Ethnic Politics and Fabrications of History in Ethiopia: A Critical Analysis

Ethiopia has been promoting ethnic politics for more than thirty years. As part of this schooling, the youth of Oromo and Amhara have been given bogus histories and stories of injustice.

Ethiopia has been promoting ethnic politics for more than thirty years. As part of this schooling, the youth of Oromo and Amhara have been given bogus histories and stories of injustice. Because of this, it has been common to witness some Oromo teenagers actively participating in the violence and displacement against Amhara ethnic communities, as well as a few Amhara youths harboring animosity toward Oromo. Furthermore, no one doubts the intermittent killings that occur between the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups in various areas of the South Wollo Zone of the Amhara region and the Oromia region around Wollega and Arsi.

The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), a political organization that was gaining ground after Derg’s demise in 1991, used ethnic politics to advance its own political gains. It was a prima facie decision for this political organization, which was composed of members of the minority, to use ethnic politics as a means of division and dominance. Pointedly, that means it was the more advantageous option for the TPLF to ensnare the majority in prolonged conflicts and establish a long-term government until the sovereign state of Tigray takes over Ethiopia. Accordingly, TPLF drafted different unseen but very severe policies and came up with a description. Among those hidden policies, the policy of amplifying injustice history with fabrication in Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups was one.

Oromo and Amhara are the two major major political and ethnic groups of Ethiopia. These ethnic groups have been very important to the nation’s politics and economics. Their collaboration reflects Ethiopia’s political and economic might. Their disagreements and division cause the country to be unstable and unsteady. The TPLF sought to weaken Ethiopia and maintain its hold on power for an extended length of time by sowing discord and strife between the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groupings, which went against the democratic concept of majority rule. Accordingly, magnifying the previous administration and historical mistake, which was unrepresentative of the two ethnic groups, was the main task of TPLF’s members and those elites who had an affiliation with TPLF.

The previous rulers may have committed different humiliations during their administration. As historians told us, in the 10th century, the Yodit Godit of Jewish descent burned numerous lineage institutions of Orthodox religion and killed thousands. Around the 15th century, because of Ahmad In-Ibrahim al-Ghazi’s (1527–1543) administration, Christian highlanders of the North faced atrocities. In the 16th century, the expansion of Oromo from southern Ethiopia (namely, Borana and Guji) to the northern part of Ethiopia caused the deaths of many civilians and the deterioration of minor ethnic groups, like Gafat. Emperor Yohannes IV (1872–1899), the king who came from Tigray, killed thousands of Muslims of Wollo who withheld changing their religion from Islam to Christianity.

Emperor Menelik II (1889–1913) of Shewa, during his territorial expansion to the South, factored death for those who could not submit peacefully. The leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (President from 1991 to 1995 and Prime Minister from 1995 to 2012) committed visible and structural violence against different ethnic groups during his administration. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (2 April 2018–?) leadership failed to monitor ethnic killing and displacement in Ethiopia.

Leaders have passed in such remorse might be because of their weakness to control the political conspiracy of home and abroad; their deal with the power struggle; or their interest to integrate territory [people] in their administration, but that does not infer subjects, peoples, Oromos, Amharas, Tegarus, Christians, and Muslims are accountable for the leaders cynical deeds.

Unfortunately, as a policy, TPLF redefined unnegotiable, injustice, and fabricated history and mixed it with education. Then, this has gotten acceptance by some scholars of anthropology and political science who have put their minds to ethnic politics as either the remedy of history or the consideration of history as right at all; in fact, the history of Ethiopia is getting overwhelming fraud by the TPLF.

Anyway, without any objection, a few Oromo and Amhara elites have acknowledged all the history of the past, which is fully re-coined and modified by the TPLF, and have taught the generations. Few Oromo elites have taught youths about the atrocities of the past by assuming leaders and people through the same lens. They have argued that Oromo has had zero political roles in the country.

They never want to heighten the political intellectuality of Oromo. Before the colonizers preached about democracy, in Africa, the Oromo people in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya were the cradles of the indigenous democracy system, which is Gadaa politics (Gadaa democratic system of governance), even though this traditional democracy has been benefiting the Oromo ethnic group only and has not given room for humanity for non-Oromo ethnic groups. Moreover, the Oromo has had a pivotal role in Ethiopian politics. From the family of Woreshehi (the Yeju dynasty) to the administration of Abiy Ahmmed, Oromo has played an undeniable role in Ethiopian politics.

On the opposite of this, without examining the policy of fabricated history of the TPLF, taking Amhara as the only crafter of the state will be dangers for Ethiopian state building, and claiming it as fact is ahistorical because in the statecraft of Ethiopia, Felasha, Agew, Amhara, Tigre, Oromo, Hadya, Afar, Sidama, Wolayta, Somali, and others have their parts.

In summary, it is better to reject the spread of false historical accounts and the reenactment of historical injustices. After all, we will not have a secure country if Ethiopia crumbles. As a result of gaining ground on issues related to race, religion, and clan, several interest groups will come into existence in the failed state. Following this, there is going to be conflict and confrontation among the interest groups. Contrary to what historical fundamentalists believe, we cannot see the tranquil nation of Oromo, Amhara, and Tigray; instead, we will live in an ailing country where there will always be struggle and chaos. We will turn back to the state of nature: one kills the others; there is no law to bind everybody together.

The Oromo, Amhara elites, and Tigray elites have to come around the table. They should talk over the possibilities of escaping from the trap of the historical box. They should draft an anti-TPLF policy on history that can pull up the two great nations to one within difference. Teaching generations about the conspired and fabricated history contributes to the long vision of dismantling Ethiopia. Accordingly, to overhaul that, it is time to revise the education curriculum, do a cultural exchange, and construct common infrastructure and giant projects for the two ethnic groups. More again, job creation and employment for youths are the other mechanisms to avoid unnecessary conflicts owing to the agenda of conspired history. I believe that history is a means of correctness. It is important to correct past mistakes and hold on to the good ones.

Agenagn Kebede
Agenagn Kebede
Agenagn Kebede has worked at Injibara University in Injibara, Ethiopia, as an assistant professor of political science. His areas of interest in research are international relations, security, violence, gender, philosophy, the military, politics, Ethiopian politics, politics of the Horn of Africa, and political issues of marginalized groups. Reach Agenagn Kebede via Agenagn.Kebede[at]inu.edu.et or agenagnkebede[at]gmail.com