Where is Ethiopia heading to? Are we learning from the history? What was the fate of the empires established by coercion such as the Soviet Union, the British and that of Yugoslavia? He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Are we wise enough not to be drifted by the tides that had washed away the empires in history? In the following article we are going to look into the above questions and explore the direction of the present Ethiopian regime and then conclude with some recommendations.

 
In order for someone to be able to have a clear vision as to the political direction of Ethiopia, it is indispensable to look back its past history. The term ‘Ethiopia’ has replaced the older name  ‘Abyssinia’ that by and large represented the Tigrians and the Amharas of the present day Ethiopian highlanders most notably Gojam, Gender, Tigray and parts of Shawa. At the turn of the century, the above two groups surged victorious as a result of a combination of factors. Particularly, the Amhara stayed at the helm and dominated the political rule with mercilessly a strong fist. The subdued southern, southeastern and southwestern peoples engaged in a continuous rebellion and armed resistance, which is going on up to this date.
 
Although, the believe that Ethiopia had existed as a state for the last 3000 years is groundless and highly exaggerated, Nevertheless, the two ethnic groups (the Amhara and Tigre, who represent the name Abyssinia) lived in the area for quit some time.  These two groups had engaged in fierce conflicts among themselves and each group within itself as long as they existed, often the powerful levying tribute over the weaker one. The undeniable fact is that Emperor Minilik had established Ethiopia as its present shape by the help of European powers at the end of the nineteen-century to the early twenty-century.  Minilik expanded his father’s Shawa fiefdom to the south, southwest and southeast after he had received modern armament and ammunition from the Italian colonial power. 
 
At the time, the Amhara were inflicted in a socio-economic tight spot, which included demographic blow out, severe droughts and scarce and tattered arable land. The land inhabited by the Abyssinians was almost fully exhausted and was in no way suitable for cultivation.  But the real urge behind the ambition for territorial expansion was the colonial powers that had used the Amharas as a springboard and as a tool for reconnaissance to their goal. Furthermore, at the time, there was a drought known as by the Abyssinian highlanders as ‘the Kifu kan dirk’, which created situations where people cannibalized their children. Consequently, the European powers manipulated the situation and pushed the Christian Amhara emboldening them to look for a way out, in the form of a fertile land tribute and other opportunities.
 
Despite a strong resistance from the peoples in the area there was no parallel to Minilik’s superior weapons, which as a result had created a shift to the balance of power of the region in his favor. Long before this incident, there were many nations and nationalities that lived in the horn of Africa, who did have their own sultanates, kingdoms and chiefdoms whom among them were the Somali, Adal, Harla, Jimma, Ifat, Dawaro, Afar, kambata, Hadiya, Oromo and many other ethnic groups. Most of these groups enjoyed independence as far back as they lived in their ancestral lands and before they had fallen to the colonial yolk of Abyssinia.
 
The most notable resistance came from the prominent Somali hero of the Ogaden region, Sayid Mohamed Abdullah Hassan who had confronted the European colonial powers and their Ethiopian satellite.
The Sayid fought against the British, the Italian and the Abyssinian aggressions into the Somali lands. Although, he was encircled and was confronted by a technologically much advanced forces the Sayid fought relentlessly against his enemies and inflicted them with heavy loses.
 

The Sayid was also such a brilliant diplomat who engineered a peaceful settlement with Emperor Lij Eyassu. He won the friendship and aligned the young emperor to his side. He also had developed a friendship between the Emperor and the Turks. Had it not been by the conspiracy of the European major powers that had resulted in a constitutional crisis and the dethroning of Lij Eyassu, there could have been a fruit to the Dervishes effort in the form of a deal for alliance against the imperial powers and a peaceful settlement to the conflict. There were also stiff resistances coming from the other nations most notably the Arsi Oromo, Harari, Gambella and others.

