In-depth

The light at the end of the Ethiopian tunnel

Impartial concern for victims, elite dialogue, and deep societal self-reflection can rescue Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian New Year, typically a moment for optimism, was overcast last month by a dark cloud of foreboding. Many Ethiopians fear what the future holds for their country, and recent events have demonstrated again that this anxiety is justified.

This forces us to ask: is there any reason for hope? I believe there is. But, first, we must find a way to talk across our divides.

On 29 June, Hachalu Hundessa, one of Ethiopia’s stars, known for his captivating Oromo songs, was shot dead. Millions of Ethiopians felt profound sorrow, but what followed was even more tragic. A few hours later, protests erupted in Oromia and the capital Addis Ababa. They quickly turned violent, and, in the span of days, claimed more than 150 lives.

While much remains unknown about the incident, some aspects are clear. First, although official figures said more than two-thirds fatalities were Oromo, the violence often targeted ethnic Amhara and their perceived allies, such as non-Amhara Orthodox Christians. Second, although Hachalu’s death sparked the unrest, the deep-rooted resentment that some Oromo have towards some Amhara living in Oromia contributed to the mayhem. Hachalu’s death converted this resentment into deadly violence.

Looking back, the government’s careless engagement with Jawar Mohammed was the fertile ground that turned the simmering resentment into the October 2019 violence. We can trace this trend back to the early 1990s, when the security vacuum left during the transition from the Derg to Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime enabled targeted attacks against Amhara living in parts of Oromia such as Bedeno and Arba Guugu.

Sadly, given the raging discontent about recent political events among Oromo protesters, Hachalu’s death is unlikely to be the last time such violence is triggered. Accordingly, ethnic minorities in Oromia will continue to live precariously.

Although coverage may depict Oromia as the epicenter of inter-ethnic violence, and the Oromo as disproportionately engaged in it, violence has unfortunately been far more widespread than that. Indeed, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power and the liberalization of the political space gave way to unbridled levels of ethnic nationalism, which, combined with a relative security vacuum, has led to bouts of ethnic violence across the country over the past two years.

Notably, January to October 2019 was marked by inter-communal violence in Amhara against the minority Qimant (and by Qimant militia, according to Amhara activists), where hundreds were killed and thousands displaced. In Benishangul-Gumuz, a cycle of violence mostly targeting minority Amhara and Oromo populations has been ongoing. In the most recent flare-up, a weeks-long attack claimed the lives of dozens in Metekel Zone (over 160 Amhara died, according to the National Movement of Amhara). The mass killings of ethnic Gumuz people living in Amhara is also among the recent instances of heinous ethnic violence.

Ugly narratives

What is possibly more saddening than the lives that we are losing and the trauma we are going through is the way different political camps and their media outriders present the situation. This is arguably more worrying, as it suggests that the divides are only set to grow wider, and so the violence is likely to intensify.

For instance, Oromo nationalists and their media platforms, such as Oromia Media Network (OMN), made virtually no attempt to condemn Oromo youths engaged in the ethnic violence that followed Hachalu’s death. Similarly, they were pretty much silent when Oromo mobs murdered non-Oromo in October 2019.

Another case in point is the Burayu massacre of September 2018 that claimed the lives of dozens at the time of the Oromo Liberation Front and Ginbot 7 return rallies. Instead of condemning the attacks and admonishing the Oromo youth, influential Oromo nationalists deflected and lied. For instance, Jawar Mohammed claimed, with no evidence, that the violence was a conspiracy to “dismantle the federal system.” Furthermore, on OMN, he claimed that, in contrary to the biased reporting from state media, it was Oromo who were the victims as 43 Oromo were killed in the capital. No evidence was provided, and this appeared to be a lie.

The Ethiopianist camp and their media platforms are far from immune to the problem. Take, for instance, the way they presented the October 2019 massacre. To many who belong to this camp, it was Jawar who was responsible for the 86 fatalities. However, it was the Prime Minister who said, in parliament, that media owners with a foreign passport are inciting conflict and that the government will take measure against them—an apparent reference to Jawar. One day later, police officers surrounded the then-media activist’s home in the night and demanded his security guards depart.

