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Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of


Department of History


A History of Nationalism in Ethiopia: 1941 to 2012
Tewodros Hailemariam
Ph.D. in History
Addis Ababa University, 2013
This dissertation investigates the history of nationalism in Ethiopia since 1941. Based
primarily on government archives, newspapers, magazines, student papers and other
publications of the period and oral informants, it traces the genesis and evolution of the
different conceptions regarding the Ethiopian nation. It also attempts to see how the
Imperial, the Military and EPRDF regimes had accommodated the national question. This
dissertation argues that in spite of the major ideological and power shifts of the period,
Ethiopian nationalism is more widespread and resilient than it was commonly believed. It
also underlines that state nationalism could create either an integrative national culture
and sentiment or a violent and militant reaction towards the state based on political,
social and economic factors. Nationalism for the historian is of interest not merely as a
problem in the history of ideas, but also as an urgent issue in current affairs. Therefore,
this study will be a contribution to the scholarly dialogue on the national question in
Ethiopia. The study may also benefit scholars from various disciplines and future
researchers on the subject as a starting point. Statesmen, social workers, policy makers
may utilize the findings for public benefit. Above all, this study is hoped to assist
Ethiopians to understand and arbitrate themselves with their past, and draw useful lessons
to fashion their future for the better.


I must begin by admitting that my original interest to investigate the history of
nationalism in Ethiopia from every possible angle was too ambitious, to say the least. It
would have been done in conditions of better financial and logistic support, less
politicized and suspicious atmosphere, and outside the rigidities of an academic calendar.
If I had achieved in this dissertation only a fraction of what I dreamt, the credit goes to
many individuals.
First and foremost would be to Professor Bahru Zewde, whom I cannot thank enough for
bearing all my irregularities and painstakingly honing my professional standards. I doubt
if I could have handled this without you. Professor James Mccann, I am very grateful to
you, not only for saving this project in the first place but also for courageously
contributing in a very difficult arrangement. Dear Sirs, I thank you both, respectfully!
I am also grateful to all my informants, named and unnamed, my hosts at various
localities and, most of all, to the librarians of the Ethiopian National Archives and
Library Agency, Archives and Legal Deposits sections.
Above all to my family, who were the ultimate bearers of the effects of a faulty education
and an ailing economy. My wife Tijo, my daughter Meqdelawit and my son Zeleul:
Hurrah, it is over!





1.1 The Evolution of Historic Ethiopia 47

1.2 The Institutional and Symbolic Elements of the Nation 64


2.1 The Italian Interlude (1936-1941) 89

2.2 The Foundations of Modern Ethiopianism 104


3.1 Ethno-National Challenges to the Ethiopian State 160

3.2 The Ethiopian Student Movement and the National Question 169


4.1 The Genesis of Socialist Ethiopianism 206

4.2 The Nationalities versus the State 244


5.1 Ethno-National Empowerment and Redefinition of the
Ethiopian Nation 270

5.2 The Resurgence of Ethiopianism 308





AAPO All Amhara Peoples Organization
AEUP All Ethiopians Union Party
AZ Addis Zemen
CUD Coalition for Unity and Democracy
EDP Ethiopians Democratic Party
EPF Ethiopian Patriotic Front
EPLF Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front
EPRDF Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front
EPRP Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party
ESM Ethiopian Student Movement
ESUE Ethiopian Students Union in Europe
ESUNA Ethiopian Students Union in North America
GPNRS Gambella Peoples National Regional State
IES Institute of Ethiopian Studies
JOS Journal of Oromo Studies
MEISON All Ethiopian Socialist Movement
OLF Oromo Liberation Front
ONLF Ogaden National Liberation Front
PMAC Provisional Military Administrative Council
SLM Sidama Liberation Movement

SPNNRS Southern Peoples, Nations and Nationalities Regional State
TGE Transitional Government of Ethiopia
TPLF Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front
UJD Union for Justice and Democracy
USUAA University Students Union of Addis Ababa
WSLF Western Somalia Liberation Front


Nationalism is as old as the modern world but it gained an unprecedented momentum
during the 20
century, when it spawned very potent political and social movements,
became a driving force in the fight against colonialism and imperialism, and powered
genuine struggles for freedom and social justice everywhere. The international
community is organized in terms of nation-states and the politics of national interest. The
idea of the nation has become so normative that a person without nationality is a moral
and legal oddity. Almost all wars of the past century have been fought under national and
sub-national banners so that the world has entered the era of identity wars.

Nationalism is today a maker or breaker of states, an agent of peace, stability and
progress as well as a cause of horrendous bloodshed, destabilization and destruction. The
most damning indictment of nationalism is its role in promoting intolerance, communal
egoism, arrogant patriotism, racist tyranny, and genocide.
In spite of its checkered
career and to the great dismay of political analysts, however, the 21
century has not yet
proved to be the threshold of the post-national era. On the contrary, [n]ational
movements are regaining popularity, and nations that had once assimilated and
vanished have now reappeared.

This is in contrast to the ideological wars of the Communist period. Susan L. Woodward, The Political
conom! of thno"#ationalism in $ugosla%ia,& in Leon Panitch and Colin Le!s 'eds(, Socialist Register.
Fighting Identities: Race, Religion and Ethno-Nationalism 'London) The *erlin Press, +,,-(, pp..-"/+.
$ael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism '#ew 0erse!) Princeton 1ni%ersit! Press,1//- (,p./2.
Ibid, p.-. 3ther anal!sts such as .4.Carr, Nationalism and After '1/52(, pp.-6"-., and ric 4o7s7awm,
Nations and Nationalism since 17!: "rogram, #$th, Realit$ 'Cam7ridge 1ni%ersit! Press) 1//,8+,,,(,
p.+29, ha%e made the %er! same predictions almost half a centur! apart. :nthon! Smith, %heories of
Nationalism ';reat <ritain) Camelot Press, 1/.1(.

The growth in the international study of nationalism has closely followed the increase in
its relevance in the past century. Though nationalism had begun to draw academic
interest in Europe in the second-half of the 19
century, there was no systematic effort to
understand it as an autonomous phenomenon until the aftermath of the First World War
During the interwar period, the unprecedented intensity, duration and
destructiveness of the Great War directed attention to the investigation of the causes of
war in general. The question why do nations go to war? led to an explicit analysis of
nationalism, which was considered as the major breeder of strife. The first coherent
scholarly works on the subject were written during this turbulent period.
Historians pioneered the field by recognizing nationalisms diversity and by charting its
emergence as an ideological force.
They constructed spatial, chronological and analytic
typologies and provided models and taxonomies. Philological and conceptual historians
attempted to distill the semantic confusion attending nationalistic rhetoric, conventional
usage and academic discourse. When scholars from other disciplines began to take
serious interest after the 1960s, they criticized the narrowly empiricist approach of
historians and introduced new analytical tools, theories and insights. They conceived
nationalism not only as a doctrine or ideology but also as a social movement with

Smith, %heories, p.+29. Scott <urchill and :ndrew Lin=later, %heories of International Relations 'St
*artins Press) 1//6(, pp.2, 6.
Credited as the twin founders of the academic stud! of nationalism, Carlton 4a!es and 4ans >ohn
defined the general methodolog! and focus of historians. >ohn argued that a fruitful understanding of
nationalism can 7e gained from a comparati%e anal!sis of its indi%idual and concrete manifestations
through time. Later historians ha%e 7een as faithful to this dictum as a famil! 7usiness. The %er! titles of
their erudite 7oo=s, A &istorical E'ol(tion of Nationalism '1/-1( and %he Idea of Nationalism '1/55(,
respecti%el! emphasi?e that the 7asic concern of the historian is understanding of the phenomena as an
Idea in transformation.

recognizable relevance to the larger issues of modernization and development.

theories and methodologies in the study of nationalism reflect the gradual convergence of
the reconstructionist/historicist and the constructionist/sociologist paradigms.

The history of nationalism in Ethiopia is mediated by internal factors as well as regional
and global trends. The post-Italian period has been a period of soul searching for
Ethiopians, while Ethiopianists and anti-Ethiopian elements subjected the idea of the
nation to all kinds of scrutiny, speculation and propositions. During this period, history
became the main battleground and the handmaiden of embattled nationalism.
being among the few African states with claims to an ancient pedigree of nationhood, any
effort to understand the country and its peoples must accord due place to this aspect of its
history. In fact, certainly not as paradox to the above, it is the only post-colonial African
state which faced nationalist claims framed in terms of anti-colonial ideology.

Over the past half century, Ethiopia has witnessed one of the fiercest and most
destructive civil wars in the world under contending nationalist banners. At the end of
these wars, the country has the unique distinction of being the only African state to be

Smith,%heories,p.+29.rnest;ellner,Nations and Nationalism '<alc=well Pu7lishing) 1/9-8+,,6(,p.@@@i.
:lan *unslow, )econstr(cting &istor$ '1//.(, uses such ta@onom! to classif! historians into three)
recconstructionists who shun theories and rather tr! to reconstruct the past in the Aan=ean traditionB
constructionists who deal with histor! 7! means of e@planator! framewor= or o%erarching theories,
including *ar@istsB postmodernists who rather scorn 7oth methods and Cuestion the %er! %alidit! of an!
historical enCuir! 7e!ond the personal le%el.
lie >edourie, Nationalism '3@ford and Cam7ridge) <lac=well, 1/6,81//-(, p.1-.. 0ohn *ar=a=is and
#ega :!ele, *lass and Re'ol(tion in Ethio+ia ':ddis :7a7a) Shama <oo=s, 1/.98+,,6(, pp. //,1,1,+.1.
Sall! 4eal!, The Changing Ddioms of Self"Eetermination in the 4orn of :frica,& in D.*.Lewis'ed(,
Nationalism and Self-)etermination in the &orn of Africa 'London) Dthaca Press, 1/9-(, p.1,+.


reengineered by a radical ethnicist approach to the national question.

The discrepancy
which developed between scholarly views, nationalist claims and common sense
perceptions underlines the significance of the debate about the history and destiny of the
Ethiopian nation. No one can ignore it without serious consequences.
In or outside the academic world, few subjects have been as riddled in irrationality,
skepticism, passion and divisiveness as the national question. Because, as part and parcel
of the overall debate on modernity, nationalism reflects the interests, ideologies and
traditions of stakeholder societies, institutions, classes, affiliations, etc.
In addition, the
national question has proved to be a notoriously protean subject because nations and
nationalism are historically novel and fluid concepts that are hard to pin down by
permanent and universal criteria. The various criteria so far employed in characterizing
nations and nationalism, such as language, ethnicity and culture are themselves fuzzy,
shifting and ambiguous.
Generally, the problems in the field spring from the historical
genesis and evolution of the modern state itself; and the impact of prevailing intellectual,
ideological and political trends in each epoch. Therefore, this introduction sets out to plot

:regawi <erhe, : Political 4istor! of the Tigra! Peoples Li7eration Front '1/.2"1//1() Ae%olt, Ddeolog!
and *o7ili?ation in thiopia,& 'Ph.E. Eissertation) 1ni%ersit! of 3slo, +,,.(, p.9)GDn the histor! of thiopia,
no go%ernment other than that led 7! the TPLF since 1//1 stretched ethno"nationalism to such a far"
reaching point, although ethno"national challenges steadil! trailed the e%olution of the modern thiopian
state.G Eima #ogoo, Contested Legitimac!) Coercion and the State in thiopia,& 'Ph.E. Eissertation)
1ni%ersit! of Tenesse, +,,/(, pp.165 'fn(, also +,-, ++5)GThe re%olutionar! regime attempted 7oth
cultural and structural assimilation, 7ut the post re%olutionar! regime seems to ha%e returned to the pre"
re%olutionar! policies of the ethnicall! 7ased hierarchical centrali?ation of the state.G
Aosa Lu@em7erg Cuoted in 4orace <.Ea%is, %o,ards a #ar-ist %heor$ of Nationalism '#ew $or= and
London) *onthl! Ae%iew Press, 1/.9(, p.5. Aonaldo *unc=, %he )iffic(lt )ialog(e: #ar-ism and
Nationalism 'Hed <oo=s) 1/96(, p.5-.
4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, pp.%iii,2"6. Thomas 4. ri=sen, Nationalism and Ethnicit$ '1//-(.
;ellner, Nations, p.-. :pproaching nationalism from the international relations perspecti%e Carr,
Nationalism, p.11, o7ser%ed) the %oca7ular! of this su7Iect is notoriousl! full of pitfalls.&

the general theoretical/conceptual framework and the methodology used in the

dissertation by a comprehensive historical account of nationalism as an ideology and
movement; as well as a theoretical and methodological critique of the relevant

The Two Paths of Nationalism: Civic and Ethnic
The modern state as it emerged in late 16
century England differed from earlier human
political associations because of its explicit national character. The nation-state was born
through the coalescence of feudal principalities into territorially defined political units
that later claimed monopoly of power and sovereignty.
At this initial stage, the state
attempted to make its political and cultural boundaries congruent and, in spite of social,
ethnic and other diversities, it was regarded as a national whole. This characteristic of
homogeneity in diversity
has become a social norm in most states since. The new
state defined its individuality in terms of the historical and cultural claims of a ruling
class and symbolized its nationhood by the institution of the monarchy. The people were
accorded only symbolic equality and membership to the nation. This is what is termed as
etatism, the idea which aspired to forge a social nation out of a political state.

We7ers triple features of the modern state, i.e, defined territor!, power monopol! and so%ereignt!,
did not ac=nowledge its nationalit!. *odern states ha%e stu77ornl! claimed some form of nationalit! and
demanded this from their su7Iects. *a@ We7er, 1/+181/+9, p.25, Cuoted in Colin 4a!, *ichael Lister and
Ea%id *arsh 'eds(, %he State. %heories and Iss(es 'Palgra%e *acmillan) +,,6(,p.9.
Aichard 4andler, #ationalism and the Politics of Culture in Jue7ec,& in ;eorge ., Clifford *arcus and
0ames *adison 'eds(, Ne, )irections in Anthro+ological .riting: &istor$, "oetics, *(lt(ral *riticism 'The
1ni%ersit! of Wisconsin Press) 1/99(,pp.6"9.
Peter :lter, Nationalism ';reat <ritain) 1/9281//5(.

If England had been the birthplace of the nation-state, France was the home of its
nationalism. This is because the French Revolution (1789) heralded the era of the mass
nation by upholding popular sovereignty instead of dynastic claims as the basis of
national community. Underlying this fundamental change was 18
Enlightenment thinking centered on the concepts of liberty, humanity and universalism
applied within the framework of the nation-state.
The revolution defined the nation as
the people of a state and for the first time established a necessary connection between the
state as a political unit and the nation as a cultural one and the combination of these
two elements in a single political conception.

Hitherto the nation-state had been a historical fact, now it became a theory. It was
embodied in the theory of nationalism, which posited as an ideal the identification of
cultural and political communities in a universal system of nation states.
There is again
a one to one congruence between state and nation though the state, now owned by the
people, consciously and programmatically strived towards forging a national community.
This original ideology of the nation-state was later identified as civic nationalism
due to

>ohn, %he Idea,p.522
:lfred Co77an, %he Nation State and National Self-)etermination 'London) Collins, 1/6/(, p.-2. Carr,
Nationalism, pp.+, 6. >ohn, %he Idea, pp.-, 6.
Ibid, p.-6
4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p.9.. The t!pologies of nationalism %ar! depending on the
perspecti%es of scholars. For e@ample, 4echters t!pologies which coincide with the a7o%e two categories
are state"7uilding nationalism and peripheral nationalism respecti%el!, 7ut he also adds irredentist
nationalism and unification nationalismB *ichael 4echter, *ontaining Nationalism '3@ford K #ew $or=)
3@ford 1ni%ersit! Press, +,,,(. Smith, on the other hand, 7ased on the ethnic origin of nations has
territorial nationalism and ethnic nationalism respecti%el!. :nthon! Smith, %he Ethnic /rigins of Nations
'3@ford) <lac=well, 1/96(. :ndersons t!pologies are official nationalism and %ernacular nationalism
respecti%el!. <enedict :nderson, Imagined *omm(nities) Reflections on the /rigin and S+read of
Nationalism 'London and #ew $or=) Lerso, 1/9-81//1(.

its emphasis on common citizenship rather than a unique culture or language as the
measure and substance of nationality.

The above historical development in Western Europe was reflected in the early semantics
of nationalism. Even though the term nation was a derivative of the Latin verb natio,
which in its pristine usage meant place of birth or origin and referred to a group of
people who believe they are ancestrally related,
it started to gain wider social and
political import with the genesis of the early nation-states in the 16
and 17
During this period, notes Carr, the term nation throughout Western Europe was the
most natural word for the state.
This implied the homogeneous or national character of
the nation-state because, in contrast, the multiethnic empires of Central and Eastern
Europe were referred to by the legal term state. Though the designation nationality
was used for the various linguistic and cultural subjects of these empires, it had no
political significance until the currency of the principle of national self-determination in
the 19
Next to evolve was an organic and ethnic conception of the nation based on the Romantic
(late 18
and early 19
century), which defined the nation in biological

>edourie,Nationalism,p.21) : nation, to the French re%olutionaries, meant a num7er of indi%iduals
who ha%e signified their will as to the manner of their go%ernment.& Co77an, %he Nation State, p.12/)
The essence of political nationalit! is the recognition of a single political authorit!, and common
>ohn, %he Idea, p.1+,. >edourie, Nationalism, p.2. Wal=er Connor, Ethnonationalism. %he 0(est for
1nderstanding '1>) Princeton 1ni%ersit! Press, 1//5(, p./5.
Carr, Nationalism, p.1. Connor , Ibid,p./5, also notes) Dt was perhaps from the 1.
centur! on that
nation came to refer to the entire +eo+les or citi2ens of a countr!. <! the end of the 1.
centur! it was
also emplo!ed as a s!non!m to the territorial state.&
This was a %ast ideological orientation which also e@alted the role of intellectuals in societ!, and made it
imperati%e for national communities to redisco%er their pristine origins and golden ages.& 0ohn
4utchinson and :nthon! Smith 'eds(, Nationalism '3@ford 1ni%ersit! Press) 1//5(,p.2.

terms. As originally articulated by German intellectuals, the nation was a unique natural
community or a natural division of the human race, endowed by god with its own
Gottfried Herder made the Volk (the people, the community) and its
language the basis of his doctrine and claimed that human civilization lives not in its
general and universal, but in its national and particular manifestation. A group
speaking the same language is known as a nation, and a nation ought to constitute a
Such ethno-linguistic entities were, therefore, regarded as the sole legitimate
foundations of any social and political association. Now it is not the state which defines
and forges the nation, but the ethnie that must form and constitute a state, an ethno-state,
Volkstaat. What is more, while the state is something artificial and accidental, the ethno-
nation is natural and essential.
This ideology wanted first to divorce the state from the nation and then overtake it, and in
its aspiration to do so made nation and state appear antagonistic. It shifted the concept of
national homogeneity from relatively wider historical and cultural similarities to sharply
specific boundaries of blood, speech and custom.
The sovereignty of the people was
sidelined by the uniqueness of the people, and the basis of nationality became such
primordial markers rather than territorial and political bonds of citizenship. This
derivative ideology was termed as ethnic or vernacular nationalism due to its emphasis on

>ohn,%he Idea,p.5+/.
>ohn, %he Idea, p.5+/.Connor,Ethnonationalism,p./.;oetfried4erder,#atureproducesfamiliesBthe
most natural state therefore is one people'Lol=( with a national character...& Cuoted in 0ohn <reuill!, The
Sources of #ationalist Ddeolog!,& in 0ohn 4utchinson and :nthon! Smith'eds(, Nationalism, p.1,..
>edourie, Nationalism, pp.1+"5-, 21,6+.
Clifford ;eert?, Primordial and Ci%ic Ties,& in *ontserrat ;ui7ernau and 0ohn Ae@ 'eds(, %he Ethnicit$
Reader. Nationalism, #(ltic(lt(ralism and #igration ';reat <ritain) Polit! Press, 1//.81///(,pp.+/"-5.

championing the causes of a supposedly unique ethno-linguistic group in the context of a

nation-state. Its tenets were taken up and applied to politics with far-reaching results.
The rival redefinition of the nation as a volk community entitled to its own state brought
in its train semantic confusion regarding the terms 'nation', 'nationality', nation-state and
nationalism. As a result of its politicization, the nation became inextricably linked to
state power and commonly denoted those which have political autonomy or even aspire
for one. Nationalism in this primordialist conception was then loyalty to an ethnic group
and for its emancipation from an overarching state.
In some cases, the related term
nationality was reserved for self-defined cultural groups which were sufficiently
politicized, though they had not yet achieved their own state. Nationalities were
understood as something of a transition between the cultural and political continuum of
ethnies and nations.

