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HomeOpinionJawar's Dissent Bias Towards Ethnonationalism and Equivocal Stance on PP: Beyond Appealing...

Jawar’s Dissent Bias Towards Ethnonationalism and Equivocal Stance on PP: Beyond Appealing to Right-Wing Bargains

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

Jawar _ Ethiopian Politics

Sultan Abda Neja

This letter critically examines Jawar Mohammed’s recent shift in political stance, as articulated in a recent interview, and its implications for Ethiopian politics. Jawar’s repositioning from a left-leaning to a more centrist approach, which he terms “Progressive Patriotism,” has garnered mixed reactions from various political commentators, worth mentioning Tibebu Taye, Prof. Messay Kebede and  Moges Zewdu Teshome. With a positive but nail-biting stand, most of them argue that Jawar has shifted from left-leaning to a more central strategic stance on Ethiopian politics and associated historical narratives. Others like Eyapsed Tesfaye made counter-arguments that Jawar did not change his political stand. The author argues concomitant to Jawar’s dissent bias to Ethnonationalism, the Prosperity Party (PP)’s efforts to sanitize historical narratives and undermines ethnonationalist contributions have threatened the country’s progress democracy. Jawar’s equivocal stance on the PP which exacerbates the political crisis in Ethiopia is also analyzed depicting that there was not much endorsement from his former constituency for his current stands. In conclusion, achieving national unity and democratic state-building in Ethiopia requires genuine democratic practices and national consensus, not coercive or superficial political maneuvers.

Dissent bias to Ethnonationalism   

I would like to appreciate Jawar’s effort in writing a well-articulated interview. For the sake of his argument, Jawar dichotomized Ethiopian political wings into physics terminology called “centrifugal force” for left wings and “centripetal forces” for right wings. In his attempt to engage the right-leaning groups and bring them to his new concept of “Progressive Patriotism”, Jawar criticized the two aforementioned forces. My critique of Jawar’s interview starts not by denying the unfortunate mistakes both forces made and their failure to develop a unifying state-building narrative. But concomitant with the Physics terms of centripetal and centrifugal forces, there is also Newton’s third law, which states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, meaning the action always precedes or causes the reaction. In his dichotomy of Ethiopian political forces, it was the centripetal forces that preceded taking the state power, which initiated the action of unitary nation-building. Following these ethnic-cleansing or assimilative, undemocratic, and imperialist attempts of centripetal forces, the reactionary ethno-nationalistic centrifugal force was organized. The force to be blamed first is, in fact, the centripetal force. But Jawar started his criticism by unfairly albeit badly framing the centrifugal Ethnonationalist as “a force of evil, undermining and delegitimizing the state, with left-leaning ideologies ranging from radical to liberal…. Prioritizing re-configuring the state or dismantling it to form a new state (See Page 23)”.  Then he only slightly blames the centripetal force word by word saying “In contrast, centripetal forces perceive the state as a source of socio-political order and economic prosperity and therefore strive to defend and strengthen it. They adopt right-leaning statist ideologies ranging from conservative to reactionary nationalism. They seek to build a centralized nation-state and single identity by assimilating various social and cultural groups.” By doing so, Jawar attempted to persuade the right-wing politicians. First of all, persuading them by defaming reactionary freedom fighters of all nations and nationalities including those from his political party is a big dissent and unnecessary. 

