Is there an Amhara-centric or a Tigray/Amhara-centric view of Ethiopian history (Ethiopiawinet)? By Wedi Samre

May 30th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

The purpose of this commentary is to respond to a very insightful article written by Abebech Belachew entitled “በድል ማግስት ሽንፈት እንዳይኾን” ( Abugida, May 19, 2011). The author shows brilliantly the multi-faceted challenges facing the country. Hoping that Abebech’s ideas will be discussed fully and enriched by inputs from other Ethiopians, I would like to address only the problem she raised regarding Ethiopiawinet. Here is Abebech’s thesis: although Ethiopia is composed of ብዙ ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች), Ethiopian history (Ethiopiawinet) has been looked at through the prism of Amhara or Tigray/Amhara. As a corollary, Abebech adds that this “ethnocentric” view of Ethiopiawinet is an impediment to social progress as it consigns other Ethiopians to a second class citizens. At first blush, Abebech’s thesis seems all too true to be disputed. More over, it is perfectly in keeping with the received wisdom of our time that Ethiopian historiography is Amhara-centric or Tigray/Amhara-centric. But Abebech’s thesis is not unassailable. Number one, I think we should question the received wisdom that there is an Amhara-centric or Tigray/Amhara-centric view of Ethiopian history. Neither can the idea that there were first and second class citizen Ethiopians in the past stand up to close scrutiny. Besides, it confuses being Ethiopian with problems stemming from the emergence of un-Ethiopian political system in the 20th century. To drive home my point, I can take the Tigray region as an example. During the last two thousand years, Tigray played a very important role in Ethiopian political life. Depending on the balance of power, it’s position shifted from first among equals to one among equals. However, despite the unparalleled sacrifices it paid between 1875 and 1896 in defense of Ethiopian independence, the region became completely marginalized in the wake of the Adwa victory. But the worst of the worst was to come for Tigray and for the country as a whole. The Derg abandoned the whole Tigray in 1989 to Shabia, a fateful decision which led to a humiliating defeat of the country in 1991. The Derg’s decision reflected the lingering anti-Tigray bias, a poisonous hand-over from Menelik and Haileselassie. The last two Ethiopian kings were not as modernizers as it is cracked up to be. Witness they carried out tactics and strategies to inferiorize and to control Tigray so that Tigray regional elite would never pose a problem for their power monopoly. Although Tigray was not the only victim, the two kings encouraged the use of slurs or derogatory epithets directed at degrading Tigray. In nutshel, they presided over the gradual erosion of the national cohesion.

My question is: can we say the natives of Tigray questioned their Ethiopiawinet owing to Menelik’s and Haileselassie’s disrespectful attitude toward them? The answer is a definite no. Did the political marginalization cause Tigrayans to feel relegated to a second class citizenship status? It is difficult to respond in the affirmative, because saying that Tigrayans were relegated to second class citizenship status implies that there were other Ethiopians with first-class citizenship status. What is true of Tigray holds also true concerning other Ethiopians. One may argue that “Amhara” were first-class citizens. This is not only false, but it is misleading for it implies that the Menelikean and Haileselassie regimes respected the citizenship rights of the “Amhara” people only. The reality is that if the two regimes had worked for the well-being of the “Amhara”, the country as a whole would have benefited from it. Let me take the case of apartheid South Africa to illustrate my point. The racist regime worked hard to eliminate poverty among the white population while keeping the black population under slavery, ignorance and abject poverty. Despite the dehumanizing situation in which the black population lived, apartheid South Africa became the economic power house of Africa. It even decided to go nuclear and built the atomic bomb. From the foregoing, it follows that if Menelik and Haileselassie had been “Amhara” regimes, they would have worked necessarily to satisfy the aspirations of the “Amhara” people for just administration and for economic well-being. Economic development would have been indispensable not only to make the Amhara rule of Ethiopia eternal-lasting, but also to Amharanize completely the Ethiopian society. And Ethiopia would have become as developed economically as South Africa. Had that been the case, Ethiopians would not find themselves today dispersed around the world. Famine would not exist. The Derg would not have existed. And Ethiopia would not be today celebrating it’s twentieth year of servitude under foreign military occupation.

