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Ethnocentrism, Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Experience

By Tesfaye Demmellash

Part One – Reckoning with Ethnocentrism

One may say that the disaster Ethiopia is in in the present day has to do with ethnicity in the raw, tribal consciousness pure and easy. But from a broader, traditionally informed and important perspective, the crisis considerations not a lot ethnicity simply as the politics of ethnic recognition or id, notably the obsessive types through which it’s practiced by the TPLF and the OLF. It has to do with the inertia of residual “revolutionary” ethnonationalism, particularly of the Stalinist variety.

We as a nation at present discover ourselves in a political twilight zone between, on the one hand, the decline (and fall?) of the TPLF iteration of “leftist” id politics and, on the other, the apparent rise to power of a coarser, much less disciplined and directed, but equally hyper-political and damaging OLF/ODP model. Basically at problem, nevertheless, is an underlying mannequin or paradigm of “progressive” dogma, discourse and apply that has underlain and legitimized each of those (and different) manufacturers of political tribalism in Ethiopia for over half a century.

Since the revolutionary period, going again to the seminal Scholar Motion, political life in Ethiopia has ever been dominated by the mannequin in one flawed type or another. Primarily an extension of TPLF ethnocentrism, the OLF-ODP brand presently ascending to power is the final link in a sequence of “radical” political tasks that have for a number of many years turned Ethiopia right into a testing-ground for a succession of ill-conceived sectarian ideological experiments.

So these are occasions that call for systematic evaluation and critique of the political language, ideology and apply of our “progressive” inheritance. That legacy has helped shape the separatist OLF-ODP number of overly partisan hyper-ethnicity as well as the TPLF model of nationally corrosive id politics, not to mention the Shabiya type of mainly Tigrean ethnonationalism in Eritrea.

The occasions also demand that a strong, unequivocal stand be taken by all patriotic and pro-unity Ethiopian forces towards these and different iterations of divisive, ethnocentric political nationalism. For, at stake is nothing lower than our survival, continuity and wellbeing as a rustic, as a trans-ethnic, multicultural nation-state.

In meeting this demand, we as a nation have to transcend appeasing political ethnicism or looking for “reconciliation” with it. Nor should we restrict ourselves to simply condemning and rejecting it, countering ethnophilia with ethnophobia. As an alternative, patriotic and pro-democracy Ethiopian forces have to develop an excellent conceptual and strategic understanding of political ethnicity/ethnicism as a situation of mounting an efficient trans-ethnic national resistance towards it in thought and apply.

Uncooked and Politically Overcooked Ethnicity

Ethnic id includes two distinct moments: it’s historically given as an object (it is partially objective), and it additionally makes itself felt phenomenologically, as it have been, i.e., it is comparatively open to varying types of subjective expertise, notion and re-fabrication by way of claims of political narrative and illustration and forms of social gathering/state group. TPLF and OLF/ODP assertions of “national” id thus have a double foundation in each traditionally existent, relatively spontaneousethnicity and deliberately formulated, contestable, primarily Stalinist, political ideology and apply.

In relation to the first foundation, individual and collective id or self is seen to be inscribed with such usually involuntary identifiers as native language, customized, history, region, religion, pores and skin shade, and so on. Id here tends to be conceived in absolute terms as a direct datum, a self-enclosed monad, a disparate entity, adequate unto itself in its immediacy and particularity. In this strategy, we see an escalation of distinct yet overlapping Ethiopian socio-cultural communities into separate, island-like, insular identities, hyperreal social referents.

From this naively “realist” perspective, social and nationwide self is sought or approached solely or primarily when it comes to naked ethnicity. Never thoughts that the identities of distinct native and cultural Ethiopian communities have truly been shaped not just by talking a specific language, dwelling in a specific place, or working towards a given custom or religion. The historic reality that they’ve additionally been formed by trans-regional actions, expansions, contacts and socio-economic interactions is suppressed or ignored in order to maximise id/difference out of all historical context and proportion and out of drugs with modern developmental purpose.

