2.1 The Root of Reality Defying Narrow Ethiopianists Political Arrogance
One of the most common questions Oromo youth in Diaspora ask is related to the irrationality of waging wars on multiculturalism in Ethiopia. Some further wonder that how the so-called Ethiopianists dare to assimilate Oromos into a culture and a language system, which few Oromos speak, and eventually theme to destroy the tens of millions strong Oromo culture and language, while searching for the middle ground sounds like a viable or a rational solution for the Ethiopianist camps. Facts abound; Ethiopianism defies logical reasoning (thinking) and the reality of the actual Ethiopian Empire.
What is the foundation of this reality defying political arrogance in the Ethiopianist camps in the 21stCentury? Why do supposedly “Ethiopia-loving” Ethiopianists reject and despise oppressed nations and nationalities’ cultures and languages that make up the overwhelming majority part of Ethiopia? To get correct answers to these and similar questions, one needs to explore the history as well as the dominant politics, culture, language, etc. of garrison towns, and how the garrison town leaders and their descendants have been defining Ethiopia, and how they have been dealing with the conquered Oromo people surrounding the garrison towns. This is not an exception to the Oromos either. It holds true if you consider the behavior of residents of feudal warlords established garrison towns towards other conquered nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire. The weird dogma of “nitsu” (clean) Ethiopian was founded there, and it’s still well alive. The birth place and history of “one nation, one language” dogma is also rooted in the garrison towns’ colonial mentality. (Young Oromos in Diaspora need to consult Oromo elders to get deeper insights on the discriminatory and dehumanizing real life experiences of Oromos surrounding the garrison towns).
The current Ethiopian Empire was built through extremely violent warlordism. Once the warlords (neftegnas) conquered/colonized the lands of the oppressed nations and nationalities, they became settler conquerors (colonialists) and built heavily fortified garrison towns. These warlords (military) garrison towns eventually evolved into cities and towns in Oromia and the rest of the south. The warlords’ garrison towns became islands in the midst of the conquered nations and nationalities. The leaders of the garrison towns were the henchmen of the Imperial dictators, and their roles were subduing and exploiting the conquered people. The garrison towns developed lives of their own, which were foreign to the politics, cultures, values, languages, etc. of the conquered people. They marginalized the conquered people in all aspects of life, and the conquerors rendered the cultures and languages of the forcefully and violently occupied people as uncivilized and as unimportant to “nurture” their version of Ethiopia. Rural residents of the conquered people who ventured into garrison towns were viewed with contempt and dehumanized; culturally and linguistically prejudiced. They’re the first victims of all kinds of discriminations and misgovernment. The Imperial and then the Dergue henchmen even made self-identification as members of the nations and nationalities taboos and anti-Ethiopia, which included killing and imprisoning the key proponents’ of self-awareness. The descendants of the garrison towns still echo and try to impose the same taboo on the descendants of the conquered people, including in the democratic west. They never admit or realize the Sun has set on bowing to garrison town henchmen imposed taboos on the conquered people.
The core source of narrow Ethiopianists political arrogance that defies reality of existent Ethiopia has foundation in garrison town feudal warlords’ mindset. Their Ethiopian heroism and love for Ethiopia have been mainly expressed in terms of subduing and controlling the conquered nations and nationalities. Economic policies have also drawn to enrich the descendants of the feudal warlords at the expense of majority in the rural areas, including rural Amharas. The leaders of the garrison towns always rejected the plights and demands of the conquered people, including cultural and language related demands; rather they criminalized raising such demands. And their descendants still dream of outlawing raising these cultural, language, economic, and political demands.
Although feudal warlordism ended decades ago, the mindset they nurtured via garrison towns-driven political philosophy (ideology) is still very much alive and kicking. The yesteryear warlord mindset still ensues in the world of narrow Ethiopianism today but it is expressed in polished different forms like unity and democracy, whereas the quintessence is very much the same. Putting it in simple terms, they still want (dream) to make the conquered people to be subjects serving garrison towns, which dictate the political, cultural, linguistic, etc. values of the Ethiopian Empire, and at the same time reject every demand the conquered people raise.
