Addis Ababa’s status tears Ethiopia apart

The capital is located in Oromo-land but the majority of its inhabitants are Amharas.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Addis Ababa’s status tears Ethiopia apart

The capital, located in Oromo land but inhabited by a majority of Amharas, is coveted by both ethnic groups.

August 29, 2019 (Le Figaro Premium) – Only two points are not controversial about the Ethiopian capital. This city of more than 4 million inhabitants, located in the centre of the country, is an enclave inhabited mainly by Amharas, an ethnic group originating from the North, in the middle of the Oromos territory, and wealth and power are concentrated there.

When it was founded in 1886, Emperor Menelik II confiscated land from Oromo farmers to give to the army, the nobility and the Orthodox Church. The peasants became serfs, the Amharic language was imposed on them and the name of the city was changed. From Finfinnee, a “hot spring” in Afan Oromo, it became Addis Ababa, a “new flower” in Amharic. . Even today, the State, which owns the land, expropriates farmers on the outskirts of the city. Without land, they no longer have a means of subsistence and feel that they are not sufficiently compensated.

To put an end to this “injustice”, Oromo nationalists wish to administer the capital, currently under the authority of the federal government. According to Dawud Ibsa, president of the Oromo Liberation Front (FLO), a secessionist movement, this situation is “illegal”. Addis Ababa is not only the capital of the Federal State, but also that of the Oromia region. Since the government does not administer the other regional capitals, why theirs?

“The government is not managing the situation intelligently”

In 2015, the Oromos protested against an urbanization plan that aimed to multiply the size of Addis Ababa by 21. Their demands then broadened to include a better distribution of wealth, freedom of expression and democracy. The Amharas, their historical rivals, in turn protested against the government, then controlled by the dominant Tigrayan ethnic group in the north of the country, which however represents only 6% of the population.

At least 669 people were killed in the crackdown with live ammunition. Forced to resign, the former Prime Minister was replaced by Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo: a first in the country’s history. The latter appointed a “deputy mayor” of the same ethnic group in Addis Ababa, Takele Uma. No mayor was appointed: according to the law, he should then have been chosen from among the members of the municipal council.

Eskinder Nega, a journalist accused of “terrorism” by the previous government, which he denounced including corruption, spent nearly seven years in prison. Free since February 2018, he denounces an “Oromization” of the capital on Twitter and in his weekly Ethiopis. House demolitions would only concern non-Oromos, and the renewal of senior administrative posts would have been to Oromos’ advantage.

To defend the achievements of the Amharas, particularly that Amharic remains the sole working language of the government, Eskinder created a municipal counter-council in March, the Baladera Council. The organization, which literally means the “delegated council”, is accused of throwing fuel on the fire. His press conferences are regularly prevented by the police, two members of the office are in prison, as well as one of Ethiopis’ journalists. Eskinder, on the other hand, is free: the authorities reportedly told him that they did not “want to make him a martyr”.

The 49-year-old journalist is uncompromising: “the displaced people have died. We defend the rights of the living; the Oromo nationalists defend the rights of the dead.” He refutes the idea that his parents, who had moved to Addis Ababa, were colonizers. “They were not imperialists, they came from the same country!” Faced with increasing invective, Dawud Ibsa believes: “The government is not managing the situation intelligently”. He poses as an observer, rather than making decisions. The only measure taken on 31 July was to postpone the municipal elections by one year, and to make them coincide with the national elections to be held next May.

For Eyob Mesafint, a member of Ezema’s national office, a coalition of various favourite opposition parties in the capital, this was not a bad decision, because “the stakes in Addis Ababa are very high and what happens there has repercussions in the rest of the country”. He is more concerned about the country’s ability to hold a free and fair election than about the timetable. “We have already held five elections. All of them were deceptions.” By 2015, the ruling party had won all parliamentary seats. According to Eyob, the question of the capital’s ownership will be resolved at the polls: “A city should not be claimed, but won by the ballot box and administered.”

By Christelle Gérand

Description of source: The Figaro Premium includes all the articles from Lefigaro <br> providing general, economic, political and exclusive time news, released at 10.00 pm the day before the publication of The Figaro print version. Country of origin: France
© Copyright 2019. The Figaro. All rights reserved.

Gathering of Oromos in September 2018 in Addis Ababa. YONAS TADESSE / AFP


The question of identity and ownership

October 27, 2018 (The Reporter, Ethiopia) – The question of identity and the question of ownership that are being raised boldly and repeatedly since the advent of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) got me wondering if this question should have been raised in the first place. I know I am an Ethiopian. That is my (only) identity. I was born, raised, and currently live in Addis Ababa. But never in my mind have I questioned the ownership of the city. The city is the capital city of Ethiopia. And therefore it belongs to Ethiopians. And whatever resources or income the city is generating does not belong (in my mind) to any specific ethnic group but rather should be shared equitably among the citizens of the country. All cities have historical backgrounds. At some point in history, a group of people (could be from one ethnicity) may have contributed to its flourishing and growth. But that does not mean that group of people should have any right to claim ownership of the city and its resources.

So why we are bickering about who the owner” of the city is?

Sometimes, I fear that the question of identity that is being repeatedly brought up risks of creating countries within a single country. Don’t you sometimes ask yourself ‘But aren’t we all Ethiopians?’, ‘Aren’t we from a single country?’. You hear on the news that people who share regional borders” are kicking out those people who they consider not be one of them”. To go to the basics, how does one define the ethnic group one belongs to? That is the question that I keep asking to myself when I see on TV people who get on and on about the issue of identity. Who am I aside being an Ethiopian? Am I an Oromo? How do I decide that? Ok, let’s say I am born in Addis and speak only Amharic. Let’s assume both my parents are born in the Oromia region. Only one of them speaks Oromigna. And to make matters more complicated, my parent who speaks Oromigna is born to a father who was born in Tigray and speaks both Tigrigna and Amharic and to a mother who was born in Oromia and speaks Amharic and Oromigna. The other one of my parents is born to a mother who was born in the Amhara region and speaks Amharic only and to a father who was born in Oromia region but only speaks Amharic. So now, what would be the exact formula to determine my ethnic group? I bet a complicated mathematical model is needed to answer this question!

For me, the question of (ethnic) identity is one that is very difficult to answer and one that definitely does not deserve the loss of a human life! The fighting over cities in regional borders to the extent of destroying people’s lives is a matter I fail to understand. In a time of reconciliation with neighboring countries like Eritrea, I do not see any rational justification behind the fights between brothers sharing a regional border” within the same country.

As much as our cultural and language differences reflect our beauty as a country, it is also risking of becoming a curse to our nation if we keep on building on those differences. The world knows us as a poor country. And this perception does not distinguish between regions. As an Ethiopian, the shame of a poor Ethiopia and the crave for a better Ethiopia should be shared by each of us regardless of where we come from within the country!

Contributed by Tsion Taye

Description of source: National daily newspaper covering general news and current affairs including business, politics, economics, society, sports and culture. Country of origin: Ethiopia
© Copyright 2018 Ethiopian Reporter. All rights reserved

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