Ethiopians were among people known for strong attachment and fierce love for their flag. Now it is a different story as ethnic politics has weakened that sentiment. Allegiance is now to regional flags.
Ethiopian President Sahle Work Zewde key message during the Ethiopian Flag Day celebration seem to demonstrate the extent of the damage of patriotic attachment to the Ethiopian flag.
“For it is a binding factor to our unity, we should always honor and protect our flag,” she said.
For the Federal government flag day was celebrated in the Premise of the Ethiopian Parliament. Tagesse Chafo, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Agegnehu Teshager, Speaker of House of Federation, were among senior government officials who attended the celebration.
It is also reportedly celebrated in regional states. State media featured flag day messages from regional state presidents including from the Oromia region – where Ethiopians wearing clothes bearing Ethiopia’s colors (green,yellow and red) are consistently harassed, and at times killed.
Several video footage circulating on social media purportedly show Oromia regional state security officers scrapping Ethiopian flag stickers on vehicles crossing the Oromia region.
That sentiment seems to have a noticeable ground within the Federal government too.
When one of Ethiopian Church’s open air religious festivals, Meskel, was celebrated last year in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the Federal government itself issued restrictions banning the green,yellow and red flag to the Meskel Square.
Security officers were collecting ribbons with the three colors and ripping them when they noticed them in skirts and scarves. Videos purportedly showing policemen in uniform doing so were circulating on social media too.
In a striking contrast, the Oromia regional flag is emerging as the dominant, including in the capital Addis Ababa. Apart from attempted government policy to hoist flags across schools in Addis Ababa and impose regional anthem, ethnic oromo nationalist forces dominating at the Federal government of Ethiopia – many people include PM Abiy Ahmed to that group – are exploiting ethnic Oromo religious practice ( Irreechaa) as occasions to familiarize Ethiopians with the regional flag. Hundreds of students were arrested in Addis Ababa for resisting the impositions of a unEthiopian flag and regional anthem on schools in Addis Ababa.
From the messages President Shale conveyed, Perhaps Ethiopian President Sahlework Zewde was aware the harassment in the Oromia region in connection with flag use.
“Our flag is our national identity and we always must give it the respect it deserves,” she said. The message is likely for those not persecuted because of honoring it.
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