2.2 The Foundation of Narrow Ethiopianism is Politics of Garrison Towns
As highlighted above, the irrational narrow Ethiopianism thrives (depends) on the conquering (colonizing) mindset, and colonial subjects are expected to submit to the will of settlers of colonial (garrison) towns. The nucleus political, cultural, linguistic, etc. philosophy guiding narrow Ethiopianism is rooted in the political ideology of the garrison towns. At its foundation, it is the product of the mindset of descendants of settler colonialists (conquerors) who settled in the garrison tows established in the lands of conquered nations and nationalities and who want to perpetuate the occupation and domination in different forms. Moreover, the core advocates of narrow Ethiopianism political ideology are descendants of the feudal warlords that roamed the lands of Ethiopian Empire with guns to abuse and exploit the conquered people. They are nostalgic of the feudal past. Some even dream of resurrecting Menelik and Tewdros to brutally conquer and subdue nations and nationalities. The rest of narrow Ethiopianism followers are brainwashed and emotional herds, including some assimilated Oromos of the garrison towns, who follow the political philosophy of the descendants of garrison towns, without much independent thinking about its impacts and implications on the peaceful coexistence of the people in the Ethiopian Empire and the Horn region.
The descendants of settler-colonialists concocted a political philosophy (ideology) that makes them synonymous with Ethiopia-they are Ethiopia; Ethiopia is them. They criminalized and dehumanized self-identification as Oromos. They branded a struggle for self-preservation as ethnocentric, narrow, and racist to discourage struggles of nations and nationalities. They extensively romanticized and gave a religious tune to the colonial mindset defined Ethiopia. Weirdly, they also popularized self-identification as Habesha (Habesh) as a very valued asset to describe Ethiopians. One would ask, why the hell should one be proud of calling himself/herself Habesha, and should detest (ashamed of) calling oneself an Oromo, a Sidama, a Wollayita, a Hadiya, etc.? This is due to the fact that critical thinking is forbidden in the world of narrow Ethiopianism, which has become a quasi-religion. We are supposed to follow and abide by the unrealistic dogmas and myths of colonial mindset imposed Ethiopianism without questioning. Of course, if one dares to critically and logically think about Ethiopia based on reality, she/he is automatically branded the enemy of Ethiopia; anti-unity.
Narrow Ethiopianism is not only rooted in the history and politics of the garrison towns, but the core embodiment of Ethiopianism is also stringently defined in terms of the dominant culture and language of garrison towns and the political culture thereof. When gun-toting warlords (neftegnas) conquered and settled in the lands of nations and nationalities, they made their culture and language supreme. The cultures and languages of the conquered people surrounding the towns were not only ignored and marginalized but rendered as uncivilized that had to be eliminated to build “Ethiopianism”. The majority of the descendants of garrison towns never cared (still don’t care) to learn the languages and cultures of the conquered subjects surrounding the garrison towns. They reject their languages; they belittle and ban their cultural values. In other words, the garrison town residents, which controlled the political and economic aspects of the areas, made the subjects strangers in their own lands and made their lives very difficult. Currently, when children of the subjects raise language, cultural, political, etc. demands, children of the garrison towns claim that they will become strangers in the garrison towns they grew up in. On the other hand, they still don’t care (rather they want) the majority conquered people surrounding their garrison towns to be strangers in the lands of their ancestors. Moreover, they are outraged to see the descendants of the subjects using their languages and promoting their cultures, which is controlled and monitored by the TPLF/EPRDF regime. A number of descendants of the garrison towns openly mention this measured language and cultural freedom of the subjects as the major reason for their joining opposition politics to “save” Ethiopia’s unity based on “one nation, one language” dogma. Simply put, they fear that descendants of the garrison towns will be assimilated into the cultures and languages of the colonial subjects, which is anti-thesis to Ethiopianism, as per the definition of the garrison towns’ political model of Ethiopia. They don’t envision Ethiopia in a broader perspective. Their vision of Ethiopia and its future don’t go past the colonial mindset of the feudal warlords, who established the garrison towns.
