Much ado about Obo Jawar's citizenship
Yohannes Aberra (PhD)
It is amusing that the implementation of citizenship rules is having a jerky jump start on Obo Jawar Mohammed after gathering thick layer of dust since they were formulated. Ethiopia should not have citizenship rules because it is well known that they cannot be functional. Prerequisite number one for the effective implementation is to clearly identify who the Ethiopian is. Citizenship does not become so simply because it is indicated in identity cards. It is the most significant social and political meaning of citizenship that matters. In a country where some claim to be more Ethiopians than rest and is tacitly approved; where the culture, language, history of a particular society is taken as a standard dumping the rest as disappearing tribal cultures and languages, and also trivializing their histories; where this is followed by trying to systematically adulterate the languages and songs to hasten their doom and complete the process of assimilation; where the credit for the independent existence of Ethiopia is taken by a particular society belittling the rest as subordinate and even as anti-Ethiopia; where the so called Ethiopian media serves to propagate the political views of particular society and their skewed opinions on every sphere of life in Ethiopia; even where the Ethiopian orthodox church, which in theory belongs to all but is monopolized as own culture and political weapon by a particular society pushing the rest into the periphery; where the right and the wrong flag of Ethiopia is decided by political elite from a particular society.
Ethiopian citizenship is only in name especially for the majority. There should be a clear difference between a non-citizen and a citizen. In fact there is no way to know who is an Ethiopian citizen. Except for ID cards where citizenship may be indicated there are no special citizenship cards issued for Ethiopians. It is by implication that citizenship is known. If you have kebele id then you are an Ethiopian because it is given only to Ethiopians. The question is how do the kebele know that someone is really an Ethiopian? No way! It is not easy to get kebele id even if you can prove that you are resident of that kebele. You have to beg the house owner to help you get an id card; often unsuccessfully. The house owner is more Ethiopian than the tenant. One can casually observe how foreigners are much better treated and served than ordinary Ethiopians. In many cases ordinary foreigners are more trusted and not searched at entrances of important public buildings. It is much easier for a foreigner to come close to an Ethiopian leader or high official with warm greetings and without a shove by bodyguards than an ordinary Ethiopian. Foreign consultants are preferred to Ethiopian citizens even if the latter have equal or better expertise in the required field. In religious ceremonies like Timket and Meskel nothing seems bright without interviewing more than the share of foreigners.
In view of the above I have always wished to live in Ethiopia as a citizen of another country; even as Djibouti or Eritrean citizen. I know very well how kindly and respectfully they are treated in Ethiopia than the citizens of Ethiopia. When Ethiopians in the Middle East or travelling to the Middle East are harmed no government body bothers about it. One of the key rights of a citizen is to be protected in and outside the country of citizenship. USA can start a war for one citizen harmed abroad. My daughter who is living in USA for nearly ten years did not have US citizenship until this year. Whenever I ask why? She used to say she wants to retain her Ethiopian citizenship along with the US residence she got in case she returns to Ethiopia for good. My advice to her was based on sad realities in Ethiopia: "Come to Ethiopia anytime you want with US citizenship; you will live like a queen". What has been driving Ethiopian political opposition until now and most likely into the future is the diaspora (citizen and non-citizen) affair. Opposition politicians during the EPRDF were almost invariably plugged into the diaspora political socket. They fly to the USA for every consultation that can be done by phone. Very important conferences and key decisions about politics in Ethiopia were being made in big US cities. It was even openly stated by President Trump, a US citizen same as Jawar who claimed to have saved the Country from TPLF (Ethiopian citizen). By the way some bunch of apologists like ESAT and company are telling the Ethiopian public that Trump said he saved Ethiopia from Egypt or Eritrea. He did not say anything like that. What he meant was clear: He "saved" Ethiopia from TPLF through Abiy and the latter got the credit instead. The West is not bothered about saving Ethiopia from Egypt. USA was looking for a way to penalize TPLF for not accepting US dictations about how to run the Ethiopian economy. Now they got an Ethiopian whip to chase TPLF away.
