By Girma Tefera
The famous African-American minister and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is one of the most successful world leaders of a nonviolent resistance to injustice. During one of his inspiring speeches many decades ago, he once said:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
In this 21st century, unfortunately, most of our so-called “politicians” and “scholars” from Ethiopia do not seem to comprehend such a simple but principled concept by MLK. Maybe we Ethiopians are better off without these politicians and scholars. Despite these pseudo-scholars instigating hate and division, many Ethiopians have come together- as exemplified by the recent unity & solidarity between “Oromoprotests” and “Amharaprotests.”
But lo and behold, hate always finds a way to lurk back into Ethiopian politics!
This is what we find when we read the latest article titled, “The Special Interest: the affirmation of denial” written by Mr. Tsegaye Ararssa.
Using hateful labels like “aliens,” “hosts,” “settlers” and “guests,” Mr. Tsegaye Ararssa decided to divide our people instead of uniting. It is sad. Those Oromo and Amhara Ethiopian protesters who were shot and massacred by TPLF must be rolling over their graves. It is unfortunate.
Sadly, Our politicians seem to always snatch DEFEAT from the jaws of victory.
Mr. Ararssa should learn from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that hate will not drive out hate. We can not win against the tyranny in Ethiopia by preaching more hate, bitterness and division.
In his new divisive article disguised as a legal and scholarly piece, Mr. Tsegaye Ararssa presented his wild opinions as indisputable facts. He erratically handed out negative labels of alien and “settlers” to us Amharic speaking Ethiopians. For Mr. Ararssa, we are foreigners who do NoT belong in Addis Ababa. Despite the fact that our ancestors arise from Oromo, Sidama, Welayta or any of 80 other ethnicities, Mr. Tsegaye said we are now “aliens” and “guests” just because we speak Amharic.
Apparently, he is our generous “host.”
According to him, I am supposed to be one of his foreign “guests” so let me introduce myself to you, Mr. Ararssa, the self-proclaimed Oromo owner of Addis Ababa.
I don’t know what village you come from, But I am a proud Ethiopian born and raised in Addis Ababa city. My great-grand parents and ancestors have lived in this area that you now call “finfinne” as well as in Shoa and Wollo for many centuries. Some of them have fought and died in wars to protect our country from the Italians, Turks, Egyptians and other invaders. If it wasn’t for their unity, hard work and bravery; Addis Ababa would not have been the historically and internationally important city that it is now. This Addis Ababa (including your finfinne: the tiny portion of current Addis Ababa where Oromos lived in after 1500s) would have probably remained undeveloped and insignificant if it was not for my patriotic ancestors. My ancestors have built and served this city and our nation in government and as civil servants while some members of my family have also served as critics in opposition with MEISON and MTA, to name a few. No matter which side of history and politics they partook, all of my ancestors belong here in Addis Ababa, whether you like it or not.
My ancestors have many different ethnolinguistic background, including Gurage, Tigre, Oromo and Amara. For example, on my paternal side, my “Oromo” great-grand father willingly married my great grand mother in southern Wollo region. All branches of my ancestors have their own unique history and experience that makes this country special and diverse. And they all belong here….we are not aliens or guests.
But Mr. Ararssa, do you know who else belongs in Addis Ababa? EVERYONE! Every Ethiopian belongs here.
One wonders….If writers and scholars like you continue to alienate and antagonize Ethiopian people against each other; then what exactly makes you any different from the TPLF/EPRDF regime that you protest against?
Thanks to the poisonous politics of the TPLF ruling party, I am sure there are many brainwashed people like Mr. Ararssa who really believe that we Ethiopians are aliens and “guests” in Addis Ababa. The TPLF’s dangerous “ethnic-federalism” system has oversimplified our complex identities in order to divide and put us all in separate boxes. TPLF’s constitution has institutionalized this impractical, tribal and genocidal interpretation of our identities. That is why pseudo-scholars like Mr Tsegaye Ararssa love to obsessively quote the TPLF constitution. In essence, It is their manifesto.
The current constitution is a narrow manifesto to benefit Oromo, Amhara, Tigray and other narrow nationalists at the expense of millions of Ethiopian nationalists. Indeed, until we draft and implement a new all-inclusive constitution to benefit all Ethiopians, we will not have lasting peace. Mr. Ararssa and other ethic nationalists should not waste their time and energy on the useless piece of paper that does not recognize the existence of millions of us Ethiopians of diverse, mixed and complex identities.
For the record, Many of us Ethiopian nationalists in Addis Ababa actually support the right of Oromos to oppose the “Addis Ababa master plan.” We support you because every Ethiopian (including Oromo) should enjoy basic human rights and freedom of speech & assembly. Secondly, instead of being ruled by TPLF puppets like OPDOs, all Ethiopians agree that Oromos should have the right to self-govern in towns and villages where they are the overwhelming majority and where they can democratically elect their own representatives. Thirdly, Oromo and non-Oromo farmers near the city also have a right to protect their interests against improper urbanization. So for many reasons, we support the “#oromoprotests” against the master plan.
But we oppose the idea that any group or tribe is a “guest” or a “host” in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is not owned exclusively by the Oromo or by any ethnic group. It is for all Ethiopians. Yes, Oromo clans lived in Addis Ababa area for many centuries. But before Oromos, many other ethnolinguistic communities have lived in this land. For example, Gurage people’s southern migration, Muslim sultanates and Christian kingdoms are all part of the whole Shewa region’s history over a thousand years. So Oromos are not the only “natives” of this land. For many reasons, Addis Ababa belongs to every Ethiopian citizen. Unfortunately, some Oromo nationalists like to recklessly throw around “settler” and “colonialist” labels against non-Oromos. That is shameful. Mr. Ararssa even complained about Oromos “material and cultural loss, humiliation, dispossession of land…” But he forgot to mention the same “dispossession” has happened to the Sidama, the Dawaro, the Adal, Damot, Argoba and many others who lost their land and identity at the hands of Oromo warriors. If you are a real scholar, why selectively hide parts of our history? Thanks to the Oromo’s Mogassa and Gudifecha systems and other mass assimilation campaigns by the Oromo, many distinct ethnic communities have lost their past identities, territories and they have “become Oromo.” Despite these historical events, we still might not know every detail of how pieces of our history fit together. What we know for sure is that we are ALL here now in the land that we all call Ethiopia. We are all here in Addis Ababa. Let us move on. Whether we like it or not, we have to find ways to get along and co-exist peacefully.
We can not achieve this goal by attacking and labeling each other.
When scholars & politicians instigate violence using the “us vs them” tactic, or divide people using the “host vs guest” labels, they are playing into the WORST of our emotions and our instincts. Exploiting people’s tribal instincts is very unscholarly and weak. If people like Mr. Ararssa want to show how smart and scholarly they are, they should provide comprehensive solutions to our complex identities and our complicated problems. So please Stop taking the easy way out. It is very easy to preach tribal propaganda to the choir. It is hard to present progressive ideas that break ethnic barriers, and solve the economic, social and political problems of a multiethnic nation. It is very easy to rubber-stamp one-sided historical accounts from the A-to-Z liberation fronts in Ethiopia. It is hard to do a balanced, inclusive and extensive research of our diverse Ethiopian history. As leaders and thinkers of our nation, We can either choose to take the easy path, or we can choose to take the hard but honorable and rewarding path. For the Mr. Ararssas and Mr. Jawars out there, I challenge you to take the honorable path. The crisis in Ethiopia requires an in depth approach and multifaceted solution. Let us shine light into the darkness, because more darkness can not drive out existing darkness.
By Girma Tefera