Viewpoint

Let that be your last battlefield in Ethiopia

Competition for dwindling resources and vicious elite in-fighting threaten to send Ethiopia’s melting pot up in flames

The civil unrest that took place in early July Ethiopia after the slaying of singer Hachalu Hundessa was horrific. Mobs reportedly went from door to door in Oromia regional state, checking identity cards (these often mention ethnic affiliation), before ransacking businesses and private residences belonging to (mostly) those of non-‘Oromo’ ethnicity, and killing scores of people—239 in one death toll, of all ethnicities.

The unrest in Ethiopia is often explained by the historical and current grievances of the Oromo people. We are told they were steamrolled by the forces of Emperor Menelik II (who was ‘Amhara’). We are also told that there is a thread between the anger of the Oromo youth who burnt down towns and carried out massacres last week, and the expansion of Addis Ababa into the Oromo heartlands, over the last couple of decades—even if the connection is ‘hard to see’. But you can read here, in Tom Gardner’s Guardian article, that the attacks were at times random, in some cases fuelled by alcohol (and also that local law enforcement sat by idly). Chillingly, some reports speak of target lists circulated prior to the events.

I have no idea if Menelik II called himself an Amhara or not, but he certainly has been called that by many. The truth is, that Menelik II, like most rulers in Ethiopia, was of indeterminate ethnic mix (Menelik II may even have been the son of a slave on his mother’s side). The troops that pushed into the south, to found ‘garrison towns’ were largely Shewan (Oromo), often marching under Oromo chieftains.

Ethiopians are just as prejudiced as anyone else when it comes to colour (they use four different hues to describe skin pigmentation) and the term Ethiopian itself stems from the Greek Aithiopia (red-brown, or scorched face). But what really mattered was always the culture–the Manifest Destiny, not the blood. Just as the Ottomans couldn’t care less if their Sultan was the son of a slave girl from the Volga, as long as they remained true defenders of the Faith.

‘Amhara’ cannot even be said to be an exact identity. It is a language and a cultural package, that includes ploughing and Orthodoxy (but there are many Oromo in the Tewahedo Orthodox Church too, such as, for example, Hachalu Hundessa and his family). The Amhara share this lack of clear definition with the Oromo (in fact, there is probably no greater diversity in Ethiopia than among the Oromo themselves). Ras Mekonnen, one of Emperor Menelik II’s most effective generals (whose statue was recently toppled in Harar), was mosly Oromo. As was his son, Emperor Hailé Selassié (whose own statue was toppled in London’s Cannizaro Park, on 30 June). The Oromo language contains many Amharic loanwords and was long written using the Geez syllabary. Amharic, often called Semitic, is heavily influenced by Cushitic languages (of which Oromo), in its vocabulary, syntax, and grammar.

And why does the now accepted narrative make history start with the foundation of Addis Ababa in 1887–and not two centuries earlier, when the area lay at the heart of the Abyssinian polity? For evidence, see the rock-hewn churches carved around the capital city, that predate the Oromo expansion. It takes time to cut a church out of stone, and the ‘first’ inhabitants of the Addis Ababa area were Amharic-speaking Abyssinians, in the 16th century.

The Oromo ‘migrations’, that started in the mid-16thcentury, absorbed large swathes of what we call Ethiopia today, and this during two centuries. The Oromo also acculturated others on their drive towards the north of the Horn of Africa, for that is how such projects are carried-out, and the Oromo were culturally hegemonic. Many of the people who are ‘Oromo’ today were once something else. Some were vassal groups, that adopted the customs and language of their new overlords in a mirror phenomenon to the process of Amharisation.

Today, large parts of the central region of Gojjam are peopled with staunch ‘Amhara’–but, two centuries ago, the people that lived there were all Agew. In Ethiopia, this mixing of identities is sometimes carried-out wholesale with entire groups joining other groups. There are Somali sub-clans that used to be Oromo and, in Wollo, there are Amharic-speaking Oromos.

In the early 2000s, these questions of identity seemed to be given less emphasis. It is only when I travelled to Harar with my friend Samuel Asfaw, for instance, that I discovered that he was  ‘Oromo.’ Born and bred in Addis, Samuel spoke even less Oromiffa than I did, and he’d never brought his ‘ethnicity’ up in the many years we had known each other. During long khat sessions in the same period with the journalist Sinedu Abebe Mohammed, we talked of everything Ethiopian. Butif I well knew Sinedu was from Wollo, I don’t recall her ever mentioning being Amhara (or Oromo), Christian Orthodox (or Muslim)—perhaps because she was all of those things at the same time. I do remember the pun Sinedu came up with, to characterise the unravelling of traditional culture underway in Ethiopia. It was a combination of the English word ‘Global’ and the Amharic word ‘Gedele’ (to kill): gedelisation.

