By Misganu Yimer
Recently I came across a speech by Professor Hizkael Gebisa in Minnesota, USA in the presence of several American speakers and guests discussing the situation of Ethiopia specifically Oromo region. Hizkael did not shy away from the usual mantra of attacking and blaming the members of one ethnic group for the ills of the country, its history and the “historical repression” of other ethnic groups by the usual bogeymen, the Amhara. It is not surprising to hear this from him since the first native language of most Oromo scholars and especially Diaspora based Oromo activists is attacking people of the Amhara ethnic group and when they are pressed “the Amhara elites.” What is surprising is that in this day and age especially in the past 40 plus years when both the Derg and the current TPLF led regimes have silenced, cornered, killed and according to some reports committed the Amhara ethnic group, people like Hizkael Gabissa are up fighting with this ethnic group, whose very existence is under threat.
Amharaphobia is not only a thing of Oromo extremists, TPLF and the Eritrean regime, there are also historically Amharaphobic local ethnic groups and Westerners that believe their own wishy-washy hearsays. Today being an Amhara in Ethiopia or outside Ethiopia means being discriminated or abused. In the past 27 years alone, under the rule of the current regime, countless number of human rights abuses and even ethnic cleansing have been committed against the Amhara. Muluken Tesfaw’s book “Ye Tifat Zemen” and Assefa Negash’s books record most of the plights of the Amhara people within the past 27 years. More book will emerge in the future. The group, Amhara, which has often been alleged as the historically dominant culture and discriminator, unrecognisably, is now the most discriminated, abused and victimised ethnicity. The so called anti-Amhara activists used to accuse the Amhara people and some Amhara officials of the past of discriminating anyone with a non-Amhara name. If that was true, the reciprocation is happening today. Anyone with a fully Amhara sounding name is often discriminated, targeted or even detained for alleged links with rebel groups. Only the victims can tell about it better. Through the coordinated missions and operations of non-Amhara extremist Tigrean, Eritrean, Oromo and other minority ethnic groups that sided with the current and previous regime have almost made the Amhara ethnic group dysfunctional and weak. Sadly, most of the present day hates and campaign against the people of Amhara is based toxic and false historical narratives told and written as truth. Time and again, it has been said that the majority of Ethiopia’s previous rulers and kings were not Amhara, they were mixed. Menelik II was of child an Amhara father and Gurage (Oromo) mother, Haileselassie was a son of an Oromo, Gurage and Amhara parents. None of those alleged ethnic insults that these emperors were accused of saying is true. But why is the anti-Amhara hate so rife? There are a few reasons but one of the main ones is the fact outside-inside condominium. What do I mean by this? The Amhara are known for being fierce fighters especially during war. The Amhara have dominantly beaten European colonisers in every colonial and occupation attempt against Ethiopia. Similarly, during internal wars with other ethnic groups, the Amhara have often defeated their belligerents. It is these two: the outsiders and the local forces, that have been regularly defeated by the Amhara, who have formed an alliance since those days and continue to attack the ethnic group up until this day. The modern day attack is now using the digital media, books and other propaganda tools.
Social media activists and the anti-Amhara campaign
Among one of the reasons that I love the social media is for its ability of getting people out of their closets by uncovering their masks. Thanks to the social media, we are now seeing Ethiopian activists, media people and “human-rights” defenders’ true colours. In times of fierce debates, these “so called impartial activists” have come out as the sharpest Amhara haters. Yet there are still a few of them that act as if they were working for all Ethiopians without any bias but in actual fact are working with a hidden anti-Amhara agenda. Let us avoid websites Oromia Media Network (OMN), Tigrai Online or activists like Jawar Mohammed with long and widely reported history of anti-Amhara ethnic or Amhara public figure hate and campaign. Let us see some of the so called pan-Ethiopianist activists or groups with some level of local and international audience. When the team of young local Ethiopian bloggers known as Zone 9 Bloggers were detained, we campaigned for their release so hard. I was never concerned about the members’ ethnicity then but simply fought for their release, donated to support their families and they were finally set free. However, when the going got tough, the tough got going and they have all come out with their ethnic flags showing us who they really, in fact, were. By design or co-incidence, most the members of the Zone 9 Bloggers and the three journalists that were detained with them are not Amhara. Only two male members of the collective are. An Ethiopian activist based in the US known as Mahlet Nigatu put the Zone 9 Bloggers team together. Therefore, she is actually the founder of the group. Although, the group later on relegate her in spite of her despairingly brave efforts to get them all released. Self-proclaimed leaders of the collective likes Soliyana, recently admitted on her Twitter account about issues of depression and that she was accused of “negotiating with Ethiopian regime securities to leave the country” when her colleagues were detained, has been accused of giving bad references to Amhara journalists and activists, who were seeking support from Western rights organisations. It has become so usual for Ethiopian activists to gang up ethnically and assassinate the characters and reputation of people or groups that come from other ethnic groups especially against Amharas. Yet, the most disappointing case of the bloggers came when one of their members wrote a racist article on his Facebook account attacking the Amhara ethnic group “The Amhara Psychology” by blogger Befeqadu Hailu. The writing that has caused a lot of controversy; it has been regarded by many people commenting on the piece that it was simplistic, untimely, racist and uncalled for. The article does not contain any reference or research material but simply echoes the view of the Befeqadu about the Amhara ethnic group. It was shared and even liked by his own blogging collective members. Why attack Amhara people or write about them when those abusing the people or in power are not Amharas? Dawit Kebede of Awaramba Times is another example, who was awarded by CPJ and finally turned out a pro-government and anti-Amhara journalist activist. The nepotism against Amhara groups within Zone 9 and similar other “Ethiopian” activist and media groups is also evident.
Today most of the media outlets and groups working under the banner of “Ethiopia”, which are supported by Western activists and donors are actually extremist ethnocentric media and ethnic groups. The likes of Opride, Addis Standard, Human rights projects, trial trackers and so forth have a hidden ethnic agenda. Why are so many ethnic, media groups and outsiders against the Amhara people, elites, journalists, academics, media, and political groups? This needs an open and public discussion. The Shemsu Bireda’s and all the Twitter activists are intrinsically anti-Amhara. This then can be followed by an inter-ethnic dialogue and inter-elite dialogue, understanding and finally cooperation.
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