Oduu Haaraya

Ethiopia, an Identity not only imposed but also enforced upon others


The expansion of Abyssinia at the second half of the 19th century was the main reason for the creation of less than 130 years old Ethiopian empire. Around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, with the help of some European powers and the alliance they get from some northern Oromo federation, the Abyssinians managed to control and colonize Oromia, part of Somalia (Ogadenia), the sothern people (Sidama, Gedeo, Walaita, Hamar, konso, Burji …ETC), Afar, Gambela and other nations and nationalities.

The Abyssinian took a very old term ‘Ethiopia’ that Greece used to call the people from the then southern Egypt (now Sudan) to down to today’s Tanzania and apply it to their new empire. They register their empire as a member of the League of Nations during the formation of this organization. It was all after this that, they threw away their Abyssinian ‘Kaabba’ and replace it with that of Ethiopia, though they still want to be called Abyssinians. They even managed to propagate the idea of Abyssinia being the old Name of Ethiopia.

They didn’t stop there. They start fabricating 3000 years history for the empire they created. Of course Abyssinia may have a more than 3000 year’s history alone, but the colonized people in the Ethiopian empire don’t share the Abyssinian history. On the contrary, every nation and nationality has its own separate history. The common history with Abyssinians is not more than 130 years. Almost all the 3000 years history they teach and advocate is Abyssinian history. They either ignore or hide the history of other nations and nationalities in the empire.

When foreign historian or anthropologists come to the country they misguide and provide them with their version of history. They just try to show the ‘glorious history’ of the Abyssinians by hiding the culture and history of others. If some historians manage to write a book about Oromo or other southern people they hide it from the public or ignore it in the empires educational system.

In Schools, colleges and universities, the curriculums were designed in such a way that they can advocate and propagate the culture, language and history of the Abyssinians. The culture of other nations and nationalities were considered back ward or uncivilized cultures (Goji bahils as they call it) and they teach that it has to be replaced by ‘modern’ Abyssinian culture.

In elementary schools, a teacher used to have a full right to change pupils name if he is not happy with it. That means an Oromo name given to a student by his parents can be changed to Amharic name at school by a teacher. A young boy or girl was used to be forced to adapt himself/herself to a new Identity.

Nations and nationalities were demoralized with their Identity through giving them derogatory names to the entire population. For example, they gave a derogatory name ‘gaallaa’ to an Oromo nation, ‘Walaamoo’ to Wolaita, ‘deraasa’ to Gedeo, or ‘Baria = slave’ to nations and nationalities with darker skin. To escape the application of these derogatory terms to them, individuals were forced to have Amharic names and identify themselves as Amhara.

Having non Amharic name causes discrimination. Having Amharic name and identifying oneself as an Amhara used to give one more chance to get job, more respect and more appearance in front of a public, which of course was a show of who is smart and a genuine leader. Later on this was actually replaced by identifying oneself as Ethiopian.

It is not clear when the Abyssinians started using a ‘green – yellow – red’ flag. What was clear was the flag gets the green-yellow-red configuration during King Minilik time. When the Abyssinians controlled the southern people and Oromia, they banned everything that helps identify the nations and the nationalities. They replaced the flag of nations with the ‘green – yellow – red ‘flag of Abyssinians. For example the ‘ Black – Red – White ‘ flag/ color/ of Oromos or the ‘ Faajjii Walaabuu or Faajjii Abbaa Gadaa’ was effectively banned from public appearance starting from the time of Minilik . The Abyssinian flag was the one that was imposed all over the empire.

Imposing one’s flag upon others by disbanding theirs is a complete imposition of one’s Identity upon others. Because, flag is a symbol of Identity and Nationality. Abyssinians, specifically the Amharas had managed to impose the Ethiopian Identity upon nations and nationalities during the last 130 years. The TPLF dominated government of Ethiopia just took over from where Amhara stopped, but this time the method is a little different.

It is also worth mentioning that imposing Ethiopia upon nations and nationalities at the expense of their identities carried out through legal enforcement too. One good example is, as I mentioned above, the ‘green – yellow – red ‘flag was not only imposed upon people but it is also legally enforced. This flag is Legally the flag of the empire and breaking the law of the flag is punishable which in some cases can cause torture until one agree to obey the law or end in death.

The other legally enforced Ethiopian imposition is the language. Amharic, though it was the language of one ethnic (Amhara), was and still is a defacto official language of the empire. It was the working and teaching language of the pre- TPLF weyane governments and the working language of the pseudo federal government of today’s Ethiopia. As it is legally the official language of the empire, it is a must know language, which makes it legally imposed and the enforcement is through making it the only official language and a must learn language, which otherwise one is punished through the system by being unfit. Before the TPLF government one has to know Amharic to get job throughout the country and now all the pseudo federal government jobs are reserved for those who speak the language. But if the country has a multiple official languages people from most part of the country can have job at all levels (regional or federal).

Ever since Aljazeera stream aired a TV clip about Oromo, there is a saga between Oromo nationals on one side and Abyssinian elites on the other side. Aljazeera TV and the well-known Oromo political analyst and nationalist Jawar Mohammed with journalist Mohammed Ademo promoted Oromo cause on Aljazeera stream. These two Oromo nationals clearly showed the world who Oromos are and how Abyssinians imposed the Ethiopian identity on Oromos. They also showed the world how Oromos identify themselves and how they distance themselves from Ethiopian identity. In addition to these, Oromo liberation front’s Fido Ebba clearly showed how oppressive the successive Ethiopian governments are including the present one.

The Abyssinians who saw the exposure of their system and what they did to nations and nationalities across the empire during the last 130 years started to criminalize the Oromo nationals. What they didn’t know is that, these Oromo nationals spoke the feeling and view of every Oromo. Abyssinians must get it right that Oromos identify themselves as Oromos and Ethiopia is an imposed and enforced Identity.

They have to get it right that Jawar Mohammed is not only Oromo intellectual, but also a hero who brought Oromo cause to international arena. He took Oromo struggle a great leap forward. He has a personality whom every Oromo admire and the enemies envy.

Aljazeera took a great initiative by airing Oromo cause to a global audience. They played a great role in exposing the behavior of the successive Ethiopian governments and how oppressive they were to the Oromos. They also exposed how Oromos are prosecuted and imprisoned under today’s Ethiopian government. They showed the world that a voiceless in an empire can be heard too.

I wish other international media outlets follow Aljazeera’s example in exposing the oppressive nature of Ethiopian government and how Oromos are still suffering under the colonial Ethiopia. Oromo nationals must follow Jawar Mohammed’s example and try to bring Oromo issues to global Audience.

Adunya Dinka

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