In Ras Kassa Sefer, the area where I used to live in Addis, most people called themselves ‘Amhara’(but neighbours would then mischievously let you know whose grandparents had once been slaves). And it you went to the Oromia towns of Adama or Nekemte, the situation would be no different. One could go as far as saying that ‘Amhara’ is only a social construct… but you would then immediately have to add that ‘Oromo’ is also just a social construct (and you could also say that both of these social constructs are only ever present in their pure unadulterated essence on social media).

And when it comes to history and land occupancy, there is always another ‘first’ before your own first: the lands immediately to the south of the Entotos (today’s Addis Ababa area) were, based on the accounts of Portuguese travellers in the 16th century, inhabited by a ferocious and warlike people they called ‘Gorag…’ (no doubt the people with such a reputation for hard work today known as the Guragué). Many of the victims in Shashamene were Guragué (and Silté)—and one completely fails to see what they could possibly have to do with the expansion of the capital city into Oromia.

But in the version of Ethiopian history too often showcased by the media these days, and pushed by activist groups, there is only place for one binary opposition: Amhara versus Oromo. Prejudice and life outcomes are ‘structural’, and it comes as no surprise that the Oromos protesting in Minneapolis carried placards that read ‘Oromo Lives Matter’. Meanwhile, the official line on the tragic events in Oromia apportions blame for the massacres on both sides for the killings (rioters and government forces).But it is more likely that most of the killings were committed by mobs, and not by state forces (in recent days a number of arrests of local officials have been carried-out, either for colluding with the massacres, or for failing to put a stop to them).

Two and a half years ago, at the height of the unrest that was to usher in the new government, an Ethiopian friend of mine told me about having to smuggle out a number of his employees from a farm that he ran near the city of Adama. His workers, Ethiopian southerners (Wolayta, Hadiya and others), had been cowering in a cattle shed for two days in fear for their life. That same week, many of these southerners were hounded out of their jobs and their lodgings in the larger area, and particularly in the city of Bishoftu, where several hundreds of these people ended up taking refuge in the Ethiopian Air Force Base, before being bussed back down south.

These evictions went largely unmentioned in the international press, and underlined for me not just how fraught the whole situation was becoming, but also the growing importance of social media in the conflicts. The infamous hack battle cry ‘anyone here got raped—who can speak English?’ had transformed into ‘any Internally Displaced Person here— with a tweeting diaspora?’ I also feared that, once uncorked, it would be all but impossible to put this kind of genie back into the bottle.

For this last shocking wave of killings has been in the making for years: with the September 2018 Burayu killings. With the 80-something murders, after the kerfuffle around Jawar Mohammed’s security retinue, in October 2019(killings which remain mostly unaccounted for).The massacres in Burayu, right next to Addis Ababa, in which dozens of southerners were slaughtered, in particular, demonstrated to all that there is little legal retribution to be feared for instigating terror (to my knowledge, no-one has been charged). It is this prevailing anarchy, largely unchecked, that set the scene for the dramatic events that unfolded following the death of Hachalu.

Last year, I attended the Festival International de Journalism in the village of Couthures sur Garonne, which they have been organising every year for some time now (not this year, mind you!). I had the pleasure of lunching with a few renowned political correspondents. As soon as they heard I was recently arrived from Ethiopia, that is all they wanted to talk about. They told me of bold reforms and marvelled at the growth figures. That’s all they wanted to talk about, indeed, and when informed that none of what they had heard was, strictly speaking, the way things were proceeding on the ground, they seemed disappointed. For my part, I departed our picnic on the banks of the Garonne perplexed. It is only long after our pleasant riverside lunch, that I understood why they were so oblivious to the actual facts: it was because they already knew the story: Ethiopia was experiencing a renaissance (and Africa was rising). For that was the narrative they had read, in their respective newspapers. And all that was now required was a pinch of democracy in the right places, a few reforms for ethnic justice here or there, et voilà!

For they had also very much heard of the plight of the Oromo people. Indeed, it is their own publications, in part, that had raised this question to prominence. I think that it was in the year 2015 that I first saw a caption for a picture taken in the Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp that depicted two Ethiopian refugees as being ‘Oromo migrants’. Here too, I believe, a critical mass in the numbers and clout of the Oromo diaspora was reached in those years, but their online advocacy also closely reflected the language of social justice that has moved increasingly to the fore over the last few years in Western media (meanwhile, in photographic captions Syrian migrants continued to remain Syrian—and not Alevi or Sunni, say—and Nigerians continued to be Nigerian—and not Ibo or Yoruba).