On Facebook, Jawar shared this suspicious and provocative incident with his followers. Yes, deadly violence ensued, but saying that he should not have made the posts is tantamount to saying he has no right to self-defense or freedom of expression. It must also be noted that Jawar made a plea for calm by calling on his supporters to eschew violence. Furthermore, Shimelis Abdissa, the acting president of Oromia, said that the police visit to Jawar’s home was a mistake, that the incident would be investigated, and that the government would ensure the safety of Jawar.

Regardless, many in the Ethiopianist camp preferred to solely blame Jawar in order to advance their agenda.  Had it been a genuine concern for the plight of the attacked and a commitment to justice they had in mind, rather than political point-scoring, they would have demanded government accountability and transparency.

Similarly, the Ethiopianists tend to continually reproduce the narrative that the current wave of ethnic conflict in Ethiopia shows the multinational federal arrangement is not sustainable. Whenever there is an ethnic-based crime, they use the incident to make this argument.

While there is no doubt that aspects of multinational federalism are contributing, it does not really capture what is taking place. First, even though multinational federalism was in place during the heyday of the EPRDF, where authoritarian practices defined the party-state, large-scale, deadly ethnic conflicts were relatively rare.

Second, deadly ethnic conflicts occur frequently in African nations that do not have a federal arrangement based on ethnicity. In the relatively more democratic Kenya, for instance, thousands died and were displaced due to such violence in the past decade, and the threat of more such conflict is real.

Thus, the Ethiopianist camp must tell us how removing multinational federalism will eradicate ethnic conflict.

Similarly, the narrative pushed by the same ideological constituency that multinational federalism gave birth to ethnic nationalism is false. At the very least, it has been at the center of Ethiopian politics since the late days of Emperor Haile Selassie I and Wallelign Mekonnen’s (in)famous 1969 tract.

In fact, perhaps to the credit of multinational federalism, sub-state nationalism has diminished in Ethiopia compared to Derg and Haile Selassie eras. In recent decades, we have not had serious ethnic liberation fronts seeking secession. During the final years of the Derg, there were numerous groups with strong backing that fought for independence, such as the Oromo Liberation Front, Afar Liberation Front, Western Somali Liberation Front, and Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Arguably, the reason these groups toned down their secessionism had to do with the protection of self-determination and the right to secede enshrined in Article 39 of the constitution. Popular support for secession also seems to have decreased. I suspect that the reason is that this federal system has made it possible—at least on paper—for groups to gain autonomy, respect, recognition, and so on, without seceding from the State.

Accordingly, what our Ethiopianist friends should try to understand is that attempts to fundamentally alter the federal structure by dismantling the ethnic basis to regions, reducing the focus the constitution gives to groups rights while pushing for individual rights, and embracing territorial federalism, might well be a recipe for civil war. And even if the Ethiopian State manages to avoid that fate, dismantling the federal structure could mean the resurgence of the ethnic guerrilla warfare that brought down the Derg.

Furthermore, since they claim to be committed to democracy, our Ethiopianist friends ought to show this by avoiding any attempt to alter the federal structure without making sure there is a majority support for it. A fundamental feature of inclusive democracy is that it is not just vocal, privileged urban-elites who get to have a say about such matters, and it therefore requires Ethiopianists to persuade the wider public. However, looking at the Sidama referendum result, the increasing demands for statehood in the south, the situation in Tigray, and a recent poll on the support multinational federalism enjoys, it seems that the Ethiopianist position may not be shared by as many people as they hope.

If those in the Ethiopianist camp are genuinely concerned about the plight of Ethiopians suffering from ethnic conflict, and I think many of them are, they should first demand that the government fulfills its primary task of protecting citizens. Instead of presenting multinational federalism as the sole culprit, they should also grapple with the question of why the security apparatus is so ineffective, and why Abiy’s government keeps failing to guarantee public safety. Is it the supposed march towards multiparty democracy? Is it the age-old philosophical problem of finding the right balance between liberty and order? Is it the sheer incompetence of this government?

These, I think, are questions that the Ethiopianists must ask and delve into, even as they make their arguments and set out their plans for evolving Ethiopia away from the federal system they so despise.

Furthermore, in fighting for the safety of Ethiopians and the respect for human rights, they should avoid partiality. The same way Oromo nationalists tend to overlook the plight of minorities being attacked by Oromo, some Ethiopianists overlook victims that they apparently deem unworthy.