The second basis of TPLF and OLF/ODP partisan ethnicism is marked by the opposite extreme, specifically, the wholesale politicization of ethnicity. TPLF and OLF partisans found their tribal identities to be out there to themselves as political prospects, as “raw materials” for the fabrication of ethnonationalism. Of their Stalinist encounter with their ethnicity, they turned acutely aware of the incontrovertible fact that fast tribal self, existent naturally or historically, is politically surpassable and extendable; it can be inflated into an exclusive “national” id. “Oromiya” is such a up to date construct, largely the self-serving handiwork of the TPLF, as are all the other tribal fragments or kilils to whose mere dimir or additive sum Ethiopia is lowered immediately.

As practitioners of “progressivism,” ethnic entrepreneurs in Ethiopia discovered that tribal self may be built up (certainly, overbuilt) into an exclusive bearer of all method of social grievances, recurrent narratives of victimization, constructs of rights of national self-determination, and ideological aspirations to statehood. It may be, and has been, weaponized for partisan fight and id wars via international “revolutionary” ideology as well as by way of narrowly localized ethnocentric motivations, rhetoric and propaganda.

By means of this convergence of extremes, the Woyanes have been capable of divide-and-dominate Ethiopia, turning it right into a tribal imperium of insular kilils which the Abiy regime presides over in the present day. In the first excessive, a cultural or area people in its spontaneous id is usually raised to an absolute “being,” singularly and nakedly existent in and of itself. But, in the second, id as particularity, locality, and autonomy appears to dissolve in an inflated foreign money of worldwide Stalinist phrases and categories, thereby assuming generic, hyper-politicized content.

Every extreme causes loss of integrity, authenticity, and historical-cultural floor in the self-identification of truly present, distinct Ethiopian regional and local communities. For all the official or rhetorical promotion of the worth of “diversity,” formulaic, authoritarian state ethnicism of the TPLF variety truly homogenizes cultural distinction and distinction. Stalinist get together hierarchy and state paperwork stereotype ethnic and cultural communities as if they have been all alike, decreasing them to focal points and extensions of impersonal power, subjecting all of them to direct manipulation and management.

It is thus a paradoxical perversity of leftist ethnocentrism, kind of practiced at the moment by the TPLF and the OLF/ODP particularly, that notions and classes of autonomy, democracy and self-determination utilized by progressivist “theory” to numerous Ethiopian native and cultural communities have been obstacles to conceptual and principled thought when it comes to such classes. On the one hand, in its officially pre-cooked varieties in addition to raw, hyperreal manifestations, ethnicity is elevated to an absolute id, dominating all different forms of particular person and collective selfhood and usually untouched by important evaluation, if not by easy, typically ethnophobic, condemnation and rejection.

On the different hand, since the revolutionary era in Ethiopia, Stalinist political ideology (marked by an expanded circulation of formulaic, narrowly partisan references to “nations, nationalities, and peoples”) re-invented ethnicity largely as a mere object and software of itself. In so doing, professed “democratic” politics in the nation has ever reversed itself in an Orwellian style into dictatorship. The reversal has been notably attribute of the Derg and Woyane regimes and of their ardent mental backers.

So our “progressivist” custom has had little or no resonance with the distinct and shared values, lived experiences, and autonomous agency of numerous Ethiopian cultural and native communities. Worse, its rhetoric notwithstanding, the tradition has usually militated towards the meaningful local autonomy and self-government of such communities as well as towards their national-democratic solidarity. However you wouldn’t know this from the modern and past writings of some of the nation’s very capable intellectuals, notably unreconstructed progressives like Andreas Eshete and Samuel Assefa.

Are we getting into a “post-left era”?

In a current writing entitled “Reflections on Expanding Ethiopia’s Democratic Space” (Borkena.com, February 5, 2019), Andreas Eshete and Samuel Assefa declare that the present EPRDF leadership has made a “sharp” flip away “from Ethiopia’s recent past such that it might be regarded as ushering a post-left era.”

