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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Side Goodo
The question of nationalities in Ethiopia has been the most contentious issue since Ethiopia took
its current shape between the late 1880s and the early 1900s. The northern part of the present day
Ethiopia, inhabited by the majority Abyssinians and the minority Kushitic Agews existed for
over 2 Millennia in the name of the Abyssinian Kingdom with remarkable civilizations such as
Axum, Lalibela and Gonder. However, Ethiopia as we know it today is the result of the internal
expansion by King Minelik II of Shoa during the late 1880s until the early 1900s.
The majority (70%) of the current Ethiopian population, which lives in the southern, western and
eastern regions of the country became part of the present day Ethiopia only during this period of
internal expansion. The majority Kushitic peoples such as Sidama, Oromo, Afar, Ogaden, etc
and the Omotic peoples such as Wolayita, Gamo, Gofa, Dawuro, Konta, etc and the Nilotic
peoples living in the border between Ethiopia and the Sudan all became part of the present day
Ethiopia between the 1880s and early 1900s. Historical evidences suggest that the rivalry
between the two colonial powers, Britain and France in the horn of Africa, during the Scramble
for Africa, facilitated the rapid Abyssinian expansion towards the south, the east and the west
during this period. The two colonial powers provided King Minelik II ample rifles and other war
materials that other ethnic groups living in the interior lacked. Therefore the King was able to
easily subdue these hitherto independent African Kushitic, Omotic and Nilotic states with in a
relatively short period of time.
Although these peoples were annexed over a century ago, due to lack of sustainable economic
development and industrialization as well as limited urbanization, 85 % of them still live off
subsistence agriculture in rural areas. The peoples of the South, the East and the West have
therefore fully preserved their unique cultures, languages, histories and economic systems until
today. Due to the failure of nation building arising primarily from failed economic development
and successive dictatorial political systems, the country remained an amalgamation of nations
and nationalities who constantly resented being part of a failed state.
It is based on this reality that Ethiopians from the South, the East and the West often voice
concerns about the issues of nations and nationalities in the past and current Ethiopian politics.
This is often misunderstood by their Abyssinian compatriots who unwittingly or intentionally
refuse to accept the diversity of the country. This is in contrast to the spirit of the 1960s
Ethiopian student movement which fully recognized the diversity of the peoples living in the
country and their brutal and inhuman oppression and exploitation by the Abyssinian political
elites. The most eloquent analysis of the issues of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia was
provided by the late Wallelign Mekonnen, who was the most progressive Abyssinian in the
history of the country, and one of the leaders of the student movements in Haile Selassie I University (the Current Addis Ababa University) in the late 1960s. Given the internal and
international political developments during that time, his article was unsurpassed by its
intellectual rigor and ability to portray the reality on the ground in the country. It was an epic
However, I would like to warn readers that I do not endorse the ideology of the writer of the
article. Wallelign´s analysis of the question of nationalities in Ethiopia was based on the socialist
premises. His thoughts were influenced both by the contemporary global political trends and the
domestic archaic political system of the feudal monarchy. Unfortunately, Wallelign did not have
an opportunity to live and witness the down fall of the brutal Ethiopian feudal monarchy in 1974
and the brutal global socialism in 1991. I believe that if he had a chance, he would have radically
altered the premises of his analysis. Our basic objective in publishing Wallelign´s article is only
to reemphasize the fact that the question of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia of the 1960s is
equally relevant and burning in Ethiopia of today. This is not the negation of the current
tendencies for African and global unity. Africa can not be free and united if it does not respect
the rights of the 2000 nationalities and peoples living in the continent.
By Walleligne Mekonnen
Arts IV, Haile Sellassie I University
Nov. 17, 1969
The main purpose of this article is to provoke discussions on the “sacred”, yet very important
issue of this country-the Question of Nationalities. The article as it was prepared for a special
occasion (where detailed analysis was due time and other inconveniences impossible) suffers
from generalizations and inadequate analysis. But I still feel it is not mediocre for a beginning. I
expect my readers to avoid the temptation of snatching phrases out of their context and
capitalizing on them. Instead every point raised here should be examined in the light of the
whole analysis. We have reached a new stage in the development of the student movement, a
level where Socialism as a student ideology has been taken for granted, and reaction with all its
window dressing is on the defensive. The contradictory forces are no more revolution versus
reform, but correct scientific Socialism versus perversion and fadism. The Socialist forces in the
student movement till now have found it very risky and inconvenient to bring into the open
certain fundamental questions because of their fear of being misunderstood. One of the delicate
issues which has not yet been resolved up to now is the Question of Nationalities-some people
call it ridiculously tribalism-but I prefer to call it nationalism. Panel discussions, articles in
STRUGGLE and occasional speakers, clandestine leaflets and even tete-a-tete groups have not
really delved into it seriously. Of course there was indeed the fear that it may alienate certain
segments of the student population and as well the fear that the government may take advantage
of an honest discussion to discredit the revolutionary student movement. Starting from last year,
a small minority began to discuss this delicate issue for the most part in secluded places.
