By Oromsis Adula
Ethiopian elites like to emphasize the idea that Ethiopia was one of the only two African countries that escaped the curse of western colonization. Whether that helped or hurt Ethiopia is debatable in terms of infrastructural development, access to education and technological advances. There are many who argue that Ethiopia still remains little affected by technological advances and globalization, thus maintaining a dishonorable reputation for being the poorest country on earth, even by sub-Saharan African standards, and always begging for food hand-outs.
What most historians often miss or fail to acknowledge is the distinct cultural and social foundation that sets the country apart from the rest of Africa and most of the world. There are also those who argue Ethiopia’s independence has helped in preserving those cultural and social norms. On the flipside, the century-old internal cultural warfare by one group against the other in an effort to make the Amhara culture synonymous with all things Ethiopia and today’s attempt by the ruling clique to perpetuate an untenable system of minority domination of the majority haunts the politics of the country and its diverse population.
The Oromo and most of the south were subjected to violent campaigns to uproot its cultural traditions and practices by successive Ethiopian regimes. At times, the Amhara and Tigre dominated cultural war against the rest of Ethiopia was worse than the colonial legacy in the rest of Africa. Comparatively, the western colonization with all its mischief’s changed the lives of the colonized or at least affected the community as a whole. As the result, most countries in western, south and northern Africa are well-off compared to Ethiopia, of course with rebound issues evolving from the dark colonial bequest. Even Ethiopia’s colonized neighbors are better positioned with regards to infrastructural development, integration into world economy and access to the rest of the world. As such, the Amhara and Tigre led aggression towards the rest of Ethiopia is the replica of western colonization, only worse.
Today, Ethiopians are affected by a different form of cultural campaign. In an effort to maintain its power and control the will of the people, the Ethiopian government is using a classic divide and rule policy. With ethnic federalism as its covert political agenda, the regime has effectively divided the country into villages and appointed local mole chieftains to each of those villages.
It has also become a troubling trend that the regime has infiltrated respected religious institutions. The country is sinking deep into religious fundamentalism of all sorts. The remotest and culturally knit communities are falling apart under the guise of religious expansion. For example, Ethiopians at all corners, as we know it, have buried and mourned the dead for generations. Ethiopia still remains one of the few countries with high religious tolerance. It is not odd to find people of different faith in the same household. Christians and Muslims intermarry to this date.
The current developments in Ethiopia are quite the opposite of those traditions. Reportedly, religious leaders are armed not with spiritual knowledge but with weapons. We are receiving reports of influential religious leaders being on government payrolls and openly carrying guns.
People are being told not to mourn the dead in a clear contradiction with all major religious beliefs. These extreme views aimed at preventing people from gathering and exchanging views/ideas, are fast becoming a liability for the country. The long standing social and cultural fabric is eroding rapidly. Most of the country is abandoning all things traditional, including marriage customs, opting for/succumbing to imported (not adopted) foreign practices of Sharia and the likes.
This signifies nothing but TPLF’s careless ride over Ethiopians. The current minority junta is not concerned a tad about the welfare or well-being of Ethiopians. This is a government that is not ashamed to beg for emergency food aid year after year. It is selling virgin land to foreigners at a bargain price to prop up its diplomatic likeness as over seven million people are on the verge of death from hunger.
This commentary is a call on religious and community leaders to work together to preserve the long standing cultural and social norms. The current government’s use of religion as a pretext to further divide the people of Ethiopia should not be tolerated. It should be clear to all that the events of today will have a lasting consequence for generations. The young will no longer respect and bow for the elders in Ethiopia. Christians and Muslims will not be able to peacefully coexist. If the current minority regime continues to have its way, in the not too distant future, the Amharas, the Tigreans and the Oromos will not live in harmony. The dead will be left unburied. Marriage will no longer have a meaning. Young People will have kids unrestrained contributing to an unparalleled population growth. Population growth, if not contained, will lead to increased unemployment, overcrowding and exacerbate the already catastrophic spread of HIV and other diseases.
Ethiopians are becoming a forgotten people. It is now or never to stand in unity to force the current dictatorial regime out of power. Then and only then, Ethiopians can preserve their cultural and social customs.