I am an Ethiopian First

By Daniel Assefa
I am an Ethiopian first not because of an evolved understanding of a modern nation but because I do not know any ‘otherness’. The coordinates of my existence are my name and my heritage. My name is as Ethiopian as any and my heritage is sourced from all that happened through the ages within the borders of the nation that I call home. The name that is music to my ears and rolls off my tongue effortlessly is Ethiopia; not Amara, Oromo, Tigre or Afar. Not by choice or instruction but because it is who I am. The history I cherish and the life I lived are of an Ethiopian, an Abyssinian not of a clan or a tribe. My enlightenment neither comes from blogs nor face book pages and my intellectual liberty is not a slave to the internet. Therefore I do not dance to my own tune and I do not have the need to shed what I am in search of a new identity. I have one that is paid in full in sweat, blood and tears of my forbearers. I am an Ethiopian first.
ethiopia first
I have not confused an erroneous and injudicious understanding of my history and the diatribes of the power hungry pseudo-intellectuals with a ‘manifest destiny’. I am not shackled with naivety. I try to be in tune with the aspirations of the various ‘nationalities’. I am fully cognizant of the injustices abounding at present as well as perpetuated in the past amongst us all. I acknowledge them and I strive to right them. But I will not burn my house just to cook my egg. I will not be stained with the filth of tribalism.
I cannot feel any closer to an Amara from Gonder than to a Tigre or Oromo from Debreziet my hometown. My compatriots in Gambella are as close to me as my ancestors in Yifat or my colleagues in Jimma. The fact that a misfortune anywhere in the nation feels like a tragedy in my home is not an aberration but a countenance of my oneness with my land and my people. My heart still bleeds for the Tigre, Oromo, Amara, Gurage, etc. that fell in the battle grounds of Tigray, Gonder and Shoa in the name of freedom. I find it abhorrent that some in opposing camps measure their ‘comrades’ heroism by the slaying of forcefully conscripted children that they still refer to as the ‘enemy’. As for me, a brother felling a brother is nothing more than a cesspool of wretchedness and ignominy. For my heroes I look elsewhere.
Haile-Mariam Mamo is my black Lion, the anchor to my perseverance just as Abdisa Aga, Bezabih Petros, Habtegiorgis Dinegde, Abichu, Legesse Tefera, Zerai Deres, Belay Zeleke and Jagama kelo are. Derartu is the jewel that powers the spring in my steps just like Haile, Luciano, Mirutse, Mohammed Kedir, Saladin and Kenenisa do. Yohannes Admassu is my “shooting star” who if only for a precious ‘instance’ graces me with clarity as do Solomon Deressa, Tesegaye Gebremedihin, Bealu Girma, Tilahun Gessesse, Zenit Muhaba and Sebehat Gebre-Egziabiher. Birtukan steers my conscious as do Obang, Mesfin, Temesgen, Eskindir, Girma and Abreha. I do not speak a word of Tigrigna but Alula Aba Nega the man hailed as one of Africa’s greatest generals in the mold of Hannibal the great… yes he is mine too. I hold Menelik’s name in great reverence as I do of Tona’s and Balcha Aba Nefso’s. They are all mine and I am better for it. The colors they knew are the only colors I know, the GREEN, YELLOW and RED.
Yes I am an ETHIOPIAN FIRST and it is a GOOD THING.


  1. So what?
    If you are Ethiopia First, what is the second of you? Habeshas are becoming dumb!
    You don’t even know what you are writing. Oromo has a concrete reason to say, ‘I am Oromo First!’. Ethiopian/ism is imposed on Oromo. What is imposed on you? Losers!

    • Hey All Oromo ppls,
      Guys pls wake up!!! N think on u’r brain. Are u guys try to accuse Menlike? He was the best leader ever in Ethiopia history. I have two things to say abt Menlike,
      1) if he was not fight with Italy, u guys are slave for ever .
      2) what he did wrong on Oromo ppls.
      I will tell u one truth his wife was “Yeju Oromo”. So, how come Menlike was bad for Oromo ppls.
      Shame on u n wake up guys!!! Leave Menlike alone!!
      God bless Ethiopia n RIP for our leader Menlike.

      • Hi Ethiopian,
        Minilik didn’t colonize Oromo alone. He even couldn’t win Arsi Oromo. He got victory on the sixth round after he got weapon from Europe. The brave Oromos were fighting with spear and shield using horse (cavalry).
        How on earth do you compare a ‘black’, backward and uneducated Neftegna colonizer with Italians. Italy built most of the buildings in Finfinnee Piazza and bridges in many other areas within five years of occupation. Neftegna brought poverty, ignorance (since you are known for empty arrogance and despising skillful people), drought, different infectious & social disease like Leprosy that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. In general you are the reason for the backwardness of the Oromo people. Minilik created an empire that you are crying and weeping for day n night, where you go and loot the resource of the Oromo and the South peoples. It would have been, by far, better if Italy had colonized Oromo than Minilik (Neftegna). Neftegna didn’t do any thing significant in their over 130 years of occupation than plundering and misusing Oromia’s resources.
        Are you alive or dead? Which country is under colony/slavery at this time other than Oromia and Western Sahara? Even Scotland and Wales are to decide their fate in the near future.

