(By Dr Wond Wossen)
I often do not like to talk about myself here on social media. But lately, some friends are asking questions about my political stance, especially since I begin to sympathize with what I like to call Amhara’s long-term interest. I therefore find it necessary to write this brief note about my true political stance, without any pretensions, so that people have a clear view of where I stand in Ethiopia’s quickly shifting political landscape.
I have long believed in the need for the Amhara people to organize themselves politically. This, I trust, provides options for the Amhara to more assertively project their political interests on the Ethiopian political landscape. Needless to say, the country has been deeply divided along ethnic lines for decades now. The idea of “ethnic identity” has entered people’s head, and, to a significant degree, it has begun to animate the way they read, interpret and act up on political events. Although many might be adamant to accept this fact, “ethnic identity” has become the principal framework shaping people’s political thoughts, attitudes and actions.
This seemingly inexorable, almost irreversible, ethnic awakeness means that the task of building a genuine national solidarity that transcends existing ethnic divisions and fault-lines has become increasingly elusive. In particular, the old fashion way of doing politics, in which one typically begins by envisioning an ‘ideal Ethiopia’ and pushing that vision down the throat of other groups, does not seem to work any longer. That has been tried for years now, and the result has been failure after failure.
Any delusion of forcing an ‘ideal Ethiopia’ into others must be stopped, and the sooner this delusion is stopped the better for all of us. Other ethnic groups should not be patronized as passive receivers of an ‘ideal Ethiopia’ authored by a certain supra-ethnic collective. Instead, all ethnic groups must be viewed as active partners who have equal stake in shaping the future of Ethiopia. If we accept this simple fact, then there is no reason not to accept the fact that the Amhara need to organize themselves politically, similar to the Oromo and the Tigreans, for instance, with no strings attached.
For that to happen, the Amhara must first come together, deliberate on their long-term national interests, and convert those interests into solid political visions and programs. Once that is in place, they can negotiate/cooperate with others, with Amhara’s, and hopefully also Ethiopia’s, long-term interest in mind.
At this point, I can sense many asking, “but who prevented the Amhara from organizing?” Well, let alone organizing along, for many Amharas, simply claiming their ethnic identity is still considered a taboo. And this is largely due to the ugly campaign of intimidation, name calling and ostracization that they face when they claim their ethnic identity. They are automatically labeled as “woyane”, “zeregna”, “tribalist”, and so on. As a consequence, the majority of educated, experienced and financially capable Amharas (in the Diaspora) are either forced into silence or pressured to identify with futile, old-fashioned unionist political parties.
|Young Amhara students under under Tigrean Apartheid system|
This state of affair, as many have painfully discovered in recent months, has left the Amhara less prepared, with far less political options in their hands. The incessant campaign of attacking, labeling and intimidating is partly to blame for the poor state of organization and readiness that we witness today among the Amhara, especially in the Diaspora. Although certainly not the only reason, the intimidation campaign, in my view, is also a major factor in the failure of Amhara-based political organizations to recruit resourceful individuals.
So does that mean that I don’t care about Ethiopia any longer? No, not at all! Far from it. I still have high hope for a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic ONE Ethiopia. I just think that the path to reach that goal has dramatically shifted in recent years. At the very least, therefore, Amharas must not be labeled and scared off from organizing. Because that would only deny them a sit at the table that will shape the future of Ethiopia for decades to come. A disorganized Amhara would be forced, once again, to accept a political reality shaped by others. Yesterday, it was ethnic federalism, and the way things are developing at present, we cannot even be certain what will come next.