While recognizing the need to embark on rational and objective discussion of the past, it is desirable to have clarity that historical records and events cannot be revolutionized. What we could/should rather revolutionize is the way we handle discussion on Ethiopia’s past and future. Equally important is to underscore the fact even rational discussion on the past among political activists cannot be objective-authoritative historical account. Production of objective and rational historical knowledge is not the business of political activists in the first place. Political activists’ discussion of the past is valuable not as a rational and accurate deliberation and interpretation of historical processes and events but as a powerful urge to push historians to delve into the problematic part of our past and produce an account which is not subject to politically charged opinion.
It is also important to remember that we already have more than have enough problems in history. Bringing additional complication by embedding baseless historical assertion in political rhetoric for the sake of fostering radicalism is much more than disservice. To paint Menelik as “Hitler of Africa”, as I pointed above, any serious person with conscience should not make up a figure close to what Hitler massacred in WWII. Even in the most devastating war Ethiopia ever experienced under fascist Italy, the total number of causality in five years of guerrilla and conventional war was about 1,000,000. Does it even add up to claim that Menelik massacred 5,000,000 Oromos in his military campaign in the south which happened mainly before the Battle of Adwa? Is it even an tenable and objective interpretation to subject everything Menelik II to Chelenko determinism? Didn’t Menelik fought against Gojjam at Imbabo before he launched his campaign in the south? Was Imbabo not like war – a friendly game? Decades earlier, didn’t Emperor Tewodros fought devastating war against Shewa and Wollo?
Finally, it’s true that as we speak now thousands of Oromo speaking Ethiopians are in prison in unprecedented numbers. The ideology that is causing gross human rights violations against Oromo’s and other Ethiopians at his point in time is not “Amharization.” Ironically, the same TPLF government which detained thousands of oromos all over the prisons in Ethiopia, is taunting neo-radicals Oromo activists by way of supporting ( perhaps co-organized too?)the recent campaign.
If activism is about justice, a rational person would rather realize the fact that people who are perceived to be “Amhara” are currently as repressed as the Oromos. Recent stories of massacre and forced displacements from settlements where the “Amharas” lead a subsistence rural form of life would have been a matter of activism for any rational activist. The question is what is our cause? Justice and democratic Ethiopia or radical ethnic movement that could cause blood bath in posterity?
Wishing for the rise of a Mandela like leadership in the current political situation might be an illusion. However, the rise of new breed of reasonably rational activists from Oromo speaking part is a necessity and could help to reverse the potentially dangerous conflict in the making. The online presence of such a rational group of activists with a comprehensive understanding of competing needs and the desire of majority of Ethiopians for a reconciliatory politics is crucially important.
By Dimetros Birku
Can be reached on twitter @dimetros