(A Brief Remark on the Article of Dr. Tedla Woldeyohannes, Paulos Milikiyas)
While Dr Tedla’s skepticism on the trend of the Oromo Movement might be a genuine question that any other Ethiopian would ask, I think that Dr. Tedla seemed to have pushed Oromo elites to incline towards developing Oromo independence. Moreover, Dr.Tedla’s mention of Emperor Minelik II needs elaboration.
The era of Menelik was the era of nation building in most of the world especially in Europe. For example, Prussia under Otto von Bismark was consolidating fragile German states. Italy under Gari Baldi consolidated was into one country from thirteen petty states. There was no nation that had not been able to unite as a strong nation without classical military unification or reunification. After consolidating their nation states, powerful European nations of the era met in Belgium in 1884, 12 years before the battle of Adwa, to make a covenant as to how to make a scramble for Africa. So, France, Great Britain and Italy were racing on East Africa, especially Ethiopia. First an English General Hewett made a mischievous Adwa agreement with Emperor Yohannes IV in the same year by which Italy had to return Massawa for free use by Ethiopia and Egyptian troops had to be given free passage to the Sudan that was under the supremacy of Great Britain. After the troops passed, Massaw was not given back to Ethiopia but to Italy. The betrayal by the English made on Emperor Yohannes had other consequences also. The free passage of Egyptian troops to the Sudan created animosity between the leadership of Emperor Yohannes IV and the Sudanese causing the rise of Durbush power that fought the Emperor at Metema and the loss of his head and crown on one side, and the consequent Italian occupation of Northern part of Ethiopia then called Eritrea. That was not all. Under the tutelage of the English colonial scheme, Egypt armed and appointed Amir Abdallah on Harar to make him their satellite. Great Britain’s colonial occupation had encircled Ethiopia from the west and south as it had occupied Kenya, too while Somalia fell under Italy’s share. The three powers were aggressively racing to occupy the rest of Ethiopia.
Any genuine person with rational thinking could imagine the fate of Ethiopia if a leadership from Ethiopia could not have resisted that scramble. So, what was the role of Emperor Menelik? What were the alternatives?
If a powerful leadership could not have unified Ethiopians by hook or crook, this country that existed since immemorial could have disintegrated into any colonial boundaries. These big nations and nationalities like Amhara and Oromo would have different fates. It was Emperor Menelik who developed the recognition of the Oromo people by forming petty states into a whole Wellega, Keffa, for example, and the union of Mecha and Tulama, If Emperor Menelik and Ras Gobana did not do this history, the fate of most unsettled Oromo pastorals could have been similar to the Maasai nomads.
If not that of Menelik, and if there was another capable leadership, there is not question that it should have saved the survival of the country through the same method that Emperor Menelik used as unified nations could survive in other parts of the World.
Why do Oromo elites take Emperor Menelik as an occupier just like a colonizer? Emperor Menelik consolidated not only scattered Oromo pastorals into provinces that were governed by their own balabats whose system had extended until 1974 revolution, but his leadership had annexed Gojjam, Begemdir/Gondar, Guragie, Wolayita, Sidama, Keffa, Yemma, Damot, Afar, Tigre, Hadiya, and all other regions that reunited Ethiopia. If Gobana had been the Emperor and did the same, what would this elites think? If Gobana had the role of being the Emperor of Ethiopia or another able leadership had the capability to do so, one would have done the same reunification and would have spoken the same Ethiopian national language since the Yeju Oromo leaders used to speak the same national language about 300 years ago. While everybody knows that Afan Amara could not and cannot be racist as English, French, or Arab language that are used simply as medium of communication. At times these elites confuse themselves between hatred and reality. They don’t seem to understand that language is simply a means of communication. Weyane speaks Amharic and exercises its brutality on Amaras; it also speaks Afan Oromo putting the Oromo people under its brutal tenure. Americans developed the English language of their one time arch enemy. Moreover, we can trace from history that most present Oromo people were forced not only to speak Afan Oromo but to be Oromos when Abba dula occupiers compelled previous indigenous people in many parts of Ethiopia to undergo through mass assimilation processes like moogassa, meedhicha, and harmoa-hodha.
