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A brief political history of Sidama Nation for self-rule, Addis Standard May 31, 2019

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A brief political history of Sidama Nation for self-rule

Shiferaw Muleta (PhD), For Addis Standard

Addis Abeba, May 29/2030 – The quest of Sidama statehood has become a point of discussion in the political arena of Ethiopia. Notwithstanding to its long political and military struggle for self-rule, many people in the capital city Addis Abeba, including prominent politicians and academicians, think that the Sidamas’ quest for self-rule is a recent phenomenon and presented after Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to power. For instance, many people have not heard about the armed struggle of the Sidamas against the Derg regime, which was “one of the top secrets of the Derg regime” (Human Rights Watch, 1991:86). The armed struggle of the Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM) for self-rule was one of the top five armed struggles launched by the EPLF, TPLF, OLF and ONLF against the Socialist-Dictatorship of the Derg regime. The SLM was active in its armed struggle for over a decade and the Sidamas sacrificed more than 10,000 men in different battle fields in Sidama region. In recent past, for example, a similar quest for statehood was presented by the Sidama zone council in September 2005. However, the response was a political one not a constitutional by then. Many Sidama elites and scholars were imprisoned and forced to exile for not accepting this political “decision”.

In this short essay, I present some historical events in the political struggle of the Sidama Nation for self-rule in a chronological order. The facts are compiled from local and international sources. However, I admit that this is not a complete chronological list. The aim of this essay is twofold: to acquaint readers with the political history of the Sidamas for self-rule and to initiate historians and young academics to conduct a thorough study in the armed struggle of the Sidamas. Hence, I believe this essay to serve as a stepping stone to document historical events in this regard. The dates are in Gregorian calendar for events from international sources, such as the Human Rights Watch reports. For some events, Ethiopian dates are included in brackets. The chronological lists are presented under four sections: Prior to Italian occupation, Haile Selassie I regime, Derg regime and post 1991.

I) The political Struggle of the Sidama Nation before 1941

  • 1891: Sidama land was annexed by the army of Menelik II of Shoa. Despite their strong resistance, the Sidamas were conquered due to superiority in firearms by the invading army.
  • 1900-1936: the armed resistance against the invading army continued, even though the struggles were in a fragmented way and not well coordinated. The early resistances were led by clan leaders such as Baallicha Worawo, Dullacha Raacho, Cuuko Daalachaanna, Aliito Hewano, Mangistu Hammeeso and Wena Hankarso.
  • 1936-1941: During this Italian occupation period, the Sidama Nation relatively regained ownership on the ancestral land. The Nation was freed from servitude and the notorious ‘gabbar’ system during the Italian occupation period. Nonetheless, on some parts of the Sidama land, the Italians faced strong resistance due to their policy of discrimination. A prominent figure in the resistance against the Italian rule was Alito Hewano. The Italians responded by indiscriminately killing clan leaders and elders, which is still referred as Umi Shibbire (The First Terror) in Sidama land.
  • II) The political Struggle of the Sidama Nation between 1941-1974
  • 05 May 1941: Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia from his exile and marked the restoration of Ethiopian independence from Italian occupation.
  • 1941: Following the restoration of the Emperor to his throne, the conflict between the Sidamas and the ‘Melkegnas’ continued. In 1933 EC, Sidama elders and clan leaders were once again killed en mass in a place called Ashisho, 25 Kms from the current Aleta Wondo town, for resisting the returnee landlords. This event is still remembered as Layinki shibbire (the second terror) in Sidama land.
  • 1940s-1974: the struggle continued with the returnee landlords who unfoundedly claimed to regain their “land”. However, the struggle was on individual basis and lacked coordination. Prominent individuals in the armed struggle against the returnee landlords during this period and then after include Yettera Boolle, Hushula Xaaddiso, Fiissa Ficho, Laanqamo Naare, Takilu Yota, Shila Harqa and Gebrehiwot Banata, just to mention few. As a result of the continued resistance, the Imperial regime was forced to make some reforms in its administrative system with a precondition of conversion of the Sidamas to Orthodox Christianity and accepting the language and culture of the ruling class. This assimilation policy had continued until 1991.