Since the emergence of ethnic nationalism, the civic nationalism of the old continuous
has been on the defensive. The rise of separatist and ethnic agitations after the

The democrati?ation of the state 7! the French re%olutionaries had resulted in the emergence of self"
determination of the people as a core principle of nationalism. Dn Central and astern urope, this
de%eloped into a principle of national self"determination which reached its ?enith 7etween 1959 and the
Second World War '1/-/"1/52(. The emphasis 7! the proponents of ;erman and Dtalian nationalism on
the primordial and empirical attri7utes of the nation and their political success for statehood made ethnic
nationalism %er! appealing to the disparate peoples in astern urope. Dn the <al=ans it spar=ed
widespread struggle to achie%e MnationalM independence or autonom! which set the tone for
contemporar! ethno"nationalist mo%ements.
ri=sen, Nationalism and Ethnicit$, pp.-"5) thnic group, a sociological Iargon which is used
interchangea7l! with nationalit!, particularl! in nationalist discourse, had its roots in the ;ree= word
ethnos3 or ethni4os3 referring to a group characteri?ed 7! common descent. #e%ertheless, it was late in
the 1/2,s that ethnicit! was applied to communities which displa! linguistic and cultural 7oundaries %is
a %is others. Connor, Ethnonationalism, pp.5,,1,,. 4a!es, A &istorical E'ol(tion,p.6.
:ccording to 4ugh Seton"Watson, Nations and States 'London) *ethuen, 1/..(, pp.6"1,, old
continuous nations are those which had acCuired national identit! or national consciousness 7efore the
formulation of the doctrine of nationalism.& The new nations are those for whom two processes
de%eloped simultaneousl!) the formation of national consciousness and the creation of nationalist

Second World War (1939-1945) has become the principle of state-creation as a reflection
of three forces: decolonization, revolution and intervention of outside powers.

Multiethnic states, alternatively designated as multinational states, continued to exist side
by side reflecting a compromise between the civic and ethnic conceptions of nationalism.
With the expansion of European model nation-states across the globe, nation served as a
blanket term for all sorts of states. All modern states operate on the assumption of being
nation-states and now owe their legitimacy to some version of the national idea though
less than 10% of the world's countries are in any sense ethnically homogeneous.
rest contain two or more ethno-cultural groups. So variegated is the process that nation
stands for any sovereign state, its territory (country), citizens, and specific ethnie. As a
result of this overlap in meaning of terms, both the assertiveness of the state and that of a
group within it have been called nationalism.

4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p.1-1. The anti"colonial wars of independence, termed as
nationalist8li7eration mo%ements, and the esta7lishment of national states in :frica and :sia, displa!ed
7oth the multiethnic and ethnic features of the state. The Cold War era made emerging states internall!
wea= and seed7eds of re%olutions, and e@ternall! reliant on the superpowers and mallea7le to
inter%entions. Ea%is, %o,ards a #ar-ist, pp.-, /"+6,6.. While *ar@ists generall! adopted a negati%e
definition of the nation as the superstructural reflection of the economic 7ase of capitalism,& and
dismissed nationalism as false consciousness, and su7ordinated the nationalities Cuestion to proletarian
internationalism, the! opportunisticall! =ept the issue ali%e 7! em7edding ethnicism in the state
Tamir, Liberal Nationalism, p.2/.
4a!es, A &istorical E'ol(tion, p.%ii.

Theories and Methodologies: Primordialism, Modernism, Ethno-
The historical duality of nations and the evolution of nationalism along the above
trajectory continue to bedevil the field. An underlying assumption in the above narrative
is that states might be as old as history, even a few nations (as human groups) might also
have roots deep in history, but nation-states and nationalisms are modern European
innovations. This has stirred controversies among scholars regarding the nature and
manifestation of nations and nationalism. The first debate is over the characteristics and
dating of nations, what are they made of and whether they are antiquated or modern.
There are three views on the matter: primordialism, modernism and ethno-symbolism.
Primordialism, which is the paradigm first adopted by ethno-nationalists but also includes
some theorists of nationalism, makes blood, speech, custom and kinship the basis of
national identity. Primordialists consider nations as organic, perennial, natural and
universal; some even characterize nations as extended kinships.
In this view, nations
are intrinsic to human group formation, they can be found everywhere and in any epoch
of history and the emergence of a new nation is, then, often explained as an awakening
of a dormant entity.
This view is anathema to most social scientists because it consigns

:tsu=o DchiIo and ;ordana 1?elac'eds(, .hen is the Nation5 %o,ards an (nderstanding of theories of
nationalism 'London and #ew $or=) Aoutledge,+,,2(, Primordialism) Dntroduction&, pp.21"22.
Some primordialists such as Pierre %an den <erghe and dward Shills consider what is primordial as
sociall! constructed. Ste%en ;ros7!, The Primordial, >inship and #ationalit!,& in :tsu=o and ;ordana,
.hen is the Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of Nationalism 'London and #ew $or=)
Aoutledge, +,,2(, pp.26".9. Pierre L. %an den <erghe, thnies and #ations. ;enealog! indeed,& in :tsu=o
and ;ordana, .hen is the Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of Nationalism 'London and
#ew $or=) Aoutledge, +,,2(, pp.11-"119.

nationalism to the inescapable predicament of human nature. Methodologically, it places
nationalism outside the realm of historical investigation.
The modernist or contextualist school sees nations as historical and constructed, and
prefers only economic, political and socio-cultural explanations.
The Hayes Kohn era,
the period between the two world wars, repudiated the assertions of 19
century scholars
that nations are as old as history. Nations and nationalisms are rather outcomes of a
specific stage of human development, namely that of modern industrial society.
Nationalism is an integrative response to systemic and socio-cultural disturbance in
traditional society caused by modernity. It had little significance in pre-modern times and
contexts because its emergence demands some unique structural and functional features
of modern society. But what aspects of modernity are more important in the emergence
of nations and nationalism: economic, political, or socio-cultural? This constituted the
second level of debate among modernist theorists.
Those who regard the changes in economic and political systems as more important in
engendering nationalism are called system integrationists. The economic view is
represented by Gellner, who considers nationalism to be rooted deeply in the distinctive
structural requirements of industrial society or in the economic logic of capitalism.
Economic factors of system disturbance such as rapid industrialization, urbanization and
technological advances make traditional structures dysfunctional. Such objective and
inescapable imperatives make industrial society mobile, culturally homogenous and
ideologically egalitarian. Nationalism emerges as an external manifestation of a deep

4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p.-.

adjustment in the relationship between polity and culture.
Ethno-nationalist ferment
crops up when unmet egalitarian expectations are compounded with the existence of
separate symbols and diacritical marks between rulers and ruled. The expression of
discontent adopts a cultural aspect by the fact that in industrializing societies
communication and hence culture assumes a new and unprecedented importance.

While Gellner makes the existence of a centralized state a necessary but not sufficient
condition for the emergence of nationalism, other system integrationists pay more
attention to changes in political structures, such as military and administrative
expansions, centralization of government and a taxation system on the whole clearly
bounded territory of the state.
A central tenet of this latter view is that nations are mass
phenomena created by the modern state. It is the consolidated and functionally expanded
modern state which shapes the people into common political form and creates nations,
not the other way round.
Socio-cultural integrationists approach the issue from the perspectives of the social and
cultural reintegration of collapsed traditional society. They consider the roles of social
groups and the changes taking place at community level as more important in creating
nationalism. According to Hobsbawm, nations are constructed from above but they
cannot be understood unless viewed from below. Nationalism is important because it

;ellner, Nations, p.-9 argues that the emergence of nationalism in histor! is tied to industriali?ation,
the structure of the modern state, and creation of high culture.
<reuill!, *ann, #airn, Till!, ;iddens, in different wa!s, emphasi?ed the modern state as a new =ind of
power container which, in its relationship with its su7Iect"citi?ens and with other states, turned the
people into the nation and the state into a nation"state in conflict with other nation"states.&0ohn <reuill!,
in his introduction to ;ellners Nations and Nationalism '+,,6(, p. @@@ii.

performs useful social, cultural and even psychological functions in society. Anderson
maintains that nationalism is embraced not as a self-consciously followed political
ideology, not even as a result of any rational calculation, but as a cultural system with
religious characteristics.
At a deeper non-material level, nationalism is important in
providing spiritual anchorage to a free-floating modern society. It becomes a substitute
for factors of integration in a disintegrating society. When society fails, the nation
appears as the ultimate guarantee.
This provision of meaning, cohesion and continuity
to a crumbling religious and social world is what accounts for the emotional appeal of
nationalist ideology.
The socio-cultural integration theory overcomes three major limitations of system
integrationists. First, it attributes the emotional power of nationalist politics to factors
beyond pecuniary interests; nationalism has a psychosocial and ontological function to
perform. Second, it brings in agency to modernist accounts. Societies, groups and classes
are agents which take active part in the ideology and movement rather than being at the
mercy of structural imperatives. At various times in history, the aristocratic classes, the
middle-classes, intellectuals, and finally the masses have been the bearers of the national
idea. Third, and more important, nationalism becomes not an exclusive phenomenon of

:nderson, Imagined *omm(nities,pp.2".) The important Cuestion is, howe%er, how and wh! at a point
in their histor! people come to imagine themsel%es as mem7ers of a certain nation, and that with such a
passionN Can these 7e e@plained 7! a purel! functional or economic reasonN :nderson is concerned with
understanding the force and persistence of national identit! and sentiment. The fact that people are
willing to die for the nation,& he notes, indicates its e@traordinar! force.&
*irosla% 4roch Cuoted in 4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p.1.2.

industrial society, for wherever a system of status and power divisions is based on
nationality, nationalism is likely to flourish.

Integration, interaction, standardization and homogenization are the key concepts of
modernist theories.
There are certain points of convergence among modernists
regarding the emergence of nationalism on the global scene. First, all concede that
nationalism is an adaptive response to the transition from tradition to modernity. Second,
modernists give the state central role in creating nations and nationalism. Third, they also
agree that nationalism has some important social function to perform. Fourth, they
consider the creation of a homogenous national culture as a special feature of modernity.
Modernists do not deny the pre-modern roots of at least some nations but attempt to limit
their accounts to the historical genesis of nationalism than to the significance of pre-
modern nationalities, or rather to the relevance of any such claims for modern nations.

0ames >ellas, %he "olitics of Nationalism and Ethnicit$ 'London) *acmillan, 1//1(,pp.+-,.56.
4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p.+,6) The creation in the former Communist states of ethno"
linguistic territorial national administrati%e units, i.e nations in the modern sense, where none e@isted
or 7een thought of...& was a theoretical construct of ...intellectuals rather than a primordial aspiration of
an! peoples.& Co77an, %he Nation State, %en dormant nationalities ha%e 7een aroused to life.&
>arl Eeutsch, Nationalism and Social *omm(nication. An In6(ir$ Into the Fo(ndations of Nationalit$ 'the
*DT Press)1/2-81/66(,p./1,/6,/9) Dt is the range and effecti%eness of social communication which ser%es
as a %alua7le inde@ to the degree of integration of OaPpeopleOsP, to its stage towards 7ecoming a nation.&
ffecti%e communication ena7les a nationalit! to transcend economic and social differences and stand in
unison for the national ideal. :nderson, Imagined *omm(nities, pp.12,16. >ellas, "olitics of Nationalism,
p.52. :mong the socio"cultural integrationists the instrumentalist %iew, which puts the intelligentsia at
the core of nationalist mo%ements, is a powerful e@planation. >edourie, Nationalism, p.1-6, pa!ing
particular attention to ethnic nationalism, argues that nationalism is not some inarticulate and powerful
feeling which is present alwa!s and e%er!whereB and that neither is it a reflection of particular social and
economic forces.& Dt is rather an intellectual proIect, a doctrine or an ideological o7session first in%ented
and disseminated 7! ;erman intellectuals. #ationalist intellectuals ma=e the e@cluded and marginali?ed
!outh... a %ehicle of mass mo7ili?ation around the concept of the nation as a culturall! homogenous
communit!& and offer consolation in the struggle for national freedom. The nation then 7ecomes a
communit! of care and destin!.
0ohn <reuill!, Eating the #ation. 4ow 3ld Ds a #ationN&, in :tsu=o DchiIo and ;ordana 1?elac.'eds(,
.hen Is %he Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of Nationalism 'London and #ew $or=)
Aoutledge, +,,2(,p.12, disputes the %alidit! of national terminolog! prior to the modern era as appl!ing to

They believe that however long the real or ascribed historical continuity between
groups claiming the same name, earlier collectivities cannot be confused with the
modern, essentially class or rather literacy linked, concept of nationalism.

Modern nation-states, which are political and secular, seldom claim common ethnicity. In
most cases sheer diversity and size of population preclude that option. In fact, very few
national movements start based on a strong sense of ethnic consciousness.
Modernist theories which attempt to explain social change based on structure and social
institutions are labeled by critics as structuralist or functionalist. According to these
views, new social institutions replace old and dysfunctional ones by establishing
equilibrium mainly at the level of the social system. In such explanation social
institutions themselves are seen as actors of social change.
Hence nations and
nationalism become byproducts of broader social processes. Critics who consider some
modernist theories as constructionist or instrumentalist emphasize their so-called
upward conflation, where the changes in social structure are explained by unconstrained
actions of agency...
Hence the nation is regarded to be a result of agents free will,

an!thing more than a small fraction of an! societ!. Aather it operates within elite discourses to underpin
narrati%es of ci%ili?ations or to Iustif! conflicting political claims.& 0ohn <reuill!, Nationalism and the State
'*anchester) *anchester 1ni%ersit! Press,1//-(,p..6B an! premodern discourse on the idea of the
nation, if it appeared at all, was su7ordinate to religious and monarchical principles.
:s 4o7s7awm, Nations and Nationalism, p../, remar=s, discerning what concepts of the nation mean to
the mass of the population, 7e!ond the opinions of those educated indi%iduals for whom we ha%e
records, is fraught with pro7lems. Dt is difficult to penetrate the denseness of the fog which surrounds
Cuestions a7out the national consciousness of common men and women, especiall! in the period 7efore
modern nationalism unCuestiona7l! 7ecame a mass political force&. This is a %er! pertinent concern. The
more so as the pro7lem of paucit! of records attains de7ilitating proportions in thiopia, which, though it
7oasts thousands of !ears of literac!, possesses no matching wealth of archi%es.
:tsu=o DchiIo and ;ordana 1?elac'eds(, .hen Is %he Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of
Nationalism 7London and #ew $or=) Aoutledge, +,,2(,p.1-.
Ibid, pp.1+"1-.

interests and agendas. Modernist theories then lack the useful balance between structure
and agency in accounting for social change.
Another critique of modernism questions the very outcomes of social communication.
Michael Hechter challenged that not just commonality but the opposite might as well
result from modernization and increased interaction, especially if it is attended by
regional disparities or perceptions of uneven economic development. Hechter advanced
a theory of internal colonialism in which he argued that increased interaction among
peoples is as decisive in breeding nationalist discontent if coupled with a cultural
division of labor between centre and periphery situations.
This has been the most
widely embraced theory, especially among ethno-nationalist politicians as well as
academics of the Third World. Nevertheless, the internal colonial model is criticized for
assuming simple centre-periphery polarity across culture, economics and politics.
Peripheral predicaments and politicization emerge out of the incongruity between
cultural, economic and political roles.
This means, there are instances where economic
deprivation might not produce nationalism, and where economically well-to-do regions
might still exhibit strong nationalist sentiment.
Another school called ethno-symbolism concedes that nations are perennial, and perhaps
universal, but denies their natural origin. This constitutes the third debate on the nature
and manifestation of nations and nationalism. Ethno-symbolists challenge the exclusive
modernity and Westernity of nations, because recent studies have indicated universal

Juoted in 0ames >ellas, "olitics of Nationalism, pp.-/"5,.*ichael 4echters internal colonialism
model'1/6681/.2( has since 7een a fa%orite slogan of ethnic nationalists all o%er the world. 4echter
howe%er has later modified his %iew on the matter.
Ao==an and 1rwin, Cuoted in >ellas, "olitics of Nationalism, p.51.

trends in the formation of states, nations and nation-states both in the West and the Rest.
The idea and vocabulary of the nation have existed in the non-Western world throughout
the previous millennia primarily as a religio-historical association with or without
necessarily implying common political background.
Anthony Smith argues that though
nationalism as an ideology and movement is a wholly modern phenomenon, the nations it
worked upon or it gave rise to often have pre-modern ethnic roots. Many existing
nation-states have ethnic cores or noticeable dominant groups as bearers of the historic
nation. When such historical and cultural claims have relevance for modern nations,
either as models or raw materials, they may be termed as proto-nations, pre-nations or
ethno-nations, and their binding sentiments as pre-national sentiment or ethnocentrism.
Nevertheless, both primordialist and modernist theories fail to account for the dualism in
most nationalisms: ethnic as well as civic, secularity as well as religiosity (of tone and
substance), homogeneity as well as diversity, modernity as well as antiquity. By pushing
nations further back in history, ethno-symbolists attempt to overcome the timelessness
and naturalness of the former as well as the narrowly Western and structural-functional
conception of the latter. The basic premise of the historical ethno-symbolic approach is
the centrality of symbolic elements in the formation and persistence of nations and in
analyzing their distinctive characteristics. Methodologically, it attempts to identify the
traditional and pre-modern content of national culture the myths, epics, symbols,
heroes, etc., because they are as valuable to the understanding of the spirit and shape

<en!amin #ue7erger, State and #ation in :frican Thought,& in 0ohn 4utchinson and :nthon! Smith
'eds(, Nationalism '3@ford 1ni%ersit! Press) 1//5(,pp.+-1"+-2.
Smith, %heories, p.2/.

of modern nations as any analysis of social institutions and class formation..
ethno-symbolic approach is particularly appropriate in situations where the polity is not
consolidated and rival nationalisms of the state and its ethnic critics draw their
ideological myths and symbols from a certain ethnic past or pasts. It enables us to study
such cultural and social resources of nationalism from both perspectives.
The analysis of cultural elements over la longue duree has certain advantages over other
approaches. Firstly, it enables the treatment of nations distinct from the modern
ideological movement of nationalism. Secondly, it opens the way to the analysis of
(ethnic) past or pasts and the present across different epochs. Thirdly, by blending to
advantage history and sociology, it tells the first-half of the story missing from
modernist accounts of when and how nationalism emerges.
Ethno-symbolism integrates
the political and cultural dimensions of nationalism in a single framework.
The civic and ethnic conceptions of nationalism are based on the relative emphasis each
place on the political and cultural attributes of nations rather than their exclusive
adherence to either.
Many scholars have attempted to solve the problem by drawing

:nthon! Smith, National Identit$ '1S:) 1ni%ersit! of #e%ada Press, 1//1(,p.+,. The ethnie, his term for
predecessors of modern nations designating ethnic groups, has deeper roots in histor! than we concede.
Df so, what is no%el a7out modern nations and nationalismN #ot much. With regard to human association
their maIor role lies in e@tending and entrenching the meanings and scope of older ethnic concepts and
structures.& 4is methodolog! is what he called ethno"s!m7olism or rather historical ethno"s!m7olism.
Smith argues that nations are not static targets, to 7e attained once"for"all. The! are processes, al7eit
long"term ones...& and nations reCuire ethnic cores if the! are to sur%i%e. Df the! lac= one, the! must re"
in%ent one...& :nthon! Smith, The ;enealog! of #ations. :n thno"S!m7olic :pproach,& in :tsu=o DchiIo
and ;ordana 1?elac'eds(, .hen Is %he Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of Nationalism
'London and #ew $or=) Aoutledge, +,,2(, pp./9, 1,,"1,-.
:drian 4astings, %he constr(ction of Nationhood: Ethnicit$, Religion and Nationalism 'Cam7ridge and
#ew $or=) Cam7ridge uni%ersit! press, 1//.(,p.11.
:s his critics pointed out Smith fails to e@plain adeCuatel! the manner of transition from ethnicit! to
nationalism, and wh! particular nationalisms %ar! in their strength or wea=ness. :nthropologists generall!
%iew nationalism as a %ariant of ethnicit!. ri=sen, Nationalism and Ethnicit$, p.1,1) #ationalism and

attention to the conceptual yarn between state and nation, by restricting the one to the
legal-political and the other to the social-cultural realm.
Though the modern nation-state
claimed to combine these two attributes, its essential characteristics such as defined
territory, power monopoly and sovereignty were considered irrelevant to the concept of
the nation. But this conventional observation overlooks the very fact that nationalism has
always been aimed at making the political and cultural boundaries congruent, and,
historically as well as theoretically, it is no more feasible to keep state and nation apart.
Keeping a distinction between nation and nationality or ethnie, rather than between state
and nation, based on possession or lack of state power, is very important in untangling a
part of the confusion. If nationality is defined in terms of cultural or historical attributes,
then it only becomes nation when it establishes its own state (independent or
autonomous). The equality between nation and state automatically makes the former
political, whatever its cultural claims; it will accommodate both the civic and ethnic
conceptions of nationalism, and reunite nation and state in a single framework. This
means that, even if defined in political terms, states would have nationhood, and nations,
whether composed of one or many nationalities, would have statehood. Citizenship will
then denote political nationality in all kinds of states.
Methodologically, this approach would make all nations modern while giving
nationalities or ethnies more time depth. In addition, it delineates the relationship

Seton"Watson, Cuoted in Tamir, Liberal Nationalism, pp.2/"6,, argued that a state is a legal and
political organi?ation with the power to reCuire o7edience and lo!alt! from its citi?ens,& while a nation is
a communit! of people, whose mem7ers are 7ound together 7! a sense of solidarit!, a common culture,
and a national consciousness.&

between the legal-political state and other sub-national units, be they nationalities, ethnic
groups, regions, etc. Nationalism would also be sufficiently extended to include the
integrative ideologies of a state, reformist social groups within it, or the demands of
constituent nationalities couched in both cultural and political terms. This would
overcome a hiatus in the conventional typology of nationalism as official/civic and
ethnic/vernacular, which is impervious to a third alternative outside the two brands. Civic
nationalism must not be exclusively limited to the state as official nationalism; it should
also include the nationalism of non-ethnic or supra-ethnic reformist groups.
The modernist and ethno-symbolist perspectives on nationalism can be synthesized in
that the ideology and movement incorporate political, economic and socio-cultural
dimensions. In the final analysis, whether the state embodied the nation or the nation
possessed the state, nationalism has always been an ideology about empowerment -
political, economic and cultural. It is not the mere existence of heterogeneous groups and
languages which determines the unity or destruction of national development, but more
dynamic processes such as social mobilization, cultural assimilation and political
This study regards nations and states as synonymous as argued above. The nation-state
unifies the political and cultural aspects as it is based on two kinds of community, a
community of citizenship concerning the relations between citizens and the state
(including political, social, and economic rights and obligations); and a community of
sentiment, meaning a common language and a common cultural and historical identity

based on literature, myths, symbols, music, art, and so on.