What do the foregoing facts show? They show that the number one problem of Menelikean and post-Menelikean Ethiopia was not the existence of “first-class” and “second class citizens”, but the absence of a nationalist politico-administrative elite devoted to embark the country on a path to self-reliant and “autocentric” modernization. The problem of Ethiopia was a politico-administrative one from which suffered all Ethiopians including Amharigna and Tigrigna speaking Ethiopians. It is therefore incorrect to say that there were privileged and oppressed Ethiopians in the past. Everybody was oppressed under Menelik and Haileselassie even though the problem of southern Ethiopians was far worse due to the deprivation of their right over their ancestral land. Nonetheless, we cannot not consider it as an indication of the existence of inequality between Southern and Northern Ethiopians. It is essential to take a more nuanced approach to our history. The young semi-educated generation of the 1960′s and early 1970′s should have known that the consolidation of national unity was the only means to oblige the powers that be to rule Ethiopians in accordance with the will of God. The problem was between the Ethiopian people and their rulers and not between Northern and Southern Ethiopians.

Number two, it seems to me that Abebech commits a vicious circle when she takes for granted the existence of ብዙ ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች) in Ethiopia. Of course, Abebech does not tell us what she means by ብዙ ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች) as she does not discuss the issue fully. Neither does she explain what makes her say that there are ብዙ ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች) in Ethiopia. I hope she will deal with this important issue in detail. Whatever may be Abebech’s future arguments, one can argue safely that there are no ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች) in Ethiopia. There is only one Ethiopian Hizb and one Ethiopian nation (Hager). The word « biher » refers to one’s birth place. Strange though it is, the etymological meaning of the Western word “nation” is the same as that of biher. The Western term “nation” is derived from the word natio, which in turn is derived from the Latin word nascere (meaning to be born). But unlike the word “biher”, the word “nation” is assigned a new acceptation in such a way as to facilitate state formation and state building. It refers to a politically organized territorial unit. That is why I think that the word “nation” should be rendered by “Hager” and not by “biher”. This doesn’t mean that the term “nation” has the same meaning as the term “hager”. The Ethiopian conception of “hager” houses the insights of a worldview fundamentally different from that which under-gird the Western word “nation”. The word “nation” is inseparably linked with the European historical sociology of the last two centuries. Therefore, it is misleading to consider the term “biher” as the Ethiopian counter-part of the word “nation”. Because, if we accept that the word “biher” means one’s birth place, it does not make sense to say “Ethiopia is my “biher” “ or “I am ze bihere Etiopia”. Neither does it make sense to say there are many birth places (biheroch) in Ethiopia.

Abebech surely refers to the alien Stalinist-Leninist conception of the nation as we find it in 1994 Shabia document when she talks about the existence of ብዙ ሕዝቦች(ብሔሮች) in Ethiopia. But this has been the great problem of educated Ethiopians. Many educated Ethiopians purportedly opposed to Shabia have adopted it’s anti-Ethiopia language. The fact that many educated and semi-educated Amhara talk about the existence of two big “biheroch” or “bihereseboch” in Ethiopia testifies to the Shabianization of many educated Ethiopians and political parties. This raises the question of the social utility of educated Ethiopians since most of the time their discourse does not grasp Ethiopian reality. This is because they assign a ferenji definition to an Ethiopian word. Yet when our society coins words, it is to represent an Ethiopian reality. In the absence of an Ethiopian social reality in need of being represented, there would be no need to coin words. With the introduction of Western education in Ethiopia, there has developed a tendency to apply to Ethiopian reality concepts and theories forged by Westerners to grasp Western reality. This has entailed the dis-Ethiopianization (the estrangement) of the educated section of our society. This was especially the case during the 1960′s and early 1970′s. The Student Movement used Western countries as a yardstick to determine whether Ethiopia was a nation in the Western acceptation of the phrase. It denied the existence of an Ethiopian nation by saying that Ethiopians speaking different languages were nations (biheroch). It was as if one were to measure the beauty of Ethiopian women according to the Western canons of beauty. Could the Ethiopian people accept that Ethiopian women are ugly when measured against Western canon of beauty? If they were consistent, “educated” Ethiopians would respond in the affirmative. But this shows their alienation or their extreme intellectual under-development.

