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On the Question of Amhara-Oromo Unity

Amhara Oromo Unity
From A protest in Gondar in 2017 (file)

Tesfa ZeMichael, B.Phil.

There are rational grounds for believing that an Oromo-Amhara unity is essential for rescuing Ethiopia from the dictatorship of the Abiy-Shimelis-Adanech triumvirate (henceforth, the ASA triumvirate). 

Historically, the construction of the modern geographical, cultural, and political space that we now identify as Ethiopia was the work—a convoluted historical process of cooperation, competition and conflicts—of  the Amhara and the Oromo that started with the encounter of these two peoples in the 13th century. Since then, the Oromos have become one of the major builders of the fabric of the Ethiopian nation. The Oromo ruling elites became an integral part of Ethiopia’s ruling elites; and Oromo and Amhara peasants cohabited in areas extending from Wollo to Wollega, from Gojjam to the Southern regions. The historical intertwining of the Oromo and Amharas is such that many Amharas and Oromos have intersecting and overlapping lineages.

Inevitably, a significant cultural synergy developed between the Amhara and the Oromo. Oromiffa and Amharic languages have influenced each other significantly, as one could see in the Amharic and Oromiffa spoken in Showa and Wollo. The mutual influences between the Amhara and the Oromo is also visible in ways of living, to wit, food, music, clothing, and religious and cultural practices.

Some of the giants of modern Ethiopian culture—novelists, painters, sculptors, singers,  and poets are of Oromo lineage (see here, here, here), as is the Ethiopian Poet Laureate, Tsegaye Gebre Medhin. The historical interweaving of the Oromos and Amharas was such that until the TPLF arbitrarily ethnicized Ethiopians, Oromos and Amharas identified themselves regionally (Gojjame, Wolloye, ye-Wellega lij, ye-Harar lij, ye-Sidamo lij, ye-Borens lij, ye-Shewa lij, and so forth) and not ethnically. Regional identifications transcended ethnic identity. For example, one may be an Amhara or an Oromo in Wallo, but the self-identification is primarily as Wolloye. This does not mean non-recognition of ethnic identity but rather the consideration of ethnic identity as something fortuitous.

Additional reasons that indicate the real need for an Amhara-Oromo unity against the ASA triumvirate and for the building of a democratic Ethiopia could be adduced. Demographically, Oromos and Amharas together constitute the majority of the Ethiopian population. Moreover, Amharas and Oromos, including the ethnic extremists, agree on the basic unity of Ethiopia. Unlike the TPLF and its intellectual cadres who fantasize about an independent Tigrai and thus scheme the disintegration of Ethiopia, Oromo ethno-nationalists do not want to see the dissolution of Ethiopia, though they might want to rename her Oromia and her capital FinFine. But they do not desire Ethiopia’s disintegration. The maintenance of the unity of Ethiopia is a conviction that the Amharas and the Oromos share. 

The question of course is: what kind of unity? The ASA triumvirate machinates to establish unity based on the political, economic, and social supremacy of the Oromo ethnicity. The ASA triumvirate pursues this goal through two kinds of ethnic cleansing of Amharas: violent and bureaucratic. 

In the Oromo countryside, villages and towns, the ethnic cleansing of the Amhara is conducted through the violent agency of Shene, the secret army of the ASA triumvirate, disguised as a rebel army. It kills Amharas and destroys their properties, often with the connivance of local and federal police and defence forces. 

In Addis Abeba and other major cities in Oromia, ethnic cleansing is conducted through bureaucratic measures of cultural erasure and demographic replacements: Amhara homes are razed to the ground under the cover of urban development; Amharas are prevented to move to Addis and to other urban centers in Oromia; cultural and historical sites deemed to refer to Amharas are demolished under the pretense of urban renovation; and the Orthodox church, wrongly identified with the Amhara, is persecuted, its places of worship torched, and its role in Ethiopian history trivialized. Though the Tabots of Mary and St. George were present at the Adwa battle, their presence is erased in the Adwa Museum. 

In short, the ASA triumvirate is doing everything possible not only to ostracise the Amhara but also to pit Amharas and Oromos against each other. Amharas should not fall into the trap of inter-ethnic conflict that the ASA triumvirate is trying to provoke.

Fano shows us how not to fall into this trap. Oromo soldiers are among the prisoners Fano has taken in its war against the “Ethiopian” Defence Forces, which the ASA triumvirate has transformed into its own private army. Fano has treated the captured Oromo soldiers fraternally. It has explained that its struggle is against a tyrannical regime and not against the Oromo, that they are as much victims of the regime as are the Amharas, and has allowed them to return to their homes. Fano offers an example of the Amhara-Oromo fraternity that the Amharas should emulate in order to win over Oromos in the struggle against the tyranny of the ASA triumvirate.  