To them, victims in Oromia are worthy of attention because they help push the anti-multinational federalism agenda and, for the pro-Abiy faction of the camp, because it might increase support for the premier.

On the other hand, some victims of the Ethiopian State are unworthy in their eyes because they do not advance their agenda. For instance, government-owned media outlets and prominent Ethiopianist media, such as ESAT, were largely silent about the torture, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary arrests of innocent Oromo in the name of a counter-insurgency against the Oromo Liberation Army, even after an extensive report by Amnesty International. This pattern was repeated in August after authorities used excessive force on protestors in Wolayta.

In a rather ironic way, the same camp that heavily relied on the reports of international organizations such as Amnesty, and strongly backed Western governments’ condemnations of human-rights abuses by the TPLF-led government, has now made an embarrassing 180-degree pivot and begun asserting that we have to be skeptical about reports and statements coming from these entities. Some, sadly, went as far as claiming that they have a hidden agenda to damage Ethiopia.

 Light at the end of the tunnel?

With highly polarized elites engaged in pushing their agenda at every opportunity, a central government that failed at protecting citizens and now enacting violence, and inter-communal killings normalized, is there anything to look forward to?

My answer is, yes, there is a lot to look forward to! There is light at the end of the tunnel. This, however, will get brighter and larger only if all of us do our share.

First, as pointed out earlier, we must demand that the government carries out its primary duty of protecting the lives of citizens. A state incapable of doing that is a failed state. In doing so, however, we have to do our best not to get into the ugly trap of classifying victims as, borrowing Noam Chomsky’s phrase, “worthy and unworthy victims.”

Second, we must understand that there is a significant distinction between a State engaged in violence and one upholding the rule of law. Accordingly, citizens must demand that the government does not engage in violence in the name of protecting lives. In this, we must stand together. Whether it is violence against Oromo in Wellega, or Wolayta in Sodo, we have to stand against it.

We must also understand that pushing the government to uphold the rule of law is meaningless without pushing for impartiality from the criminal justice system. As a result of the recent arrest of almost 10,000 people, including prominent politicians, the system is being tested. Judicial impartiality is crucial and our pressure must also be even-handed: If we demand courts to be impartial on Eskinder’s case and turn a blind eye when the government meddles with Jawar’s, or vice versa, then we are not pushing for justice, but engaging in political expediency.

Worryingly, there are indications that the government could once again abuse the courts for its own ends.

For instance, at the initial stage of the investigations, authorities were claiming, without evidence, that TPLF and OLF-Shane collaborated in Hachalu’s murder. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed endorsed this view by saying “a political group that wishes to regain power through bloodshed orchestrated the killing,” presumably a reference to TPLF. He also claimed that Egypt might have been involved. Intensifying this worry, federal prosecutors are now prosecuting Jawar with training a terrorist group in Egypt.

As René Lefort, the keen observer of Ethiopian politics, correctly pointed out, this is a wild accusation that makes the charges against Jawar hard to believe. Similarly, the allegations against Eskinder Nega, which included that he organized a terrorist group in the Amhara region with the aim of assassinating, among others, Takele Uma, the former acting deputy mayor of Addis Ababa, are so ludicrous that it should make us worry about the justice system. The way Lidetu Ayalew, another prominent politician being prosecuted for firearms offenses in Oromia, is being treated by the government is also worrying. We must try and ensure that we are impartial in our fight against these continuing tendencies to abuse the justice system.

It is also time for a long-overdue National Dialogue. In particular, the two main ideological camps in Ethiopia—Ethiopianists and multinational federalists—must engage in a series of discussions. For this to happen, however, both must first mend internal fractures, and Abiy’s government must be fully committed. Ideally, Abiy should not take a side but play the role of a broker-statesman. This, however, is tricky, as some in the Ethiopianist camp consider him a powerful ally.

In any case, without reaching an elementary level of consensus through such a process, a push for a majoritarian democracy is dangerous. Indeed, the urgency of a National Dialogue has become so apparent that Abune Mathias, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made a plea, during the Meskel celebrations, for such all-inclusive, comprehensive discussion.

Additionally, this is a time to reflect. A time to listen to the other side. A time to question our deeply held beliefs. As a 20-year-old Addis Ababan and an ethnic Amhara, it is easy for me to turn my back on the anger and frustration of those who don’t share my view on Ethiopian identity or our glorious history. But, the moment I confront myself and question my assumptions, I realize that at least some of their anger is justified.

