GROW TOGETHER

Mankelklot Haile Selassie (PhD)

Introduction: 
 

Ethiopia is made up of over eighty nationalities. The big ones are counted in millions, for example Oromo and Amara, and, the smaller ones are counted in hundreds, for example Zegula 390 and Shita 307, 1994 census estimates. All these, big and small, with varied number of people  and varied natural resources of poor and rich, were randomly brought together by Mother Nature under one umbrella, Ethiopia, to share whatever is available, irrespective of what went between them. The history of Ethiopia, that is, the over-eighty nationalities combined, clearly shows the resiliency of the Ethiopian society to stay together, with the help of its courageous and imaginative leaders, both recognized and unrecognized, by overcoming repeated conflicts between them. Without the leaders with that caliber, that Ethiopia produced for centuries, Ethiopia would have not kept the name Ethiopia itself, the name each and every nationalities baptized with, the moment their feet stepped on the soil of Ethiopia, and, would have not reached the unity we are witnessing today. Even under the pressure of agitations and coercion for the last thirty years, by at least four fronts and one movement, namely, Western Somali Liberation Front, (WSLF), Somali Abo liberation Front (SALF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Afar Liberation Front (ALF), and, Afar National Liberation Movements (ANLM), the Ethiopian society with a long history of interaction and with common destiny to definitely enter a robust Ethiopia, did not budge a bit. I argue that, when Mother Nature grouped this many nationalities of different sizes and, of diverse culture and languages, one of its purposes was to protect the rights and the survival of particularly of the smaller ones.  

For example, Eritrea, a small nationality, with three-and-half million people, would have benefited with the rest of the Ethiopian society and shared what the other nationalities endowed with but Eritrea is lacking. Eritrea, a)  with poor soil fertility, b) with very poor rainfall, and  c) with poor vegetation, see the physical map of Eritrea, could not and cannot stand on its own legs, as it can be seen vividly now. The Eritrean liberation front should have seriously considered these three essential elements that were extremely needed first for existence and then for economic take off, before jumping on the independence wagon.  Now, the people are suffering under the misery brought upon them by the power crazed Eritrean elites. It is incumbent upon the rest of the Ethiopian society to see to it that the Eritrean people, with whom the rest of the Ethiopian people have a lot in common, come back to its fold and grow together. It is commonsense for any one to see that the greater the number of a society, particularly with those who have a lot in common, the greater the potential to tap into each others potential resources for the common good. The adage, “united we stand divided we fall,” should also apply for economic and cultural development too. 

It is the responsibility of the larger nationalities, particularly the Oromos and the Amaras, endowed with good soil fertility, good rainfall and good vegetation, to consider the smaller nationalities to carry them through and to  the ultimate objective, which is the development of science and technology, instead of competing and manipulating the mass for power. The development of science and technology, according to the specialists in the field, raises the production ability and capacity directly raising the economic development. Economic development guarantees the unity of the society. Therefore, a society without well developed science and technology cannot be self-sufficient. It will always be victims of intimidation and harassment, economic subordination and subversion, ultimately dehumanized by outside cannibalistic forces. Therefore, the primary objective of the Ethiopian elites of different nationalities, and, of different sizes and resources aught to think, act, and grow together for the benefit of the whole society. I will come back for the steps to be taken to achieve this joint thinking and action.  

Ethiopia is endowed with, a) untapped intelligent and skilled work-force, with unquestionable potential to achieve the required technological development, and, b) untapped natural resources. It is incumbent upon the elites of all nationalities in general, and, of the elites of the larger nationalities in particular, to be the catalyst, to bring these two potential elements together and realize the need of the Ethiopian society. Therefore, commonsense dictates that, given the existing socio-economic situation in Ethiopia, unity is the essential catalyst to deliver the Ethiopian society from its economic and social injustice. Unity is a function of economic development in Ethiopia. Unity is a function of growth for Ethiopia. Because of these reasons, it is incumbent upon each and every Ethiopian elites of each and every nationalities, to fight vehemently against any act that has the potential to erode the unity hence stability and economic development of the Ethiopian society. Unity in Ethiopia means to move forward together. The protection of the Ethiopian territory will unquestionably be automatic, as it used to have been since the ages. A good example is to reflect on how Menelik, simply by word of mouth, electrified that massive human force to beat Italy in Adwa.     

ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED TO GROW TOGETHER    

I have come up with three main ones: 1. Redefining self-determination,  2. Abolishing the Terms Nations and Peoples, 3. Back to Pre-revolution Political Map.   

1. Redefining Self-Determination   

In my view, changing the definition of self-determination will radically change the whole political, economic and, cultural outlook, discourse and, the direction of the struggle. The economic and the political landscape will change for the better.  

To begin with, self-determination is not a phenomenon introduced to thiopia from outside, as most claimed it to be.  It is a universal truth. It is a God given instrument that each and every Ethiopians are born-with. Going back to the Genesis of the Bible, self-determination became an instrument of use when the individual is conscious enough to use it. Adam and Eve come to mind. The when and the how  to be applied effectively and efficiently by the society, depends on the level of the consciousness of the society. Ethiopia cannot be excluded from this natural, society-linked phenomenon, namely self-determination.  

In Ethiopia, when this principle, namely self-determination, was fully exposed and brought to the surface by the Ethiopian Student Movement, its application became very controversial and contentious in some sectors of the society, which is carried over to this day. The national and the international situations hugely influenced the Ethiopian Student Movement, the manner it felt to implement self-determination, without fully considering the short and the long term impact on the social and political interactions of the society at large. The Ethiopian Student Movement simply replicated the version, particularly, of the Soviet Union, without carefully comparing and contrasting  the historical and the cultural context of Ethiopia with that of the Soviet Union. Was the Ethiopian Student Movement  aware of the motives of the elites of the Soviet Union was not clear, or, it might not have mattered. Any way, at the time, in my opinion, in Ethiopia, the influence on the educational system and to a certain extent the economic system of the Western nations was huge, more importantly, the cultural and the economic interaction between the nationalities in Ethiopia were in sharp contrast with that of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, self-determination was manipulated by the ruling elites to control the artificially conglomerated country and, to protect and defend the struggle of the proletariat. Given the already existing consistently stable interaction between the Ethiopian society long before the formation of the society Union, its application in Ethiopia should have been modified to fit the character of the society. Therefore, I argue that, since the old definition of self-determination is in no way reflecting the sociopolitical conditions of the current
Ethiopia, it has to be redefined. In my opinion, it is being used wrongly, left-and-right, to validate and advance ones political interests, irrespective of the well registered aspirations and interests of the Ethiopian people.        
 

The old definition was based on the factors that appeared to appeal to the political and economic disenfranchisement of the majority of the society of the time, such as: a) oppressed and oppressing ethnic groups of a state (country), b) the liberation of oppressed states by colonialists, c) the strengthening of the hold of the proletariat dictatorship. At the time, these elements were very appealing. It appeared, it did work to motivate the society in question. Particularly the last point was extremely important in Lenin’s argument. For example, in a struggle within a state, that is, between oppressed and oppressing nationalities, if there came a time where the struggle for proletariat dictatorship competed with that of the struggle between oppressed and oppressing nationalities, for Lenin, the struggle for proletariat dictatorship should be the primary concern. That is, the struggle between oppressed and oppressing nationalities should give way for the struggle of the proletariat dictatorship. The self-determination clearly designed in such a manner was the one replicated by the Ethiopian Student Movement. The Movement sincerely believing, and, without any hidden motives, that its application would solve the internal political and social problems, agitated the society to be involved, that is, to participate in the movement, which led to the turning point of the Ethiopian history. Since then, the environment was changed and, the direction of the political development radically changed its course. It was a turning point, because, the formation of the former leftist political organizations and now their extensions, the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and, that of the regime of Meles Zenawi, were mainly based on the political outlook laid down by Ethiopian Student Movement of the 1960s. Except, of course, in the case of Meles’s regime where the motive is totally different. I will treat this aspect of the argument later.     