But, in actuality, if Ethiopia is disintegrating it is not because of purported ethnic wrongs, current or historical (they do exist, but they are secondary). And it is not because the country needs more democracy. It is said that much of the current anger is stoked by a fear that Abiy has reneged on promises he made in 2018 to end authoritarian rule. Not so. It is the exact opposite that is true: in a country where mobs can kill with impunity hundreds of people, there is a sore need for more, not less, authority.

Ethiopia is crumbling because there are too many youth than can possibly be employed. Ethiopia is falling apart because 50 percent of the country’s inhabitants can now read and write (and, with the spread of social media on mobile phones, read they do). Is literacy a good thing? Yes, but this 50 percent threshold is often a tipping point in a country (it was one of the factors that set the French revolution in motion and the 1974 revolution itself was spearheaded by a few thousand graduates, who went on  to Ethiopianise Marxism—to deadly effect).

But today Ethiopia is tottering on the verge of the abyss because it doesn’t have enough hard currency reserves. Because the country has stagnant exports, and high debt coupled with vicious elite in-fighting over diminishing resources. And also because, contrary to the Ethiopia rising narrative, the country remains abysmally poor, and because the price of food just keeps going up. This is the situation faced by most Ethiopians, and it is a problem that no amount of dams or Chinese loans will solve. Denial, as the saying goes, is a river in Ethiopia. There was never a worse time for another half-baked ideological import to run amok in the country: not only will the accounting of past wrongs, real or otherwise, not provide redress—it is already making every single one of the factors of the predicament worse.

Does it matter if the majority of the 239 people were gunned down by government troops–rather than butchered by mobs? It is a rare case in which a misdiagnosis ends with a working cure; more often than not the patient gets worse. During the sugar craze in early modern Europe, when the teeth of the rich began to rot, some doctors instructed their patients to mouthwash before sleep. They also told them to add sugar to the water. It didn’t work out very well. Likewise, the utter failure to correctly diagnose what is going on in Ethiopia, is stoking an inferno in the making.

For the fact is that there is there-is-no-marginalization-of-Oromos-in-Ethiopia. The higher echelons of government are occupied by Oromo. The leader of the country is an Oromo. The Minister of Defence is an Oromo. The Oromia region has the highest GDP per capita in Ethiopia and Oromo farmers have the highest acreage per household in the country. In my years of travel on horseback around the capital, witnessing first-hand the expansion of the city, I saw just as many inhabitants who were making it good, rather than being dispossessed by the expansion of Addis Ababa.

In Ethiopia, a heavily centralised state, all roads lead to the capital, and all of them run through the Oromia region. I am no economist, but instead of repeating anecdotic tales of impoverishment, I wish someone would sit down and run the numbers. Most regions sitting around capital cities are the richest in their countries—is Ethiopia any different? And, as pointed out by Gardner is his Economist piece Urban Brawl, the unrest in Ethiopia manifests first of all as a series of regionalised events, each with its own, unhappy, characteristics. Seen from afar, these events solidify into the contours of an ‘Oromo uprising’. But look up close and what you’ll see is that Ethiopia is dying from a thousand cuts.

In the 1969 Star Trek episode Let that be your last battlefield, two lone survivors slug it out to the bitter end on the distant planet they once shared. These two men are mirror images of each other—they both have a black and white side, only they are black and white on opposite sides. A skeletal plot on which to hang a simple moral lesson, but perhaps a relevant one for our new binary age, in which it is all but forgotten that all Ethiopians have the same burnt faces.

There will be more demonstrations in Washington DC, decrying an ‘ethnic cleansing’ (and there will be counter-demonstrations in Frankfurt, alerting to an ‘Oromo genocide’). There will be more talk about Oromo disenfranchisement on Twitter, to the drumbeat of enthusiastic dispatches about the ‘Ethiopian Renaissance’ (catch up here with the latest instalment, that aired on 17 August on the BBC). All the while, bloodletting on a hitherto unknown scale looms larger every day in Ethiopia. And if the country truly burns—as, arguably, it already is—then will come the time to remember Sinedu Abebe Mohammed’s portmanteau for globalisation. And this terrifying eventuality should be broadcast from every rooftop and called out by its name while it is still time. And then perhaps—just perhaps—the Ethiopian melting pot will not go up in flames.

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This is the author’s viewpoint. However, Ethiopia Insight will correct clear factual errors.

Main photo: A burned vehicle the Shashemene area in Oromia; July 2020; anonymous

Editor: William Davison

Yves-Marie Stranger is the author of Ethiopia through writers’ eyes (Eland books, 2015) and the translator of Hugues Fontaine’s Menelik. He recently inaugurated an exhibition, the Abyssinian Syllabary, at the Alliance Ethio-française (see photos: Uthiopia.com). His next book, Ethiopie, La cire et l’or, will be coming out in September 2020 (Editions Nevicata)

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About the author

Yves-Marie Stranger

Yves-Marie lived for fifteen years in Ethiopia. A translator and writer, he set up an equestrian stable not far from Addis Ababa.