Discussions, even private, leak out and because they were not brought into the open they
normally led to backbiting, misunderstanding and grossly exaggerated rumours. I think students are mature enough to face reality even if they are very sensitive. And the only solution to this
degeneration, as witnessed from some perverted leaflets running amock [amok] these two weeks,
is open discussion.
What are the Ethiopian people composed of? I stress on the word peoples because sociologically
speaking at this stage Ethiopia is not really one nation. It is made up of a dozen nationalities with
their own languages, ways of dressing, history, social organization and territorial entity. And
what else is a nation? It is not made of a people with a particular tongue, particular ways of
dressing, particular history, particular social and economic organization? Then may I conclude
that in Ethiopia there is the Oromo Nation, the Tigrai Nation, the Amhara Nation, the Gurage
Nation, the Sidama Nation, the Wellamo [Wolayta] Nation, the Adere [Harari] Nation, and
however much you may not like it the Somali Nation. This is the true picture of Ethiopia. There
is of course the fake Ethiopian Nationalism advanced by the ruling class and unwillingly
accepted and even propagated by innocent fellow travellers. What is this fake Nationalism? Is it
not simply Amhara and to a certain extent Amhara-Tigre supremacy? Ask anybody what
Ethiopian culture is? Ask anybody what Ethiopian language is? Ask anybody what Ethiopian
music is? Ask anybody what the “national dress” is? It is either Amhara or Amhara-Tigre!! To
be a “genuine Ethiopian” one has to speak Amharic, to listen to Amharic music, to accept the
Amhara-Tigre religion, Orthodox Christianity and to wear the Amhara-Tigre Shamma in
international conferences. In some cases to be an “Ethiopian”, you will even have to change your
name. In short to be an Ethiopian, you will have to wear an Amhara mask (to use Fanon’s
expression). Start asserting your national identity and you are automatically a tribalist, that is if
you are not blessed to be born an Amhara. According to the constitution you will need Amharic
to go to school, to get a job, to read books (however few) and even to listen to the news on Radio
“Ethiopia” unless you are a Somali or an Eritrean in Asmara for obvious reasons. To anybody
who has got a nodding acquaintenance with Marxism, culture is nothing more than the superstructure of an economic basis. So cultural domination always presupposes economic
subjugation. A clear example of economic subjugation would be the Amhara and to a certain
extent Tigrai Neftegna system in the South and the Amhara-Tigre Coalition in the urban areas.
The usual pseudo-refutation of this analysis is the reference to the large Amhara andd Tigrai
masses wallowing in poverty in the countryside. For that matter during the heydays of British
imperialism a large mass of British Workers had to live under inhuman conditions.
Another popular counter argument is that there are two or three ministers of non-amhara-Tigre
Nationality in the Cabinet, one or two generals in the army, one or two governors and a dozen
balabats in the countryside. But out and out imperialists like the British used to rule their
colonies mainly by enlisting the support of tribal chiefs, who were much more rich than the
average citizen of the British Metropolis. The fact that (Houphet) Boigne and Senghor were
members of the French National Assembly and the fact that they were even ministers did not
reduce an iota of Senegalese and Ivory Coast [Ivoirians] loss of political independence. Of
course the economic and cultural subjugation by the Amharas and their junior partners the Tigres
is a historical accident. Amharas are not dominant because of inherent imperialist tendencies.
The Oromos could have done it, the Wellamos [Wolaytas] could have done it and history proves
they tried to do so. But that is not an excuse for the perpetuation of this situation. The immediate
question is we must declare a stop to it. And we must build a genuine national- state. And what is
this genuine national-state? It is a state in which all nationalities participate equally in state affairs, it is a state where every nationality is given equal opportunity to preserve and develop its
language, its music and its history. It is a state where Amharas, Tigres, Oromos, Aderes [Harari],
Somalis, Wollamos [Wolaytas], Gurages, etc. are treated equally. It is a state where no nation
dominates another nation be it economically or culturally. And how do we achieve this genuine
democratic and egalitarian state? Can we do it through military? No!! A military coup is nothing
more but a change of personalities. It may be a bit more liberal than the existing regime but it can
never resolve the contradiction between either classes or nationalities. The Neway brothers and
Tadesse Birus could not have done it. Talking about Mengistu and Tadesse, one cannot fail to
remember the reaction that the Mengistus coup though a family one and at that by a sector of
Shoa Amharas (with few exceptions, of course among the Workeneh) was very popular just
because it was staged by “Ethiopians”-Amharas. With Tadesse, it was automatically a tribalist
uprising. Why? Tadesse an Oromo cannot stage a nationalist coup but Oromo Supremacist. I am
not equivocal in condemning coups, but the Tadesse coup had at least one significant quality and
a very important one too. It gave our Oromo Brothers and Sisters self-respect. And self-respect is
an important pre-requisite for any mass-based revolution. Even the so-called revolutionaries who
scoffed at the coup just like the mass of the student body, could not comprehend this quality.