In the 19th century, Westerners believed that each nation had a right to become a state. The principle of national self-determination was then invoked by Western countries to weaken their enemies. In Ethiopia, the semi-educated generation of the 1960′s and early 1970′s resorted to the theory of « national domination » to show the existences of many “nations” in Ethiopia. After the 1974 « revolution », this led to the proliferation of the so-called « national liberation movements (fronts). However, the “solution” adopted by the treasonous Student Movement was un-Ethiopian and anti-Ethiopian. Because, in stead of integration, the Student Movement advocated disintegration. That childish choice of the Student Movement was evidence of it’s total unpatriotism and crass ignorance of Ethiopian history. What is surprising is that despite the passage of thirty seven years Abebech seems to have an opinion very much similar to that of the Student Movement. She is not the only one, though. Members of the former Student Movement still believe that there was national oppression in Ethiopia. This reminds the Italian position on Ethiopia. When the Italians decided to invade Ethiopia in 1935, they asked the people of Tigray to take sides with them saying that their aim was to liberate Ethiopia from Amhara domination. How does one explain that some members of the generation of the 1960′s and early 1970′s still subscribe to the ideas of foreign invaders? If they had been under « national » domination, why had all Ethiopians fought heroically against the Italian invader for five years? Why hadn’t they collaborated with the invader which spared no effort in saying that it’s aim was to liberate Ethiopians? We understand that Italians adopted a divide and conquer policy. But it is difficult to comprehend why members of the generation of the 1960′s and early 1970′s are still keen on balkanizing Ethiopia. How does one explain that those individuals have not changed their perception of Ethiopia even after having reached the ripe age of 60 years and beyond? Within the last forty years, many theories in Western (natural and social) sciences have changed thanks to new research. This is not the case of the members of the generation of 1960′s and ofearly 1970′s. They continue to look at Ethiopia in exactly the same way they looked at her when they were in their 20′s.

Let there be no misunderstanding. I am not saying that there was no oppression and humiliation in Menelikean and post-Menelikean Ethiopia. There is no denying that the policy of land grabbing adopted by Menelik and Haileselassie violated the Fitha Nagast. I am not saying either Menelik, Haileselassie and their courtiers did not adopt a very disrespectful attitude toward the Ethiopian people in general and toward Southern Ethiopians in particular. But to consider that as national domination is either intellectual stupidity or cheating. Eighty percent of agricultural land in South Africa is today owned by the white population despite the abolition of apartheid. Yet it never occurs to South-African intellectuals to talk about national domination in 21st century South-Africa. If we are intellectually honest, we should admit the truth that there are no nations in Ethiopia. There are Ethiopians speaking different languages and having different cultures. A nation (Hager) is not defined in terms of linguistic homogeneity. Linguistic homogeneity does not mean necessarily that those who speak the same language or profess the same religion can form a nation (hager). The case of the English speaking populations of USA and Canada, Arabs, the Spanish speaking populations of South-America, or that of the German speaking populations of Austria and Germany shows that speaking the same language is not and cannot be the criteria of a nation (Hager). Conversely, linguistic heterogeneity does not militate against the formation of a nation. A nation (Hager) is first of all about common history and common destiny. In this regard, Ethiopia is indeed the nation par excellence in the world. Because for many centuries Ethiopians paid huge life sacrifices to defend it. Life sacrifice is the supreme expression of a people’s love for their nation.