III) The political Struggle of the Sidama Nation between 1974-1991

  • September 1974: the last king of the “Solomonic” dynasty was overthrown.
  • March 1975: Declaration of Land to the Tiller policy
  • 1974-1976: mixed form of support to and resistance against the Derg regime continued. The support was due to the Derg’s popular decree of Land to the Tiller. Like in many parts of the country, the Sidama elites and youths by the then were organized under the then prominent political groups, partly with the EPRP and significantly with MEISON.
  • January 1977: The Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM) was established and the late Woldeamanuel Dubale became the first president of the movement
  • June 1978-January 1980: A total of 60,000 Sidamas went to Somalia in five rounds to get military trainings. In the first four rounds, the journey of the SLM recruits was successful. However, there was a heavy causality in the fifth round.
  • 18 January 1980 (ጥር 10/1972)፡ On their way to the training camp of the SLM in Somalia, Sidama recruits were caught in a surprise air attack by the Derg at a place called Galbed at the Ethio-Somalia border. Out of the total 12,000 recruits who left Sidama for Somalia, 2,000 died by the air strike and 600 went missing. Only 9,000 of them reached their destination.
  • 1977-1987: The armed struggle spearheaded by the SLM continued. During this period, the SLM coordinated its armed struggle with the other fronts, such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The SLM continued its armed struggle against the Derg regime. It was successful in liberating many Sidama areas. The total causalities in the SLM side are estimated to be above 12,000(without including civilian losses) in its fight against the Derg regime for a decade.
  • 1981: The Human Rights Watch report states that “the SLM was more active,  largely  in  response  to  pre-emptive government counter-insurgency policies”. The HRW also stated that “The war in Sidama in 1981 was one of the Dergue’s best-kept secrets (HRW, 1991: 85). See the details from this link.
  • January 1981: 200 people were reported to have been killed by an army patrol at Godaboke Mito and Chire villages in Sidama. “The war in Sidamo in 1981 was one of the Derg’s best-kept secrets. In January, 200 people were reported killed by an army patrol at Godaboke Mito and Chire villages in Sidamo.” HRW, P. 85
  • 19-21 March 1981: The Derg bombarded the base of SLM in Chiirii woreda. The aim was to suffocate the army of the SLM within a forested valley. The HRW reported that helicopter and airplane attacks at Gata Warrancha in Sidama caused at least 20,000 people  in one valley to flee, and more than 2,000 were reported killed when a  “wall of  flames” was  ignited by bombing using either phosphorous or ethylene. The government ordered the evacuation of a Norwegian mission stationed in the area and a hospital [in Yirgalem], leaving the wounded without medical care. 
  • July 1981: 615 civilians were reported to have been killed at a meeting called by local administrators at a place known as Alo in Haroressa woreda. 
  • 01 December 1981: A well-documented killing took place in Chiiri (South Sidama) when a defense squad killed at least 48 people, including several cases involving entire families.
  • 13 July 1980 (03/11/1972 ዓ/ም): The Derg army stationed in Malga woreda, in a specific place called Wotera Resa, 25 KMs from the capital Hawassa, was attacked by the SLM fighters. In a pretext of crushing the forces of the SLM, the military fired a machine gun on civilians who were attending a meeting summoned by local officials resulting in heavy civilian casualties.
  • 18 July 1980 (08/11/1972 ዓ/ም): The Derg used heavy artilleries, including tanks, against civilians who were summoned for a meeting with local officials at the Market place of Yirba in Boricha district. When the civilians refused to comply with the demands of the officials and some of them started firing, the local officials reported to the nearby army camp as if they were encircled by heavily armed SLM fighters, the military massacred many civilians.
  • 1988-1991: Notwithstanding its strong resistance of the air bombardments and the heavy artilleries, the armed struggle continued. However, the SLM decided to slow down its resistance because this time the Derg applied an anti-guerrilla tactic by recruiting Sidamas forcefully to fight against the SLM army. This tactic worked against the SLM, even though similar tactics failed in the battle grounds in Eritrea and Tigrary. Even though the armed struggle became passive after the end of 1987, also partly due to the Derg’s tactic of dividing the SLM leadership, the armed struggle continued until 1991.
  • 1989-1991: The Sidama Nation got its own administrative structure for the first time since 1891. The “Sidama Administrative Region” became one of the newly formed 24 administrative Regions and the five autonomous regions.