34 Comments

  • I do not want to dignify this piece by responding to/commenting on the fatal errors of fact and of analysis made by the author. I only want to advice you to have an author who’s objective, open-minded and is talented in searching for truth. That’s the only way one could stay in business in this digital age where media cannot operate in the traditional one way communication to the public.

  • One United Christian Ethiopia is the answer.
    Al shabab and ISIS Jihadis could be behind all this trouble? Anybody think about that??
    Jawar and others are wahabbis Wolves in Sheep clothing.
    Ethiopia is last remaining Non Muslim viable power in Middle East.

    It has a bright future as Christian tolerant island in a sea of islamic Negativity.

  • I wonder if William had ever edited this garbage. Inaccurate evidences, Faulty, fallible arguments.
    – I ride horses outside Addis freely. Therefore they are rich and no subjugation
    =there are churches in Addis. Therefore it was an Amhara land.
    -Menelik might be a son of a slave. So he is innocent
    Haile selassie is an Oromo. Therefore the Oromo were on power.

    Fully disconnected to the deep wounds and realities of Ethiopia.

    You better find another job.

  • Hello Ethiopia
    My heart bleed on ethnicity inspired self hate, in your resource blessed country. I lived and travelled across your country, the beauty and cultured hard working population , allowed me a rare opportunity to notice how few greedy privillaged educated are taking people in a dangerous self destructive path. Surely people of ethiopia deserves better. Instead of politicising ethnicity, why not invest in mechanisation, modern method of food production, and unifying sports.

  • Thousand of oromo people are being shot down by the federal police nowadays I think whenever someone one speaks out their mind in Ethiopia these days you will be either arrested or killed.Oromo mother’s are being reaped by the police a couple of days ago a little girl was reaped by police.Even Amensty international has also reported about these things that are going on. yet they don’t want to admit.The oromo people have been living with ahmar people and also other regions for so many years the oromo and ahmar people have been getting married to each other and they’re like families These dividing people by regions came up in 21century.

    • Lie and fabricated rhetoric and well practiced culture by tplf and olf the two were enemies just two years ago you can not cheat the civil society anymore you’re deception of the western world already came to an end failed ideology

  • The French are the most duplicitous foreigners ever to have blighted the precincts of Africa. This foreign white constable (Count of the Stable) should at the very least take a neutral and humble position instead of pursuing a tendentious argument in the interests of those who made it possible for him to found his equestrian enterprise in Ethiopia. And at the base of his rambling piece lies his naked anxiety of where individuals like him would be – if Ethiopia were to fall to chaos. I would like to hear from any Ethiopian, Ghanaian, Congolese etc; who has been able to establish a successful equestrian business in France.

    • There is nothing new this Frenchman told us about the current sorry state in Ethiopia. His story about the past znd present is partially true but at the end he didn’t offer viable solutions to our problems. Yes, he described about ethnic conflicts, the killings, ghe carnage and destruction and all the social and economic hardships but said nothing about political vision and leadership as a panacea. What Ethiopia needs now is a pragmatic and acceptable political solution by forming inclusive discourse for a better understanding and amicable solution. Telling only the dark side without direction for a bright future doesn’t take us anywhere.

  • The oromo are the people who has been a victim of inferiority complex.anything good in Ethiopia belongs to Amhara in their mind set and attitudes.their politicians does not know their political target for the people of oromo.instead of creating a good relationship with the indegiounes citizens of Ethiopia, they are creating and preaching hate and false history wich never happend in Ethiopia. The Amharas are the most civilized and modernist of Ethiopia was very good in leadership, agriculture, education, in creating Ethiopians letters,good in architecture and space science and christianity. They introduce christianity to oromos first in history. Oromos are called pagan.they do not have believe at all. so many France historians wrote in their history book about oromos by saying,pagan oromos.they are cattleman .that is what they knew and their means of income and living in their own history.

  • Stranger is strange to the real political, social and economic issues in Ethiopia. Interesting read but lots of misconceptions. Just to mention one. Expansion of cities is a common occurrence anywhere in the world. It is what happens to those who are evicted from their land that we often forget. Robbed of their land without appropriate compensation, left to fend for themselves most with even no roof over their heads is the reality for millions who evicted from their lands surrounding Addis Abeba. The writer seems to say there is no marginalization of Oromos as those who held important government positions are Oromos. There is the same paradox that run trough centuries in Ethiopia. Oromos who held those position often deny of being oromo to be accepted. It us a well known story that most oromos change their name when they move to Addis Abeba if they expect to succeed in any career. Does the writer know that Oromos are insulted for speaking their language in the city at the heart of Oromia, Addis Ababa and following Haacaalu’s death people are being attacked for speaking in Oromo language? Does the writer know that of tens of thousands of restaurants, cafeterias and hotels in the capital, those owned by Oromos are not more than the number of fingers on your one hand. There are so much to say and things are too complex often for foreigners to comprehend the social ills in Ethiopia.

