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Ethiopia: Intellectual Genocide in the making? The Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Ethnic Inequalities

“Ethiopia: Intellectual Genocide in the making? The Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Ethnic Inequalities” is a researched article. Appeared on “Advances in Social Sciences Research” Journal– Vol.4, No.13. Publication date is July 25, 2017.

By Girma Berhanu
Department of Education and Special Education
University of Gothenburg
Göteborg, Sweden


Ethnic inequalities in all sectors of life in Ethiopia have increasingly become serious and pervasive. Access to higher education (including scholarship grants) and most sought after disciplines appear to be disproportionally distributed along the multitude of ethnic groups in the country. In this paper I argue that intellectual genocide is in the making in three different forms: (1) systematic discrimination against certain groups with regard to educational opportunities, higher education, and scholarship grants; (2) brain drain — the movement of intellectuals and young skilled Ethiopians that has increased under the Tigrean People’s Liberation Fronts (TPLF) regime. Some observers say that Ethiopia has become a substantial net exporter of academic talent, a so-called brain drain; (3) cultural genocide, the action of the system which has the aim or effect of dispossessing the people of their lands, territories or resources, cultural values, language, and historical/religious relics and heritages. The philosophical foundation/methodology that undergirds this study is critical theory with elements of poststructuralism and post colonialism. The strategies used to collate and collect data is meta-analysis (data synthesis), some form of discourse analysis, personal accounts, and a limited amount of sociological introspection. There are a number of reasons or mechanisms that lead from ethnicity to violence. My evidence shows that there are already some patterns and discourses that might precipitate or crystallize the mechanisms in Ethiopia. The study shows that it is high time to stop the madness and redress the chronic and pervasive disparities within and between groups. It is an imperative that we focus on our similarities and common destiny. “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” It is about Ethiopian people. It is just unacceptable to seek self-aggrandizement for ourselves—or for our specific ethnic group, and increase power and influence to draw attention to own importance—and forget about progress and prosperity for the multitudes of ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”
― George Carlin

The Context: Setting the Agenda

Ethiopia is by all accounts a troubled country. The potential for explosion which is primarily ethnic based but also of a class nature is unmistakable/apparent as manifested in recent nationwide protests. The peaceful protests are for now brutally crashed down. Killings and mass imprisonments are rampant. A large amount of research literature and personal accounts testifies to the fact that the source of the problem lies squarely with the Tigrean People’s Liberation Fronts (TPLF) [1] authoritarian rule, the policy of ethnic federalism/ethnic apartheid and divide and rule strategy.

The country has gravely and successively stumbled into a brutal form of authoritarianism and human rights violations according to International observers including Human Rights Watch and The European Union. Currently the country is in a military siege, under a state of emergency (see also The End of Democracy? Curtailing Political and Civil Rights in Ethiopia by Aalen & Tronvoll, 2009 [2] ; Arriola and Terrence, 2016 [3].). Although the situation looks calm from the outside as a result of the military actions, a return to peace is unlikely, fragile, and partial at best.

Rene Lefort, a recognized East Africa specialist, says (In Al Arabia English, 2016) “the basis of bad governance and authoritarianism that hampers Ethiopia’s institutional development is to be found in the persistence of a culture and power system inherited from Abyssinian history. The country is characterized by a ruthless hierarchy and monolithic centralism in the hands of an elite: the Northerner Tigray ethnic group. In the absence of counter-powers, and amid strong growth whose benefits do not trickle down to the rest of the population, the state apparatus is plagued by corruption and impunity. Ethiopia is thus both a rising power in Africa, and a country on the verge of explosion and ethnic conflict.”[4].

A Western diplomat interviewed by the Financial Times reiterated that “They [the rulers] only talk to themselves and their echo-chamber is very loud but it’s soundproofed on the outside so they only hear their own propaganda.” Analysts say the regime’s development model, the foundation of its legitimacy, is becoming its Achilles heel. It is founded on copying nations such as South Korea, Singapore, and China, which prioritised state-led development over democracy and until last year it proved extremely successful[5]

A prosperous local businessman in Gondor city, interviewed by William Davison of The Guardian said “We don’t feel like it is our country. We feel like it is the time when the Italians invaded. We are like second-class citizens.” Like all interviewees, he requested anonymity due to fear of reprisals from the authorities. Europeans never colonized Ethiopia, but Mussolini’s army occupied the country from 1936 to 1941. Gondor, a city in Ethiopian Northern high lands, Amhara region, [the site of recent and ongoing violent confrontations between civilian protesters and government troops which captured the attention of the world] is still defiant and boldly challenging the heavily armed government troops. Gondar’s predicament is a microcosm of Ethiopia’s: a toxic brew of uneven development, polarized debate amid a virtual media vacuum, contested history, ethnic tensions, a fragmented opposition, and an authoritarian government. Ethiopia’s rulers show few signs of being able to solve the morass of problems, which many believe the government itself caused[6].The phenomenon has been documented years ago by international scholars in the aftermath of the 2005 election (e.g.; Abbink, 2011 [7].; Clapham, 2009 [8].; Aalen & Tronvoll, 2009; Arriola, 2013 [9].).

Full article is available here in PDF format

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