By Fayyis Oromia*
It is clear that only Amhara elites and few Amharanized elites from other nations are against “ethnic” federalism and self-determination of nations. Genuine “ethnic” federalism is the compromise solution for all nations in the region to live together - achieving both national independence and regional integration. The position of Amhara elites regarding the federalism and self-determination made them to be not suitable to cooperate with the elites of other nations against TPLF regime. Amhara elites do prefer unconditional Ethiopian unity rather than self-determination as a precondition for the possible alliance to be forged between Amhara democratic forces and Oromo freedom fighters. Oromos tend to accept this precondition, only if Amhara elites also accept Oromos’ precondition aka making Afaan Oromo the only working language of the federation instead of Amharinya. Oromo elites make such a demand to make Amhara elites to notice how wrong is their cry for unity with Amharinya as the only federal language. Then, in a common house aka “NEW Ethiopia” they suggest to build, the working language must be only Afaan Oromo. Will they then stay to be pro Ethiopian unity and anti ethnicity, even if Amharinya will be demoted to only local language of Amhara region and if Afaan Oromo will be promoted to be the only working language of the Ethiopian federation? I am sure they will not! In case they will stay further to be pro-Ethiopianity and pro-unity as they seem to believe now, let’s then try this NEW version of Ethiopianity with Afaan Oromo instead of with Amharinya.
After reading about and observing the imposition of Amharinya at the cost of Afaan Oromo in the past one century, I just couldn’t help, but think about the main mistake Ob Minilik Caala (Aste Minilik, ”our colonizer”), Ob Qusee Dinagde, Ob. Gobena Daacee and so on did. The main mistake they did was making Amharinya the national language of the empire they did build. Being Oromos, if they could have managed to make Afaan Oromo the national language of Ethiopian empire, now we Oromos were not the ones to fight for self-determination. The whole Finfinne and other “modern” peoples in the empire would have spoken Afaan Oromo, the whole diaspora Ethiopians now would have used Afaan Oromo, even all would have claimed to be Ethiopian which is equivalent to be Oromo, not Amhara as it is now.
At present, for Amhara elites to come to their senses and comprehend why we did say so, let’s look at the following fact in short. Almost 99.9% Amharas nowadays think they are pro-Ethiopianity and anti-“ethnicity” and with that they do think that they do have moral upper-hand. For them to develop another view, let’s demote Amharinya to the local language of only Amhara region and promote Afaan Oromo to the federal language. Till now, just based on the fact that Amharinya being the federal language, they used to cry about Ethiopianity, which in essence means actually Amharanet for they know how Amharanization is still going on. When we change the role of the two languages, I am sure Oromos will start to sing about Ethiopianity, which will be equivalent to Oromummaa and, of course, they will denounce “ethnicity”. Then, Amharas will start to defend themselves from Oromonization and will denounce Ethiopianity with only Afaan Oromo as the federal language and they will be automatically pro-“ethnicity”. So, we can see how simple it is to be a moralist without understanding the mechanism behind all what we do believe.
Oromos just asked Amhara elites to accept Afaan Oromo as the only federal language to neutralize their attempt of maintaining and talking about Ethiopian unity with Amharinya as the only working language of the federation and, of course, with that making Amharanization process as something normal to be accepted and lived by all nations in the region. Few Amhara elites demand that the public decide on which language to be the working language of the federation/union. But to ask the public to decide on the type of language to be used as the federal language, we first need to ask the public what type of sovereignty they want to build: “YES to Union” or “NO to Union!” Why doesn’t the democracy of Amhara elites include this? Some of these elites accuse Oromos to have grudge against Minilik. The resentment of Oromos against Minilik is fact, but not only that, unfortunately almost all Amhara elites now want to perpetuate the same policy of Minilik with a pretext of Ethiopian unity. Furthermore, some Amhara elites cry foul about a possible Oromo hegemony just for the fact that Oromos are demanding Afaan Oromo be the federal language. Oromo elites, who make such a demand, are not actually promoters of Oromo hegemony. But just to show Amhara elites how the reverse of the effort to dominate Oromos further can be painful to them, Oromo elites say: “if Amhara elites want Ethiopian unity (one common house), then they should see also what it looks like to be under Oromo domination replacing their own domination”. In general, why do Amhara elites talk and preach democracy, whereas they do exclude the right of the public to decide on its destiny per referendum aka self-determination? If they must think democratically as they usually claim to do, then they need to think that there is no half-baked democracy!
Oromo elites do argue that the main conflict factor in the region is the language factor! If Amhara elites disagree with this premise, then let’s try it practically: let’s demote Amharinya to only Amhara region and promote Afaan Oromo to the language of the federation! Surely Oromos will then accept the unconditional unity, which Amhara elites do demand and they will denounce “ethnicity” as well even can reject the right of nations to self-determination! Hopefully, Amhara elites will be ready to influence all their relatives to learn Afaan Oromo without any objection. Then, Oromos would be very happy if Amharas prefer not to fight for self-determination, but only struggle for democracy, unity, justice, equality, peace and prosperity.
Looking back to the history and trying to judge the status quo, all elites of each nation do have their own interpretation. Preferable is to look into the future and ask the question: what options regarding a solution for the language conflict do we have if we want to live together?