They attribute the acute political “departure” they see, and lament, to “the new leadership’s ambivalent stance towards development,” or, extra particularly, in the direction of the “developmental state” as promoted by the late Woyane tyrant, Meles Zenawi, whose boastful, dictatorial rule Andreas and Samuel supported and dutifully served.

There’s a lot to quarrel about the notion of the developmental state as it has been articulated and enacted in ethnocentric type in the Ethiopian setting, however, leaving this matter aside, I would like as an alternative to boost right here a more primary question. Specifically, what has been the standing and perform of leftist politics in the Ethiopian context, notably beneath TPLF-EPRDF dictatorship? Or, extra pointedly, how has the EPRDF helped foist on Ethiopia a nationally debilitating sprawl of divisive id politics in the identify of progressivism?

The query is evidently not merely of historical curiosity. Raising it’s of essential importance in recognizing the pattern of nationally disabling ethnocentric domination the Ethiopian individuals have confronted in the past few many years in the identify of “revolutionary democracy” or leftist politics. The question also has significance for enterprise at the moment a national motion for systemic political change.

What is of concern here is just not a lot raw, uninstructed tribalism however, as I have prompt, a discovered politics of ethnicism related to a residual Stalinist brand or mannequin of “leftist” thought, discourse and follow that works in and on ethnicity, itself seen to be given either naturally or traditionally. We as a nation face right now the problem of deconstructing the model as such and its ethnic iterations or collection, whilst we worth cultural-local autonomy and variety.

In a position mihuran both, Andreas Eshete and Samuel Assefa have, nevertheless, been not often able to take up the elementary concern I increase here. Nor can it even be stated with any certainty that they have had curiosity in the challenge. This is so primarily as a result of they have been high degree advisors and functionaries of the TPLF-EPRDF state, going back to the early days of the Meles regime.

Consequently, they have labored intellectually inside a political framework that regards the satisfaction of the partisan-authoritarian wishes, ideological proclivities, and policy decisions of the EPRDF, particularly of the TPLF. To this present day, the EPRDF’s continuity in power and its ethnonationalist political venture have remained the central points of reference for his or her “progressive” mental engagement, reminiscent of it is.

This is evidenced even in petty descriptive annoyances of their “Reflections on Expanding Ethiopia’s Democratic Space,” whereby the extensively recognized and readily demonstrable reality of TPLF domination within and by way of the EPRDF earlier than the current modifications befell is portrayed merely as characterization by opposition groups, as merely “perceived TPLF hegemony” (emphasis added). The suggestion right here is that, essentially, the TPLF has been a progressive, democratic ruling celebration all alongside.

In one other paper entitled “Federalism, Conflict and Peace Building” that he wrote over a decade and a half ego at the peak of Meles Zenawi’s infamous reign, Andreas had already informed us how “a transition to democracy” was made potential in Ethiopia by means of “the achievement of peace,” noting additionally that “Ethiopia’s federalism…removed ethnic contests from the national political agenda.”

Unelected TPLF/EPRDF one-party rule remained very much in place when Andreas made these palpably inaccurate claims. As is extensively recognized, subsequent years and events earlier than and after the demise of Meles Zenawi have made the arguments all the more demonstrably false. The claims are much more evidently given the misinform by the present state of the Ethiopian nation, which is marked by worsening, more and more brutal, “ethnic contests,” recurrent social dislocation, and large human distress.

So, a question that means itself right here, one which I am solely going to pose in passing, is that this: when Andreas made the arguments he made about Ethiopia’s achievement of “transition to democracy” during the tyrannical reign of Meles Zenawi, did he achieve this in good faith? Or did he have other, extraneous motivations for arguing as he did (perhaps, interest in serving power quite than talking fact to it)? Certainly, Andreas has to have recognized better than his unimaginable claims indicated, claims which struck me as either disingenuous or naïve.