My argument to change the definition of self-determination is based on the logic of natural process of development. The old definition of self-determination did not follow the logic of the natural process of development. That is, as in a step-by-step developmental process observed in, for example, from planting a seed up to and including its harvest. Self-determination has to be redefined to completely reflect the comprehensive developmental logic of the political, social and economic formation of the current Ethiopia society.  

The new definition should embody when defining the new self-determination: a) individual rights, b) group rights, c) ethnic rights and d) state or country rights, in that order. Here, I hope, one can sense, i) the developmental logic of the process, and, ii) the “up to and including secession,” which is attached by Meles Zenawi outside of self-determination to encourage ethnic nationalism, is automatically embedded in the above definition provided. These four “rights” will replace the three elements that were used to define the old self-determination, namely,  a) oppressed and oppressing ethnic groups of a state (country), b) the liberation of oppressed states by colonialists, c) the strengthening of the hold of the proletariat dictatorship. What is important to note here is, that, assuming one is part and parcel of the country’s developmental process, unless one is fully preoccupied with ones satisfaction of ones political interest  to intentionally disrupting this logical process of development, one cannot, in good conscious,  jump to ethnic rights before satisfying the individual or group rights, for the satisfaction of individual and then group rights will inevitably follow and satisfy ethnic rights . In a situation where individual rights are trampled upon, to think of promoting ethnic rights is a fake one. It is fake because it is pushed by power hungry, political entrepreneur elites, such as the liberation fronts including TPLF. “Political elites never refer to their real interests, such as quest for power and wealth when they invoke ethnicity.” (Mafeje 1999). In fact, for the promotion of ethnic rights to be, successful, mass based and, democratic, first, itself, should be based on the promotion of the fulfillment of the individual rights.  

Here, however, one should be careful in balancing the individual rights with that of group rights, ethnic rights and, country rights, respectively. That is, the protection and the promotion of individual rights not to be at the expense of the rights of the larger society.  In fact, the promotion of any one of the three rights at the expense of the society at large is inviting anarchism. Accepting the balancing principle and, how to balance it,  is a very important issue to be considered very seriously. Once a state or a country is founded on this type of full-fledged democratic process, that is, that follows the logic of the developmental process, it is inevitable,  a) for the rule of law to be part and parcel of the governance, b) for the right of the nationalities to be protected, and c) for the power hungry political entrepreneur elites to be isolated and denied to use it as an instrument of self promotion, as being used by the current liberation fronts such as OLF. The theory of OLF fully depends on the old definition of self-determination, which is based on class struggle and colonialism. The new definition contradicts the theory of OLF. Given this new definition of self-determination accepted, if an issue arose in line of self-determination, for example to secede, the issue will be economic and cultural related. It will not be in denial of ones association with Ethiopia, which is what OLF is still asserting publicly. Then, the issue can be solved amicably, one way or the other, to the benefit of the whole society in general and of the concerned nationalities in particular, through democratic discourse. The redefined self-determination is to be used, ultimately, as a unifying instrument not as the instrument of fragmentation. Had these liberation fronts succeeded to maneuver their respective nationalities to accept their ideology of fragmentation, they would have gone to the extent of sacrificing unsuspecting masses for their own immediate interests, which is the struggle for political and economic power.   

2. Abolishing the Terms Nations and Peoples. 

Here to abolish the term “peoples” means to stop using the phrase “the peoples of Ethiopia,” instead of using “the people of Ethiopia.” To abolish the term “nations” means to stop using “nations,” instead use “nationalities.” The term “nations” refer to the bigger nationalities, for example, the Oromo and the Amara, which, I argue, ignores the smaller nationalities, where, in the process subliminally cultivate submissiveness in the psyche of the small nationalities. So, adopt to using nationalities for all, irrespective of size. And, call Ethiopia multiethnic nation or multi-nationalities state.         

