Ethiopia and Eritrea in Tigray Tigrinys’ context
By: Ibsaa Guutama
The continued colonial status of Oromia cannot be understood without understand the nature of the colonizer, the Abyssinian state. The power struggle within that state has lived not only creating tension to the Habashaa but also affecting the peaceful life of its neighbors in one way or other, more so since an era known as The Scramble for Africa. The catalyst in it, international conspiracy that started early is also still actively engaged exasperating the misery. Since then much had changed in structure and function of Habashaa state not for the colonies. Now suffice to try and see the relation of Eritrea and Ethiopia in context of Tigray Tigriny in the eyes of a mute observer.
Eritrean highland known as Kabasaa is occupied by Tigrinya speaking population similar to those in present Tigray sate. Both together are referred to as Tigray Tigriny and are majority population in Eritrea while minority in Abyssinia and Ethiopian Empire. Their last king that ruled both at the same time were Yohannis IV, (1872-1889) who was able to extend his rule over the rest of Abyssinian state and also sanctioned colonization of Oromia by Shawaan king. Part of Tigray Tigriny and the whole present Eritrea fell to Italy after the battle of Adwa, 1896. It was transferred to Ethiopian empire in 1956. It is now an independent country. Its independence did not come easily. It has taken so many lives among who were gallant, brilliant and intimate friends of this writer with who they have experienced the ups and downs of student life at Haile Sillaasee I University. The dead also include his compatriots who were mobilized by the opposite side. This writer shall cherish the memory of his friends and never forgets the victimized compatriots as long as he lives. Let their soul rest in peace.
The Tigray Tigrinys are now in power in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. They are historically and culturally interconnected for thousands of years. Their country is a land mass bordered by Amaaraa, Agawu, Oromo, Saahoo, Afar, Kunaamaa and Beejjaa, almost all Kuusaa people’s land. In short they are the heart lands of Abyssinia mostly sharing the same political, social and economic life. For the first time they were politically separated when a part became Italian colony. It is historical accidents that separated them and when another similar accident brought them together megalomania of their leadership could not keep them together. From experience there is no win, win position in dealings of their elites. One has always to win by force or deceit. There cruelty against anyone challenging them has no bounds.
Their king Yohannis IV pulled out eyes of the Agawu king before him who was his brother in law and cut tongues of Oromo in Walloo from hate; he betrayed the trust of people like Waldamicha’el, chief of Bahiree Nagaash and killed them. TPLF is a copy of him. Because of such traditional lack of moral inhibition and democratic political culture problems were observed between the two comrades in arms. They overthrew the most brutal tyrant but did not to bring fundamental change to the system and liberate the peoples but to replace him in exploiting the colonies. Tyranny got more fertile ground in them. Both groups have their eyes on the colonies’, in particular Oromia’s precious metals and cash crops and raw material for their presumed industries. During the Transitional Tigrean Government their combined force overpowered Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and massacred gallant Oromo heroes and sent thousands to concentration camps to advance this ambition of theirs. Oromo are better than the steer that licks the hand of one that drives it to slaughter house to forget this. However, their authoritarian personality did not permit them to enjoy their victory together.
Since then we have seen against all expectations, how they went to the most devastating war few years after their shared victory over OLA. The devastation was of course mostly on recruits from other peoples, majorly Oromo not on their kin. So they did not feel the pinch much. During the emperor and the Darg the Army was dominated by Amaaraa core officers with few assimilado. In the present government it is totally Tigrinya dominated officer core for they had no assimilado to trust. They did not also trust their cousins, the Amaaraa whom they were rather out to break their morale. In both Habashaa periods the army belonged to the dominant group, though Amaaraa have given them some representation.
The previous army was loyal to the regime that ruled the empire, but separately organized from the civilian leadership up to the Darg. The Tigray Tigriny army is the regime; it is the total guerrilla force composed of one nationality. Historically no Habashaa rebel has dismissed the whole army of the vanquished like TPLF did but was embraced by the victor and remained army of the Habashaa. “We are the dead and also the leaving, so follow us” was their transitional slogan. Tigray Tigriny on both sides of Marab agreed on the dismissal. They changed that code and established all Tigray Tigriny army. They also agreed on short transitional arrangement in which different Organizations other than those of the Amaaraa will participate. But with understanding that power will be monopolized by TPLF in Ethiopia and Eritrea will be declared independent. No genuine Amaaraa independent parties will ever raise their head as long as the Tigrinyaas are in power. The new rulers had a policy that the empire will be geared towards supplying the needs of Tigray Tigrinys.
