and the Politics of Ethiopianity: The leadership of Abiy Ahmed.
Teodros Kiros (Ph.D.
I would like to begin
below with what I wrote on Ethiopianity and Independent Thinking a few
years ago to frame my present argument that Ethnic consciousness is
mediated by positive ethnicity and National Consciousness and that the two
are inextricably intertwined. I argue further that ethnic consciousness,
anchored on positive ethnicity, is the material infrastructure for the
superstructure of culture. By Positive Ethnicity, I understand, “a
modality in which an individual humbly takes pride in one’s geographical
belonging and celebrates the cultural ornaments of his/ethnic group, the
language, the dances, the music and the cuisines, as expressions of
diversity.” (Abbay Media, Zehabesha, Ethiopia 360, January 9, 2018
these remarks, the reader is explicitly invited to pay attention to the
nuances of culture, if by culture; one can understand that positively
seamless intermingling of ethnic consciousness with a national
consciousness. This intermingling cannot take place without a celebration
of the ornaments of culture: language,
dance, music, cuisines and artifacts. Moreover, ethnic consciousness
requires these ornaments in order to provide the human person the
possibility of consciousness itself. The
ornaments of culture are embedded in ethnic consciousness, almost
naturally. These ornaments of
culture are the material fundaments of ethnic consciousness. Note that in
the above paragraph, all our five senses are busily involved, as when we
listen to music, see the mountains, smell the flowers, taste the cuisines
and touch beauty on the dance floors.
Ethnic consciousness is firmly anchored in this material reality
disclosed by the five senses. At
a primordial level, Ethiopian pride is present in the ethnic consciousness
inspired by the ornaments of culture as disclosed via the senses to the
recipients of a cultural consciousness, as when any Ethiopian cannot help
but hit the dance floor upon hearing an ethnic tune and begin shaking the
body to a maximum joy. The joy
occurs precisely because there is an event to be enjoyed, and there is an
event to be enjoyed, because ethnic consciousness has produced the
appropriate and stimulating media of joy in the music, the dance, the
cuisines, and beautiful persons.
(2) National Consciousness
unlike ethnic consciousness, is a cultural construct. Whereas ethnic
consciousness is natural to the self, national consciousness is a product
of cultural construction and is mediated by the artificial body, called
the state. It is the state and
its various institutions which organize citizens to develop a relationship
with other ethnicities and enjoy their diversities under conditions of
peace and prosperity. National consciousness is in fact nothing more than
a politically organized relationship of citizens with one another as
ethnically conscious members of ethnic groups.
The task of the state is to be critically vigilant about Negative
Ethnicity, “. Negative ethnicity is the modality by which an individual
singles out his/her belonging to an ethnic group and believes that it is
superior to all other ethnicities and that other ethnicities are inferior
and must be treated accordingly.” (Zehabesha, Abbay Media, Ethio 360 and
Ethiomedia Forum, January 8, 2018).
Federalism as a Political Form.
The task of a Good State is making a
concerted effort of educating citizens to protect themselves from
contamination by negative ethnicity to purify themselves by instilling in
themselves with positive ethnicity by way of respecting the cultural
ornaments of all ethnicities.
The greatness of a future Ethiopian
state, unlike past Ethiopian states, some of which were insensitive if not
flagrantly hostile to certain ethnicities, will consist in respecting
positive ethnicity as it meets economic needs and extends political and
social rights to all ethnicities through constitutional stipulations and
effective public policies. Any
future Ethiopian state should publicly articulate and defend the rights of
nationalities as expressions of positive ethnicity and living practices of
diversity under safe and secure conditions of freedom.
Federalism is the political form by
which positive ethnicity is elevated into a national right as an
expression of Ethiopianity, defended by an effective Ethiopian state.
There cannot be a national
consciousness without ethnic consciousness, and similarly there is an
ethnic consciousness precisely because there is superstructure in which
the multiple ethnicities can be anchored in a relationship of mutual
contemporary politics, we have not rigorously understood the role of these
two types of consciousness. We are fighting one another because of a
misunderstanding. My argument here is an attempt to correct this
misunderstanding through a philosophical lens.
minister, himself, in his capacity as a political educator, is a purveyor
of this misunderstanding, who unnecessarily burdened himself with
undisciplined agenda and put too much on the grill, (Badme, Indiscriminate
and untimely,release of prisoners, Pardoning the unpardonable, reconciling
religious leaders), none of
which is being cooked well.
He is now
standing out as the one, in the helm of power, who is a symbol of
misunderstanding, and through him the misunderstanding is filtering down
to the youth, and the hostile media in the diaspora.
like to offer my advice to his leadership, if he is inclined to read
serious articles by well-known and globally respected Ethiopian writers of
the caliber of Professor Ghelawdewos Araia and his seasoned strategies of
rebuilding EPRDF, to save Ethiopia from the crucible of hate and narrow
that to Abiy Ahmed, some of us are simply not visible. He does not read
our work, nor are we contacted, because we bear ethnicities which he shuns
and openly abuses. If he is serious about rebuilding Ethiopia, he should
seek our accomplished scholars and world class minds, or else it is
business as usual, empty words without content and blind abstractions
Nor can there be Ethiopianity, as the Prime Minister wrongly but
tirelessly preaches, without ethnicity and nationality. The Ethiopian
citizen, like the American citizen, is an Amhara Ethiopian, An Oromo
Ethiopian, A Tigrean Ethiopian, A Gurage Ethiopian, A Gambellan Ethiopian,
A Southern Ethiopian and much more. These ethnicities are merely
designations but important ones. For
those Ethiopians who take pride in these designations, what they need is
recognition and not scolding and shaming.
A strategic and well organized state
led by upright, just, compassionate and patient leaders can orchestrate a
political environment in which individuals feel safe and secure to
exercise their positive ethnicities. I
have developed this argument in Ethiopian
Discourse, “New Moral Economy”, (Red Sea Press, 2005)
Ethiopians should not be ridiculed for
their self-definitions. Self-definition is a right. The duty of the Prime
Minister is to plow a safe ground where Ethiopians can construct values
and norms as rich sources of their Ethiopianity. It
is not his responsibility to preach to Ethiopians what Ethipianwinet is.
That connotes an absence of vision and poor politics.
Ethiopianity is not an abstraction. It
is a lived reality embodied in ethnic and national consciousness.
What Ethiopia needs now is the
reconstitution of EPRDF with new blood. This new blood is not merely
youth. That biological attribute is irrelevant. Both the old and the new
could be foolish and unqualified. The party must aim at intelligence,
moral and technical, integrity, generosity, compassion, and last but not
least, respect for truth.
Youth need not be the determining
qualification for rebuilding, EPRDF, unless youth is accompanied by wisdom
and moral intelligence. That would be the ideal package. Qualifications
must be based on proven merit and a record of accomplishments independent
of age and ethnicity.