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Ethnicity in Ethiopia: The View From Below

– Summary of Article by Herbert S. Lewis

By Tolera Fikru Gemta

The modern empire of Ethiopia was created as a result of rapid military expansion of Amhara rulers of Shoa, to south ward. It is 110 age only. The empire was created during the European Power British and French established Empires in Africa. The creation of the empire was more brutal in south, especially those who did not submit peacefully faced massacre, expropriation, dislocation. The conquered people were not similar with the conquerors in all aspect of culture, (language, religion and etc). The territories conquered by Menelik military were autonomous people. The local administrations that forcibly built with gun (the neftegna) were so exploitative and oppressive. The indigenous political leaders appointed by the system also serve only as an instrument for Amhara rule; and the effect was the same.

As matter of fact, the Oromo Nationalism came through different developments. The most evident one was the Bale rebellion of (1960). This rebellion was so powerful that it successfully resounded at national level and creates awareness among Oromo. Then after, the Pan-Oromo consciousness was intensified among Oromo students, civil servants and NGO workers and others.

The flourishing of different government controlled associations by Derg regime resulted in more political awareness among the Oromo everywhere meanwhile Derg’s forced re-settlement program had disastrous effect on Oromo social economical and ecological life. As matter of fact, Oromo nationalism resembles with that of all colonized people.

On the other hand the present day Ethiopia which deemed to be established on the principles UDHR has not yet achieved the intended purpose. Two views are, however, occupied Ethiopian Political space. The view from Amhara elite (not all of them) that focus on the weakness of ethnic nationalism, and the pessimistic observers together make the first view; on the other side there are who claim that the present regime could not solve ethnic national questions (or implement the fundamental human rights principle) adequately.

As much as the similarities of Eritrea with Tigre did not keep Eritrea with Ethiopia, claiming objective similarity view of history only will not keep Ethiopian people together.  Thus, it is important and advisable not to deny that there are groups of peoples who have own identities as distinct peoples in Ethiopia. Obviously politics that based on domination of one’s identify is unthinkable in the today’s world.

Source: Herbert S. Lewis,“Ethnicity in Ethiopia: The View from Below (and from the South, East, and West).” 158–178 in Crawford Young (ed.), The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism (Madison:University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 160.

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This entry was posted on July 20, 2013 by in Home and tagged .
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