'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ Samuel Johnson (1775)
Kalayu Abrha 07-17-21
Samuel Johnson is a great British scholar of the 18th Century, who is a familiar figure in Ethiopia for his book "Raselas: The Prince of Abyssinia". The book was translated into Amharic by Sirak Hiruy. Although it was only at a certain political party level, unlike the government level in Ethiopia, what we are experiencing in Ethiopia most currently was also observed by Samuel Johnson in Britain two hundred fifty years ago. It was a dishonest case of using patriotism to advance self or group interest. In Ethiopia political leaders at the Federal and in the Amhara, State are crying fowl on the people of Tigray State (founding member of the Federation!) and its popularly elected party (TPLF) for an alleged attempt to destroy Ethiopia. Just like that! The accusers are using and abusing the patriotic fervor in the hearts of Ethiopians by feeding them with false information, about the war of self-defense in Tigray, through the multitudes of media outlets which have succeeded to jam almost all voices of truth about what has really been going on. Samuel Johnson was not against genuine patriotism. The real idea and practice of Ethiopian patriotism has its origins in Tigray. Tigray has defended Ethiopia from several foreign invasions while the rest of political leaders were busy stabbing it from the back. It is the century long deafening talk of falsely accusing Tigray of "using all opportunities to destroy Ethiopia" that has obscured the truth. The unsuspecting or carefree or hate- blinded Ethiopians have been swallowing the toxic propaganda against Tigray without chewing it. So, Samuel Johnson was referring not to the "real and generous love" of one’s own country but the "pretended patriotism which so many in all ages and countries have made a cloak for self-interest".
This week the accusation on Tigray as working to destroy Ethiopia has reached its peak. What did Tigray do to deserve this politically and morally degrading reference? Christ was crucified for teaching virtue. Those who nailed Him to the Cross were not mentioning any of the good things He said and did. They were stirring the emotions of the public referring to Him as a "false messiah, enemy of Rome, etc.). The truth about what Christ said and did is now recognized by a third of humanity. What Tigray is experiencing in the hands of the false patriots, who have become more Catholic than the Pope (Tigray) not mentioning the fact that it was Tigray which fought and won the largest number of battles and external aggressors who came to rule Ethiopia. The political scoundrels (rogue, dishonest or unscrupulous people) had been partners of TPLF (ruling party of Tigray) in the EPRDF coalition that stayed at the helm in Ethiopia. They have fully participated in everything that TPLF was doing good and bad. With regards to real patriotism TPLF(Tigray) has built the defence force, the security apparatus, the economy and the diplomacy to a world standard. If all this unprecedented contribution to Ethiopia is considered as unpatriotic what is patriotic? Gifting Eritrea to Italy as Tigray cried helplessly? Conspiring with Mahdists to kill the Tigrayan Yohannes IV? Inviting foreign countries (Eritrea, UAE, Somalia) to raze Tigray to the ground?
Arat-Kilo and Bahir Dar are very busy accusing Tigray for working to destroy Ethiopia (Amhara). The real origin of the accusation is not that Tigray has bad intentions on Ethiopia, but because it has the best intentions for Ethiopia. Let me elaborate this apparent contradiction. Ethiopia is the home of over 80 Ethno-linguistic groups, large and small, with their own languages, cultures, and histories. There was no political unit named Ethiopia before the 20th Century. The name Ethiopia was simply a reference to the land south of Egypt or the Sahara to means the land of "burnt faces" in Greek. The Ethiopia that evolved in the last decade of the 19th Century was referred to as Abyssinia. This name persisted even into the years of the "Italo-Abyssinian" war of the 1930s. This is how Ethiopia evolved. First there were a Middle Eastern Axumite empire-state in the north, Amhara kingdoms and dukedoms in the Central and Northwestern Highlands, and the rest in the south, west, southwest, east, northeast, and southeast were autonomous kingdoms or some other things like that. Christian Axum joined the fellow Christian central Amhara kingdoms in the beginning of the second millennium AD as it was alienated from its middle eastern historical and cultural milieu due to the expansion of Islam in the Red Sea. Axum, which later on took the name Tigray formed an uneasy union with the Amhara kingdoms and evolved into Abyssinia. Until this time the two geopolitical entities have no shared history. Their cultures configured by their shared religion and their languages probably evolved and diverged from Geez are what are common to the two Abyssinian political entities. For eight hundred years, until the close of the 19th Century, present day Ethiopia constituted of internally fragmented Abyssinia; Oromo-Gada societies over a huge area covering the south, west, southeast, south-central, and north-central east, Sidama and multitudes of other tiny, small, and large kingdoms in the south-southwest; and the independent Adal and Ausa Sultanates in the east and northeast. It was Abyssinian kings based in Shoa, located closest to the hitherto self-administering political units, that incorporated all of them, by a combination of carrot and stick methods, into the Ethiopian empire its leaders were fond of calling it. This is the 100 years mixture (not a compound) that forms present day Ethiopia. Those who incorporated what we prefer to call nations and nationalities of the east, west and south, were honest enough to refer to Ethiopia as an Empire and its government for instance as "Imperial Ethiopian Ministry of Defence, Health, Education, etc". Readers can pick any copy of Statistical Abstract issued in the 1960s to see this on the cover page.
Ethiopia is not a melting pot; it is a mixed bag! A melting pot is a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, melting together into a common culture. A mixed bag is a miscellaneous collection or assortment. I am not denying that shared values have evolved through time; but the difference, which has to be seriously attended to, is still more overwhelming. The highly centralized unitary system of rule in Ethiopia, which prevailed for the entire century until the advent of the EPRDF in 1991, preferred to consider Ethiopia as a homogenous society without any need for the devolution of political power. This is nothing but a gross denial of reality on the ground. Proponents of the unitary system are largely drawn from the Amhara political elite, as it was the most convenient system for them for those many years in the past. Their ranks also swell every passing day by the unfounded fear inculcated in the minds of innocent members of other nations and nationalities, that it is the unitary system that can guarantee the unity of Ethiopia against the "divisive" federal system. This is the root of the accusation against Tigray. The allegations of maladministration, human rights violation, corruption, treason, etc during the 27 years of TPLF-led EPRDF rule thrown at Tigray, are just smoke screen to rally support against the bastion of Federalism. While Tigray is defending itself as well as the Federalism that Ethiopia badly needs to survive in one-piece, unitary forces are seeking the support of no other than the beneficiaries of the Federal System to cutoff the head of the "Federalist-dragon" in the name of Ethiopian patriotism!