Oduu Haaraya

Unity in Diversity vs. Disunity in Diversity in the Context of Ethiopia

Barii Ayano, PhD

1.  Introduction

Although successive dictatorial rulers of Ethiopia have tried to hide it from the world, Ethiopia is one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world. This diversity is reflected in the wide variety of languages spoken and values practiced in Ethiopia. Modern Ethiopia is increasingly forced to confront the growing demands and tensions arising from this fount of diversity.

We can divide the political groups in Ethiopia into 3 parts based on the ways they deal with unity and unity in diversity principles.

First, narrow Ethiopianists have utter disregard of the unity in diversity concept in the politics of the Ethiopian Empire. Integrating diversity into the mainstream Ethiopian politics has never been an agenda in the Ethiopian political culture. In other words, Ethiopianism is a clear manifestation of disunity in diversity. There is no embodiment of diversity in Ethiopianism; it’s the exclusive club of Amhara and Amharanized elites.

Second, the TPLF/EPRDF regime has perfected its divide-and-rule by using diversity. The TPLF thugs have developed an effective system that has led to disunity in diversity, including within the parties in the regime.

Third, political entities that represent the conquered people theoretically uphold unity in diversity within and across nations and nationalities for peaceful coexistence, and to nurture collaboration in the struggle for freedom. But the endorsement and experimentation of the principle has not yet yielded solid unity in diversity within and across nations and nationalities.

The differences between the political entities that deal with the Ethiopian Empire predicaments are many in number and have significant differences in their political philosophy (ideology). Yet, they all have one problem in common; it is a universal problem for all of them: they don’t have successful political models yet on how to handle diversity dynamics within and across nations and nationalities. Among others, this is the main reason why internal divisions abound within all political groups organized to deal with the political predicaments of the Ethiopian Empire. Moreover, mistrust among political parties runs extreme. The impasses within and among the various political groups have created extremely weak unifying conditions, with no end in sight. Although the attention given to unity in diversity significantly differs among political groups, the effective application of unity in diversity principle eluded all politicians from the Ethiopian Empire to solve feuding within and among nations and nationalities. All politicians across the divides have very little to show off as success in unity in diversity. It’s a universal problem for all.

Number reasons can be given for the universal failures to effectively deal with diversity within and across nations and nationalities. I will cite two reasons, which are usually mentioned, and skip to the purpose of this discussion. One reason, for the lack of effectively dealing with diversity issues, is related to the political culture of Ethiopia, which never respects and accommodates diversity. The second reason is the fact that the core politicians, Ethiopianists or representing nations and nationalities, are deeply influenced by the ideology of the Socialism that sees everything in black and white, with no compromise or never search for the middle ground. “With us or against us”, “mehalsafari yiwudem” etc. shaped the political views (mindset) of the leaders of 1960s and 1970s student movements, who are still at the helm of the leadership of the political parties, Ethiopianists or otherwise. Although few have ventured outside the realm, many of the politicians are stuck in 1960s and 1970s political mindset. This is self-evident. Political divisions are normal. What lacks normality is seeing diverse interest groups as enemies that must be eliminated.

I won’t delve into discussing the detail reasons why politicians from the Ethiopian Empire are universally challenged to implement “unity in diversity” within or across nations and nationalities. The purpose of this piece is just to raise few points in line with questions (issues) discussants raised under the discussions of “Debunking the Illusions and Confusions of Narrow Ethiopianism”.

2.  Unity and Diversity: Are They Incompatible?

The answer to this question strictly depends on the political affiliation of the respondent.  If the respondent is an Ethiopianist politician, the unequivocal answer is stating that “unity and diversity are incompatible; even polar opposites”. If you pose the same question to the representative (activists) of the conquered people, you will be informed that unity and diversity are not only compatible but one cannot exist without the other. The most vocal opponents of accommodating diversity into Ethiopian politics are the Ethiopianist Diasporas, who live in the sea of diversity in their host countries; yet, reject all forms of diversity when it comes to Ethiopian politics. “Old habits die hard”.