IV) The political Struggle of the Sidama Nation in post1991 period

  • 28 May 1991: The EPRDF forces entered Addis Abeba.
  • July 1991: The SLM was one of the participating political groups in the the “July conference” in 1991. On its first day of meeting, the late chairman of TPLF, the late Meles Zenawi and the late Woldeamanuel Dubale exchanged a hot debate on the Sidama issue; the latter was supported by the OLF. This marked the beginning of hostility towards the SLM.
  • 1991-1993: The SLM was represented by two individuals in the transitional council.
  • 1993-1995: The Sidama Nation regained a self-administrative status (Region 8) out of the newly formed 14 regions at the national level.
  • 07 December 1992 (ህዳር 29/1984): An attempt was made on the life of the late Woldeamanuel Dubale in a broad daylight. This incident happened on the first general assembly meeting of the SLM held in Hawassa.
  • June 1992: The SLM was forced to withdraw from the transitional council.
  • September 1992: The leadership of the SLM were forced into exile.
  • 01 November 1991 (ጥቅምት 23/1984 ዓ/ም): The Sidama Peoples’ Democratic Organization (SPDO) was established as a surrogate Sidama organization to replace the SLM. Like the other PDOs (such as the creation of OPDO to replace OLF), this move by TPLF was to counter against the independent SLM. The political struggle of the SLM with the EPRDF continued.
  • 18 August 1993 (ነሃሴ 10/1985 ዓ/ም): Sidamu Afoo became the working language and medium of instruction. Due to its historical significance, this date is still commemorated by the Sidamas annually.
  • 1993-2005: The armed struggle continued by another Sidama organization called the Sidama National Front (SLF). The SLF was a splitter from the SLM due to differences in the struggle tactics against the EPRDF regime.
  • Since 1993: Some of the SLM members decided to continue their struggle within the country peacefully despite the intimidation of the EPRDF regime. Many members of the peaceful SLM party were either killed or detained in the pretext of their “collaboration with the SLF”. Many Sidama elites were also forced to exile.
  • January1993: The formation of the infamous SNNP region by merging five regions out of the 14 regions, which existed during the transition period. This move was objected by Sidama representatives within EPRDF, which forced many of the SPDO members to withdraw from the party and to continue their struggle from abroad. Prominent figures in this regard include Tufa Doyicha, the zonal president by then and others (e.g. Elias Tiro, and Tesfaye Fichola.)
  • January 1993: the formation of the South Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) by merging all the PDOs in the newly formed South region. This diminished the political participation of Sidamas.
  • July 2000: Many of the SLF and OLF fighting units were ambushed by the regime’s force in a battle ground fought in a place called Baidewa, Somalia. The Sidama and Oromo martyrs were buried together.
  • 22 August 2005: The Council of Sidama unanimously endorsed the age long request of Sidama Nation for statehood. However, the response was political rather than constitutional. Many Sidama scholars, who were at the forefront in this constitutional quest for statehood, were either detained or forced into exile.
  • 24 May 2002: The killing of more than 70 Sidama youth, children and women, who went out for a demonstration against the regime, by security forces. This tragic event is remembered as “the Loqqe Massacre” by the Sidama Nation. No one has been held accountable for this massacre.
  • October 2007: The formation of the South Ethiopian People’s Democratic Front (SEPDF) by dismantling all independently acting PDOs in their respective zones. This completely undermined the political participation of the Sidama as an independent entity.
  • 1995-2010: The political struggle, mainly by Sidama Political groups abroad, continued.
  • On 24 April 2018: The Sidama representative in the council of the EPRDF voted for PM Abiy Ahmed instead of his Sidama competitor for the chairmanship position of the EPRDF and subsequently the Prime Minster position. This independent move of the Sidama members within the EPRDF council has earmarked a new chapter in Oromo-Sidama relationship in the political arena.
  • 18 July 2018 (ሐምሌ 11/2010 ዓ/ም): The Council of Sidama Zone unanimously endorsed the quest for statehood for a second time.
  • 03 November 2018 (23/02/2011 ዓ/ም): The Council of SNNP region unanimously approved the Sidamas Zone’s request for statehood
  • 22 November 2018 (12/03/2011 ዓ/ም): The House speaker of the SNNP council officially requested the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to conduct a referendum for Sidama Nation as per Article 47 (3) of the constitution.
  • Since 22 November 2018: The Sidama Zone has been waiting for the action of the NEBE to conduct a referendum, while the necessary preparations to form its independent region, the Sidama National Regional State (SNRS), has been finalized.
  • 23 January 2019 (13/01/2011ዓ/ም): The Taskforce, drawn from Sidama scholars, was established by Sidama zone council to make the necessary preparations for the new region. The Taskforce has already completed its tasks. A public discussion on the new regional constitution is expected to commence soon.
  • 20 March 2019 (14/06/2011 ዓ/ም): More than a million people held a peaceful demonstration in Hawassa city protesting the delay of announcing the referendum date.
  • 13-15 March 2019 (መጋቢት 5-7 2011 ዓ/ም): As an extension of the first demonstration, the second demonstration (Gaado II) was conducted as stay-at-home protest for three days.
  • 09 April 2019 (01/07/2011 ዓ/ም): A peaceful demonstration by women and girls only, referred as Yaakissa, was held in Hawassa city over the delay of the referendum date.

