Written by Seble Worku
Upon recent discussions about the usual Ethiopian politics, a friend’s comment hit a nerve. Before we get to that let us read from Genesis 11:1-2. Commonness of mankind: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found in shiner and settled there”.
Plan to build a city:” They said to each other: come let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. Then they said come let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth”.
Attitude displeased God: “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said: if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other”.
You can continue reading the earliest account of geographical divisions of humankind as partly recorded in the Genesis although most of the focus is in the Hebrew family. This bible story illustrates how mankind was divided into different nations, races, ethnic groups and clans. Thus despite external differences there are common background to all of us that must force us to think of each other as equal regardless of race, nationality or ethnicity.
Coming back to the friend’s comment, he said: “For every country to develop, there need to be a strong nationalist feeling among the citizens”. He argued that it was the case with Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and China. I actually gave a thought to the matter and arrived to a similar conclusion. I do believe that cultures and languages are important, but this does not put the bread on the table especially for poor countries like Ethiopia. The task at hand is to recreate the Tower of Babel as we need to build common goals for which we need common understandings. Many of our relatives have emigrated to close and afar to seek their fortune or make a living. All had to learn a language that is foreign. Some of the children are even deaf to the language of their parents. If that is acceptable what is so wrong about adopting one language that must be common to all of us. What is wrong with setting aside our differences and adopting Amharic as the lingo Franca for the nation?
Ethnicity and ethnic politics has divided the country and created a culture of mistrust and hatred. It is currently used in Ethiopia as a controlling instrument, as means to humiliate and oppress the larger group and to affirm and develop the minority group in power. In the current regime arrangement, people of non-Tigrean heritage are not destined to occupy positions of power and responsibilities. But I suggest that we must all rise above that and our position must be radical.
We must first fight the notion of Ethnic superiority. What makes one ethnic group superior to others? The myth of ethnic superiority and hatred to certain ethnic groups has and is still being preached by power mongers who strive to divide and rule. They would want to appear as the rescuers of the country. Ethiopia can only be rescued when its leaders break away from their ethnic myopia and its citizens accept the fact that we are after all the same people. History has it that the greatest of Ethiopia’s wealth is all about its being a nation of diverse ethnicities which creates its wealth of culture. For a long time, racial supremacists have been propagating that one racial or cultural heritage determines one’s ability, intelligence and future achievement. The Apartheid regime in South Africa had even dedicated a substantial research fund to the topic. But we all know it is not true, because God has blessed us all with His Grace to conquer, achieve and excel.
The second step in the process is to build pride and confidence in oneself, as South Africans call themselves being “Proudly South African”, in being “Proudly Ethiopian” first and “Proudly Oromo, Amhara, BenShanguli etc”, second.