The current Ethiopian political struggle finds its roots in the Ethiopian Student Movement. The use of the terms nations and  peoples were introduced in Ethiopia by the Ethiopian Student Movement (Merera 2002). The opposition political organizations, and the successive regimes since the 1974 revolution are invoking these terms consistently, which they inherited from ESM. These terms were extracted from the old definition of self-determination by the Soviet Union and then adopted by the Ethiopian Student Movement. The Ethiopian Student Movement, without looking into the potential long term consequences of these terminologies applied them in Ethiopia, which became the frame of reference, intentionally or unintentionally, for the existing opposition forces and, the previous as well as the current regimes. 

Please note the following quotations to see how, particularly the term “nation” was maneuvered to fit ones political circumstances, particularly by the Soviet Union, which became the precursor for the Ethiopian Student Movement thesis. The authors are referring to what happened during the centuries, before the formation of the Soviet Union, where the society was heterogeneous.      

1. Nation originally meant a group of persons of similar descent belonging together by birth, larger than a family, but smaller than a clan or people (Kedourie 1964). The author further indicates as the society developed so also the meaning of nation.  

2. The American revolution based its meaning of nationhood not on cultural or national divisions, but on institutional, territorial and political organizations.

3. From the 16th century onwards, but particularly from the first third of the 17th century, use of the word nation referred to the whole people of a country (Raymond 1976). 

4. The dominant conception of the nation in western Europe since the 17th century is believed to have been that in which the population of a sovereign political state, regardless of any racial or linguistic unity is bound by a common political sentiment (Snyder 1968).  

I have pointed out earlier that the old definition of self-determination shouldn’t  have been applied by ESM in Ethiopia, because, it even did not reflect the then social and cultural situation of the Ethiopian society. And, I have provided what the new definition of self-determination aught to be. It follows then, the application of the terms, nations and peoples, which were extracted from the old definition of the self-determination by the Soviet Union, should have not been applied by the Ethiopian Student Movement. Therefore, as far as Ethiopia is concerned, it is wrong to use these terms today, terms that were based on the wrong premise to begin with.  

Sticking with flawed concepts is counter-productive.  And, perhaps, an insult to our imagination. It is, intentionally or unintentionally, providing tools for power hungry ethnic nationalists, and, it is encouraging the elites of the major nationalities, such as Oromo and Amara, to take the political platform and use it to fit their political interest under the cover of their particular ethnic interests, at the expense of the minority nationalities and the Ethiopian society at large. These are mainly the two nationalities,  always the talk of national and even international organizations, one might say, very strongly, since 1960, as if the minority nationalities do not exist. Therefore, one of the most effective measure to stop this unfair political treatment  of the minorities and to disarm particularly the elites of the two major ethnic groups is to decree the abolishment of these corrosive and divisive terms hence forth not to be used at any of the administrative levels.  

Since it is already loaded with negative references and implications, no matter whether it is being used by the multi-ethnic political parties, every time these terms are invoked by these forces, undoubtedly, it is always injecting poison into the unity of Ethiopia and, unintentionally instilling  the potential of disenfranchisement of the minority nationalities. The terms were developed from the old definition of self-determination, therefore, it is commonsense to stop using these divisive terms. The major benefits of abolishing these superficial terms from the official use by the opposition parties and ruling regimes, are: a) to provide a clean slate where the rights and the interests of each and every nationalities will begin to be treated equally and with respect, b) the major concern will not be ethnic nationalism, but, poverty, health, education, security, etc., for all,  c) to provide a national structure that will provide political and economic accommodation for each ethnic group,  d) the denial of the secessionist movements from cultivating their divisive objectives, which was and still is to separate their respective ethnic groups from Ethiopia. And, e) to emphasize, unity and stability, hence, economic development, ultimately growing together. 