Narrow Ethiopianists neither define nor understand Ethiopia in terms of the cultures, languages, values, etc. of the diverse nations, nationalities and peoples that make up the Ethiopian Empire. They define Ethiopia sternly in terms of the dominant culture, language and political ideology of the garrison towns. They interpret Ethiopia’s unity in terms of the subject people submitting to the garrison towns’ domination. Garrison towns were established to conquer and control nations and nationalities. In doing so, the subject nations and nationalities’ languages and cultures were subjects of ridicule, and had to be destroyed to “build” Ethiopia based on the model of garrison towns. This is the main reason why the so-called Ethiopianist camps don’t want (reject) every political, cultural, language, etc. demands of the marginalized people in Ethiopia.
Since they define and understand Ethiopia strictly in terms of the dominant garrison towns’ language, culture and history, there has been no real multinational political party in Ethiopia or Diaspora, with the name Ethiopia attached to it, which accommodates the political, economic, cultural, language, etc. interests of conquered nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire. There are no Ethiopianist political groups or core opinion makers in the Ethiopianist camps that have started thinking outside the box, and muster courage even to promote multiculturalism to solve Ethiopia’s political stalemate. All narrow Ethiopianism advocates are parties that promote the supremacy of the culture and language of one ethnic group and the assimilated urbanities, which includes some members of oppressed nations and nationalities. Narrow Ethiopianism is an ethnocentric politics of the worst order, deeply rooted in garrison town mentality (chauvinism) of conquering and dominating the subjects, including in terms of imposing their language and culture. Since they have conquering (colonial) mindset, the proponents of the narrow Ethiopianism do not care about the plight and suffering of the conquered nations and nationalities. They don’t respect the cultures and languages of the oppressed groups either. Actually, their utmost goal is destroying the cultural diversity in the Ethiopian Empire and assimilates the subjects into futile urbanized Amharanization process, which has been built on waging multitudes of violence against the conquered subjects’ politics, cultures, languages, etc. as non-Ethiopian. They have never been inclusive of all in the Empire.
Finally, it’s a serious mistake to think that narrow Ethiopianism is a product of the Amhara nation at large, and they don’t represent the majority of Amhara nation, who are mainly rural farmers. Descendants of the garrison towns have not culturally and linguistically intermingled with the subjects. They also severed their connections with their roots. Poor farmers in Gojam, Gonder, Shoa, etc., who are the most dominant group of the Amhara nation, neither have clear-cut ideas about the mass murder nor endorse the crimes against Oromos and other nations and nationalities, including cultural and linguistic destruction. The Amhara people at large have not given them any mandate to discriminate and oppress other nations and nationalities. They neither elect nor collaborate with them to shove urbanized Amharanization process into the throats of Oromos and others. The current narrow Ethiopianists connection to the larger Amhara nation is mainly via the urbanized Amharic language and culture. Most of the key opinion makers in narrow Ethiopianism are the products of the mindset of garrison towns, and descendants of the feudal warlords and absentee landlords, who were cultured into looking down on the conquered people and who defend oppressing and exploiting the colonial subjects. Thus the core narrow Ethiopianists’ role models are the feudal warlords that conquered Oromos and others. They are self-selected oppressor class in the making that wants to perpetuate the sick political culture of the Ethiopian Empire, which is the foundation of Ethiopia’s predicament for generations. It is persistent war on the causes of nations and nationalities, and their cultural and language heritages. Yet, they expect subjects prioritize narrow Ethiopianism.
Nothing affirms an evidence for the colonial argument of the conquered people in the Ethiopian Empire more than the political behaviors of narrow Ethiopianism promoters and their plans of garrison towns-based model for the future of Ethiopia, which even excludes cultures and languages of the conquered subjects from being important parts of the future Ethiopia.
Narrow Ethiopianists’ rhetoric about unity or democracy is neither diversity accommodating unity nor pave way for genuine “live and let live” democratic order. It is discriminatory, street-smart, foolhardy, and mischievous politics to grab power and dictate garrison towns based political model for Ethiopia. It is the extension of systematically dominating conquered people. (This will be discussed in Part III).