None of that is to contend, in fact, that Andreas and Samuel and other unreconstructed progressives of the Ethiopian revolutionary era are unable or unwilling to profess forward wanting concepts and values in formally common phrases, like “democracy,” “federalism,” and “development.” It is, as an alternative, to argue that the concepts professed have assumed operative shape and content primarily in the specific sectarian phrases and codes of the EPRDF’s partisan-tribal priorities, intentions and tasks.

While sections of the previous Left remained progressive in intention, their career of forward-looking concepts has not often been, strictly talking, an train in broad and deep political thought in the Ethiopian context. They’ve but to acknowledge that the “radical” street we took embracing conceptually inert, formulaic progressivism, starting with the Scholar Movement, has dead-ended in a divisive Apartheid-like ethnocentrism, in a vindictive, anti-Ethiopian and anti-Amhara fragmentation of the historic Ethiopian nation-state, a reactionary reduction of the nation into neo-feudal tribal regionalism and localism.

It isn’t very shocking, then, that the common concepts Andreas and Samuel formally embrace have circulated in and via the TPLF/EPRDF regime largely as platitudes. It was not totally sudden that the ideas have gained foreign money in narrowly partisan, ethnocentric type, typically to the exclusion of their wider vitality and motion in the context of broad-based Ethiopian society and polity.

And, in serving to rationalize and enact the TPLF’s conceptually barren and morally fraudulent “revolutionary democracy,” Andreas and Samuel have woefully underperformed intellectually relative to their capabilities for systemic and essential thought. They have been instrumental in aiding the TPLF twist the operative which means of democracy to understand primarily undemocratic intentions and functions. In the course of, they’ve marginalized their contribution as mihuran, decreasing themselves to apologists and enablers of the Woyane social gathering, maybe the most perverse and insidious ruling group in all of Ethiopian historical past.

Yet, Andreas and Samuel in all probability see themselves as having made a salutary contribution to the continuity of the Ethiopian leftist custom. In their eyes, the reign of the Woyanes has been an integral a part of the nation’s laudable progressive expertise, going back to the Scholar Movement. They is probably not completely improper on this self-perception, but their constructive characterization of the custom itself as one marked by “continually waged struggles” during which Ethiopians have sought to “find release from authoritarian rule and a stifling public culture,” appears oblivious to a obtrusive paradox of the stated “struggles.”

For the “continually waged struggles,” stretching from the Scholar Movement via the Derg to TPLF “revolutionary democracy,” have persistently and tragically been opposite in their outcomes to their declared intentions. Put in a different way, the struggles have created much more problems for Ethiopia than they have solved. For the most half, they have produced, be it in effect or intent, brutal, bloody dictatorships and extremist ethnos inimical not solely to the progress of an truly democratic, trans-ethnic public sphere in Ethiopia, but, extra importantly, to our very integralnational being, and to the democratic betterment and flourishing of Ethiopian political culture.

The Derg and Woyane regimes have in their very own distinct “revolutionary” methods produced much more oppressive “public culture” in Ethiopia than we ever saw in “imperial days.” And if current events and developments that have taken place in the nation on PM Abiy’s watch are any information, a decades-old development of “stifling” of peaceable and orderly Ethiopian public life is more likely to continue beneath seemingly extra “liberal,” confused and complicated, current circumstances.

The circumstances mark the ascendance of Oromo partisan-tribal politics led by people and teams who are given to breathtaking pettiness and pursuit of unenlightened “self-interest.” These identity-obsessed “elites,” if one can name them that, typically look like much more unique and acquisitive than the a lot hated Woyanes have been.

Nor can we converse of an effective “system” of rule (“revolutionary democracy” or otherwise) in reference to the emergent energy of the OLF/ODP and different associated Oromo parties and teams. It’s to be admitted that the actual variety of Ethiopian cultural and native communities continues to be enveloped by an overlay of inauthentic, serially fabricated, generic “identities” or ethnic kililsthat refer politically and ideologically to a residual Stalinist mannequin of state ethnicism which the EPRDF still controls.