3. Returning to the Pre-Revolution Political Map  

Meles Zenawi made the following telling declaration on November 4, 1991, Time Magazine:  “A feudal monarchy and a repressive dictator couldn’t hold Ethiopia together….. Now we are trying another way. If Ethiopia breaks apart then it wasn’t meant to  be.” 

The above declaration by Meles, and other statements he made, such as, “They can burn it,” when asked in reference to the misplaced budget allotted for Harar, and, “Ethiopia does not need doctors,” when challenged as to why medical doctors are fleeing Ethiopia in mass, clearly shows the lack of concerned and committed leadership to protect the unity of the Ethiopian society and, to provide the basic health needs and economic needs such as shelter, closing and nutrition for the society at large. Of course, from a regime religiously preoccupied with protecting its dictatorial power and its business empire, a sincere concern for the well being of the society it claimed ruling is not expected. This kind of an openly arrogant and insensitive behavior would have led to impeachment in Western countries.   

Particularly in the twentieth century, Ethiopia was never at risk of breaking apart, as Meles Zenawi dishonestly implied in 1991. In 1991 and, at least a year after that, there was no government structure that was holding the Ethiopian society together. That would have been the time, had Meles’s assumption been true, for the Ethiopian society to break apart. It did not happen. Amazingly, everybody, in every walks of life, was doing his or her daily routines, all over the country, as if nothing happened. Had OLF gotten the full support of the Oromo people, as it claimed it had even today, it would have declared the independence of Oromia. OLF did not dare do it. This was and still is the people of Ethiopia. With this deliberately constructed falls premise, Meles designed a scheme to divide the country into regions. It was done with a systematically calculated move to encourage nationalities to cultivate and advance ethnic nationalism, not to protect and cultivate their cultural rights within the unity that existed. Take language as an example. Given the current socioeconomic development of the society, the question to be asked is, is the language of any specific ethno-locality in danger of disappearance? The answer is unequivocally no. Or, is the current language of communication, which is Amaric, hindering any business related interactions between the individuals using it? Absolutely not.  

So, what is the purpose of forcing ethno-localities to strictly use the local language, for example, in schools? The students who come to school always use their native language. Inside the school compound, outside the school compound, coming to school, going home from school and, at home with their parents, use their native language. It is quite obvious then, that, the main purpose of this plan, that is dividing the country into regions,  is, to cultivate ethnic nationalism, a very handy munitions for radicals and liberation fronts, instead of cultivating territorial nationalism. A territorial nationalism is based on political entity with no common and distinctive cultural identity to protect but a common polity to which they all belong (Smith 1971). I argue that this definition fits the nature of the current Ethiopian society. The over eighty nationalities, with different languages and cultures, what binds them together under one umbrella is this territorial nationalism they have in common. This inherently recessive behavior cultivated and instilled through the centuries, pops up, when the territory of Ethiopia is in danger.  

There are at least six definitions of nationalism. But here I will provide two of the extreme ones.  See which one makes sense to fit the condition of
Ethiopia.  
 

1.  ….the attitude expressed by a territorially based community of human beings sharing a distinct variant of modern culture, bound together by a strong sentiment of unity and solidarity, marked by a clear historical consciousness of national identity, and possessing, or striving to possess, a genuine political self-government (Symmons-Symonolewicz 1985) 

2. ….the phenomenon expressed by a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture (Stalin 1972).Stalin does not accept the definition of nationalism if any one of these elements are mission.  