- Union of independent nations based on self-determination, all nations having their own languages in their respective national areas and using English as international communication language
- Unity in a federated Ethiopia with Afaan Oromo as the only federal language
- Unity with English as the only federal language
- Unity with Afaan Oromo and Amharinya as federal languages and
- Unity with Amharinya as the only federal language (the status quo which should be changed by any means as far as Oromos are concerned)
The pro-democracy Amhara elites seem to prefer the fourth option. They also started to see that the fifth option is the failed project. Oromo elites do suggest the first option as the best solution. But, if Amhara elites reject self-determination of nations and persist to have unconditional Ethiopian unity, then let them test the second option so that they can understand what it means to be called “Ethiopian” in such a condition, which means in reality Oromian, in contrast to the status quo where Ethiopian means Amharian! If Amhara elites reject the second option, it is then expected from them as educated gentle people to have an empathy for Oromo elites, who are rejecting the fifth option, instead of vilifying such Oromo elites as “exclusionists” as they usually seem to say. Why should Oromo elites be exclusionists for the sake of demanding this role exchange of the two languages, whereas Amhara elites have been seen as inclusive while just propagating the exclusive fifth option? To avoid such language conflict, then of course, it is also possible to opt for the third option, which is the most pragmatic choice in the already globalized world.
It is natural to ask, why did TPLF prefer and promote Amharinya at the cost of Afaan Oromo in the last 18 years. The answer is clear: TPLF wants that the conflict between the two BIG nations continue, so that it can rule further easily. Just because of the language privilege they had, Amharas are still seen as oppressive by almost all oppressed nations in the empire including Oromos, even though Amharas, nowadays, are as oppressed and exploited as other nations by Meles’ regime. TPLF could have solved this language conflict between Amharinya and Afaan Oromo by making either both of them the working language of the federation or by limiting both of them to their respective states and making only English the working language of the federation. Now it seems that the TPLFites privilege Amharinya and cry about Ethiopianity as well about unity only as long as they do have lucrative power in Finfinne palace, whereas Amhara elites do the same as long as the do have this language privilege.
When we choose certain language as a common communication between different autonomous/independent nations, we need to consider its economical expediency and its international usage. Till now nations in the Ethiopian empire were obliged to learn Amharinya as the national language, because of the domination by Abyssinians (even including Tigreans who accepted Amharinya as the only federal language), who do endorse this language. It is clear why they do it, that is simply because of the political and economical advantage they do get. Here is one example to be taken in to consideration. Amharas usually cry for unconditional Ethiopian unity just for the reason that they know what an advantage they do have as far as Amharinya is the working language of the empire. Accordingly, they do oppose genuine “ethnic” federation just for it undermines their language domination.
The question to be asked by other nations now is: can the pro-democracy Amhara forces choose to settle for the alternative of using the language of all nations at their respective national areas or should Amharas be compelled to accept such a fact of allowing nations to use their respective languages as an alternative to Amhara elites’ refusal of recognizing a union based on self-determination? I know Weyanes will accept even an alternative of separation of nations to build their own independent states as soon as they sense that they may lose power in Finfinne palace.
To compel Amhara forces to accept a union based on the national self-determination, we just have to demote Amharinya to be used only in Amhara region and promote Afaan Oromo to be the federal language. Then, they will see that Ethiopianity will not be equivalent to Amharanet (as it is now), but it will be the same to Oromummaa. In such a scenario of Oromummaa being equivalent to Ethiopianity, Oromo freedom fighters will definitely start to be pro-Ethiopianity against “ethnicity” and then Amharas will begin to defend their identity by opting for self-determination of Amhara people, so that they support “ethnicity” and reject Ethiopianity aka Oromummaa. This way, Amhara elites can comprehend what it means to struggle for national independence with or without regional union.
The current attempt of Amhara elites to make both Afaan Oromo and Amharinya the national languages of Ethiopia, which they want to build in the future, is disadvantages for other smaller nations in the empire. Amhara elites opted to this alternative just to make Amharinya again be the language of all regions including Oromia, the option they don’t have now. As far as Oromos are concerned, Afaan Oromo being the federal working language is not bad, so long Amharinya will not be imposed on Oromia, but Amharinya should be the working language of only Amhara region and, of course, that of the federation besides Afaan Oromo.
For other nations in the empire, this may mean to learn four languages instead of the present only three. But I do argue that these nations need to learn only two languages: their own mother tongue and an international language aka English. Why should their children be obliged to learn Afaan Oromo and Amharinya and be stressed with additional useless languages, whereas Amhara children learn only Amharinya and English, so that being free from such stress. So my suggestion is that all children from all nations in the empire should have the privilege given to Amhara children: learn only their respective national language and an international language.
If Amhara elites come to their sense and learn to accept the common ground for all nations aka genuine “ethnic” federalism, it would have been very easy to forge an effective alliance of Amhara democratic forces and Oromo freedom fighters against the dictatorial TPLF regime. Just to clear the confusion produced by hitherto articles on similar topics, other names used for genuine “ethnic” federalism are: language-based federalism, internal self-determination, national independence with regional union, self rule with shared rule, national self determination with multi-national democracy, unity with liberty, union of independent nations, United States of Ethiopia, autonomous nations in federated Ethiopia, national independence in an integrated region (e.g independent Oromia in an integrated Ethiopia)… etc. In short, the best instrument to compel Amhara elites so that they accept and respect the compromise solution aka genuine “ethnic” federalism and to make them recognize the right of nations to self-determination is to demote Amharinya to be the local language and promote Afaan Oromo to be the federal language, i.e a transformation of the empire to a NEW Ethiopia with Afaan Oromo as the National Language!
*The Opinions of The author Do Not Necessarily Reflect The Opinions of OromiaTimes.