By Tsegaye Ararssa

Ethiopian nationalism exclusively built on the cultural content of the Tigray -Amhara civilizational continuum is narrow nationalism par excellence.

As such, it should be questioned, interrogated, even resisted and denounced.

Here is why:

1. It is a roadblock to genuine solidarity among all Ethiopians, especially among those who were historically its repressed others.

2. It is Imperial in aspiration and hegemonic in orientation, if not colonial in its origin.

3. It has a heritage, and a virulent daily practice, of violence and inequity.

4. It is oppressive and anti-thetical to any form of democratic self-governance including the right to self-determination.

5. It is not Ethiopian enough as it is manifestly inadequate to encompass all the cultural and national groups who lead lives, often invisibly, nested in the country called Ethiopia.

This does not mean that there are no people who FEEL Ethiopian; there are. But there are also people, perhaps more in number, who do NOT FEEL as Ethiopian. Those who feel it are ‘fortunate’ and they have every right to hold onto it. Those who don’t feel it also have as much right to hold onto their feelings or the lack thereof.

To go out and engage in a protracted campaign of bullying, vilifying, mischaracterizing, and demonizing of those who don’t feel as Ethiopian as you do, doesn’t make Ethiopian nationalism stronger. Nor does it bring into existence a shared national identity equally or similarly felt by all of us.

If you want to build a consent-based ‘national’ identity in the Ethiopia to come, then, you have at least two options:

A. Make the state neutral to the nations within, the nested nations. De-link the state from the nation. Relinquish the fantasy of being, or the dream of building, a nation-state. Acknowledge plurinationality. Recognize the co-eval presence and co-equal ownership of the state. Accept co-foundationalism of the state. Keep the state equidistant from all cultures and ethno-national groups.

Or, alternatively,

B. Include ALL nations and cultural groups in the state–their identities, narratives, languages, symbols, and aspirations.

I doubt if inclusion succeeds given the enormity of the diversity and the contending nature of some of the rival nationalisms.

Trying to avoid these options of keeping plures in uno and to act otherwise is not defending Ethiopian national identity. In fact, it is the greatest disservice to it as it is an insult to the people who live with in the bounds of its territory.

Otherwise, I think people should restrain themselves from confusing the public by misinforming them through distortion and mispresetaion of the claims I am making.

To help clarify the argument, below I have reproduced one of my posts of last week.

Now, I reckon that there are people who disagree.

I want to say that I am happy to debate the matter on any media or at any public venue of their choice.

And in any of the following three languages–Amharic, English, and Afaan Oromo–although I would prefer the latter of the three.

To say that there’s no shared cultural-national value in the Ethiopian “national” identity is different from saying that there is not a state or country called Ethiopia. Because there is.

To say that Ethiopia is not a nation-state (but rather a factually multi-national and normatively mononational state) is different from saying that Ethiopia is not a state. Because it is.

To say that Ethiopian “national” identity is not accommodative of, and in fact destructive of, Oromo national identity is different from saying that the Ethiopian state should therefore be destroyed or Ethiopia as a state entity should be dismembered. Because it shouldn’t necessarily be heading there.

To destroy or keep is not based on your individual wish; only the peoples of Ethiopia–all of them, one and all, citizen and subject so far–have the sovereign authority to do that. If they so wish, no one can stop them from destroying it. If they want to keep it, as I believe they do, no one can do anything to destroy it despite the crass sloganeering otherwise.

To say that the historically projected Ethiopian “national” identity has a deficit of inclusion, or to say that it is biased in favour of one or two groups as opposed to 70 or 80 + groups, is different from saying that, because of that, it can’t have a broader base of inclusion to build a set of values appropriate for a multinational polity. Because it most certainly can. And it must.

Else, to denounce, curse, and demonize me for (re)stating these simple truths that progressive Amhara and Tigre boys laid down long before I was born, and so many progressive Amhara and Tigre persons killed and died for in the aftermath of the revolution–and to do so just because I am an Ararssa, says more about you and your prejudice for the Oromo than about your love of country.

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