What is so much media flood rushing to drown Jawar now not a few months ago? When Jawar was leading the Kerro and encouraging the fano and stimulating the ejeto no one was asking questions about his US citizenship. Jawar was the master mind and a revered leader of the kerro, fano movements against an elected government which led to the installation of the Abiy government. Jawar was rewarded by having body guards! In which part of the world is this done for an activist outside his country of citizenship (USA)? Jawar knew why he was considered like a king when there are smarter and more experienced Oromo political leaders within Ethiopia? The magic was that he was a US citizen who would more easily be supported by the USA. The same voices who almost worshipped Jawar are contradicting themselves by accusing Jawar of joining a party in Ethiopia. Wasn't what he did to install Abiy a much higher magnitude of involvement in Ethiopian politics than joining an opposition party? Citizenship in Ethiopian politics have little meaning. Even if it is said that attention has been paid throughout who can say with 100% certainty that over 100 parties in Ethiopia are clear of foreign citizens? The first time citizenship became a criterion for involvement in Ethiopian politics it was started with Jawar! Who is going to believe that this is genuine? First of all citizenship has never been an issue in Ethiopian politics. Beginning from Tewodros whose closest political advisors were British citizens working for the interest of Britain, succeeding governments had British, French, American, Russian, and Cuban military and political advisors. It is baffling, to say the least, to observe the current government while allowing a foreign leader (Eritrean Citizen), including US and Arab leaders to meddle in Ethiopian domestic affairs, is tormenting Jawar for being US citizen and joining an Ethiopian political party. It is the same to meddle in Ethiopia's politics from outside or from inside for a foreign citizen. If the government stops Jawar it has to stop other interferences as well.
At a personal level I donít mind whether Jawar is a US citizen. After all, he is an Ethiopian by birth (DNA), a proud Oromo to be more specific. What is going on against Jawar is a political vendetta concealed in citizenship rules. There is more noise in the media for something that can be a simple court case. Even that is unnecessary. Time can prove me wrong, but I don't think Jawar has bad intentions on Ethiopia. It is rather the opposite. He has a difference with the conventional thinking about Ethiopian unity and continuity. That may be the reason why he is at odds with those who think differently. Jawar once said "We don't have shared history but we can start from now". This is the most brilliant and practical proposal that I ever heard from an Ethiopian politician. Except for repelling foreign aggressions, most of the burden of which was on northern Ethiopians, much of the history of Ethiopia is not shared: Axum excluded most of the present Ethiopia, Rule from central Ethiopia (Gondar and Shewa) was restricted to Abyssinia which excluded the entire southern half of Ethiopia. Yohannes' reign was de facto limited to Abyssinia excluding the southern half of Ethiopia and Shewa. Menilik's incorporation of Oromos and the south is only a century old. It has to be admitted that there is no 3000 years for Ethiopia in its current shape. It is easy to argue endlessly and have no agreement at all. This is the current unfortunate reality of Ethiopia. While the Amhara historians and politicians inflate the role of the Amhara kings for Ethiopia, the Oromos and Tigrai, the South, and many others remember them as brutal rulers. I am not inventing this! It is the realty we see in Ethiopia which no foreseeable end except triggering the disintegration of the country. However much some may hate him I think Jawar's suggestion to stop putting a zero or one denominator below Ethiopian History is feasible. I donít think the Amhara elite can succeed to convince the rest of Ethiopians with their version of Ethiopian history. Take the bitter reality and save Ethiopia
One more for the road to a unity in diversity of Ethiopia: OLF the most dominant and most popular Oromo political party was for long accused of fighting for the separation of Oromo land from Ethiopia. It is hard to blame the OLF for this because in the past it was difficult not be angered by the way the Oromos were considered as second class Ethiopians. The other side of the story is if Oromo land separates Ethiopia as we know it today will cease to exist. It is understandable that Ethiopians become ambivalent about justice (separation of Oromia) and Ethiopian existence. It is OLF and other political groups (Merara) who were wise enough to moderate the separatist agenda and remain in Ethiopia with the deserved equality. The Oromo politicians who have preferred to join the rest of Ethiopian for an Ethiopia united in diversity must be thanked not insulted. Jawar who had been a hardliner about the Oromo issue is now working for election in Oromia within the context of Ethiopia. Why are some Ethiopian politicians becoming so irrational and myopic and pushing the softened hardliners into unfavorable political territory?