You can clearly see in this instance the power of the Amhara-Tigre supremacist [supremacist]
feelings. They clearly proved that they were nothing more than the products of government
propaganda on this question.
Can the Eritrean Liberation Front and the Bale armed struggle achieve our goal? Not with their
present aims and set-up. Both these movements are exclusive in character, led by the local
Bourgeoisie in the first instance and the local feudal lords in the second. They do not have
international outlook, which is essential for our goal. They are perfectly right in declaring that
there is national oppression. We do not quarrel with them on this score. But their intention is to
stop there. They do not try to expand their struggles to the other nationalities. They do not
attempt to make a broad-based assault on the foundations of the existing regime. They
deliberately try to forget the connection of their local ruling classes with the national oppression.
In short these movements are not led by peasants and workers. Therefore, they are not Socialists;
it would only be a change of masters for the masses. But for the Socialists the welfare of the
masses comes first. The same can be said for the Gojjam uprising. But I would like to take this
opportunity once again to show how much Amhara supremacism [supremacism] is taken for
granted in this Campus. To applaud the ELF is a sin. If anything favorable is written out, it is
automatically refuted by both USUAA and NUEUS. But the Gojjam affair was different.
Support for it was practically a show of identity to the so-called revolutionaries. Mind you, I am
just saying that these movements are not lasting solutions for our goal-the set-up of a genuine
Nationalist Socialist State. I am all for them, the ELF, the Bale movements, the Gojjam uprising,
to the extent that they have challenged and weakened the existing regime, and have created areas
of discontent to be harnessed later on by a genuine Socialist revolution. One thing again is
certain. I do not oppose these movements just because they are secessionists. There is nothing
wrong with secessionism as such. For that matter secession is much better than nationally
oppressive government. I quote Lenin, “…People resort to secession only when national
oppression and national antagonisms make joint life absolutely intolerable and hinder any and all
economic intercourse. In that case the interests of the freedom of the class struggle will be best
served by Secession. I would also like to quote the resolution on the question of nationalities
from the London International Socialist Congress of 1896 attended, supported and adopted by the Bolsheviks who brought about the October revolution, “This Congress declares that it stands
for the full right of all nations to self-determination and expresses its sympathy for the workers
and peasants of every country now suffering under the yoke of military, national or other
As long as secession is led by the peasants and workers and believes in its internationalist
obligation, it is not only to be supported but also militarily assisted. It is pure backwardness and
selfishness to ask a people to be partners in being exploited till you can catch up. We should
never dwell on the subject of secession, but whether it is progressive or reactionary. A Socialist
Eritrea and Bale would give a great impetus to the revolution in the country and could form an
egalitarian and democratic basis for re-unification. To come back to our central question: How
can we form a genuine egalitarian national-state? It is clear that we can achieve this goal only
through violence, through revolutionary armed struggle. But we must always guard ourselves
against the pseudo-nationalist propaganda of the regime. The revolution can start anywhere. It
can even be secessionist to begin with, as long as led by the progressive forces-the peasants and
the workers, and has the final aim the liberation of the Ethiopian Mass with due consideration to
the economic and cultural independence of all the nationalities. It is the duty of every
revolutionary to question whether a movement is Socialist or reactionary not whether a
movement is secessionist or not. In the long run Socialism is internationalism and a Socialist
movement will never remain secessionist for good. To quote Lenin again, “From their daily
experience the masses know perfectly well the value of geographical and economic ties and the
advantages of a big market and a big state.” From this point of view of the struggle as well, a
regime like ours harassed from corners is bound to collapse in a relatively short period of time.
But when the degree of consciousness of the various nationalities is at different levels, it is not
only the right but the duty of the most conscious nationality to first liberate itself and then assist
others in the struggle for total liberation. Is that not true of Korea? We do support this
movement, don’t we? Then, what is this talk of tribalism, secessionism, etc…..?
Source: http://hawassasidama.wordpress.com
Hawassa Teessonke
17 September 2012
A sudden ascendancy into the helm of the Ethiopian politics dominated by the Amhara and Tigray ruling elites for the past 120 years, by a national of a minority Wolayita ethnic group from Southern Ethiopia symbolizes a “radical” shift in Ethiopia’s political tradition. Haile Mariam Desalegn, 47, and a former University Professor at Arba Minch Water Technology, who was elected as the country’s new PM over the weekend,  is the first leader of Ethiopia from the South in the history of the country. Despite talks of continued behind the scene rule by the Tigray ruling elite; I assume that it is not entirely feasible to have two puppet leaders in one country- the President and the PM- at the same time. I therefore am inclined to believe that the PM will have a reasonable political leverage to exercise.    
