The Problem of Ethiopianism in the Amara-Oromo Elite ‘Pilarisim’ Dialogue

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Yared Ayicheh – June 25, 2013

olfwhichwayThe recent shift in the political narration of Ethiopian Diaspora politics is the desire among some Amara and Oromo elites to engage in dialogue for bridge building among the two elite groups.
At the surface it is a noble idea; but looking closer at the proposed Amara-Oromo bridge building reveals fundamental deformities in the Amara elite camp that make it unfeasible for bridge building to be realized. One of the deformities in the Amara elite is what I call The Problem of Ethiopianism.
Amara elites, specifically some of those who went through their formative years during the 1970s student movement era, have a residual, stagnant, persistent and outdated Amara-centric perception of what it means to be Ethiopian.
To them, be to Ethiopian is to abandon one’s ethnic identity and melt into the pot of Ethiopianism, which by the way is principally defined by the Amara ruling class and the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The Amara ruling class and the Orthodox Church are not representative of all Ethiopians; these two elements only represent part of the spectrum in the Ethiopian experience, not the whole. It is this very fact that the Amara elite fails to comprehend and acknowledge.

One way or another, the older generation of Amara elites may not have what it takes to build a bridge with Oromo nationalist elites, for the simple fact that to work with Oromo nationalists requires acknowledging the imbalanced ethnic relations of the past which resulted in the domination and subjugation of non-Semitic Ethiopians by highlanders.
Amara elites need to acknowledge, without any precondition, the perceptions of non-Semitics who feel the Amara definition of Ethiopianism is exclusively Amara and Orthodox. It is this paradigm shift that will result in a genuine Amara-Oromo ‘pilarisim’
The Problem of Ethiopianism does not stop at the definition of Ethiopianism; it also bleeds into what it means to be united. To the Amara elites to be a united Ethiopia means to be homogenous and uniform. This is the perception that threatens non-Amaras. It is the idea of leaving the terms of a united Ethiopia in the hands of old Amara elites who perceive the use of Latin alphabet for Oromiffa as alien or anti Ethiopian that makes Oromo nationalists and others to panic and dread working with ‘children’ of Neftegnas.
The Amara elites must recognize that the old Ethiopia is gone. The Ethiopia of uniformity is a thing of history. Ethiopia was redefined 20 years ago. Accepting the redefined Ethiopia, without any terms, and working for the democratization of Ethiopia is the paradigm shift that will solve The Problem of Ethiopianism.
Viva Oromia! Viva Ethiopia!
(Did I mention I am an Amara? Well … I am.)
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