When Meles and his regime, a) decreed “self-determination up to and including cessation,”  b) divided the country into regions, c) opened the preamble of the constitution with the terms nations and peoples, d) decentralized state’s administration, e) and decreed the use of local language for learning and other local activities, are, all, directly or indirectly to implement what was clearly stated on November 4, 1991, which is, “If Ethiopia breaks apart then it wasn’t meant to be.“  Where else except in Ethiopia that a leader, single handedly, is running an experiment on a society of a country. Imagine the whole society being guinea pig. He doesn’t give it a hoot if Ethiopia breaks apart into pieces. No other conclusion would one draw from this statement other than what is just stated. Such irrational and conflict-ridden statement would have not been expected to come out from the leader of ethnically diversified society. But it definitely did take place in Ethiopia. Where else, except in Ethiopia, where a leader of a state, after such destructive and irrational statements would get away with?   Meles divided the country into regions to protect his dictatorial power and, his business empire, which is aggressively doing the production, the distribution and the retail aspect of the business. This parasitic activity clearly shows the depth and the width as to how the ruling regime is ruthlessly disenfranchising the local businesses, in the process stifling competition, the essence of free market economy.  With a carefully constructed organizational structure that is run and controlled by the four ethno-political organizations that extends its reach to the local level and, with its brainwashed cadres, the regime is sucking the blood of the Ethiopian people like the colonialists used to do. Only God knows the amount of money being stashed in the banks of the Western countries by the leaders of the regime. The four ethno-political arms that protect the regimes business empire and do the harassment, torturing, killing and transferring the activist teachers, for the regime are: Tigray People‘s Liberation Front (TPLF), at the helm, and in Tigray,   Amara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) in the Amara region, Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO) in the Oromo region, and, the South Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Front (SEPDF) in the Southern region. From the outset, the very composition of the party, EPRDF, from among nationalities, was a cunningly well thought out and planned strategy to clear the road for the absolute control of power and for the protection of the business empire to be formed. These corrupt thugs were well prepared before coming to power.  

In this type of political, social, and economic environment, it is quite obvious, only those individuals in the pocket of TPLF, and organizations such as TPLF running their businesses empire from the center, namely Addis Ababa, are the full beneficiaries, not the society. Take the construction of highways, for example. In addition to what the regime engrosses through, the kickbacks, the sell of what it manufactures, such as cement, and from the import-export transactions, since the regime owns them, the construction of highways and the repairing of the already constructed ones, was to create income generating project and to facilitate the transportation of goods and services owned and operated by those in Addis Ababa, not to facilitated the free and unfettered mobility of businesses of the society at large, say, from Gomu Gofa to Gonder, or, from Gambella to Harar. The current  miserable economic situation of the society attests to what I just indicated. Another important matter to note is that, since the existing division of the country  is along ethnic and language line, it is fully loaded with, limitation of movement, repression of languages, restriction on freedom of schools, limitation of business mobility and, restriction of local  diverse interactions. All these unfortunate negative characteristics did not exist before the advent of Meles and his regime. To return to the original map will totally eliminate all these already introduced negative factors and usher in a turning point in Ethiopian history. Meles’s experiment aught  to be terminated.   

CONCLUDING SUMMARY  

One of the purposes of this paper is to show the possibility and the potential of “growing together,” and, the issue to be resolved to create a harmonious environment to tap into this potential. The other purpose is to argue, that, it is clearly the time, after fifteen years,  to admit our shortcomings and retool our mode of thinking in order to revive and activate the political struggle, by delving into the most serious political and social structure of the Ethiopian society. The most important step to take, to create a harmonious environment, is, to unambiguously establish that the size of the nationalities not to determine any type  of “rights,” by doing away with these divisive and negatively loaded terms “nations” and “peoples.” As I have indicated in the body of my argument, given the origin of these terms, it is counter productive to stick with them. So, it is time to stop using them and lay down the foundation for the generations to come.      

The second important matter is the returning to the pre-revolution political map. To return to the pre-revolution map, in addition to the psychological liberation and buildup, is remove all the negative elements that I pointed out earlier. It is to start with a clean slate, so to speak, and start  afresh. The political and the social relationship that existed before the revolution of 1974 does not, in any way, hinder the improvement of the infrastructure, the improvement of the health and the education system, and, above all, does not hinder the development of the economy of the country, which is the most important factor in uniting the society. One might add to it, that, to disunite the society, sabotage the economic development of the country, which is what Meles and his regime is doing. To that effect, in fact, the tampering into an already established political and social formation of the society, that was linked with the political map, what was and is being done by Meles and his regime, is literally wiping them out. 