    • My fellow Ethiopian, I have lived and studied and worked in Ethiopia for more than five decades, I have never once heard of people being put down for speaking Oromiffa!!! My family have been speaking both languages. Even now, where in Ethiopia are people being attacked for speaking any language?? Not in the Ethiopia I live in, unless there is a parallel universe.
      There is a one sided view, almost like selfishly appropriating mistreatment , commonly done by ‘urbanites’ on people from the rural regions, to push this idea of racial based ‘abuse’. Thousands of others coming from the rural regions also change their names, are shy to speak in accented dialect even those coming from Amharic speaking areas! I know this because I have experienced it and know people who’ve done this. Please do your research on the businesses too before giving sweeping statements, because all these are complete fabrications and misinformation’s based on what you heard from our ‘new generation ethnic activists’!! Injustice by the administration on the poor, uneducated, the weak is not new in Ethiopia, because even the leaders are not much different, they are not always smart, they are not always well educated and they may not have a strong but balanced view of life/leadership! Mostly however their vision for the country is not clear, and our country need the people to respect and support each other, this has been woefully lacking especially in the last 30-40 years.

  • The current Ethiopian politics is fueled by fabricated narrative that was initiated by so called university scholars back.in the 60s this students now they are in thier 70s and their followers are less.educated tplf olf are the main couse of the instability olf is fighting for independent of Oromo tplf is using Oromo to distabliz Ehiopia two years ago they wear enemies of each other now they are allayed against prime minister Abiyes administration Jawar and Bekele now sent to jail their followers most of them uneducated farmers was brain washed and told.by Jawar and Bekele to commit murder mayhem against thousands of innocent Ethiopians particularly The Amhara ethinc Ethiopian and the orthodox Christians olf and tplf currently financed by Egypt they’ve been doing this at list for the last 50+ years Egypt’s objective is to destabilize Ethiopia so that Ethiopia couldn’t use nile unfortunately our on Fellow country men are collaborating with the enemy Egypt +TPLF+OLF are the main couse of unrest in Ethiopia.

  • “Not so. It is the
    exact opposite that is true: in a country where mobs can kill
    with impunity hundreds of people, there is a sore need for
    more, not less, authority.”

    The masterminds of the butchery do still want to scale up the practice to be marvelled at beyond that of Rwandan. They foolishly manifest their anger at the government for taking measures to discharge its minimum responsibility.

  • “For the fact is that there is there-is-no-marginalization-of-Oromos-in-Ethiopia. The higher echelons of government are occupied by Oromo. The leader of the country is an Oromo. The Minister of Defence is an Oromo. The Oromia region has the highest GDP per capita in Ethiopia and Oromo farmers have the highest acreage per household in the country. In my years of travel on horseback around the capital, witnessing first-hand the expansion of the city, I saw just as many inhabitants who were making it good, rather than being dispossessed by the expansion of Addis Ababa.”

    Give it to a clueless white man to live 15 years in Addis and not now the scale of land of displacements which was one of the reasons that forced Tplf out of power! How can William let him publish this garbage on here is beyond me!

  • One more thing, I’m really taken aback by the author’s ight and how he passingly mentioned one of closely guarded dirty secret and complex issue in Ethiopia: Slavery and its practice by the system is n Ethiopia. It took the pressure of the the League Of Nations’ membetship application to curtail it well into 1930s . They used to teach schools and propagate around world that it was only Muslisms and the king Aba Jiffar
    of Jimma that practiced it eventhough Aba Jiffar was already in Menilik’s prison at gun point at turn of the 18th. These slavevpeople toiled in every feudal and emperial offiacial premise for generations and even interbreeding forcefully with them thereby changing their names, faith and culture. Adding insult to injury, ,,the grand nephew of Haile Selassie Asras Wondweosen, who wrote few years a ago a book entitled ” King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy Emperors Haile Selassie” said those folks were happy and dignified with their role and status at the time. Can you imagine that ? it s revolting thing to say it the least. This is why Ethiopian public psyche is so complex, secretive, condictory and down right irreconcilable.

  • Yves–this is a poignant piece pointing to the real impediments to statebuilding in Contemporary Ethiopia, which are rooted in political economy. Just look at all the welfare queens causing mayham at the Ethiopian embassy in London. Refreshing departure from the farcical social narratives being pushed by so called ‘progressives’, and I am certainly thrilled to see Ethiopia Insight featuring perspectives outside of it’s editorial ‘body-politic’.