I realize it is they who speak my language while I don’t know a word of theirs; I realize that neither I nor those who are close to me will ever give our children an Oromo or a Sidama name, while many of them are called by a name that I recognize; I realize they know a lot about the history of my heroes while I know none about theirs; I realize that the movie, music, and fashion industry is dominated by faces, names, themes, and narratives that I am familiar with; I realize that the image that appears in my mind when I think of an Ethiopian person doesn’t look like a Somali or Anuak. Endless realizations.

Those who are angry and frustrated must also realize that the problem here is not one that will be solved by institutional measures such as ethnic federalism or education policies. It is one that requires active engagement with those who they believe are blind to their frustration. It is one that requires mutual trust, a sense of fraternity, winning hearts, and deep reflection. For this to be fruitful, however, they must also partake in the pain of those whose hearts they want to win. They must be willing to condemn the wrongdoings of those who belong to ‘their side’.

If we do this, there is no reason why we should not hope for a better future. Failing to do this, however, would be failing Ethiopia. Thus, as the government and the split political elites engage in a National Dialogue, we should have our own dialogues. Dialogue in small circles; dialogue within the family; dialogue on social media; a dialogue with oneself—dialogues that make us uncomfortable.

Together, we are the light at the end of the tunnel!

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Main photo: Unity Park; 26 January 2020; William Davison.

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About the author

Emmanuel Yirdaw

Emmanuel is an undergraduate philosophy student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Born and raised in Ethiopia, he moved to the U.S. as a high school student in 2015. Follow him on Twitter @EmmanuelYirdaw

22 Comments

  • Damtew, when you said 90 percent is fabticated you must have read your sponsors version of history.

    Do you really know what 90 percent means? Don’t throw numbers like Woyane and hope it will stick. It only shows you are illtrate with numbers.

  • 90 % of ethiopia’s hisfory is a fabricated one to make supermacy of one ethnic group over the rest and fabrication of new history still continuing. Today, almost no one accepts that fable naration of ethiopia except the group beneficiary of these naration. While the current government is deliberatly pushing the ethinic divide to gain political profit, we are indeed divided beyond repair. But I found & appreciate your piece because it is based on all sided assesment. There may be a light at the end of a tunnel. Positive.

  • Best to focus on the bullseye.
    Weather one likes it or not the soft power of the Ethiopiawient will prevail. The people of Ethiopia will cleanse all Chatters Or Talkers that are not basing their perceptions on really or facts on the ground. In one or 2 election circles and focus on each one of their destiny they will control in stead of really on some cunning or slick opportunistic individuals like so many that are biding the rouge regimes disqualified agenda simply for money or blackmail. As the saying goes Game Over feel free to play MONOPOLY with the stolen paper loot or find a way to transfer wealth to commoners at list you can try to Buy Love which comes natural to the Top Brass anyways

    • Emmanuel would be transparant if he disclose his ethnicity as opposse ‘born in Ethiopia’ defending colonial ethnic apartheid out of the United State of America.

      The elites’ hypocracy on behalf of their sponsors is killing Ethiopians and their asparation for represntatve democracy.

      Arguing TPLF, OLF… represent the asparation of the people is like saying KKK represent white people in America.

      TPLF proven that reality wining ‘election’ by 97 percent — insulting the people once again.

      The author is not far behind and should remind everyone little knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all.

  • There is no genocide and Crimes Against Humanities in Kenya as there is in Ethiopia. Comparing the situation in Ethiopia as if it is similar to the situation in Kenya is very dangerous because it is similar to comparing an atomic bomb to a hand grenade. Both nuclear bomb and a hand grenade are bombs but the severity of the damages they cause are not comparable . Only foolish individuals or those who perpetrated and keep benefiting from the ongoing Crimes Against Humanities diminish the situation in Ethiopia as just another ethnic violence.

    Patience is running out for the victims who suffered for way too long. That is why we all need to come to the solution by first and foremost admiting there is an ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia. Diminishing the danger in Ethiopia by claiming it is just another ethnic violence similar to some African countries such as Kenya went through is similar to seeking medication of an airborne allergy while the patient is sick on the verge of death from CoronaVirus.