Although South Ethiopia and Oromia together account for 58% of the country’s population,   they have never had assumed any political leadership in the country since the country took its current shape over a century ago. Three quarters of the stated period had seen an obsolete feudal system that had robbed land and human dignity from the peoples in Oromia, southern, western and eastern parts of the country leading to economic stagnation, illiteracy, poverty, and underdevelopment.  The much hoped revolution in 1974 had failed in every respect except the nominal transfer of land to the tiller, which was later monopolized under state ownership killing private incentives for investment, economic development and rural transformation. Forced collectivization and villagization under the military-cum-socialist dictatorship led to drastic fall in food production contributing to the catastrophic famine that killed over a million Ethiopians in 1984.     
The hope for democratic transformation, economic recovery and development that ushered in with the demise of the military dictatorship was not easy to come by.  Encouraging initial inclusive arrangements such as the formation of all inclusive Transitional Government of Ethiopia in 1992 and the creation of 14 federal regions in the country including 5 regions in the South (regions 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11) were swiftly reversed without consultation with the stakeholders.
Instead the ruling party fabricated democratic organizations in each of the Southern and Oromia sub regions to constitute the two of the four leading coalition members of the EPRDF: OPDO and SEPDM. While this has secured the long term survival of the ruling party, it has been to the detriment of democracy and development in the South.
In particular, the forced and illegal dissolution of the 5 independent regions in the South has preserved the economic and political marginalization of the largest ethnic group, the Sidama people. The Sidama people have waged armed struggle against two successive regimes for the very regional autonomy that was taken away from them in 1993 when the current regime dissolved region 8, that was composed of Sidama, Gedeo, and Burgi. The right to regional self-administration is a foundation for economic recovery and development in Sidama. A people that has no say in the process of  decision making about the allocation, production , use and distribution of its resources in its land has no future as a nation.
The current  movement in Sidama for regional self-administration is therefore a continuation of an age old demand by the Sidama people who according to the official Ethiopian statistics number 3.4 million as at  July 2012, and remain one of the 5 majority ethnic groups in the country  who make up 74% of the population of the country.
What then is the implication of the election of Haile Mariam Dessalegn as the new PM of Ethiopia on the Sidama regional question? My gut instinct dictates me to assume that as a person from the oppressed sisterly nation in the South, who assumed a historic responsibility by becoming the first leader of the country from the South in over a century and whose people have shared the same pain and suffering under the previous successive regimes, he would be able to transcend a minor ethnic strife and uphold the genuine demand of the Sidama people for regional self-administration.
I expect that the new PM would work closely with the Sidama people to ensure that their demand for regional self-administration is answered with in the constitutional prerogative as a matter of urgency. I would like to defy the adage that the oppressed people are their own worst enemies and would like to think that the oppressed peoples in the South are no enemies of each other. I defy assumptions that there are certain rogue elements in Sidama society that would strive to use this opportunity to undermine the genuine demand of the Sidama people for better governance, political empowerment and economic development that would ensure peace and harmony with their neighbors and the various peoples living in their land.
We in the South have learnt a lot during the past two decades. Forced imposition of perceived changes against the will of the people can never be sustained. The disastrous Wogagoda project that was scrapped after an outlay of millions of Birr and the loss of tens of lives in Wolayita zone in mid 1990s was the clear testimony that impositions of the will of few ruling elites on the masses of the people will be resisted whatever the cost to that people. My hope is that sanity will prevail and the voices of the oppressed people will reign supreme all over the world.

Berhanu Legesse Hailemariam, deputy general manager of the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, will be at Cafe Campesino Coffee House in Americus on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m.   He will be joining staff members of Cooperative Coffees, North America’s only green bean importing cooperative of roasters, to discuss the coffee supply chain.  The general public is encouraged to attend.
The Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union is based in Southern Ethiopia.  It began representing small-scale farmers in 2001 and has grown to become the second largest coffee producing cooperative union in Ethiopia.  Today, SCFCU represents 46 cooperatives and more than 80,000 people.

አዲስ አበባ መስከረም 09/2005 ኢትዮጵያ ፌዴራላዊ ዴሞክራሲያዊ ሪፐብሊክ የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ከነገ በስቲያ አስቸኳይ ስብሰባ እንደሚያካሂድ አስታወቀ፡፡ ምክር ቤቱ ዛሬ ለኢትዮጵያ ዜና አገልግሎት እንደገለጸው ፓርላማው የሚያካሂደው አስቸኳይ ስብሰባ ለሕዝቡና ለዓለም ዓቀፉ ማኅበረሰብ በመገናኛ ብዙሃን በቀጥታ ይሰራጫል፡፡