Editor’s Note: Shiferaw Muleta (PhD) is from Addis Abeba University (AAU) College of Development Studies. He can be reached at shiferaw.muleta@aau.edu.et

_________________________________________//___________________________________

References

Human Rights Watch (1991). Evil Days: 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia, p. 85

Wolassa L. Kumo. (2016). The Sidama Nation: History, Culture and Political Economy. Create Space Independent Publishing, North Charleston, USA

Ethiopia: Information on the Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM), including history, goals, and methods; whether the group uses violence and has participated in armed conflict.

John Markakis, 2011: Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers, Oxford, James Currey.

Markakis wrote that after 1977, the SLM “established an armed presence in three woreda[s] … and managed to fight off the Derg until 1982..”(Markakis 2011, 200)

የሲዳማ ዞን ባህል፣ ቱሪዝምና የመንግስት ኮሚኒኬሽን ጉዳዮች መምሪያ (2003 ዓ/ም). የሲዳማ ብሔር ታሪክና ባህል. (The Sidama Nation: History and Culture) pp:64-86 and 96-128

አበበ ማሪሞ. (2011 ዓ/ም). የሲዳማ አርነት ንቅናቄ የትጥቅ ትግል ታሪክ፡ ከ1970-1983 ዓ.ም. MA printing. (The Sidama Liberation Movement: History of Armed Struggle, 1978-1991 G.C), pp: 82-85 and 100-102, 111-128.

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The memorial statue to honor Oromo national hero General Tadesse Birru, champion of human dignity, the man who mentored Nelson Mandela inaugurated in the town of Fiche, Salaalee, state of Oromia May 27, 2019

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Galmee Seenaa Jeneeral Taddasaa Birruu

The cultural center and the memorial statue to honor Oromo national hero General Tadesse Birru, champion of human dignity, the man who mentored the anti-Apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, inaugurated in the town of Fiche, Salaalee, state of Oromia.

General Tadesse Birru, a celebrated Oromo freedom fighter in his own right, was Mandela’s trainer and host. Disturbed by the news about the plot to assassinate his guest of honor, Birru ordered officers to follow Abraham’s movements. That evening Dinka — a devout Christian — met Abraham at a local church where he swore to kill Mandela, took the money and camera from him. “I returned home that evening and went to the camp in the morning where I turned the money and camera over to my superior,” said Dinka. see Opride.com

‘The Oromo nation takes pride in teaching a military science and training Mandela needed to spark the struggle of the people of South Africa. Mandela cut his teeth under General Taddasa Birru and Capt. Fekadu Wakane. The Oromo nation also foiled an assassination attempt against the life of Nelson Mandela. Captain Dinka Guta is still a living witness for that.’ Quoted from OSA’ s letter to South Africa in tribute to Mandela.

General Taddasa Biru, an Oromo national freedom hero, founder of the OLF and leader was murdered by the tyrannic Ethiopian regime in 1975, while in struggle to liberate his people and restore equality justice, freedom and self rule to all.

B/Janaraal Taaddasa Birruu

MM Abiy Ahimad siidaa B/Janaraal Taaddasaa Birruu eebbisiisan, Caamsa 26 Bara 2019

MM Abiy fi Pirezidantii I/aanaa Oromiyaa

Ministirri Muummee Abiy Ahimadiifi Pirezidantiin I/aanaa Oromiyaa Obbo Shimallis Abdiisaa Giddu gala aadaa Oromoo Salaalee fi Siidaa yaadannoo B/Jeneraal Taaddasaa Birruu magaala Fiicheetti ijaarame har’a eebbisiisan.

Galmi kun baasii birri miiliyoona 91.5 kan ijaarame yoo ta’u bara 2005’tti ture ijaarsisaa kan eegalame.

B/Janaraal Taaddasa Birruu
Giddugala Aadaa Oromoo

Keessoo isaatti galmoota walgahii maqaa gootota godinichaa B/ Jeneraal Taaddasaa Birruu, Agarii Tulluu, Magarsaa Badhaasaa(Abune Pheexiroos), Abbabaa Biqilaa, Hayilemaariyaam Gammadaa fi Abbichuutin kan moggaafaman qaba.

Giddugala Aadaa Oromoo/Galma Abbabaa Biqilaa
Giddugala Aadaa Oromoo/Galma Magarsaa Badhaasaa

Galmi guddichi giddugalichaa kan B/Jeneraal Taaddasaan moggaafames namoota 2000 qabachuu kan dandahuudha.

Giddu galli kun sagantaawwan aartii hawaasummaa fi siyaasaa gurguddaa ni keessummeessa jedhamee eegama.

Galma Walgahii

Mooraa giddu gala aadaa kana keessatti Birrii miiliyoona 3.8’n kan ijaarame siidaan B/Jeneraal Taaddasaa Birruus har’a MM Dr. Abiy Ahimadin eebbifameera.

