Ahmed received a Nobel peace prize (Burke and Henley 2019).