For most “Ethiopian nationalists”, any analysis that doesn’t affirm, promote, or endorse their supremacist and reactionary imperial ambition is no analysis.
Anyone who opposed the war against Tigray must be a TPLF agent and an enemy of Ethiopia. Anyone who called out the excesses of the government and its breach of the fundamental duty of care towards civilians is a traitor. Any sympathy for Tigrayan civilians caught in the crossfire is ‘dishonest propaganda’ churning out deep-rooted hostility to the motherland – Enat Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is an Amhara cultural construct. As Clapham writes, “Being Amhara is much more a matter of how one behaves than of who one’s parents were”. What presents as Ethiopian nationalism today is basically Amhara nationalism, with very few exceptions. That is why, for these groups of people, the only lives that are grievable and deserve our empathy and solidarity are Amhara lives.
For them, the only victims facing a real risk of ethnic cleansing are Amharas, where in reality violence has been a permanent feature of Ethiopian politics for years. That is why anyone who offers a critique of their ethnically & religiously fuelled nationalism and idea of Ethiopia is seen as ‘the enemy’. If you state the empirical fact that Ethiopia is constructed around an Amhara culture, you are calling for ‘ethnic cleansing’. Any attempt to describe and explain phenomena, whether violence or something else, is tantamount to the justification of the phenomena described.
These aggressive attempts to silence critique, from within and outside, are driven by a clear political agenda: an imperial ambition to restructure Ethiopia in a manner that serves the interests of this hegemonic group. Sometimes explicit but often tacit, these are the political aspirations that drive these debates. It is not clear how this could be achieved institutionally but this group is keen to have a redoing of the federal structure into what they called ‘genuine federalism’. Genuine here simply means that which enables us to perpetuate our privilege.
Ethiopia needs a robust debate about its future, and it needs to overcome these sorts of historical amnesia and nationalist myopia. Any analysis or debate about Ethiopia’s future, which doesn’t take Ethiopia’s imperial foundation and its continued effects seriously, cannot hope to address the deep structural challenges facing this country
By Dr. Awol Kassim Allo.