Nation may be then defined
as a named and self-defined community whose members cultivate common myths,
memories, symbols and values, possess and disseminate a distinctive public culture,
reside in and identify with a historic homeland, and create and disseminate common laws
and shared customs.

Hence: nationalism is:
An ideology and movement for the attainment and maintenance of autonomy, unity
and identity on behalf of a population, some of whose members deem it to constitute
an actual or potential nation
This perspective is valuable in that it overcomes the prevalent tendency among
nationalists and nationalism theories to associate nationality or ethnie exclusively with
primordialist bonds, mainly to language and linguism. It also combines the historical and
sociological perspectives of nationalism to advantage.

;eorgSorenson, The Transformation of the State,& in Colin 4a!, *ichael Lister and Ea%id *arsh'eds(,
%he State. %heories and Iss(es 'Palgra%e *acmillan)+,,6(,p.1/6. Carlton 4a!es, Nationalism: a Religion
'1/6,(, p.-, gi%es precedence to language as it 7espea=s 7oth the solidarit! and continuit! of a people.&
Second is historical traditions which constitute a nationalit! and distinguish it from others e%en within the
same linguistic area. For :drian 4astings, %he *onstr(ction of Nationhood, pp.+"2, the most important
factor for the de%elopment of nationhood from one or more ethnicities is an e@tensi%el! used %ernacular
literature&. For 4roch the three irreplacea7le factors in nation"7uilding process are a memor! of some
common past, a densit! of linguistic or cultural ties, and a conception of eCualit! of all mem7ers. *irosla%
4roch, From #ational *o%ement to the Full!"formed #ation) The #ation"7uilding Process in urope,& in
<ala=rishan ;opal'ed(, #a++ing the Nation '#ew $or= and London) Lerso, 1//6(, pp..9"/..
Smith, ;enealog! of #ations&, p./9. Connor, Ethnonationalism, p.5, also accords primac! to the self"
identification of a people with a group Q its past, its present, and, what is most important, its destin!.&
4roch, Ibid, p../.
;ellner, Nations, p.1. Smith, %heories,p.1.1. :lso Smith, *hosen "eo+les '+,,-(,pp.+5"+2 .

An Integrated Conceptual Framework

One serious gap in Ethiopian scholarship is perhaps the lack of an imaginative framework
which addresses the antiquity as well as modernity, unity as well as diversity, uniqueness
as well as commonality of the nation. In spite of its tangential relevance, Ethiopian
history has been treated within the colonial and post-colonial paradigm.
A review of
the literature on Ethiopian nationalism indicates two major methodological trends,
reconstructionist and constructionist, which are also observed between historians and
other social scientists. Generally, in the good old reconstructionist tradition, most
historians have so far avoided the acknowledgement, if not the use, of any explanatory or
theoretical frameworks in writing the history of Ethiopia.

dmond>eller,thiopia)Ae%olution,classandthe#ationalJuestion,&African AffairsN, Pp. 21/"25/, is
premised on a Cuestion 7egging proposition and stretches colonialism and imperialism to the almost
meaninglessl! uni%ersal. Colonialism in the sense of one people dominating another is as old as human
societ! and this has no relationship with a historical conte@t of Western colonialism and imperialism, to
which he refers as the colonial era. See for a similar argument ?=el ;e7issa, The Lesser of Two %ils
Paradigm of Colonial Aule) : Comparati%e Stud! of Colonialism in the Sudan and thiopia,& 8/S, LDDD,
1K+'+,,1(, pp. 1"-5. 3f the %er! few attempts to address the issue, that of Eonald Le%ine and Teshale
Ti7e7u are outstanding. thnic nationalists, who often write from a predetermined ideological
positioning, ha%e capitali?ed on this predicament and la7or to Iustif! the %iew that the countr! is no
different from other :frican nations whatsoe%er. This seems a self"defeating logic since the! are at the
same time depicting thiopia as a uniCue :frican colonialist power. Christopher Clapham, thiopia and
the Challenge of Ei%ersit!,& Africa Insight, -5'1(, '+,,5(, p.2-) GThe new s!stem li=ewise dismisses the
e@perience of thiopian nationalism as mere :mhara chau%inism, and denies a place in the political
order for those who wish to identif! themsel%es simpl! as thiopians Q a fact that is all the more peculiar
in that thiopia, despite the undou7ted ineCualities em7edded in its historic political structure, does
indeed retain reser%oirs of nationalism that ha%e deep historic roots, and cannot 7e dismissed merel! as
the preser%e of a single group.G

:lan *unslow, )econstr(cting &istor$ '1//.(, uses such ta@onom! to classif! historians into three)
reconstructionists refers to historians who shun co%ering theories and rather tr! to reconstruct the past
7ased on empirical e%idence in the Aan=ean traditionB constructionists are, including *ar@ists, those
who deal with histor! 7! means of e@planator! framewor=s or o%erarching theoriesB deconstructionists
or postmodernists are those who rather scorn 7oth methods, and Cuestion the %er! %alidit! of an!
historical enCuir! 7e!ond the personal le%el. *ost historians fall in 7etween the two maIor trends,
reconstructionist and constructionist, while the postmodernist approach is reIected 7! man! as
inappropriate for the Third World, which, according to the Su7altern school, did not !et transcend
modernit!. For instance, the con%entional demarcation for the 7irth of modern thiopia, which is the

Academic concern with Ethiopian nationalism was coterminous with the national revival
and reunification efforts of the 19
century. The initial phase was a continuation of the
fascination with which medieval travelers, philologists, Semiticist scholars saw the
biblical antiquity of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian scholars also continued the mythology and
history in the hagiographic and chronicle writing tradition of the historic nation. Amharic
came of age as a national official and literary language mainly through the history writing
of the clerical scholarship. Narrative, chronological and genealogical histories were the
literary genre at this stage. When the earliest popular histories by Ethiopian writers began
to appear at the turn of the 20
century, their themes were ideologically allied to the
nation-building efforts of the modernizing state.
Italian scholarship during the
occupation period (1936-1941) outlined the future battle lines by shifting the emphasis
from the state to the peoples, from the nation to the ethnic groups, from politics to
cultures, from unity to diversity.
Modernity and modern education in the post-Italian
period ushered in a more scholarly work on the history of the nation. With the expansion
of higher education and training of a new generation of Ethiopian scholars, boosted by

coronation of mperor Tewodros DD'1922(, has an underl!ing modernist assumption of state consolidation,
e@pansion and continuit!. %en ethno"nationalists li=e Tesema Taa'1/96(, *erara ;udina'+,,-(, and
#egaso ;idada, 9e3Negaso #enged':ddis :7a7a) +,,5 C(, trace the roots of ethnic oppression to this
=ing. Surprisingl!, *erara 7ases his claim on a letter of mperor Tewodros, which has a single ethno"
stereot!pic word and fails to distinguish 7etween ethnicism and nationalism. :regawi, : Political
4istor!,& p.1, pushes a little 7ac= the politici?ation of ethnicit! in modern thiopia at least from the so"
called ra of the Princes.
*erid Wolde":rega!, Southern thiopia and the Christian >ingdom, 12,9"1.,9. With Special
Aeference to the ;alla *igrations and their ConseCuences,& 'Ph.E. Eissertation) S3:S, 1/.1(, p.1/)GFor
most contemporar! uropeans who wrote on thiopia it was still the countr! of the Prester 0ohn. :s the
legendar! =ing was 7elie%ed to ha%e under him man! =ings, princes and du=es, thiopia was shaped to fit
the legend 7! 7eing di%ided into se%eral =ingdoms, principalities and du=edoms.G
Ta!e 'Ale6a(, 9e3Et$o+ia &i2b %ari4 ':ddis :7a7a) St.;eorge Press, 1/15.C(. 4iru! Wolde"
Silassie':ilaten ;etta(, 9e3 Et$o+ia %ari4 <e3Negist Saba Is4e %ala6( 9e3Ad,a )il ':ddis :7a7a) Central
Printing Press,1///.C(. Te=le"TsadiC *e=uria series from 1/-- onwards.
Conti"Aossini and nrico Cerulli nota7l!.

the international experience of scholarship students, came an ideological heresy regarding

the history and destiny of the Ethiopian nation. The Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM)
and the subsequent revolution completed and stamped this generational as well as ethno-
national conception of Ethiopian nationalism. With the fall of the ancien regime, intra-
generational ideological battles solidified among factions within a MarxistLeninist
universe. This phase witnessed the maturity of nationalist discourse along center
periphery, or coreperiphery, oppressoroppressed, northsouth dichotomies.

Academically, the trends were captured by the likewise antithetical paradigms of Greater
EthiopiaAbyssinian Core schools.
The modernist and ethno-symbolic approaches have respective merits in explaining the
history of nationalism in Ethiopia. The modernist focus on the role of the state is an
appropriate starting point in delineating nationalist phenomena both in the industrialized
and non-industrialized world. The delimitation of the study period is based on the
transformation of the state from a proto-nationalist to a nationalist phase as evidenced in
the structure and character of the government, the condition of the economy, and the
emergence of new socio-cultural forces. State consolidation and functional expansion is
the critical moment for the genesis of nationalism, because the state has a very powerful
role in defining and redefining what ethnic or nationality boundaries are. It is the state
which primarily establishes the framework for ethnic and nationality issues.

:ndargachew Tiruneh, %he Ethio+ian Re'ol(tion: 1=7>-1=7. A %ransformation from an Aristocratic to a
%otalitarian A(tocrac$ 'Cam7ridge 1ni%ersit! Press)1//-81//2(,pp. 19,"191. :regawi, : Political
4istor!,& pp.1/+"1/-.
Pierre L.Lan den <erghe, thnies and #ations) a ;enealog! Dndeed,& in :tsu=o DchiIo K ;ordana
1?elac, .hen is the Nation5 %o,ards an 1nderstanding of %heories of Nationalism 'London and #ew $or=)
Aoutledge, +,,2( ,p.1+1.

The integrationist views can be profitably combined to balance the two poles of the
nationalist phenomena: official or state-based nationalism from above and its impacts
on social groups below. Official nationalism operates through the fear of ethnic
nationalisms as threats to state integrity.
Thus at the heart of the history and politics of
nationalism resides a tension between the states concern for political stability and the
centrifugal quest for group-differentiated rights. The pattern of contact between the
central government and the peripheral cultures determines group formation. Therefore,
the state and its nationalism as expressed in official ideologies, institutions, policies and
legal provisions will be one major concern of this study.
Nationalities or ethnic groups are not, however, passive receptacles of everything from
above. As ethnic and social nationalists emerge as critics of the status quo, the study of
nationalism will remain incomplete without the study of opposition movements and
groups. The reason why ethnic communities should be among the basic social units on
which any analysis of nationalism is anchored is due to the profound interrelation and
continuity, though not identity, between nationalism and ethnicism.
The ethnie is a
mediate social category between the individual and the state which has a direct relevance
to the issue of nationalism. In polyethnic societies such as Ethiopia, the manner people
perceive their communal identity and destiny has a bearing on the conception of the
larger national community.
In addition, ethnic groups have come to attain increasing significance as ultimate units of
differentiation and rivalry, whether expressed in political or cultural terms, particularly so

>ellas,"olitics of Nationalism,p.2-.
Smith,National Identit$,p.5,.Smith,The ;enealog! of #ations&,p.//. Liah ;reenfield, Nationalism:
Fi'e Roads to #odernit$ '1S:) 4ar%ard 1ni%ersit! Press, 1//+(.

in recent Ethiopian history.

They are the foci over which official nationalism and
ethnic nationalism converge in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the people. In
this struggle both the state and the intellectuals of ethnic groups regenerate and invent
national and sub-national ideologies, traditions, ceremonies and symbolisms.

Methodologically, the fact that ethnic groups are relatively durable than other social
categories such as class, denominational, professional and ideological associations makes
possible the analysis of change and continuity over longer periods. It also enables one to
assess and use the peoples own sources and their self-perception in the context of the
wider world and in time.
Originally, this study had set out to take five ethnic communities with varying patterns of
relations to the central government and various degrees of ethno-nationalist expressions:
Rayana Azebo (Tigray), Awi-Agew(Amhara), Sidama (Southern Nations, Nationalities
and Peoples Region), Oromo(Wollega, Oromia), and Anywaa(Gambella). This was
intended to provide the regional dynamic and analyze transformations from below,
particularly cultural and political expressions of identity - naming, symbolism,
ceremonies, institutions, mythologies, etc - in the selected areas. Two major factors have
limited the scope of investigation in the regions: the partial or total destruction of the pre-
1991 archives and the severe financial and logistics constraints of the project. As a result,
except for GPNRS (Anywaa) and to some extent the ANRS (Awi-Agew), the major
source for the remaining groups is the former Ministry of Interior archives in the National
Archives and Library Agency. In one respect, regional and national archives replicate
each other and both reflect official views which could be used alternatively without

4o7s7awm,Nations and Nationalism,p.1.9.
ric 4o7s7awm and Terrence Aanger 'eds(, %he In'ention of %radition 'Cam7ridge) 1/9-8+,,,(.

significant gaps in the study. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that the attempt to
supplement the study with extensive primary sources, such as newspapers, of the period
could not entirely overcome the national orientation of the dissertation.
The civicterritorial state does not define its relations exclusively with ethnic groups,
unless/even if it is ethnically structured. This unavoidable statecitizen interaction brings
into picture another aspect of nationalism, generational or ideological, especially
conceived in terms of reforming the state rather than destroying or dismembering it. This
supra-ethnic social nationalism is missing form most accounts of Ethiopian nationalism,
which either ignore it altogether or subsume it under official nationalism of the state.

This study adopts the concept of social nationalism as distinct from the official/civic
nationalism of the state as well as the ethnic/vernacular nationalism of particular ethno-
linguistic groups. It is intended to emphasize the socially inclusive characteristics of
nationalist ideologies and movements in Ethiopia between the two extremes, the state and
the ethnie.

The ESM started as a reformist generational critique of the ancien regime but its
moderate position was lost in the overbearing radicalism of the late 1960s and early
1970s and its original social nationalism remained in low key. The cardinal question of
the movement was the national question framed as a Marxist problematic and captured
in the terse query who is an Ethiopian? This is essentially a sociological question,
which is intertwined with a more historical question of when was Ethiopia? The

*erara;udina,*om+eting Ethnic Nationalisms in Ethio+ia and the 0(est for )emocrac$ '+,,-(,for
:doptedfrom0ames>ellase@cellent7oo=,%he "olitics of Nationalism and Ethnicit$'London)

answers may be categorized into two broad antithetical camps: Ethiopia always was and
Ethiopia never was.
The ambiguity about the concept of the nation, or more precisely,
who belongs to it and when did it emerge means that it is always hostage to conflicting
interpretations as this dissertation attempts to show.
Even though the Marxist generation (The Generation) was consciously anti-historical,
thus ahistorical and un-Marxist, the attitude towards the nationalities question was
ultimately decided by the political fortunes of contending groups at every stage of the
struggle. It is only partly true that the defeat and disarray of the multiethnic cosmopolitan
left constituted the defeat of Ethiopiansim.
In the heat of the ideological and military
battles between the Derg regime and sundry ethnic liberation movements, even the very
idea of historic Ethiopia was readily rejected by the latter in preference to the more
bizarre and derogatory appellation Abyssinia. The seemingly innocuous nomenclature,
which now permeates the literature, has, however, its consequence particularly in
obfuscating the understanding of the phenomena of nationalism. That the very term
Abyssinia was at best the result of European misunderstanding or, at worst, a deliberate
ploy by the colonial mindset intended to underscore the ethnic cleavages hardly needs a

$onas :dmasu, Narrating Ethio+ia: A "anorama of the National Imaginar$ '1ni%ersit! of
California)1//2(, p.2, Cuoting ;w!n Williams on the illusi%eness of the concept of the nation wrote) To
the Cuestion when was Wales, it is possi7le to return se%eral answers. 3ne could sa!, with a measure of
truth within narrow limits, that Wales ne%er was. Dt is eCuall! possi7le to sa!, with eCual truth within
eCuall! narrow limits, that Wales alwa!s was.& The antiCuit! %ersus in%ention de7ate has similarl! gi%en
rise to widel! di%ergent chronolog! of thiopian nationhood, from those li=e Sisai D7ssa, Tesema Taa and
Eimma #agoo who demarcate thiopias origin to the post"WWDD international recognition of its name
instead of the pre%iousl! preferred :7!ssinia, through those li=e dmond >eller who ma=e it no more
than a centur! old nation, to the traditional -,,,, !ears, and e%en to the li=es of Lapiso Eele7o who push
it 7ac= to 1,,,,, !ears and in e@treme cases as far as LuciR >eller, thiopia)Ae%olution,& p.2+5. Eimma,
Contested Legitimac!,& p.1,,. Tim Carmichael, :pproaching thiopian 4istor!) :ddis :7a7a and Local
;o%ernance in 4arar,ca 1/,, to 1/2,,& 'Ph.E. Eissertation) *ichigan State 1ni%ersit!,+,,1(, p...
The mushrooming of national li7eration mo%ements in thiopia is regarded 7! some as a direct
conseCuence of the defeat of the Ae%olution. :ssafa ndeshaw, E%&I/"IA: "ers+ecti'es for *hange and
Rene,al 'Singapore) Seng Lee Press,+,,+(, p.-/.

The Abyssinian thesis has been effectively used to deny the pre-modern
history and continuity of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian nationalists and scholars seem to have roles in the ethncization of the nation
by unquestioningly adopting the term. This is too surprising since no Ethiopian of
whatever station of life ever called his country Abyssinia or himself and his people
Abyssinian as far as historical records go, at least prior to the 20
hegemonic ideological and military battles of the past half-century resulted in standing
fissures among Ethiopian scholars and politicians over the nature and manifestation of
nationalism and its place in the countrys history. Nevertheless, on the main point of
divergence, that is, on the national identity of the Ethiopian polity and the appropriate
scholarly approach towards it, two main trends which parallel the civicethnic typologies
of nationalism theories are observed.

