Why the move to Oromize multicultural Addis Ababa is perilous

Addis Ababa is Uniqely Ethiopian City

borkena, Editorial
July 2,2017

When fascist Italy introduced ethnic based administration in Ethiopia during the five years of occupation, it was in Addis Ababa that it got a blowing defeat as Ethiopian identity had prominence over ethnic identity among residents in Addis Ababa.

In fact, the ethnic administration was at odds with the entrenched strong sense of regionalism even in other parts of Ethiopia and did not work well for fascist Italy.

Reminiscent of persistent attachment to regionalism is apparent in Addis Ababa even in the post-Derg Ethiopia. Whether it is Cherkos, Ferensay, Merkato, Saris, Gulele or what have you, the name has more to do with regional affiliation traditions in Ethiopia than ethnic affiliation, something, so to speak, the regime in power tried to entrench. Historically speaking, the only exception was Tigray as the name intersects with both ethnic and regional sentiment. But even in Tigray, there used to be a peculiar sense of regionalism along district lines; Temben, Adwa and what have you.




Resistance to the occupying fascist forces was strong in Addis Ababa. And after two brave young Ethiopians, Abraham and Moges, tried to assassinate Marshal Rodolfo Graziani in what is now Siddist Kilo, thirty thousand Addis Ababans were massacred in just three days. It is imaginable that those who paid in life in Addis Ababa didn’t vanish without trace; their descendants are likely to be among the generations of Addis Abaebe’s that came after.

Addis Ababa is truly Ethiopian in that people from all regions, mind you again that region was rather a cherished identity in the old days, settled as early as the establishment of Addis Ababa as menagesha. Addis Ababa’s nearly five million residents currently, which by the way is equivalent to the population in Tigray, are mostly descendants of first generation residents who moved from Wollo, Harar, Gojam, Gonder, Tigre, Arusi, Wellega, Shoa, Sidamo, Gamo Gofa and what have you. And people brought their ethnic culture along with sense of regionalism which is what makes Addis Ababa a truly multicultural city in the context of Ethiopian cultures. For example, the enterprenuerial culture of Gurage has shapped the city in a certain way and who would think Mercato without Gurage?

When the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front segmented the country along ethnic lines demolishing region based identity, Addis Ababa was the only place that retained its truly Ethiopian identity; cherished by all Ethiopians. The effort to introduce ethnic identity was by and large futile in a city that developed its own unique multicultural identity. For example, the Amharic language, which is the national language of Ethiopia, that is spoken in Addis Ababa is unique in that it has acquired words from different languages including Oromo language.

The regime in power shelved, so to speak, “constitutional” provision that it can pull for a rainy day. The Italian legacy of ethnic administration which is reintroduced after the fall of derg proved to be,in the end, ineffective for the regime as a playing card for power politics. Popular movements that led to an extended state of emergency legislation showed omens that the regime could rather be endangered as projected animosity between two major language speaking groups did not work so much so that it has to think in terms of bringing the new ethnic fight to Addis Ababa.

Article 49 of the current constitution granted “special interest” to Oromia region over Addis Ababa. Apparently, the piece of legislation is informed by the narrative that Addis Ababa “belongs to the Oromo” – which in a way assumed that Ethiopia is five times older than the time that TPLF spent in the wilderness as guerrilla group- which is illusion.

Recently, regimes’ council of ministers dusted off article 49 of the constitution, which theoretically robbed every proud Addis Abebe of heritage, to declare that “Oromia region” has “special interest” over Addis Ababa. Drafted legislation based on Article 49 of the Constitution is sent to the sham parliament and Urban committee to be adopted. The intention is essentially to demolish the Ethiopian character of Addis Ababa and Oromize it, culturally, in a way that it will not be a problem to TPLF whose affiliates have created immense wealth in the city over the past two or so decades through loot and corruption. But Addis Ababa is not an urban matter per se. It should be treated as Ethipoian Affair in a broader context and people from all over Ethiopia, from Sidamo or Gojam or otherwise, have interst in ; cultural, economic and social interest -among others.

Radical diaspora based Oromo activists appear to be elated that “speical interest of oromia” is pulled again by TPLF, which is trying to forge new alliance with radical groups- apparently. But they do not show it. What they show rather is interest to totally oromize Addis Ababa.

An article by one of the mouthpieces of ethno-radical oromo movement, Tsegaye Ararso, that appeared on Addis Standard, it was meant to set an agenda clearly, go further to claim that the “special interest” in not really “special interest” as the land, Addis Ababa, belongs to Oromo “if it was not for the legacy of imperial conquest.”

Through this article, the writer (of course the entire radical group) came up with a list of claims the linchpin of which is that it is “other groups” in the city that need to have special interest ,not “oromos”,as that land is “naturally”, God knows how, Oromo land. For this same group, “The contestation over the city is pivotal to the making or breaking of the Ethiopian state.” The article went to the extent of demanding the federal government to move the capital to elsewhere or pay rent to “Oromia.” This whole nonsense calls for a serious and organised action against ethno-radicals of all forms.

Impressionist Facebook updates and rituals of narcissism need to end and give rise to a serious,matured and sustained mobilisation to halt the demise of Addis Ababa as we know it.

Editor
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