By Yared Ayicheh – June 25, 2013
The 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stagnant, persistent and outdated Amara-centric perception of what it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!