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Chauvinism and Narrow-Nationalism - Antitheses of the New Ethiopia

By Teweldebrhan Kifle (tewoldek@yahoo.com), August 02, 2013

Tigrai Online - It seems like the tug of war of words is getting intensified among the chauvinist and narrow-nationalist camps after years of one another’s bootlicking and dubious collusions bidding to undo the achievements of the new Ethiopia emerging under EPRDF stewardship. Apparently the ongoing accusations and counter-accusations currently permeating the social media, if anything, signify the old adage that goes as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has failed them achieve any meaningful ends. Politics as such should be guided by certain fundamental principles from which actions and/or decisions are judged and evaluated. At the same time political entities have to make sure that they stand clear to any keen observer with respect to major issues of national importance and most importantly they are burdened with the moral obligation of putting what they preach into practice. Politics guided by whims is an indication of a sheer want of getting to the top completely oblivion to the whys and hows of the struggle they claim they pursue and the cost that entails all along. Let’s see them separately for whatever they worth.

Chauvinists have their version of narratives as to what makes one a good enough Ethiopian. They set the bar high such that no one may qualify except the anointed few. They tell us unless we forget our ethnic connections we are rendered heretics- unqualified to bear the responsibility and the privilege thereof in being Ethiopian.  Forget the family, the village, the community and the region you hailed from then and only then, you are a good Ethiopian. What makes it far funnier is not the “forget everything” part but by which this “forgetting” is being substituted.  Educating a child in his/her first language is divisive so must be avoided.  So is language and culture-based federal arrangement. Many governments within a government is a farce, wasteful, weakens the center so they ask why indulge into such frivolous matter to begin with? Aren’t Ethiopians well meaning and aboveboard of Ethnic politics?

At the opposite end of the political spectrum is a bunch of narrow nationalists that negates everything the chauvinists had to posit.  They tell you the primacy of their ethnic values over that of anything Ethiopian. They hold history culpable to the predicament of the people they claim they represent. Statistics is cooked to suit their claims. More than 80% of the victims of the bloody Red Terror Campaign, more than 90% of illegal migrants to the Middle East and elsewhere, and more than 90% of the people they serve their terms in prisons are Oromos. They go expounding on the issue at length Oromiya is burdened with bearing the excruciating load of the “myth” called Ethiopia and put forward to the negotiation table two alternatives as exit strategies: Ethiopia with themselves at the top or else end of the “myth”.  At times, they seem even aggressive than it warrants.

In spite of the fact that they don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, they also share common attributes. One such communality is the strategy adopted for their struggle: befriending with every conceivable strategic enemy of the nation and they think that they can get away with it unscathed. The end justifies the means-they reason out. But how can we tell them that means are as equally important as the ends? It’s on the means the real self is revealed for what it is and people can have a say on who these entities are and  whom they really represent. Few Ethiopians hesitate to call the spade a spade when Egypt is chosen as a king maker and financer, Eritrea a launching pad and Al Shabab a tactical friend.

The other communality is that they both blame and distort history for their perceived current predicament. While the chauvinist blames history for being far less coercive and cling to conspiracy theories to find out answers for what it gave rise to the new Ethiopia, the narrow-nationalists take the state formation process of Ethiopia as extremely coercive, unique in nature and essence as not seen in any other part of the world and more importantly play the victim card. So they lick old wounds and exacerbate their self-inflicted pain.

The current movement across some sections of the Ethiopian Muslims is another God-sent punch line intended to shake the incumbent along its “geological faultiness”. Little they bother to give a bit thought if such movement would be a looming and strategic threat to the future of Ethiopia.  This is a real deal. Terrorism and political Islam is spreading its ugly tentacles all over the country and the only way out is to nip it in the bud. Extremism and political Islam can’t and shouldn’t be, under any circumstances, justifiable means of struggle so that the sooner they repudiate it the better would be their stature. Better be reminded at the earliest these seemingly opposite groups are in effect playing an equally damaging role.  I am not claiming that all their intentions are uncaused. All I am saying is there are alternatives and better ways of doing things.

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The current federal system, with all its weaknesses, is meant to set a middle ground so that, it is hoped, the extremists of both camps may sooner or later settle for it abandoning their long-held adventures. The “homogenous Ethiopia” thesis even at its liberal best is coercive and divisive in effect not because for its inherent reasons but because it was forced and unidirectional. Moreover, “Ethiopianism” both in existence and essence doesn’t contradict with the unique ethnic experience of citizens. It is not necessarily essential to forget everything that we know and set everything we are aside (as the chauvinists would have us believe) to become good Ethiopians. Neither is acceptable to remember every minute detail and even dramatize history (as the narrow-nationalists want it look like) only for a shear reason to want to go far away from the union. The history of the Ethiopian state formation cannot be any different from the history others state formations. War was the means where the victor subdues the vanquished. History is replete with such evidences that witness every country worth their salt had passed through that implacable state of pain and agony. So the choice is up to us: chart out our destiny meticulously or stumble by history which we hardly have control over to our peril.

“We are not Ethiopians but Oromos”

It is true all Ormos are not Ethiopians as we have Kenyan Oromos.  Another variant was “I am Oromo first and Ethiopian Second”. I am not sure whether both claims mean the same or otherwise. Those very slogans left me dumbstruck with an urge to undergone some soul searching and reflect. Am I Tigrean first? Is there such a clear line of stratification so intense and so identifiable to claim I am this first and that second? 

I don’t know about others but here is my finding.  Honesty dictates me to state the fact that I don’t know even the boundary where my “Tigrawanet” ends and my “Ethiopiawnet” begins. For me they are one and the same-inseparable and chemically crystallized into unidentifiable ordered lattices. It never occurred to me imaging Tigray in terms of its map or flag though doing so can never be wronged. I believe that the vast majority of Ethiopians share my line of thinking in this regard and there is nothing much that warrants worrying. Ethiopianism for me is an absolute.  A calumniation of all values coalesced into big tangible symbol of all good and greatness there is to it. I feel it when it circulates gently down my blood streams sensitizing every tiny nerve ending to the tune of this truth that is.

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