 
Contrarily, the newly established Ethiopian monarchy exercised a great ambition to put down every attempt of resistance from the peoples of the occupied lands. Haile Silasse took several steps to legitimize his new empire.  Most notably, he received advice from the Former Yugoslavia’s leader, Marshal Tito, who helped him draft the first constitution and the first five years of economic plan.  Moreover, he took preconditions intended to help him advance the achievement of his dream to become the leader of the will be independent African states and at the same time winning their support for Addis Ababa to become headquarter of the anticipated African Organization. All these moves had improved his image from a king of a traditional backward state to a much better position.
 
Injustice as the Root Cause of the Problem
 
The very creation of the country was based on a colossal injustice ranging from conquest, evangelization and exploitation. Injustice was legalized and was enshrined in the constitution. According to the first constitution, the people of today’s Ethiopia were categorized into citizens and subjects. The following statement is taken from the Emperor’s introductory remark to the constitution as evidence:
 
“This legal cod is given to the Ethiopian people and to our beloved subjects… by His Highness, Majesty, Emperor Haile Silasse the I of Ethiopia” 1 . 
 
This is a clear indication of the successive Abyssinian regimes’ unwavering policy of rejection and their staunch desire to dissect the people from the land. These people were completely marginalized and often ruled with a maximum possible cruelty and injustice. They were not considered as Ethiopians even if they want to. This had created a cancerous predicament and endless political conflicts, which emanated from the socio-economic and political injustices.
 
Particularly, the Muslim Ethiopians were always neglected and regarded as outsiders. While, more than 70% of the total population is a Muslim, the country is often termed as a Christian country. For example, the former King of Tigray, Yohanis the II, who after conquering the region of Wallo (a Muslim state) ordered the people to evangelize or leave the area said: ‘if you are a Christian sit under the oak tree and if you are a Muslim go to Mecca’. This is an idea that evolved throughout to the present régime.
 
Ethiopia being one of the poorest countries in the world is also one of the most unjust administrations in the whole world. The national wealth is unevenly distributed. For example, although, the Oromo and the Somalis constitute about 67% of the countries population and account as the source of 85% of the countries internal revenue and also occupy more than three fourth of the countries land mass, they barely have any political weight or respect as citizens.  If there is democracy as claimed by the present regime the Oromo, which alone accounts for more than half the population of the country, could have better treatment and respect in Ethiopia. As a matter of fact, there is no country in the whole world that deserves a regime change than Ethiopia.
 
There was a purposeful strategy to obstruct all sorts of development activities from those areas inhabited by the so-called ‘subjects’. Their population census facts are often undercounted. The purpose of which is to misrepresent them and portray them as insignificant, and eventually to deprive them of their share of the national wealth. For example, in 1985 Ethiopia had more than 20,000 schools among which 95% were located in and around Addis Ababa. This was an intentional and centrally planed strategy to skew the countries educated manpower in favor of the Amhara and to deny the so-called subjects the opportunity for education and development.
 
Particularly, the Ogaden region is most neglected and remained the poorest and least developed in any measure available, in a country that is known as to be one of the poorest in the world. So as to say, ‘The lowest of the low’ the whole Somali region had only one poorly equipped hospital and one high school since 1991. These were both located in Jigjiga (a strong hold for Amhara settlers) that were intended to serve those settlers. 
 
With regard to rule of law, the country remained under one of the most despotic regimes in human history, every regime surpassing its predecessor in its severity. People are extra judicially executed without any crime, a blatant violation of human rights. The corpses are exhibited in the centers of major towns and public gatherings, which are left to lie under the intense heat of the sun for several days. I have witnessed several instances of such extremely horrible crimes being committed in public with the intent to psychologically terrorize and traumatize the living, including women and children. Worse is that the relatives are denied the right for burial.
 
The present regime headed by Meles Zenawi had gone further into its human rights violation by adding novel ways of physical and psychological tortures and killings. People were chopped and cut into pieces using an axe. Women were rapped by a group of the federal army personnel in front of their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.  There is no rule of law and nothing stops the EPRDF soldiers from doing whatever they wish to do.  The EPRF officer or soldier is the law of the land. It is only Addis Ababa that is relatively better because of its international presence.
 
