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The Twin African Sisters Rekindling Pan-Africanism

Promoting Amharic as One of the Working Languages of the African Union

Pan- Africanism _ Ethiopia
Graphic source : SM

Dr. Taye Berhanu
Last updated March 10,2023 at 9: 16 A.M.

I was extremely flabbergasted when I was invited by ESAT, television service, to attend a meeting to be addressed by a Niger lady, Dr. Rahmatho Kita, an advocate of the inclusion of Amharic language as one of the working languages of the African Union. The meeting was held on 21 February 2023 in Addis Ababa at ESAT’s meeting hall. The news has just knocked me out to confess my own dizziness for not thinking about it seriously before.  I comforted myself, though, by murmuring internally that after all she is my sister who has carried our common agenda. Eager as I was, I immersed myself in her humble, intelligent, lucid, informative and really interesting briefing why she raised this lofty idea, an idea of Pan Africanism. We were told by the program facilitator, ESAT journalist Gera Getachew, that Dr. Rahmatho was to fly back home after attending the 36th Ordinary Session of the AU Heads of State and Government, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from February 18 to 19, 2023. But, she cancelled her trip by two days for the purpose of addressing this meeting. What a commitment!

In her address, I saw the nexus of professionalism, Pan Africanism and Internationalism in the strenuous efforts of Rahmatho. Her professionalism was demonstrated by the fact that her request for the inclusion of Amharic language as one of the AU’s working languages was based on knowledge, historical investigations, truth and full of rationalism. There was no hint of personal sentiment but filled with professionalism. Her work has sparkled a spirit of Pan-Africanism. As a Niger national, she did not bother why she wanted Amharic, the language of another country, Ethiopia to be of her concern. Instead, she believed that any heritage in any part of Africa is the heritage of all Africa. It is the source of pride and dignity to honor and preserve an African heritage. On the other hand, she never negated the utilization of other AU working languages. She insisted on the inclusion of the Amharic language to be part of the other languages. This is how she has embroiled her internationalism.

Rahmatho’s address has made me recall the similar relentless efforts of Yeharerwork Gashaw, who initiated the campaign for the inclusion of Amharic as one of the working languages of the OAU/AU and had traveled to different African countries to speak to leaders for the mission that Rahamattoe is working on now. She commencing her campaign in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, USA. Then after, she started her long journeys to Africa to bring the noble idea to the attention of African leaders and the Secretary General of the OAU. She had the privilege of meeting a number of leaders and raised the significance and necessity of making the Amharic language as one of the working languages of the AU. Yes, with the same rationality Rahmatho had demonstrated. Yeharerwork has also floated in an internet for a petition signatures for the said purpose. Moreover, she has formed an official advocacy committee. The members drawn from different African countries include Yeharerwork as President, Rahmatho Kita as vice president, Brigadier General Kassaye Chemeda, Harke Amuke, Professor Mammo Muchie, Daniel Mwambona, Ezra Kassa, Vimbai Chiaouswa, Hone Anuku, Authon Mark Powell and Linda Anuku. Though, I am not aware of the status of the committee, it is my stern belief that the members who volunteered to stand alongside the two gallant African daughters in advocating the inclusion of the Amharic language in the list of the working languages of the AU should be highly commended.

Amharic language is one of the oldest languages in the world. It is one of the world’s eight languages that have scripts. Apart from its richness in literature, it is electronically written and accessible through its Ethiopic and other Amharic software; and, it is used with typewriters. Amharic language is well used in Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. In fact, speakers and readers of Amharic are widely spread all over the world. It is the source and fountain of the unexplored wonders of the world. Ostensibly, it is the magic power of Amharic that has induced the twin sisters, Rahamato and Yeharerework to uplift the non-respected African language, Amharic. Their objective is, undoubtedly, the preservation of the African heritage, that is, eventually the world heritage; and to pass it to the next generations. No need to indulge here on the raison d’etre for revamping the idea of making Amharic as one of the working languages of the AU.  