The Conversation: The story of Oromo slaves bound for Arabia who were brought to South Africa May 10, 2019

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Bisho Jarsa
How an Oromo slave became a South African teacher, click here for more detail in BBC (image source)

The story of Oromo slaves bound for Arabia who were brought to South Africa

by Fred Morton, Professor of History, University of Botswana

May 9, 2019

Oromo children saved from slavery. Supplied by author

In September 1888, the HMS Osprey serving in the Royal Navy’s anti-slave trade mission in the Red Sea, based in Aden, intercepted three dhows embarked from Rahayta and Tadjoura on the Ethiopia coast.

Aboard were 204 boys and girls bound for resale in Arabian markets. Other dhows with young human cargo were also apprehended. The children came from the highland area of Oromia Region of Ethiopia, and spoke the Oromo language.

They had been trekked as many as several hundred kilometres to the coast. The children were taken to Aden and, for a time, were housed and cared for at the Free Church of Scotland mission at Sheikh Othman.

The arrivals, however, were often too debilitated to withstand the harsh climate and prevalent malaria. In 1890, 64 of the survivors were transferred to the Free Church of Scotland’s Lovedale Institution, in Alice, a town in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

The story is captured in a new book laden with graphs, maps, charts and statistics. But if you like your history as narrative, you’ll have the job of piecing together this extraordinary story written by Sandra Rowoldt Shell in Children of Hope: The Odyssey of the Oromo Slaves from Ethiopia to South Africa.

Fate of Oromo kids

During the 10 years the children spent at Lovedale they proved to be good students and on good terms with their Xhosa-speaking and English school mates. Four in five survived and left the school as young adults in search of opportunities. They became teachers, shop assistants, carpenters, painters, cooks, clerks.

Most remained in South Africa, but 17 earned fares to Ethiopia. A few married and started families. One whose story is traced in the book is Bisho Jarsa who married former Lovedale student Reverend Frederick Scheepers. Their daughter Dimbiti married carpenter James Edward Alexander, and were the parents of South African liberation struggle veteran and academic Neville Alexander.

But most of the Oromo orphans’ lives ended in obscurity or tragedy. Mortality among the returnees was particularly high (33%).

However, the orphans’ stories are not completely lost. Many left behind their autobiographies at Lovedale. They related, in their own voices, their individual ordeals from the time they were captured, sold or pawned, including the tortuously long journeys between their Oromo homeland to the coast. All are rendered in full in the books’ appendices.

Much of Shell’s account delivers the quantitative side of the Oromo story. She followed an assiduous research path to retrieve all possible data related to the orphans, their place of origin, the details of their enslavement and transfer, place by place to various entrepots, the traders and merchants involved, until over a 100 pages later, the Royal Navy’s Osprey appears.

Rich detail

Once in Aden, lengthy asides document the Sheikh Othman mission and its Keith-Falconer school (illustrated by photographs), personal details about the missionaries involved, orphan mortality, age and gender data.

After the orphans reach East London, in the Eastern Cape, we learn a lot about the Lovedale curriculum, comparative performance of Oromo and non-Oromo students (the Oromo did better on average), supplemented with graphs on class marks and percentages, including distributions, gendered results, class positions, and mortality rates, among others (the reproductive quality of the graphs is not very good).

A teacher scandal gets its own sleuthing through the display of doctored photographs eliding the suggestive hands of an Oromo boy on the alleged culprit’s shoulders prior to his dismissal.

Once leaving Lovedale, individuals are traced (thanks to a 1903 questionnaire results unearthed by Shell) that reflect the mixed fortunes of the Lovedale graduates. Though she displays many Oromo group photographs, Shell has uncovered only one individual photograph (the arresting Berille Boko).

A full one-third of the volume is made up of appendices on data variables, the Oromo autobiographies with a place-name gazetteer, an essay by Gutama Jarafo, detailed endnotes, bibliography and an extensive index.

Shell has added a great deal to our understanding of how children were ensnared into the Indian Ocean slave trade, which connected much of the Eastern African interior to Arabia, the Persian Gulf and India. Long after the Atlantic slave trade was snuffed out, the Indian Ocean trade continued almost to the beginning of the 20th century. The Osprey’s intervention and the survival of but a mere quarter of those it rescued suggests that thousands of children’s lives remained enslaved and in misery. Click here for more

Ethiopia: Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD) Condemns the #Gumuz Massacre May 8, 2019

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The Massacre of Benshangul Gumuz People by the Amhara’s Special Forces Must Be Immediately Stopped!

Press Release by Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD)
May 06, 2019.