  • Correction* for deduction on Lil Wayne – I can deduce that there is not racism against black people. He once said he never experienced racism, hence, someone who hangs around him can simplify the black experience of racism saying; he doesn’t, hence, there is no such thing as racism against blacks. — not arguing it’s a right deduction, it is how the author sounds

  • I agree with the writer that land has a lot to do with what is happening in Ethiopia. However, his reasoning is still faulty. He is trying to see Ethiopia from the eyes of its already urbanized inhabitants, who are mostly “Amharized”. Yes, they might not claim to be on either sides and that they are just Ethiopian, but “Ethiopia” itself is a social construct. If we look at identities (Oromo, Amhara etc) in forms of just culture and language, “Ethiopia” is a sub-culture of the Amhara culture and Oromo is not.

    Going back to land, to my understanding, more than 80% of Oromia’s population is rural. Now, as education, unlike before, has become universal. The youth are culturally forced, even in Oromo cities, to assimilate to a culture and reality different from their own. As to why the culture in urban areas have been dominated by Amharic speaking elites, irrespective of their ethnic affiliation, is because of violence propagated in previous regimes.

    You can argue Menelik, Haile Seliasse and co. were partially or fully Oromo (or any ethnic make-up for that matter, but the truth is they were all violently promoting a certain [elitist] culture.

    Unemployment wise, it is true that the economy is a factor to disfranchisement, but it is not the source as the author claims. How can a country, which has never come into terms with its diverse narratives and issues, expect to stably, economically prosper. The articles suggests that these identity narratives are a social media constructs because they have been, and seen, what is happening in the ground. If we are going to use references to other cultures and predicaments, I could deduce that since I saw Obama doing well, African Americans must be fine. Better, I could meet up with Lil Wayne and conclude with: 1. He did not experience racism, hence racism must have other reasons beyond race. Like, unemployment. 2. He was able to become rich, hence, raising the question: why are other black people complaining from marginalization?

    Ethiopia’s problems are all rooted in identity. I agree there are other factors, but identity is the only common denominator for all. Claiming to not belong to just one, or suggesting “Oromo-s are in power” feeds into ignoring the “identity” of the state itself.

    I am not here to answer all the points that the author raised, and I welcome his intake, even tho it is a replica of the urbanized-Amharized-Ethiopian version of thee story. Arguing it is not simple and still carrying one perspective in mind.

  • I’ve read the article with interest. It is unbiased to one or another ethnic group and had presented us mayhem, which is going on in the country on account of elite-led ethnic politics. If one is to see who is the most dispossessed in Ethiopia today, we need to allow international researchers to visit both the Amhara and Oromya regions and see the people there. Siding with one’s ethnic group and labeling another as an oppressor wouldn’t help. What Ethiopia needs today is forward looking politicians who work toward bringing the people out of poverty instead of running after grabbing political power.

  • The shameless opportunists that never cease to reinvent themselves as Marxists, Leninists, Progressives, oppressed nations and nationalities liberators, freedom fighters and what have you should be called out for what they truly have been in the past nearly 50 years: opportunists that want to grasp state power and pocket money and status for themselves and their cronies. Mr.Yves-Marie, you can be a true friend to the various helpless and innocent people of Ethiopia who are the victims of mob violence, government indifference and maybe even involvement, by highlighting to the media in the West and educating them about the necessity of bringing the planners, organizers and perpetrators of these crimes against humanity to justice and face the long arm of the law.

    The long and complicated history of Ethiopia cannot and should not be used, distorted or mangled by shameless opportunists to slaughter the helpless men, women , children, the elderly who cannot speak for themselves, whose tears, sufferings, displacement and murder can no longer be ignored. To every side of a coin there is another side, and the west has to acknowledge this. Oromo nationalists concoct a story that does not want to face reality. During the derg period, Mengistu Hailemariam (himself an Oromo on his mother’s side and from the South on his father’s side) was responsible for the brutal massacre, displacement and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Ethiopians. His regime was also responsible for the death and displacements of millions of Ethiopians due to famine that was in the range of 10 times worse than that happened a decade before during Emperor Haile Selassie era. The Oromo were perpetrators of mass violence and murders in that regime. One very well known criminal of that era was Kelbessa Negewo, an Oromo (from Wollega) who was responsible for the massacre, murder, in humane beatings and imprisonment of many youth who were perceived enemies of the state. During Emperor Menilik’s time, most of the expeditions in the South were down with his Oromo generals. In the 1600s, the Oromo expansion was accomplished at the enslavement, language, culture and forced assimilation of many ethnic groups by the Oromos.

