On the Prime Ministers Take on Ethiopianism

I visited many places, including Asmara, Djibouti and Khartoum. Everywhere I go, I discovered that making speeches on Ethiopia is one thing, not mentioning Ethiopians is as good as saying nothing. I endorse the acknowledgement of the Prime Minister to highlight the linguistic, religious and cultural differences that exists within Ethiopia. Knowing what it takes to constitute a governmental structure is the necessary part of “Ethiopianism”

I hope a good number of my readers would fill the gap from their memory of man’s conquest of landing on the moon. I am bringing that old memory to draw parallel of expression to write about something. But before that let me focus on the 11th Nation and Nationalities day colourfully celebrated in Harrar last weekend. High profile government officials and invited guests from Sudan and Djibouti were amongst those present at the event that saw hundreds and hundreds of people from all ranks and file.

But what drew my attention was Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegne who had seized the opportunity, as is the duty of top officials under such circumstances, to express his views about the comment of “Ethiopianism.” To me as a writer on political matters, that is indeed a plausible step in the field of leadership that brought him to face squarely what it takes to lead a country of almost 100 million people.

At a special political venue made open for scholars including some leaders of opposition parties, Aboy Sebhat, who is believed to be the godfather of TPLF, had said, “How much do we know about the country?” “I do not think we know more that 50pc,” he added, even if that wild arithmetical statement does not specify the source and the subject matter.

I put that query to myself. I could not find any place or woreda in Ethiopia that has escaped my duty based visits. I cannot say that again when it comes to the capital, Addis Abeba, where I was born and raised. The city has grown in length and breadth by leaps and bounds since I was born. I sometimes smile sarcastically at my last article headline “View from Arada.” But my thoughts and views go far and wide.

The Prime Minister’s delivery also makes me say a little bit about the question of identity mistaken by many people who take it that such annual stage shows of as the same as expression of equality of Nation and Nationalities. Songs and dances while dressing in cultural costumes or embroideries are only parts but not the entire parcel.

Making speeches about Ethiopia without mentioning its people is as good as nothing. The least we could say at this juncture is that it is diverse. But nobody has taken a full inventory of the people who are diverse. Some are not saying more than a whisper level beyond their complexities. I was not only lucky to know the country inside out but also lucky to go to places where they could be accessed by just narrow dust paths wide enough only for one vehicle to pass. I have encountered almost fatal traffic accidents once past Gimbi and another time approaching Munes in Arsi Zone.

I had also been lucky to go to Asmara even after secession representing the Ministry of Information and Communications. The whole mission was led by Tamirat Layne. That post gave me the opportunity to visit Dijibouti and Khartoum. On another occasion I had also gone to Abuja, the new capital of Nigeria and Accra, Ghana.

The Prime minister’s remarks on Ethiopianism reminds me of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s research and highly esteemed study on the problems of identity.” Professor Appiah is a scholar anthropologist born from a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother. He is a Harvard graduate and celebrated anthropologists like Professor Asmerom Legesse. In his lectures to an audience at Cambridge University, he made a convincing lecture on the theme of “where does the identity question take us? “

He delivered the lecture on creed, colour, culture and geographic setting. He argued that none of these are distinct and non-inclusive. He came to the conclusion that the country was the best of them all.

He acknowledges the linguistic religious, cultural differences or even man-made geographic demarcations.

He argued that all these and other differences could be tolerated and be resolved by the will of the people within one solitary solution which is the country as a whole. In our case, it means nothing but the inclusive and indisputable “Ethiopianism.”

Based on this preamble we can go back to the Axumite civilisation period and can only imagine how price was paid by our forebears to hold the country free and also play a significant role to stand by the side of other colonised brothers and sisters struggle for their rights to hoist their own flags. Most have emulated our tricolour in one way or another.

As far as the Harrar people and their colourful and artistic symbolic monuments are concerned, I only wish all the invited or at least the majority of the hosts could rise up in unison and dance to the tune of a common beat in metered beatings of any ethnic song that could help ease off emotions.

At any rate, the Prime Minister’s open air deliberation on a subject that encompasses all differences is a right step in the right direction. I only hope that as head of government he would consider that governance is a contract given to a coalition of four parties to execute full power. To have a common defence force, a common security forces, public health services, foreign affairs, education system, a common currency, common judiciary and common criminal and financial laws, and common capital city. Other utility services can be left to quasi-government powers. The economy should be left free to all local and foreign investors as used to be during the Imperial and the military rule.

Knowing what it takes to constitute a governmental structure is the necessary part of “Ethiopianism.” His delivery, therefore, is a huge positive step in the right direction. But it should not stop there. The journey may take a long time. But it can be achieved sooner than later.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Dec 17,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 867]



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