We are witnessing the biggest failure of humanity in Ethiopian soil just after 12 months since the new PM has vowed to make such barbaric actions towards unarmed civilians a history. Contrary to his and his government’s vows, we observe that the civilians are getting killed for no apparent reasons by a highly armed Amhara regional special force in Benshangul Gumuz regional state. This armed group is not only targeting solely indigenous and legitimate owners of the land; but also, hundreds of children and elderly are getting summarily executed for a simple reason of being different from their killers in the aspect of their culture, skin colour and political beliefs. This is a clinical example of genocide and it is tragically unfolding in Ethiopia as we speak. Apparently, the unarmed civilians are getting executed in their own soil by those who are legally allowed to occupy their land. As saying goes, a history is repeating itself in the Ethiopian soil. In 2003 between 430 and 500 unarmed civilians were massacred by those who colonised their land for a simple reason of silencing them whilst expropriating their resources and land in Gambella region. The same massacre is now unfolding in Shaka zone on a Shakacho people by the same highlanders. Tens of thousands of Oromo, Ogaden Somali and Sidama civilians were executed in the last 27 years alone.
Benshangul People’s Liberation Movement (BPLM) is a PAFD’s member. We strongly believe that the rights of our members and that of all peoples in Ethiopia must be always protected. We have confirmed that Benshangul Gumuz civilians are increasingly targeted and executed by the highly armed and well-trained Amhara youth who call themselves Fano. They were trained, radicalized and fully armed with modern machine guns by a National Movement for Amhara (NaMA). According to the eye witnesses, between May 1 and 2, 2019, over 500 Shinasha people in Benshangul-Gumuz Region, Jawi Woreda, were summarily executed and tens of thousands of civilians were also made to flee their own villages for their lives. The main victims were civilians including children, women and elderly.
Further threats of those who call themselves the defenders of the Amhara rights (Amhara extremists) all over the world are intensifying. Furthermore, these groups are also using extremely inflammatory remarks by calling the victims ‘Monkeys’ whilst reinforcing their delusional and mythical lineages with the Judaism thus their capability of killing any group or nation they think they can colonise their land. On this subject, we have gathered ample and credible evidences that the killers of Benshangul Gumuz civilians are increasingly employing inflammatory and derogatory remarks calling the victims uncivilised primitives needing execution in exact manner as the Europeans have employed during, after and prior to the scramble for Africa.
The Ethiopian Government neither condemn the killings of civilians nor asked for apology for failing to safeguard them. Although some authorities claim the restoration of the order, this is far from the truth as the Government hasn’t so far take any justifiable action against the killers and forces behind these tragic executions. Apparently, the Amhara Regional Government has got full
knowledge of the indicated group although it has deliberately refused to stop them from acting bestially. Some witnesses show that it has even assisted the executors with technical aspects of the indicated barbaric oppression.
In the aspects of Media coverage about such inhumane actions to unarmed civilians, we saw little or some misguided quotations about the incident. Instead, all Medias those usually daily reports when someone burps in Amhara region remain their mouths zipped. For example, some extremely biased Medias such as ESAT and ZeHabehsa- few days prior to the execution of civilians actively propagated the killing of between 10 and 13 Amhara civilians by the Benshangul Gumuz people who used traditional arrows. Witnesses believe to the contrary about the fact that ESAT’s and ZeHabesha’s false propaganda has played key role in escalating the situation to end up in such unsettling eventuality. Additionally, some of the Amhara’s army commanders including Colonel Demeke Zewudu, and some activists in their social media accounts have boasted of the killing of primitive people and stressed yet more to come to clear the remaining primitives so that they can overtake their land. These groups further threatened even the Oromo people in relation to the ownership claims of Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) and vowed to repeat their success in Benshangul in Wallo and other parts of Amhara-Oromia borders.
Therefore, we the PAFD member political organisations, unanimously condemn with the strongest possible terms such barbaric actions toward the unarmed civilians, children, women and elderly of Benshangul Gumuz. We urge the Amhara’s regional state to exercise utmost restraint and lawfully handle its anarchically behaving special forces that has been primarily trained to maintain law and order. There won’t be any peace and security as long as some groups are fighting to dominate and dehumanise fellow mankind. Therefore, we must understand that refraining from bestially behaving to the other nations and groups must be seen as a sign of civility and wisdom.
Furthermore, we demand the federal government to immediately intervene and stop the on-going execution of powerless civilians whose lives are put at the mercy of their barbaric assailants. We also urge the federal government to immediately investigate and bring those responsible for such horrific and inhumane actions to civilians to justice. We advise the international human rights group and western countries politicians to earnestly bring this unsettling massacre of civilians to the attentions of obliviously sleeping Ethiopian authorities by urging them to take meaningful and corrective measures as a matter of urgency. We also call up on all Ethiopian peoples to unconditionally condemn such barbarism and demand the Amhara regional state to stop its inhumane actions to the unarmed civilians.
Finally, we send our deepest condolences to the families of barbarically executed Benshangul Gumuz civilians and show our consistent and unrestricted solidarity until justice is served on their behalf by bringing those who have killed and maimed their sons and daughters to an independent justice and their rights to the ownership of their land is restored by removing the colonial occupiers. The PAFD will always works for and speaks up for the voiceless people in Ethiopia.
Freedom and Justice for All Peoples in Ethiopia!
Press Release by Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD) May 06, 2019