  2. This is wondeful Daniel!
    We have come to narrow those multiple contending identities in to two, more or less. The Oromo perspective is coming to the conclusion that the Outcry for cementing Oromo Identity/Oromoness is gaining momentum and this is manifesting it self in many ways. All the arguments you have reiterated for “I am Ethiopian first” is also valid for the Oromoness if “Oromian and Ethiopian” identities are to play commutative roles in the slogan
    The other aspect of the Growing Psyche of Oromoness is the rise of sub-identities as “Moersh Wegene…..” Amhara centric hate group that was cornered by the growing Oromo identity in the Country. In the sub conscious of the Moresh bunch dwells the idea of fighting for Ethiopia, as it was, to be obsolete and protecting the Amhara outweighs the die hard slogan of Ethiopian Unity. Traditinally, the Custodianship of the Ethiopian sate was understood as the sworn duty of the Amhara and being a mainstream Ethiopian was also a self evident fact of being an Amhara on the first row of all component parts making up Ethiopia. We have reached at a very interesting, turbulent and decisive time as to how we all are going to continue. For the Oromos, there is nothing much to loose out of any type turbulence or even Armagedeon, but to go a step forward in pursuit of a nationhood, if needed. Generally, when every body including the Amhara goes to its own respective corners by leaving Ethiopian-ness in to neutrality, it possible that a a new social contract among these contending could result in to a cooperation or corpoartion called Ethiopia. I know that the “Moresh Group” is being understood as a disservice to the Amhara as viewed by the well informed Urban elite than those bandits shouting from the gorges of Menz and Bulga.

  3. I found this article very interesting,for who have opened mind and litle rationality. That how human being should think and act differently with animal like herd of sheep follows the first. I know people can try to achieve his desire in bad or good ways but the good ways is the best to be and to be in safe. Yes, Ethiopia is first, look,your family is first, and you come then, you get your name from your family, your family shaped you, bordered you in some social asspects and etc. so how can you say I first than my family. This way of thinking will not help you to cross a single river, i would rather to advise you guys who you follow jawar, let you stand by yourself and think by your hear and breath by your own ,do not give to breath for jawar and to think of you. I can tell you guys you will not climb a small hill with this idiology. great Article Daniel Assefa…keep up the good job, many people can change this article.

  4. From-GETACHEW REDA (Editor Ethiopian Semay)
    I like your intention. But, you mentioned some known traitors who shade tears for the Fascist leader Meles Zenawi. Though, it is up to you who you should praise as you have the right to do so; depending on your ability to asses who is who in the 22 years ordeal fighting and even before 22 years that most of you were absent in the struggle fought TPLF/EPLF/OLF up to know.
    As I said, your experience to see who is who depends your age in the struggle. My question to you is you mentioned the name Abraha as your heroes idle. Who is Abraha? Abraha Belay or the recent young man from Mekele Abraha Desta? I cannot say “shame on you” since you praising and genuinely promoting is Ethiopianism that I support; but for getting among the few Tigrayn heroes like Gebremedhin Araya whom I know him from very early together fighting TPLF and challenging and exposing the crime of Tribalist TPLF and mentioned “Abraha” is no word for the disappointment I felt by you some of the divisive, selective elite worshipper in the Diaspora. Leaving gallants from Tigraya and even Amhara (Oromo?) like Dr.Assefa Negash who is simply amazing gallant omitted from your list of promotion of heroes/heroines is no word to explain what is happening to the Diaspora writers. I cannot end mentioning women gallant names whom known to many of us still fighting TPLF (some are in the Diaspora)- they too were replaced by Bertukan. What can I say! I can only advice you the Diaspora writers to look around and stop being clerkish to few individuals known by us who are ethno nationalists. Elite promoters need to stop hallucinating about elite heroism and start to look gallants beyond your feet down. For not ruining the beautiful intention you did (which I praise you)- I will only limit my critique in such advice here.
    GETACHEW REDA (Editor-Ethiopian Semay)

  5. Daniel , you’re a fool and illiterate pretending to be literate ! …Look at you , the history you cherish and the life you live are of Abyssinian. So you r Abyssinian 1st ….That’s why we are saying ” we are Oromo 1st”. Get informed before you write your garbage . Who are Abyssinians ? Are Oromos , Sidamas ,Ogadenis , Afaris ,Hadiyas and Konsos Abyssinians ? u r a fool again!