The seriousness of atrocities in most parts of Ethiopia is beyond imagination. For instance, in 1993 when I was in a town by the name of Dagahbur in the Ogaden Region, a track came to a checkpoint and EPRDF soldier ordered all those on board to come down off the truck. Then, one of those on board responded by saying “ sir, nothing is loaded on the truck except us”. The soldier repeated, “ I said come down” and they did so. When the man who responded to him came down to the ground the EPRDF soldier shot him to death.  Later, an officer in the command was asked why the man was killed who retorted that a fellow fighter killed the man, and that was the end of the story.
 
The Ogaden people were never treated as human during the Ethiopian occupation nor as if they belong to planet earth, where individual and human rights are supposedly respected. The same as the people in region are marginalized the land they live on is often termed as to ‘a remote region in eastern Ethiopia’.  The regimes in power usually try to avoid the very mention of the name, which in their eyes is a taboo, with the exception of when they are using it as a ploy for aid. Hence, the Ethiopian despotic rulers often try to dissect the people from the land.
 
The Ethiopian tyrants are taking advantage of the western countries theatrical call for human rights and their inconsistent foreign policy that turns blind eye on the atrocities being committed by some regimes than others. Therefore, the international law is manipulated, applied arbitrarily and selectively used, whereas the United Nations is no better than that of its predecessor, the League of Nations. When the world’s major powers spend billions of dollars for space exploration, regions like the Ogaden and the similar neglected areas of the planet ‘earth’ are not yet explored. I wonder why in this age of information superhighway and globalization the international community couldn’t afford to be aware of nor willing to know the gross human rights violations being committed by the Ethiopian federal army on a daily basis.
 
Correspondingly, the Somalis in the Ogaden region wonder why the international community couldn’t give them the weight that had been given to the peoples of East Timor, Southern Sudan and even Darfur. They also wonder whether there are criteria that are missing as to their humanity. As late as today, while I am writing this article there is an indiscriminate attack going on in Kabridahar Township, where already more than 40 civilians including innocent children, elderly and women are massacred. Similarly, the village of Fol-jeh near Shilabo was completely burned out including six thousand quintals of sorghum harvested this year2.  It is irony that Ethiopia appeals for food aid while they are destroying what the people had harvested. It is also a recent memory in 1994 that the people of Warder town had suffered a similar atrocity. In short, if the term genocide has a meaning
look no further that is what is going on in the Ogaden region in its fullest scale.
 
Despite the negligence, one thing that is for sure known about the Ogaden region is its huge reserve of natural gas, which the Ethiopian government in conjunction with (the interest driven) big oil companies was vainly attempting to exploit. As a matter fact, the exploration and search for gas and oil reserves in the region had begun little after the Ethiopia’s conquest by the turn of the last century. Hence, the people had reflected their views about the move in a sarcastic way, using their popular dance of “Dhanto” by saying: “wuxuu uga jeeday mooyaane, muxuu Jarmalkii jid noo qoray”, which means: the Germans have paved many roads (the roads were part of the exploration effort) for us even though we do not understand the motive behind it. This was their way of demonstrating that everything done without their consent will be futile.
 
In the contrary, the Ethiopian ministry of mining keeps granting licenses to some outside companies ignoring the reality in the ground. Meanwhile, an issue that everyone interested should bear in mind is whether there should be a consideration and due respect to the real owners of the land. There was a prominent Somali King, by the name ‘Wiil Waal’, who after a thorough and practical experimentation in his interaction with his fellows and foes left us behind the following wit: Inan rag dhicis riyaadna ha ahaade walaalow wuxuu kudhaamo waan waayay”, which roughly translates to: “The best way to handle a man (even if that is a midget Billy goat) is to give him his due respect”. 
 
Ethiopia proclaimed to be one of the oldest countries in Africa is also one of the poorest and least developed. The question is why so? The Ethiopian History is a history of war; it is based on self-destruction, hatred and empty pride and prejudice. There was not a decade in its history that was remembered by calm and prosperity.  Besides that, the country barely had known a sensible leader in its entire history, the worst being the present one. 
 