Before delving into the factors that prompt strong unity or strong disunity, we will define unity and diversity in the most common terms. Unity, in the sense of national unity of countries, can be defined simply as concord, harmony, and agreement among people and interest groups. Unity is a positive, practical, and progressive approach to forge peaceful coexistence. Thus in the strict sense of the term, unity implies equality; it’s voluntary unity of people. Diversity, on the other hand, implies presence of different interest groups that may raise various demands and hence it may lead to conflicts if the demands are not addressed.

It’s important to note that unity and diversity are not considered antonyms of each other; rather, they tend to be complements. In Ethiopian political culture, however, they are portrayed as completely opposing principles; implying diversity must be destroyed to arrive at unity. This presumes that unity and diversity cannot coexist. On the other hand, conflict management experts affirm that unity should be nurtured through understanding each other and via tolerance of diversity in countries with diverse interest groups.

The trick of unity in diversity lies in finding the delicate balance between unity and diversity and their embodiments in self-expression, unified harmony, individualism, and collective demands. It calls for deeper convictions and insights on unity in diversity, which is based on peace and harmony with self and diversity of others. Unity in diversity principle is the consciousness of universal and voluntary mission that welds diverse nations and nationalities together for the unity of purpose. Thus the foundations of unity are nurturing feelings of belonging and finding one-self (diverse-self) in the unified whole. It’s not forced assimilation into one language and one culture, i.e. uniformity.

It’s very imperative to observe that it’s not accommodating diversity that breeds problems of diversity-related conflicts. It’s denying (rejecting) diversity that leads to diversity-related problems and ends up creating disunity in diversity. Ethiopia is the best laboratory to study this. For instance, an Oromo person cannot find herself/himself in the Diaspora Ethiopianism, even in terms of basics like culture, language, music, media, etc. Yet, Ethiopianists in Diaspora are very bitter when they hear about “separate” Oromo communities.

To find a proper balance between unity and diversity, both unity and diversity are considered as assets to be desired within the unification mantra. When unity and diversity are properly balanced with one another, they provide strength for countries, in which diverse groups are unified under fundamental ideals in inclusive unity, but differences are tolerated, accepted, and respected.

There are a number of countries that have thrived in multiculturalism and unity in diversity. In spite of religious and archaic caste systems based divisions and conflicts, it is often stated that India is building unity in diversity. The people of India are united with a common purpose and have a feeling of unity in spite of having diversity in a number of ways. More importantly, politicians in India deeply believe that diversity is a positive asset, and unity in diversity has been the model of Indian unity since the days of Gandhi. Malaysia is openly pursuing unity in diversity principle to unify the diverse groups in the country. It’s a motto of the political parties. Germans, French and Italians living in Switzerland accommodate one another and live in peaceful co-existence by nurturing multiculturalism. The same goes for Canada. South Africa, after Apartheid, is implementing unity in diversity for peaceful coexistence. Nigerian elites are also brainstorming on how to embrace unity in diversity as a positive asset to ease diversity-related conflicts in their country. Moreover, conflict management theorists and empiricists recommend unity in diversity to amicably handle diversity-related issues for sustenance of peace. All the same, Ethiopianists have no interest whatsoever in unity in diversity.

3.  Enforcing Uniformity as Unity: Narrow Ethiopianists Model

Ethiopianists are not pursuing model of forced unity. They are pursuing forced uniformity, which is assimilating nations and nationalities into urbanized Amhara culture and Amharic. Their model is anti-thesis to genuine unity model. Even calling them a unionist groups in Ethiopia is a big mistake since their model of forced unity is the most divisive model in Ethiopian politics.

