Not all history – including many from the recent past – is verifiable to everyone’s satisfaction. Forget Ethiopian history of 3500 or 4000 years ago, we are still debating about our history of a hundred years ago. And, a hundred, two hundred years from today, our great grandchildren will read at least two versions of the facts about the Ethiopia of today. Some will read about the miraculous transformation the country achieved under the TPLF rule, while others will read how Ethiopia was vilified and defiled under this same regime. Both versions are being written as we speak. If we leave them a poor and contentious country, they will not only debate about the different versions of history but will also fight to defend their version. If, instead we inherit them a prosperous and more unified country, they will read all versions of history but will derive inspiration from the ones that fit their particular circumstances.
Dr. Fikre Tolossa’s book fits our particular circumstance. It is intended to make a positive contribution in how one of the most important political dynamics in Ethiopia today plays out. This dynamic, namely the relationship between the Oromos and the Amhras has the potential to determine if our country will overcome its current predicaments and chart a peaceful and prosperous future for the current and future generations.
This is not to suggest Dr. Fikre’s book should be exonerated from any criticism for its scholarly merits. As in every scholarly discipline, a new finding that contradicts an existing paradigm must face the utmost scrutiny and test of validation. And, reading the book, I can understand why the critics went all in arms. Even for a layperson like myself, there are simply too many assertions in Dr. Fikre’s book that cannot be taken literally. In most cases, many of the troubling assertions are not even necessary to the central narrative of the book. He could easily have dispensed with most of these assertions and get a much limited hit as a result. Since my intention is not to start another firestorm on the same thread, I will not go into specific examples, but I intend to share them with Dr. Fikre offline.
In fairness, however, even though Dr. Fikre is an accomplished scholar in his own field, I don’t believe he wrote this book as a scholarly masterpiece. It appears to me, Dr. Fikre wrote this book for the largely non-historian populous whom he believes would benefit from his historical findings (verifiable or not) in putting aside their current acrimonious relationships and instead re-calibrate a mutually rewarding brotherly-sisterly relationship. And the response has been positively phenomenal, so much so that if his staunchest critics are still worthy of their credentials, they have however found themselves in the wrong side of the market for public opinion. My advice to them is to give it up or may be take the fight to a different (academic) platform. After all they have made their points and should let people make their own judgment. Further debate on this issue will be a distraction from what is unfolding in that old poor country today. One hundred million people are being squashed under the boots of a minority, anti-Ethiopian regime that is bent on dismembering the country altogether if need be. The call of the day is to save Ethiopia, not to debate about its history of 4000 years ago.
I believe Dr. Fikre’s book has a great deal of incontestable material that will promote Ethiopia’s unity and future direction. No one, to my knowledge, has documented the many great contributions of the Oromo people to Ethiopia’s history as vividly as Dr. Fikre has. The central theme of his book, that Amharas and the Oromos go back millennia in their kinship is not only appealing but is something most Ethiopians feel in their bones to be true. There simply exist too many distinctive biological and cultural similarities between the two people to believe any historical assertion that dates their first encounter to a few hundred years.
I hope students of Ethiopian history will take Dr. Firkre’s lead and unearth more untold histories of the kinship and shared heritages of the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia both from the recent and the long past. This, for our time, will be the antidote of the poison of mutual alienation and enmity TPLF administered into our body politic for over 40 years. finally hope Dr. Fikre will somehow take all the criticisms he received from everyone in good faith, ponder over them and make future editions of his book more rigorous. My small suggestion would be to remove the extraneous assertions that are not
I finally hope Dr. Fikre will somehow take all the criticisms he received from everyone in good faith, ponder over them and make future editions of his book more rigorous. My small suggestion would be to remove the extraneous assertions that are not important but cause distraction from the bigger claims he wants to make. Second, even though he has included a dozen references, the book’s major and new claims are mostly based on Aman Belay’s books. He needs to address this glaring imbalance.
I wish him well.
Shiferaw Abebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org