By Yahya Jamal
While I was considering writing this short piece, my eyes went instinctively to the TV screen in my room. A controversial song video known as ‘’Tkur Sew’’ was playing on one of Woyyane-controlled media, EBS TV (Ethiopian Broadcasting Service Television). The song ended with a bold title goes,‘’Yehuwalaw keliele aynorim yefitu’’, roughly to say, ‘If there is no past there is no future’. I was not much embarrassed, even though this event happened only after a week, since the historic #Boycott Bedele Beer victory. During a short course of the boycott I have realized from different sources that the EPDRF government was not directly against the campaign launched by Oromo youth elites to condemn glorification of Menilik II. Even a number of their recruited agents were working hard in some Diaspora-based e-forums frenziedly to push the quarrel to the boiling point. They have been pretended to be pro rights of nations and nationalities by countering the Neftegna element’s bid to canonize Menilik’s war against the then sovereign southern nations of the empire. One who witnessed this stance might be embarrassed when he/she watch such a paradigm shift event by an EPRDF-controlled media, just after a week.
The reason why I wasn’t surprised by such notorious double standard activities of Woyane’s media outlets is the point that to be raised in this short piece. Take a look at what EBS TV means and why it was launched in the first place. This is a TV channel that runs for 24 hours from its two studios – one from the home (Finfinnee/Addis Ababa) and the other from Washington DC. So many talk shows, music selections, interviews, documentaries, fashion shows, movies etc. are produced or prepared for airing from both studios. The main objective of this TV is supposed to be an entertainment media for all. Although it is one of the government-controlled media outlets, the editorial policy under which the TV operates is quite different from the rest of sister media. Designed merely to focus on Amharic and Amhara related productions, the TV has no air time to entertain the rest of about 80 nations and nationalities in terms of their national rights enshrined in the constitution. Let alone reaching the 80+ nations and nationalities, two of the three most spoken languages (Afaan Oromo, Amharic and Tigrigna) which even the Derg regime had recognized during its era were not fairly integrated in the 24 hours’ show time.
Although Tigrigna songs and dances are obviously depicted in the show to some extent after Amharic, Afan Oromo, the first most spoken language in Ethiopia (Encarta Encyclopedia 2007) and Oromo related features are wittingly ignored. Guragigna and other Amharo-Southern ‘unethically hybridized’ songs sung by Amharas or some Amharanized Southern singers have relatively much better air time than Afan Oromo. The bizarre is, no any pure (native language) Southern, Beni Shangul, Gambela, Afar, Somali, Agaw or Kunama song played on this TV except Guragigna. Though the Gurages seemed to be survived these mushrooming re-Amharization recordings, the hybridization of the language through music is posing a considerable threat on the future identity of the rest of defenseless Southern nationalities. This worrying fashion is not observed only on EBS, but also on every media controlled by the regime.
In case of Afan Oromo, a year ago songs like ‘’Ayyaan-laallattuu’’ by Abdi Nuressa and some two of Taddele Gemechu’s were played rarely, but today it’s difficult to find a single Oromo video out of tens of daily Amharic and Amharic-hybridized songs on this TV. Among a number of talk shows incorporated in this television, one was a show in English that hosted by an Oromo model Nunu Waqo. In her previous shows, Nunu, the taboo breaker of EBS, had the courage to invite music stars like Abdi Nuressa and other talented Oromos in the diaspora, connecting them back to their rural origin in Oromia. Today her show does not regularly run due to unidentified reasons.
As a piece of confidential information leaked from inside the media circle of the regime, the reason why EPRDF government launched EBS some three years ago was apparently revealed. Woyane had two prime objectives in launching that TV. The first was to counter ESAT TV, a diaspora-based opposition media which was broadcasting most significantly to reach the Amhara audience. Before its jamming from satellite, ESAT had posed a higher threat to the regime by putting alarming impacts in areas like Amhara region and some urban dweller Amharas across the country. Thus, beside its efforts to jam ESAT, the regime hastily reached on a decision to eliminate this threat by launching a counter- ESAT Amhara and Amharic glorifier media, EBS.
The second objective of launching EBS was to keep being bewildered the young generation by means of TV entertainments, not to have time and courage to consider political activities in favor of the oppositions. They have every interesting new song and other entertaining video to watch on this TV. In almost all of talk shows, artists and other famous individuals admired by the youth are invited to share their experience and life style. While traditional farming activities are boringly depicted on the rest of channels (particularly on TVO) the whole 24 hours, EBS entertains with its selected well modernized areas of production predominantly in Amharic. Thus, entertainment starved audiences of the boring channels like TVO are expected to be attracted by the EBS Amharic ‘melody’, hating their own language for the sake of better amusement. Consequently, the number of Amharic lovers is needed to grow dramatically. Beside all, what is well observed in its almost every Amharic and English production is the endeavor to revive the Habesha domination over the rest of identities.
