A response to my cousin, Dr. Zelalam Eshete on his article titled “A Call to Amhara Ethnic People”
In recent days, my cousin, Dr. Zelalam Eshete is writing articles about our beloved motherland, Ethiopia. I am so happy to see an educated young Ethiopian like him participating in leading the debate. I encourage him and the likes of him to continue working towards the betterment of Ethiopia. Speaking of Education, Dr. Zelalem never knew what grades “B” and below mean, since he was an A, A+ on all exams he took, in high school or universities. So, it puts me in disadvantage to respond to my beloved brother. As far as education goes, the only little communality we have is that we are both engineers in different field and of course at different education level. However, Ethiopia is a mother to all educated or not, the haves and or do not haves, so I decided to respond to his article regarding our common Ethiopia. Of all his articles, the one which prompts me to respond is the one he wrote on March 10, 2014, titled “A Call to Amhara Ethnic People” posted on one of my favorite sites, Ethiomedia. I differ with Dr. Zelalem on this topic.
To begin with, I do not think it is a good idea to judge our 18th, 19th, even 20th century leaders with today’s, 21st century book. Secondly, Ethiopia has her share of good and bad as any nation came before and after her. So, blaming one ethnic for all bad deeds which took place in Ethiopia may not serve well for our future. Of course, we should evaluate our past and correct the wrongs, even if it requires asking for forgiveness, we should do so and move on.
However, the forgiveness should be two-way highway. But, Dr. Zelalem makes the responsibility of all wrongs done in the county only on one ethnic; let me quote from his article: “We, Amahra of today, need to take the responsibility on our own initiative and stand in the gap to be accountable to the ills of our forefathers. The brokenness of the marginalized, abused and neglected people begets that they are the soul of Ethiopia. This is because the new unity of Ethiopia is championed and realized first by those who are marginalized and abused”.
I argue to the contrary based on the following three points:
First, whatever wrong done in Ethiopia is not only Amhara’s responsibility. Rather, the responsibility is the government at the time. Even if we take our recent leaders, whatever Atse Yohanis had done doesn’t represent the Tigray people, other than his administration, so is whatever Atse Tewodros had done doesn’t reflect the Gonder or the Amhara people, and the same goes for Atse Haile Selassie and Mengistu. By the way, there are conflicting reports which ethnic the later two leaders belong. Some say they both have Amhara and Oromo blood. Even, yes, even the current regime of Ethiopia which constitution is based on ethnic and led by Tigray elites, whose late leader Zenawi public statements indicated hatred for one ethnic, doesn’t represent the entire Tigray people, but his/current administration. Based on this facts, I argue the statement Amhara is responsible is invalid.
Secondly, Amhara has done more than its fair share. If people from Amhara ethnic are monster as some political organizations try to portray today, the 60’s Ethiopian revolution wouldn’t have seen the day light. Those youngsters, including those from well to do family, in spite of being fed Nech Teff and Mikut, stood for poor and oppressed Ethiopians. They knew they will lose their luxury life, but they fought and die for the freedom of fellow oppressed citizens. Most of the leaders of that time were Amahars. One typical example which even frequently being quoted by Dr. Biyan of OLF was Wallelgne. Here is the quote from the well known Wallelgne’s paper:
“What are the Ethiopian peoples composed of? I stress on the word peoples because sociologically speaking at this stage Ethiopia is not really one nation. It is made up of a dozen nationalities with their own languages, ways of dressing, history, social organization and territorial entity. And what else is a nation? It is not made of a people with a particular tongue, particular ways of dressing, particular history, particular social and economic organization? Then may I conclude that in Ethiopia there is the Oromo Nation, the Tigrai Nation, the Amhara Nation, the Gurage Nation, the Sidama Nation, the Wellamo [Wolayta] Nation, the Adere [Harari] Nation, and however much you may not like it the Somali Nation.
This is the true picture of Ethiopia. There is of course the fake Ethiopian Nationalism advanced by the ruling class and unwillingly accepted and even propagated by innocent fellow travellers.
What is this fake Nationalism? Is it not simply Amhara and to a certain extent Amhara-Tigre supremacy? Ask anybody what Ethiopian culture is? Ask anybody what Ethiopian language is? Ask anybody what Ethiopian music is? Ask anybody what the “national dress” is? It is either Amhara or Amhara-Tigre!!”
Dr. Zelalem, I will send you the full version Wlelgne’s paper. The point is that Wallelgne was seeing world from the point of so called socialism where oppressed people will be freed. He wasn’t seeing himself as Amhara. From his writings, he sees himself from the angle of “alem yewzaderch tihonlech”, loose interpretation, world will be led by proletariat. He was going as far as standing against his own Ethnic though the idea was a blind folded Socialist thought. On this topic, I suggest you to call our uncle who resides in the same county with you. Our uncle fought for the oppressed and paid the price, jailed, and tortured as a member of the then EPRP. I spoke with him in length on various occasions. This is what he said, I will paraphrase it. “had I thought our struggle would cause the destruction of Ethiopia as I see today, had I thought it would cause animosity between me and my precious friends, I wouldn’t have done it. It was a short sited struggle”. So, the ethnic people of Amhara should not be apologetics. The appeasing politics should be over. Amharans have done more than their fair share for the betterment of their countrymen and women regardless of ethnic background. They shouldn’t be responsible for neglecting other ethnics as you put it. Actually, the Amharas should have been praised for love of all Ethiopians. For additional information on the 60’s Student Movement, please visit yatwlid website, get books written by Professor Mesay and many others.
Thirdly, if we dig back not only Amharas are responsible for wars and destruction. I will give you using the examples of the two ethnics which we both are well acquainted with, Oromo and Amhara. There are many books and articles out there. In the 15th century, originating from South, Oromo warriors reached as far as Tigray. On their way, they were not feeding milk people of Semen Shoa, Gojjam, Wollo, Gonder up to Tigray. But, they were fighting and concurring. Let me give you typical example, in Gojjam and Gonder the name “Muche, which translates Lij in Amharic” is very common. Example of this is Professor Muche. This is not by accident. This is the result of those wars. There are still ancestors of Oromos residing in those areas. You and I are very familiar about Ormos in Shoa and the rest. Please ask Abiye, our grandfather; he will tell you. The same goes for the Amara in the 19th century, expanding to South. Also, please check Ethiopia: Dark side of Oromo expansions and Menelik conquests, by Abera Tola, at the following link:
In conclusion, I totally agree with you on reconciliation. However, not at the expense of one ethnic; reconciliation is a two-way street. The appeasing politics brought this misery of division to county of ours. The truth has to be told. The lie politics are becoming history. I will finish with what one Ethiopian Professor said during the celebration of Ethiopian Millinium at Howard University, Wahsington, DC “because of the appeasing politics of the 60’s, we lost Eriteria and made our country landlocked”.