Making Amharic as one of the working languages of the AU should have been realized prior to the request of Rahamatoe and Yeharerwork. Unfortunately, it did not happen. But, its glamorous existence had been evidenced quite long ago through letters sent to foreign leaders, kings of Britain, Portugal, Rome, Israel, Egypt and others, during the ancient times.  The then Emperor Haile Selassie I used to make his addresses in Amharic at all regional and international fora. His historic address at the League of Nations during Ethiopia’s invasion by Italy is a case in point. The successor of the Emperor, Mengistu Haile Mariam, also followed suit addressing the OAU summits in Amharic. This testifies that Amharic is not new to Africa in particular and the world at large. It would be remiss of me if I do not acknowledge the recognition and honor given by the USA government to the ancient language Amharic. Amharic language is allowed to be used to get government services. And, at the welcoming scripts at the African-American Museum in Washington D.C, one of the few world languages scripts used is Amharic. Amharic scripts are found in many business places in various cities of the United States and other countries. Moreover, the Constitutive Act of the AU, Article 25 stipulates that the working languages of the Union and all its institutions shall be, if possible, African languages, Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.

Then, how come African leaders are oblivious of all such stark facts! Why did they give deaf ear to the genuine request of the dear daughters of Africa to include Amharic as the working language of Africa? Presumably, the leaders of African countries, except Ethiopia, might have wanted the agenda to be tabled by the Ethiopian government. If so, one may assume it is appropriate on their part. However, though, as promoters of Pan Africanism there is little harm to entertain their daughters’ requests.  Yet, it remains a puzzle why the Ethiopian governments kept silent and so reluctant to take over the request of these great daughters of Africa not necessarily in the name of Ethiopia but in the name of Africa, the Africa language as the AU Act allows. 

Apparently, Africa, the cradle of humankind and civilization, had been downgraded by colonialists and their historians. A continent that had given lights, seeds and basis of civilization to the developed world had been dubbed as the Dark Continent.  Its resources had been plundered. Its true history of civilization buried. Yet, one treasure, Amharic language has remained with its unexplored packages of knowledges. Then, how come African leaders today lost the courage to have their own language be on equal footing with the other languages.

If Pan-Africanism is to be promoted and realized, the burning desire of the founding fathers of the OAU has to be rekindled as it is well done by the twin sisters of Africa. Africa’s pride and dignity shall start from home, which is Africa. Africa’s treasure or heritage wherever it is shall be the driving force of our motto, the United States of Africa, a dream that was flashed out and sprinkled on the eve of the establishment of the OAU. The Lagos Plan of Action, the Treaty of African Economic Community and today’s African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA)- a path leading to economic union and eventually to political union – can all be truly realized if we stir the wind of change on the right direction. All this starts from sense of solidarity and oneness, an intrinsic wealth of Africa’s culture. In other words, the message of Rahmatho and Yeharerwork deserves due attention by all concerned organizations and individuals. We shall and must sincerely and full heartedly support this great Pan African initiative and effort. In unequivocal terms, the acceptance of their appeal, the appeal of the African peoples, emboldens Pan-Africanism. May God Bless Africa! 

Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. “Amharic language is well used in Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. In fact, speakers and readers of Amharic are widely spread all over the world. It is the source and fountain of the unexplored wonders of the world.”

    Absolute exaggeration and rubbish. Just because 2 Amharic speakers work in Tokyo does not make Amharic worldwide.

  2. The creation of the OAU, the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the the current AU, itself partly germinated in the diplomatically gifted, eloquent and dedicated public servant of Ethiopia, PM Aklilu Habtewold. These stories unexplored by the current generation of badly miseducated Ethiopians will be made available piece by piece.

  3. At the Establishiument African Association 1963 the Charter was written by amharic Which was An Indignous Native African Language Which Had its Alphabet Called Ethiopic {Geez}

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