    In your article, you mentioned about a literacy rate of 50% that has resulted in mass reading. But unfortunately, the reality is that what is being read and being presented is a distorted history by political opportunists for amnesiacs and for easily impressionable youth. The Neway brothers Mengistu and Germame were responsible for the summary executions of prominent ministers, patriotic war heroes and the death of nearly 400 soldiers. On what planet would they have been found innocent no matter how just their cause had been? The derg regime lionized them while at the same time summarily executing youth barely out of their teens who were caught distributing reactionary pamphlets or slogans against the derg- oh the absurdity and illogic of these shameless opportunists.

    The final message to all shameless opportunists is before you try to liberate any ethnic group or marginalized people you claim you care for, liberate your own selves first from the mental inferiority complex, psychological disease of hate of the other and psychological trauma of inadequacy of your own being. You can volunteer, care for the elderly, read, get a real education, and most of all if you want to accumulate wealth, learn to work instead of creating havoc and mayhem for millions of helpless victims. When you do that, Ethiopia will be at peace. When you learn to do that, finally after half a century, Ethiopia will sigh with a great relief and start to mend her wounds.

    • Good insight. Until the socialist idea of equally is abolished from the minds of the people, Ethiopia” s problem will not be solved. Investors are presumed to be exploiters and these individuals are targeted irrespective of their ethnic origin. The so called elites agitate fair distribution of wealth in the country which is im practical .

  • Mr. Nif I find it perplexing you bring up centuries old narrative and try to defend the author’s real and current position. You say oromo want to be governed by their own people. Out of the 17 woredas and hundreds of zones can you mention a SINGLE area which is governed by a non oromo???? That’s including finfine to be frank. Mention a single area pls. I tell you the answer NONE. Each and every government bureau, judicial office and law enforcement officials are filled by oromo and no one else. That is a fact. You said oromo should be the working language of the nation….YES it should. No doubt about that…from north to south and everyone from all ethnicities agree that it should be the way. was it presented to a parliament and rejected??? NO..was it put on for a national debate and rebuffed?? NO…no single sensible person that you know will tell you that it shouldnt be a national language. But you seem to support ransacking, killing, torching and ethnic based fueling in the name of two simple but practically non existent problems…..its like a baby holding two breads at the back, and crying for more with his right hand. In fact when language is concerned so should be the somali, afar, sidamo and tigrai languages…language is a medium of communication alas!!…no need for killing . Regarding the economic benefits…trust me you need to head to amhara, tigrai and south of shashemene to see the outright differences in job opportunities, quality of living and investments. It’s all in oromia and oromia is the one who is crying the loudest. Why? The author has touched it mostly but it’s not complete. It’s not a question of marginalization, not economic benefit, not cultural recognition. It’s much more sinister than that.

  • OROMO FEDERAL CONGRESS’S (OFC’s) Merira Gudina should first try to get the Oromo Federal Congress (OFC) in one accord. Bekele G. of OFC went rogue. Merira Gudina should first try to get the Oromo Federal Congress (OFC) in one accord. Bekele took the Amara Muslim Congressman of OFC, Jawar Mohammed hostage. Bekele G. took Hachalu’s body at the same time he took Jawar Mohammed hostage.

    Jawar’s neighbors attested Bekele G. sent many of his hitmen to assassinate Congressman Jawar. These snipers failed to kill Jawar M. in the past, the radar satellite which does surveillance of the neighborhood where Jawar M. resides was installed by direct order of the then Defence Minister, the ethnic Oromo Lemma Megersa.
    The snipers sharp shooters were unsuccessful , most are taken in custody by the federal defense securities who constantly monitor the satellite feed 24/7 to ensure the safety of the Muslim Amara Oromo Federal Congressman Jawar Mohammed.

    So now the question would be is the OFC able to continue performing it’s political actions or is this fallout between Jawar and Bekele G. going to affect OFC.

    Merira’s most recent study paper released about holding talks to bring national dialogue is suspected to be Merira’s way of recruiting replacements for those OFC members who are in question.It remains to be seen.

  • Yves-Marie Stranger, I honestly tell you that this is either genuine misunderstanding of the Ethiopian context or deliberate twisting to side with the Abyssinian narratives for whatever reasons. If you are genuine to yourself, let me ask you to understand Oromo political questions. First, Oromos want their language to be one of the working languages in Addis Ababa and Federal Governments’ administrations. Oromos, according to official census, accounts for more than one-third of the Ethiopian population. What is wrong with this demand?

