|What does this mean for the nations of Ethiopia?
Apr 2, 2021
As I read this article, the prospect of a protracted Iraq or Yemen war is the only thing that looms over my mind.
I am no expert on the geopolitics of the region, the USA, the Mediterranean or the Fertile Crescent in general. But I do think one thing. Whenever I see that the USA is leading the pack, the war lasts a long time. And the people are left shocked to the core. And what was once a poor country seems to turn to a destitute one. Reliant on international handouts, with no questions for accountable spending of loans. Corruption goes through the roof and ultimately the people suffer.
Whilst many welcome the USA involvement in Tigray. I fear it. And I fear it for the reasons of the past and the patterns of development and economic influence in other regions they have “helped”. I fear it because during the time of Meles Zenawi, although the country had loans, it was also under a campaign of huge economic growth. Health was improved, education supplied and infrastructure was rapidly increasing. There was claims of corruption, mainly backed by international diaspora news organisations, whose undertones of what can only be described of as jealousy, has little to no evidence to support the allegations. Corruption may have been present. But no way near as high as most other countries with high international loans. Evidence will need to be provided but my thoughts lead me to west Africa, where reforms are constantly promised for stamping out corruption, but year in year out there is little to no change. And if there is, in comes a heavy handed ruler who is welcomed in by the crowds, derailed by the corrupt and then ousted by the masses. Until a new shining start is presented and the cycle repeats.
What I write is my opinion based on my own analysis from observing the continent for over a decade. And like always, I ask people to research further to prove or disprove my points of discussion. But I feel reading this article is another brick in the wall of a future that is very different to the country Meles was building. And the impact on the civilian population. I’m particularly concerned for is the peasantry.
I do not use that term for its colloquial use of “unsophisticated folk”. But for the original use of the term, countryfolk of lower social class, who tend to land and feed those in the upper class via their labour and crafts. The term that is used describe those particularly in a society of imperialistic nature or with large gaps of wealth.
I use the word peasantry as it applies to current Ethiopia, as it did to the United Kingdom before its industrial boom and during the transition of imperialism to democracy and structured governments. I often liken Ethiopia to what Europe would have been like prior to the booms and revolutions. It appears to be a society trying to transition from imperial rulers, appointed by God for whom the people must work for and serve, to ensure the figure head can live out Gods destiny for him/her. To a system where the rulers are elected by the people and employed to work for the people and the greater good of humanity and therefore pleasing God for his/hers service to those he/she governs.
I was watching a documentary last month on the reign of king George V. He was the king/ emperor during some of the most trying times of philosophical (governance) revolutions, media developments and industrialised factories for almost everything invented so far, including that of faster arms production and more powerful weapons. He had to manage the tail end of the transition from total imperial rule, to ensure the democracy of the Westminster system was accepted. Again I am no expert and not here to judge his overall accomplishments or faults. I only wish to comment on the observation I made, that King George V made a conscious decision to ensure that the masses, the peasantry, were heard and they knew he was in his position for them. From what I observed in that documentary was that the transition from imperialism to Westminster required a notable effort to keep society happy. And not to rock the boat of either total imperial rulership or most importantly full removal of the comfortably accepted monarchical position in society.
Whilst most of Europe just exterminated the idea of an imperial ruler, the British stuck with theirs. Albeit Ireland rebelled and in true Irish form, caused a raucous on the way out. But overall the idea of a god appointed figure head with an added layer of accountability to it, seemed to work for the nation states of the United Kingdom. And if popular culture is any indication, the society on the whole welcomes their cultural characteristic of a mixed type of of leadership. One where a monarch and a parliament can run in union and all parts of society are kept happy, so long as they can be English, (North)Irish, Scottish and Welsh, without being told to be someone else. The nation states of the British Isles tend to fair well on the measure of public love of their identity. And acceptable limits of imperialism and democracy seem to be the way they like it.
Why is this relevant to Ethiopia?
Well let me make this first point quite clear. It is not relevant to the whole of Ethiopia. In fact I believe it is only relevant to one fraction of society. And that fraction happens to be made up of high numbers from people who currently represent the Amhara state in the diaspora. As King George V found, people actually liked the idea of a king. It was comfortable to them. It was the way things had always been. To remove him entirely would have sent the whole society into shock. A king or queen had always been there. Of course this is not true, but for at least 500-700 years it is. And that was enough for the people to believe it has always been the way. Much as I believe this diaspora group suffer from home sickness. I believe the air of change back home is just too much for the collective consciousness to compute.
