Triumph of ethno-nationalism over outdated Ethiopianism(state nationalism)
Following the successful accomplishment of the boycotbedelle social media campaign resulting in suspension of the sponsorship of the musical tour of the controversial artist who shamelessly glorified horrendous acts of Emperor Menelik aka ‘African Hitler’ as ‘holy war’, it is ideal time to conceptualize the essence of the victory. For me as I try to show later on it marked the latest triumph of ethno-nationalism over Ethiopian (centrist) nationalism.
Few months back a friend of mine posted in his face book page that he failed to properly grasp the essence of Ethiopian nationalism and asked for friends’ comments to help him. As I responded to him then the theme of Ethiopian nationalism (Ethiopianism) is confusing at best and illusionary at worst. It so due to among others two main factors:
a. It is derived from unsubstantiated myths and traditions
b. It is abused to further narrow ethno-centric elites agenda under the guise of national agenda.
Here I do not purport to resurface the debate again but to forward my take on the downward spiral of the Ethiopian (state) nationalism in context of the recent social media campaign.
To begin with the challenge to the ideology of state nationalism has come in many shapes and forms ever since in 1960s. The students, peasantry and civil servants have made strenuous efforts aimed at forging preferable political structure to offset the original sins in the making of the empire and its concomitant ideology (Ethiopian nationalism). As anyone with elementary reading of Ethiopian history can easily gather the class and nationality questions were the twin fundamental demands shared by all oppressed masses within the grand framework of remaking the polity. While the class question call for economic equality in the enjoyment of national resources, i.e reform of land holding system, the nationality question put challenge to the then taboo subject of ethnic domination and call for recognition and accommodation of all ethnic identities in nation building endeavor. Obviously, the latter demand has caused inflict to Ethiopian/state nationalism claim of flawless unity/uniformity of Ethiopian society. But unfortunately, the military take over hijacked the demands and aspirations of the masses reigning garrison socialism. Or in words of Prof. Merera the Dergue brought about ‘revolution without revolutionaries’. However, it could not annihilate the quest for freedom, autonomy and justice raised by the nationalities. By assuming that the nationality question can be subsumed under class struggle the Military regime committed strategic plunder.
Though state nationalism was wounded back in 1960s but its body (that is military power) was intact enabling it to oppress the society while it is bleeding. Effectively, the fate of state nationalism was sealed in 1991 ironically in the way it had been instituted century ago. The nation building project after 1991 was aimed to institutional once and for the triumph of ethno-nationalism. As far as the legitimacy and practical operation of the new ethno-federalist (informed by the commitment to self-determination of ethnic group) is concerned there is wide gap between promise and practice leaving much to be desired. But it ushered in a new era termed as ‘age of diversity’ by some authors indicative of the irrelevance and popular rejection of outmoded Ethiopian/state nationalism. Ever since it was militarily defeated the adherents of the ideology have made several hitherto unsuccessful perhaps counter-productive attempts to resurrect and revitalize it through various mechanisms. Both the covert and overt allude to the concert planned to be conducted nationwide by the vocal piece of the ideology and desperate attempt to counter the genuine and holy cause to stop the sponsorship and by extension the planned concert marked the last attempt to provide the lifeline to the rather dying ideology. Hence, the success of social media campaign luckily the first of its kind by Oromo and other ethnic group has scored the latest triumph of ethno-nationalism.
I think this offer the best chance for sober reflection and seriously engage in soul-searching for adherents of state nationalist to come terms with the reality of political landscape of the polity. Otherwise, their outdated narrative will be buried unceremoniously by identity conscious Qubee Generation and members of other ethnic groups very soon.
Happy New Year Again.