Thirdly, it is to show that the regime’s interest was not to cultivate the cultural and political rights of each and every nationalities, but to use it for its own political and economic interests. I will provide two cases to prove these motives of the regime. 

Case 1: The regime tried to merge four Southern nationalities, namely, Wolaita, Dawro, Gamo and Gofa by inventing a language called Wogagoda. To that effect textbooks have been already prepared. All these, the changing of the language, the preparation of the textbooks were done without consulting the nationalities concerned. Do you think Meles would have tried this experiment on Oromo and Amara nationalities? Absolutely not. Erasing the language of a nationality is erasing the nationality itself from the face of the map. This was exactly what Meles’s regime intended to do. The determined Wolaita people fought it out and won. In this determined struggle the prime movers were first the teachers, then followed by the students and then followed by the community, a valor that  should have been emulated by, and inspired, the rest of the country.  Unfortunately it was achieved with sacrifices. Four students were killed. Seventeen of them wounded. About 500 of them were jailed. Some disappeared and their where about were not known. About 146 teachers were forcefully transferred to other areas. Particularly in rural schools transferring  established teachers, that is, having their own houses, small garden in their back yards and with kids, would be an extremely harsh punishment with very serious long lasting consequences. I did prepare a report of about three pages and presented it with my colleagues to State Department and to few Offices in Congress.   

Case 2. The regime deliberately used language to break up Ethiopia. In my view, rooted into the regimes intense hatred particularly for Amara elites, reminiscent of Italy’s aggression, it decreed the use of local language in schools. Very unfortunately, with well orchestrated falls propaganda and agitation by the radical power hungry ethnic elites, as well as leftist organization during the 1974 revolution–to which I was openly vehemently against the unscientific agitation at the time–on  this particular nationality, it was and still being used as an escape goat, for anything and everything that moves on the surface of the country. Any way, I will present two facts to disprove the validity of the regimes argument, other than to create cracks between nationalities: 

a) Local schools did not need to learn in local languages, because, except in the classrooms, the students are using their own language always and everywhere, which I have tried to show earlier. So, should there be a concern for the specific community to have the potential to loose the language? Absolutely not. In the long term, keeping as it was before the advent of Meles’s  regime, would have produced the most productive citizens. Productive because they can speak both languages, add to these English language, serve and be served anywhere in Ethiopian.  So, the purpose of the regime was not to protect the culture of the nationalities in question. It was and still is, under the cover of language cultivation, to cultivate ethnic nationalism in the localities and brag about it. The Wolaita case is a concrete example that exposes the hidden motive of the regime.  

b) A research done in Ethiopia indicated that Amaric to be an instrument of communication for 90% town dwellers, and 15% for the country side dwellers of the Oromo community. (Tobia, 4th yr. No. 19, April 30, 1989, E.C.)  There is a good possibility that this fact to be true in other regions too. In principle, which I am quite sure is a common understanding, that in a country of over eighty nationalities, having one language as an instrument of communication has no alternative. This is what the regime is, deliberately, in the process of sabotaging.  

In addition, Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime tried to find out the widely used languages to be used in preparing learning material for literacy campaign. To that effect, the University professors in groups, took the assignment and went out to the provinces. In the process, what they discovered was that they were able to communicate in Amaric wherever they went. 

Please note that, the crux of my argument is not to defend Amaric, which I would if needed as I do for other languages, but to show the mere virtue of the fact that Amaric is already the language of communication all over Ethiopia. This language, I think, whether we accept it or not, has reached a point of irreversibility. Therefore, it is very divisive trying to erode what is already intensively in use and intensively strengthening the link of unity between the Ethiopian society. At this point, in my opinion, questions such as, whose language it is, and how it came about, are absolutely irrelevant and waste of time.  So, get over it and think in unison about questions relevant to the economic justice–education, health, poverty, etc.– and political freedom of the whole society of Ethiopia.  

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Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 7:44 am  Comments (8)