The wisest of men once said that one can’t serve two masters. Whatever one wolf feeds is what one becomes. This could not be any truer in Ethiopia, where we are undergoing a crisis of identity and too many have given their hands to the spirits of retribution and zeregnenet (tribalism). While a large sector of society have opted out of politics due to frustration, there is a vocal minority who insist on fighting for “justice” through the narrow prisms of selfishness and clan fidelity.
In this paradigm, too many Ethiopians have been convinced that the way to redemption is through tribal democracy. After 27 years of being conditioned to view self-determination vis-à-vis “ethnic federalism”, which is nothing more than apartheid rebranded for the 21st century, the current zeitgeist in Ethiopia is one of grievance sans empathy. Everyone wants their pains to be heard yet few are willing to listen to the suffering of their neighbors.
In this age of hyper partisanship and supersized egos, it is easy to believe that the way to mend what ails us is through politics. But if we step back and assess the situation that is unfolding back home and among Ethiopians living abroad, it become evident that the problem is politics itself. We have lost our way as a people; in the chase to seize modernity, we have forgotten what kept us united as a nation. Me has trumped community, greed has overtaken shared prosperity and acceptance is valued more than respecting our heritage—these are the fundamental reasons we are languishing.
At the core is the resolve on going at it alone. Demagogues have conditioned too many that the way to success is through separatism and by forming a new identity instead of realizing our connectedness. There is a reason why Ethiopia was never colonized; our unity as a people was more powerful than the guns and cannons of European imperialists. Where colonial powers could not best us on the battlefield, they have defeated us through cunning by unleashing ethnocentrism into our land.
Where our forefathers fought and died so that we could remain free of foreign subjugation, we dishonor their sacrifices by bickering with each other over trivial differences. Ethiopiawinet is a fading concept as a growing chorus of nihilists keep ranting about Oromo, Ahmara, Tigray, Sidama, Somali etc. This focus on tribe above nationality overlooks one key fact: the number of Ethiopians who have “pure” tribal blood is almost zero. All of us an amalgamation of many communities, I myself am part Gondere, part Menze and part Tigray. Who among us is exclusively from one “tribe”?
Facts matter little when the ego overtakes the heart. But people who insist on standing up for only their “tribe” while minimizing the sorrows their fellow Ethiopians face should think twice. You can’t honor God and preach about human rights if your concern about justice ends at the borders of ethnicity or ideology. Whether one is Christian, Muslim or Beta Israel, all faiths have one supreme law that is commanded by our Father who is in heaven: love. If we let the darkness of anger subsume our hearts and subvert compassion into hate, we will only destroy ourselves and our nation in the process.
We have a choice before us; we can continue down the path of disintegration by looking out for only “our own” or we can restore enat Ethiopia by turning back to the unity that made us a nation among nations. We are a people who eat together, dance together, celebrate together and mourn together, do not let the virus of tribalism and the germ of indifference destroy the essence of Ethiopianism.If we won’t do it for ourselves, for the sake of our children and future generations, let us shed our ethnocentric blinders and remember that we are all interconnected. #Ethiopia #SundayReflection Click To Tweet
Someone once told me that Ethiopia is not just a country but a vision. In a world that is being decimated by political warfare and ethnic strife, we would do well to remember that the only way to heal is through kindness and togetherness. We can either keep Ethiopia or we can become the next Yugoslavia. I pray we choose the former because the latter will only end with more strife and a loss of a nation that has endured since biblical times.
Pay attention to this video, the music and the messages within it, for the only way to restoration is through love and by disavowing hatred and vengeance.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.