Tear down Meles Zenawi's Fences for Justice to Reign from Corner to Corner in Ethiopia

April 29, 2012

Half a dozen years after Meles Zenawi subscribed to the Ethiopian Renaissance vision and told the Ethiopian people and international community about it, we are hearing social unrest in Ethiopia that is antithetical to his stated subscription to this vision.

Attacks on local Ethiopian Orthodox establishments in central, eastern, and northern parts of Ethiopia were widely reported a few weeks ago. These establishments may bear some of the best assets that can be carefully studied and used as the foundational elements and building blocks for Ethiopian Renaissance.

More recently, various media have reported that civilians, including pregnant women and elementary school children from the Amharic speaking community of Ethiopia were arbitrarily uprooted from southern Ethiopia in short order. Some of them were heard asking for help from the Ethiopian capital. One of them was an elementary school student who had to discontinue his education at this young age his, didn’t know where he would be able to continue his education, but hoped that he would be able to continue it.

If allowed to learn to their full potentials, young students like this boy may well contribute to the Ethiopian Renaissance vision that Meles Zenawi subscribed to suddenly about half a dozen years ago. It now seems to have slid away from his consciousness, making his borrowing of it for political expediency evident. In fact, the Ethiopian Renaissance vision is the brainchild of a once elementary school Ethiopian student just like our today’s young student; this vision is what Meles Zenawi found noble enough to borrow and pledge publicly to advance it.

His government has been discouraging the organization of Oromo faith tradition, which could likely be the most potent institution for studying, understanding, and building upon Ethiopia’s cultural foundation and make the Ethiopian Renaissance vision succeed.

The latest unrest comes from reports of assassinations of civilians in a Mosque in Assasa town in Arsi zone. This incident presumably comes from a discourse among Muslims regarding the influence in its leadership by el Habashi, which is believed by some to be a sect in Islamic teaching that has its roots in eastern Ethiopia. While the teaching of el Habashi and its connection with Ethiopia’s cultural foundation became evident in the research endeavor that culminated in charting the Ethiopian Renaissance vision, the loss of civilians yet again under the government of Meles Zenawi adds to the existing wounds in the fabric of the Ethiopian populace.

Many have argued that Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship has benefited from localized attacks on civilians at different times. There is probably no major group in Ethiopia that has escaped his government’s attacks on its civilians.

His attempt at walking a delicate line in the recognition of group identities, cultures, and languages and attacks on fundamental human rights has brought his government and supporters this far. The various groups of the Ethiopian populace have been voicing their concerns that his actions have been going too far. These concerns were generally heard in a piecemeal fashion from his fenced communities. Some of these communities felt more secure to be in these fences to develop their identities, cultures, and languages.

However, there comes a time when the confidence should overcome the insecurity for the cultures and languages to transcend the fences. At this juncture in Ethiopia’s history, people must have overcome the considerations of allowing the cleavage along these fences widen and become independent of one another instead of allowing the transcendence of our various languages across his fences.

Given the common cultural foundation that the various communities in Ethiopia share, the realistic choice is the transcendence of languages that tear down Meles Zenawi’s fences. This can be done in Ethiopian schools where each child is required and allowed to learn at least two languages. In addition to Afan Oromo, Oromo students have the choice to learn Amharic, Afar, Somali, and so on according to the communities that they border. In addition to Tigrigna, Tigre students may learn Amharic or Afar language depending on which communities they border and which languages they choose to learn. Amharic speakers can learn Tigrigna and Afan Oromo depending on which communities they border and which language they choose to learn.

This exercise may well take our society to a literate society to the diversity of its own linguistics, which could in turn lead to the vanishing of the very foundation that gave the Raison D’ętre for the existence of Meles Zenawi’s fences and pave the way for justice to reign from corner to corner in our society. This has positive implications for the development and use of Ethiopia's languages beyond the fenced communities. For example, Afan Oromo has the potential to be spoken and used all over Ethiopia and may be poised to show how much it has in common with various languages of Ethiopia, including Amharic, Tigrigna, and Somali, which can in turn set a trajectory for bringing together the various Ethiopian languages by strengethening their commonalities as the first effort of mapping Afan Oromo words to Amharic indicates.

Another pioneering step of transcending Meles Zenawi's fences was taken already by launching the Ethiopian Renaissance vision. After a lengthy toiling, the Oromo movement that saw the heroic sacrifices of Badho Dachasa and Nadhi Gammada, to mention two exemplars, unearthed the Oromo foundation of much of the Ethiopian society and cultures and gave birth to Ethiopian Renaissance.

This vision has now started to reverberate from corner to corner in Ethiopia after Meles Zenawi borrowed it quickly and his government started to propagate it, albeit expediently for domestic political consumption. From the movement’s toil in eastern Ethiopia, the hills of which Siye Abraha once visited and told the Ethiopian populace that his political grouping can not only fight a war but also create one before he fell out with his comrade-in-arm Meles Zenawi and saw his judicial right overseen by a heroine young Oromo judge, the Ethiopian Renaissance vision has seen praises from Tigray to landmarks in a remote corner in western Ethiopia. This probably makes it the first pan Ethiopian venture in recent times, specifically since Meles Zenawi and his group took power in Ethiopia. Tearing down Meles Zenawi’s fences will only build on this noble venture and bring about justice to every corner of Ethiopia.

This venture should not be the concern of only a section of the Ethiopian society but all of them in a holistic way. Those who were organized in a sectarian fashion to capitalize on the toil of Oromo movement have not succeeded and all indications are that they are yet to see the Ethiopian Renaissance vision as an integrating one and subscribe to it. As a matter of fact, some corners are showing a tendency of going in an opposite direction to the trajectory of the Ethiopian Renaissance vision. Organizing as the Amharic speaking society at this time in Ethiopia’s history is one such example. If Meles Zenawi’s fences remain in place, the impact of such an organization on the ground beyond their fenced communities may be bound to be meaningless and incapacitating. On the other hand, a systematic tearing down of it can start here in North America when the mosaic of Ethiopia’s languages becomes vibrant in the institutions founded by Ethiopia’s exiled communities. If the Voice of America can reflect this mosaic, ESAT’s failure to do likewise is meaningless and will have little effect in tearing down Meles Zenawi’s fences and the reign of justice from corner to corner in Ethiopia. Overcoming that failure instead of sectarian organizations in exile may bear a more meaningful fruit and serve as an example for tearing down Meles Zenawi's fences.

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