Who is to blame for the problems mentioned above? Practically, there are many stakeholders, but a major share should go to the senseless, so-called leaders of the country who are shortsighted and who chose to advance their personal interests before the publics’. These tyrants were blinded by a consolidation of their rule instead of creating a political system that is conducible for reconciliation and healing of the wounds created by atrocities of the conquest and of the mass cleansing. To be precise, the following aspects had always been obstacle to a lasting solution and were a shield to the Abyssinian inhuman actions in the horn of Africa:
 
  • The successive Ethiopian regimes narrow minded policies and tyranny, rigidity and reactionary views to the whole political spectrum.
  •  The existed world order that hampered a political solutions to the existed conflicts.
  • The Christian solidarity and bias of the western countries towards the Abyssinian ruling groups in Ethiopia.
 The resultant socio-economic underdevelopment, which further exacerbated and served as a catalyst to the present direction of events.
 
To this end, the nations and nationalities after being forced into a coerced unity were further alienated by the successive regimes tyrannical rule economic and social stagnation. There is a century long hostility between the ruling and the ruled, between the occupied and the occupiers and so on. Therefore, as a matter of fact, there is a huge potential problem, which was evolving and gathering momentum only to erupt when it is fully ripen.
 
Unfortunately, there are still those who peruse the path of destruction like the CUD and are dreaming to restore and preserve the old status quo. They think they can withstand the tidal storms generated by the wrath of the oppressed people. The popular uprisings progressing in every corner of the country is the beginning of the end. The undeniable truth is that there is no going back and the will of the downtrodden people will prevail by any means.

Recommendations:

It is never too late for a lasting solution to the age long predicament that hampered progress in the horn of Africa. Nevertheless, it should come from within. It only requires a positive approach and willingness to stop the bloodshed that the so-called Ethiopia and peoples coerced under its rule had suffered together. There is a Somali proverb that says: Caano daatayba dabadoodaa laqabtaa which literally translates to; “save what is left out of the spilled milk”. Where there is a will there is a way.

 
There is no time in the history of the country when a new and progressive approach to the problem is necessary than today. The ultimate solution to the present problem is justice, exercise of wisdom and facing of the reality. The EPRDF had started it the right direction but they did not stay on the course. There supposed to be no hesitation, no rolling over and no swerving, but as we can see today things are not moving ahead as they were supposed to. In the short term, the current regime needs to abide by the law and allow the development of civil administration in the regional states. The military should stop meddling in the affairs outside of its jurisdiction. Particularly, in the Somali regional State where the EPRDF officers dictate the direction of events exactly like the feudal lords in the medieval era.
 
It is vitally necessary to invite a genuine dialogue between and among the various stakeholders in the country. There should be an open mindedness and a rational approach to the problems. The Ethiopian politicians need to be ready to accept the reality, which is first and for most; respect for individual and human rights, the right for self determination of nations and nationalities, prevalence of rule of law, justice and pursuit of happiness, as well as, equal opportunity for all. The people of Ethiopia should be consulted including the former ‘subjects’, and should be allowed to choose their own destiny. All these aspects need to be put in action vs. today’s lip service.
 
Likewise, there should be a clear choice on the table between a unity and a peaceful secession for all eligible entities. The decision should be respected either way. A prime example of such a peaceful settlement is the case of Czechoslovakia, which by its own will chose to create two sovereign and mutually independent states. If that is not the case things will stay in the present course and the problem ultimately resolves by its own.  As asserted by Touval, Saadia in her PhDs political science theses titled ‘Somali Nationalism’ 1963, peace is impossible in the horn of Africa as long as the political and human rights of the occupied Somalis are in violation.   
 
Generally, the choice of direction of the country is up to the regime in power. There is no parallel in the kind of antagonism that is present in this country today. The magnitude of that surpasses the apartheid system in South Africa and even the one that existed in the former Yugoslavia. Provided the potential problems that the country resides on the need for a real solution is imminent. Nevertheless, realizing the need itself and taking the appropriate actions before it is too late is the other side of the cone.  
 
Mustaf A. Hassan
 
 

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