By Baran Bahan*
Ethiopia, now a name of a country in East Africa, is a Greek word which means ‘burnt face.’ The word originally referred to all black or dark-colored people who lived south of the Sahara. A close look, however, indicates that the word is charged with negative connotations. One, for instance, might ask a question, “why the Greek chose ‘burnt face’ to refer to people with black or dark-color although, for sure, they had a more neutral and even a better word that can describe the people who lived south of the Sahara?” The funny thing is that, except the Habeshas, no people or country in the region used the word or made it part of their lexicon. For Habeshas, however, ‘burnt face’ is not only the name of their country, but also their religion and identity.
Not only Habeshas adopted this taboo word happily and unconditionally, they also boast for being ‘burnt face.’ They believed in it as a religion although this ‘religion’ does not have followers among other nations. Unlike other world main religions, this ‘burnt face’ religion does not have a dogma, or any common sense that can guide the ‘believers.’ The fanatic and core believers of this ‘religion’ have tried to impose it on other peoples, such as Oromos, Somalis, Sidamas, Afar, etc. They tried hard to baptize them in schools, churches and other institutions although they did not manage to get many converts despite their century-long attempts. Who on earth can join a ‘religion’ without any dogma or common sense, and which was named after a Greek derogatory word?
I have no any objection – if anyone can take up anything and make it the name of their religion, country, or identity and so, I do respect Habeshas right to pick ‘burnt face’ to tattoo it all over their bodies, if they want. I also understand the arbitrariness of languages. What I can not comprehend, however, is why they keep trying to impose it on others while they know very well that people of other nations resisted and have continued to resist it. Why do they make a bray noise when people of other nations rightly tell what their identities are. We all know the rising dust among the Habesha crowds following the recent statement by Jawar Mohammed on Al-Jazeera in which he said, “I am Oromo first” and eloquently explained why he and Oromos identify themselves as such. They are working hard on different websites and social media to create the impression that Jawar has a ‘hidden OLF agenda of disintegrating Ethiopian unity.’ Which unity? What else they think Jawar should have said? ‘Ethiopian’ — the burnt face? Really! That is a dead hat.
It sometimes makes me think that these people (habeshas) must live in a different planet. They apparently do not know that what Jawar said was not new, but just what all Oromos are saying. What makes Jawar different is that he exposed the truth on international media. Otherwise, people like Ali Birra, Kemer Yesouf and many others reached millions through their well resonated songs. Our elders advised; teachers taught; religious people preached; and scholars wrote about it over and over and over again. So, it is no wonder, today, that even Oromo kids in elementary school proudly tell that they are Oromo first, and Ethiopia is imposed on them.
Rejection of Ethiopia as identity, of course, also holds true for other nations , uch as Somali, Afar, Sidama, etc. Obviously, this puts the Habeshas in the minority camp. The question many people ask, however, is this: Can different nation-states come together and build a common country? I think it can be still tried through give-and-take, or win-win situations. My suggestion is that let every nation-state keep its own identity and Ethiopia be the identity of those who want to keep it, Amhara ‘Killil,’ for instance. Hence, Oromia, Ogadenia, Afar, Ethiopia, Tigray, Sidama, etc. can negotiate on how to build a country of federation of nation-states. Of course, the success of this depends on the agreement between these nation-states. If this does not work, of course, the only option will be: Ethiopia go your way, and we will go our way to hoist our flags at the AU and the Hague.
* Baran Bahan: email@example.com