Let us start with the word Ethiopianists use to describe unity: “andinet”. Although the words “unity” and “andinet” are used interchangeably in Ethiopian politics, the two words are not the same. It is important to note that the word “andinet” and its Afaan Oromo direct translation, “tokkummaa”, are not synonymous with unity. (Although the word does not fit unity per se, Oromos use “tokkummaa” to mean unity in diversity of the Oromo nation with some success and some failures.) The word “andinet” has its origin in the garrison-town-model of Ethiopia, and Oromos merely copied it. The word “andinet” implies “andmehon”, which indicates “becoming one, being one”-oneness, uniformity. Moreover, oneness embodied in the unity principle is different from Ethiopianist “andinet” proponents. Surely, “andinet”, which include uniformity in language and culture, doesn’t fit unity in diversity model of unity. Thus “andinet” is not synonymous with unity in a generic (broader) sense. It is a very narrow definition of unity; if at all, “andinet” partly fits the unity concept. But “andinet” perfectly fits to explain uniformity (sameness) more than the broader term, unity. Unity is much more than “andinet” (becoming one-oneness, sameness). It is crucial to further emphasis that even the word “oneness or sameness” embodied in larger unity principle is not about becoming one in terms of culture and language, as the Ethiopianists preach. I will explain what “oneness or sameness” in unity concept meant below.

Based on universally accepted principle of unity, let us first be clear on what unity does not mean. It does not mean uniformity in everything. Although unity encompasses oneness, it’s oneness of purpose (unity of purpose). It’s not necessarily oneness of culture and language, as Ethiopianists want to confuse the gullible. Actually, diversity lends strength to unity in countries with diversity, and unity binds together diverse interest groups so that, by virtue of their diverse strengths, the unified whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Yet, Ethiopianist politicians are inflexible, terrified of diversity and unable to bend their perspectives on confusing unity with uniformity, which are not the same by all accounts. Pursuing uniformity is anti-thesis to forging unity of equals; it is promoting disunity and discord-disunity of people.

I don’t believe those who translated the concept “unity” to “andinet” were linguistically challenged and lacked a better term that fits unity. Rather, they’re challenged by the political ideology of narrow Ethiopianism. I think the word “andinet” is purposely chosen to reflect “uniformity as unity”, which is based on narrow Ethiopianism’s “one nation, one language” dogma. This is the fate of Ethiopia’s political culture. It defines unity as uniformity; democracy is also defined as ideological uniformity of narrow Ethiopianism. In short, there is no wiggling space for accommodating diversity in the Ethiopianist unity or democracy rhetoric. Has the wrong choice of the word “andinet” to define unity been part of the challenge that has led to misunderstanding or rejecting unity in diversity in the political culture of Ethiopia or is it a purposed confusion? I want to err on the second choice, purposed confusion, which is the mark of Ethiopianism. Ethiopianism is built on reality defying illusions and confusions.

Nevertheless, it is crystal clear that narrow Ethiopianists confuse unity with uniformity. They also confuse unity with sameness in culture and language. Ethiopianists assert that the very existence of diverse nations and nationalities, and their accommodation thereof, prevents forming successful unity. Thus they claim that unity can only be fostered via nurturing uniformity, including in terms of language and culture. They strictly believe that celebrating Ethiopia’s diversity impedes Ethiopia’s unity.  For instance, if an Oromo wants to join the Ethiopianist club in the Diaspora, he/she has to drop his/her love for his/her Afaan Oromo, Oromo culture, and Oromo music at the door of Ethiopianism, which is impossible to swallow for many self-respecting and culturally conscious Oromos. Time has changed but narrow Ethiopianism has not changed; it is still the same-rooted in the archaic feudal mindset.

On the other hand, countries with diverse nations and nationalities tend to focus on unity in diversity, which is completely different from unity in uniformity (sameness). Genuine unity celebrates the core differences and works towards a common purpose (mission) and a common ground. It doesn’t drown differences in a sea of conformity (uniformity) as narrow Ethiopianists do. I am not stating unity is easy in the lands rich with diversity. Unity that compromises principles and core values is not sustainable.

