By Yaye Abebe
Dec 21, 2013
We, Ethiopians, are greatly in need of Nelson Mandela’s wisdom. Our nation has predominantly young demographics: 65% of Ethiopians are under the age of 24 years old.1 The ‘65 percent’ generation needs to inherit a constructive political atmosphere and culture, and that is where Mandela’s future oriented wisdom can benefit us greatly.
Nelson Mandela’s strength and success may be attributed to the way he prioritized the challenges South Africans faced. It is his focus on the future of all South Africans, black, brown and white, that brought forth the path of truth and reconciliation to South Africa. We can not forget past injustices, but we must acknowledge them to create a conducive political environment with the potential for building and modeling political consensus for the coming generation of Ethiopians, the 65 percent.
Two weeks ago Emperor Menelik’s 100th death anniversary was observed by online medias and radio stations such as the Deutsche Welle Amharic service. Our past, like that of other nations, is controversial and contested, although, perhaps, what makes ours more painful and highly divisive is the denial, disregard and blatant condescending attitude demonstrated by those of us, who feel Emperor Menelik’s legacy is impeccable, towards Ethiopians who feel differently about Menelik.
Listening to the discussion2 on Deutsche Welle radio, I realized more the need for Ethiopians to learn from Mandela: Mandela did not ignore the concerns, fears and anger of Afrikaners or white South Africans. Mandela would not have averted a civil war in South Africa had he only looked at the black and brown South African interest – that is the genius of Mandela.
Listening to the Deutsche Welle discussion, I was baffled by the two academicians who defended Menelik’s legacy with religious fervor. Are some of us this much egotistical that we will not consider other Ethiopians’ perspectives, like that of Bulcha Demeksa’s, without losing our composure and sanity? I think we can do better.
History as Absolute
History is neither closed nor absolute; there always is another side to historical claims and assertions documented by ruling elites. Every human history is a mixed bag, and this is due to the nature which we all humans share: we are imperfect and prone to err. Hence the attempt of white washing any historical figure is going against human nature and experience.
The underlying argument perpetuating the one sided historical claims of our historical figures may have to do with the belief that written historical account is complete and accurate, while all oral history is incomplete and unreliable.
This fallacious thinking and total reliance on written history alone creates a single sided, unbalanced, elite-favoring historical narrative. We need not forget that just because the ruling elite had access to written language does not mean what they documented is inerrant.
Instead of defending a one sided narrow, elitist and biased historical account, as the one and only authoritative account of a regime’s legacy, we need to question and broaden our assessment of historical events, processes and possibilities by also paying attention to oral narratives.
Reconciliation is Acknowledgment
The dismissiveness of previous regimes and their elites have directly and indirectly pushed our Eritrean brothers and sisters to their present predicament and suffering. It is time we Ethiopians learn from Mandela and not get blind sided by superiority complex and short sightedness that could possibly fragment and destroy our nation, but rather we need to listen to Ethiopians who look at Ethiopian history from different angles, with different emotions, feelings and assertions.
Reconciliation starts by acknowledging the other side’s perceptions, emotions and feelings.
To Mr. Bulcha Demeksa and all other Ethiopians who feel differently about the legacy of the regime of Emperor Menelik II and other regimes in Ethiopia’s past, I have this to say: I regret past injustices committed by the regimes of Emperor Menelik II and other rulers on Oromos and all exploited, oppressed and marginalized Ethiopians.
The coming generation, the 65%, of Ethiopians needs to witness political reconciliation and consensus in Ethiopia for the purpose of breaking the cycle of political violence, and passing on a culture of constructive politics. The young generation needs to learn better conflict resolution skills than resorting to Kalashnikovs and violent uprisings.
If you share my vision of advocating and initiating political reconciliation and consensus among Ethiopians, please visit us on Facebook, Goolge+ or www.65percent.org/forum and let us began the discussion of developing the frame work for political reconciliation and consensus among Ethiopians.
1. CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/llibrary/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html, accessed on October 11, 2013
By Yaye Abebe