Recently, The Ethiopian Herald had a stay with Obang Metho, Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia Executive Director. He is also a chairperson of ‘I am a Human Movement’. He has touched upon a range of ideas with regard to the overwhelming socio-political issues of the country.
Would you please tell us how the center-periphery relations of the past administration affected the unity of Ethiopia?
Thank you for the opportunity. The issue of center-periphery relationship is an issue that needs to be well addressed. In fact, the issue of what is traditionally regarded as periphery has long been neglected and actors of the region have been deprived of their rights to determine the essential affairs of their country. The amalgamation of peripheral localities with the center is a very important step to push the country forward.
As it is unthinkable to cut or ignore any part of our body, we cannot ignore some parts and take care of the other. In simple terms, no part of the country shall be regarded as more important, and any other parts as less important. As I always say, a country is like a human body. For a person to function well, all parts of the body should be healthy.
For a country to be prosperous, all regions, zones, woredas, and kebeles, from top to the bottom echelon, have to be given due emphasis and equal opportunity.
When it comes to our context, there has been something intentionally done, especially for the last twenty-seven years, for the country not to get united. Hence, the problem is not on the periphery, but the whole country is infected by the system that was put in place. The system was not genuine, not based on truth, integrity, unity, and fraternity, it was not transparent too. Even the constitution of the country, from its very birth, was formulated to intentionally disable the country. It stipulates for example at its preamble, “We the Nations, Nationalities, and People of the country.” It is a means of segregation and disunity. It doesn’t say, “We Ethiopians.” Even no one knows who are Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples distinctly. This is a big problem when it comes to the periphery, which does have great significance in holding the country together.
The bigger portion of the country has long been neglected so long. The failure started from the very beginning to make the country unhealthy, non-prosperous, and unstable. And these things have to be corrected for the national interest of the country, for its existence and national sovereignty.
When we say national sovereignty, it doesn’t mean that some regions are more important than the others. All national boundaries are part and parcel of this country and they deserve every necessary protection and care. In doing so, the people who make up the nation-state can enjoy equality. If we can go back to the last 27 years, these are people who were fleeing to the jungle in the name of oppression and became liberation fronts. We have so many liberation fronts.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front, the Sidama Liberation Front, etc. We have so many liberation fronts. From whose shackles were they going to liberate from? The truth had gradually revealed. These people were not against oppression. They rather were anti-Ethiopian forces. So they are liberating themselves from Ethiopia, incredible.
The ones who came to power after the Derg, introduced their tribal agendum-ethnocentric agendum, which was totally a poison massacring a generation. And they dressed it up a suit of federalism.
It was another system to control and monopolize the resources various areas do have. They simply introduced the system to easily control the country with a systematic divide and rule.
They partitioned regions by assigning numbers and inculcated hatred in the minds of every citizen of the country. You cannot cage a human being in order not to run away. They made nine regional cages and two city administrative cages. The first cage is the Tigray region, the second cage is the Afar region you name….the cages created after tribes.
For example, Gambela or Oromia or Amhara or Tigray is not a tribal, but a geographical location. Gambela is the name of a geographic region. Given a particular tribe is entirely entitled to that area, they are to oust what may be labeled as “the other” out of their tribal zone. How come! This system has never favored the country as a system; it was purely a narrow-minded ethnocentric agenda, not a unifying agenda.
Worse even, the name ‘Ethiopia’ has been given a negative connotation, even today. Surprisingly, the late prime minister never called the country by the name ‘Ethiopia’; instead, he always called it ‘this country.’ The group all in all didn’t have any sense of Ethiopianness. They used to have it like the one who needs the milk but not willing to nurture the cow. Similarly, peripheries were consulted and called whenever they had been needed otherwise they were nothing in the issue of the national agendum.
In every region, puppets were put simply in the name of self-rule, but in reality, there were people from another cage that belong to these anti-Ethiopia groups-mercenaries of the ruling party-TPLF actively acted on the decision-making.