    Secondly, Oromos want self administration with own identity. During the emperors and Derg regimes, non-Oromo speakers (that means, Amharic speakers) were sent to Oromo areas to rule them, through translation (and were forced to pay for the translation). Oromos are demanding to be administered by their own people, with their own language. What is wrong with this? Are you still pushing colonialism to rein in Ethiopia? Ask Scottish people, ask Welsh people how much they are investing to revive their languages.

    You mentioned your two or three friends who told you that they have Oromo bloods. For that matter, Mengistu Hailemariam was a half Oromo. You mentioned Haile-Selassie and Menelik as having Oromo bloods. Here is where you missed the whole mark. These people are totally assimilated into Amhara culture and language. They cannot represent Oromo identity. Moreover, the assimilated population represent insignificant share compared to the Oromo population who kept their identity. If you are genuine, take time to study. Ask your Abyssinian siblings why they do not want to see Oromo language as just one of the working languages in the federal and Addis Ababa administrations if they want to do good for this empire struggling to forge some sort of statehood.

    I appreciate your honesty about your ignorance in economics. Oromo peasants around Addis were displaced from their lands without compensation (if interested, I can point out research findings based on concrete studies by non-Oromo academicians). The government officials and their brokers sold the lands in millions of birrs and became rich in Addis Ababa. The surrounding Oromos remained destitute. Your theory does not work here. If you are really interested in political economy of ethnic relations in Ethiopia, do some research who owns what in Addis Ababa and why.

    If you are really interested in Ethiopian history and political economy, please read a book by John Markakis referred to as ”Ethiopia: the last two frontiers”. If your interest is only a palace history, keep muddling in Ethiopian politics to face-saving with the grandsons of empire builders. However, that has gone for good not to come back. Ethiopia must belong to all identities – Sidama, Wolaita, Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Somali, Afar, Gurage, Silte, Agaw, Keficho, and many others. The Ethiopia you try to portrait will never exist.

    • Point of correction : the first ever mob attack by the Oromo youth mob took place in 2014 and it was against Somalis and other minority traders/residents in Awaday and other localities in Harar and the East and at the behest or in the blessing of the OPOS echelons led by Maragarsa, Abiy, Shimeles and Kidesa.The perpetrators of that gruesome crime aren’t accounted for their criminality so far

      Secondly, as much as I distrust and worried about the old guards of the Abyssinian empire (Amhara and Tigrain) and their next grand scame, Oromos acts of abuses and uncalled mistreatment on other oppressed nations and civilians in the last couple of years aren’t necessarily reassuring things, at best, and unbecoming at worst , if not not betrayal of highest order and violence-mongering scheme. If the Oromoness of Abiy, Magarsa,Shimeles, Kidesa et al isn’t enough for them , whose at fault? What the other folks have to do with the perceived political and grievinences and misfortunes?Why target innocent people and other groups time and again, who have little or nothing to do with the outcome? Just asking!

    • There is nothing wrong with promotion Oromo language and culture. There is a big problem when you take a random area and call it Oromia, Amhara, etc… to be administered by one ethnic group. That is against the truth of history.

    • The best statement is found in the last paragraph! Ethiopia belongs to all, equally! Nobody objects to having additional languages included in our education system!! (I have yet to find Oromiffa, Tegrigna and Guragigna language courses being offered for those who want to learn!) The more we know, the richer we’ll be, we’ve learnt English!! We all can learn more languages.
      Injustices on the poor done by past governments was not limited to one ethnic group! It was done by the powerful on the poor, by the politician on the daily toiler, by the ‘connected’ on the rest, why do you assume the rest had it easy? Nobody minds what ethnic group leads, is the boss or leader, all they want is to be treated fairly!!
      People object to being labeled as oppressors, and being accused of being racists , and deserving of abuse, name calling, slander and violence!
      The very blame extended to ‘non oromo’ has been perpetrated by Oromo on the south! Does that mean the non Oromo now should rise and push the Oromo out?? No!!! Correcting past injustices by using/practicing the same action (eye for an eye) will not help anyone. The majority see/feel unbridled ‘hate’ coming from the ‘new Oromo politicians’. What we hear is blame, justice for this ethnic group! Is this at the expense of the rest?? Why??! How can that be accepted as fair by anyone?

    • Thank you for admitting that many of the influencial persons in Ethiopia are from Oromo ethnic group Oromo contribute much for the nation building of Ethiopia. This is the fact
      that you don’t deny. But you refused to accept these men are not Oromos as they serve their government ,which is totally wrong. So long as they speak their language,sing and practice their culture,one can not revoke their identity. In Oromia region Afan Ormo is the working language. Whoever lives in Oromia, courts and government offices use the language of the region. Why do many extremists instigate to attack non Oromos as we are seeing today? Their agenda is not Culture or administration. It is to hate non Oromos and evict them. In reality, Ethiopia has a 3 thousand years old history long before the Oromo s settled in the country.

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