However, the end result of forcing uniformity is not building sustainable unity but creating disunity in diversity. Moreover, unity is not something that can be enforced by divisive political elites; least of all, by political elites that reject and trivialize diversity, as narrow Ethiopianists do. The foundation of sustainable unity is voluntary consensus based collaboration for the shared purpose. Unity is by nature a persuasive collective energy of diverse interest groups, rather than coercive force of selfish individuals obsessed with domination and control. If unity is forced by few elites, based on conformity (uniformity) to the irrational rules they set, it effectively divides the diverse interest groups, who are unwilling to toe the line of tyranny of uniformity (conformity).

This is why activists of the conquered people state that Ethiopianist “andinet” (sameness) is not genuine unity but fear of losing domination (control) of Ethiopia. However, enforcing uniformity as means to attain unity in countries with diverse interest groups cannot lead to unity but mistrust, disunity in diversity and deeply entrenched conflicts. It also gives solid justification for decolonization and independence arguments put forward by the conquered people. Many migrants have already refused unity enforcement and declared independence from the exclusive club of Diaspora Ethiopianism.

Strictly speaking, unity implies equality and coherence of interest groups that form a unified whole. Consider the United States of America and the meaning of united as defined in the USA’s Constitution. Countries define national unity in a broader perspective. It’s understood as the valuable principle of insight into the real direction of collective purposes of countries. Unity is inspirational and motivational principle for shared purposes, while respecting and accommodating diversity. Genuine unity does not fix blame on those who raise diversity-related issues as anti-unity; instead it seeks solutions to meaningfully accommodate (integrate) diversity into a unified country politics.

Unity in diversity rekindles faith in how unity benefits the diverse interest groups.  And most importantly, unity is built on courageous principle to admit and to remember the ‘goods’ and ‘evils’of the past and engage in chartering collective future for the betterment of the next generation. Thus unity is defined more in line with creating consensus (being in accord and in harmony) in diversity. It is a process of building foundation so that various parts form into a single whole (unification) while still upholding and being proud of the diverse-self. There is a need to understand one another and to see each other as equal partners in a unified whole. There is no unity that appeases all without respecting and tolerating diversity; unity is not ignoring one’s identity to fit into conformity (uniformity) imposed by others. Pseudo-self is just being pseudo.

As elaborated before, the oneness (singleness) value under genuine unity is not in line with narrow Ethiopianists “one nation, one language” dogma but it is in line with singleness or constancy of purpose or action for the larger unifying goal. In other words, unity’s singleness (oneness) is defined in terms of unity of purpose; it’s oneness for a common goal that accommodates the interests of the different groups forming unity. Thus unity does not exclude unity in diversity. Narrow Ethiopianists rhetoric is surely anti-thesis to unity in diversity. Ethiopianists’ “andinet” is an agenda of creating uniformity that eliminates diversity with a focus on “one nation, one language” dogma. For the excluded groups, it’s impossible to feel belonging in the Ethiopianism world, including culturally and linguistically. Yet, it’s the only model of unity offered to the diverse interest groups. And rejecting it leads to anti-unity classification.

Ethiopianists seem to have no interest whatsoever to contemplate the fact that diversity is the essence of many countries. The challenge of unity in diversity is the celebration of common purpose in the midst of accommodating diversity. Well managed diversity is not a source of division and conflict. Reject diversity at your perils and try to enforce uniformity, as Ethiopianists do. You will get disunity in diversity (perpetual divisions) and political stalemates with no end in sight. “Andinet” has become an excellent model for disunity in diversity.

Simply put, unity is oneness of purpose that doesn’t squash diversity unlike narrow Ethiopianism. Unity implies a tree with many branches. They are all part of one tree but at the same time they are distinct and diverse. Genuine unity is not only a symbol of connection but also a symbol of equalityacross the diversity divides. Diverse interest groups need to stand up and be counted, without facing dogmatic version of uniformity squandered as unity. The political entities and individuals throwing “andinet” slogans are not for forging genuine unity per se; it is all about pursuing “uniformity”, where they will be masters of everything; the usual obsession to control. And it’s anti-thesis to forging unity in diverse Ethiopia. Enforcing uniformity on diverse groups is not even a unity model per se; it is naked political and cultural tyranny.

