The ill-intention behind misnaming

By Tullu Liban

One of the simplest but very vital components of communication is calling persons by their correct name. Pronouncing names properly is equally as essential as addressing people by their name. Identifying the addressee by their name practically enhances communication. Obviously one’s name matters greatly because everyone like their name than any other gift in the world.

While entering into a contractual agreement, the consensual parties must first agree on the name of their project. In a statue law, the introductory part of the enacted document typically provides the rational for the proclamation, which is logically followed by the definitions of terms and concepts. That would make the whole document clear, comprehendible and unprejudiced. Such clarity would also circumvent misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misquotation. The same philosophy could be extended to a daily verbal and written communication, which happens voluntarily or otherwise. Healthy communication requires to know the appropriate name of the message sender and the recipient. Then, communication would become easy, mutual and beneficial to both sides.

There are cases when communicating with others becomes very unescapable for the parties no matter how they dislike each other or try to avoid one another. Such is the circumstance the peoples in the Ethiopian empire find ourselves. Whether we like it or not we have to communicate with each other for we have a lot of issues to solve amicably. As a matter of fact, the three major groups in Ethiopia (those who ruled in the past, those who are ruling now and those who have been ruled under both hegemonies) must establish a sort of code of communication on how to define and address each other. The code of communication must start by harmonizing politically sensitive and contentious concepts. I think that is so dire to start with the politics nature in that country.

I am always taken by surprise to see the Ethiopianist camp shying away to call the Oromo and the southern peoples as nations or nationalities. At times I get nervous when they lament about Ethiopia while utterly downsizing the Oromo and the rest of the periphery (as they call it). For this camp the question of nations and nationalities is a clan politics, “Ye gosa poletika”. Almost all the Amhara elites are at odd with the south peoples’ self-identification as nations or nationalities. Whether Stalin’s definition is correct or not the nations and nationalities would never endorse the derogatory coinage of “Ye gosa poletika” (clan politics). They would like to refer to themselves as a nation or nationality. If so why the Amhara elites are obsessed with “Ye gosa poletika”? The answer is obvious. They want to undermine the issue. Unfortunately, they have tried their best over the years but in vain.

I think if a deal is to be made with such disorientated people who are fond of labeling and misnaming the facts, the first lesson they should learn must be that they need to refrain from talking down the cause of the rest of the empire’s population. To settle a bigger political difference and draw a road map for the future, it is a requisite that they should stop demeaning the question of nations and nationalities as “Ye gosa poletika”.

An Oromo person understands clan as the second lowest social unit of familial organization; a close descent counted in either the paternal or the maternal line of one’s kinship. It is only one of the nearest units of a bond in one’s birth place. In Oromo lineage, we have akaakayu, akaakilee (grandfather and great grandfather), balbala (a closest unit around the great grandfather on both sides, which ascends up to seven ancestry). The next stage is gosa or lammii (clan). It comes after balbalaa. One may count up to 15 to 20 lineage to reach the most distant generation of their ancestry. Thus, the Amhara definition of “Ye gosa poletika” is very narrow as such an insult to the Oromo nation which represents more than one third of the entire country cannot be reduced to a gosa (clan) narrative. The Oromo politics is not an issue among close relatives of a small size called calan. We don’t have unsettled problems among our clans (gosas) for that matter. If one happens we do have our own mechanism of conflict resolution, which is embedded in the Gada system.

The Oromo nation virtually constitutes hundreds of thousands of clans- lammiis, upper bands, super bands and umbrella branches that extend from Moyale to Asosa and from Ogaden to Ashenge. The branches further form bigger and bigger chunks. In fact, they are all linked by social and blood ties with a common culture and language; they form a political nation associated with a particular territory known as Oromia and they are sufficiently conscious of their unity to possess a government of their own within or without Ethiopia. Therefore, it is unacceptable and an insult to the Oromo to reduce their political movement to an ordinary clannish intrigue.

I personally get so irritated to hear this disgusting coinage known as “Ye gosa poletika”. I suppose the Amhara/Ethiopionist elites deliberately subvert a valid cause of nations/nationalities in a bid to nailing this pejorative view deep in the minds of their followers (as if mocking a cause could dismiss the torrent).

The Oromo question is not a skirmish of clanship or a trivial overhaul of the establishments in place. It presupposes a radical transformation of the status quo. The change the Oromo and the southern peoples demand is not a cosmetic coating of the stiff empire. It is a change that uproots the underlying philosophical formation, definition, perception and characterization of the Ethiopian empire. For the Oromo and the southern peoples the current Ethiopia is built on false foundation. Therefore, the rectification must start with the correcting of the naming in honest and proper manner. The wrongly skewed reality in that country must be reframed and conceptually redefined to resolve our differences. The Oromo and the southern peoples take a lot of pride in properly naming their cause. To attempt to embarrass them with unfitting extrapolation wouldn’t stop them from ascertaining their sincere cause.