Though both Amaaraa and Tigray Tigrinys are called Habashaa after their place of origin in Yemen, they claim separate territory and language despite being political partner since they crossed the Red Sea. As a senior partner Amaaraa has led them to grandeur and victories over the neighboring peoples. It was the Amaaraa that pushed the Kuusaa people to farther south and expanded their boundary to Shawaa. It is Amaaraa that renewed the myth of Sheba to give Habasha ideological basis. Unlike Tigray Amaaraa have been growing by assimilating other nationalities as a result of which some have started to say there are no people called Amaara. In reality that is what is making them cling to the ancient civilization, Ethiopia, to cover ethnographic weakness. It is that weakness that the Tigrinyaa hammered on to reduce them to Amaaraa ethnicity and ending their disguising under the name Ethiopia. Without the assimilado their number will not be much greater than Tigray Tigriny as it seems. Now the assimilado and the opportunist who together call themselves “forces of unity” (FU) (euphemism for Amaaraa) are making the most noise against Oromo liberation; the assimilado remember the disgraceful chasing out from Gondar by Teedros of Ejjuu warlords branded as aliens after years of service to Habashaa Crown, in which they improved the system of justice in a way never seen. They are afraid the same might happen to them if colonies are gone.
Be that as it may, rulers of Tigray Tigrinys have deprived the Amaaraa of all their gains of the last century including the hard won colonies, three thousand year extension to empire Ethiopia, and sea outlets. Demanding from all individuals to register their ethnic identity, the assimilado which comfortably passed for Amaaraa, claiming to be Ethiopian now could not find roots to attach to. The lost sheep is back to its owner. Except the few that have nostalgia for the old Nafxanyaa days many appreciated regaining their lost identity. Thus Amaaraa is trimmed down numerically and psychologically. Amaaraa activists now are of two types; remnant of ancient occupying army (Nafxanyaa) and Amaaraa from the homeland. Most Nafxanyaa remnants residing in the rural towns except for calling themselves Amaaraa for being Orthodox Christians, cannot tell from where their ancestors were recruited or if they are really ethnically Amaaraa. Even if the family had mentioned a country of origin those that went to investigate will not be that much. The truth is they know only the countries they are born, brought up and live in. If not moles, they have equal rights with the natives.
But some of the remnants may not feel comfortable without super imposed Ethiopia in spite of the natives showing them love and tolerance on many occasions. Despite that there are those that feel the pain of oppression and identify with natives and believe only what they personally experienced not scare mongers’ tales. Some others yet feel insecure from their racist mentality and fear of retaliation for abuses they heard their forebears committed on the natives. Such have nostalgia for the past they never lived and will have a hard time to adjust. It is from these that “FU” recruit their vocal members. They are dangerous for any peace efforts that Amaaraa may try to make with the Oromo, because they are neither Oromo nor Amaaraa. Oromo means people, Oromia knows no discrimination no hate, and any one that cries foul will be ashamed. Incidents could happen here and there but that could not be a reason to smear the good name of their generous hosts. It is against basic Oromo tradition to harm any human being, it is a safuu. Oromia supports all peoples whoever they are that struggle for their liberation without any string attached.
The Habashaa from homeland had come into contact with the Oromo in schools, in particular high schools and colleges. Some did not believe their eyes Oromo having normal physical features different from the monstrous one they well told back home. Except for childhood racist bias which they had opportunity to correct, they had no direct physical confrontation as colonizer and colonized. That doesn’t mean childhood brainwashing did not leave stigma on their memory about the colonized. The psychologically formed glory of greater Ethiopia by propaganda of monks, daftaraas and opportunist historians doesn’t go easily. Those concerned have to find a way out to bright and peaceful future. Since they cannot revers what years of revolution by the down trodden has done to the empire, they have to accept the fact and try to heal existing wounds rather than rubbing salt on them.
Therefore, it is hoped they will be wiser than crying over spilt milk. Ethiopia is not the only country that lost colonies and adjusted themselves to their new size geographically, psychologically, as well as economically. Only self-reliance pulling back to their original holding can make one independent and proud. The Nafxanyaa days are long gone. Just like the Boer is not problem of Holand Nafxanyaa descent should not be Habashaa or Amaaraa problems; they are problems of the colonies. Unless they have intention of continuing dominating Oromia further, they have to fight for their own liberation not claiming those Nafxanyaa decendants as excuse for their hidden agenda. The shrinking of the British Empire and recent UK withdrawal from EU can be a harbinger for future possibilities.
