Where are we heading?

7 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

In recent years institutional barriers and nationalist ideologies have inhibited reasoned discussion of our constitutional future. The politics of Oromia is to a large extent setting the agenda for Ethiopian politics.

Clearly, Oromo nationalists have plenty of people with authority to speak for it. In contrast, Oromo federalists, who also number not a few in Ethiopian politics, are having difficulty responding to their opposite counterparts’ thoughts powerfully expressed by people like Msser Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba.

Similarly an Amhara nationalist movement has dramatically emerged in the last three years, and growing by the day. Both nationalist movements present a real existential threat to Ethiopia.

Across the country we also notice that the pressures for solidarity within competing nationalist communities continue to deepen the differences between them, and impede the discovery and stimulation of commonalities that would have strengthened citizenship ties.

Both the theory and the practice of divided identities and dual representation in Ethiopian federalism have become a key target of nationalists, and especially of Oromo, Amhara, Sidama nationalist elites seeking to monopolize the voice of their people. From their perspective, the ‘Ethiopian’ civic identity of the country as a whole is a threat and a rival. Indeed, there are many who describe the federal system as a threat because it divides Oromos or Amharas against themselves.

But wait…what if we break up: How will we treat each other if we do become foreigners?

Would we be the best of friend? Would we be the worst of enemies…. There will, I fear, be great bitterness and a nasty split. Of course these tendencies do not yet dominate the way in which we view each other. They coexist with the on-goingness of the existing system. Even in Oromia a complete break from Ethiopia does not seem to be sought by the majority. The point nevertheless remains that on both sides, inside and outside Oromia or Amhara, a possible future in which we no longer belong to the same country is worrying people of all walks of life.

From some nationalist perspective, Ethiopia is already seen as a foreign country. Future relations are viewed from the perspective of Oromo’s or Amharas self-interest. What will happen outside Ethiopia is relevant only to the extent that it will have an effect in, say, Oromia or Amhara.

That’s the current discourse in the country….Backwardness by excellence.

Dear readers, why not elevate our thoughts in the way to get people live peacefully with one another, do business, work hard and cooperate. Why?

Why is it we can’t reflect on what a modern postnational state should look like. By postnational state read a country with no core identity, no exclusionary space, say, an Ethiopia that accommodates any resident born anywhere in Ethiopia, together with new comers from Africa and the world. A country philosophically predisposed to openness. A post modern state emerging and thriving amid multiple identities and allegiances. Indeed, a new model of another way of belonging.

Yes, such ideas are never going to be easy to agree to given our history. But do we really have much choice but adopting the use of a different lens to examine the 21st century challenges and precepts of an entire politics, economy and society. So again, why is it that, we Ethiopians, can’t build a better society, can’t even discuss the creation of a dynamic new conception of nationhood, one unshackled from the state’s, and old-fashioned politicians, demarcated borderlines and walls… its connection to blood and soil. Are we that dim?

/Kebour Ghenna



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