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Response to William’s “Oromo nationalism on the rise in Ethiopia”

By Dimetros Birku

It is only reasonable to expect presentations and/or reports riddled with misconceptions, inaccuracies and biases when foreigners write on a topic as complicated as “Oromo question.” William Davison demonstrated all those in his “Indepth report” headlined “Oromo nationalism on the rise in Ethiopia,” which is published,first, on Aljazeera. Whether they are deliberate or not, it is hard to tell. If Mr. is serious about what he is doing, presuming that he does not have any other agenda other than reporting, he should explain how these mistakes happened. Was he misinformed? Was it because of bad interpreter? Let him tell it like it.

For example his description of Tewodros Kassahun as “Amhara” strictly in an ethnic box is uncalled for and problematic too. His description about Ethiopia’s struggle with colonialism in terms of ethnicity is wrong too. Oromos were in the forefront of struggle against colonialism as military leaders. In fact, Menelik’s Defense minister, Dinegde, was an Oromo.

Seemingly, William Davison’s narrative is ominated by radical Oromo political thoughts, which at times manifests radical religious sentiment too, rather than accurate historical informations. How did that happen?

With regard to omission, it is perplexing, to say the least, on what basis the government before current ethnic based TPLF government is considered to be “Amhara” government.

It should be noted that the Ethiopian revolution in 1974 did away with, , in fact brutally, vestiges of feudal Ethiopia which could only be indicted on grounds of what looks like cultural domination. Otherwise, political oppression and exploitation was shared by all Ethiopians which explains very well why the actors in the revolution were Ethiopians from all walks of life and from many language speaking groups.

For that matter, even intellectuals from social backgrounds of privileged aristocratic elements of HaileSellassie’s Imperial Ethiopia played crucial role in the revolution along with revolutionary Oromos and other language speaking groups of Ethiopia.

When Lieutenant Debela Dinsa, who is an ethnic Oromo by the way, read out a letter demanding Emperor Haile Sellasie to step down almost in the final moments of the imperial regime, he was flanked by other revolutionary soldiers from Amharic speaking parts of Ethiopia and from Tigrigna speakers too.

The other important omission is that almost all Ethiopian opposition parties, in the country or abroad, have a progressive view with regards to cultural dominations in feudal Ethiopia. Presumably readers might have benefited from it had it been reflected along with the narrative of “Oromo Nationalism.” To that end, opposition parties are struggling and even calling for Oromigna (it is pronounced “Oromiffa” in Oromo language) to be one of the working languages of Ethiopia.

Still an important omission is that all Oromos do not have radical agenda which is creating all kinds of atrocities and misery including forceful evictions for farming communities from other language speaking groups who have settled for decades in what it now Oromia (which is omitted too). There are Oromos who unequivocally condemn political and social experiences under Feudal Ethiopia and who want to address it within the framework of democratic Ethiopia. Even the writer of this comment is from parents who are Oromigna speakers. With all honesty, one of the ideals for which progressive Ethiopians struggle is to create a new Ethiopia where all the past grievances are resolved for good. Ethiopia is a country of diversity – ethno-cultural and religious – and subjecting the future to differences that should rather be taken in a positive note is not a wisdom or revolutionary character.

Just as a closing remark,what is standing between the new Ethiopia and the current political repression, which obviously has an economic and social implications, is the regime in power: TPLF. This very regime is not only terrorizing Ethiopians irrespective of language but also it has pursuing an interventionist policy towards the neighboring countries. Ethiopia has never been known as an invader especially in the neighboring region until the time that this mercenary regime of TPLF projected what seem to be a paid military adventure.

Follow Dimetros on Twitter: @dimetros

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Dimitros,

    This is wonderful piece. I stopped reading and taking William Davison seriously long ago. Since he out-rightly started hanging out with TPLFities, it is easy to tell his bias. On such stories he has two problems : 1. His outsiderness and lack of historical facts and language barriers and his agenda.

    So pass this one as just one of those many stories that you read on the Daily Mail and never remeber them the next day.

    Yes the number of us, Oromo Ethiopians, who die to see a solution to our problems under a united Ethiopia, such propaganda would only make us more committed.

    Thank you Dimitry agaiN!

  2. Thank you Mulat. It is my second time to pick his biases and I will not have any reason to take him serious any more.

    And yes there is a solution without indulging in a radical political agenda which could rather create perhaps unprecedented chaos in the region, which is not desirable. It is high time to think in terms of political wisdom and insight as in the tradition of the Oromos in history. I am quite sure that they would not embrace a thought which is prone to cause havoc.

  3. Guys, do not speak to yourself. Say what was wrong in the past “was wrong”. And then see your future within the context of others. That is nice to work together. Ethiopia will change for good!!

  4. Hi, thanks for pointing out some inaccuracies, as you see them. I’ve asked for the Teddy Afro reference to be corrected. But the accusations of bias are not as useful and are incorrect. There’s also a great deal of irrelevant criticism in the comments above. This was an article about a trend I considered significant: the recent Oromo protests and accompanying online activism. It’s not advocating for those activists, and it’s not suggesting that all Oromos agree or follow Jawar. It’s an article about his approach and the movement he’s part of. By way of context I try to encapsulate the history of Oromos in Ethiopia. You can accuse me of overplaying Jawar’s role etc but that has nothing to do with my political views. You’d do better to confine your criticism to the substance of the article rather than ill-informed attacks on the writer. Kind regards, Will

  5. Dear borbor, I am not sure if you read this very short commentary. But it does say what was wrong is wrong. The difference is not on what was wrong in Feudal Ethiopia. The difference is on how we interpret them.

    Dear Davidson, the purpose of the commentary is not to attack the writer and I regret that you understood it that way.

    My concern was that your “report” could potentially misinform those who happen to read about the subject for the first time. I noticed that you talked a lot about Jawar. I deliberately avoided it as Jawar was not the point. You correctly identified the source of radical ethnic activism or as you put it “Oromo nationalism.” But again my focus was on what was wrong in the article which is what matters as it could mislead others. You could have make the report more informative by juxtaposing views of other Oromo political entities (in addition to OPDO and the radical group) even other opposition parties on the politics of Oromo ethnicity.

    That was it.

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