These politicians would not like to raise the fact about forceful occupation of indigenous people in many parts of Ethiopia was a reality before Oromo settlements; however, they would like to reiterate about what happened only 100 years ago. Wasn’t that history before 100 years a common history? Did those occupiers took lands and properties of the indigenous people at will without any blood shed? Was Naftagna limited to Amaras only? Does Amara originally come only from a certain race or from ancestors who were persuaded to speak the language? If one tries to delve into historical circumstances, one would find no basis of aberration on the integrity of Ethiopians in internal conflicts for power and supremacy on one hand and coherently fighting back foreign aggression on the other hand that brought about common history and fate of the people in the country.
The concept of nationalism based on contemptuous inception is not progressive; it arrests democratic developments. It nips in the bud the spirit of democracy. An institution that does not follow democratic principles cannot have healthy relationships with peoples, because any people likes to be free and to exercise harmonious relationships with any other people.
The concept of segregating Ethiopia into “Oromoia”, “Amara”, etc ethnic structure is not a manifestation of democracy, but a manifestation of apartheid devised by Weyane racial divide-and-rule treason. This racial scheme will never improve the standard of living of the Oromo or other people but will stifle the harmony of Ethiopians that averts equality. There has never been a place in Ethiopia where Oromo blood had not been shed to survive Ethiopia. So, who is foolish that chooses only a parcel instead of the legitimate whole? The greatest vision is a Utopian unknown state for nationally oriented political followers. And for few elites it is ego of power, individual or group power instead that undermines belonging to a great nation with wider geographical and social groups. Any matured person does not need to be a politician or a scholar to know that a united Ethiopia can be in a better position to resist foreign domination and develop economically. All Ethiopian peoples are forces that support each other and develop together. The integrity of the country is an asset to any Ethiopian from any corner of the country. While all this is undeniable, what nationalist power mongers fear is the warranty to be on power; ironically they do not trust the people since they are not confident to build a real democratic system. Yes, without having the gut to sit and discuss with their opponents, they cannot dare to be part of a democratic system. If they claim to stand for peoples’s equality, justice, peace, and prosperity, they should be realistic to people; they should be genuine to any people and face facts on the ground.
“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end”. – Bayard Rustin as compiled in Obbo Tadesse Nigatu’s recent article.
Some Oromo politicians still stir the murky old politics of ethnicity and so called Amara chauvinism after 40 years of the demise of the Solomonic dynasty from the earth of Ethiopia. While the people moved in the forefront, no Oromo political organization challenged Weyane except disseminating racial hatred and old rhetoric of national oppression like Doctor Hizquel who ironically proved how Oromo politicians could not progress. (ዶክተር ሕዝቅኤል ኦሮሞ እንደዚህ ይሰደባል በማለት ጭራሹኑ ኦሮሞን ሰድቦ ለተሳዳቢ የሰጠ ያዋቂ አጥፊ) by fanning hatred. Similarly Dr Tsegaye Ararsa also tried to analyze hearsay on Menelik and his relation to the Caucasian race. At this time when people seek solidarity this has no objective other than confusing or changing the attention of the people. In the same way, Dr Paulos Milkias bluntly rebuffed Dr Fikre Tollosa’s book on the relationships of Oromo and Amara people. We were expecting his professional comments. However, while he was asking for evidence, Dr. Paulos did not utter any historical facts let alone to touch on what Dr Fikre wrote. There is no substance fact presented by him to disprove the other writer except his repeated “false” and “no scientific proof” phrases. So are these scholars confusing us? Are they trying to disintegrate our peoples instead of unifying them?
We cannot live in the past. Rumor mongering and fanning hatred is not a progressive outlook and takes us nowhere. This can neither build a nation nor fend of an enemy. People are yearning for solidarity not contradiction. So, we need to build the future which can only be done by helping each other instead of finding a means of contradicting one another; and in order to do that, we need to think that a bright future is based on what we are doing today.