Recently, the Prosperity Party (PP) narrative of sanitizing Minilik past massacre by demonizing the history of nations and nationalities. They dichotomized Ethiopian history into shared and unilateral history “Seenaa waloo vs Seenaa Qeenxee” in which they put Minelik as a national hero, undermining the history of victims like that of Oromo heroes Baker Ware who fought for freedom of his people in “Anole and Calii -Calanqoo” in the past against the Minilik’s evil force. Such approach is a big disgrace to the nation and nationalities of Ethiopia. The legitimate struggle of Waleligne Mekonnen in 1960s, General Tadesse Birru (an early proponent of Ethiopian unity/late advocate of Oromo empowerment), Jarra Aba Geda (once an advocate of peaceful struggle/ later pushed to join and establish the first Oromo Liberation Army of OLF), Meles Zenawi of TPLF or even the living nationalist Lencho Leta who involved in crafting the current relatively compelling federal constitution. They all never attempted to dismantle or delegitimize the state but rather tried to democratize the state in relative terms. Their attempt cannot be equated or over-blamed compared to the corresponding brutal regime they fight against. Similar to what PP tried, Jawar made a malicious attempt to equate the blame of Unitary (Atses and Dergue) regimes with the Ethno-nationalist counterpart. This approach of oversimplified hasty generalization may ignore the sacrifices of many nationalist freedom fighters including those in his constituency who struggle for freedom, equality of language, and national identity under the umbrella of Ethiopia. 

I want to summarize the first part of my critique by recalling Addisu Arega’s confession denying the Anole Monument of Oromo history and Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s attempt to defame Oromo nationalism, ‘Sabboonummaa’, as if it belittles the Oromo. Here, Jawar used Oromo nationalism as ‘fuel’ for freedom fighting during the Qerro struggle. He mentioned nationalism as a powerful tool to mobilize a given population to force positive change in the political landscape. However, Jawar arbitrarily used Prof. Marara Guddinaa’s proverb that ‘using nationalism in politics is like riding a tiger…’, making unnecessary attempts to attack nationalism. If He used this proverb from his recent political experience with the Oromo struggle, He will regret saying so, particularly if he had to mobilize his political constituency in Oromia in the near future. In my view, nationalism is not a tiger you ride to power or belittle to ride for an unknown destination. Although betrayed by the PP, the national movement of the Qerro struggle has a just cause and a known destination or goal. It is mind-boggling that Jawar needs to defame the reactionary struggles of his own constituency to engage with unitary Ethiopianists. Such a very cheap and unjustified appeal can cost him dearly if it backfires.

Critique of his stand on PP

In Ethiopia, be it a unitary nation-state, multicultural, or multinational federalism the key and universal co-existence or unifying state-building needs a practice of democratic values. The key elements of practicing democratic values like equality, freedom, rule of law, civil liberties, free and fair election for political participation, pluralism, accountability and compromise for valuing negotiation and to reach decisions that reflect the diverse interests and needs of society. Despite the wording of multicultural federalism some-time mentioned by PP, the country is still under multinational federalism. Many federalists hope to transform the country into a better democracy so that democratic practice itself gradually overcomes the negative connotations of ethnic-based politics. Now, it seems that the current regime is not eager to democratize the current multinational federalism, thus hindering the gradual progression of multinational federalism towards a democratic state. 

If the country remains under such undemocratic PP leadership with no opportunity for democratizing multinational federalism and with no gradual efforts to dismantle highly polarized ethnic-based politics, the nation may face a significant crisis. In this century, national unity is achievable through national consensus rather than coercion. Therefore, PP’s endeavors to forcefully deprogram ethnonationalism into a relatively undemocratic but multicultural unitary state may perpetuate a cycle of warfare and conflicts. Consequently, as there is no shortcut to achieving the purported “Progressive Patriotism” without establishing a democratic platform, Jawar should have elaborated further or formulated strategies on how the two forces could reconcile or how a new political transition could be initiated in Ethiopia.

Jawar is a leader of the nationalist opposition party that believes in peaceful struggle, where the political space of peaceful struggle is completely closed by PP regime. Regardless of this, He pretends to be ambitious in appealing to PP to reform itself and negotiate with those armed groups. Although both parties should come to the negotiation table, the role of PP as a leader of the state matters and does not equate to that of armed groups. Oversimplified blaming of both parties undermines this fact and resonates Jawar’s recent equivocal stand on PP. The level of acceptance among his supporters regarding his abrupt change in political stance remains ambiguous and uncertain. The rest is history.

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


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