    የዐማራው ሕዝብ እልቂት ኢትዮጵያን ያጠፋታል – አክሎግ ቢራራ (ዶር)

    https://www.ethiopoint.com/amharic/archives/111578

  • Military helicopters were circling the dam by flying close to the ground at night time on this past Sunday night. These helicopters resembled the same identical Ethiopian military government helicopters seen shooting and massacring at least seven hundred people at the Irecchha celebration event in Bishoftu , Ethiopia on October the 2nd 2020.

    Very few Ethiopians and their YECHIN GEREDS Chinese were near the dam at the time these helicopters first appeared at the GERD, all of the people claimed to quickly hid fearing to being targeted by the helicopters so no death or shooting is reported. So far no official explanation is given why the helicopters were present even though leaked insderi formation from Tigray suggested that these helicopters were sent by the Tigray military to show off that the Tigray military is so advanced, flying below radar sattelite without being detected by the federal military or other regional security apparatuses .

  • Just another kid who has mastered the art of Neo-Neftegna methodology. Pretend to appear unbiased at first and then push for a subtle Neo-Neftegna ideology. So young but pushing for a really old ideology that will never work.

  • What a mess! Forging common identity requires decades, provided humility is honored. If not, quite and civil divorse like czechoslevakia. It takes two to tango. Can’t hold the spoiled brat to a knot. Not another Hotel Rwanda. Horn of africa is a bit$h to deal with. Cheers!

  • Congrats to the young Ethiopian for analysing the CURRENT political discourse in a BALANCED view. Ethiopia is a country of all its people. Ethiopia is not a simple MAP. Ethiopians are the Nations and Nationalities with their varied cultures( for me Ethiopia is the Beautiful Rainbow Nation, instead of the Ministry of Ethiopians Culture looking for the mystique logo of Country of Origins, THE RAINBOW NATION WOULD HAVE EXPRESSED OUR COLOURFUL DIVERSITY). I honestly do not comprehend why the ethiopian elites do not want to take a few minutes and read Walelign’s 7 pages article and try,YES, just attempt to look for the reality in Ethiopia and discuss in Good Faith. The article in the first paragraph explains in plain language its purpose is to PROVOKE discussions. Walelign also pleaded ” to avoid temptation of snatching phrases out of their context and CAPITALISE on theme. Instead every POINT raised here should be should BE EXAMINED in the LIGHT of THE WHOLE analysis ”

    Sadly, the vocal story tellers in the various media entrepreneurs and the activists# politicians are guided by EGO and all they want is to make $$$$. None of them care about the mourning mothers and suffering Ethiopians.
    Hats of to Emmanuel, for the balanced analysis. The so called Ethiopianists who lie to them selves and their audiences and live in yesteryears Romanticized out dated Narratives have forgotten Ethiopians have moved forward and live in the 21st century. the current relative freedom of expression is the result of decades of struggle for which many Ethiopians including Walelign and his Generation paid for in their LIVES.

    With regards the Article on Nations and Nationalities, there was a Panel discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Article but the media coverage was limited. There was a plan to continued discussion on the same issue but the then Director of the Institute, resigned ( Hale Luya). Attempt to contact his replacement failed.

  • Fair enough. I wouldn’t engage condescending mode to the author about any particular line unlike some scribblers
    are tempted to do. All I want to mention is the vain attempt to discredit, distort,
    manipulate and to ignore the pluralistic and multinational federalism model would be a recipe for disaster. You cannot simply and blindly bury in the will of the majority of the masses and past history without serious repercussions. Rest assured, it is very tempting for some oppurnist and few nostalgic-prone of yesteryears remnants, but there will be an all out civil war that would lead a complete state failure. Neither Abys’ empty bravado nor supporters of any particular tribal militiamen would stop happening from it and win.

  • The piece from the beginning to the end blames Jawar Mohammed and OLF for the political crisis Ethiopia has been facing before and after the assassination of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. This is absolutely nonsense. You know deep down in your conscious that Haacaaluu Hundeessaa assassinated by government. You also well-aware that the government initially tried to assassinate Jawar Mohammed. What is more annoying in the piece is trying to blame Jawar and OLF for the assassination. This was purposely orchestrated by Abiy’s government to dismantle OLF and OFC as non Oromo political orginizations cannot win in Oromia. Even the death of Qemant people are blamed on Qemant political organization. Come on! Who killed the Qemant people last year? please, stop heaping the crime on others. You don’t want to blame Fano and ANM. It’s is full of biases.