The Tigray Tigriny has at least recognized on paper that the colonial people have separate history and identity from the colonizers. This was criticized by Amaaraa elites and later by some Tigrinyaa elites. Though they have historical and blood relations Eritrean elites had fought for the right of nations to national self-determination and got it. It is surprising to hear them saying that for Oromia is a distortion of history and blamed TPLF despite their earlier concurrence with it when they were buddies, in accepting that the empire was only a century old. No one can easily turn this back and retain the colonies under domination. They won it not as a charity from any Habashaa group but by their own sweat and blood. It is the culmination of century old struggle. It is what brought down the emperor and the Darg. Not realizing they are losing Abyssinia itself Amaaraa elites are growling about the loss of an empire. Tigray Tigriny, despite showing deceptive face now will eventually unite for wider hegemonic venture. Their saying, “Ya qooxuun awurd bilaa ya bibbituwaan xaalech” (To get more from the raft she lost what was in her arm pit) is happening to the Amaaraa.
Amaaraa have all the potentials to stand on their own. They have the resources; demography and experience to enable them do that. Therefore they are an entity to reckon with in that region. With Oromia they are neighbors with extensive boundary line. They are the vanguard of the Habashaa expedition that colonized Oromia and so nearest enemy which if reformed can become strategic friends. Both can guarantee freedom peace, stability and prosperity for the region if they can stand together as equals. For both the initial priority must not be relation within Ethiopia but friendship as independent neighboring countries. Amaaraa should beware of organizations with baseless power mongering Nafxanyaa influence. Amaaraa’s longtime partner the remaining part of Tigray Tigriny is almost gone. The empire had no control over them for over twenty five years. TPLF is building its power base as never seen. Infrastructures for all activities are laid down. Social and economic institutions are built. They are at stage to declare independence or merger with Tigray Tigriny in Eritrea. No propaganda or appeal to history of “FU” can stop them. Amaaraa has to make peace with itself before trying to make peace with others. It is not easy to get rid of the illusion of being custodian of Ethiopianism that has rusted in subconscious.
The Oromo do not see their country as a periphery of Ethiopia but as its neighbor and a country with its own peripheries. Oromo do not feel marginalized in relation to Habashaa power but as occupied and deprived of their freedom by them. They are not complaining of being denied participation in their authoritarian system but of their loss of freedom. Thinking otherwise undermines how Oromo view themselves and all the sacrifices Oromo patriots paid and are paying to liberate their nation from occupation. It is disgusting when some Oromo claim expertise and air opinion contrary to vision of majority population only to be embraced by Habasha peers. The Oromo is determined that no Habashaa group can any more present itself as dictator on the life of other nations and nationalities in the region albeit as a neighbor with equal rights Distracting suggestions about Oromo rights and democracy are pouring from Ethiopianist Organizations. But no nationalist will be moved by those suggestions as long as Oromia is under occupation and cannot freely express its will.
It now seems for the moment that only the two Tigray Tigriny rivals seem to be the only leading bulls in Abyssinian kraal. They mobilize all nations and nationalities under them to serve as cannon fodders in their senseless wars of dominating the kraal. For the Oromo such wars do not bring any material or spiritual benefit. Whoever wins Oromo remains the loser. The boarder points they are taking as pretexts for clashes now are all in Tigray Tigriny land. Though legally international, in reality it is a domestic Tigrinya affair. Now, for all nations and nationalities in the horn a task of liberating and developing themselves is awaiting them. The hegemonic plan of Tigray Tigriny groups for the Horn of Africa has to be stopped. The border issue is their own problem, no others should any more sacrifice their youth for others interest. Their fight will go on until one bull remains to head the kraal and that should be taken as their own business not of the colonies. Every other people in the empire are responsible not to serve force of tyranny dangerous to pan Africanism.
Tigray Tigriny was broken up when their partner, the Amaaraa colonized countries to its south like Oromia. Their leader, Minilik probably did not want to risk his newly gained colonies when he agreed with another colonizer not to cross the Marab creek. Minilik was a proxy partner in conspiracy for the Scramble for Africa. Tigray elites had no power to challenge their new king but gave up on their siblings and part of their domain for which only few years ago Yohannis and Aluulaa were engaged in battles with Egypt and Italy in its defense. Despite Tigrinya leaders not supporting independence of Oromia, Minilik’s colonies are on their way to freedom. The Tigrinya do not seem to give up on Amaaraa holdings as the Amaaraa gave up on theirs in the 19th century but will try to replace them as colonial masters and superpowers in Abyssinia and the Horn. This should be thwarted by all means. The time now has come to reorganize The Horn of Africa under a new order.