For one who watches EBS regularly, there is no any kind of rift between the Tigraway and Amhara mentalities. Even flags carrying the Lion of Judah, which is said to be banned by the current regime are viewed without any editorial restriction. Praising Emperor Haile Silassie, the king that responsible for the death of millions and latter overthrown by the popular revolution of 1974 is common in Amharic song videos depicted on this channel under the guise of singing Reggae or ‘pro-Ras Teferianism’. This is how the TV was designed to be supposed as ‘first class TV show’ in the country, under its advertisement motto of ‘’Your #1 Choice’’.
Is there a need for an ‘Oromo version EBS’ by the government?
Oh, this may sound a bit funny for the adversaries. Yet this is unnecessary for the regime to launch such a TV for the Oromo audience. Of course, the immediate need of the Oromo is not to be owned such an entertainment media by the alien regime. Though the need for a powerful TV media is unquestionable, such a needed demand should be met by a collective effort of our own, not by the charity of our oppressors. Energizing our struggle in every corner is the universal solution. The more our struggle gains momentum, the more the enemy camp tries to appease us in different mechanisms. Perhaps, launching an Oromo version EBS could be one of the means of the appeasement. However, not bowing for any cheap appeasement by the enemy, the struggle should continue vigorously until every negative form of the Abyssinian influence in Oromia will effectively be eroded. It is such a determined and drastic move that leads us to witness how the regime will be forced to negotiate respecting our prime interests or be collapsed finally.
While we are discussing this issue, there is a must emphasized truth not to be left aside. By launching EBS for Amhara separately, the Woyane regime is approving its historical, religious, cultural and linguistic alliance with them. Definitely this is a one form of sympathy for the Amhara to endorse them recapitalizing their century-old authorized language and culture in the battle to suppress new blossoming potential identities like that of the Oromo in a national level. So the role of EBS in this case is one of ultimate efforts making in the psychological war against non-Amhara nations and nationalities, particularly the Oromo. Although the current government in Ethiopia is led by a Tigray based TPLF, the linguistic and cultural dominance of the Amhara is still virtually on its same old position. As Amharic remained to be the single national official language and a medium of instruction in cities like Finfinnee/Addis Abeba, Dire Dhawaa and many elementary schools of Southern Nations, its edifice quota in the so called ‘language equality’ still remains securing the lion’s share.
The TPLF-led government has never made a meaningful effort to lessen the dominance of Amharic in the regions out of its home Amhara Kilil. The regime never bothered to impose its language Tigrigna on the others, because it knew that substituting the century-old Amharic domination with Tigrigna could not be possible in the era when every national identity is glooming by eroding the supremacy of the past system identities in its respective region. The TPLF left crying for own language supremacy just for those who they regard as foolish criers. Rather their most priority was to control the country’s key political, military and economic power while simultaneously they are making sure that Tigrigna is the only influential language in Tigray, both in urban and rural areas. Today, after more than two decades since the regime was changed from Amhara hegemony to the Tigray hegemony, more than 90 percent of the national press and broadcasting media (including the so called free press and free FM radios) coverage are in Amharic. Even in Oromia, the largest and the most populous region where Afan Oromo is declared as the region’s official language, urban areas are still under heavy Amharic influences. The reason is crystal clear. Most of the cities and towns (ketemas) in Oromia and other non-Amhara and Tigray regions were established as military garrisons during the Menilik invasion. The military garrisons were the settlement sites for the Abyssinian Amharic speaker invaders. They have been developed economically, militarily, politically and culturally in their ketemas throughout the last century, pushing the native society away from urban areas and restricting them in mere uncivilized rural life. Despite few developments, this wrong urban demography has never been changed effectively in the last two decades.
To summarize, what I have tried to say above is not emanated from hatred or chauvinism. I don’t have a problem with the coexistence of Amharic with other languages including Afan Oromo. I am not preaching against the Amhara people for tit for tat strikes. However, as far as I am concerned, the attempt to revive the old Abyssinian chauvinism in collaboration of the current regime is terrifically dangerous and unacceptable at least in Oromia. As the Oromo, we have no intention to impose our language and identity on the Amhara or others in their respective regions. We are on the struggle to set the record straight in our own sovereign state. One who tries to antagonize us for our just struggle should blame him/her self. We are watching every action of the enemies intending to keep us under their yoke. Not only watching, but also we are on a tremendous historic move to stop the all odds. Oromia is for the Oromo. No more humiliation in our home land Oromia. Our united stamina is more than enough to end the old Abyssinian and the new Woyane prejudice against our nation in Oromia. The glorious action taken by tens of thousands of Oromo youth in the eve of this year 2014 was a simple test to show the diehards who we are and what we are perfectly capable of doing in the future.
The author Yahya Jamal can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org