    The article is also trying to persuade people into believing that there will be a bright future for Ethiopia. The writer believes the multifederation is falling apart, and the Ethiopian camp is winning. I am not trying to be a phrophet of doom but from the realities on the ground, things are getting worse day in day out. In fact, trying to dismantle the existing federalism will lead to a corresponding rise in violence across the country.

    In general, there is no a scintilla of truth in the article. It’s full of garbages and biases. The writer must be living in a phantom.

  • The piece from the beginning to the end blames Jawar Mohammed and OLF for the political crisis Ethiopia has been facing before and after the assassination of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. This is absolutely nonsense. You know deep down in your conscious that Haacaaluu Hundeessaa assassinated by government. You also well-aware that the government initially tried to assassinate Jawar Mohammed. What is more annoying in the piece is trying to blame Jawar and OLF for the assassination. This was purposely orchestrated by Abiy’s government to dismantle OLF and OFC as non Oromo political orginizations cannot win in Oromia. Even the death of Qemant people are blamed on Qemant political organization. Come on! Who killed the Qemant people last year? please, stop heaping the crime on others. You don’t want to blame Fano and ANM. It’s is full of biases.

    The article is also trying to persuade people into believing that there will be a bright future for Ethiopia. The writer believes the multifederation is falling apart, and the Ethiopian camp is winning. I am not trying to be a phrophet of doom but from the realities on the ground, things are getting worse day in day out. In fact, trying to dismantle the federation will lead to a corresponding rise in violence across the country. In fact, dismantling the existing federalism will lead to a corresponding rise in violence across the country.

    In general, there is no a scintilla of truth in the article. It’s full of garbages and biases. The writer must be living in a phantom.

  • I found the author to be “working hard to get tired”. The piece is a Hodge podge written by an immature summer intern, for lack of a better word.

    The author claims that the EPRDF ethnic based Federalism is ok even if he contradicted this assertion toward the end of the piece. He blindly asserts that the millions of Ethiopians who have multiple ethnic heritage must continue being unrecognized as citizens or being forced to choose one of their ethnic groups against their will. This argument is cruel to say the least.

    Again the author states that the should not be “worthy and unworthy victims” divide. Yet, the author showed his pain to see famous politicians’ arrest. This is oxymoronic and ridiculous. The callous politicians who allegedly committed crimes are arrested and they shall face their music by the law of the land.

    Further more, the author painfully claims, “I realize it is they who speak my language while I don’t know a word of theirs; I realize that neither I nor those who are close to me will ever give our children an Oromo or a Sidama name, while many of them are called by a name that I recognize; I realize they know a lot about the history of my heroes while I know none about theirs; I realize that the movie, music, and fashion industry is dominated by faces, names, themes, and narratives that I am familiar with; I realize that the image that appears in my mind when I think of an Ethiopian person doesn’t look like a Somali or Anuak. Endless realizations.” The author has a long way before he understands what he talks about. Does the author have any clue how many Ethiopians have Hebrew and Arabic names? Does he even have any idea what he is talking about? As an undergraduate student it is much better to read a lot before jumping to conclusions and puke rubbish to respected Ethiopians. Mr. Juvenile author please hit the books first.

    Last but not least, the author should focus on his class on fallacies for his piece is worth a letter grade of “F”.

  • I give credit to the writer for being, to my knowledge, the only person who identifies as Amhara who doesn’t blame Jawar for 2019 incident. However, he doesn’t have the full picture of the politics of the country. He actually feels optimistic when the country is drifting into chaos.

  • Good analysis which points fingers at all parties.

    I stand as pro-Ethiopianist who also strongly support federalism as a way for different groups to administer themselves. I say groups intentionally to avoid saying cultural units. Advancing cultural rights is a good act such as Irreechaa. That should be celebrated as a national holiday. No problem there.

    The issue begins when you take a section of land and say “this is a land to be administered by this cultural unit.” Why on earth would federal regional power be transferred to a cultural group as opposed to historical identities or well-educated public administrators whose priority is not cultural ethnicity?

