Don’t take it on the Tigre

February 5th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Afura Burtukana: I have wanted to write on this title for a long time but the one thing that made me get through my procrastination is the Tigrigna Song by an artist called Shumiye, about the Prime Minister of Ethiopia /posted on Ethiomedia website/. I have had debates with people from that ethnic group and people from other ethnic groups about the “˜lust between Tigres and Woyane’. Leaving aside the details of the debate, the fact that I had it with “˜both sides’ which have at times the same and at times different stances proves my point that there is no lust what so ever, and the only thing that exists is opportunists being what they are. For those who are up to it; “˜Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny’, is a book worth reading. It is written by the winner of the Nobel Prize and great thinker (adjective mine) Amartya Sen. With due apology to the writer for not presenting his work as expressively as he would have done, what the book is saying is:-

1. A rational human being bases his thinking and there for his decision on the issue

irrespective of the natural and man made factors that “˜define’ his identity.

2. There are too many factors natural and/or man made that a human being can be
categorized in to / or can identify itself as belonging/ that it simply is not possible to
shape its thinking based on them.

One can be male, smoker, middle income, professor, which likes to “˜avoid’ political discussions, a protestant and Tigre. Somebody else could be from that same ethnic group, a Muslim, member of one of the opposition parties, unemployed, non-smoker and a male. It is plausible that they may share some thinking based on the fact that they are both male and from the Tigre ethnic group (both factors taken separately). It is also, again, plausible that they could both be against, let’s say, same sex marriage / or even the very act of having sexual relationship with the same sex/ based on the mere fact that they are both religious. Yet, they may go in their own separate ways on the many other issues. On the other hand it is also plausible that they think different on an issue which they were “˜supposed’ to think the same if it was for the common “˜defining’ factor they share. Being a man as they are, you would think they would both rather do everything else but the laundry, and give every kind of excuse to their wife; but one of them might actually enjoy the “˜art’ of doing laundry. The core of the matter being a rational decision comes from those thinkers who put aside the identity presupposition and decide over and above that.

Scholars have devoted time, energy and resources in trying to understand the reasons behind ethnic tensions, or violence if you will. Some argue that ethnicity is biological so it is natural /reflexive/ to have tensions. Some say it is elemental in the sense that the historically accumulated hatred between different ethnic groups lead to violence. This theory assumes that there is a historical hatred but does not explain why there would or should be. Another argument for ethnic violence is the feeling of being from a high culture /’work hizb’/ as distinctive from the culture of other ethnic groups. A fourth perspective is what can be called the defensive one. Some ethnic group, accordingly, feel threatened by the state / government in power/ or even other ethnic groups. Herein, then, lies the logic for the politicization of group identity or the emergence of “ethnicity”? and
“Ethnic conflict”?: self-defense. Yet another view for ethnic conflict is what the intellectuals coined to be instrumental. It is different from the above views in that it is not ahistorical. It believes that ethnic violence is the result of projects designed to capture state power and control. The only way for ethnic groups to have national/cultural autonomy, they believe, is by providing power to the groups. But one has to be careful here because stable relationships between ethnic groups does not necessitate for one or the other groups to seize power. The necessity comes when the relationships is not stable. Identity is both egoistic and relational. As much as it looks inward and finds reasons for being distinct from others it must also exist in contrast to one or more other identities. If politics is about the struggle for power and resources, stable identity tend not to be subject to such struggles, in as much as the question of distribution of resources is settled. Where identities are not relatively stable and there is always the possibility of reallocation of resources, ethnic conflict is much likely. What this suggests is that ethnic and sectarian conflict, or cultural conflict, are not about ethnicity and religion or about culture per se, but rather about setting the terms of discourse in conflict over control of resources via state power control.

So why do many assertively think that there is a lust between the Tigre ethnic group and Woyane? Or, why would we think that Woyane will have the majority support of the Tigre’s irrespective of the issue? It is a fact that Woyane has its roots in and so stems from the rocky mountains of the Tigray region. By default the vast majority of its members and fighters / Tegadalay/ are from that region. When this force becomes the government, it should not come as a surprise if other ethnic groups become threatened. And this is so especially when the government machinery is deliberately being filled by members of that group. The government is also deliberately instigating violence and hatred among Tigres and other ethnic gruops. The ruling party, Woyane, portrays an image that it has the back up of the Tigres and is committing all the atrocities depending on that support. It paints the picture that everything in the region is a Bonanza and Tigreans are saying if it wasn’t for Woyane. On the other hand it is creating a fear among the Tigreans that go Woyane, it will be the dooms day for the Tigreans. Who was the Journalist that wrote an article on “˜Communist Tigray’ and paid dearly for it? All in all there is no stable situation in the country, Woyane has created it all. To understand the power of a one sided propaganda, it suffice to do a research on what was the most reason that led Germans to rally behind Hitler massively and turn against the Jews. It is propaganda and only propaganda that “˜made everybody insane’ and take a mass action recorded in History as the most despicable act unparalleled.

So, again it begs the question, why is Woyane creating hatred between Tigreans and the rest of Ethiopia? Why is Woyane, for that matter, creating abhorrence among all other nations in the country? Of course it is a power struggle and the feel that they need to control everything to survive. Power politics for them is a zero sum game in that they will have to have all or none. Still the question is why they need to divide the people in order to have it all.

Revolutionary Democracy is Woyane’s road map to controlling the economic and political state of affairs of the country, and stay in power. The seemingly market oriented capitalist document, has in between the lines Albanian style Marxism-Leninsm written all over it. It is as far to the left as it can get and believes in fundamental concepts like Class Struggle, “˜chikun hizboch’ says it all. It attempts a forced marriage between the thinking of the right and left of the spectrum; and so it is naturally doomed to fail. In the mean time though, the cadres read from this script and base their knowledge on it. When they are out on the field preaching and practicing it, chaos is inevitable. That is exactly what’s happening now. That is why there is a “˜them and us’ feeling. That is why there is a feeling that Tigres are having it all, and are giving their full support to Woyane for that. That’s why; on the other hand, Tigreans feel that their fate politically and economically is intermingled with the Woyane staying in power. That is why there is a growing feeling of abhorrence among the different ethnic groups of the country.

Myth aside, the fact remains there is no lust between Tigreans and Woyane. In fact it is this very ethnic group that fought and is fighting as hard, if not more, to make Woyane sit in a round table discussion with the opposition. It suffice to mention that Kinijit won their sweep vote in Addis Ababa, and little birdie told me that the ranks and files of Woyane had lost big time in Tigray. When Shumiye came out in the open and expressed his opposition in a fashion he knows best, it is an act of a rational person making a rational decision that is not influenced by the factors that “˜define’ his identity.

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