One final point. Though the ASA triumvirate are followers of the Prosperity Gospel, they are, in their practice, the purveyors of Oromummaa. The parallel between the Oromummaa and Nazi ideology is striking. Oromummaa is what social scientists call an “invented tradition,” elaborated by Diaspora Oromo ethnonationalists. They have cherry-picked elements that suit them from the rich Oromo traditions, caricatured and mythologized these elements and developed an ideology which they call Oromummaa. One should call Oromummaa a “religion of the blood,”  as we shall see below. It preaches the ethnic purity, organic unity and superiority of the Oromos, and, at the same time, claims that the Oromos were victimized by a “foreign body,” which Oromummaa identifies as “the Amhara.” It asserts that this “foreign body” must be extirpated from Oromia, physically and culturally.

The genesis of Oromummaa is almost a carbon-copy of the genesis of Nazi ideology. Nazi intellectuals cherry-picked elements that suit them from the rich Norse traditions, caricatured these elements, mythologized the Viking and their beliefs, and invented a German “Aryan” tradition. Himmler called this “invented tradition” a “religion of the blood.” It preached the ethnic purity, organic unity and superiority of “Aryan Germans,” and claimed that the Germans were victimized by a “foreign body,” which the Nazis identified as “the Jew,” and declared that it must be extirpated from German society.

The historical similarity between the “blood religion” nature of ASA’s Oromummaa and the “blood religion” of the Nazis clearly indicates that the ASA triumvirate will be as destructive to the Oromos and the Amharas as the Nazis were to the Germans and the Jews. Oromummaa is the obsession of the ASA triumvirate and its organic intellectuals. It brings death and destruction to both Oromos and Amharas and has nothing to do with the welfare of the Oromos. On the contrary, the majority of the Oromos, like the majority of Amharas, suffer from hunger, poverty, and disease, while the ASA triumvirates and their elite circles are obscenely corrupt and rich. Hence the urgency of an Oromo Amhara unity. 

The historical destiny of the Oromos and Amharas is to unite and mobilize Ethiopians democratically and rescue Ethiopia from the political and economic apocalypse that the ASA triumvirate is fomenting. This unity and mobilization could provide the ground for creating a democratic federalism rooted in equality, freedom, justice, and solidarity, i.e., citizenship.

There are many other cogent arguments one could develop in support of the imperative to forge an Oromo-Amhara unity in order to evict the ASA triumvirate and establish democracy in Ethiopia. But I will let the reader explore and develop these arguments.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com

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1 COMMENT

  1. You make some good points. Fan-No’s frenzied and irrational blabbers are working against interests of the Amhara. Please get your article translated into Amharic so ignorant and belligerent “leaders” of Amhara people could read it. Let me go ahead and correct you on the Oromummaa term. The word was coined by the social scientist Professor Asafa Jalata at a time when Tplf was busy confusing the public with its ethnic federalism/identity politics. To my knowledge, Asafa’s aim was to give shape to ideologically rudderless Oromo struggle. Tplf twisted the term to mean “Olf terrorists.” Mindless Amhara elites (the wannabe Gandhian-monk Eskinder and Derg leftover Dawit WGiorgis) hollowed out the term to mean anything and everything. In other words, no one at the moment really knows what Oromummaa is–including you.

    So far as Abiy is concerned (the triumvirate you mentioned does not exist), his only interest is to remain in power AT ANY COST. Get this. Don’t you ever forget it. Abiy does not give a hoot about religion or ethnicity–only about power. In other words, he will use religion or ethnicity when and where it advances his plan. Abiy is not about Ethiopia. Abiy is about Abiy. Still don’t get it. Read it again! You know what else? So long as there is war, you and the rest of us will grant Abiy a lease on life. Yes, wage war to keep Abiy in power. ግርግር ለሌባ ያመቻል። So-called Amhara elites in the diaspora are making money (and “zeraf arr begna name” for themselves out of the conflict. NO AMHARA IS ALLOWED TO CHALLENGE THEM WITHOUT HIM OR HER BEING MALIGNED OR MURDERED. There is fascism no less destructive than Abiy’s. In short, Amhara elites and Abiy are all alike in that both want power, want it now, and want it at any cost! You still don’t get it? አማራ ንቃ! የራስህ ነን የሚሉ ሥልጣን ፍለጋ እየማገዱህ ነው። ጦርነትማ ተራራ አንቀጠቀጥሁ ላለው ለትግራዋይም አልበጀ! ወዳጄ ተስፋ ዘሚካኤል እንዳብራራልን፣ አማራና ኦሮሞ የዛሬዪቱን ኢትዮጵያን በመገንባት ከፍተኛ ሚና ተጫውተዋል። ከወገንህ ነጥለው ሊያጣሉህ የወጡ ወሮበሎችን አትስማቸው። ቢያንስ ሠላሳ ዓመት ሲገነባ የኖረ ቅርስህን ውቢት ባህር ዳርን ወዘተ አመድ አያድርጉብህ። እንዳታርስ አግደው አደኽየተው በረሃብ ሊፈጁህ ነው። ዐቢይን ጦርነት ከነሳኸው ጉድ ይፈላበታል። ሁሉ ቢረጋጋ ብልጠቱ ይጋለጥበታል። የዘመናችን ፖለቲካ ዓላማ፦ የተለያዩ ክፍሎችን ማቀናጀት ይጠይቃል። እግዚአብሔር ይርዳን!

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