In all regions, the decision making bodies are not from that responsible region, local area, but from another cage. For instance, if you take the case of Gambela, simply personalities from that cage have been assigned, but you can never find Okelo, Gatlok, or others at the forefront of the decision-making process. Look! They had also plundered the national resource what the peripheries do have.
Simply, all the peripheries in particular and other regions, in general, were not ruled in a participatory manner. Those individuals who were supposed to be leaders of respective places had been put behind bars, killed, forced to flee the country, and even disappeared for an unknown reason. Besides, they had been labeled as anti-democratic force, anti-peace elements, and anti-development sects or members of oppositions designated as terrorists.
It is well recognized that the most fertile lands are found in the peripheries, but have not yet benefited the local people. The national resource has been abused, in clear terms.
For instance, the elites took salt from Afar, the fertile land from Gambela, etc. Only four regions were at the decision-making table for the whole country setting the Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, Afar, Harari, and Somali states aside. They were administered by surrogate leaders, which was not really fair and legitimate. How those leaders from another area without knowing the norm, needs, requirements, and other facets of the local community can develop that area?
All the aforesaid regions are wider than the Tigray region in terms of population, landmass, and fertility, how come these regions were not part of the decision-making elements of the country, what makes them an Agar or auxiliary. These regions have been discriminated in terms of location, in terms of people, in terms of resources, too.
That hell system would never lead the country forward. What Dr. Abiy Ahmed has come up with is a good initiative. It’s promising and workable. You cannot put grade for a family saying that this kid is first and that kid is second, all are equal. However, this might work for the level of development parameters like third world countries or first world ones. We cannot say within a country one is first, second. Unfortunately, TPLF wrought all ways as per their ill-intended and anti-Ethiopian stance. However, Dr. Abiy doesn’t allow this to be repeated at all, I hope.
It is an action, not the sayings that count. Now the marginalized or the peripheral parts of the country are part and parcel of the national decision. Hereafter, these people will develop a sense of belongingness as they enjoy their rights to decide on the future of Ethiopia. They are the real administers of their own localities; work hard to advance their regions.
These people can now elect their representatives; this is federalism, unlike the fake one earlier, which was rather a tent of hide and seek game.
Some say Dr. Abiy has come up with a superficial and surface change, not a radical one. What is your reflection in his regard?
Undeniably, a leader can build the country; a leader can destroy a country. A leader can bring more prestige to a country and a leader can take away its reputation. A leader can build unity; a leader can disintegrate a nation.
Millions of Ethiopians highly supported when Abiy first came to power. I was the one, even. I didn’t support him because he is an Oromo, I didn’t support his ideology, his belief, but his being an Ethiopian has won everyone’s hearts and minds.
Ethiopianness cannot be compromised. Even he once said, “When we alive we are Ethiopians, when we die, we will be Ethiopia.” This is a clear manifestation of his love for his county. Those who hate being Ethiopian dislike his stance.
No king, no ruler, no guerrilla fighter has given us Ethiopianness, only God gave us this golden nomenclature or naming.
Hence, anyone that tries to take Ethiopianness from us will never succeed. The seed of discord has deliberately been sown to swallow Ethiopianism over the last 27 years, but Ethiopianness has never perished.
The very thing that needs to be well comprehended is that democracy is a process. It is not an overnight act. Strong institutional and constitutional reforms are the key to the transformation of the country.
The questions as to where did we start, where are we now, to where we are going? should be taken into account. True, Abiy has overcome the backward ethnocentric system that snatches the pride of the country.
He advocates the change of the constitution, that is why those who have been using it as a fortress are shouting and creating havoc in every part of the country. The constitution justifies the “us” and “them” narrative. Someone could be killed only because s/he is not from here. Devastating!
Unless we deal with the wrong expressions and proclamations, we cannot move forward. A radical change has to be inserted in the system to come up with a democratic culture. We should root out the system that takes away our unity, freedom, fraternity, pride, and denies our existence as Ethiopians, favors a few. It takes away our humanity replacing ethnicity, a poison to the country and its people.