“Multiplicity without unity is chaos; unity without multiplicity is tyranny.” Blaise Pascal

4.  Unity in Diversity: Conquered People’s Model

Although there are significant difference among political parties representing the conquered nations, nationalities and peoples, none of them has a political agenda of enforcing uniformity. By and large, they endorse unity in diversity of free people, whenever the topic of unity (peaceful coexistence) in the region comes up. Thus it’s fair to categorize them under unity in diversity proponents. The concept of unity in diversity is an expression of unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation. It offers a resolution to the concerns felt by diverse interest groups, who are resistant to the spread of one particular cultural (linguistic) hegemony, and it gives assurance to those who fear that awareness of diversities can lead to greater intolerance and conflicts.

The use of unity in diversity principle is not a new phenomenon. It’s not a backward principle either, as narrow Ethiopianists want us believe. Some argue that unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of genuine unity. Unity in diversity help “minority” groups from becoming subsumed within a dominant culture since it nurtures and develops diverse cultures (values). It does not threaten to increase the fragmentation since it fosters awareness of and sensitivity to difference, and hence creates ground for respect and accommodation of diversity. A number of representatives of the conquered people in Ethiopia argue that healthy and constructive articulation of the concept of unity in diversity is needed to erase the fears and mend the rifts that have developed among the diverse interest groups due to the divide-and-rule. Accordingly, unity in diversity mantra must incorporate a set of principles that is universally applicable and also provide protection for the diversity of characteristics that maintains the vibrancy of variety in Ethiopia. It is emphasized that this principle can guide the peaceful coexistence of different groups without interference to enforce uniformity or merging of their cultural, linguistic, etc. identity. In other words, genuine unity is the opposite of imposing uniformity. Actually, enforcing uniformity among diverse people equals the death of unity-leads to disunity in diversity-a fact in Ethiopia.

However, the Ethiopianist politicians have not considered diversity as an essential ingredient of unity. Facts abound that rather than detracting from unity, well managed diversity enriches unity. Ethiopianists sabotage unity when they make diversity a catalyst of division and anti-unity. Unity calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has been initiated in enforcing uniformity. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Sustainable unity’s motto is unity in diversity. As a matter of principle, activists of conquered people fit it.

Then, what are the failures and achievements of the conquered people in forging unity in diversity within and across conquered nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire?

Generally speaking, political parties of the conquered people claim to have a vision of unity that is characterized by diversity rather than uniformity. Whenever they discuss unity topic, they don’t wage wars on political parties that raise the issues of nations and nationalities. But the effectiveness of forging unity in diversity is far from being perfect. The internal cohesion of nations and nationalities, based on unity in diversity, is taking root but it is still far from accomplishing what is desired for solid internal (external) unity.

The case in point is Oromo entities in Diaspora and in Oromia. It’s true that political and other divisions abound among Oromos. However, Oromos have been entertaining the idea of unity in diversity for a significant period of time. Moreover, Oromos have built a solid foundation for unity in diversity among Oromos: rejuvenating and nurturing “Oromummaa”, which has become the fundamental unity of purpose among the diverse groups in the Oromo nation. The agenda of a unifying Oromummaa is particularly energized by the tireless involvements of the Oromo youth. By and large, it is unifying the Oromo communities across the diversity of the Oromo nation. Thus experimenting and applying unity in diversity principle have built a solid unifying public base, and its effectiveness is very much encouraging. An excellent example is Irreechaa celebration by Oromos in Ethiopia and across the world, with Oromos, across all divisions and diversities in Oromo nation, joining in as one family.