But, with the eclipse of TPLF predominance inside the EPRDF, the robustly centered and ran ethnocentric system of Woyane domination seems to have come to an finish. The apparent finish of TPLF hegemony has not, nevertheless, resulted in our entry into a “post-left era.” Primarily, the previous, Woyane designed and constructed ethnocentric political/state apparatus stays in place, although underneath “new,” reformist partisan-tribal management. Actually, so bewildering is the state of Ethiopian politics and authorities immediately that it might hardly be characterized as “post” anything or stated to be undergoing any “transition.”

What the Abiy regime has executed is open itself and the political sphere to all method of teams, parties and actions (sympathizers, “competitors,” supporters, seemingly pro-unity outfits, and extreme ethnonationalists, whose affiliation with Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinnet appears little greater than rhetorical and tactical). The PM has simply additively aggregated the “old” and the “new,” and the residual and the emergent, bringing together in an uneasy mixture pro-change parts, on the one hand, and teams which might be bent on maintaining the ethnocentric status-quo, on the different. The Abiy regime thereby presides over an ongoing disaster of both national unity/security and reginal-local peace and stability.

Certainly, Ethiopia at this time has no coherent, functioning system of national government or a political middle to talk of. Partisans, supporters and followers of the EPRDF, together with the discovered class, might converse when it comes to “the constitution” and “federalism.” However that is largely ritual speak. In fact, the political landscape is fraught with lack of order, a lot of it instigated instantly or indirectly by rogue parts inside and around the EPRDF itself, notably the TPLF and the OLF. In addition to, the so referred to as structure as such, not just this or that article in it,  has ever been a supply of tribal division, pressure and battle and of social instability in the nation, not a fount of sustainable political-national order.

The upshot is that life in lots of elements of the nation as we speak is marred by uncertainty, recurring violence, lawlessness, and deadly ethnic battle, typically leading to large social dislocation and human struggling. Ethiopians at present stay in a time of bizarre insecurity. Our national life is extra disorganized, debased and shapeless than ever. This state of the country cannot be explained away as an end result of government restraint in utilizing violent, repressive means towards forces of dysfunction.

The very fact is, the Abiy regime practices “restraint” selectively, as its singling out for repression and harassment of the peaceful Addis Ababa resistance movement led by Eskinder Nega makes evident. In any case, restraint, real or feigned, should not be an excuse for the regime’s unwillingness or incapability to make use of properly all vital regulation enforcement tools and assets in maintaining peace and stability in the nation. The selection the Abiy regime faces on this regard just isn’t, as the PM himself typically misleadingly claims, lawlessness or violent crackdown on agents of dysfunction and felony enterprise. It’s taking duly constituted police and legal motion every time necessary to cease unlawful exercise and to take care of justice in the country.

What we face in the EPRDF’s fraying ethnocentric rule, then, just isn’t a safe, coherent and viable political system however a shifting, shallow order intently tied to the altering fortunes, tasks, motives, and techniques of specific parties, teams and individuals, together with the PM himself. It’s a sketchy structure that probably makes up partially a covert network of ethnic interests, groups and overseas parts which are typically inimical to Ethiopia’s nationwide interest, to the nation’s integral transformation, progress and improvement.

Difficult the Progressivist Custom of Id Politics

We frequently experience “tradition,” on this case, the continual vexation that is “the national question” within the Ethiopian expertise of leftist politics, as a paradigm of discourse, concepts, objectives, codes, and practices passed down from the past to the current.

Nevertheless, political traditions can’t be adequately understood completely as historically pre-given and absolutely shaped entities. Not static formations, they might be, and typically are, opened up for revision, reformulation, extension and even transformation. Involving, as it does, willful engagement by assignable people, teams or actions for its evolution or continuity, “tradition” can extra dynamically be grasped as a performance, an ongoing tradition-making.

