A legacy reborn in Adwa: Ethnic Ethiopians of Ethiopia By Teshome Borago

March 2nd, 2014 Print Print Email Email

As we celebrate the anniversary of our proud military victory over the powerful Europeans in the 1890s, we should be reminded of the ongoing plight of mixed ethnic Ethiopians, one of the people reborn out of the womb of Adwa.

When we examine the existing condition of identity politics in Ethiopia, Post-1991 politics and the governing status quo in Ethiopia continue to impact our people’s narrow interpretations of identity. “I am Gurage”, “He is Oromo”, “she is Amhara” … such are the expressions we hear everyday in the streets. Most Ethiopian citizens are still forced and urged to self identify to one ethnic group; whether or not they actually descend from one, two or more ethnolinguistic ancestry. We even see this injustice during the national census and when obtaining identification cards in Ethiopia. This marginalization of millions of mixed “Ethnic Ethiopians” or the systematic restriction on our self identification continues to benefit the TPLF ruling party and its OPDO, OLF, AAPO, OFC, ODF, TPDM, SLF, ONLF, ANDM and other ideological partners. These one-ethnic organizations are still the most active in Ethiopia today and they define our current politics based on one-ethnic ideology.

So how deeply is their narrow one-ethnic ideology engrained in our minds? Sadly, it has influenced all aspects of our thought process. For example, when we look at multiculturalism and multinationalism in Ethiopia, we naively mention the list of ethnic groups individually but we rarely mention mixed Ethiopians who are the direct product of our multicultural society. Even when we look at the events of the Battle of Adwa, our politicians proudly declare how all heroic Ethiopians from Oromo, Amhara, Welayta to Gurage, Tigray etc came together united against the invading Italian army. But this statement in itself inherently ignores the fact that Ethiopians from multiple ancestry also fought and died for our country. The truth is Mixed Ethiopians born from Gurage fathers and Oromo mothers fought in Adwa. Mixed Ethiopians with Welayta fathers and Amhara mothers died in Adwa. And so many other mixed Ethiopians sacrificed their lives. Symbolic of that era, even the powerful Minister of Defense under Emperor Menelik II was Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis Dinagde, who was said to be mixed Ethiopian of both Gurage & Oromo ancestry. Unfortunately today, mixed ethnic Ethiopians are unrecognized in current Ethiopian politics and ignored by the government’s “ethnic federalism” because they are either passive themselves or they tend to choose only one of their lineage over the other.

But, it is time that mixed Ethiopians become proud of their ancestry and be heard. Interethnic mixings have occurred throughout our history in trade centers and thru migrations, including the mass Migration of semetic and Afan Oromo speakers over the last millennium. Then, the victory in Adwa exponentially increased the pace of inter-ethnic marriages in Ethiopia; especially in Shewa, Wollo regions and central Ethiopia. It is true that ethnic identities are, by nature, fluid throughout history. They might die, be reborn, expand and die again. For instance, the ethnic labels we see today (“Amhara”, “oromo”, “Gurage” etc) did not exist many decades ago and they might die or disappear as globalization penetrates more inside Ethiopia. Similarly, post-Adwa era saw the rebirth of mixed Ethiopians’ influence in politics of our country. But the extreme poverty and the pro-Amharic undemocratic policies of the Imperial regimes sparked rural grievances and it fed the grassroots support base for the rebirth of these one-ethnic organizations that exist today.

However, more than the Tigrayan, more than the Amhara and the Oromo, mixed Ethiopians have to rise up today and carry the country toward democracy because we identify and sympathize with all groups in Ethiopia. But to do this, First, we have to embrace our own complex identity. We have to declare our ethnicity as “Ethiopian.” Unlike some Amharas and other urban nationalists who claim to be defenders of the “Ethiopian” label, we mixed Ethiopians are born Ethiopian and we die Ethiopian: we have no other option. Unless we reject our true identity (unless we pick our father over or our mother or vice versa) we do not have the luxury of being from one-ethnic group because we can only be the broader Ethiopian. When we are asked “what is your ethnicity,” it is high time for those of us with multiple ethnic ancestry to be proud and loudly say, “i am ethnic Ethiopian. Period!”