The 700 year mark is a rough guess but it is about the same era that one faithful day, the Solomonic empire of Ethiopia resurrected itself into society from birth of Yekuno Amlak in what is now the Wollo region. The fall of the Zagwe Dynasty and the formation of a new Solomonic dynasty gave rise to a new line of imperialism as Ethiopia knew it, until the death of Hailie Selassie. Although the motive is almost impossible to prove, when speaking to indigenous Oromo, this way of ruling was done to suppress those in the fertile lands of the people who followed the ancient democratic processes of the Gaddaa system. Over the next 7 centuries war after war seems to the theme. Blood, death and fluctuating expansion seems to be the over all consensus for those of Oromian background. To the far north of Wollo, and what is now much of the Eritrean region a similar situation was seen with the Medri Bahri. A kingdom of rulership that imposed monarchical structures on the peasantry and roaming society’s of nations such as the Afar. This kingdom may have had possible reforms to a republic by the late 1600s. All of which is to be investigated further. I am sure there was some imperial rule in the now the Tigray region up to and if not further than Asmara in Eritrea and down to Gondar in present day Amhara state. But as fate would have it, much of the evidence has been destroyed through subsequent wars and looting or just not yet translated to an English version I have found.
This idea of monarchical imperialism vs the Gaddaa system is at the core of the issues in the formation and now falling of Ethiopia. Without going into great detail here, the two cultures were forced together through the hard yards of emperor Menelik. Once and for all forming a huge empire of Ethiopia. One in which was made of many nations, attempting to force all into one nation state, one identity and one imperial system for all. Plus splitting up to 4 unique nations/ ethnic groups into the two countries of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea (Kunama, Irob/Saho, Tigrayan and Afar).
The founders of this empire hold the identity group of what is now the Amhara people. Although there is evidence an ethnic identity has existed under the name of bete Amhara albeit much smaller for centuries, the current Amhara region housed over 15 other ethnic nations in their borders, many of whom have evaporated into history via the work of Menelik. The language group itself spawned as an evolutionary product from Tigrinya, and was thought to be developed as working language for those in the palaces and armies, so as to communicate secretly when in public.
With all this rough history on board, I shudder to think of the lives of those in the region over the years. Forced to be someone they are not because a man with a crown rides through and tries to take their land and strip them of their culture. And why the thought of the USA interfering is so scary to me, is it may be just another snitch in the wire of identity crushing. Although Ethiopia was never formally colonised by the “white man” as I believe the English saw them as imperial equals, all leaders except Meles Zenawi failed to acknowledge the many nations and cultures that make up this fragile state. It is the borders that where made during the colonial era, through the help of these presently self proclaimed “Amhara” leaders and denial of indigenous nations that have lead to the demise of this false nation. The refusal to let go of the past rule and lack of a king George V figure to appease the fear of change is what has lead to the hatred towards the Tigrayan people and the eventual driving force to commit genocide. It is seen as payback for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who fought for the liberty of its people, not only from imperialism but the subsequent communist rule of the Derg.
Whilst the Amhara elite fight to hold onto their historical claims of absolute rulership. The Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama people fight for their right to exist and not to just dissolve like that of the Agaw and Qement, who build what is now known as the iconic features of Lalibella and Fasil in the modern Amhara state. The Oromo fight for their right to even teach the Gaddaa system, which at first glance out ranks the republic model of Ancient Rome. And could be a model for a future democracy in the Republic of Oromia. If not the world, who looks for an economic structure that is near equal, with a large middle class and less wealth disparity.
I wish it was up to the people to decide, not those in western offices who still cannot admit the nuances of nation states existing in Africa, Asia and the Middle East despite the neatly placed borders of business districts placed on top during the colonial time and with the help of the ruling classes who were set to profit. Ultimately I believe when foreign bodies get to decide, war is long and more people are left suffering. And that is the fear this well written article invokes in my psyche. With the USA so strongly involved in the neighbouring Sudan their influence on Tigray is near. And not for the humanitarian purposes.
The peasantry of Ethiopia were in the verge of evolving into a middle class whose economic growth was based on its own business merits. But I believe that all died when Abiy Ahmed invited in foreign bodies to do his job and the economic growth and individual nations identity will be next.