On this sense, ethnicity itself, removed from being simply a brute datum, could be – and typically is – comparatively open to numerous fairly totally different political approaches, understandings, and practices. It’s amenable to various forms of conception and valuation, and to varied modes of political concern, starting from the broadest, most enlightened and democratic to the narrowest, least informed and progressive.

It’s value noting in this connection a central paradox that has haunted the Ethiopian revolutionary experience since the days of the Scholar Motion. In our progressivist creativeness, the social setting, consisting of “the masses” or distinct “nations” and “peoples” or social courses, is the main mover and shaker of historical past. It has structural drive, vitality and autonomy. It’s a supply of revolutionary motive forces and political agency.

Yet, in practical terms, multi-ethnic Ethiopian society has been conceived and approached not as an agentic setting of autonomous historic and modern forces and energies, but a passive, neutral area of large partisan intervention and social/ethnic engineering. The Leninist-Stalinist revolutionary concept that society in addition to nature is just a useful resource to take advantage of for improvement, that it must subsequently be taken over by a transformative vanguard celebration and subjected to in depth planning and control, has been central to Ethiopian progressivism.

This meant that politics was not conceived and institutionalized in affiliation with an lively, relatively open, dynamic social area of individual and collective agency, interests and forces, an surroundings populated by free residents and communities. Consequently, leftist politics, notably Stalinist id politics in Ethiopia has usually not been capable of incorporate in its conceptual, organizational, and practical types the very important shaping, directing, and democratizing properties of its trans-ethnic social and nationwide context. As an alternative, the political has usually sought to subsumecommunity and nationality inside itself, within its slender, insular, typically unique, partisan-tribal hierarchy and paperwork.

When, in this means of “representation,” ethnic groups are divorced from the historical circumstances of their formation and interactive expertise and improvement, the social-cultural ground of their freedom and self-affirmation is undermined. Ethiopian “progressives,” past and present, have been educated ideologically and organizationally to remove considerations of the comparatively free circulate and motion of energies, interests and forces from their perception of social area. Their allusions to “nations, nationalities and peoples” have never addressed Ethiopian social courses or distinct ethnic and cultural communities as specific, autonomous, self-organized, but intersecting and overlapping social beings.

As an alternative, what has largely taken place is a substitution of a generic, international, “revolutionary” model of social reality for truly existent free communities and localities. Stalinist simulations or imagesof the socially actual have taken the place of the real itself. Ethiopian society has, on this method, been mined by the Left for largely anti-Ethiopian, and specifically anti-Amhara, political narrative and nominal social agency by which “the masses” or the ethnos are portrayed as self-determining protagonists.

Yet, throughout the revolutionary era and after, precise social strata and groups in the nation have remained merely captive constituencies of exclusive parties and fronts, focal points of the agenda, actions and id engineering tasks of specific regimes or can be regimes.

Towards this tradition in Ethiopia of partisan-authoritarian closure or restriction of social-national area and impoverishment of the public sphere, what if a new progressive ethos permits numerous self-organized cultural communities and civil society groups to turn themselves into bases for the progress of events that really symbolize constituents and for the improvement of a more open and democratic political system in the nation? I consider this can be a affordable hope, not merely wishful considering on my half. We as a nation are capable of bringing about such sorely wanted systemic change.

Involving a collection of engagements on numerous fronts, together with however not limited to ideas and politics, the new progressive worldview I take into account would call into query ethnocentrism in all its partisan and native variants, reframe ethnic id partially by grasping it anew when it comes to broader socio-historical relations and processes in the Ethiopian setting, and rework the connections between those processes and modern politics.

Said in another way, we need to develop a brand new ethos of forward wanting political thought, discourse and follow in the direction of systemic change. An important first step in this improvement, for my part, is re-orienting our enthusiastic about areas and localities in the Ethiopian context.