Ethnic Ethiopians have been passive for too long and it is time that we unite and take action for the benefit of all people in the horn of Africa. Mixed Ethiopians living in Illubabor (where my maternal grandfather is from) share the same heritage, the same psychological attachment and the same destiny as mixed Ethiopians living in Arusi (where my paternal grandmother is from) or northern Gondar (where my maternal grandmother) and Welayta Sodo (my paternal grandfather are from). All mixed multiethnic Ethiopians have a common national experience and a shared ideology, one that does not favor one group over the other. Since mixed Ethnic Ethiopians should not attach their identity and political development with the Amhara, the Oromo or other groups; we must work to bridge these gaps. We should create our own unique political identity, preferably one that will promote more interethnic marriages and the empowerment of our mixed Ethiopian race. We should bring together the Oromo, the Tigrayan and the Amhara as well as promote peace between other smaller ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The triumphant Adwa legacy of multiethnic cooperation will be best illustrated in the 21st century reawakening of our rightful role in Ethiopian politics.

  1. www.Ancient-Yeha.eu
    | #1

    Unity in diversity :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::!!

    ውድ ወዳጄ,
    የሚገርምህ ነገር ቢኖር, በእኔ እና በአንተ መሃከል a kind of telepathy ነገር ሳይኖር አልቀረም:: ምንም እንኳን ለየት ካለው አንፃሩ በመነሳት ቢሆንም, ግን ይሄንን ዘርና መንፈስን አያይዞ ያለውን የኢትዮጵያውያን ችግርን አስመልክቸ የሆነ “Aufsatz” በማርቀቅ ላይ እገኛለሁኝ:: ስጨርስ በሰፊው ለህዝብ አቀርባለሁኝ:: ላሁን ግን ለቅምሻ ያህል ሁለት መስመሮች ይሄውና ላንተ::

    “…..ናተይን ናይ ከማይ ዝኣምሰሉን ፖለቲካዊ ፀገማት ምስ ኢትዮጵያ ተቲሓሒዙ:-
    ትግራዋይ እየ:: ትግራዋይ መኾኒየይ፣ ኣዳይ ጓል ዓድዋ፣ ኣቦይ ድማ ወዲ ኣኽሱም(እኮታ ብኹሉሙሉ ወዲ ግዝኣት ዓድዋ-ምድረ ፅዮን) ብምዃኖም ጥራሕ ኣይኮነን:: ብፍላይ-ብፍላይ ብመንፈስ ካብ ብዮሎጂካሊ ንላዕሊ ዝሓየለ ትግራዋይ ንኽኸውን ዘብፅሓኒ ምኽኒያት ኣሎ:: ……..”

  2. Ethioman
    | #2

    This is one of the best articles i read on TPLF genocide on mixed ethiopians. I am mixed somali (father) and amara (mother) originally from dire dawa. This fake ethnic federalism has ignored mixed people because we deserve to have our own regional state in central ethiopia. Who knows, if we count every mixed ethiopian, we could be over 40%, the biggest ethnic group in the country! We should create our own region surrounding addis ababa, nazreth and dire dawa! God bless mixed ethiopians!

  3. Aklilu
    | #3

    well, most mixed ethiopians were advantaged the last 100 years because they use their multi-ethnic background to benefit economically. many rich people in addis are mixed. unless they face economic hardship they will never involve in politics as one unit