On the other hand, although it has been widely discussed, forging unity in diversity in the political front is not as encouraging as the unity in the public (community) front. Oromo politicians still negatively exploit the diversity of the Oromo nation, and they are blamed as the major causes of disunity among Oromo political activists. The internal feud has only subsided recently.

I believe that the dynamic Oromo youth will come up with unifying fundamentals in the political front, and then end the culture of internal divisions, infighting and endless bickering. Positive signs are already in, and significant chunks of the youth don’t see political diversity in black and white. Even less, the youth don’t consider differing political opinion makers as enemies that need to be eliminated. The essence of disunity will end.

5.  Disunity in Diversity: TPLF/EPRDF Model

Although the TPLF/EPRDF regime has recently made unity in diversity its political slogan, TPLF thugs do not accept or abide by the philosophical (political) foundation for the application of unity in diversity principle. Unity in diversity applies to the unity of equals, which tend to ease traditional rivalries and vendettas, and divisive theories among the diverse interest groups. The interdependence implied by the notion of the oneness of unity in diversity requires relinquishing of any idea or activity that allows for the suffering of people based on their diversity. The TPLF/EPRDF regime does not represent unity of equals to be accepted as a model for unity in diversity. It’s fake unity among the unequals, with TPLF thugs making all calls on the core decisions as well as on the fate of other parties in the EPRDF and the composition of their leadership-puppets of the TPLF. No genuine power-sharing but thuggerism.

Unity in diversity is achieved when each unity forming entity becomes an active and functioning participant in the unified whole as an equal partner, performing constructive and productive contribution to the unity of purpose without the control of others. This goal can be accomplished if the diverse people freely select their representatives for peaceful coexistence, without fear of exploitation and oppression, which is not true under the TPLF-dominated regime. There is unprecedented oppression and exploitation under the regime.

The political climate that prevails under the TPLF/EPRDF regime emphasizes difference, disunity, and discord, rather than the qualities of unity and productive and constructive energy that are geared towards peaceful coexistence in Ethiopia and the region. These negative processes and forces perpetuate conquered people’s alienation from building the basic roots of diversity for peaceful coexistence; they’re under absolute TPLF control.

The regime has not enabled nations and nationalities to freely foster diversity inherent in the Ethiopian Empire as it exists today. Due to the regime’s divide-and-rule policy, it perpetuates alienation of diverse groups from each other. Diversity respecting and accommodating rhetoric of the regime is more pretend than real; it is only skin deep. Rather, the regime fostered a number of conflicts based on diversities in Ethiopia. The regime also used diversity within and among nations and nationalities to maintain its stay in power by manipulating the hierarchy of puppets. The feuding diversity-driven enduring conflict among OPDO members is the best example. OPOD is weakened to the verge of death.

Therefore, TPLF thugs used diversity to create animosity within and across nations, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia. The problem is not due to so-called Ethnic Federalism, as Ethiopianists want us to believe, but it is due to the lack of the application of unity in diversity principle. In short, TPLF thugs effectively banked on producing disunity in diversity although their slogan is unity in diversity. TPLF thugs used diversity as a means of fragmenting people across the diverse divide so that the TPLF can easily lord over the divided and feuding entities. And it has worked for the TPLF for 20 plus years but it effectively weakened other entities of the EPRDF, particularly OPDO, which is the most marginalized and prone to the fragmentation schemes of TPLF.

6.  Conclusion

Unity in diversity is not about focusing on how entities of the unified whole differ from each other, as TPLF thugs do in their divide-and-rule agenda. It is about embracing diversity (uniqueness) in a very diverse country, and to draw strength from the beauty of diversity. Countries that successfully embraced unity in diversity focused on commonalities, not differences, in order to find common ground while at the same time effectively honoring diversity within the unity movement. Honoring diversity is more about accommodating diversity and fighting discrimination in various forms. Diversity-based discriminations and human rights abuses abound under the TPLF-dominated regime. Still, the conquered people are the primary targets of discrimination and abuses.

