~by Geletaw Zeleke Introduction
Ethiopia is one of the richest counties in the world, potentially, but in practice it is one of the poorest countries on Earth. The irony is that natural resources and man power are bountiful but due to low social capital Ethiopia cannot even be self-sufficient. The main problem of overall development and peace in Ethiopia is reliance on a poor social network infrastructure coupled with low trust between the people and the government vertically and low trust between ethnic groups horizontally.
The current government’s clan-based Federal system is destroying the horizontal network of groups. On the one hand differences are highlighted by politicizing ethnicity which causes people to identify themselves by their group. On the other hand nationalism is shrinking as these negative attitudes bring about hatred and jealousy among groups. A slighted sense of belongingness, ethnic conflicts and severe economic decline resulted in Ethiopia once the ruling EPRDF party implemented their “Architecture of Ethnic Federalism”. While in the mean time communication and the ties of solidarity between and amongst ethnic groups and their members are fading out of Ethiopian culture.
Wherever ethnic based federalism is introduced ethnic groups lose their psychological attachment to the remainder of their ethnic groups; like fields separated geographically the independent groups take up their distinct purposes. The only thing that binds disparate groups together under the umbrella of Ethiopianism is a central government which naturally functions as a loose horizontally network. Since politics and government are always changing if there were to develop a power vacuum then societal groups could no longer maintain their coexistence.
The unity that binds people together is not only politics or democracy, but also the sharing of culture and resources is an exchange that binds ethnic groups throughout the ups and downs of life. Whether politics are stable or not if a society’s social capital is strong enough then, they can control the effects of negative changes.
In recent history the Derg military regime claimed a platform of unity but belonging to a unitary political structure alone could not provide unity for multi-ethnic Ethiopia where there was no equality before the law. Unity of ethnic groups has recurring manifestations; among these manifestations is cultural unity (የባህል ውህደት). Cultural unity is an anchor of the relationships between and amongst ethnic groups and their people living in given jurisdictions or under a given political structure.
The Theory of Conventional Cultural Unity proposes a way of building social infrastructures by reinventing the concept of unity in the Ethiopia context.