Ethnic politics has become a breading ground for hate in Ethiopia
This week Time Magazine editorial,by Nancy Gibbs, raised some serious concerns regarding online hate – for a reason.Findings cited in it reveals that people tend to be afraid of expressing themselves online for fear of hateful comments. Of course, for some people, there are other reasons – related to job and what not – to avoid online activity on social media and other plant forms.
As I was reading the editorial, several videos and status updates recently shared by Ethiopians in social media were crossing my mind. One would only wish if their impacts were merely limiting individuals online activity. Combined with growing ethnic nationalism, recklessness of the regime in power and some other factors , hate messages obviously do have far more negative repercussions that could even be detrimental to the very existence of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has more than eighty language speaking groups. In the context of ethnic politics in Ethiopia which was primarily designed and institutionalized ,on the basis of constitution, by the minority regime of TPLF and growing ethnic nationalism which is showing signs of moving along radical path , so to speak, there is a possibility for hateful online messages to constitute pure danger,by inciting hate and conflict within ethnic communities against other Ethiopians who are unfortunately perceived as “others” – in the real sense of the term.
A hateful video message by a Tgrian girl in the United States was circulating on facebook a few days ago. From the video, it is noticeable that she didn’t even have the patience to make the video in the convenience of her apartment; she made the hate video in her work place and in her work uniform. She needed it that bad! The message was, in its entirety, a slur against two of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups Amhara and Oromo Ethiopians. I would say it is probably one of the worst forms of slurs Ethiopians ever saw online. Not surprisingly, Ethiopians reacted and went after the girl to report it to her employers and she was fired. That in turn, initiated Tigrians in the diaspora to initiate fundraising campaign on “GoFundMe” , which was actually momentarily blocked by “GoFundMe” after Ethiopians reported its purpose, in a way hinting that suggested that Tigrayeans are ok with her message.
Thinking pattern reflected in her message reflected the very chauvinistic view of Tigray People’s Liberation Front. No secret that TPLF considered Amhara as archenemy to the extent that politicized hate was incorporated in their political program during the time of their formation. The view didn’t ,seemingly, simmer in the entire Tigray during their guerrilla times as they did not have the means to make that happen.
Clearly, TPLF managed to transform the level of hate first against the Amhara and recently, after it was realized that oromo were no longer manipulable by TPLF, after taking government power. Through rhetoric, propaganda and implementing policies of exclusive political and economic privilege, TPLF exploited hate as a means to attain political objective which is consolidating its ethnic political base.
Further more, TPLF created a Tigraean psychological image – one that paints Tigrians (or tegaru as they call it) as invincible, hardworking and valorous while the rest of Ethiopians are painted in light of all forms of derogatory attributes -including coward. The late Meles Zenawi, for example, told a stadium full of crowed in Tigray that Tigryeasn are ( note the implied us and other here) golden people. And apparently majority of Tigreans seem to have believed the new TPLF manufactured images of themselves and other Ethiopians.Perhaps it is even possible to find a good number of Tigraians who tend to think that he world revolves around TPLF, taht TPLF is benevolent and that Ethiopians owe TPLF praise and support. Also, ample circumstantial evidences seem to exist that suggest TPLF worked hard to make the rest of Ethiopians believe in the narrative but to no avail.
The reality? Historically speaking,Ethiopians trace the genealogy of a considerable number of TPLF elites including the late Meles Zenawi from collaborators who supported Fascist Italy when Ethiopians were waging a war of resistance to liberate Ethiopia from the occupation of Facist Italy. Despite wielding political and military power,TPLF has always been despised and hated by Ethiopians. And Tigeans were made to understand the hate in light of ethnic identity as opposed to political history – which is the case.
In addition, in view of all forms of repression, injustice, politically and economically marginalizing policies initiated and implemented by TPLF including ethnic politics, Ethiopians consider TPLF as an enemy. Again Tigreans are made to misunderstand, in fact it sounds self-imposed in someway, the reason why TPLF is hated. Consequently, Tigreans manifest incredible level of indifference when TPLF unleashes all forms of massacres and brutal killings on Ethiopians. In some senses, they seem to consider it as a cost of protecting their safety for if TPLF, in their mind, is gone, they survival and “peace” would be in danger.
Tigreans attitude of indifference, even a silence that looks like support, to violent and brutal killings by TPLF government for a long time now begged a question as to whether it is merely a compassion to TPLF cemented by exclusive privilege of Tigrean identity and “security” at the expense of Ethiopia or if it actually mean hate to Ethiopians as well? What ever the case is, what initially appeared like skepticism towards Tigreans is clearly transformed into anti-Tigrean sentiment in Ethiopia and even outside of the country.
As in any other pursuits, hate demands commitment. As much as the age of internet brought about communication ease, it also made somewhat possible expression of political sentiment under circumstance of tyranny. All it takes,besides good internet connection,which is a big deal in Ethiopia, is anonymity.
Anonymity tends to be tempting to express unfettered views and emotions and it is hard to hold it back during times when the regime constantly indulges in violent and brutal killings to suppress political demands. Yet, the regime is not less ‘beneficiary’ from anonymity. It is not secret now that the regime has its own army of internet warriors who use anonymous names to instigate hate between Ethiopians. In some instances, TPLF is believed to exploit similar technique to consolidate and maintain its political base in Tigray.
Despite some damages, two of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups, Amhara and Oromo, came to the understanding, accurately, that anonymous hate messages against either of them rather usually emanate from paid internet warriors deployed by TPLF.
However, there has to be clarity when it comes to the case of Tigray. Ethiopians in all corners have been victims of TPLF brutal killings for nearly quarter of a century now on top of other forms of repression and marginalization. Tigay was silent about it. In some cases, worse than that. For example, just to cite a very recent example, soon after news of killings of more than 100 Ethiopians in Bahir Dar and Harar inundated social media, TPLF supporters were partying live on facebook video in the very premises of Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. Message is clear; hate towards Ethiopians.
Worrisome in all this is that neither TPLF nor its base in Tigray seem to get the point that Ethiopians no longer accept any form of Tigraian chauvinism and exclusive privilege on the basis of Tigraian identity at the expense of the rest of Ethiopia. The way forward for Tigrians to reverse hate, and save themselves, is by making an informed choice between supporting Ethiopians’ quest for freedom from TPLF brutal repression and TPLF. They need to weigh the matter with accuracy as to which one is in the long term interest of Tigreans.
The writer can be reached on twitter : @dimetros
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