It is also for this reason that I am four-square for the preservation and for the promotion of all Ethiopian languages and cultures. Because the very concept of Ethiopiawinet is based on the preservation and promotion of our different languages and cultures. The different languages and cultures don’t belong exclusively to their speakers; they belong primarily to the Ethiopian people. That is why their preservation and promotion is not incumbent primarily upon their respective speakers; it is incumbent primarily upon the Ethiopian nation. This has not been the case until now because pre-1991 Ethiopian rulers and the Ethiopian “intelligentsia” acted in such a way as to prevent nation-building (hager ginbata). But that does not show in any way the existence of “dominated nations” and “dominating nation (s)” in pre-1991 Ethiopia. The whole idea of national domination is ridiculous for the simple reason that there are no nations in Ethiopia. There are of course Amharigna speaking Ethiopians. But just as all English speaking Americans are not of Anglo-Saxon extraction, all Amharigna speaking Ethiopians are not of Amhara extraction. One can even say with certainty that almost 99% of Amharic speaking Ethiopians don’t have Amhara ancestry. Besides, the theory of “Amhara” national domination implied wrongly that Amharigna speaking Ethiopians had one common specific interest and a common political view aimed at dominating other Ethiopians. Ethiopian history shows that this is totally false. The proponents of national domination cannot explain why Haileselassie had to fight against the regional rulers of Wello, Gojjam and Gondar.

What I am driving at is this: Land grabbing and the disrespectful attitude of the last two kings kings and their courtiers toward Southern Ethiopians did not stem from the existence of national domination. Because there has never been national domination in Ethiopian history. It stemmed from the un-Ethiopian nature of the political system put in place by Menelik, Haileselassie and the Derg. Had Ethiopia produced a patriotic intelligentsia aware of it’s historic role in modern nation-building, it would have realized that the solution to the problem created by the emergence of un-Ethiopian political system was not the destruction of the Ethiopian nation by adopting an alien theory of tribal self determination and secession. The solution was to work for the unity of the Ethiopian people so that they could oblige their rulers to exercise power only in the interest of the Ethiopian nation, i.e., promoting it’s political and economic modernization. In other words, had the generation of the 1960′s and 1970′s not been totally unpatriotic and mentally colonized, it would have realized that the best way to embark Ethiopia on the path to authentic modernization was to challenge the legitimacy of the Menelikean and Haileselaassie regimes in the name of the Ethiopian nation (and not in the name of an alien heathen ideology called Marxism-Leninism). If that had been the case, we would have had a nationalist revolution conducive to the industrialization of Ethiopia and not a « socialist revolution » aimed at downward egalitarianism, i.e., making all Ethiopians equal in poverty.