  6. If you call yourself ” I am Ethiopia first or Last ” is your choice but it would not be mine since I have first choice as you have. Your heroes could be my traitors, your nationalists are my assimilators or Galtus since they were the reason I lost my right or help my enemy to kill me. Their is real difference between real identity and shadow one. Your real is my shadow and I would not accept which covers my real identity. I do not want to fake myself to pretend. I am Oromo First!

    • Dear Summii, this is the problem we are facing,ie,your twisted mentality that you see reality as shadow which is seeing light as darkness. We sane Ethiopians still believe we are all citizens of one great nation that was poor but free, proud and indomitable and protected by her gallant children of Amhara, Oromo,Sidama, guragie Tigreie etc origin. You can not deny this. If you think Emeye Menelik forcibly assimilated you you are dead wrong as he only reunited us all. If it was not for Menelik, your language could have been Italian not Oromofia by now, got that?
      as far as your nauseating exaggerated story of breast mutilation by the Menelik army is concerned, this inhumane practice is not the Amhara’s culture and therefore, if at all it happened, it could be the work of Menelik’s soldiers of the Oromo origin. Also, as far as murder and occupation goes, go back to history books and read the 16th century Oromo Migration which the present day extremists would like to rename it as,The Oromo Expansion which resulted in the extermination of millions of people in Ethiopia and the occupation of. Do you think this is also Amhara fabricated story? Dear Summii, before you sprinkle your venom on the believers of Ethiopian unity, first achieve the unity of the different people spread around the country. So ‘god” help you for this.

  7. To those saying “I am Oromo First”,
    Aren’t you a human being first? Do you have control over who your parents end up to be and what ethnicity they are from? There are millions and millions of us born to parents from different ethnic background in Ethiopia, and I think those of you who are VERY PROUD of the fact that your a tigre, oromo, or somali, etc are knowingly or unknowingly stepping over our rights to be a free human being first and a citizen of Ethiopia (a melting pot of all the people from different ethnicities including the great oromos).
    Biyamen yeminitakemebet tiru hakim bet saynoren, wegenochachin yemibelut beki migib saynoren, hitsanat lijoch yemitetut beki nitsuh wuha saynoren, aynachin eyaye kehulum bota yalu ehitochachin ye tigabegna arab mechawecha eyehonu, zerah ene oromo, zeraf ene tigre wezete eyalu mechemalek min yilutal? Tesfa yekorete senef hizb … Look at the United States of America (some of you idiots probably live there), what really matters is where you live (your address), not the f#$&ing ethnicity that your random parents are from.

  8. This is what raising the level of discourse looks like! Well-reasoned, insightful, passionate, dignified and honest! More importantly still, it is free of that arbitrary, overblown rhetoric that has come to pass for civilized dialogue in these here parts these days. Just look at a couple of the comments above and note the name-calling and the totally unwarranted ad-hominem attacks against the author of the article, albeit in barely coherent language. Mind you, this piece was not even about asserting the superiority of one group over another, much less an indictment of any one particular ethnic group!
    If anything, it is obvious even to the most cynical among us that the writer took great pains to be all-inclusive, even-handed and accurate in building his case for the Ethiopian identity as HE saw and felt it. And yet, predictably enough, here comes the knee-jerk reaction! Qaaqnee, et al, are fit to be tied as they take to throwing a temper tantrum about being “Oromo First” when, really, no one is asking! Perhaps, I am missing something here, but this article is NOT about THEM! Sad to say, but their reaction goes to an “atirsugn” plea borne of a desperate need to remain relevant in the face of the yet unaltered reality that most Oromo remain “Ethiopians First.”
    Now, that they brought it up, how ill-informed, misguided and myopic do these few individuals have to be to forego a National identity their own forefathers helped to cultivate, and settle for what the writer calls “clan and tribal” identity? Really? It sure is reassuring that, with the exception of this small minority of hate-mongers, even among the Oromo elite, the majority seems to have thrown in its lot with the tenth of millions of Daniel Assefas, who refuse to “be stained with the filth of tribalism!” It is good to know that, outside this small cadre of “power-hungry” folks out there, “Oromo First” is a grandiloquent, starry-eyed pronouncement not shared by the majority of Oromo.
    It was amazing to see from a few of the comments posted above to what extent these few hyperventilating individuals are being blinded by the very dust they themselves are kicking up. Discerning readers appreciate the writer’s meticulous stitching of the rich tapestry that is our history through the heroic Ethiopian personalities he invokes. But so irrational are these “pseudo-intellectual” types, to borrow a phrase from the writer, that they are willing and ready to denounce their own heroes as traitors and “accomodationists.” Boy, if that’s not a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
    To Daniel Assefa, I say: “Hell of a Tribute to Ethiopiawinet!”
    And, to the Qaaqnees of our world: “Get a life!”

