About a year ago, Gadaa.com unveiled the Ethiopian political spectrum (see the spectrum below). The political spectrum categorizes the political forces along two dimensions:
1) 1st Dimension (from Left to Right) – is based on whether the political force gives more weight to either ‘Group’ or ‘Individual’ rights. ‘Group’ here is defined as the classification as ‘nations, nationalities and peoples’; and ‘Individual’ is one devoid of such diversified linguistic, cultural and political traits, but having one state-sanctioned linguistic, cultural and political trait (in this case, Amhara-centric).
2) 2nd Dimension (from Top to Bottom) – is based on how the political force wishes to accomplish its political objectives (i.e. unconditionally, based on consensus or conditionally). An ‘Unconditional’ political settlement (i.e. re-organization) is defined as one achieved by the will and determination of the few (i.e. achieved and maintained by the use of lethal force). A ‘Consensus’ political settlement is one achieved by the negotiation and deliberation of elites from all dominant political forces. And, a ‘Conditional’ political settlement is one achieved by the will and self-determination of the respective nations, nationalities and peoples (i.e. achieved through referendums and maintained by constitutions).
Fayyis’ Ethiopian Political Spectrum
Ethno-nationalism plays a major role in molding the political views of many of the political forces (i.e. all of them are based on identity/linguistic politics) – from the ‘Left’ ethno-nationalist independentists, who seek unconditional independence for their oppressed/colonized nations, to the ‘Right’ unitarists, who are mostly Amhara ethno-nationlists projecting as ‘Ethiopian nationalists’ – all of them are based on ethno-nationalism (identity/linguistic politics). To clarify to those prescribing to Ethiopian nationalism: had the dominant expressions of Ethiopian nationalism come from Oromo ethno-nationalism, one would have gotten more Oromos as Ethiopian nationalists today; therefore, finding more Amhara ethno-nationalists embracing Ethiopian nationalism is just the result of historical events, which have made Ethiopian nationalism become Amhara-centric. Can this, therefore, be about time some stop calling the Left as ‘ethnic/zer politics’ while the Right is also guilty of it?
Since nationalism is based on exclusionary politics, i.e. Oromo politics is for Oromo nationalists, Amhara-centric Ethiopian politics is for Amhara-centric nationalists, etc., it is not easy to find a middle ground for a compromised solution between those in the Left and those in the Right. Because of the lack of such compromised political solution, two large political groups have fallen prey to the tyranny and domination of TPLF leaders (some have started calling this tiny TPLF group as gujile).
This is where the hegemonic TPLF gujile found a political sweet spot. Instead of calling for Tigray’s separation, which they had set out to accomplish as per TPLF’s political program, they switched themselves into Article-39ers (i.e. champions of oppressed nations, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia) in the late 1980’s by forming EPRDF from captured Derg soldiers. However, when the genuine political forces of oppressed nations and nationalities demanded for real political reforms, the hegemonic TPLF leaders quickly changed their rhetoric to become ardent Ethiopian nationalists (chauvinists) in the mid and late 1990’s. Through this political flip-flopping, they set out to maintain TPLF’s hegemony over the oppressed in Ethiopia.
Therefore, in the way Meles Zenawi governs his kingdom, he swings between the Ethiopia of ‘nations and nationalities’ (Article-39er) and the Ethiopia of ‘one language, one culture’ (chauvinist). If such an Ethiopia, which TPLF calls ‘an Ethiopia of Unity in Diversity,’ does not maintain their hegemonic power over the oppressed, they are willing to secede Tigray as per the original plan. Therefore, their Ethiopia is neither about ‘Unity’ as genuine Ethiopian nationalists would like to believe sometimes nor about ‘Diversity’ as Oromo, Ogaden or other ethno-nationalists would like to believe some other times. Zenawi’s Ethiopia is about maintaining the hegemony of TPLF unconditionally; in other words, they oppose an Ethiopia that’s ‘Unity in Diversity’ without TPLF’s hegemony.
It’s important, therefore, to track how Meles Zenawi swings from one part of the political spectrum to the other to unconditionally maintain TPLF’s hegemony (i.e. to understand the ‘divide and rule’ strategy of Meles Zenawi).
For example, in 2011 Meles Zenawi, who once desecrated the Ethiopian flag as a ‘piece of cloth,’ has become an Ethiopian ultra-nationalist (i.e. a chauvinist) by evoking such agendas as waging war against Eritrea with a likely grab of the Assab Port and the construction of the Abbay Dam – both of which are easy to sell to genuine Ethiopian nationalists. In 2011, while projecting his Ethiopian ultra-nationalism, he has set out to once again turn Oromia into his shooting field to subdue the rising Oromo nationalism. In 2011 Meles is very careful about not calling right-wing Ethiopian nationalists as ‘chauvinists’ since he has become one himself; however, it’s time for his rant against ethno-nationalists, whom he labels as ‘terrorists’ and ‘separatists.’ In 2011 any alliance between Ethiopian nationalists and ethno-nationalists is painted by Meles Zenawi as (for example): “G7 aligning with ‘separatist’ OLF and ONLF” (note that it’s not “OLF aligning with ‘chauvinist’ G7”). This is because Meles Zenawi is projecting himself as the Ethiopian ultra-nationalist (i.e. he’s singing Ethiopia ‘Hagere’ with melodies of Assab and Abbay); his objective now is to become more Ethiopian nationalist than the genuine ones.
In 2005 the reverse was true. To subdue Ethiopian nationalists, who managed to electorally defeat him in urban areas, Meles Zenawi waged his propaganda war against ‘chauvinists’ by making friends with Oromo ethno-nationalists, and he even publicly called for a negotiation with the OLF in 2005. OLF declined the false offer, and later on, OLF formed an alliance (AFD) with Kinijit. This alliance was particularly painted by Meles Zenawi as an alliance of OLF with ‘chauvinists’ since Meles Zenawi was projecting himself as the champion of nations and nationalists (i.e. an Article-39er) in 2005. In 2005 Meles Zenawi was projecting himself (through his stooges in OPDO) as one who’s more Oromo nationalist than the OLF itself.
This is the ‘divide and rule’ strategy of Meles Zenawi; one wonders if he has a 5-year political plan of where he’d like to govern for that period as he tries to make us believe about the existence of 5-year economic plans. For instance, at one of his most recent interviews, he was asked about a statue for the late King Haile Selassie. Knowing this could become a divisive issue that the Left and the Right might not agree on, was he planting the seed of division between the Left and the Right as his 5-year political plan? Time will tell.
Meles Zenawi – the TPLF separatist, the Article-39er and the chauvinist – will he succeed with his ‘divide and oppress’ strategy in 2011? Zenawi is a political con artist; the Left and the Right are genuine nationalists who are easily manipulated by the hegemonic TPLF; will the Left and the Right come to a consensus (i.e. agreement by elites of dominant political forces) to destroy the tyranny and domination of the TPLF gujile? Sure thing is that, unless the Left and the Right reach at a consensus, the hegemonic TPLF has vowed to ‘divide and oppress’ for the next 100 or so years.