The denial of the %er! self"name of the countr! thiopia, or the stu77orn and often racist preference
for :7!ssinia, has 7een a carr!o%er from that tradition of 3rientalist"Semiticist scholarship. thiopians
ha%e 7een consistentl! against 4a7asha':ra7ic( or its corruption :7!ssinia as earl! as the medie%al
period. *ichael ;eddes, %he *h(rch &istor$ of Ethio+ia 'London) 16/6(, p.11-, relates an interesting
incident) Tsega Ha7 asserts that G...#either is heOthe >ingP e%er called , as *atthew falsl!OsicP reported,
mperor of the 4a7assins, 7ut of the thiopiansB for heO*attehwP 7eing an :rmenian did not thoroughl!
understand our affairs, and least of all those relating to our Faith...G The appellation &abesha was
populari?ed in thiopia onl! in the post"Dtalian period. :regawi, : Political 4istor!,& p.+52, howe%er,
curiousl! mentions that 7esides thiopians another common name that includes man! of the people in
the central north of thiopia is &abesha3, and elderl! ritreans, along with their =in to the south, are
often proud to 7e called &abesha.G Eimma, Contested Legitimac!&, p.1,,fn)Mthiopia has 7een =nown as
:7!ssinia '&abash in :ra7ic( until it adopted the name thiopia after the Second World War, though the
name thiopia e@isted in religious te@ts, as it is also mentioned in the <i7le. Popular :ra7ic references to
thiopia still use the name &abash.G This is a willful 7lunder since the name thiopia was used 7! its
people since at least the 11
centur!, and alternatel! with :7!ssinia 7! outsiders perhaps a little later
than this.
S%en Au7enson 'ed.(, Acta Aethio+ica, %ols. D, *orres+ondences and %reaties: 1!!-1?>':ddis :7a7a)
::1 Press, 1/9.(B DD, %e,odros and &is *ontem+oraries: 1??-1@':ddis :7a7a) ::1 Press, 1//5(B DDD,
Internal Ri'alries and Foreign %hreats':ddis :7a7a) ::1 Press, +,,,(.

What may be termed as the Greater Ethiopia paradigm is the earlier trend which might
be ideologically traced to the initiation of national revival and reunification efforts of the
century. It underscores the civicterritorial conception of the nation and its historic
The point of departure for this approach is the recognition that within the
geopolitical unit termed Ethiopia different peoples have been coexisting in various
degrees of interaction and isolation.
For Levine, Ethiopia is not yet a full-fledged
nation. It is rather an evolving system, a multinational polity with some coherence or
unity. Hence full understanding can be gained by approaching the matter from the
perspective of individualities as well as interactions with other groups and peoples.
Greater Ethiopia view adopts a dynamic and multilinear conception of history with very
important implications for the treatment of the history of nationalism in Ethiopia. By
integrating history with social theory it broadens the scope of investigation, enables us to
see changes and continuities and the interplay among diverse factors over a long period.

Dt must 7e underscored that, in spite of the often misconstrued adIecti%e ;reater, this %iew does not
ad%ocate thiopian greatness and all scholars who consider the countr! as some form of unified entit!,
at least conceptuall!, do not su7scri7e to identical propositions regarding the characteristics of the unit
and its political and historical import. Cf. *ohammed 4assen, %he /romo of Ethio+ia 'Trenton, #0) 1//5(.
0ohn *ar=a=is, National and *lass *onflict in the &orn of Africa 'Cam7ridge 1ni%ersit! Press) 1/9.(. :ddis
4iwet, Ethio+ia: From A(tocrac$ to Re'ol(tion 'London)1/.2(. *andi 3ttawa!, Ethio+ia: Em+ire in
Re'ol(tion'#ew $or=) :frican Pu7lishing, 1/.9(. ;etahun Eele7o, mperor *eneli=s thiopia 1962"
1/16) #ational 1nification or :mhara Communal Eomination,&'PhE Eissertation) 4oward 1ni%ersit!,
This %iew was populari?ed 7! Eonald Le%ine '1/.5( who attempted to o%ercome the limitations of the
three maIor approaches in the stud! of thiopian histor!Q the Semitic past, the ethnographic present, and
the modernist future. <! com7ining the Parsonian theor! of total societies and the theor! of social
e%olution with a good deal of historical data he attempted to reconstruct the image of thiopia as a
comple@ sociocultural s!stem that has e%ol%ed through determinate stages&'p)+2(. Le%ines wor= still
remains unsurpassed 7oth in terms of theor! and insights.
*ohammed 4assen, %he /romo of Ethio+ia '1//5(,p.5, for instance, discredits the theor! of a pure
3romo tri7e deri%ed from a single founding fatherS& 4e maintains that the histor! of the 3romo people is
not a mechanical and unilinear compilation of the stor! of disparate tri7es which had 7een ta=ing place in
a7solute seclusion. What is more, the 3romo are not e@ogenous 7ut one of the indigenous peoples of
thiopia&'p)@iii(. Teshale Ti7e7u,%he #a4ing of #odern Ethio+ia:1=@-1=7> 'The Aed Sea Press)1//2(,p.@i.

The second school is what may be termed as the Abyssinian Core paradigm, which
emerged as a critique to the state and the traditional conception of the nation. Writers
under this category are even less unified in their subscription to the Abyssinian Core
Mainly represented by ethno-nationalists, this view approaches the history of
modern Ethiopia and its nationalism from an ethnically-specific vantage point.
Abyssinia, which is the main concept of analysis of nationalism, has been conceived in
its discontinuity, mutation, or separateness from modern Ethiopia.
This paradigm
generally calls attention towards certain ethno-cultural and historical factors in
characterizing the state and attempts to reflect peripheral perspectives in the study of
nationalism in Ethiopia.
By employing historical ethno-symbolism, this study
endeavors to show that the attempt to present Ethiopia as a self-serving ethnic project is
at variance with history, theory and empirical facts. It argues that though ethnicity and
ethnic groups are the normal makeup of the country, the Ethiopian nation or appropriately
rendered as Bihere Etyopia has from its inception been a supra-ethnic ideal.

The %iew was first populari?ed 7! dward 1llendorf from what Teshale terms as the 3rientalist
Semiticist school 'p.@ii( or Le%ines Semiticist school '1/.5(.
For ;e7ru Tare=e '1//1(,p.+,6, modern thiopia is not the successor state of Christian :7!ssinia
7ecause the former is an :mhara dominated state. Furthermore, :mhara thiopia is an empire"state
while Christian :7!ssinia is a Christian nation. There is, therefore, a discontinuit! in the genealog! of
the state since *eneli= DDs assumption of power. For :dhana 4aile, *utation of Statehood and
Contemporar! Politics,& in :7e7e Hege!e and Siegfried Pausewang'eds(, Ethio+ia in *hange: "easantr$,
Nationalism and )emocrac$ 'London) <ritish :cademic press, 1//5(,p+2, the change is rather the
mutation of thiopian statehood due to the su7Iugation and denationali?ation of the historic state"
nation 7! *eneli= towards an empire"state, with northern Shawa alone occup!ing the status of state"
nationhood.&. Dn other words, all the predicaments of nationalism in contemporar! thiopia ha%e their
genesis since 199/.
The most prolific ad%ocate of this %iew is what ma! 7e con%enientl! termed as the colonial school.
Eisproportionatel! represented 7! hardliner 3romo nationalists and a few e@patriate scholars, this %iew
argues that modern thiopia is an in%ention of the :7!ssinian core or specificall! the :mhara"Tigre
coalition, and that thiopians8 :7!ssinians and other Southern peoples ha%e alwa!s 7een separate
historicall!, politicall!, and culturall!. Dt follows that these two entities must 7e treated distinctl!.

Works produced by scholars with an ethno-nationalist bent are mostly primordialist,

propagandist and outward looking, written as a counter-discourse to a real or imagined
insult. There is either too exclusive concentration on the state or the alleged dominant
group in accounting for the entire predicament of nationalism in the country or in the
respective ethnic groups.
The problem in this respect leaps from the Shoan Amhara
elite to the Amhara elite in general and imperceptibly to the entire Amhara group. The
Ethiopian-Abyssinian-Amharan-Shoan conflation and obfuscation (often deliberately
propagandist), a reflexive ethnic dichotomization, and North-South territorialization
have been hurdles in the way of understanding nationalism in its multiple forms.
works miss out the pluses, the salutary aspects, of nationalism in their exclusive concern
with its ethnic and confrontational dimensions. This study attempts to reconstruct the
ideologies of ethno-nationalists by analyzing the ways they attempted to refashion the
cultural and historical resources of the respective ethnic groups. It also attempts to
address the positive and integrative aspects of nationalism in the economic, political and
social life of the nation.
Observers ideological, academic and cultural perspectives also impinge on nationalist as
well as specialist discourses. Many expatriate scholars tend to see nothing but a collection
of ethnic entities in Ethiopia, often precluding apriori any supra-ethnic bonds and

:ssafa 0alata, The mergence of 3romo #ationalism and thiopian Eiscourse,& in :ssafa 0alata'ed(,
/romo Nationalism and the Ethio+ian )isco(rse. %he Search For Freedom and )emocrac$ 'Trenton) The
Aed Sea Press, 1//9a(,pp.1,+1. Eima, Contested Legitimac!,& p.1-,.
:ndargachew, %he Ethio+ian, pp.15"16, rather creates four la!ers of antagonism at the center of which
are Shoans contended 7! Tigreans, :mharas, and Southerners. 4e contradicts himself 7! first noting that
:mhara is not an ethnic term and then claiming that the northern :mhara do not regard the Shoans as
part of their ethnic group. See also :regawi, : Political 4istor!,& pp. 2."29, .1. Teshale, %he #a4ing,

sentiments. From this they draw the inevitable conclusion that national and ethnic
ideologies are antithetical.
However, pan-Ethiopian movements cannot be regarded in
toto as enemies of ethnic-nationalism. Ethiopianism in this study is intended to stand for
all ideologies and movements which aim to maintain the unity and integrity of the
Ethiopian state and nation. Ethiopianism in this sense, which loosely translates as
Etyopiawinet or Etyopiawi Bihertegnet, had been tentatively used during the student
Ethiopianism and ethnicism are not merely two countervailing arguments
but also the dual constitutive elements of the history of nationalism. The matter should
not be perceived in zero-sum terms. Affective ties to the state, though variable among
ethnic groups, can coexist with ethno-national consciousness.
It is in such continuous
dynamism that the history of nationalism in Ethiopia must be sought.
It is assumed in this study that all modern nations represent an uneasy confluence of a
more recent civic and more ancient genealogical mode of social and cultural
organization. The territorial as well as functional expansion of the Ethiopian state has
necessitated the absorption or integration of newer elements into the old national
framework. This, in itself difficult task for a transforming state, was compounded by
external influences, such as the Scramble for Africa and African decolonization, the
international waves of socialism and revolutions, the alignment in the Cold War, and the

>eller and $oung are perhaps the most notorious, who write in the %el!n Waugh st!le with little
sensiti%it!tothiopiasinternalsituation.>eller,thiopia)Ae%olution,&pp, 21/"25/. 0ohn $oung, "easant
Re'ol(tion in Ethio+ia: %he %igra$ "eo+le3s Liberation Front, 1=7?-1==1 'Cam7ridge 1ni%ersit! Press)
1//.(, p.9/, considers nationalism as an ata%istic mo%ement, ne%ertheless, rather than Mre%oltM or
Mre7ellionM, he uses the more purposeful and respecta7le term Mre%olutionM in characteri?ing TPLF struggle.
4e also seems credulous in using the MShoan :mharaM thesis as self"e%ident.
See, for e@ample, $ohannes Woldegiorgis in Str(ggle, DD, 1'Eecem7er 1/6.( and, more ela7oratel!,
:7dul *eIid 4ussein in Str(ggle, DDD,1'0anuar! 1/6/(.
Connor, Ethnonationalism, p.91

intransigent enmity of the Arab states.

This study attempts to reconstruct the cultural
and ideological bases of Ethiopian national identity under the various regimes since 1941.
It also assesses the role external contexts played in the ebb and flow of nationalism in the
A singular aspect of modern Ethiopian nationalist struggle and scholarship is its dogmatic
adherence to LeninistStalinist teachings.
Most works of the period favor materialist
explanations based on the concepts of class and modes and relations of production.
Stalins definition of the nation has been a veritable checklist which enjoyed ultimate
reverence in the public law of the nation.
Many of the theories so advanced, such as
relative deprivation, competition for scarce resources, ethnic division of labor, role
of elites, internal colonialism, are empirically and theoretically deficient.
factor explanations fail to explain the phenomena satisfactorily as nationalism may reflect

Eima,ContestedLegitimac!,&pp.19-,+-5, o7ser%es glo7al changes ha%e had far more serious impact
on thiopia than an! other :frican state.&
:ndargachew, %he Ethio+ian,p.-,, G3n the whole, it appears that the studentsM appraisal of the internal
thiopian situation left something to 7e desired. Certainl!, student papers made an attempt at anal!?ing
such Cuestions as feudalism and national self"determinationB more often than not, howe%er, the! were
mechanical applications of *ar@ist concepts in the thiopian conte@t. The earlier generation of !oung
thiopian intellectuals '0apani?ers( produced a more o7Iecti%e and original literature of their period than
did the leftist radicals of the 1/6,s of theirs. Dt appears that the S* was gripped more 7! an e@ternal
ideolog! than 7! the immediate circumstances which it was hard put to tr! and recast in the *ar@ian
mould.G :regawi, : Political 4istor!,& p6-) G:lthough a class"7ased ideological orientation was pre%alent
among the student 7od!, ethno"national mo7ili?ation was an additional and concomitant ideological
stance in the students mo%ement.&
0oseph Stalin, #ar-ism and the National and *olonial 0(estion '1/1-(, p.9. F)RE
Eima, Contested Legitimac!,& p.1,-)Though 7oth the Christian >ingdom and the *oslem principalities
were historicall! multiethnic, the dominant form of struggle was alwa!s religious. The 3romo factor not
onl! relegated that form of struggle to a secondar! one, 7ut introduced a new form of struggle, what later
7ecame =nown as the national CuestionB in other words the ri%alr! and struggle 7etween national

peoples desire for security, economic prosperity, as well as meaning. Hence, any
analysis must integrate the political, economic and cultural reasons for nationalism.
This study interrogates some of the core theses of nationalist politicians and
Ethiopianists, namely that ethno-nationalism in Ethiopia was engendered by national
oppression; that there is a homogeneous, an unchanged and unchanging national core;
that all ethnic groups outside the so-called Abyssinian core per se are antagonistic to the
Ethiopian idea.
Merara claims that the southern vision of unity in diversity in a
democratized Ethiopia is something of an anomaly in Ethiopian national politics. The
southern region, where national oppression was believed to have been severe and even
compounded by class differences, had remained less confrontational to the state until the
collapse of the military regime. This study attempts to show that where such resistances
occurred in Ogaden and Bale they were mainly driven by external factors. If the center-
south was a special object of Shoan Amhara inequities, then why was the feeling of
alienation and resistance apparently more intense in the north? And more important, why
did not the south uniformly advance the colonial thesis? Conversely, the ethnocentric
rigidity has prevented some students from explaining the very different views among
pan-Ethiopianists, and even in accounting for the intensity of ethno-nationalism within
the alleged core.

This cannot 7e so 7ecause groups often decide their political lo!alties pragmaticall! as seen in <elete
<i?uneh, :n agrarian Polit! and its Pastoral Peripher!) State and Pastoralism in the <orana <orderlands
'Southern thiopia(,19/."1//1,& ' Ph.E. Eissertation) <oston 1ni%ersit!,+,,9(, p.12-, showing the
<oranas constant support for the thiopian state while the Somali and the *uslims of :rsi in the post"
Dtalian period were mo7ili?ing anti":mhara sentiment.
>eller, thiopia) Ae%olution,& p.2+5'fn() GAmhari2ation is a term which is well =nown and much used
among thiopianists. Dt merel! refers to the acceptance of :mhara culture and custom 7! non":mharas.
This process is facilitated through education, language, the Coptic religion and the ta=ing of :mhara

Another serious pitfall in accounting for the genesis and manifestation of nationalism,
either from a historical or other perspective, from one or another paradigm, is the
arbitrary use of terms, concepts and typology.
Many students of Ethiopian history have
characterized Ethiopian nationalism as war nationalism.
This, while understandable, is
extreme reductionism which deems the phenomenon to be even narrower than patriotism.
Another loophole in nationalist literature is lack of sense of historical time, a telescoping
timelessness and anachronism.
Despite claims to impeccable scholarship, ethno-
nationalist historians and ideologues seldom worried about critical methodological
approaches to source material or the substantive truth of historical legends.
categories are projected backwards and past political orders are arbitrarily regarded as
precursors of nations to come. There is also an undue concern on the politics and

Christian names.G thno"nationalists ha%e two conspicuous silences) 3ne is regarding the pre%alent
of D!assu, with a *uslim and 3romo 7ac=ground, is something unimagina7le and inimita7le e%en in a
seculari?ed and democratic thiopia. The other similar silence is regarding the predominant and
pioneering role of M:mharaM elite in the opposition of the imperial as well as the militar! regime.
D.*.Lewis, Pre" and Post"colonial Forms of Polit! in :frica,& in D.*.Lewis'ed(, Nationalism and Self-
determination in the &orn of Africa 'London) Dthaca Press, 1/9-(,p..2, considers this in part a conseCuence
of the almost o%ernight& transmutation of tri7es into nations, encouraging a wanton a7use of nation
as a status e@pression rather than a social categor!.
Teshale, %he #a4ing of '1//2(. Clapham, thiopia and the Challenge,&'+,,5(.
*erara, *om+eting Ethnic '+,,-( argues that *eneli=s conception of the Shoan 3romo elite was made
on uneCual 7asis&. What =ind of eCualit!, one might as=N *erara answers proportional to their
num7ersR This is a glaring anachronism since democrac! is the onl! political s!stem 7ased on num7ers.
4is assertion regarding the %ulnera7ilit! of the $eIIu 3romo elite& in the power struggles of the Aemene
#esafint li=ewise considers the ri%alr! as among the masses of the people rather than the politicall!
rele%ant classes. For all practical purposes thiopian political tradition has pro%ed capa7le of
accommodating all =inds of contingencies Q of 7lood, creed and region.
Carmichael, :pproaching thiopian 4istor!,& pp.9,/, deplores the Gmethodological nai%etT& of the
counter"discourse, prominentl! of the Sisai"4olcom7 and :ssefa 0alata t!pes, most of which are 7ased on
secondar! or tertiar! literatures. *ost others also fall in the same pits of thiopian historiograph!) a
progressi%e 7ut hapless D!assuB poor Tewodros who left to his name nothing e@cept a worthless cannonB
*eneli= the %illain par e@cellenceB 4ailesilassie the epitome of e%il and conspirac!, etc.

ideology of nationalism rather than on underlying cultural and historical processes; a bias
for normative rather than analytical aspects.
By employing a balanced interdisciplinary approach, combining historical and
sociological methodologies and concepts, this research intends to overcome the
limitations of ideological and disciplinarian straitjackets, unsubstantiated theorization and
dogmatic empiricism. Generally, it is assumed in this study that nationalism is a
reflection of historical dynamics and hence is not allied permanently to any social class or
single ideology. It may be constructive of new states or destructive of existing ones; it
may protect or destroy freedom, or it may be pacific or belligerent, exclusive or inclusive,
constitutional or unconstitutional, etc. The only dependable way to ascertain the nature
and characteristics of nationalism(s) in a given country is through a dialectic treatment
showing how it arises and evolves under particular contexts.

Most scholars concede that national awakening originally emanates from a minority
social group, usually a disaffected or ambitious intelligentsia. However, it can take hold
among the broad masses through the vehicle of communication and social change.
Hroch(also Deutsch though not so articulately) has identified three stages in national
awakening among Western societies. The initial one is the time of inward looking or
reflection in which philological and historical investigations are aimed at digging into the
roots of the cultural community. The next stage is usually a longer period of fermentation
in which politicization of language, history and culture take root. The final stage
culminates in the awakening of the broad masses into the reality of the nation.