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The origin of ethnic politics in Ethiopia May 5, 2019

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The origin of ethnic politics in Ethiopia 

by Leenco Lata, The Reporter, 21 March 2015


Controversy has been dogging the policy of structuring Ethiopia as a multinational federation ever since it was publicly aired almost twenty- five years ago.

There are those who vociferously and persistently condemn the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) leaders for introducing the politicization of ethnicity by embracing this policy.

On the other hand, there are those who like wise consistently commend EPRDF leaders for the same reason. However, putting the adoption of this policy in an historical perspective would prove that both stands are wrong.

The erroneousness of the stand of both those who commend and those who condemn EPRDF leaders for structuring Ethiopia as a multinational federation becomes easily explicable by recalling the famous statement by Marx that “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” It is the circumstance prevailing when EPRDF leaders came to power that rendered structuring Ethiopia as multinational federation inescapable and not their alleged noble or ignoble intensions.
What was that circumstance? At the time, struggles for national self-determination by the Oromos, Tigreans, Ogadenis, Sidamas, etc. were gathering momentum while more and more communities (Gambellas, Benishanguls, etc,) were joining the fray with every passing year. Accommodating these quests for self-determination by structuring Ethiopia as a multinational federation was, hence, simply inescapable.

The critics of the present multinational federation blame the spokespersons of these struggles for self-determination for politicizing ethnicity/language for the first time in the country’s history. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, these struggles were simply a natural response to a prior state-driven policy of politicizing ethnicity/language. This state-driven politicization of ethnicity/language goes as far back as 1933 when the then Minister of Education, Sahlu Tsedalu, proposed the following policy:

ያገር ጉልበት ኣንድነት ነው ኣንድነትንም የሚወልደዉ ቋንቋ ልማድና ሃይማኖት ነዉ . . .
በመላ ኢትዮዽያ ግዛት ለሥጋዊና ለመንፈገሳዊ ሥራ ያማሪኛና የግዕዝ ቋንቋ ብቻ በሕግ ጸንተዉ እንዲኖሩ ሌላዉ ማናቸውም የአረማዉያን ቋንቋ ሁሉ እንዲደመሰስ ማድረግ ያስፈልጋል. . .

The rough translation of which is: “Unity is the strength of a country, and the sources of unity are language, custom and religion . . . [It is thus necessary] to legally preserve in the whole of Ethiopia only Amharic and Ge’ez [We can ignore Ge’ez for it was merely a liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church largely incomprehensible to ordinary believers.] for spiritual and earthly use [while] the language of every pagan must be erased.”

This policy to erase all languages except Amharic amounts to an ethnocidal intention of eradicating all communities except the speakers of Amharic. The targets of this discriminatory policy had no choice but to launch struggles for self-determination with a view to averting the state-driven intention to eradicate them. These struggles were, hence, the effect of a prior act of politicizing ethnicity/language and not its cause as commonly presumed by the critics of the present multinational federation in Ethiopia.

This language-based policy was ultimately codified in laws proscribing the use of all languages except Amharic at public events, including prayer meetings as if the Almighty could understand only one language.

It is common for all builders of empires to simply impose their language as the only official medium for administrative purposes but the builders of contemporary Ethiopia are perhaps unique in legally proscribing the use of other languages.

This discriminatory language-based policy ultimately influenced how Ethiopian identity (ኢትዬጵያዊነት) was portrayed. It gave rise to the version of Ethiopian identity (ኢትዬጵያዊነት) that was synonymous with being a speaker of Amharic and totally opposed to being an Oromo, Sidama, Tigrean, etc. By implication, this version of Ethiopianness (ኢትዬጵያዊነት) was expected to blossom on the graveyards of Oromonnet, Sidamannet, Tigraynnet, and the identities of all other peoples.

Equating being an Ethiopian with being a speaker of Amharic in due course drew the criticism of the Ethiopian student radicals of the 1960s. In particular, Walillign Mekonen’s article of 1969 cogently stated: “To be a ‘genuine Ethiopian’ one has to speak Amharic, to listen to Amharic music, to accept the Amhara-Tigre religion, Orthodox Christianity and to wear the Amhara-Tigre Shamma in international conferences. In some cases to be an ‘Ethiopian’, you will even have to change your name. In short to be an Ethiopian, you will have to wear an Amhara mask (to use Fanon’s expression).”