The worst legacy of the Student Movement is the current Shabia-friendly tendency to look at Ethiopia as if she were an agglomeration of tribes. If many Amhara intellectuals assert that there are two big biheroch in Ethiopia, it is surely because they have been shabianized or dis-Ethiopianized themselves. Needless to say, it is because she puts (probably unknowingly) a tribalist slant on our national identity that Abebech Belachew is led to argue that Amhara-centric or « Tigray-Amhara »-centric view of Ethiopiawinet is an impediment to social change and progress. Frankly speaking, I don’t see the link between the under-development of Ethiopia and the Tigray/Amhara-centric view of Ethiopian history. The fact remains that there is no such thing as Amhara/Tigray-centric view of Ethiopian history. Let us take by way of example, the case of Tekle Tsadik Mekuria, Mohammed Hassen, Teshale Tibebu, Sisay Ibssa, Asefa Jalata, and Gebru Tareke. One cannot consider Teke Tsadik’s and Teshale Tibebu’s writing of Ethiopian history as Amhara-centric or Amhara-Tigray-centric as we cannot consider Mohammed Hassen (The Oromo of Ethiopia, 1990) writing of Ethiopian history as Oromo-centric. On the contrary, three of them write Ethiopian history as they see it. Far from being opposites, they are complementary. This is not the case of Sisay Ibssa (The invention of Ethiopia, 1991), of Asefa Jalata (Oromia and Ethiopia, 1993) and of Gebru Tareke (The Ethiopian revolution, 2009). Sisay Ibssa wants to deconstruct Ethiopia in order to deny legitimacy to her existence as a historic nation. He says shamelessly that Ethiopia is a creation of European colonialism. Far from being a demonstration of intellectual sobriety, Sisay’s “work” is a crude anti-Ethiopia propaganda. The same can be said of Asafa Jalata. He compares a historically non-existent entity called “Oromia” with Ethiopia. The book is, in a word, a promotion of the propaganda of the OLF. It does not have anything to do with Ethiopian history. In the same vein, Gebru Tareke’s book sounds very much like a sales talk from Shabia (TPLF/EPLF). It’s aim is clearly to harm Ethiopia. Although Gebru pretends barefacedly to be an Ethiopian from the Holy Axum, his book shows that he is an anti-Ethiopian and a convinced secessionist Hamasin. He says if only indirectly that the Eritrean question was a colonial question. The book’s postscript is very nauseating as it is littered with lies, distortions and convenient omissions intended to justify the Shabia (TPLF/EPLF) self-serving pro-Eritrea policies.

The foregoing is a sufficient evidence that there is no such thing as Tigray/Amhara-centric view of Ethiopian history. In fact, Ethiopian history has not yet been written. That is to say, Ethiopian historians are not yet the main manufacturers of knowledge on Ethiopian history. The main manufacturers are Europeans and Americans. Until now, Ethiopian historians have contented themselves with repeating in a slightly modified fashion what is said or written by foreigners. But American and European Ethiopianists or anti-Ethiopianists write Ethiopian history from a US-centric or Euro-centric point of view. This has aggravated the incapacity of Ethiopians to embark on intellectual modern nation-building process. The proliferation of the so-called “national liberation fronts” is demonstrative of the intellectual backwardness of educated Ethiopians. In other words, the underdevelopment of Ethiopia is also the direct consequence of the emergence of an ignorant “intelligentsia” which looks at the country’s problems through Western contact lenses. What is unfortunate is that Ethiopian historians don’t seem to be aware that their raison d’être is to contribute to modern nation-building. By studying the social history of Ethiopia of the last millennium, the Ethiopian historian can contribute hugely to nation-building. S/he can show that Ethiopians are one people even if they speak different languages. During the last two thousand years, internal migrations from the north to the south, from the south to the north, from the West to the east and from the south to the west have led to the mixture and inter marriage of our people. The Harari and Gurage people were originally from Tigray although they migrated to southern and eastern Ethiopia in the first millennium. How does one explain that the dance of the Agaw of Gojjam is closer to that of southern Ethiopia (such as Sidama, Wellaita, etc) than to the Agaw of Wello (Sokota)? How do you explain that the dance of the Tigrigna speaking population of Tembien is closer to that of Agaw of Sokota than to the rest of Tigray? In brief, how do you explain that we Ethiopians have the same physical appearance which distinguishes us from the populations of neighboring countries?

