Op-Ed: Ethiopia: A Land of Fabricated Mythos
Ethiopia is a country of more than 80 diverse nations and nationalities, each with its own language, traditions and distinct identities. The current Ethiopian federal state structure is crafted along national lines, with shared culture, language, identity, and tradition qualifying nations to be regional states within the polity of Ethiopia.
The federal structure is generally supported by the elites of Ethiopia’s marginalized and minority groups, although the federal system under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was under significant public scrutiny for failing to maintain democratic power distribution among all stakeholders. That said, there is also a group of people termed ‘Ethiopianists,’ many of whom are nostalgic for Ethiopia’s regressive imperial era, who despise multinational federalism and have a deep rooted belief that the Ethiopian government structure should be a unitary system with no room for ethnic and cultural diversity.
The vision of Ethiopia that the Ethiopianists want to realize has its roots in the late 19th century. The Orthodox Church and the emperors of the time designed the clergy and the state apparatus in the like and structure of their own ethnic social fabric. The other nations and nationalities had to choose between replacing their own language, tradition, lifestyle, and values with those of the ruling ethnic group or being left behind by being denied equitable access to education and healthcare.
In an attempt to create a nation-state during the 20th century, the ruling monarchs including Menelik II and Haile Selassie I, imposed their own cultural and traditional values in a colonial fashion, totally undermining the diverse nations and nationalities’ right to self-determination, exist, and practice their own culture. Establishing Amharic as the official language of the country, the ruling elite of the time instituted structural inequalities in the governance system of the country that would continue to have significant consequences in the decades after. These rulers even went as far as prohibiting the use of other languages for official use at local levels across the country. There was no equality under the law for all nations and nationalities.
This desire for dominance and the hunger to create a unitary state with one culture and language may be the source of the conflict flaring up throughout the entire country and threatening to break it apart. No one can keep a country together that is supported by fake mythos and religious dogma, which leave no space for diversity and integrity of the nations and nationalities that make up Ethiopia. Whatever has worked for the Ethiopianists of the last century cannot be taken as gospel for all of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities of our time.
However, Ethiopianists of our time insist that Ethiopia must be united in the same manner their forefathers crafted it, without regard for the country’s diverse demographics and heritage. The very foundation of a democratic society, where people can come together to establish a country by mutual understanding and free will, does not seem to be part of their plan for ‘One Ethiopia.’
Advocates of the unitary system have been at the core of the current Ethiopian federal government led by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party. On the opposite end of the political spectrum are, amongst others, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), key players in the formation of Ethiopia’s multinational federal system that still advocate for it as the only viable state structure if the country is to function as a stable state.
Those who believe in ‘One Ethiopia’ rely upon the imperial values of centuries past, thus they see any other structure that gives equal opportunity to all its inhabitants as a threat to Ethiopian unity when, in fact, their forceful approach has pushed the country into disintegration.
In their quest for their vision of what Ethiopia is supposed to be, ‘Ethiopianists’ have found a power-hungry leader to execute their ambitions for Ethiopia. With Abiy Ahmed as their executioner, the group is eager to annihilate anyone who does not share their vision for Ethiopia. This unrealistic ambition has led them to justify the genocidal war against the people of Tigray to the extent that they spent years planning to wipe Tigrayans off the map, while trying to co-opt their history. Those who see it as their God-given right to “save” Ethiopia from its own people have been using all means of communication including the religious infrastructures and media outlets to spread their venomous rhetoric that justifies and fuels their gruesome genocide against innocent civilians of Tigray.
Today, Ethiopia is at a crucial crossroads, as it implodes under the watch of a genocidal government. Abiy’s government, with assistance from Ethiopia’s former foe, the Eritrean government under dictator Isaias Afewerki, is working to destabilize Ethiopia by condoning mass murder, looting, and destruction in the name of God and Ethiopia. As ‘Ethiopianists’ so strongly seek to unify the country through a unitary structure and homogeneity, they fail to realize the counteractive power of forced assimilation that has led Ethiopia down the road to disintegration.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article, or other articles posted at Omna Tigray, do not represent the official position of Omna Tigray.
Aman – Omna Tigray Contributor, April 2022