These all mishaps emanate from the constitution that advocates ethnic federalism. A step Dr. Abiy has gone, ranging from changing the name of the party to Prosperity is viable and promising. Constitutional and institutional reform has to be made real soon as there is no prosperity without freedom, quality, justice, and democracy.
Proponents of the regime before Abiy are still demolishing bridges, burning factories, spoiling societal thinking. Those who are going to be buried with their ethnocentric ideology, a bread and honey for few, are still here with their tribal, primitive, backward thinking. We have to fight all these if we are to bring about a prosperous Ethiopia.
These people do not liberate themselves let alone liberate Ethiopia. As long as they are here, it is difficult to hit the intended target. Most definitely, they will liberate and fatten their pockets at the expense of the mass— innocent Ethiopians. The big fear for these people is unity as it is a nuclear weapon that devastates their divisive policies.
They are afraid of unity, Ethiopianness, because unity is Ethiopianess and it is love, pride, freedom, fraternity, harmonious living. As long as we are alive, Ethiopianness will pass to the next generation through blood and gene.
Individuals are heard of saying that the system is turned out to be a unitary one. What is your understanding of their utterances?
They will never understand, they do not, cannot understand as the saying goes in local language Amharic, “The one who deliberately sleeps never wakes up”.
They said the constitution is not respected, but they themselves are violating it time and again. As to them the right way is their own way as they think under the tenet of “My way or no way,” which is a chauvinistic and evil-minded stance.
The very important thing here is that we are in the 21st century, bogging down in the past systems, of Menelik’s, Hile Selassie’s, Meles’s, and what have you, does not sound. This is purely a dead imagination.
With such a mentality, one can let alone lead the country, they cannot lead themselves and their family. Ethiopians have lived over the last 3,000 years in loving one another. This unity is unbreakable and untouchable, these people will not succeed. They make us develop fear about unity, equality, and fraternity to prolong their tight grip on power.
Education is not only going to school; it is a means of knowing our rights, responsibility, and discharge what is expected of us.
For example, the elderly in the early times were much better than the ones who consider themselves educated today. When the Italians tried to divide Oromo and Amhara, they could hardly succeed for the bond among the Oromo and Amhara had been strong.
Today we are living in a country where schools and health institutions have burned down and property destroyed, some have ordered the youth at home to destabilize the nation because Shashemene is not theirs, Zeway is not theirs. It is quite unfair and unacceptable. They shall look into themselves.
We shouldn’t give attention to these few individuals because they are part of the destructive forces at home. Besides, they are who have drunk the ethnocentric political ideology-a divide and rule weapon, and intoxicated with hatred ethnicity, ethnic extremism, and ethnic backwardness.
Some diaspora stands against the administration of Dr. Abiy. What is your comment on this?
I think the government has to take strong action. They have whistled a horn because they are living in countries where the rule of law is respected. Those people who are disseminating hate speech living in Canada, America, Australia, and others should be reported to the respective authorities. They don’t have future, hope, and aspiration for their country—Ethiopia— to prosper. Basically, they are not Ethiopians. Our government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should monitor them; those who make us kill each other should come before the law wherever they are.
We have to tell the world that we have to fight for Ethiopianness because our humanity came first before our ethnicity. We cannot ask Americans or other overseas to free us; it is we who can make free ourselves. We know how can it be done, and every world can support us. It is we who will define our future, our fate for our children for our country’s prosperity. The young people are brainwashed not to love their country, not to establish unity by monsters and hatemonger elements.
We have long aspired to create Ethiopia where everyone is equal; everyone has got electricity, hospital, and proud of being an Ethiopian at large.
Would you elaborate on the concept of tribalism?
Tribalism kills, it is a disease, is a poison, the most evil thinking. God created a human being for a human being as a human being is a social animal. An African saying ‘UBUNTU’ you are here because I exist.