>ellas,"olitics of Nationalism,p.--.:lter,Nationalism,pp.5.,59.
4o7s7awm,Nations and Nationalism, p.1.2. :lter, Nationalism, p.26.

study attempts to identify the various social groups involved in the civic, social and
ethnic nationalist struggles and reconstruct the processes in the history of nationalism in
In engineering the awakening process, nationalists employ various instruments. They
make plenty of promises. Nationalism abounds with promises couched in such slogans as
Through Unity to Freedom! This may be freedom from real or perceived crisis or ills;
emancipation from etatism, or more positive promises for personal development and an
active role in national community. They employ symbols appropriated from the cultural
and social resources of the group, artifacts such as flag, anthem, map, the tomb or
monument of the Unknown Soldier, etc, to personify various aspects of the nation.
Nationalists also establish cultural and political bodies of various sizes and degrees of
cohesion. While culture represents the totality of mans life, only some features of it are
singled out and defined as crucial in boundary processes. Much of the rest, including
national history, is deemed as invention and annexation.

In arguing the fluidity of cultures and boundaries, the imaginedness of nations, and the
inventedness of traditions, however, we have to heed Smiths warning about the danger
of overstatement. Nationalists do not simply fabricate their ideology, though a lot of
imaginativeness and creativity is involved. They rather build it on some pre-existing
cultural and historical material. In other words, nations cannot be created or invented ex

4o7s7awminric 4o7s7awm and Terence Aanger, %he In'ention of %raditio,p.1, defines in%ented
tradition as a set of practices, normall! go%erned 7! o%ertl! or tacitl! accepted rules and of ritual or
s!m7olic nature, which see= to inculcate certain %alues and norms of 7eha%ior 7! repetition, which
automaticall! implies continuit! with the past.& 3ne of the outstanding instances of recent recreation of
heroes is that of :latta 4ailemariam Aedda, a man who was e%en recruited 7! the )erg to suppress what
later 7ecame =nown as the second We!anne&, ironicall! he is 7eing promoted as the founder of the first
We!anne&. ;e7ru Tare=e, Peasant Aesistance in thiopia) the Case of the We!anne,& %he 8o(rnal of
African &istor$, +2'1(, 'Cam7ridge 1ni%ersit! Press)1/95(,p.9,.

nihilo. However, national identity may be submerged by the vagaries of history and may
have to be recreated by an active intelligentsia in the modern period.
Historical ethno-
symbolism becomes useful in analyzing such cultural and historical resources and
symbols over time.
Nationalist movements can be identified according to their basic strategies. Some pursue
their aims overtly, advertizing themselves and sensitizing target groups. Others are more
covert and conduct underground and conspiratorial activities. Nationalist movements may
also be constitutional or reformist, struggling within the available legal framework and
advocating moderate reforms. Others may be revolutionary or radical in their demands,
often calling for independent statehood. In most cases, nationalists do not stop at
regenerating and elevating their nationality, but they take a negative and combative
stance against an imagined or real Other, often conceived in ethnocentric or racist

As Greenfield noted, ethnic nationalism is often inspired by a sense of collective
inferiority and resentment against societies (or social groups) perceived to be morally and

Ea! and Thompson, %heori2ing Nationalism, p.6-.
:regawi, : Political 4istor!,& p.+,1, relates a7out the s!stematic encouragement of anti":mhara
sentiment within the TPLF and e%en in the post"Eerg period. 4e accuses TPLF"affiliated writers such as
0ohn $oung '1///( of complicit! and deli7erate credulit!, p.+,,'fn(. Tim Carmichael, <ureaucratic
Literac!, 3ral Testimonies, and the Stud! of Twentieth"centur! thiopian 4istor!,& 8o(rnal of African
*(lt(ral St(dies , 19'1(,'+,,6(, pp.+-"5+, relates of the intensit! of the anti":mhara propaganda circulated
7! go%ernment owned media in the earl! and mid"1//,s and compares this with the anti"0ewish
propaganda in the *iddle ast.

culturally superior...
This becomes potentially dangerous because it feeds upon the
atavistic sentiments of the people. Merara considers the modern elite as the catalyst for
the rise of ethnic nationalism in Ethiopia.
This is a valid point. The study attempts to
assess how reflective of Ethiopian realities was the nationalist struggle, or how far it was
a turf war between disaffected intelligentsia of the various ethnic groups. It also takes
into account the stereotyping and counter-stereotyping involved in the rival ideologies,
the perception of the Ethiopian state, and the definition of nationalist groups in
contradistinction to the Ethiopian-Abyssinian-Amharan obfuscation and conflation.

Therefore, the main areas of focus of this dissertation will be the economic, political,
ideological and cultural aspects of nationalism, horizontally and vertically, at national
and sub-national levels, of the center and periphery, and at the level of various social
groups and classes. Structural, institutional, legal, and policy dimensions specifically
pertaining to nationalist aims will be addressed. This study also draws a distinction
between nationalist politics or nationalism and the whole gamut of national politics.

Liah ;reenfield, Eemocrac!, ethnic di%ersit! and nationalism,& in >Iell ;oldman, 1lf 4anner? and
Charles Westin'eds(, Nationalism and Internationalism in the "ost-*old .ar Era '#ew $or=) Aoutledge,
Lo%ise :alen, Dnstitutionali?ing the Politics of thnicit!. :ctors, Power and *o7ili?ation in Southern
thiopia 1nder thnic Federalism,& 'Ph.E. Eissertation) 1ni%ersit! of 3slo, +,,.(, p.5.) G<! ta=ing o%er the
ethnic agenda, the PAEF has 7een a7le to =eep other =e! issues out of the political limelight.G
#oted leaders of the ethno"nationalist struggle seem to 7e confused and reassessing their %iews on
the matter. :regawi, : Poltical 4istor!,& for e@ample writes that the struggle of Tigra! people had
genuine grie%ances, 7oth historical and e@isting'pp.2,"21(B he also seems to regard this more as ethno"
s!m7olic ri%alr! 7etween the Tigre and Shoa ruling houses'pp.26"2.(B and again as a deli7erate maneu%er
of the modern elite. 4e also deplores, p.+2,, GTrue, as Tesfatsion *edhanie '+,,.) 1-+"1--( wrote
4istor! has 7een 7adl! a7used in the course of the li7eration struggle. Dt has not merel! 7een
misconstrued, 7ut has also 7ecome the su7Iect of fraudulent discourse.G Eima, Contested Legitimac!,&
p.++1, also notes) The ethnici?ation of politics and the politici?ation of ethnicit!, 7esides igniting or
reigniting inter"communal conflicts in man! parts of the countr!, satisfied neither national groups
demanding greater rights and a fair sa! in the affairs of the state, nor those who 7elie%e in the unitar!
conception of thiopian identit! and the state.G

Carmichael observes: "What is needed now is less re-interpretation at the national level
and more work in the provinces, work that will generate data and ideas that can be used
to reinvigorate or recast the nationalist debates."
This dissertation is an attempt to rise
to that challenge and to show that an extensive quarrying of data and reinterpretation are
integral to each other.

The remaining body of this dissertation is structured into five chapters dealing with the
pre-national background to Ethiopian nationalism, the genesis of modern Ethiopianism,
the genesis of ethno-nationalisms in the country, the era of socialist nationalism and the
era of ethnic nationalism. The first chapter gives a historical background covering the
period prior to 1941, which is regarded in this study as a proto-nationalist or formative
phase of Ethiopian nationalism. Though the 19
century is still regarded as the time of
the birth of the modern nation-state, the historical, cultural and ideological roots of the
nation are traceable back to the mists of antiquity. In this chapter, changes and
continuities of the mythology, symbolism and memory of the Ethiopian nation are traced.
Simultaneous semantic evolution in the conception of the nation, its dialectics with the
state, the people and the social and territorial boundaries of the nation, and the concept of
citizenship will be analyzed. Hence the analysis of ethno-symbolic elements over this
long expanse of time will be invaluable in reconstructing the proto-nationalist ideology
and the layers of the historic nation.
The second chapter begins by a reconstruction of the interethnic situation up to and
including the Italian period. The post-1941 period is assumed in this study to be the era of

Carmichael, :pproaching thiopian 4istor!,& p./.

modern nationalism in the country. Thus, chapter two deals with the process of rebirth of
the Ethiopian nation-state, especially attempts of the restored monarchy to fashion a
rejuvenating ideology from the values of the historic nation as well as the challenges and
opportunities of the new post-war contexts. It outlines the civicethnic duality of
renascent Ethiopianism; the states efforts in practicing an evolving nationalism,
disseminating the core ideals, memories, values and culture of the historic nation; and the
legal and institutional frameworks in this endeavor. Here attempts will also be made to
relate the economic, political and cultural contexts with the emergence of new social
relations and classes and their role in expanding and modernizing the national idea and
The third chapter deals with the emergence of a generational and ethnic critique of the
traditional nation and the evolution of social and ethno-nationalisms. The ESM was the
ideological womb of both the social and ethnic varieties of nationalism. Here attempts
will be made to reconstruct student ideology during the imperial period, the internal and
external resources and contexts for its fatal bifurcation. Moreover, analysis will be made
at societal level how popular local resistance and articulation of ethnicity, cultural and
religious expressions of opposition found early institutional expressions through self-help
associations and other informal bodies. The chapter will also assess the imperial states
attitude toward this burgeoning ethno-nationalism; and the place of the nationalities issue
in the Ethiopian Revolution.
The fourth chapter is concerned with the period of the military regime or the Derg (1974-
1991) and its attempts at redefining the nation-state and socializing it among the broad
masses. This involved emphasizing the civic nation, the inviolability of its national

territory, the regimes attempts at handling the vexed issue of nationalities and
citizenship, and refashioning national values and symbols along socialist lines. Analysis
will also be made of the ideological and structural underpinnings of socialist
Ethiopianism: political socialization, initiating the masses into membership of the nation;
the role of public education; the mass media, legal and institutional frameworks to
accommodate the nationalities demands.
Chapter four also analyzes the nationalities struggle and its articulation: contesting the
Ethiopian idea, delineating the question, transformations from reformist to combative
nationalisms, and ideologies of justifying the war of liberation. There will also be
concern on strategies of ethno-nationalist groups at mobilizing the ethnic community: the
cultural and ethno-symbolic ways of articulating opposition; the uses and abuses of the
past; forms of organization and struggle, and the dissemination of ethno-national
ideologies among the respective masses. Assessment will also be made of the varying
ethno-regional outcomes and the role of external factors in the ultimate outcome of the
nationalities wars.
The fifth chapter deals with the EPRDF period (1991-2012), the heyday of ethno-
nationalism, and documents the place of social nationalism in the new equilibrium. It
considers how the new regime attempted to resolve the nationalities question: redefining
the nation-state into a multi-national state, nationalism without national identity; the
translation of military victory into legal and political structures, and the ideological and
political rationale. It also assesses the transformation of ethnic nationalism into an
ideological tunnel of linguistic nationalism and linguism, or billboard nationalism; and
the accompanying proliferation of ethnic entrepreneurs; the legal and institutional

frameworks. It pays attention to the ethno-symbolic processes of reinventing or inventing

ethnic nations: mobilization of ethnic communities into nationhood; re/inventing history,
myth, memory, culture, even language and names; defining homelands.
Another major concern of the fifth chapter is the gradual reorganization of supra-ethnic
ideologies and resurgence of Ethiopianism as a critique of the ethnic-nation. It deals with
the ethnocratic nature of the state and the denouement of zero-sum politics; the
realignment of forces and widening the bases for countering ethnonationalism; forms of
the pan-Ethiopian ideology and struggle; the social classes and groups involved; and
grassroots or popular expressions of pan-Ethiopianism. It also deals with the internal and
external contexts which led to the reformation of official nationalism toward instrumental
Ethiopianism: threats to the states power and integrity; regional wars and geopolitics; the
problem of rising expectations, proliferation of ethnic demands and conflicts; and the
selective reaffirmation of Ethiopianism.
The last part of the dissertation constitutes concluding remarks on changes and
continuities in the politics, ideology, culture and symbolism of the history of nationalism
in Ethiopia over the past century. Some of the cardinal theories and thoughts on the issue
will be evaluated. Have the nationalist struggles and ideologies expanded and found new
inclusive bases of Ethiopianism, or have they remained fossilized behind the pragmatic
and opportunistic rhetoric of factional interests? Official, social and ethnic nationalisms
will be reconsidered here, and closing reflections on the vexed question of who is an

Too sharp a repudiation of the aristocratic-clerical past may destroy Ethiopias raison
detre if the borders are not to be redrawn.

When does the Ethiopian nation come into existence? Who are members of the nation?
What does the name Ethiopia signify to different peoples? Is historic Ethiopia an
appropriate designation? What is the exact relationship between historic and modern
Ethiopia? These questions underline that perhaps the central issue in our understanding of
nationalism is the role of the past in the creation of the present. The challenge for
scholars as well as nations is to present the relationship of the pre-national past to modern
nations more accurately and convincingly. In this continually renewed interface between
the past and the nationalist present lies the secret of the nations lifeblood which
nourishes it through the vagaries of history.

The main concern of this chapter is, therefore, the nature and variety of the historical,
cultural and symbolic elements in the formation and persistence of the Ethiopian nation,
and their social and institutional linkages with prior ethnies, their traditions and
sentiments. To this end, it is first necessary to identify the historic nations conception of
itself via its ideologies, myths, memories, social organizations and belief systems. The
claim that a sense of continuity and belonging to the historic nation was shared by a large

Smith, National Identity, p.105. Smith is the most perceptive of nationalism theorists regarding the
genesis and evolution of Ethiopian nationhood.
Smith, Gastronom or Geolog! "he role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations,# Nations and
Nationalism, $,1%1&&4',pp.1()1&.

cross-section of Ethiopians is central to the arguments of this chapter. I endeavor to show
that in pre-modern Ethiopia state-making, wars, the threat of invasion (both military and
ideological), and the fusion of religious and national interests have generated enduring
and widespread national consciousness. The state and, more importantly, the national
church had also made vital contributions towards promoting and sustaining such evolving
national identity.

1.1 The Evolution of Historic Ethiopia
Ethiopia is neither eternal nor invented. A nation is a large social group integrated not by
one but by a combination of several kinds of objective relationships (economic, political,
linguistic, cultural, religious, geographical, historical) and their subjective reflection in
collective consciousness.
The most decisive criterion of proto-nationalism is, however,
the consciousness of belonging or having belonged to a lasting political entity.
This is
what is otherwise called the historic nation. It is that identification with thousands of
years of recorded and uninterrupted statehood and its institutional and cultural legacy that
we call historic Ethiopia. A foundation which is provided by the traditions and memories

,armichael, -pproaching Ethiopian .istor,# p.*. ,riti/uing of the Greater Ethiopia approach generall,
and specificall of 0arcus, he reiterates the conventional o1servation2 3...4evertheless, its central
hpothesis a1out Ethiopia5s historical continuit remains unproven, and the /uest to unite the historical
mths of Ethiopia5s ruling classes and present)da nationalists upon empirical ground remains unfulfilled.3
6hat 7ind of proof does the author have in mind! Ethiopia8s historical continuit is relativel 9ell
documented and shouldn8t 1e needing proof in the first place. -s to national mthologies, 9hat reall
matters is the sm1olic rather than the empirical.
0iroslav .roch, :rom 4ational 0ovement to the :ull)formed 4ation2 "he 4ation)1uilding ;rocess in
Europe,# in <ala7rishnan Gopal%ed', Mapping the Nation %4e9 =or7 and >ondon2?erso,1&&6',p.*&.
.o1s1a9m, Nations and Nationalism,p.*+.

of ancient and medieval Ethiopia has evolved into the national culture of modern
Ethiopia and it has been vital for its survival.

A number of authorities on nationalism have pointed out striking parallels between nation
formation in Ethiopia and classical nationalism in Europe. The similarities range from the
paths taken towards nation formation, the civic territorial nature of the nation, the
process of self-definition, social organization and other particulars. Smith identifies two
broad types of ethnie, lateral and vertical, and respectively two paths of nation
formation, bureaucratic and demotic. In the case of lateral or aristocratic ethnie, which
Smith attributes mainly to Western Europe, the nation emerged as a result of gradual
transformation in administrative /military, economic and cultural spheres of life. It is the
state controlled by a ruling aristocracy which forged the nation. In this model, found
outside Europe in a few countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, Burma and Ethiopia, the
culture of a core group served as the basis of the new national identity and community
especially where the culture in question can claim to be historic and living among the
core community.
While this generally holds true for the genesis of modern Ethiopia, a

,lapham, Ethiopia and the ,hallenge,# p.5523"here are nonetheless roots to Ethiopian nationalism that
run deeper than those of -frican states that o9e their origins to colonialism. "here is a real sense of
histor, and a pride in Ethiopia8s past, that is not solel the preserve of a single group. - national culture
has indeed developed, of 9hich the near)universal use of the -mharic language as a lingua franca is the
most o1vious e@pression.3 ;erhaps the onl thing -mharan in 9hat is often cited as A-mharaiBation8 is
-mharic language. See Celler, Ethiopia2 Devolution,# p.504. .olcom1 and Sisai8s 1oo7 The Invention of
Ethiopia(1&&0' is a highl polemical and propagandist te@t. $ts title is intended to conve the social
constructionist position on the matter. Ea and "hompson, Theorizing Nationalism, p.10.
Gellner, Nations, pp.(1)(2, is representative of the general tenor of this argument2 F"Ghe .orn of -frica
is also the area 9ith the 1est e@amples of 9hat ma 1e called classical nationalisms.# $n this region the
-mharas and the Somalis possessed 1oth gun and <oo7...#and used these cultural e/uipments in state)
formation. F"Ghe -mharas created in Ethiopia the one reall convincing -frican specimen of feudalism, a
lose empire 9ith local territorial po9er)holders, lin7ed to a national ,hurch. Smith, National Identity,
p.55, also notes2 - fe9 aristocratic ethnies managed to retain their identit for man centuries, even
millennia, partl through strict adherence to distinctive forms of religion, 1ut also through the inclusion
9ithin their political 1oundaries of other ethnic groups and 1 a limited diffusion of their religious culture
do9n the social scale. "he efforts of the -mhara 7ings of the medieval ASolomonic8 dnast to incorporate

closer look at earlier nation formation discloses that the parallels cannot be stretched
beyond a few superficial similarities.
Self-definition is the starting point in the formation as well as in the analysis of historic
Ethiopia. It refers to a growing sense of identity in a population, including self-naming
and naming by others, which gradually delimits the groups boundary and reveals to the
members a progressive understanding of who they are.
A nation, as we have noted
above, is constituted primarily by subjective self-definition of a people with a group
its past, its present, and, what is most important, its destiny.
The historic nation
Etyopia, whose very self-name is shrouded in mystery, is defined as biher (a Geez
equivalent to nation), and fully rendered as Bihere Etyopia.
This concept of the historic
nation embodies the fundamentals of its self-perception, of being a descent community, a
culturally and politically unified nation among nations, endowed with its own unique
territory, history, civilization and statehood.
The Kibre Negest (Glory of Kings) being the most coherent exposition or the founding
charter of historic Ethiopia, it outlines the origin, identity, sovereignty and destiny of the

outling regions and lo9er strata into their 0onophsite ethnic culture met 9ith onl partial success, 1ut
9as enough to ensure their o9n survival in the face of 0uslim onslaughts and su1se/uent European
encroachments, at least in their heartlands.#
,onnor, Ethnonationalism, pp.10+, 1042 6hile an ethnic group may, therefore, 1e other)defined, the
nation must 1e self)defined.#
"he attempt to define an ethnic group 1 means of o1Hective cultural or other traits is futile. :or
instance, 9ho are the "igrians%or -mharas, Iromos, Gurages,etc'! "his cannot 1e clearl delimited either
1 means of language, 9hich is a common characteristic of Eritreans, or religion, or even territor, etc.
"his is 9h anthropologists regard ethnicit as an 3emic categor of ascription32 Eri7sen, Nationalism and
Ethnicity,p.12. ,onnor, Ibid.,p.4. =onas -dmasu, Narrating Ethiopia, p.10.
Gedes, A Church History, p.1, claims that -1assia, or Ethiopia -lta, or Ethiopia super Egptum are all the
same. .e also notes, p.*23"here is a great mi@ture of ;eople in .a1assia, from 9hich the ,ountreFsicG is
said 1 some to have had its 4ame.3


national community. The Kibre Negest makes the first clear expression of Ethiopian
nationhood. Its reference to Bihere Etyopia, which translates as the Ethiopian nation,
has striking semantic similarity with the concept of natio in the Western nations. The
term biher originally referred to place of birth or descent; in the Kibre Negest it attained
wider significance by variously standing for the nation, its people, the country and the
state. Most references to Ethiopia in the document are prefixed by the term bihere and
less often by hagere and hizbe, alternately denoting an identity between the state, its
territory and even its people as one whole. The grand mythology of the document is
engaged in the recreation of a national community by bonding these core elements. The
Kibre Negest states in unmistakable terms that Ethiopians were the children of Kam; a
black race; backward; and a race destined to enslavement. It is only through the advent of
the elder sons of the Israelites accompanying Menelik I that Ethiopia, or better its ruling
aristocracy, attained a Semitic pedigree. This was, however, extended to the whole nation
through a political and cultural bond between sovereign and subject.
The Kibre Negest is, however, an abbreviated statement of long processes of historical
development rather than merely the beginning of a new one. Its mytho-history integrates
supposedly key memories and events within the secular and spiritual concerns of the
nation. The value of this document lies not in its empirical and chronological precision
but in its depiction of the history and mythology of the nation in easily memorable
tableaux. It is appropriate, for obvious empirical and theoretical reasons, to delimit the
origin of historic Ethiopia to the Aksumite period. It scarcely matters whether there was a
pre-Christian Aksum or pre-Aksumite states. What matters most is that the national
imaginary traces an uninterrupted historical continuity from here. The Aksum of popular

memory is removed from that of the history books by a thousand years. In this apparently
unscientific claim lies the antiquity of historic Ethiopia.