Instead of making peace with their nearest neighbor the Oromo, Amaaraa elites preferred to go after their vanguard organization, the OLF with smear campaign. They think they can win the Oromo by attracting some misguided unreliable renegade activists. The objective or “kaayyoo” articulated by the OLF were those in the hearts and minds of each free thinking Oromo, which even defecting of some of the founding fathers did not erase. That shows whether OLF is there or not the Oromo independence movement cannot be stopped. Therefore to address the concern will be to advantage of all sides. Any among the Habasha groups that respects Oromo interest can be a friend and partner for peace and freedom. Oromo have no special preference between them. Both together had caused Oromo people suffer for over a century. Now their falling apart means nothing as long as one remains confronting them. They want to be free and independent.
The overall changing world order as a result of technological revolution, do not tolerate old and archaic colonial relations to continue. The colonies likewise have awakend and demanding for their rights. Habashaa internal and colonial relations are cracking. The last two centuries had brought big fundamental change to Amaaraa than on Tigrinya. As a result it is imperative for Tigray Tigrinys to rethink and get reorganized for enduring security. Their internal conflict will be there only as long as guerrilla leaders of TPLF and EPLF are around. Their present quarrel in addition to power struggle between guerilla leaders is majorly over the booty of war that is left over from what they shared initially. They have no intention to destroy each other. As minority more inclined to group interest than Ethiopianism they have more chance of getting support from big powers. This follows the same logic of history of the British that left strengthening Yohannis IV of Tigray Tigriny with gift of arms favoring him over Oromo chieftains, Warqit and Mastawat of Walloo that defeated Teedros for them.
The seeming quarrel with one and friendliness with the other of big powers are not more than a temporary leer on kids. There is no country in the world that does not violate human rights but vary in degree. One Tigray Tigriny government have no less count in abuses than the other but there is double standard judgement by big powers. One is favored against the other to force it submit to their dictates and has nothing to do with alleged abuses. They are overlooking even genocide being committed when it comes to TPLF. Tigray Tigriny area is seen as strategic zone for global interests. Today we might think it to be at a distance because we are not feeling the strength and they are not taking Oromia as a nation of interest. Even then any change in the territorial, political and religious formation in Middle East and in particular around the Red Sea is going to affect Oromo interest. If the Amaaraa stop whining about lost imperial glory and join the others in defense of the region then only can a fair and new political game start in the Horn of Africa.
When we talk about Habasha we cannot help to right away talking about their leadership that had been crooked, cruel, passionless and greedy all the time. But we don’t talk about the common Habasha people who are bigger than that. They are one of the kindest, humble, passionate, and generous and God fearing peoples of the region. This is what this writer who had travelled around in their country can attest. They can have biases against the colonized peoples from brainwashing of the leaders and lack of information. However they are as oppressed as the colonized people by those thugs and need fundamental reform. How did such snakes come out of dove’s eggs is so far an answered question. They have been sacrificing innocent farmers senselessly for their group’s glory from time immemorial. Over and above that, those leaders have brainwashed them to praise and be proud of those that subjected them to wretched life for centuries. That empty pride from ignorance and lack of information has made many to develop the attitude of being superior to peoples of the colonies. But people of the oppressor nation, have no excuse to go on keeping silent when crime is committed in their name.
In the present world the struggle for survival has prominence over the rule of law. Human beings had been trying to put rein over greed that could be detrimental to survival of the race if left unchecked. That is why civilizations had emphasized the rule of law for peaceful coexistence. There is no civilization that gave prominence to rule of law than Oromoo civilization. But when they encountered those that believe in rule of the muscles they became at disadvantage. The word “law” has especial place in their thought so they revered alien laws as if they were their own. But when they realized they were devoid of safuu (ethical considerations) they rejected them. That is Habashaa tradition carried down to this day as exemplified by TPLF elections.
Democracy is said to be government of the people for the people by the people. TPLF claiming to implement what culturally it has no clue for ended up forming, government of itself, for itself, by itself. Somehow the Oromo survived colonizers greed and cruelty for over a century. Now with increased challenge to survival, Oromo nation has no choice but fight back hard until independent Republic Oromia, is formed.