  9. It is a bizarre thing but, in my experience, those who obsessively hold Ethiopia clutched to their chest are the ones who qualify the least to call themselves GENUINE Ethiopians. On the other hand, people who identify themselves and openly declare their allegiance to their Ethnic group have never denied their Ethiopian-ness. It is just that they are being very honest and declare what naturally comes to their mind first. Sense of belongingness starts from family; it then goes to neighbourhood, and so on till you form a bond at wider level.
    People like Daniel try to fake it, trying to lecture us that we should think in top-bottom direction. That is a pathetic lie, but we exactly know the motivation for this kind of illogical, unnatural, and deceptive thought construction. It is just to superimpose their own identify from the top, claim as if it is “Ethiopian identify” and then shove it down to the rest of Ethiopians. It is this kind of dishonest interpretation of history that is killing Ethiopia.
    Loving your family does not mean hating your neighbours. But what fake Ethiopian nationalists try to tell the rest of us is something like, “do not worry about your roots, just ignore it, there is another identify I have created for you. I named it as “Ethiopian” and just accept it, and then we will live together happily ever after.” It sounds clever, but actually it getting utterly childish and foolish. In this day and age, this kind of deceptive politics does not get us anywhere. This kind of trick from bygone era does not help present day Ethiopia. In the end, we all want Ethiopia to survive and prosper; and that is to best interest of every person and group. But we need to reconstruct a new image of Ethiopian-ness, and communicate genuinely and openly, respecting each other’s perspectives.
    Daniel’s foul cry crumbles in the face of evidence. Obviously, he does not pay any respect to other people’s viewpoints. Why do I say that? He claims he is from “DebreZeit”, a town in Oromia, whose name Oromos changed long ago, back to its original name, Bishooftu. Oromos and Oromo media refer to it as Bishoofu. Daniel, a person who seems to be obsessively and compulsively “Ethiopian”, would have none of this thing called Bishooftu. No, he still calls it DebreZeit. With this kind of mind set, how dare you call yourself an Ethiopia first person!? Obviously, you are not a broad minded Ethiopian, but clearly an extremely narrow nationalist, the worst version of Ethno-nationalist.

  10. Daniel, you can claim to be whatever you want to be. It is nobody’s business. You are free to choose your identity and how you identify yourself. Your choice of your identity doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else as long as it makes sense to you. The only caveat is: do not lie to yourself or do not try to lie to the others. Be who you are and be proud of yourself whatever your true feeling is as to who you truly feel you are. Be candid to yourself and to peoples around you. Trust your gut and instinct. Do not hide your true feelings and do not try to hide behind a certain ‘shield’ to hide your true identity and true feelings of your identity. The truth always sets you free.
    I would also add that as you have an inalienable God given right to choose your identity, other creatures of the Almighty God have the same right bestowed on them by God. So respect the choice the others make to identify themselves as their first, second, third, etc, identity. For example, I am Oromo first. If I say ‘I am Ethiopian first’ I am only lying to you because that is not how I truly feel. I am saying this not to please or displease anyone. That is what my true feeling is and I do not want to lie to please or displease anyone.
    If we all respect each other’s choices, we can live together in harmony. Therefore, Daniel I respect your choice whatever it is and I do expect to be reciprocated if we really mean we want to chart a future together.

  11. 1. Guyyaasaa: Respectible position that is the right spirit. Thanks God for people like you
    2. Bonsa: You are wrting like a “tenquai”. You are reading too much into the article. Do not extrapolate… do not go freudian. Just stick to the fact and then may be you will start to make sense. By the way DZ and Bishoftu is used interchangibly since before Derge up to now.
    3. Summii : Understandable the Author did not rob of your right to declare that you are an oromo first. But if you can, try to see also there are opposing but sincere convictions
    4. Getachew Reda. You do not seriously think all the heros including your heros should be mentioned here do you? Following the pattern of the writing I belive Abraha mentioned is the young Abraha Desta
    5. Qaaqnee and ‘god bless oromiyaa’ . Enante Tilik Sew siyawere ZIM bitilu yeshalal…… that is the only weapon the world has against your ‘blinding ignorance’.

    • Tizibt,
      Tinnish tazebkuh! What I said are plain facts, with no abstraction of any degree whatsoever. The trouble is this – you are used to certain viewpoints, the Ethio-nationalist narrative, anything outside that is a “guramayle” or “tenquai” speak to your mind. Obviously, you prefer “black or white” style talk, where only extremist positions are welcome, and range of mid range viewpoints are denied any space.
      I encourage you to open up and expose yourself to different perspectives and varieties of viewpoints on the fate of our country. Otherwise, if you insist on discounting any viewpoint different from what you are already familiar with, then you would not do much justice to the kind of consensus building Ethiopia desperately need to survive.

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