It is in Aksum that pagan and Christian Ethiopia blend; in Aksum that Ham and Shem
rejoin; that the nation, Bihere Etyopia, is born as Gods chosen, or Gods first born.
is also by virtue of their filiations to the scions of Solomon and Sadoq or, more properly,
to the Aksumites Menelik I and Azarias that the institutions of the monarchy and the
church draw their legitimacy. It is on this divine intervention in the creation of Bihere
Etyopia that the entire socio-political edifice of a nation is erected. The supra-ethnic
character of historic Ethiopia is founded in this identification with a cultural and
ideological descent of the community.
In a word, Aksum is the birthplace of the
Ethiopian nation, the origin of its civilization and its spiritual navel. But Aksum is not the

"here is a readiness among students of Ethiopian histor to dismiss out of hand this mtholog as
falsehood and fa1rication, 9hich misses its significance in the national histor. =onas -dmasu in Narrating
Ethiopia, pp.46)4*, contends2 "he validit of such national narratives as the ebra ! Nagast lies not in
their correspondence to o1Hective truth%historical truth' 1ut , as Soin7a aptl o1serves, in their
Afulfillment of one of the social functions of literature2 the visionar reconstruction of the past for the
purpose of social direction8, one fundamental functions attaching to mths in general.#
"his e@pression is 1orro9ed from >iah Greenfield8s account of English nationalism, AGod8s :irst <orn2
England8 in her super1 1oo7 Nationalism" #ive $oads to Modernity %1&&2', p.44. $ thin7 it is e/uall or even
more appropriatel applica1le to Ethiopia.
6udu "afete, "he Ethiopian Irthodo@ ,hurch, the Ethiopian State, and the -le@andrian See2
$ndigeniBing the Episcopas and :orging 4ational $dentit, 1&26)1&&1,# %;h.E. Eissertation2 Jniversit of
$llinois at Jr1ana),hampain, 2006', p.*, regards the transfer of the -r7 of the ,ovenant from Solomon5s
temple to -7sum Seon church as a 7e sm1olic element in this 5invention of tradition5. 3<ecause of this
Ethiopian Irthodo@ ,hristians claim that the are God5s chosen people. "he concept of the chosen people
has 1een appropriated to strengthen the political state.3 "he tradition also 3gives a divine origin to
Ethiopian 7ings3 and therefore its 3principal o1Hective3 9as to give political legitimac to the 5Solomonic
dnast5...3 >i7e most other o1servers 6udu fails to underscore the 5national5 dimension of this ver
tradition 1 elevating not onl the 7ings 1ut also the clerg and the 5people of Ethiopia5, and 1inding them
in histor and destin. "he genealogical tradition 9as an offshoot of this mth of national origin. 6udu
uses religious nationalism in the narro9 sense of the Ethiopian ,hurch5s struggle to achieve independence
from the -le@andrian See%,hapter $$'. $n that sense he traces the historical roots of religious nationalism
from 7ing .ar1e and >ali1ela of the Kag9e, %pp.2()2&', -mde Seon and Kera =a/o1 of the Solomonic


nation; it is not even the name of the historic nation! It is the sanctuary of the defining
symbol of historic Ethiopia, the Ark of the Covenant or the Tabernacle of Zion. If the
celebration of the three-thousandth anniversary of the advent of the Tsilate Musse (held
on 26
January 2009) looks somewhat out of touch, this is but the way of nationhood!
Nevertheless, the earliest extant material evidence regarding the tentative adoption of the
name Etyopia by the Aksumites to denote themselves and their country dates back to
the mid 4
century AD. This was the famous inscription of Ezana on which ...the Greek
translation uses the term Ethiopia to describe the country of the Aksumites where as the
Geez translation is Habashat.
This important event is coterminous with the
introduction of Christianity to Aksum as well as the full vocalization of Geez. The
identity of the nation was internalized in the subsequent centuries through these two
cultural milestones so that, according to Tekeste, by the 6
century the Aksumites could
be safely called Ethiopians.
Besides the birth of a self-identified nation called Ethiopia,
its personality was materialized by outlining its territorial extension in deliberately vague
but nodal strategic, rather than geographical, references. The Kibre Negest locates
Ethiopia somewhere south of Israel and the Gaza. During the medieval period, the
political boundary of Ethiopia had been elastic depending on the fortunes of the state, at
its widest extending to its present size (including Eritrea) and at its smallest shrinking to
the northern and central highlands.
Nevertheless, these gains and losses had been made

"e7este 4egash, Ethiopic Script2 - 1rief histor of its origin and impact,#%forthcoming in Scripts
0undu, J4ES,I', p.+. $ am inde1ted to ;rofessor "e7este for dra9ing m attention to this earlier period.
Ibid., p.&.
0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.(6. .iru 6olde)Silassie8s %e Ethiopia Tari& %1&&&E,' 1egins the
narrative e@actl 101+ ears 1efore ,hrist, from the reign of the ALueen of Sa1a8 9ho apparentl had no
7no9n proper name. Sa1a, he contends, is a place near the current site of -7sum. "he /ueen8s empire
included =emen in -ra1ia and stretched in the east up to 0adagascar, in the north and 9est up to Egpt

a part of the national memory and kept alive a spirit of reconquista. In later times,
Ethiopian sovereigns claimed territories between the seas as lost to the empire
sometime in the past.
It was perhaps during the medieval period that the superlative expression of the nation,
Tallaqitwa Etyopia (Greater Ethiopia), appeared as combining its civilizational
superiority, glory of the state and extent of its territory. Ethiopia is then no mere
geographical expression but a homeland, a reservoir of national memories.
The national
territory is not only defined but also revered and bestowed upon sacrality. This
historicization of territory and naturalization of history is reflected in the poems, stories,
arts, settlement patterns and nomenclatures of the nation. As enat hager(Mother Land)
Ethiopia becomes the ultimate source of life and identified with Mother Nature herself.
The Debir becomes in historic Ethiopia not only a site of monasticism, like numerous
sites between Debre Bizen and Debre Libanos, but also a sanctuary of Ethiopian religious
pride and identity. The Amba is likewise more than a mere place of settlement,
confinement and defense. It is a connective between nativity and nationality, a means of
territorializing memories. Historic Ethiopia is a natioscape.

and 4u1ian 1order, in the south to 9hat is toda called >a7e ?ictoria, 4ianBa#p.11. =onas, 4arrating
Ethiopia,# p.22, rightl o1serves2 ...the modern political concept of territor stands %primaril , one might
even venture to sa' as a metaphor of Aidentit8, as a figure for mar7ing)off of one communit %or nation'
from another. "his function of sm1oliBing the identit of a given nation vie9ed to 1e
distinct from that of another is 9hat is essential to the proHect of narrating the nation#.
Geddes, A Church History, p.*0, mentions that Ethiopia 9as also called the AGreat and .igh Ethiopia8.
-lso <ilata Ge1re)EgBia1her8s letter to Emperor 0eneli7 %1((&E,', /uoted in Shumet Sishagn' (%e Eritrea
Hizboch %andinet Tigil)' *iyiyit%-mharic', vol.$,4o.2%-ddis -1a1a2 Nehassie 1&(4',p.1.
$ have adapted this e@pression from Steven Gros18s Aethnoscape8. "he author argues that memor is
territorialiBed 1 historiciBing nature and ma7ing it part of the development of the ethnic communit.#
6hat then emerges is an Aethnoscape8 in 9hich a people has its land and a land its people,# Steven
Gros1, %1&&1', p.240.

National identity is a form of life which is daily lived. In fact, due to its socio-cultural
bases it is a total way of life. As there was little cultural difference across social classes,
the identity of Bihere Etyopia had been ingrained in the life of every member of the
community. This includes being situated physically, legally and socially. Identity
conferring features would include: ways of doing things, forms of landscape, attitudes of
mind, tastes in popular culture, typical objects, cultural symbols, administrative
regulations, and so on.
This aspect is concisely expressed by Aleqa Taye, who
identified eleven peculiar characteristics of the Ethiopian nation: never mixed with
others in matters of food, drink and matrimony; evidences abound in historical records
in different parts of the world; prophesies in the Bible; [matters of ] religion;
circumcision; [unique] phenotype; demeanor; their language; their names; the
name of their country and the customs of their country.
The overall process of self-
definition and location is in many ways the key to national identity.
National identity also has international and universal dimensions. The establishment of
Ethiopias place in the cosmic order of nations is symbolically expressed by a myth of
election, which is another cornerstone of nationness. The main narrative of the Kibre
Negest elaborates how Gods promise for David had been transferred to Ethiopia as a
result of the fall of the Israelites from grace. It is here that the great story of the Queen of
Sheba (also variously referred as Saba, Azeb, Makeda) fits in. The sojourn of the
Ethiopian queen to Solomon the Wise was Gods special plan to realize his eternal
promise. Ethiopia, therefore, enjoys the Almightys favor through the outcome of this

Ea and "hompson, Theorizing Nationalism, p.100.
"ae, %e)Etyopia Hizb Tari&,p.21.

phenomenal tour.
By virtue of chastity and thirst for divine wisdom (as symbolized by
the virgin queen), the possession of the Ark and a ready profession to Christianity,
Ethiopia attains seniority among nations, ranking above Rome and Israel. Asceticism and
devotion to Tabot Christianity become most cherished, enduring, defining and non-
negotiable values of historic Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been portrayed by generations of
nationals till today as a chaste beauty in search of wisdom.

Even though it is enfolded by the mythology of putative kinship, like filiation from the
house of David, or religious and cultural ideologies as Orthodox Christianity and Geez
civilization, the determinant factor in the formation of Bihere Etyopia is the
internalization of these elements of national consciousness and definition.
This is a long
and complex process in which a nation, metaphorically, passes through rites of birth,
growth and maturity all along picking, blending and discarding the elements of its
identity. A nation can lose or alter any or all of its outward characteristics without losing
it sense of continuity. Several factors are at work in this process to historicize all gains
and losses and to create a sense of invariance and immutability.
While customs at the
grassroots change constantly, popular memory bestows upon them an aura of
unchanging, time-honored tradition. The formation of distinct national characteristics or

The ibre Negest, p.5. 6hile man countries claimed this /ueen as their o9n, no compara1le claim has
1een raised over the national identit and name AEthiopia8.
-fe9er/ Ge1re)=esus, TobiaM .adis -lemaehu, #i+ir Es&e,me+abirM Eagnache9 6or/u' The Thirteenth
-un, among others, allegoricall identif their main character 9ith the nation.
Eri7sen, Nationalism and Ethnicity,p.12 24ationness in anthropological parlance is Aan emic categor8.
Smith, National Identity,p.252 ,ollective cultural identit refers not to a uniformit of elements over
generations 1ut to a sense of continuit on the part of successive generations of a given cultural unit of
population, to shared memories of earlier events and periods in the histor of that unit and to notions
entertained 1 each generation a1out the collective destin of that unit and its culture.#

what is termed as the national habitus, i.e, the set of dispositions and embodied social
learning, is a result of the deposit left by a shared history.

The creation and cultivation of distinctive myths, memories, traditions, values and
symbols mark a nation out from those outside its boundaries. The significance of national
myths and historical backgrounds is that they become carriers of identity and memories
over time.
Myths of election or the idea of the chosen ones, as pointed out by many
observers, was a cardinal feature of historic Ethiopia and a great spiritual force which
sustained her through the ups and downs of history. The Kibre Negest narrates Ethiopias
special covenant with God, which is a promise of conditional salvation attainable
provided that both sovereign and subject fulfill certain moral and ritual obligations, and
that they maintain the religious purity and devotion of the ancient community.
national mythology undergirds Ethiopias infallibility and unconquerabiltiy in matters of
war, though time and again she faces reversals. Any defeat and tribulation the nation
suffers is accountable in terms of admonition of God for going astray the sacred ways.
Wars, natural disasters such as epidemics and famine, and even personal tragedies are
readily attributed to divine reprimand.

Elias, /uoted in Ea and "hompson, Theoriziang Nationalism, p.&6. "9o outstanding attempts 1
historians to reconstruct the continuit of Ethiopia are that of "adesse "amrat8s Church and -tate in
Ethiopia'./01,.2/0%1&*2' and 0erid 6olde)-rega8s Southern Ethiopia and the ,hristina

.aes, Nationalism" A $eligion, pp.4)52 "he creation of an Aethno)histor8 9hich provides a single
panorama of the ethnic past 1ecomes a potent resource, 1ecause, unli7e the 7ind of Ao1Hective8 causal
historical en/uir fostered 1 professional historians, an ethno)histor presents a developmental series of
historical ta1leau@, 9hich highlight in easil memoriBed terms the A7e events8 and turning points of the
ethnic past or pasts.#
"ae, %e)Etyopia Hizb Tari&, p.21.

The revitalizing effects of the myths of origin and election could be traced throughout
Ethiopian history. It has always been a matter of pride to affirm that We are among the
first Christians that received Baptism, that Sacrament having been brought among us by
the Eunuch of Candace Queen of Ethiopia, who is spoke of in the Acts of the
Adrian Hastings succinctly sums up this: Here is a state [Ethiopia] with a
continuous history of 1500 years, with a literature, including the Bible, in its own
vernacular, Geez, and an extraordinarily strong and enduring sense of its identity,
political, religious and literary. If there is one people in history to have been shaped in its
own self-consciousness by the Bible, it is the Ethiopians...
mengist(state), netsantet(freedom) and rediet(Gods succor) have been the bulwarks of
this self-conception.

A crucial question we posed at the outset of the chapter is regarding the delimitation of
national membership. In other words, who is inside or outside of its boundaries? Social

Geddes, A Church History, p.&6. "he Nesuit priest DodrigueB8s account regarding Emperor Gela9di9os5s
stand on su1mission to the Doman See is also related, p.1662 3.e said, .e 9as no friend to Eisputations,
1ut there 9as one thing he 9as certain of , 9hich 9as that Ethiopia had al9as held the same :aith that it
did no9, or at least that it had for a1ove a "housand earsM that Eisputations 9ere never to 1e sued 1ut
9ith .eathens, and that his :aith 1eing thus -ncient, there 9as no 1od 1efore me had ever presumed to
sa it 9as Erroneous.3 6hen as7ed 1 the same priest 9hether he 9ould accept prelates sent 1 the 7ing
of ;ortugal, the Emperor, pp.16*)(, 3said he had learned :riars enough in his Cingdom, and that it 9as
needless for the Cing of ;ortugal to trou1le himself to send him an moreM... ,oncluding, "hat he 9as
resolved never to ield I1edience to an ;atriarch, 1ut the ;atriarch of -le@andria, 9hom he 9ould
al9as o1e, as all his -ncestors had done 1efore him.3 0essa Ce1ede, -urvival and Modernization3
Ethiopia)s Enigmatic 4resent" A 4hilosophical 5iscourse% 4N2 "he Ded Sea ;ress, 1&&1', p.5*2 "he founding
mth of Ethiopian societ and histor, enshrined in the ibre Negest, 9as 1ased on the notion of divine
election. 4ot to relate this notion 9ith the record of survival is to miss the essential point. Inl the
perception of this realit can ena1le us to understand ho9 profoundl the Ethiopian mentalit 9as
shaped 1 the idea of entrustment, of guardianship of the truth faith, 9hich is none other than Irthodo@
,hristianit. "he unit of ,hurch and state, the social organiBation, and the commanding ideolog 9ere all
organiBed in such a 9a to serve the cause of survival, readil perceived as the fulfillment of God8s
-drian .astings, The Construction of Nationhood" Ethnicity' $eligion and Nationalism %,am1ridge
Jniversit ;ress2 1&&*O200*', p.150, /uoted in "e7este, Ethiopic Script,# p.&.
"ae, %e)Etyopia Hizb Tari&, p.21.

identities are constructed in relationship to others. Nations also define themselves in
contrast to significant Others. Anthony Marx more specifically contends that nations
have all too often been built through purposeful racial, ethnic, religious, class, or other
internal exclusions...Such exclusion of specified others has been central to nation-state
building, rather than tangential.
The inclusion and exclusion criteria of historic
Ethiopia rested on two pillars of its cultural identity: religious purity and civilizational
superiority. Ethiopianness emerged out of the profession of the true and original faith
which was held in contradistinction with the Jews, other Christian denominations, Islam
and traditional faiths. It prided itself on the achievement of Aksum, Lalibela and Gondar,
the possession of a script and literature, the ceremony and glory of the monarchy, the
culture and erudition of its religious establishment, the invincibility of it heroes, etc.
The aremene(heathen or pagan and barbarian) a Geez term which captures both aspects
of the criterion from antiquity, refers to internal others fit to be conquered and enslaved.
Jews and Muslims were also to be subjugated, persecuted and excluded from certain
benefits of the polity, while Islam was regarded as a permanent ideological menace. In
spite of this, the political system operated on pragmatism and it did not override
grassroots social and environmental interactions between different communities. Rival
religions have been overlain on a bedrock of long history of cultural and political
commonality. Much of the southern, eastern and western territories of present Ethiopia
had been integral parts of the historic nation during the medieval period. Many of the
medieval Muslim sultanates such as Ifat had residents who were Muslim Amhara and
Argobba; the Adari and the Harla also had Semitic ties to the nation and were allied with

Luoted in Ea and "hompson, Theorizing Nationalism, p.14(.

the sultanates of Adal with marriage and political alliances. In much of the areas north
and south of Fatagar Christians speaking Amharic, Gurage as well as Argobba lived
interspersed. Although it is probable that Christian communities might have lived as far
as the Goba area even prior to the fourteenth century, Christianity seems to have made a
real impact only after the mid-14th century when Christian regiments were garrisoned in
the different parts of the province.
By the 15
century, there also appears to be a well-
established religious bond as far as the Gamo highlands in the south.
During the early modern period, the Turk(sic) and the Galla(sic) signified the outer
limits of this religious and civilizational boundary. The nation was strategically defined
vis-a-vis its arch external threat as a Christian island in a Moslem sea.
In his letter to
King John III of Portugal in 1524, Lebene Dengil notes, [We] are besieged on all sides
by Wicked Mahometans, and Moors: The Turks and Moors can assist one another, and
their Kings and Rulers do all agree together: I have a Mahometan for my neighbour, who
is constantly supplied with Arms, Horses, and all Military Weapons, by Princes of his
own sect, namely , the Kings of India, Persia and Egypt..."
Nearly three centuries later,
in a letter to King George III( written in April 1810), Ras Woldesilassie of Tigre
reiterated the age old attitude of the historic nation and its internal dimensions: ...Henry

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# pp.42)4*, 46)4*.
,hristopher ,lapham, 6ar and State :ormation in Ethiopia and Eritrea,# in ICE- %2002',p.1422.2 "he
self)identit of Ethiopia as Aa ,hristian $sland in a 0oslem Sea8 did help to consolidate a sense of territorial
nationalism, 1ut onl during the Nihad of -hmed Gran%152* P 154+' did this seriousl threaten the State.#
...-nd ideologicall, from the mid)16
to the mid)1&
centuries, it did not foster the gro9th of an
Anational8 sentiment, 1ecause it 9as almost entirel internal rather that e@ternal2 there 9as no significant
Aother8, against 9hich national identit could 1e defined.# "he process of territorial e@pansion of
Fmodern EthiopiaG, ho9ever, rested on inherentl discriminator social and religious formulae, and the
forci1le incorporation of large $slamic populations diluted an previous sense of nationhood...,#p.142+. $n
m opinion, the threat of $slam had 1ecome a persistent concern throughout the medieval and earl
modern periods rather than a one)time phenomena. ,lapham also seems to miss the internal aspect of
dichotomiBation into Aus8 P Athem8 and the characteriBation of a civiliBational and cultural Aother8.
Geddes, A Church History, pp.6&)*0.