Integration of the conquered people into the mainstream Ethiopian politics is very far from becoming a reality under the TPLF/EPRDF regime. Only handpicked errand boys and gals of the TPLF thugs from the conquered people join the club. On the other hand, elites that hail from the conquered people, who have not signed to be puppets, are marginalized under the TPLF dictatorship more than ever before. More importantly, “conquerors-take-it-all” mindset, the most fundamental manifestation of the Ethiopian political culture, is owned by the TPLF even more than the dictators that roamed Ethiopia totting guns before it. TPLF thugs don’t act like domestic-bred dictators but as outside forces of occupation. They don’t even pretend as the Amhara elites do.

Ethiopianist uniformity model rejects all kinds of diversity, including cultural and linguistic diversity. Unity organizations in countries with diversity are nondiscriminatory and support diversity, instead of focusing on uniformity as a means to unity, as narrow Ethiopianists do. They nurture a political culture of unity based on the common ground in the midst of diversity. In short, unity is not understood as surrender to sameness (uniformity) as narrow Ethiopianists pursue as a political culture. Ethiopianism has never embodied the diverse values and cultures of the conquered people as important part of Ethiopia. Ethiopianism marginalizes and alienates the conquered people in all aspects.

Under unity in diversity, interdependence and the need for unity does not lead to imposing a uniform set of ideals and values but endeavors to promote cultural diversity to preserve diverse cultures in various ways. Some Western countries like Canada, Switzerland, etc. express their commitment to the preservation of multiculturalism to continue many of the practices that are unique to diverse cultures that make-up the countries. Politicians in countries with diversity uphold diversity as a positive asset and a slogan (motto) of their political campaigns. They consider preservation of cultural diversity, far from being perceived as a threat to unity owing to rivalries and differences, as a necessary factor that needs to be respected and fostered by all political entities forming unity. Their goal is not simple tolerance of diversity, but commitment to its positive nurturing. Multicultural events provide opportunities for members of different communities to learn more about each other, thus fostering increased awareness and understanding of the diversity within the larger unity such as a country. Surprisingly, Ethiopianists living in these diversity and multiculturalism promoting countries totally reject the importance of unity in diversity in Ethiopian politics-preach uniformity.

The increased visibility and promotion of cultural diversity has been accompanied by stronger feelings of belonging to the unified whole, rather than causing conflicts among and within different groups. When the open acceptance of diversity is perceived as a threat to the preservation of one’s own traditions, tension can develop and conflicts arise (if diversity is ignored or rejected as Ethiopianists do). Cultural traits are important to the owners of the culture, and culture is a powerful aspect of human collective existence. Culture gives meaning to individual’s existence in collective-self. It is also a source of inspiration to unite on the larger scale for a common purpose, a larger cause.  Ethiopianism is the opposite. Members of conquered people, who are culturally conscious, cannot feel any sense of belonging in Ethiopianism, particularly as it is displayed in the Diaspora. It displays none of the Oromo-self.

Finally, it is wrong to look at divisions among politicians from Ethiopia in terms of unionist vs. separatist or as a dichotomy of those who enforce unity vs. those who enforce disunity in diversity. In strict sense of the concept, there has never been unity in Ethiopia per se but forced uniformity (conformity) to the terms of dictatorial rulers of the conquering and occupying forces totting guns. Unity implies voluntary consensus of the people; unity of equals-not conformity.

Simplified, Ethiopia’s political dichotomy is the following:

  • TPLF hegemony vs. those who resist being TPLF subjects.
  • Amhara (Amharanized) elite hegemony vs. those who refuse to conform to imposed uniformity. In short, dichotomy of oppressed vs. oppressors.

Simply put, Ethiopianism has never been practiced as a unifying motto. It is implemented as a political, cultural, economic, etc. tyranny against the conquered people. As it stands now, we are conquered subjects of the TPLF.


*Barii teaches Economics and Finance at the USA Universities.

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