2008 Irreecha Celebration Marks another Milestone on Haaromsa/Hiddasie/Renaissance in Ethiopia

November 15, 2008

On October 4, 2008, millions of people celebrated Irreecha at Bushoftu (Debre Zeit). Irreecha was also celebrated in Bergen and Oslo, Norway, Dresden, Germany, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, USA, and Toronto, Canada. In just about two years, the number of people going to Irreecha celebration at Bushoftu and the number of places it is celebrated outside Ethiopia has increased significantly.

Even though Irreecha celebration has never been abandoned among its adherents, its celebration by the millions and in so many places outside Ethiopia is a historical phenomenon. The momentum of this phenomenon resonates with the current Haaromsa (in Afan Oromo) or Hiddasie (in Amharic and Tigrigna) fervor in Ethiopia. Those who have come to subscribe to this fervor include Ethiopia's current Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and his ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), as well as a few Ethiopian social scientists.

In his speech on the occasion of the beginning of the third "Ethiopian Millennium" that started on September 11, 2007, Meles recounted Ethiopia's past achievements by citing the historical relics, the uniquely African script, the African calendar the people developed, as well as their fierce fights throughout known history to remain independent. He went on to add how we "feel deeply insulted that at the dawn of a new millennium ours is one of the poorest countries in the world."

In what appears to be his central message of the speech, Meles stated: "A thousand years from now, when Ethiopians gather to welcome the fourth millennium, they shall say that the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of the end of dark ages in Ethiopia. They shall say that the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of Ethiopian renaissance."

Meles made this face-saving speech after spending seventeen years of his adult life fighting in and leading the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which was set to fight for the independence of Tigray region of Ethiopia from Ethiopia, and after leading Ethiopia for nearly another seventeen years under a constitution that gives Ethiopian states the right to self-determination up to and including secession.

Nearly a year after Meles' speech, the EPRDF that he has been leading for nearly twenty years, which has been in power in Ethiopa for as many years, joined in the fervor of Ethiopian Renaissance by taking an official position on it on the occasion of its seventh congress. It officially stated: "By expanding our fruitful efforts, we will build Ethiopia's Renaissance on a firm foundation." The Ethiopian government even went to name a new bridge over the Mormor or Abbay River, which was built by a Japanese construction company, the Renaissance Bridge.

A recently published book, authored by Professor Messay Kebede, is titled "Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 1960-1974." An online Editorial Review of the book notes that Professor Messay Kebede "boldly argues that Ethiopian intellectuals failed disastrously in their revolutionary métier for lack of originality, creativity, and authenticity." It is also evident in the choice of the term "cultural dislocation" and the author's previous short writings that he has started to discover the values of our age old wisdom traditions.

The understanding of the disconnection from one's society's values by the various groups of our society all point in one direction. This direction is rediscovering and understanding those values that these groups have been disconnected from in one way or another. By its very definition, renaissance means rebirth, and is known to be a cultural movement in Europe that roughly spanned from the 14th century to the 17th century.

If the "cultural dislocation" is to be relocated, our society is the place to look for it. A deeper understanding of the values imbedded in our society's wisdom traditions may have yet to reveal to many their meaningful values that have been built over the ages. Our Abba Gadas, Kne-leiqs, Gnostics, and so on may well be the bearers of these values that many more people may have yet to discover. That knowledge is what will help empower us, and perhaps, surprise us in the likely event that even the term Kne-leiq is the root of the word knowledge. According to the dictionary, the root of the word knowledge, dating back to the 13th century, is "knouleche."

While we enliven those who have joined and are joining our society's renaissance that has been set in motion by a historical phenomenon, we are reminded about the immense sacrifices our society has paid and continues to pay as we speak to carry on this visionary undertaking of our time. The celebration of Irreecha by millions, at least in its symbolic values, stands as the forerunner of this visionary undertaking of the Ethiopian society's renaissance. The harmony it bestows upon our society can only be gained through the knowledge, understanding, and sharing of its messages. It has already set a stage for a cultural revival that, once understood, can be cultivated, developed, and enhanced. This stage is a test of the commitment of the proponents of the Ethiopian Renaissance in its meaningful sense.