That being said, if the dominant historiography of Ethiopia gives a false impression of being Tigray/Amhara-centric, it is simply because Ethiopian history has been linked closely with the genesis and development of the Ethiopian state and its territorial expansion during the last two thousand years. The is also the case of most historic countries whose respective states embarked on territorial expansion. The Ethiopian territory as it was in 1974 was not the work of king Menelik. Ethiopian territory under King Libna Dengil was more or less the same as the territory of Ethiopia under Mengistu. King Menelik restored only the territory of medieval Ethiopia as it had existed before the Oromo and Somali migration in the 16th century. Another reason why the dominant historiography of Ethiopia gives a false impression of being Tigray/Amhara-centric is that Ethiopian historians have been under the sway of Western scientism-positivism according to which written materials are the sole source of history. History was considered to have begun with the invention of writing. Peoples with unwritten culture were supposed to be without history. Undoubtedly, history writing in Ethiopia is nefariously influenced by US-centrism and Eurocentrism. Western specialists of Ethiopian history used the chronicles (gedl) of Ethiopian kings to write Ethiopian history, which is why Ethiopian history as we know it is closely linked with the history of Ethiopian kings. This has made writing Ethiopian history incomplete. Ethiopian historians should conduct research in the south, south-West and to the east by interviewing elderly people, the major repository of local historical knowledge. They may discover that the Euro-(US)-centric division of Ethiopians into “Semitic”, Cushitic , Omotic and Nilo-saharan is the product of a Western intellectual bias.

If the writing of Ethiopian history is nefariously influenced by a Euro-centric (US-centric) epistemology and methodology, this is not the case concerning Ethiopiawinet or the Ethiopian nation. Historically speaking, Ethiopiawinet or the Ethiopian nation, is a brainchild of Ethiopians from Tigray region. It was forged between the 5th and 14th centuries. In the 12th century, the center of power shifted to the South. But the Agaw rulers built on the conception of Ethiopiawinet forged in Tigray. After the overthrow of the last Agaw king, Yitbarek in 1268 , the center of power shifted further to the south, that is, to Islamic kingdom of Shewa (today’s Northern Shewa) which had come into being in 9th century AD. Until the 13th century, Shewa had been a southern African neighbor of Ethiopia. But Tigray Christians had already settled in the area probably in the wake of Essato’s takeover of power.

When Yekuno-Amlak (alias Tesfa Yesus) claimed he was the descendant of the last Axumite king, Dil Naod, he banked on the help of Tigray christian settlers to overthrow king Yitbarek. Shewa and it’s rival kingdoms such as Yifat were then incorporated to the Ethiopian state. With the passage of time, the Tigray christian settlers (whose direct descendants are the present day northern Shewans) became Amharic speaking. As a result, the conception of Ethiopiawinet forged in Tigray was preserved and further developed by the Shewan descendants of Tigray christian settlers. The writing of the Kibre Nagast at the beginning of the 14th century by Axumite Church doctors at the behest of Yibkezgi, the governor of the powerful province of Enderta, helped to consolidate the conception of Ethiopiawinet forged some eight centuries ago. When commercial considerations obliged Ethiopian kings to expand the territory of the Ethiopian state toward the south, the east and the south-west, the ideology underpinning the Ethiopian nation supplied the ideologico-religious justification for the expansion. That is why the descendants of Tigray christian settlers worked for the spread of Christianity and the Amharic language in Begemeder inhabited by the Beja population and in the African pagan kingdom of Damot (present day Gojjam, Western Shewa and south-Western Ethiopia) inhabited most probably by Agaw and other populations). Under the reign of our great medieval emperors such as Amda Tsion (1314-1344), Yeshak (1414-29), Zerayacob (1432-1468), Christianity was spread to South, south West and to eastern Ethiopia until Zeila. The spread of Christianity was accompanied by the spread of Ethiopian political worldview in South and south-Western Ethiopia. There was also a migration from northern Ethiopia to the south and to the south-West. Many northerners became local chiefs in the south and south-West.