  4. aha!
    | #4

    Thank you for bringing up the narratives for ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies as I often try frame it from the standpoint of the frame work of the constitution with the ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitarianism and/or state capitalism built into the constitution as the major operating system for all taws emanating from it and for the identity politics of identifying oneself as narrow ethnic group first and Ethiopiawinet second. Such an outlook drains the power house for struggling to restore Ethiopian Nationalism, the sovereignty of Ethiopia, its original flag and its original provinces of assorted ethnic groups with pending boundary conflicts, with ethnic federalism serving as a prelude to a legitimate boundary for ethnic secessionism and/or ethnic nationalism, that draws the TPLF/eprdf regime into war skirmishes. This ethnic identity politics is the spinoff the constitution demarcating the land mass into major ethnic groups, which gave rise to ethnic rights at the expense of individual rights, whereas if the individual rights are respected ethnic rights falls through but not vice versa, in the sense of true democracy is base on the individual rights that sums up into we the people of Ethiopia. It is also to be noted that languages and cultures could be developed simultaneously in hyperspace with out being limited to ethnic boundaries, and one can rightly be proud of his/her birth place and/or ethnic identity, without having to perceive that identity as major or minor ethnic rule ruling over the silent majority of Ethiopians under the current set up with ethnic agenda, rather than the national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, a path that is in line with what the Ethiopians have inherited from their ancestors, maintaining the above mentioned goals, with assertion of prevalence of intermixing by marriage, by internal immigration and settlements, ownership of land anywhere in Ethiopia and businesses as you alluded to rather than to restrict them and for economic development to proceed along ecological regions rather than ethnic regions to be effective.

  5. Ethiopiawi Gojjame!
    | #5

    Can that be an ethnicity? I grew up an Amara in Gojjam. And then I came to Addis and heard people asking in whispered voices whether I was an Amara or a Gojjame. I thought they were ridiculous. Of course I was Amara!. Then I saw an OLF map of Oromia which included Gojjam. After I finished laughing, I started to thinking where that might have come from. What I found is that more than half of Ethiopians born in Gojjam, including myself, have non-Amara names (mostly Oromo but unintelligible in other cases) by the time they get to their great, great, great grand parents.
    So who/what am I? I believe I am Ethiopian first, Amara second and American third. I have never derived nor do I derive now any special benefits by virtue of my self-identification as Ethiopian or Amara. And sense of belonging has nothing to do with my ethnic ambiguity. It is just the way I see myself. I often wander what would have become of me if I were living in Ethiopia today.

  6. tezera feyisa
    | #6

    One of the sad political situation during the past 20 years is that we the product of multi ethnic parents and forefathers have remain silent from voicing our right and struggle for our righs like any nations and nationalities because we didn’t have any leader who would organize and lead us. Had that have happened, the voice of many millions of us would have changed the political situation that prevail in our country now. I belive orcthink that most of educated people of thiopia are from mixed family background. It is not worthy to talk about the past now. Now what needs to be done is intelectual from mixed family background should come out cand form a party of mixed ethiopians and lead us.in two year , this mixed nations party can become a formidable force and can chage the politial situation that is leading our country to disintigration.

  7. Abegaz
    | #7

    China company head says, “Not surprisingly, business has been difficult for Yangfan. More than 83% of Ethiopia’s population live off subsistence farming in rural areas, according to the World Bank, and 90% of all car sales are used models. The company currently manufactures around 3,000 vehicles annually but only manages to sell one-third to the local market. Lifan had hoped to use its Ethiopian base as a regional hub, but so far has been unable to distribute abroad because Ethiopia is a landlocked country with high taxes and transport costs, Mr Liu says. “To transport one container from China to Ethiopia is almost triple the cost of sending a container from China to Brazil,” Mr Liu adds.”

  8. www.Ancient-Yeha.eu
    | #8

    በነገራችን ላይ ውድ ወዳጄ አርቃቂ ሆይ፣

    Almost ጠቅላላው top looting MLLT/EFFORT machinery, የዘር መቀያየጥን አስመልክቶ ያንተን criterias ያሟላሉ:: እንዲሁም በሟቹ ጭንጋፉ ወዲ ኣስረስ በጎን የተለቃቀሙ ቢጤዎቹ ባንዶችም (አብዛኛዎቹ ምንም ሳይቀየጡ ከማዕዶ ማይ!)በመሃከላቸው አሉባቸው:: ስለሆነም ሁሉንም ገፋፍጠህ ወደዚያው አዲስ-አዳማ-ዲሬ አካባቢ በወሰድክልንና እኛም በተገላገልናቸው,Ha..Ha…Ha ………….!!