Salt did not go to the King, for there is[ at present] no Orthodox king. And I, on my part,
have quarreled with the one who is named Gugsa, a man not identical with us in faith. He
has coronated a king who is not Orthodox in faith. For this reason, I have quarreled [with
him]... ... Infidels are before me, infidels are behind me, infidels are on my right hand
and on my left; I am completely surrounded, all who are on the seacoast are infidels...

A crucial point regarding the above is the relationship between the national core and
other peoples and faiths in and adjacent to the state. In this perpetually besieged land
Islam and Turk are made synonymous, most likely after the Gran Wars (1527-1543).
Following the great Oromo migrations or movements, Ethiopianness was internally
defined through the perceptions of difference from the barbarian Galla(sic). It later
evolved into a generic name for uncivilizedness and unruliness. The term turk clearly
did not refer to Ethiopian Muslims who have been in uneasy cohabitation for several
centuries. The Galla was similarly seldom applied to Christianized and integrated
Oromos of Gondar, Gojjam, Wollo and Shoa. Both Muslims and Oromos are so to say
between Us and Them. They are in historic Ethiopia physically and socially (as part
of the local culture), but not of historic Ethiopia ideologically and nationally.

Dejazmach Wubes letter to Louis Philippe (May 1845) expresses this: ...I sent you a
message seeking your friendship and that you be a guardian for me and Ethiopia. For the
turk is ready to assist Muslims living in Ethiopia and to destroy Christianity.
Yohannes IV also wrote almost verbatim to Ferdinand I [August 1872]: my country
there is a region of a Galla Moslem called Azebo. And you might know that Ethiopia is

Du1enson, Acta Aethiopica, vol.$, pp.4)5.
Ibid., p.114, italics added.

like an island, encircled by Ismail Pasha, the Turk.
It did not matter that there were
Muslim Amhara or Tigre (which until very recent times seemed a contradiction in terms),
they achieved ethnic and national membership only on condition of conversion to
Orthodox Christianity. In sum, the characterization of the internal or external others as
somewhat different and too different from us indicates that contemporaries had a
sense of Ethiopia as superior in culture and values.

The historic nation embodied in one the cultural as well as political dimensions. The
cultural dimensions of this nation, as mentioned above, were religious purity and
civilizational superiority, whereas its political dimensions were identification with a
monarchy, with an ancient and uninterrupted tradition of statehood. As Messay expressed
it, [t]o be a Christian in Ethiopia was not simply to adhere to a creed; it was also
naturalization, admittance to citizenship by way of allegiance to a secular power.
most serious and unpardonable crime in historic Ethiopia was conspiracy against the state
and the burning of churches. As the saying goes, "awaj afrash, betekrstian
tekuash"(transgressor of the law, destroyer of the church). In historic Ethiopia there was
an apparent equivalence between the borders and character of the political unit on the one
hand and a self-conscious cultural community on the other.

One important feature of historic Ethiopia which eludes many scholars pertains to the
identity of the national core. The usual components in the literature are Tigreans, Agaws,

Du1enson, Acta Aethiopica, vol.$$$,p.121.
0essa, -urvivial and Modernization, p.&&. .iru, %e)Etyopia Tari&, p.105, mentions an incident in
9hich Negus 0eneli7 had given his consort 6oizero <afena8s daughter, 6oizero 0anale1ish, to $mam
0ohamed -li of 6ollo. .iru notes pu1lic consternation as this 9as an unusual event in 9hich an
un1aptiBed 0uslim 9as married to a ,hristian 9oman#.

Amharas, and sometimes the Oromos.
This stems from a misleading application of
European categories and experiences to Ethiopia. In the classical nationalisms of Europe
a states ethnic core often shaped the character and boundaries of the nation. Many
polyethnic states or nation-states have been formed in the first place around a dominant
ethnie, which annexed or attracted other ethnies or ethnic fragments into the state to
which it gave a name and a cultural character.
From this, some observers see the
Abyssinian core as the homogeneous ethnic core of Ethiopia. Historians also argued
that the ancient Ethiopian state and culture was based on an Agaw substratum, and the
national nucleus was formed by the descendants of Geez speakers who later evolved into
speakers of several dialects.

Nevertheless, the linguistic criterion which is often used to identify the national core and
its political class as Semitic-speaking sharply contrasts with the traditional conception
of the nation. Ethiopia embraced from its inception a national community unencumbered
by any single ethno-linguistic group. It evolved as a nation constituting various ethnic
groups bonded by common faith and traditions. The fact that this proto-nation all along
maintained a supra-ethnic ideology and a social system very permissive at its margins is a
particular feature of its national make up. Its history and development were joint

Eonald >evine, though he conceived Ethiopian national histor as an -mhara thesis and Iromo
antithesis. "e7este 4egash, Eritrea and Ethiopia" The #ederal E7perience %JS-2 "ransaction
;u1lishers,1&&*O2005',p.14. "eshale, The Ma&ing of, p.4.
Smith, National Identity, p.+&.
"adesse "amrat, Ethnic $nteraction and $ntegration in Ethiopian .istor2 the ,ase of the -ga9,# The
8ournal of African History, 2&%1',%,am1ridge Jniversit ;ress2 1&((',pp.5)6,102 $t is clear that political
leadership 9as mainl in the hands of Semitic spea7ers, especiall those 9ho spo7e Ge5eB or some other
language directl ancestral to Ge5eB, 9hich 9as used in the earl inscriptions and later 1ecame the literar
language of the countr. Spea7ers of other dialects 9hich later developed into "igre, "igrigna, -mharic,
-rgo11a, .arari, Gafat and Gurage pro1a1l formed integral parts of this nuclear Semitic)spea7ing
population, spreading originall over a continuous territor e@tending from the coastal and central parts
of Eritrea to the "igrean plateau.3 0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.2&6.

achievements of various linguistic and cultural communities, who inhabited the highland
region consisting of the long north-south corridor between Hamassen and Shewa as well
as the hinterlands in the south, east and west of the country. Its history and development
were joint achievements of various linguistic and cultural communities, who inhabited
the highland region consisting of the long north-south corridor between Hamassen and
Shewa as well as the hinterlands in the south, east and west of the country.

Bihere Etyopia identified itself in terms of one overarching nation, no particular ethnic or
linguistic group. It is true that one or the other of the constituent groups, or more
accurately their aristocracy and nobility, took turns at the helm of power, but none of
them monopolized the nation or gave it their name.
Admission into national
membership never made it mandatory to speak any single national language, but
profession to a faith and a monarchy. Aleqa Taye, in identifying the Amhara, Tigre and
Agew as distinctive from among the six founding groups of Semites in historic Ethiopia,
has rather the traditional criteria in mind: which accepted the Old Testament, later
professed Christianity, who preserved in the faith, and had uninterrupted statehood from
ancient times, never ruled by outsiders, never lost Gods providence.

The unified wholeness of historic Ethiopia with the monarchy at the apex of social life,
the Orthodox Church closing ranks as a kind of Second Estate, and the common people
at the bottom of the social pyramid expressed an identity of character between state and

,ontrast 9ith :rance of the :ran7s, German of the Germans, Dussia of the Dussians, England of the
English, etc.
"ae, %e)Etyopia Hizb Tari&, p.21. $n contrast, the -1ssinian core thesis has a false linguism 1ehind it.
Eimma, ,ontested >egitimac,# p.1*623Even historicall, -1ssinia 9as never a1le to forge itself into a
nation and has al9as had the feature of a multinational empire.#

people. The people were seen not simply as subjects of the monarchy but as
horizontally bonded to it and to whom the state in a sense belonged. In some way, the
states sovereignty was inherent within the people, expressive of its historic identity as
the literal meaning of the term biher indicates. The Geez-Amharic term mengist has
quite similar meaning to the original concept of state elsewhere, which denoted status,
mark of kingship and royal authority.
Later, this was also extended to include the
functions of government, the territory or the realm of the state, and the subject peoples.

1.2 The Institutional and Symbolic Elements of the Nation
The monarchy, the church and the army were the cardinal institutional expressions of the
nation. The monarchy of Bihere Etyopia was neither hereditary nor divine as commonly
held. It was a dynastic monarchy in which the king had no divinity either in his person
(only sacrality) or in his functions. Kingship was bestowed to a House not a particular
ethnic group or family. Nor it was passable from father to son if there were other
successful claimants in the Solomonic universe. The uniqueness of the monarchy, its
extraordinary longevity in adversity and the support it enjoyed from various ethnic
entities emanated from its national dimensions.
Within limits, the crown could be
usurped, as in the case of the Zagwes, provided that there were demonstrable
religiosity; or it might be shorn of political power by regional magnates, like the Wara

.a and >ister, The -tate, pp.4)(.
0essa, -urvival and Modernization, p.(12"o 1elong to the Solomonic dnast meant to 1e a1ove
ethnic or regional loalties or, 9hich is the same thing, to share 9hat is common to all the ruling elites of
Ethiopia over and a1ove their ethnic difference. "he emperor is accepta1le to the ethnicall diverse
people of Ethiopia 1 the supervenient Solomonic reference 9hich elevates him a1ove ethnic and
regional ties. "he Solomonic dnast is more a nationalistic notion than a hereditar or ethnic principle.#

Sheh, as long as there were (nominal) conversion. This pattern attains its most instructive
phase in the nomination of Lij Iyassu as Meneliks heir. Whatever power that did not opt
to operate within the cultural and religious parameters of historic Ethiopia, however,
passed as invader and scourge in the annals of the nation, as Gudit and Gran
epitomized death and devastation.
Like the monarchy, the ecclesiastical establishment had been the mutual trust of the
nation. Bound by a common doctrine, dogma and truth language (Geez, through which
Gods will is supposedly revealed), the clerical class was more unified than the nobility.
In fact, it was the most consolidated and the only educated stratum as well as the
originator, promoter and unflagging bearer of the national idea. Traditionally, the ranks
of the clergy were filled more often by the sons of the common man than those of the
aristocracy and royalty who had a better prospect for government tenure. By preaching
the divine origin and mission of the nation, its eternal favor and succor from the
Almighty, the Orthodox Church has played a vital historical role.
The church had been at the center of the social and political life of the nation and
Ethiopian rulers have always seen it as a symbol of national cohesion to be jealously
guarded from internal and external forces. Spiritual unity was their cardinal principle as
any fissure in the church would have national repercussions. Hence, traditional rivalries
and philosophical controversies were solved by national councils often headed by kings
from Zera Yaeqob(1434-1468) to Haile Selassie I.
The factional upheavals of the 17

century within the Orthodox Church and the attempts of kings and regional nobles to

6udu, "he Ethiopian Irthodo@ ,hurch,# pp.+0)+1, the phenomenal rivalr 1et9een the t9o monastic
traditions of E9state9os%c.12*+)1+52' and "e7ele).amanot has continued at least from the reign of
Kera =a/o1 to =ohnnes $?.

exploit this situation demonstrates how the secular and spiritual were firmly intertwined
in the life of the nation. The exceptional attempt of Susenyos to disestablish the church
had posed a serious danger to the monarchy as the sovereign himself admitted at last.

The self-serving meddling of kings in the debates between the Qebat (Unction) and
Tewahdo (Unity) factions, or even between the radical and moderate wings of these, the
long-standing rivalries between the House of Ewostatewos and that of Tekle-Haymanot,
was a constant threat for the Orthodox Church since the medieval period.
There were no
clear cut ethnic and regional alliances in these doctrinal controversies. For instance,
during the 17
century, Qebat doctrine was upheld by the majority of the people in
Gojam, Bagameder, half of Tigre (particularly in Aksum), and in the regions of the Bahre
Negash. Tewahdo was supported by those of Waldebba, Sagade, Wag, Lasta, Angot and
parts of Amhara, and parts of southern Tigre.
During the reign of Emperor Yohannes
IV, this had changed with most of Tigre and Gondar supporting Tewahdo, and Gojjam
and Shoa dominated by the Qebat and Tsega (Grace)factions.
Ethiopian rulers appear more concerned with the internal unity of the Orthodox Church,
which they forced by meting out severe punishment, than the forceful conversion of
Muslims and other believers. "Aleqa Hasetu [Menelik's baptismal father] replied that in
Ethiopia both Islam and Amhara live[together]. Therefore, he would either live
respecting his own belief [Tsega] or go back to banishment."
Neither the Ethiopian state
nor the Orthodox Church pursued aggressive proselytization in the southern and central

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# pp.4*&)4(1.
Ibid, pp.55&,56(.
Ibid, pp.56()56&.
Serge9 .a1le)Silassie, Atse Meneli&%-ddis -1a1a2 nd', p.142.

parts of the empire. Conversion to Christianity was often a means by which peoples in
this part of the country ensured themselves protection by the state from raids by the
soldiery as well as the incursions of the Oromo.

Another institution of historic Ethiopia which had an even more integrated nature was the
army. The army provided the third institutional pillar of the nations integrity. The system
of regimentation in the medieval armies of Ethiopia was the legacy of the Aksumite
kingdom. The imperial armies were composed of regiments conscripted from diverse
groups from various parts of the country - Damot, Enarya, Hadya, Ifat, Amhara, Agaw,
Tigre, Muslims of Adal and Harar, and Oromo, etc.
The soldiery might not have been
as cultured and persuasive as the clergy, but it was undoubtedly a much greater
transgressor and expander of social boundaries. Therefore, it is hard to imagine, as
conventional wisdom has it, that the national idea in pre-modern times had been an
exclusive monopoly of uprooted clerical and secular elite or the so-called political
The national idea can only be sustained for any span of history if it gains
acceptance by the people at large. Whatever we glean from our historical records, within
certain limits, indicates that a sentiment of loyalty to the Ethiopian state was shared by a
significant portion of the population across social and regional boundaries.

The three main institutions of historic Ethiopia - the monarchy, the church and the army -
were bound by a national ideology and culture which was not an exclusive monopoly of a
single ethno-linguistic group. What was strictly Amharan in the culture of historic

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# pp.2&()2&&, +02,+0+.
Ibid, pp.(1)(2, 2&4.
.o1s1a9m, Nations and Nationalism, p.(6.

Ethiopia except Amharic? A related debate among nationalists and students of
nationalism is the mystery of non-ethnic, or non-descent (or rather non-genealogical
descent) character of being Amhara. The metaphor of islamina-amara or galana-
amara perhaps seems to indicate the gradual identification of the attributes of historic
Ethiopia with a particular linguistic group. Though it is impossible to speak with
certainty, this polarized expression most likely is a comparatively recent or modern
phenomenon, perhaps after the abandonment of the roving courts following the
establishment of Gondar. This period was coterminous with the long succession of
Amhara rulers on the throne, and the emergence of Amharic as lisane nigus (kings
As the reigns of the Zagwe kings, the lords of the Zemene Mesafint and the
final years of imperial Ethiopia amply demonstrate, political dominance of an ethnic
aristocracy does not presuppose its cultural dominance.
The singling out of ethnic/linguistic groups as exclusive preserves of the national idea
and sentiment misconstrues the historical reality in which the nation was identified with a
supra-ethnic cultural-religious/ideological ethos. One outcome of this ethnocentric view
is the projection of recent or current ethnic formations backwards and conflation of
rivalries between regional power contenders with existing ethnic rivalries. As Professor
Merid has summed it up, "[t]o see in the frequent rebellions of the nobility symptoms of

"he current attempt at the AethniciBation8 of the -mhara and the emphatic resistance of this group to
em1race ethnonationalism is 1ut a living e@ample of the spirit of historic Ethiopia. "his incidentall
constitutes the reigning crisis in -mhara identit. Eima, ,ontested >egitimac,# p.1*5, contends2
3,ompared to most -frican states, the issue of national identit has 1een one of the pro1lematic features
of Ethiopian politics. "his has to do 9ith policies of the dominant political cultural formation, -mhara. -s
9e have seen Irthodo@ ,hristianit has 1een an important part of the identit of the state. 0oreover,
and most importantl, -mhara is a linguistic and cultural identit to 9hich potentiall anone can 1e

separatist tendencies or even of regional and tribal restlessness would be to
misunderstand seriously the political history of Ethiopia. The contention between the
nobility and the monarchy had been primarily for the control of the revenues from the
districts and regiments in them."

Historical traditions are also important elements constituting a nationality and
distinguishing it from others. These comprise an accumulation of remembered or
imagined experiences about peoples religious, territorial, political, military, cultural and
economic past. The most important way in which historical continuities are justified by
nationalists is when the nations past is chronicled, either by contemporaries or later
generations. Literate societies in this respect enjoy incalculable advantages in
historicizing their existence.
Golden ages are a genre of the national narrative which
were frequently invoked in the political struggles of the historic nation. The so-called
Solomonic myth and the prophesies of Fikare Eyesus are but two examples of the idea
of golden ages.
Fikare Eyesus is a document which blends the secular with the religious, the historical
with the apocalyptic by taking a historic figure, King Tewodros I, and a lost golden age in
its messianic message. As such it provided a foundation for an ideology of
millenarianism in historic Ethiopia. During the reign of Susenyos, for instance, a certain
pretender by the name Walda Qebryal (Gabriel) had risen in Shawa and adopted that

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.+54. .e also scolds ,onti Dossini for insidiousl proHecting 1ac7 deep
rooted "igre particularism and inherent resistance to the -mhara# from a 1&
centur o1servation,
Smith, National Identity,p.6(2 to see oneself as potentiall Aan hol nation8 is to lin7 chosenness
indissolu1l 9ith collective sanctification. Salvation is accessi1le onl through redemption, 9hich in turn
re/uires a return to former 9as and 1eliefs, 9hich are the means of sanctification.#

apocryphal kings name of Tewodros. He had made his throne name Tewodros Sahay.

In more recent times we recall the trajectory and ideological context of Kassa Hailus
ascent to power, both as inspiration for national renaissance and justification for the
second restoration of the Solomonic dynasty. Historical memories and traditions,
therefore, played formative and regenerative roles endowing Ethiopia with a vivid and
widespread sense of its past. Ethiopians are among a few antiquated nations, like the
Greeks, Armenians and the Irish, which kept a sense of filiation and cultural identity with
an ancient original community.
Such nations are likely to be more unified and
distinctive than those which lack that sense.
In the annals of Ethiopia, the national identity, its basic patterning of cultural elements
and the very existence of the nation has been continually challenged by traumatic
phenomena such as war and conquest, major population movements and religious
conversion. Historic Ethiopia weathered these trials and tribulations not only by dint of
its cultural and ideological resources but also by reinforcing the national bond through
political, economic and social integration. A prominent integrative socio-economic
institution and a foundation of historic Ethiopia was the custom of landholding and the
entire system of tributary relationship across the social pyramid. This had its origins in
the process of formation of the nation, and it all along served as a chief element of
demarcating the boundaries of national membership.

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.4&4. Smith, National Identity, p.++.
Smith, National Identity, p++. -mong these peoples there is a felt filiation ,as 9ell as cultural affinit,
9ith a remote past in 9hich a communit 9as formed, a communit that despite all the changes it has
undergone, is still in some sense recogniBed as the Asame8 communit.#

In addition to this, historic Ethiopia was integrated by distinctive public culture, legal
tradition and educational systems. The public culture was ingrained in the Orthodox faith.
The national calendar, dresses and artifacts, art and architecture, public holidays,
educational establishment and the entire national way of life was grounded in religion.

Another feature of its integration was the existence of a supra-ethnic national language.
In spite of the coexistence of varieties of vernaculars, Geez had served the purpose of
creating an overarching sense of unity among the national elite initially as an official
language and later as a liturgical and educational medium.
Many scholars consider the development of vernacular literature, to mean a literature in
the common spoken language, as a most important mark of nationhood.
Geez had
maintained centuries of influence as the only written language until the mid-19
Moreover, the Geez alphabet has continued to underscore a common legacy among the
various groups of the historic nation. Even the emergence of Amharic during the late 16

or early 17
century as the court-language, and which is spoke[n] by all persons of any
and the universal transformation of the official medium from Geez to
Amharic during the 19
century were logical outcomes of this pattern.