Locality beyond Ethnicity:Re-imagining Regions/localities

Ethiopian patriots and pro-democracy forces as we speak face a difficult activity. The task is that of re-affirming, renewing and revitalizing ties between aggerawinnet and akababawinnet, between the variety of social and cultural life attribute of the nation’s areas and localities and the forms of integral Ethiopian experience which have imparted unity and broader national value to numerous cultural and local communities in the country.

Underlying this main process is a important consciousness of the unworkability of traditional “revolutionary” conceptions of areas and localities in Ethiopia as island-like, insular entities or kilils populated by equally self-enclosed, homogenized ethnos “represented” by correspondingly exclusive, self-appointed, tribal events and “liberation fronts.”

By assuming that ethnic id is just objectively “given” slightly than generated in large part by ideology (as partisan gossa populism or ethnonationalism), and by treating ethnicity as the type, substance, and horizon of all “nationality,” events like the TPLF and the OLF and their intellectual apologists have for decades assumed a political place of enormously antagonistic consequence for Ethiopia.

That is the sample of id politics that the Woyanes and their Oromo counterparts particularly have followed for many years. Sometimes these tribal outfits function inside a residual Stalinist-populist worldview that regards the solely or main activity of politics and government to be that of serving the pursuits of ethnic communities as such, perceived to be coterminous with whole regions and/or localities of Ethiopia. On this approach, solely ethnic ideological parts, types of discourse, and methods of partisan group are built into not solely practices of ethnocentric energy but in addition into areas and localities populated by numerous, intersecting or overlapping Ethiopian cultural communities.

It’s this consequence of the conflation of locality and ethnicity that needs to be undone immediately and replaced by a brand new, more open and internally numerous, progressive regionalism that cuts throughout tribal identities, actual or imagined. Variety must be valued within areas and localities, not simply in the context of the Ethiopian nation-state as an entire.

In valorizing variety regionally and regionally in addition to in the broader terms of Ethiopiawinnet, we depart from the recognition that id politics practiced by way of residual Stalinist classes of “nations, nationalities, and peoples” is totally bogus in thought in addition to follow. We set off from the awareness that there are totally different and higher ways of realizing in the Ethiopian context universal concepts like liberty, democracy, native autonomy and federalism. In this connection, creating a new idea of trans-ethnic regionalism is essential.

In making the case for such conceptual innovation, we also recognize that old-school leftist overpoliticization of ethnic/local identities in Ethiopia has been deeply problematic in a double sense. On the one hand, the in depth use of generic, international, Stalinist ideological categories, rhetorical conventions, and organizational techniques by practitioners of id politics in the nation has meant that universal concepts, like democracy and improvement, are embraced primarily as devices of unique ethnonationalist self-definition and self-assertion. This has signified, in flip, a denial of the generality of progressive ideas and values, and incapability to use such concepts successfully in addressing broader, trans-ethnic Ethiopian social, economic and political issues.

On the other hand, and paradoxically, overpoliticization of the affairs of Ethiopia’s numerous cultural communities by the likes of the TPLF and the OLF and by the state equipment at the “federal” and regional/native levels has meant failure to return to terms with the particularities of distinct ethnic, cultural and native communities in the nation. It has signified a political sleight of hand with which the representation of the distinct and shared interests of such communities just isn’t successfully realized but pre-emptively marginalized by the partisan agenda and energy pursuits of practitioners of ethnonationalism.

Towards these contradictory developments, the new regionalism to be developed have to be sensitive in the direction of the felt wants and interests of the nation’s numerous communities, and, above all, to their autonomous trans-ethnic cultural, socio-economic and political company. It also needs to be attentive to the types of broader concepts and values that ethnonationalists have usually tended to ignore or suppress. These values embrace practicable, truly working rule of regulation, human and individual rights, democracy, actual regional and native self-government, social stability and security, and nationwide unity.

To be continued…Half Two (Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Experience)

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