    There is a reason Ethiopia used to have historical regions named Shewa, Wello, Hararghe, Bale, Sidamo. They could have stayed in this arrangement but with a new mandate of – rule by your own language. So in case of Wello for example, which contains both Amhara and Oromo ethnicities, both groups can use their own languages and administrators locally while advancing the proud Wello heritage. There is no need to draw a line between them politically and say Amhara over here vs Oromia over there.

    • Here we go again. You are happy with the old names and administration. That’s the system that erased the Oromos and other nations and nationalities by erasing their language, their culture and there fore their identity. Do you think it is okay for Oromos to be counted in millions and yet not to have a say in the government both at federal and local local levels so that they can only be Ethiopians if they accept what is imposed on them? This is false choice that nobody in his or her right mind should accept.

      • Read my comment again. I said they can use their own language, culture, and administrators. They can elect representatives as well. The past governance had this weakness which only needed this amendment.

        You might blindly deny it, but a good part Oromos actually believe they were the core parts of Ethiopia. Shewan and Wello Oromo are examples. Aren’t you imposing a new identity on them when you tell them faulty narratives saying “you don’t have a say in Ethiopia, you are being erased, etc…'”? Why take their Ethiopian pride? They can be proud Oromo and proud Ethiopian.

    • I read your point. How are you going to have an Oromo self administration in the old Sidamo or Harage or kaffa where others also want to have their own self administration with all linguistic and cultural rights. The Derg tried the fake autonomy of the country in some part and we know how it ended. This is just an attempt to weaken the multicultural federalism because some group feltlike they don’t enjoy the privileges they used to have and has less to do with democracy. Some of them are third or fourth generation settlers and they never learned the languages and cultures of their hosts.

      • Ah the host vs settler question. That is the main motivation for any ethnic group to seek power. Let’s see that case in the region where its most popular – Oromo majority areas. The Oromo expansion was finalized sometime in the 1600s. The settling of other ethnic groups in this same area took place around late 1800s. So that’s about 4 generations of Oromo isn’t it?

        So in your logic, the Oromo are settlers too. But I’m not calling the Oromo a group of settlers. They are human beings who deserve respect like everybody else. Similarly, if there are only 100 Tigrayans living in the heart of Shasheme, they have the right to use their language, culture, representatives, etc. Same for any ethnic group living anywhere in Ethiopia. That’s is why I have an issue with the region names – Amhara and Oromia.

        • Let’s rely on 500 year old demographics to paint boundaries today. The problem with Ethiopia is the misrepresentation of it’s people as one or two ethnic groups. Namely Tigrenya and Amhara. It was no accident why these exclusionary practices led us to this impasse of whether to give up on federalism and secede or not. The problem is people that pretend that only Amharigna speaking people exist in Ethiopia. Trust me when I say this, no one is going to live as a second class citizen on their own homeland. Imagine if someone came and said every street sign and school in Bahir Dar will only teach Oromo. If you want real national unity why not change the name of the nation to the East African federation rather than a name that promotes exclusionary racism. Ethiopia was never meant to what the monarchs of Ethiopia termed Galla and shankula (enslaved for the Arab slave trade mind), so it stands more than to reason they (as in the non Tigrenya/Amharic speaking people) will never identify as habesha. But the promotion of national habeshan identity by the racists today and the past makes you very tribal in thinking. It says what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is debatable. Blaming marginalized communities for asserting their humanity is an absurd show of privilege and delusion. I don’t actually believe Ethiopian nationalists truly care for more than their job or their linguistic class, so it’s better that we all separate and hope we can actually build legitimate democracies then.

          • I am with you on many of the problems. But let me remind you that Oromo culture is freely expressed in today’s Ethiopia with its own media, culture, and activists. All cultures should continue to be equally be promoted by those who care for them.

            What I am debating is the assumption that a certain culture equates to a geographical section of a land. Look up the demographics of all the cities in Ethiopia and any singular-ethnic solution to their administration becomes absurd.

        • I don’t need anybody’s respect, I need my right. Respect is something one can give or deny, but right is inherently something we are born with. No body give or takes. Wherever rights are NOT RECOGNIZED violence is bound to happen and usually it comes from the power that does not want to recognize peoples rights. We Oromos are as indigenous as any other cush groups. Let the people who came from Arabian peninsula worry. Don’t let Ababahrey fiction get to your head. There are tons of facts that debunk that assertion.

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