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                                                'GAME CHANGERS'

                                        OF IDENTITY POLITICS IN ETHIOPIA

I am gratified to have this book in my possession and I must thank, first, Gedion Wolde Amanuel for compiling the many articles and essays, including mine that make up the text of this work, and second A. Asamnew for mailing the book to my address. The book is dedicated to Wallelign Mekonnen and Marta Mebrahtu, and more specifically to the 40th anniversary of the sacrifice of these two prominent student leaders. Although the book is for Wallelign and Marta, it also extends credit to all Ethiopian students who equally paid sacrifices for a better Ethiopia.  

One of the articles in the book entitled “On the Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia,” and authored by Wallelign on November 1969 was among the many burning issues raised by the Ethiopian students, and interestingly it has now become the blue print for the EPRDF policy of devolution of power.

In the article mentioned above, Wallelign depicts Ethiopia as a multi-national state “made up of a dozen of nationalities with their own languages, ways of dressing, history, social organization and territorial entity,” and asks, “And what else is a nation? It is not made up of people with a particular tongue, particular ways of dressing, particular history, and particular social and economic organization? Then may I conclude that in Ethiopia there is the Oromo Nation, the Tigrai Nation, the Amhara Nation, the Gurage Nation, the Sidama Nation, the Wellamo [Wolayta] Nation, the Adere [Harari] Nation, and however much you may not like it the Somali Nation.”

Furthermore, Wallelgin asks, “What is the genuine national state?” and he answers it as follows: “It is a state in which all nationalities participate equally in state affairs, it is a state where every nationality is given equal opportunity to preserve and develop its language, its music and history. It is a state where Amharas, Tigres, Oromos, Aderes [Harari], Somalis, Wollamos [Wolayta], Gurages etc. are treated equally. It is a state where no nation dominates another nation be it economically or culturally.”

Different views in favor of and/or perspectives against the thesis of Wallelign could be debated in light of the ongoing Ethiopian politics, but there is no doubt that Wallelign Mekonnen has been vindicated.


On behalf of IDEA, Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD dr.garaia@africanidea.org

Readers who want to contact Gedion Wolde Amanuel can reach him via gedionwa@gmail.com