This state-driven policy of politicizing identity ultimately fomented the natural response of celebrating one’s identity by those whose languages and other contents of their identity kit were targeted for erasure. Thereafter, the course was set for members of these societies to invoke and launch the struggles for the self-determination of their national communities.

Advocating the right to national self-determination was not restricted to the members of these subjugated nations or nationalities. It also figured prominently in the political programmes of the country-wide leftist ML parties that came on the Ethiopian political landscape in the early 1970s. The debate that raged between the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (more widely known by its Amharic acronym MEISON) concerned not the legitimacy of invoking the right to self-determination per se but it is a possible end point. The EPRP endorsed the right to national self-determination up to and including secession and very vocally faulted MEISON for failing to go to the same extent.

Goaded by the EPRP and cajoled by MEISON, even the military regime (Derg) ended up embracing a watered down version of self-determination in the form of regional autonomy. After prevaricating on the question for some years, the Derg finally extended regional autonomy to a selected group of minorities in its so-called Constitution of 1987. No other evidence is needed to prove that Ethiopia was already on a slippery slope leading to multinational federation than this measure by the highly centrist military regime.

EPRDF leaders thus had no other choice but to go one stage further in satisfying the ongoing quests for self-determination by structuring Ethiopia as a multinational federation when they unseated and replaced the Derg in 1991. Hence, it is the “circumstance existing already” that made adopting multinational federation necessary instead of the alleged noble or ignoble intentions of the incoming ruling group.

Political groups are merely wasting their time and energy by arguing to the contrary.

Multinational federalism is simply the latest natural step in Ethiopia’s political development that resulted from neither the generosity nor nefarious aspirations of any group. What should occupy all concerned is how to refine and polish this political order for the good of all Ethiopian peoples. When posed in this fashion, several cautions that need to be underscored come to mind.
First, those aspiring to undo the extant multinational federation need to carefully re-examine their project for its success does not look likely without horrendous bloodshed. Despite its undeniable practical short comings, no national community would willingly give up the right to self-government enshrined in the present Constitution.

Second, the intimate relationship between federalism and democracy cannot be over-emphasized. While it is certainly possible to exercise democracy without federalism, instituting federalism without democracy is not only an oxymoron but also a recipe for disaster as the recent experiences of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Yugoslavia so tragically demonstrated.

All concerned should realize that federations are inherently fragile and multinational ones are possibly even more so. The success of any federation hinges on the willingness to strike a proper balance between over-centralization and over-decentralization. Over-centralization is potentially dangerous for it would tend to negate the very rationale of federation, recognizing and respecting local communities’ right to self-government. The frustration bred by over-centralization could lead to unexpected outbursts of the anger of concerned communities. Over-decentralization, on the other hand, could breed institutional incoherence potentially culminating in breakdown.

Let us face it: The cohesion supposedly underpinned by the linguistic and cultural homogeneity of the nation-state model has proven elusive even in its birth place, Western Europe and other parts of the globe settled by Western Europeans. This is evidenced by the invocation of sub-state identity in quintessential liberal democratic countries such as Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada, etc. Developments in the same countries also obviates the presumption by some in Ethiopia that instituting a liberal democratic order would automatically satisfy demands for group rights.

We are living through an era when the foundation of democratic political order is contested in large parts of the world. Religion, history, culture, economy, etc. are competing to serve as the foundation of an acceptable political order. Studies show that the territorial extension of the state is pulled in different directions depending on its role as the container of power, wealth and culture. When the state is deployed as a container of power, preserving existing boundaries gets greater attention. When it is tapped as a wealth container, encompassing larger territory becomes prioritized. When it is conceived as a container of culture, however, it would tend towards smaller size. What can possibly simultaneously satisfy all three tendencies is forging fora for political participation at supra-state, state and sub-state levels.

Finally, what is the origin of “ethnic politics” in Ethiopia? Who is to blame for this supposedly divisive policy? The rulers of Ethiopia are responsible for uncorking the genii of “ethnic politics” in early twentieth century. In due course, reactive invocations of identity continued to spread to other communities. Instead of aspiring to rebottle this jinni, unlikely without significant bloodletting, all should consider how to deploy it for the good of all.

Ed.’s Note: Leenco Lata is a prominent Ethiopian politician and President of Oromo Democratic Front (ODF). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.

Stop the genocide against the #Gumuz people: በጃዊ ወረዳ በአብን በንጹሐን ጉሙዝ ሕዝብ ላይ የተፈፀመው ጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ የዘር ማጥፋት ጦርነት ነው May 5, 2019

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