- “EthiopiaWINet is an addiction [deep passion]. It is in the heart of each and every Ethiopian. If there is a way to open and look at what is in the hearts and and minds of Ethiopians, what we see here today [EthiopiaWINet] is what will be found. [EthiopiaWINet] is to be free. Human beings being free to express their feelings… Our people did not heroically sacrifice themselves in yesteryears for our country because they were paid. Our people who gave up their lives for the one-ness (unity) of our country. In yesteryears, our people shed their blood in major battles for [to defend the integrity] Ethiopia. Now it is expected of us to work (sacrifice) for our country. We cannot go forward looking backwards. Let us not dwell on the past. Now we must stand together collectively for our country.”
Obbo Lemma Megerssa, President of Oromiya State, speaking at the Amhara Oromo Discussion Forum in Bahr Dar, November 4, 2017.
Author’s Note: This commentary aims to provide a sketch of the breadth and scope of my conception of EthiopiaWINet. There are many commentaries to come that will fully develop the themes briefly discussed here.
I believe there are at least 100 million varieties of EthiopiaWINet. I also believe equally that if those varieties were to be sorted somehow they could be arranged in a beautiful potpourri of themes and ideas reflecting the diversity of Ethiopian society. In this and subsequent commentaries, I aim to explore the essence of EthiopiaWINet from a variety of perspectives ranging from the secular to the spiritual and from the ordinary to the sublime. I expect to write numerous commentaries in the short and long-terms promoting and defending EthiopiaWINet as I promised I would when the T-TPLF (Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front) publicly challenged my EthiopiaWINet. Let me say in passing that I am not bothered by the T-TPLF’s challenge to my EthiopiaWINet. That is a simple issue of mind over matter for me. I don’t mind, and they sure as hell don’t matter to me.
But I am grateful to the T-TPLF for the challenge because they gave me – indeed forced me to come out in public — an opportunity to perform my sacred duty of speaking up, writing up, listening up and standing up for EthiopiaWINet.
I believe in “Ethiopian exceptionalism”. By this phrase, I simply aim to convey the idea that Ethiopia has certain unique and positive qualities that make it different (but in no way better or superior to any others) from other nations in the world. I mean exceptionalism is the ordinary things of life. A reporter for the Mail & Guardian while visiting Ethiopia yearned for a speedy return: “But the thing to return for with the greatest urgency is the country’s hospitable people. It is as though Ethiopians have been schooled in being pleasant. Coupled with their sense of humility is a stirring physical beauty.” Their humility, hospitality and beauty makes Ethiopians exceptional.
Exceptionalism in the big things too. During the First Hijra, the Prophet Muhammad directed his persecuted followers “to leave Makkah and to seek sanctuary in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) ruled by a Christian king, well-known for being a just and God-fearing man.” The Axumite king and the Habeshas (Ethiopians) welcomed the persecuted Muslims as early as 615 A.D. with great hospitality, gave them protection and assistance and refused to return them when requested to do so by their enemies. Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world where Christians and Muslims have lived side by side with mutual respect for hundreds of years. That is true today even today despite the relentless efforts of those who seek to cling to power by inciting sectarian conflict.
Exceptionalism in civilization too. The 11 medieval monolithic Christian churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia built in the 13th-century as the “New Jerusalem” are a marvel of human ingenuity. UNESCO described the churches as “a gigantic accomplishment in engineering and architecture”. The Lalibela churches were hewn from solid blocks of rock with doors, windows, columns and roofs meticulously carved out and complemented with an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages.
All Ethiopians are proud that “Lucy” (known as “Dinqnesh” [unique one] in Ethiopia), “the grandmother of humanity”, a “3.2 million-year-old member of Australopithecus afarensis and the most complete skeleton of an early human ancestor ever”, was discovered in their country.
Ge’ez script, one of the oldest in the world, used widely in Ethiopia is the only native African script in full usage at a national and everyday level.
Ethiopia kept the flame of freedom alive when the whole African continent was plunged in the darkness of colonialism. When the great PanAfricanist Kwame Nkruma wrote his poem, “Ethiopia Shall Rise”, he spoke of Ethiopia as “Africa’s bright gem”, “land of the wise”, the “bold cradle of Africa’s ancient rule” and as “Africa’s hopes and destiny.”
In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela wrote Ethiopia “has always held a special place in my own imagination and the prospect of visiting… attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African.” In April 1962, when Mandela was on the run from apartheid South Africa, H.I.M. Haile Selassie declared him to be the Son of Ethiopia and ordered that he be issued an Ethiopian passport which he received in the name of David Motsomayi. Thirty-two years later, Nelson Mandela emerged from prison and saved South Africa from certain death and destruction and showed Africa and the world what true leadership means.
Ethiopia was the only African country to sit on equal terms with the great powers of the world and became an original signatory to the Covenant of the League of Nations in 1922. Ethiopia sat on equal terms with the great powers of the world and became an original signatory to the Covenant of the League of Nations in 1922. Ethiopia was the only African country to sign the U.N. Charter in 1945. Ethiopia was the only African country to become an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Geneva Conventions in 1948. Ethiopia was the principal architect of the Organization of African Union in 1963 which established its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is unlike the other “exceptional” countries in the world who are known for their military might, economic prowess, advanced science and amazing technology. Indeed, Ethiopia for the past decades was known for its poverty, famine and dictatorship. George Ayittey says, “Africa is poor because she is not free.” Likewise, Ethiopia is poverty and famine-stricken because she has been unfree and a victim of tyranny for so long.
But Ethiopians are an exceptional people who could be a beacon for all of Africa, if they were free. Free to think. Free to elect their own government. Free from fear. Free to make their own choices. Free from the burdens of the past. Free to dream about the future. Free the imagination of its youth. Free from tyranny. Free from those who incite hate.
I can go on listing examples of Ethiopian exceptionalism, but my purpose here is not to offer ode to Ethiopia. My purpose is to offer a quick reply to those who say there is no such thing as EthiopiaWINet. Ethiopia is a contrived political entity that came into existence over the past century. There is no such thing as an “Ethiopian people”, an “Ethiopian history”, an “Ethiopian culture and tradition” and an “Ethiopian destiny”.
The essence of EthiopiaWINet is freedom! Ethiopia has played a unique role in the history of world freedom. It can play a unique role in world history if its people embrace and practice EthiopiaWINet which can be simply defined as freedom.
What is EthiopiaWINet? That is like asking, “What is a rose?”
Shakespeare answered, “That which we call a rose/ By any other word would smell as sweet.”
That which we call EthiopiaWINet, by any other name would be called freedom.
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