Tribalism is the opposite of that. I don’t need you. It opposes the principle of the law of nature. Backward and short-sighted principle. Inhumane principle. The outcome of tribalism was vividly exhibited in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, etc.
There is only an animal that eats itself, its race. It’s an animal that only cares for itself. Simply, tribalism is animalism. Being a human is a responsible body. Not only is responsible or self but also for others. Tribalism pronounces my stomach first, my click first, my group first.
Me alone would never work. We need each other, but tribalism we dislike others. We have practiced tribalism for the last 27 years. The zero-sum game where my tribe takes all has not worked at all.
At the end of the day, the system itself will destroy people. What makes these people is lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, lack of responsibility, and a combination of greed, lack of purpose.
Does unity mean oneness as some are complaining about it?
Let me give you a very god example herein. I am a person. I do have many parts of the body: you can see my eye, my ear, and the combination of all that makes my being. The country is the same. Every ethnic group is a mosaic of colors that make up a beautiful country. But unity is the monster for them as it was on the division that they worked on since they were in the desert.
Equality, love, fraternity, harmony, and peace prevail overlie, theft, wicked system, and deceitfulness. Unity is functioning together, sharing things together, getting voices loud together, developing, and making a difference together.
Unity is a deliberately framed bond and it is caring, sharing, loving, of which we have deprived for the last 27 years.
Do you have something to say about land grabbing in Gambela?
Not land grabbing, it was life grabbing. When you take away the land, you take away the livelihood. There are many places with fertile lands in Ethiopia; we can simply call these places the breadbasket of Ethiopia. Gambela is one of them. To your surprise, we have enough water, resource, fertile land to feed Ethiopians let alone the state.
TPLF knows that Gambela, Benishangul… do have fertile land….
When they came across someone who resisted their evil act of taking away the livelihood (land), their response had been killing and throwing behind bars …they took away people’s land putting their interest first…took the thousands of acres of land and used to fatten their [belly].
TPLF cadres, not the local people, even in the list of 2,000 people you could hardly find the name of a local people. These people were there to destroy not to build.
Thanks to the Administration of Dr. Abiy, the regional government restored the land to make the local people benefit from the resources. Some 600,000 acres of land in Gambela was allotted for development but not yet developed.
I do have a document comprising the list of so-called investors close to 2,000; all of them are from one region. They want the resource; they do not want the people. The truth is the locals’ lands were taken away in the name of investment. Now most of this land is abandoned, no activity is going on because they have not invested in it.
The TPLF members were there to plunder the resource; it is exactly what took place. This had been the case witnessed everywhere. The destruction is still taken place in Gambela. The place is potential enough to feed the country. After the coming to office of Dr. Abiy, some of these people disappear. The regional government has taken the land back. Some 600,000 acres of land were taken from Gambela, but it has never been developed.
The first phase of dam filling is over what does it means for all of us?
This is a pride, a great step for every Ethiopian who knows its meaning. It is a God gift for us.
It is in simple terms an issue of national interest and the survival of Ethiopia. The water comes out of our beautiful land, motherland-Ethiopia, it is our own water and Ethiopia contributes over 86 percent of it, so this country has to benefit out of its golden resource. Our leaders contributed, have been contributing a lot to the development of the nation. For instance, Meles Zenawi laid the foundation, Hailemariam followed up and Dr. Abiy Ahmed completed.
Thanks to Eng. Simegnew Bekele, too, he had contributed a great deal to make the dam real despite the wrong acts of hatemonger ones. It’s our water. What is being done is entirely founded by all Ethiopians, it was envisioned by Ethiopians, and it was funded and filled by them.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) filling is tantamount to nourishing Ethiopians’ heart, mind, and soul and is paving the viable way to success and highly rejuvenates renaissance.
