You are in your twenties and thirties, you have grown up in one of the most painful eras of Ethiopian history, you have been traumatized by the violence and misery that you have endured and seen since your birth. All you have learned and viewed from your unhappy experience is the ever increasing poverty and the wretched existence of your people, including your family and kin. All this spiritual and physical flagellation has certainly left you with some bitter view of your country, especially that it is a homegrown calamity that started with good intentions and ended in a catastrophic cataclysm.
You identify yourselves mostly as Ethiopians, for better or worse, because it is the only origin, history and culture you can identify with, and for its worldwide recognition. You also enjoy Ethiopian cuisine, music, humor, manner and style, and that your civilization is second to none in the world. You can quote your history from ancient times, and you are a repository of two great religions, Christianity and Islam. All this heritage and the gifted talents of our people should have given us a springboard to create a modern and dynamic nation. But instead of building our future on the basis of our wealth and traditions, we fell victim of ideologies and notions that had already failed their own authors.
It is true that our inherited monarchical system of government had, even by its own reckoning, seen its days. Nevertheless, in its quest for survival, it had introduced many positive elements that constituted a good foundation for the future. Yes, it was not democratic, yes it was oppressive, but compared to what followed it might be called almost liberal. (Dr. Minasse Haile’s monograph “Comparing Human Rights in Two Ethiopian Constitutions,” Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law, Spring 2005.) Thus, began a deconstruction and unbridled mystification of Ethiopian history and the invention of the evil “bully” the “Amhara” oppressor. According to the new legend, the Amharas who inhabit the regions of Gondar, Gojjam, Wollo and Shewa have a higher standard of living than Americans, which they gained by exploiting the rest of the population.
If you visit those areas you won’t see their wealth because they make them invisible by some mysterious magic, you need special three-dimensional eye glasses. Which reminds me, some years ago there was a fashionable song in Ethiopia named “Ayne yeTefeTerew hulun lemayet new” (“My eyes were made to see everything”). One day my five-year-old daughter asked, “Why is it that I cannot see everything?” I told her that it is because she is not yet a Ph.D.
It would be pertinent to come out into the light from the dark cloud of mystifications and ask of what and of whom this Amhara polity is made. As you all know, a political group holding power cannot exist without allies and fellow travelers with a vested interest in the system. Even presently Meles has his own Amhara, Oromo, and other allies. Historically, the same paradigm stands for Ethiopia. In our part of the world, Cushitic and Hamitic people have been mixing for thousands of years. (Dr. Fikre Tolossa “Common Factors Uniting Ethiopians,” Ethiopian Review, July 2011) Therefore, there has been a continuous population movement in the whole area, resulting in a miscegenation of races and tribes. Throughout the centuries, our rulers sprung forth from the same historical process. Few Ethiopians can claim racial purity and unique ethnic identity; all of us are of mixed origin, but for some cultural trends that differ amongst the many entities that make up the nation. As to political power, the dominating group of the last one and a half centuries has been an Amhara-Tigre-Oromo hegemony consisting of the monarchy down to the lower ranks.
Therefore, the claim that there was an oppressive regime composed solely of an Amhara ethnic group is utter nonsense. If the Amharic language was preponderant and become the lingua franca of the nation, it is because of its age-old alphabet and written religious and literary traditions, as opposed to the oral vernaculars. The monarchs Menelik, Zewditu, Iyasu, Haile Selassie, Negus Mikael, and all the great leaders Gobena, Habte Giorgis, Balcha, etc., were of mixed ethnic origin. Hence, if there were oppression and malfeasance by one ruling regime or another, the guilt must be shared by all and not attributed to some fictitious character created to justify a political agenda. It is perfectly legitimate for one to espouse a particular social group and culture, but to use it as an instrument for the deconstruction of a nation that has been built by the blood and guts of millions of people from many origins is unacceptable, and not conducive to a healthy and prosperous future.
This year when Americans are celebrating the 258th year of their independence, we should be proud and celebrate our thousands of years of independence, despite the many crises caused by our faulty governance. Unfortunately, we lament past misdeeds and negate our own role in the making of our disastrous fate, without devising solutions for our predicament. We are told to forget the past as if it was not the foundation of our existence. We are advised to look to some indiscernible future where milk and honey will be plentiful, and our whims and wants will be fully met. Which divine power will bestow upon us all these blessings? It is a good question to ask. In 1974, we were told to forget the past and look towards a prosperous future in a free and just society, but we all know what happened after that. In 1991, we were promised the same, and we all know the results. Now we are promised the same again and are asked to consent a priori to the eventual ethnic breakup of the country, and accept a promissory note from political parties of doubtful consistency and popularity. Is this a promising future for a country that is barely able to get out from abysmal poverty? Is this what the Ethiopian people aspire to for their salvation?
NO!! We must build our new Ethiopia on solid bases, on our common history and common heritage. We are not a people sown on this Earth like wild weed. We are civilized people of the first order, our tradition, cultures and values are universal. Our people are talented and our land fertile and rich. Let’s make the Ethiopian renaissance with a national spirit and rejuvenating outlook, instead of indulging in endless willy-nilly political deals that promise an uncertain future. In 2005 when more than two million people demonstrated openly in Addis Ababa and later when twenty-six million voted peacefully without a single incident, they voted as Ethiopians and nothing else. We should stand with them and work unremittingly to liberate them from the TPLF nefarious dictatorship.
I am asking the young people who are the people of the future not to succumb to views vented by false prophets, and to inform themselves properly and judiciously about the realities in Ethiopia before acting. You must all realize that individually and collectively you are responsible for the fate of millions of people.
When reading the above, some will probably say that I am an old fogey still anchored in the past. With all humility I say that I am not, I have struggled and fought for Human Rights and Democracy in Ethiopia for over three-quarters of a century, much before many of you were born, and I intend to do so until the end. I am a nationalist and patriotic Ethiopian, proud of my country of origin and the people of Ethiopia.
ETHIOPIA LEZELALEM TENUR
By; Ambassador Tamiru Zeleke