Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



Present day Ethiopia constitutes a multi-ethnic society where ethnic politics and ethnic mobilization had been the path to power and the pillars to maintain it, perceptibly since the Era of Princes (1769-1855). During that period, Ethiopia was parcelled or ‘decentralized’ in disorderly fashion among local princes, who drew support from their ethnic or sub-ethnic base. To this day, ethnic grounds have been the power base of Ethiopian political elites under various banners and forms.

Ethiopia is now facing yet another experimental policy under the autocratic regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) whose core element is the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which set up an ethnic based federal government structure with a constitutional “right” for nationalities to secede. After a decade of trial, this experiment too does not at all appear to work and has instead sown the seeds of recurring conflicts that deeply wreck the state.

Despite the unwarranted foreign policy guidelines pursued by the successive regimes, Ethiopian rulers never find it difficult to sustain the backing of one or the other foreign power – powers unscrupulously bent on their national or global interests. This relationship has left the Ethiopian state in perpetual crisis. Such relationship has even lead states like that of Somalia to disintegrate.