Peaceful struggle for over six months did not bear fruit. Few voices from democratic centers have tried to make the voice of the voiceless Oromo to be heard. But those that could stop the tragedy gave more attention to self-interests’ strategic advantage and rather continued building abusive capacity of the dictators rather than alleviating human suffering. During the last six months conservatively estimating more than five hundred have died but TPLF argues that number is exaggerated as if killing any number is justified. They have made killing style of administration, forgetting its criminal dimension even when they talk in public. Unlike the old Nafxanyaa these can do anything to build their national capacity and destroy that of the colonies. The old Nafxanyaa developed a theory that all the land up to Lake Victoria was theirs, part of the motherland. So, most of their exploit were not invested in Amaaraa homeland. Tigray Tigriny are classical colonialist, they are not only taking the resources but even had dismantled factories, and removed all moveable even soil and taken them away just like colonizers did to Eritrea. They have now superb infrastructures, hydroelectric power, sea ports etc. that could give them capacity for self-reliance if they were reunited or even if they make peace. That is done at the expense of Oromia with its raw material and market in their mind for their fledgling industries. Is it not said, “The wise cuts wood for yoke from the threshold of a fool”?
The Oromo, including those who think are lodged in alien court comfortably, must realize that their identity is under threat. Trying to stabilize what struggling oppressed people have put out of balance is to dig ones grave. It is only revolutionary Oromia that could keep them afloat. Hegemony of any group of colonizer will strive more to turn them into individuals that it could turn around at will. If that happens, individual rights and “one man one vote” will be emphasized and peoples’ rights pushed down to the level of self-help organization. No true child of the Oromo will give up on the sovereignty of the nation for a second class right of Ethiopian citizenship. After destroying their national (group) identity all the injurious defamatory and derogatory references will come back to dehumanize them as usual. So far those have affected self-confidence and determination of most of them. Unless it is cleansed, the nation will turn to a nation of quitters and swindlers. Only better offer than the Tigray Tigriny constitution is henceforth acceptable and that is independence.
Already the Oromo are subjected to genocide under Tigray Tigriny gang rule, a crime that is condemned by the world body and many culprits from different countries with lesser magnitude had been brought to justice at international courts. But that of the Oromo, Sidaamaa, Mazhangir, Gambeela is overlooked for not publicly declared reason, though the Oromo suspects it is part of the conspiracy that led to Oromia’s colonization. Therefore the youth has to remember the Oromo saying about the snake that said “Abbaatu of maraa” (it is up to one to coil oneself) when suggested cutting it because it is too long. It is they that take the initial step for survival; help will come depending on their continued determination and commitment for human cause.
It cannot also be forgotten that thousands of Oromo youth have been butchered between Eritrea and Amaaraa junta run Ethiopia, in wars that did not concern them. They never got proper burial for they were the concern of no body. Now also the same history is repeating itself under Tigray Tigriny gang domination. Fresh bones are scattered from Bure to Aqordaat added to the older ones from Ambaalagee to Qaaroora. The same is happening in Somalia. Henceforth, no self-respecting, patriotic Oromian should participate on either side, they have own country called Oromia to die for. Let the Tigray Tigriny kill each other for theirs if they wish. Oromo youth have to resist all temptations and coercions for recruitment. It will be a blessing if their carrion were fed by hyenas and vultures of Oromia rather than alien scavengers. Colonization has left on Oromians scar that cannot easily wished away with continued exasperation of the misery just like its beginning. They have come so far dying, dodging and humiliating themselves to survive. They can no more continue like that. Tigray Tigriny rule has to be the end of all abuses they can bear. Oromia’s patriots like American liberation activist Henry Patrick of 1775, are saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!”. Henceforth no one could tell the Oromo what they want unless they ask for it. There is no turn back from the path of liberation. After seeing how a part of Tigray Tigrinys gang subjected them to untold misery it will not be hard to imagine what their prolonged combination could do. They are hungry vultures that know no consideration. To fear death facing extinction and humiliation is not Oromo way. The clandestine plan of Tigray Tigriny to extend colonial rule further, not only replacing but destroying the Amaaraa if not today will happen tomorrow. Readiness to combat it is imperative, because whatever happens to them could affect their interest, Oromo have to watch out their neighborhood.
Long Live free and independent Oromia! Victory to the oppressed! Justice shall prevail!
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!