A great deal of capital has been pumped into the dam from every walks of life ranging from a firewood seller poor woman to high profile investors and every sort of negotiation, as well as physical works, has been carried out patriotically to reach this level. Thanks to the management and every Ethiopian, it has been made real.
Since the dam is being built and funded by Ethiopians themselves, we are not supposed to ask permission from somebody to fill the dam and this is the first step as a long journey is waiting for us in the future. This activity is for sure a great victory for all of us, which is the victory of humanity, the victory of peace, the victory of self-dignity, etc. It is really a pride we have registered successfully. All Ethiopians are extremely excited and proud of their being Ethiopians and it is a success after hundreds and thousands of years. We have to strengthen our unity and harmonious way of living.
“Our country is our life; national interest should always come at the forefront because it is a matter of the existence of Ethiopia and then Ethiopians. It is our land, it is our water, and we have to reap the benefits out of it without imposing significant harm to sisterly downstream countries.”
Ethiopians’ future prosperity has laid a base and been put on an unwavering foundation. What is expected of us hereafter is strengthening our unity more than ever before and leveling leeway by which enmities have taken advantage of attacking us. We have to know the value of a country and work for the growth and development of this time-tested great nation. Unless we all move in unison and fortify our love and fraternity one another, no one can come and act accordingly to push the country forward and make it a tower of prosperity.
Even one dam is not enough for Ethiopia; we have to dam a lot on our rivers.
When we stand together, we win, when we divided we fail. Ethiopianness and unity matter the most. The success we have witnessed within the shortest time possible is the outcome of standing together; I can say it is the second Adwa, a victory of humanity, a victory of morality.
What do you call the people who are working closely with Ethiopia’s rivalry?
“The perfidious individuals who are closely working with nemeses at the expense of their country’s national interest are monsters and cursed ones and need to be scrupulously eyed at as they have never refrained from their ill-intended and wicked agendum. Surprisingly, there is no terminology for them to call that fits their diabolic spirit.”
Honestly speaking, we cannot give them a single terminology to call, even a criminal and disloyal. These are people who are not using their mind for unity and love to thrive; rather for destruction plundering, quarreling you name it…
They don’t have a love for their country, instead, they are Bushmen, they don’t have patriotic gesture, they do have ears, but not hear, do have eyes, but not see…
They don’t know Ethiopia and its people and are not Ethiopians, they are traitors always sow discord among the young generation. They are not willing to hear and learn from others. They all the time work to create a clash between Amhara and Oromo people, Wolayita and Sidama, Oromo and Somali people, etc. They have left no stone unturned to destabilize the nation.
Hatred, killing, hostility, jealousy, narrow-mindedness all evil are seeds of these irresponsible groups.
The heinous crimes perpetrated in Arsi, Arbagugu, Bedeno, and other places are living proofs for the monstrous deeds of these irresponsible groups. Over the last 27 years, so many people were killed for no reason, even we don’t know where some others are.
A number of people were suffering during the reign of this mafia group.
They killed one generation and destroyed the country. They had no a dream to develop the country apart from fattening their pocket at the expense of many innocent Ethiopians. They are still under the blanket of their backward and malicious mentality. It will swallow them one day.
We have to educate the generation about the significance of unity, history of their country, the truth not the power prolonging scheme, tolerance, to have a patriotic society. As they lack imagination, self-esteem, and self-dignity, they have to stop functioning somewhere.
We have to teach children saying, “Unity in diversity is a beauty and power to create a prosperous Ethiopia of which we are highly proud.” The one besides you is your sister, your brother, your ally not enemy, etc. so the saying goes “United we stand, divided we fail.”
Let me cite one thing here, have a look at a flower, one flower, it is beautiful; see again several flowers-a mosaic of flowers source of beauty. It is much more mesmerizing. The 80 socio-linguistic groups of Ethiopia should be regarded as the boutique of flowers, imagine how attractive and charming we are!
God bless us! Long live Ethiopia!
The Ethiopian Herald August 2020
BY MENGESHA AMARE