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Ethiopia: An Oromo “Obama” After Decolonization – Response to AN’s Blogger

By Tesfaye Kebede*

Blogger Derese Getachew wrote an article titled “An Oromo Obama: The Audacity to Reinvent Ethiopia,” on the newly opened website, Addis Neger Online. In this article, the writer claims that the Oromo Nationalist camp’s decolonization project in Ethiopia is “self-defeating,” thus this camp should instead work to democratize Ethiopia. It is very encouraging that the writer dared to discuss one of the most contentious issues gripping the Ethiopian empire since the reconfiguration of Ethiopia some seven scores of years ago. More discussions on the topic of “decolonization” and “democratization” will be given below and, at the same time, efforts will be made to point out where Mr. Getachew’s train of thought may have derailed in the above article.

“Decolonization Vs. Democratization”, OR “Decolonization and Democratization”
While discussing decolonization, and even liberation, as a process, the writer seems to suggest that decolonization is equivalent to disintegration. Therefore, the writer says, the Oromo nation, as the largest nation in Ethiopia, should not advocate for the decolonization (i.e. disintegration) of Ethiopia, but for the democratization of Ethiopia.

Decolonization is the process of getting rid of a system of domination in order to effect the right to self-determination of a people; in most cases, but not all, such a process results in a sovereign state. Other possibilities include federal and confederal arrangements, which ensure self-rule in conflicted territories. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the process of “decolonization” from one of the possible end results of decolonization, namely becoming a sovereign state.

Furthermore, in Mr. Getachew’s article “decolonization” and “democratization” are presented as two competing forces such that one of them has to disappear into oblivion in order for the other to be realized in Ethiopia. For instance, the writer says:

In spite of [emphasis added] taking up this leading role to the democratization of greater Ethiopia, however, much of the discourse within Oromo nationalism is framed on the project of ‘decolonization’.”

However, the notion that “decolonization” and “democratization” are two opposing forces is wrong. “Decolonization” and “democratization” come one after the other, in that distinct order. Actually, what the writer is advocating – i.e. democratizing the greater Ethiopia – will not be fully realized before the decolonization process takes place in the greater Ethiopia, including Oromia. Failure to do so leads to the disintegration of Ethiopia.

To elaborate the above point, let’s take the writer’s own examples: Blacks in U.S.A. and South Africa. Mr. Getachew states:

“Imagine being in the position of leaders like Nelson Mandela, having the support of the black majority, but advancing a cause of liberation from South Africa. Wouldn’t that sound bizarre and, honestly, self defeating?”

It is not clear which Nelson Mandela and which South Africa are being discussed by Mr. Getachew. He conveniently dropped the liberation struggle of Mr. Mandela’s ANC against Apartheid. Did Mr. Mandela advocate for the democratization of South Africa while keeping the Apartheid repressive system? South Africa went through a decolonization process in which the Apartheid system was dismantled by the cooperation of both non-Whites and Whites alike. Mr. Getachew, the dismantling of the Apartheid system in South Africa was a must for the birth of a democratic South Africa. The dismantling of the Apartheid system was decolonization. Forging a strong future for South Africa was also accomplished through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where injustices of the past came out into the open and were resolved accordingly.

Mr. Getachew, what you are actually asking is that Mr. Mandela should have become a president of an Apartheid South Africa (as opposed to a democratic South Africa), if you continue to advocate for the democratization of the Ethiopian empire before its decolonization.

Let’s come to the example about Blacks in U.S.A. Again, Mr. Getachew overlooks one historical event in the struggle of Black America for dignity and equal rights – the emancipation of Blacks from slavery in 1863 through the Emancipation Proclamation, which are two executive orders by President Abraham Lincoln. Slavery’s demise was a must for the Civil Rights Movement to even exist and become successful. In Mr. Obama’s own words, “As an African American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country.” That steady pursuit for a more perfect union includes the emancipation and civil rights projects in America.

It would have been “bizarre” (to use your own word) if Mr. Mandela had become a president of an Apartheid South Africa; similarly, it would have been “bizarre” if an “unemancipated” Mr. Obama had become a president of U.S.A.

Therefore, the system of domination that has been instituted in Ethiopia since the late 19th century must be removed (i.e. decolonization must take place; emancipation must take place) to make Ethiopia an acceptable union – in order for an Oromo “Obama” to reinvent Ethiopia. The question should be are you ready to decolonize Ethiopia in order to democratize it?

To restate your quote from MLK as a conclusion: “the cause for liberty and equality should redeem the oppressor as much as it emancipates the oppressed!”

* Tesfaye Kebede can be reached at TesfayeKebedeLives@gmail.com


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14 Comments

  1. Bultum Waquma:

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    Unless we do our best to criticize and put things in black and white- like this- this people would eliminate us!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks to Gadaa.com!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Ogina:

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

    Who is the author of this response? It is a very nice take against AddisNeger blogger’s mistake! Galatoomi.

