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Like the Bennu-Bird, Ethiopia Must Rise from the Ashes

IDEA Editorial

September 24, 2018

Ethiopia is a great nation that has proved to itself and the world its resilience against trying circumstances and outright colonial attempts and subjugations. For this reason and other factors, the country remained a jewel in the crown for Africa and pride as well as symbol of independence for the Black Diaspora. Ironically, however the present generation of Ethiopians seem to suffer from amnesia to the greatness of Ethiopia and the patriotic pan-Ethiopian agenda of its forebears, and on the contrary they have wittingly or unwittingly embraced narrow ethno-national proclivities and practices; hence, the present ethnic-warfare that has afflicted much of Ethiopia.

Irrespective of the many types of regimes and their attendant ideologies and/or policies that governed Ethiopia and intermittent political disturbances that bewitched the nation, the country still served as headquarters of the African Union (AU) and as venue for global diplomacy. The country earned world-wide respect not because of its industrial might and economic prowess (none of which could be attributed to it), but because of its reputation for being the cradle of humanity, the origin of coffee, for hosting a spectacular civilization of late antiquity and the medieval times, and for being the only independent country in Africa during the heyday of European imperial hegemony and colonization.

Ethiopia is still a poor country, but as of recent, under the leadership of the EPRDF, it achieved major foundational economy such as infrastructure, major dams like Gilgel Gibe and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), expansion of elementary and secondary schools, and the proliferation of technical and vocational education and training (TVETs), the establishment of fifty universities; urban development hitherto unknown in Ethiopian history, and with EPRDF’s policy of the developmental state (DS) and more specifically of the growth and transformation plans (GTP I and GTP II), Ethiopia did very well in the last two decades in terms of constructing major railways and industrial parks, not to mention the plethora of primary health centers throughout the country. These gains, of course, are relative and they are not transformative by any measure. However, the DS in general and the GTPs in particular that were intended to catapult Ethiopia into a middle income economy by 2025 have encountered a stumbling block by a lethargic new policy and continuous disturbances tainted with ethnic politics and narrow sentiments.

With the coming of a new regime under the leadership of Abiye Ahmed, the starting point and/or initiative of the Government was extremely promising. The new Prime Minister Dr. Abiye came up with a new policy of uniting Ethiopians under the banner of unity, love, and forgiveness, and to be sure Ethiopians were not only enthused by Abiye’s eloquent mobilizing speeches, but they also have extended their support to him and his government. Ethiopians, above all, perceived Abiye as genuine Ethiopian patriot and a messenger of change, but soon (in only 4-5 months) Dr. Abiye took contradictory measures that could potentially undermine Ethiopia’s achievements; it made a departure from the DS agenda of mixed economy to a liberal capitalist economy; it declared its commitment to sell shares of Ethiopian public institutions like Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Power and Electric Authority etc. to foreign investors.

In due course of the shift of economic policy, which has yet to be tested in the context of the complex global economy and the fierce competition between China and the United States, Dr. Abiye has made a major achievement in brokering peace with Eritrea although he was unable to sustain peace in Ethiopia itself. Since the dawn of history and the beginning of governance in ancient Kemet (Egypt), the first nation-state in our planet earth, the sine qua non or prerequisite for any government is to ensure peace and stability, followed by the provision of goods and services and furthermore by comprehensive development agenda (domestic policy) and international diplomacy (foreign policy). Thus far, the Abiye government has yet to come up with a clearly delineated policy matrix that can lead Ethiopia for the better.

We at the Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA) are deeply concerned about the current state of affairs in Ethiopia, more so of the degeneration of the country from relative stability and promising economic growth to instability and massive internal deportations. We say “deportation” instead of “displacement” because Ethiopians are now forcibly deported from their respective turfs against their will in most parts of the country.

Given the current messy politics and disturbances, it is abundantly clear that ethno-national sentiments and practices have now engendered ethnic-based attacks that subsequently resulted in internal deportations of thousands upon thousands of Ethiopians. It began in 2015 in the Gondar/Amhara and Oromia areas and culminated in the Somali/Oromo confrontations and the most recent attacks and killings against the Gurage, Siltie, and Wolita ethnic groups in the Burayo town of the Oromia Regional State. During the Gondar/Oromia upheavals three years ago, the main target were the Tigrigna speakers, wrongly associated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a party that until then held a prominent and dominant position in the ruling party, the EPRDF. Tigrayans were physically attacked and killed in many parts of the Amhara Regional State, including in Gondar, Woldia, Bati, and Tana Beles under the watch and alarmingly disturbing silence of the Governor, Degu Andargachew.

Now, ironically, the Tigray Regional State is the most tranquil and peaceful state in the whole of Ethiopia, and it looks it is getting worse in central and southern Ethiopia and Addis Ababa. The new ethnic-based protestations have now flared up in the Goma (formerly Gomu-Gofa) greater Arba Minch area and the capital city of Ethiopia; while that of the former is similar to what took place in the Oromia State, in Addis Ababa, the artificially mended Amhara/Oromo alliance made a dramatic turn around, in which the Amhara youth have made demonstrations against the Kero Oromo; the Amhara that were blaming the TPLF for virtually every wrong that took place in Ethiopia, have now turned against the Oromo; likewise the Oromo are now portraying the Amhara as settlers and some of the extremist Oromo are even telling the Addis Ababa residents to go back to Gondar.

The more Ethiopia is disturbed by ethnic skirmish, the more instability could push the country into major civil wars. As this editorial was being written and prepared for publishing, a significant number of Amharas are being attacked in the Oromia region and the Beni-Shangul Regional State; in the latter regional state, the Amharas were assaulted for the second time and neither the local government nor the federal government has taken any action to protect Ethiopian citizens. IDEA is very concerned about the multitude (probably in millions) of Amhara Ethiopians who were born and raised outside the traditional Amhara areas of Gondar, Gojjam, Wello, and Shewa; compared to all other ethnic groups they could probably be the easy target in light of the ethnic hatred that has now befallen upon Ethiopia.

IDEA would like to send a clear message to Dr. Abiye and his government that the federal government has a responsibility to quell the disturbances and protect Ethiopian citizens from hooligan-type assaults. When Demeke Mekonnen, the vice PM visited the Burayu victims, he said that the State has enough power, capacity and wherewithal to take action against the disturbing forces, but those are only words; what Ethiopians, who are insecure and frightened, need is real action from the government. Ethiopia has played a major role in securing peace to Somalia and South Sudan; why is it now, it has become incapacitated to bring peace to all Ethiopians? IDEA strongly believes that the Government has all necessary mechanisms at its disposal to curtail the activities of the ethno-nationalist militants and secure Ethiopian citizens in all Ethiopia. Otherwise, the Government may reach a vanishing point if it does not take the necessary action now.

Ethiopia’s greatness has sunk to the bottom pit in which Ethiopians are pitting against each other, but if the Government undertakes real action the country’s potential of resurrecting from death could become a reality again. Ethiopia, like the Bennu-Bird could rise from the ashes and we believe it must rise from the ashes. The Bennu-Bird, also known as Phoenix in the Greek version of history, was the mythological deity bird of the ancient Egyptians that died and came back to life; it is imaged as a bird emerging from a fiery ash. However, although Ethiopia has the potential in emulating the Bennu-Bird, it could become a material force only when Ethiopians completely debunk and invalidate ethnocentric values and uphold a more unifying pan-Ethiopian patriotism and agenda.


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