  9. aha!
    | #9

    Tezera Feyisa, I share your view point and that of the author to some extent, because the category you mentioned represent the concept of Ethiopiawinet, than those who focus on ethnicity first and Ethiopiawinet second. Since the overriding concept is that of saving Ethiopia from disintegration in favor of aligning with national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, which brings those in the camp with ethnic agenda to the national agenda in order to restore Ethiopian Nationalism, sovereignty and its original flag of green, yellow and red for which all individuals from all ethnic groups died for in which the individuals with multi-ethnic group will be the major forces.

  10. Sam
    | #10

    I hate identity politics in all its form. I am like Teshome is a product of mixed ethnicity. In fact, three to be exact. But I do not advocate to mixed ethnicity to be in the mix to muddy up further ethnic consciousness. Ethnic politics leads to nowhere. For how long EPDRF Has controlled Ethiopian politics? twenty-three years. Within twenty-three years the only beneficiary of rationing ethnic politics is the government. The people lives is hardly affected by it. Yes, once or so a year, people, nations and nationalities, whatever that mean, show up on the streets to show “solidarity” to each other. I am not against people holding a demonstration if they feel like it. But what is the point? Teshome wants me to be part of this drama. Thank you very much. I decline. I know now children learn in their first language. I have no problem with that. But their right to learn with their own language should not be used by politicians as a means to hold on power indefinitely, brainwashing them as if they were different from others in everything. Ethnic politics has created “mini Ayatollas” who would not be questioned in anything as far as they play the ethnic politics card wisely. The rampant corruption we are witnessing, hundred fold worse compared to the two former Ethiopian governments, is largely the result of ethnic politics. No matter what any EPDRF politician says it is a disease that eats Ethiopia inside out and continue to be. Some corrupt officials pull out the ethnic card to play when caught. The corruption in fact has worked more to EPDRF’s interest not Ethiopia’s. They use it to push away “potential adversary.” But the EPDRF politicians surely know rampant corruption will never be tamed as long as they are in power. But corruption will cannot continue forever as they might think. The country is poor, and their comes a time when there is nothing for corrupt officials to lay hand on. Building roads today to destroy it tomorrow so that the corruption continues might not last long. We Ethiopians should not play the same card EPDRF told us to play, which is the only legitimate politics in Ethiopia is ethnic politics. When you start politics from the very narrow stand, its path will be seeking more narrowness. The Tigriayan becomes feel at home more as an “Adwa’ than a Tigrie. The Oromo feel more at home as being from “Demibedolo.” There is no a stop sign. No, Teshome. I am an Ethiopian of mixed ethnicity. But what describes me as a person a part from my own personality is my nationality. And I am proud of my choice of wanting to be known by my nationality than my ethnicity. Well, unlike the late Ethiopian prime minister.

  11. tezera feyisa
    | #11

    During the past twenty years , we have been fighting this KILLIL FEDERATION system but we are not successful. I believe that we have to chang the tactics in fighting KILLIL FEDERSTION. HOW?
    FIRST we have to reject the identy imposed on us. As I am a product of two different nationaltie, I have the right to identify my self as “mixed nationality” or ethiopian on my ID. But my ID from backhome says my nationality is Amhara which was imposed on me by kebele cadre.
    SECOND As ethnic warlords are not more determind to keep theiy killil system, we, the millions “mixed nationality”, as our natural identity, should fight for our own killil. That killil should include most of northern Shewa, the huge land mass around Addis, the huge land mass around Debreziet, the huge land mass around Nazareth upto Mojo. Our “mixed nationality, which will be form soon, should show the map of our killil with its program.
    THIRDLY I earnestly believe that all ethiopian democratic forces and parties should change their tactics in faghting ethnicity and killil federation. It is time now for them to encourage and solicit for the formation of “mixed nationality” party.
    I really believe that the formation of the party and its bold program with its killil map will chsge the political landscape in our country in to constactive and postive direction; otherwise, things are going only in one direction. Looks like, we haven’t been able to chage the coarse so far

  12. kutakutta
    | #12

    First thing first:

    Eternal death to the living-dead bandas!

    Death to Fascist Italians!!!

    Death! Death! to Askaris

    Moast of all, our strength is our unity and our unity is our strength. The tools to chip off the house of bandas.

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