  3. Buta Andu:

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

    The worst issue the writer forgets is the difference between sovereign nation like USA and empire state like that of Ethiopia. Only free people unite to form democratic Federal or Confederal state. In a situation where the relation is that of slave and master no unity is possible. First decolonize, then, democratize and finaliy form a unity government if it a wish of the people. Please Mr. Writer, educate yourself and undergo a brain surgery to eliminate your bias. Thanks,

  4. Just to Comment:

    May 14, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    nice discourse,
    but i don’t understand why u use d word colonization/decolonization, even if I agree what you meant by domination. since iI am also against domination. but u should revise your opinion about colonization. domination could be part of colonization but the situation in ethiopia doesn’t represent colonization in its all form and meaning.
    thanx

  5. Truth shall prevail:

    May 14, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

    First and foremost, I would like to appreciate the Oromian who responded to this article, for being so timely, in responding. This made me to be proud of you so much, because, I found you to be one of the brilliant Oromians who follow up what cooks up in our enemies’ kitchens to keep the barbaric Abyssinian system – which bears nothing, but ignorance and poverty.

    Secondly, let Mr. Getachew learn that, where ever a colonial system prevails, there is no democracy. Hence, decolonization is a precondition for democratization. You can not talk of any democratization by dreaming to keep an empire intact. Democratization is a direct opposite to the consolidation / building of an empire. So, if an Abyssinian is for democracy, first and foremost, she/he must give up dreaming about consolidating an empire, which is sucking the blood vessels of all the Cushitic populations, for more than a century. All along, human history bears witness, that, no oppressor can hinder the ultimate victory of the oppressed. That is the main important reason, why all the past empires perished. Sooner or latter, the same truth holds for the dependent colonial empire state of Abyssinia.

  6. Agerie Nafeqegn:

    May 14, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    good argument please try to send it to the addisnegeronline.com too. this should give a new momentum for the discussion already initiated by Ato Deresse. please let us discuss on all our issues in a civil way.

  7. Abbaa Gadaa:

    May 14, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    Thanks Gadaa, you responded correctly. By dedicating one self to continue the life of an empire, no democracy can flourish.

  8. gadissa Guta:

    May 15, 2010 @ 6:33 am

    Be not Emotional and divert to negative any openions. Hit a head like Tesfaye K. with superirty of Logical ideas.

  9. A comment:

    May 15, 2010 @ 2:59 am

    Apartheid was not colonialism. It was a result of colonialism, but it was not colonialism by itself. Apartheid was a discriminatory segregation and that is why Mandela did not have to settle the colonial asset or repatriate settlers as such. In a colonial analysis there are two national identities reflecting dual sovereign nations, for example British and Buganda, or Italians and Oromo. In Apartheid a group – a minorty group– dominates and discriminates against the rest. I agree that the line is grey given the historical state formation of Ethiopia. But if we follow this strict understanding of colonialism, every African state is a colonial state including any major ethnic groups that coercively engulfed minorities ethnic groups.

  10. BOOREESSAA XALIILCHA:

    May 15, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Thanks Tesfaye. It is well-said. I didn’t get about Habeshas’ Political thinkers, why it is always the same the way they think when it comes to Oromos’ politics. Democray can’t be imposed on the nation, It should come out from the people. They want democratic Ethiopia that fit their interesets and desire. Democracy is not a new for Oromo people, it is idigenous political system for Oromo.

  11. Lammii:

    May 15, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

    Mr writer wrote
    “Imagine being in the position of leaders like Nelson Mandela, having the support of the black majority, but advancing a cause of liberation from South Africa. Wouldn’t that sound bizarre and, honestly, self defeating?”

    I don’t think this analogy is proper as far as the Oromo are concerned. The name Ethiopia itself is alien to the Oromo people and, of course, it is the result of colonization (deoromization), and therefore colonization should be disrupted, dismantled once and for all before democratization commences. That analogy would have been proper had the Oromo taken arms for disintegrating Oromia – as South Africans did not disintegrate South Africa (their fatherland). However, it is also not right to assume that decolonization surely leads to disintegration, as, here, different factors play the leading role to decide the ultimate fate of Ethiopia, after decolonization. And it is also being wise to foretell decolonization would result in self-determination, and not necessarily disintegration. But all scars of colonization must be treated properly.

  12. Waralata:

    May 15, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

    I can undrestand what the reondant is trying to arsset but the preblem is the examples given to justify the means is not maching the issue .The case of South Africas and USA looks to me like mocary .The reason being one is fully democrayic and the other i implies the steps should be taken to solve the problem at hand according to the objective reality of the setuation.

  13. Hassan Somali:

    May 18, 2010 @ 4:53 am

    No two empires or nations on earth have exactly the same political history. The closest analogy I can make to the Empire state known as Ethiopia is the Soviet Empire. Oromia is no more related to Abyssinia than Ukraine or Belarus were to Russia. Somali-Galbeed(Ogaden) is no more related to Abyssinia than Azarbajan or any other Moslem Soviet Republic was to Russia. If Soviet Republics who were part of a Super Power chose independence instead of sticking with “unity for the sake of unity” why the nations and nationalities under backward and brutal Ethiopian colonial empire state shouldn’t aspire for theirs? The nations and nationalities under the Ethiopian empire are not struggling to impress anyone but it is a century old resistance to overcome colonialism. And, it is only a matter of time that they achieve their inalienable right to self determination.

  14. Commentator:

    May 22, 2010 @ 10:01 am

    It is hardly possiblet o find any nation in the world that has undergone through historic nation formation without involving force, tools of opperression, coercion, etc. Nor was the issue of self determination known anywhere in the world as a right until the 2nd quarter of the 20th century. What makes the issue of Ethiopia differenent and colonization?