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.
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.
By Daniel Assefa