Indeed, Ethiopia was engaged prematurely in nation-building. But it was thwarted by the rebellion of Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim (alias Gragn) against the central government led by king Libna Dingil (whose mother was a daughter of a Hadya Muslim chief) and by the Oromo internal migration. In the 1520′s, the presence of the Oromo was confined to the Borena area. But a century later, there was no region in Ethiopia (except today’s Eritrea) where Oromo were not present. With the passage of time, the formerly non-Oromo speaking regions of today’s Wellega, Illubabor, Keffa, ect., became Oromo speaking. On the other hand, many formerly Oromo speaking population became Amharic speaking when they intermixed and intermarried with the former inhabitants of Gojjam, Begemeder and Wello. All this shows that there is no such thing as Amhara or Oromo (since the overwhelming majority of today’s Amharigna and Oromigna speaking Ethiopians don’t have Amhara or Oromo ancestry); there are only Oromigna and Amharigna speaking Ethiopians. In brief, Amhara and Oromo have become Ethiopians as Ethiopians have become Amhara and Oromo. Indeed, no major political change has taken place in Ethiopia without the active participation of Oromigna and Amharic speaking Ethiopians. Between 1784 and 1853, Ethiopia was under the total control of Oromo. With the exception of Tigray and Northern Shewa, northern Ethiopia (i.e. the provinces of Gojjam, Wello and Begemedir ) were ruled by Oromo aristocracy.

I am making this digression in order to underline the fact that there is no Amhara-centric or Tigray/Amhara-centric view of Ethiopiawinet or of Ethiopian history. There is a conception of Ethiopiawinet developed in Tigray region but which was accepted by other regions as the territory of the Ethiopian stated expanded (between 13th and 16th centuries) toward the center, the south and south-West. Ethiopiawinet was easily accepted thanks to it’s plasticity and integrative capacity. Ethiopiawinet is not primordialistic; it is not exclusivist. Anyone could become a king or climb the social and political hierarchy so long they had the personal talent. Under Menelik and Haileselassie, this was not fully the case. Yet, despite the divisive policies of the two kings, some southern Ethiopians were propelled into the position of power thanks to their personal talent. Ras Gobena, Dejazmach Balcha Aba Nefso, Fitewrari Habte Giorgis, Ras Mulugeta (Hailselassie’s defense minister), to mention but the few, were not « Amhara-Tigray”. But they played a decisive role in Ethiopian history. King Haileselassie himself could not properly be considered as “Amhara”. But he (mis)ruled Ethiopia for fifty eight years. Likewise, although neither Amhara nor Tigray, the « Oromo » elite of Wellega were far more favored by kings Menelik and Haileselassie compared to the traditional regional elites of Tigray, Gojjam, and Begemeder. The « true » members of the Shewan aristocracy (such as Ras Kasa) were also excluded from power under Hailselassie and replaced by individuals of humble origin such as the three Habtewold brothers.

But I must repeat that the political system of Menelikean and post Menelikean Ethiopia (Hailselassie and Derg regimes) did not sit with Ethiopiawinet (or if you like with the Ethiopiawinet as forged and developed by Ethiopians from Tigray and by the Shewan descendants of Tigray Christian settlers). As a result, the Menelikean and post-Menelikean political system put a severe strain on the Ethiopian nation. That should not lead the present generation to look to Western theories to balkanize Ethiopia intellectually and politically. Neither should it be led to make a clean sweep of our past. No matter who forged it, Ethiopiawinet is our common heritage . When Ethiopiawinet was forged and developed by natives of Tigray and by Shewan descendants of Tigray christian settlers, they did not do it as Tigrayans or as Shewans descendants of Tigray Christian settlers. They did it as Ethiopians. Unlike today, intellectual tribalism in any form was unknown in Ethiopian history. Indeed Ethiopia would not have been the oldest independent nation in the world if Ethiopians had lived under a political system similar to that put in place by Menelik and Haileselassie and by the Derg. It is because that political system was un-Ethiopian and that educated Ethiopians were not aware of that crucial fact that our country lost it’s independence in 1991. The only way to regain our national independence lies in returning to the source and in building on it so that we can have a cohesive nation capable of surmouting the daunting multi-faceted difficulties facing our society: loss of national independence, unprecedented moral and intellectual decay of educated Ethiopians, Western and Middle Eastern religious invasion, land grabbing by multinational corporation, conversion of Ethiopian economy into an appendage of Western capitalism. The list is not exhaustive. Tackling all these formidable problems requires that every Ethiopian do his utmost best to shun tribalism in any form and to contribute to national liberation.

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