6udu, "he Ethiopian Irthodo@ ,hurch,8 p.42 3"he Ethiopian Irthodo@ ,hurch is the repositor of
Ethiopian tradition and culture. $t is not onl a religion, 1ut also a 9a of life. "he church contri1uted to
the development of the countr in the fields of education, literature, 1oo71inding, architecture, 1uilding,
painting, and music. Ethiopian clergmen translated -ra1ic and ,optic 9or7s into Ge5eB. "he 9rote
chronicles of 7ings and hagiographies, 9hich help to construct the histor of the countr.3
.astings, The Construction of Nationhood, p.20. -ccording to -nderson, one of the reasons 9h a
language 1ecomes an important element of protonational cohesion is it creates a communit of
intercommunicating elite 9hich, if it coincides 9ith or can 1e made to coincide 9ith a particular territorial
state area and vernacular Bone,# could serve as a leaven.
Geddes, A Church History, p.*.
"he transformation of Ethiopian official language from GeeB to -mharic in the last decades of the 1&

centur 9as ver s9ift. Du1enson remar7s2 $t is interesting to note that there seems to have 1een no

The Ethiopian state has played a vital role in the formation of the national community
along civic-territorial lines. The state integrated political and social resources capable of
unifying ethnically, regionally and culturally heterogeneous population in its domain. The
state has demonstrated its prominent capacity in defining the masses not only as members
of the nation but also as its defenders.
It did this by keeping peace and order, extracting
resources, subjecting people to a framework of legal and political interaction, as well as
waging war and conquest. One major hurdle against the integration effort of the
monarchy was the ruggedness of the highlands which hampered communications
between communities and regions. Therefore, although the political foundations of the
empire had been laid as early as the third century by the kings of Aksum, the creation of a
culturally homogeneous state was only partially achieved by the beginning of the
sixteenth. The division of the empire into provinces followed to a great extent the ethnic
particularities preserved by the difficulties of communications."

Another formidable obstacle to the political integration effort was the existence of vested
regional nobles, who jealously guarded their traditional privileges by opposing any
centralizing efforts of kings. These were key players in the politics of the nation to the
extent that sometimes their ambitions threatened the very integrity of the state. The
Solomonic universe was so vast and confusing that regional nobles and clerics took direct

significant difference in this respect 1et9een "igra on the one hand and Gonder and She9a on the
other,# Acta Aethiopica, $, p.@i. Eonald ,rumme8s claim, "e9odros as a Deformer and 0oderniBer,# The
8ournal of African History, Q,+%,am1ridge Jniversit ;ress21&6&', p.466, that the push, or at least the
hope, for the introduction of -mharic as a liturgical language 9as on the national agenda during the time
of "e9odros in this respect seems groundless.
-rmstrong, Nations 9efore Nationalism %1&(2',p1+1.
0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.2*.

interest in the coronation of a king.
In fact, this was a major instrument in gaining
political leverage against the monarchy. Official post, at least theoretically, was the
prerogative of the sovereign and he could appoint any person from any part of the
country over any part of the domain. The offices of the Baher Negash, Gagn Negus,
Gojjam Negash, or the Tshafelams of Shoa, Amhara and Damot could be given to anyone
whom the king favored.
Many kings, such as Amde Seyon, Yeshaq and Zera Yaeqob
attempted to weaken the financial position and political influence of regional opponents
by granting more powers and privileges to district officers. Through intermarriage and
appointment, most of the districts in the provinces were brought under direct imperial
control by early 16
century and the provincial administration had been fully

Some particulars of Ethiopian history have also left their intended or unintended imprints
on its national evolution. The mobile courts of medieval monarchs coupled with
continuous territorial expansion seem to have assisted in the establishment of a national
framework of administration, legal system and taxation. At the social level, this practice
expedited the interchange of customs and traditions, and the combination and
recombination of various communities and their boundaries. Amharics attainment of
national significance seems a direct outcome of this imperial mobility. This tradition
might have hampered the development of large cities, but where such cities as Aksum,
Roha and Gondar were built, they became hubs of cultural interaction and foci of national

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# p.65)6*,*2.
Ibid, pp.66, *0)*1,*4.

Throughout its long history, the holy city of Aksum has served as the spiritual metropolis
of Ethiopia. Even in the period when incumbent monarchs abandoned the ancient
tradition of coronation in Aksum Tsion, or attempted to divert it to places like Lalibela,
and during the political impasse of the Zemene Mesafint, this city retained the symbolism
of the nations cultural and spiritual unity. On the other hand, the establishment of
Gondar as a national capital needs to be seen as among the indispensable factors for the
coming to power of the Wara Sheh. This is not merely because of the weakening of the
Gonderine court due to the corrosive effects of extreme royal luxury, but also as a result
of the opportunity for sustained and intensive interaction and adaptation of group
boundaries in a linguistically and religiously heterogeneous setting.
This seems a more
plausible explanation to the anomaly of the Zemene Mesafint which history has to
contend with again in the reign of modern Shoan sovereigns.

Legal standardization, that is the creation, dissemination and enforcement of common
laws and shared customs and their growing observance by increasing members of the
community, is another integrative institution of the nation. The writing and translation of
the traditional constitutions of historic Ethiopia, the Kibre Negest, Fetha Negest(Justice
of Kings), and Hege Weserate Mengist (Laws and Procedures of the State) were major
attempts to found a national legal framework. These documents were produced along
with the phenomenal power shifts in the annals of the nation and the subsequent

Shifera9 <e7ele, "he State in the Kamana 0asafent%1*(6)1(5+'. -n Essa in $nterpretation,# in "adese
<eene,etal%eds', assa and assa3 4apers on the :ives' Times and Images of Te6odros II and %ohannes
I;(.<22,.<<=>,%$nstitute of Ethiopian Studies2 --J, 1&&0',pp. 25)6(

trajectories of expansion and consolidation of the state. The main preoccupation of each
indicates the burning needs of their times.
The Kibre Negest, which most probably originated during the Zagwe period or before, is
passionately preoccupied in the formulation and justification of a national community
centered on a divine monarchy. Its twin objectives appear both the reconstitution of
Bihere Etyopia and the legitimization of the Solomonic dynastic claims against the
Zagwes. The substance and structure of the Kibre Negest clearly indicates an intention to
lay out a national constitution. It mainly deals with the political aspects of ancient
Ethiopia: of sources of authority of government; of criteria for legibility for office; of
division of powers and responsibilities among departments; of rights and duties of the
general populace; of relationships between rulers and ruled; of basic laws of the nation;
its territory; of Ethiopias foreign relations; and of the Ark of Tsion, which is of special
significance and power for Ethiopia, etc. The Kibre Negest rules that the basic source of
authority for the monarchy is divine endowment.
The document has served as the

6hen 9as this document 9ritten! "here are 9idel divergent vie9s on this dating. Jntil ver recentl,
man Ethiopian church scholars 1elieved that the ibre Negest 9as 9ritten during the reign of Cing
Solomon. -mong historians, "e7este assigns the earliest origin to this document to the 6
Ethiopic Script,# p.1. 0erid, Southern Ethiopia,#, p.60, 1elieves that =e7uno -mla7 had caused the ibre
Negest to 1e 9ritten 1oth to legitimiBe his rule, to a1olish dnastic factions and to unif the nation 1ehind
him. "he need for national reconciliation and unit 9as so pressing that he had little difficult in ma7ing
his leadership accepta1le.3 "his conventional narrative o1liges us to raise t9o important /uestions2 9h in
-ra1ic if it dealt e@pressl 9ith Ethiopia, unless it 9as 9ritten 1 Egptian ,opts 9ho opposed the Kag9e!
Ir it 9as an onl -ra1ic translation from a Ge5eB original %perhaps the Egptian prelate8s cop' 9hich
survived the destruction of the 1oo7 1 the Kag9e! $f it is an anti)Kag9e 1oo7 it must have 1een 9ritten
sometime during the Kag9e period. "here are some evidences indicating the e@istence of the ibre Negest
prior to the reign of >ali1ela, perhaps in other languages. $t is pro1a1le that this original 9or7 might have
1een prepared 1 the order of Egptian patriarchs 1ased on the 9idel circulated stories in Ethiopia. "he
reason it 9aited ears to 1e rendered in GeeB after it 9as translated into -ra1ic from the ebtie%,optic'
original might also 1e political. "he ibre Negest e@plicitl for1ids all e@cept the issues of Solomon from
ascending the throne. .ence, Nibureid =isha/ and his -7sumite compatriots translated and e@panded the
1oo7 after the Arestoration8 of the Solomonic dnast. ibre Negest, pp.5,*,(,&,11.

national constitution par excellence, at least for about 700 years, regulating the
ascension to power of the medieval and modern emperors of Ethiopia.
In stark contrast, the Fetha Negest, though once again seems to address the kingship,
scarcely mentions Ethiopia, either its state or people. It is entirely devoted to legal and
technical procedures. This suggests, in addition to its exogenous origin, a kind of
paradigm shift in the empire, from an emphasis in the religious constitution of the
national community to its secular governance and administration. Throughout its
existence in Ethiopia the Fetha Negest was held in very high esteem among Ethiopian
ecclesiastics and was preserved and studied meticulously in reputable monastic schools in
the country as a specialized branch of learning known as the Gubae Liqawnt. Those
versed in this science of jurisprudence were honored as Liq or superior.
The Fetha
Negest also had a great influence not only as a source of learning or legal science but also
as a functioning law. Its introduction did not overthrow, but was superimposed on, the
customary legal systems of Ethiopia. The migratory nature of the medieval monarchy
might have required the existence of such governing document to deal with local
Even though the period until the late 16
century is generally barren of pertinent
historical records, or of instances of court cases, it seems plausible to suggest that the

"he e@act date of introduction of the #etha Negest is not certain, 1ut according to Ethiopian tradition it
might have 1een during the reign of emperor Kera =ae/o1%14+4)146('M 6udu, "he Ethiopian Irthodo@
,hurch,# p.+*, concurs. $t 9as translated from -ra1ic into GeeB allegedl 1 a certain ;etros -1da Sad.
.o9ever, the earliest historical record a1out its applications dates from the time of emperor Serse
Eengil%156+)15&*'. "he document 9as originall 7no9n as A,ollection of ,anons8 1ut it 9as rendered as
#etha Negest laing emphasis in its secular parts. $t ma7es onl t9o references to the countr, and 1oth in
unfavora1le lights2 one dening the independence of the Ethiopian ,hurch and the other scolding
Ethiopian and 4u1ian tradition of maiming faces as despica1le malpractices. #etha Negest, pp. @vii, @@i)
@@vi, @@vii.

tradition of the exclusive application of these historical documents in the imperial court,
which became evident later, might have been firmly established in the intervening period.
The fact that the Fetha Negest was considered and applied as law is evidenced by extant,
though sparse, records from the time of emperors Serse Dengil(1563-1597),
Susenyos(1603-1632), Iyassu II(1730-1755), Yoas(1755-1769), TewodrosII(1855-1868),
Menelik II(1889-1913). As clearly recorded in the chronicle of Emperor Menelik II, the
Fetha Negest was not only a document of peace but also an instrument of war.

Hege Weserate Mengist was another document which explicitly dealt with the
administrative and legal functions of the state. It was originally a digest of the
administrative and military reforms made by Amda Seyon. However, it was revised
twice, first during the reign of Serse Dengil and then during that of Iyasu I (ca.1681-
1705). This interesting document reflects the radical changes which the political and
military institutions had undergone during the eventful sixteenth and seventeenth
Whatever the case may be, these national documents had vital roles in
encouraging some kind of universality of laws and customs, perhaps not so much in the
fact of their application as in providing a sense of legal and traditional interconnectedness
among various classes and regions. In a letter to Louis Philippe [March 1840], King
Sahle-Selassie of Shewa proudly boasted of the value of his gifts of Sinksar
(Sinacsarium) and Fetha Negest: ...they are products of our craftsmanship which I want
to show you.
Emperor Yohannes also implored Lord Grnville [August 1872] to send

0erid, Southern Ethiopia,# pp.61)62. Du1enson, Acta' $,p.4+2
Du1enson, Acta, $, p.4+.

him the Kibre Negest as the most important book which constituted provisions about the
law of the land.

The most distinguishing aspect of historic Ethiopia was its religiosity. Therefore, its
national idiom was a religious idiom; its symbolism was embedded in deep sacrality.
Tabot Christianity
undergirded the cultural and political universe out of which
Ethiopian nationhood and nationalism as a whole developed and provided a crucial
ingredient for the particular history of the nation. It is usually these symbolic
representations that establish continuity between the historic and the modern nation, as
we shall see in the subsequent chapters. Adrian Hastings maintains that when religion
played an influential role in the construction of nationhood, as it did in Western Europe,
nationalism was more likely to assume a religious character, most notably where
threatening foreign powers adhered to a different faith.

Ethiopias national personality has been symbolized in various ways including the use of
names, descriptions, images, artifacts and ideas.
Ethiopia is, therefore, tafrana tekebra
yenorech hager (a country feared and respected); netsanetwanna haymanotuan tebqa

Du1enson' Acta' I,p.11(.
"eshale8s term 9ith reference to the uni/ue features of Ethiopian ,hristianit in his The Ma&ing of
Modern Ethiopia%1&&5'.
.astings, The Construction of Nationhood, p.11. Eri7sen, Nationalism and Ethnicity,p.452 $n man 9as
national sm1ols, customs, and ceremonies are the most potent and dura1le aspects of nationalism. "his
is perhaps 1ecause political man is also sm1olic man.# Smith, National Identity, p.**2 >i7e other
ideologies, nationalism las claim to sm1ols 9hich have great importance for people, and argues that
these sm1ols represent the nation)state.#
Eri7sen, Ibid., p.10+M pp.10()10&2 "he use of presumedl tpical ethnic sm1ols in nationalism is
intended to stimulate reflection on one8s o9n cultural distinctiveness and there1 to create a feeling of
nationhood. 4ationalism reifies culture in the sense that it ena1les people to tal7 a1out their culture as
though it 9ere constant.#

yenorech hager (a country that has preserved its sovereignty and faith); yekrstian
desset (a Christian island); Etyopia ejochuan wede Egziabher tizeregalech (Ethiopia
shall stretch her hands unto God). Emperor Yohannes declaration as he mobilized his
troops for the Saati campaign in 1878 beautifully illustrates this symbolization of the
nation: Ethiopia is first, your mother; second, your crown; third, your wife; fourth, your
child; fifth, your grave...
Emperor Meneliks proclamation at Adwa reads almost the
same: ...Now an enemy has come to destroy the country that God has given us bordered
by the Sea, to change religion... Therefore, follow me to fight for your country, wife,
children and religion...

Flag is one such universal symbol of modern nations which links them to the pre-national
past. The national flag of modern Ethiopia best illustrates the role of signifiers in
representing the national community in terms of supposedly typical symbols and creating
a sense of connectedness and continuity with a revered past. The key difference between
the moa anbessa flag and the variations introduced by the post-revolution regimes is the
national lion. The symbolic use of a lion figure in Ethiopian heraldry perhaps dates
from the early medieval period. During the Gonderine period, the full Royal Arms was a
lion holding a cross on which was inscribed the motto Moa Anbessa Zeemnegede
Yihuda (The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is Victorious).
Nevertheless, in the late Zemene
Mesafint period this practice attained national significance.
The lion figure, initially bareheaded and later bearing a crown topped by a cross, was
reinstated in royal seals during the reign of Emperor Tewodros II. In the period of

.iru, %e)Etyopia Tari&, p.16&.
Geddes, A Church History, p.*.

Emperor Yohannes IV, the crown was further embellished with a legend reading mesqel
moa negede Ismail. This motto symbolized the pedigree of the Solomonic line as well as
Yohanness victory over the Egyptians, and the victory of Christianity over Islam in
general. Emperor Yohannes also added Tsion in his full royal title underlining a special
connection not only with the history and civilization of Aksum, but also via this to a
favored position to the legacy of the Ark of Zion.
The crowned Lion of Judah was again
established as the symbol of royalty with return to its medieval heraldry as moa anbessa
ze-emnegede yehuda in the reign of Emperor Menelik. Yet it was limited to royal seals.
The moa anbessa figurehead was popularized in the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I
when it started to adorn the national tricolors. This quintessential symbol underlined the
biblical pedigree of the monarchy as well as the status of Orthodox Christianity as the
national church, thereby uniting nation with state and religion in a single symbolism. The
Ethiopian revolution consciously attempted to break with the past and leveled sustained
attack on the ancien regime and its idea of the nation. This seemed appropriate for the
national ethos was implicitly partial and left out a good part of the people from partaking
in the communion of national fraternity, if not from legal membership (citizenship).
Therefore, while the greenyellowred standard was maintained, one of the longest
surviving monarchies along with its Lion was consigned to the dustbin of history.
The flag, stripped of its diacritical marker, was preserved as a symbol of a new national
community both by the Derg and the current regime. Nevertheless, the national lion was
not entirely abolished from the symbolism of the two republics. It was engraved on the

Du1enson, Acta, $$$,pp. @ii)@iii.

reverse side of each coin and denomination gaining a household intimacy with every
Ethiopian. Every Ethiopian child knows what zewd (obverse) and goffer (reverse) side
of the coin means although the Lion came to be visibly decrowned half a century ago.

Traditions are very tensile. The paradox is that many Ethiopians think that the flag is at
least as ancient as the imperial state. But in its present colors, it has been instituted in the
time of Emperor Menelik. It is rather the claim of the Orthodox Church that the rainbow
color is a sign of Gods covenant with Noah, by default symbolizing the Almightys
favor for Ethiopia, which bestowed upon it an aura of antiquity. This is one instance of
national symbolism and reification of culture at work.
In the final analysis, symbolic elements of nationhood and the general processes of
national formation enable the crystallization of the cultural resources of national identity.
A part of these resources are then considered as both sacred and usable, meaning they
are highly revered but may also be used for political purposes. The invoking of the ideals
of historic Ethiopia, such as myth of election, messianic destiny, territorialization of
memories, reminiscences of a golden past, has been a constant feature of the national
survival. During the pre-Italian period, Ethiopian monarchs attempted to modernize not
only the country but also the idea of the nation. The state did not aggressively employ its
resources to impose its cultural and ideological values or homogenize the nation as is
often accused. While the first three emperors continued to give more emphases to the
doctrinal and organizational unity of the Orthodox Church, rather than to the conversion
of other believers, Ras Tafari/ Haile Selassie initiated tentative attempts to lay the
foundations for a legal community or civic nation in the pre-war period. The 1930

"his is particularl true of Ethiopians during the $mperial and 5erg periods, 1ut also holds to some
e@tent to the generation during E;DE: period.

nationality or citizenship law and, more importantly, the 1931 constitution were the first
explicit attempts towards extending national membership to every individual in the
country. Nevertheless, the entrenched social distinctions inherent in Ethiopia's semi-
feudal society militated against the ideal of forming a nation (and inspiring nationalism)
in terms of a legal community.
This theme will be the concern of the next chapter.

,armichael, -pproaching Ethiopian .istor,# pp. 114,120,121. 6udu, "he Ethiopian Irthodo@
,hurch,# p.1, sets out to investigate 3ho9 the imperial government attempted to create a homogenous
societ and an Ethiopian identit 1 integrating 0uslims and non),hristians into the state 9ithin the
frame9or7 of 5religious uniformit5 under the Irthodo@ ,hurch, and -mharic as a national language.3 "he
stud, p.1&, 3contends that this 9as the result of ,hristian Ethiopia5s 5siege mentalit5, and the notion that
Ethiopia 9as a 5,hristian island in a 0uslim sea5.3 "his is an outrageous accusation, since it runs against
the ver character of the Ethiopian state no9 more than ever. $t is naRve to thin7 that the state, an
modern state for that matter, 9ould aim at such unrealistic goals as Areligious uniformit8. ASiege
mentalit8 is an over9orn and perhaps also anachronistic metaphorS

From the perspective of Ethiopian nationalism, the first quarter of the twentieth-century
marks the passing of an era and beginning of another. It was a period of transition from
the historic to the modern nation, bearing elements of future social, ideological and
political trends. The complicated power rivalries following the nomination of Lij Iyassu
were in the tradition of Ethiopian court politics, interlaced with regional and religious
overtones. However, the fierce struggle between Lij Iyassu and Ras Teferi differs from
similar previous incidents in that it embodies new internal and international dimensions
of a modernizing nation. The formers zeal for reforming the political culture of the state,
especially his attempts to dissociate the monarchy from its historic religious and regional
identification was perhaps premature and impulsive, but it was the first radical attempt to
address a question which would in a generation attain center stage in Ethiopian

Ironically, the future modernizer Teferi did rally the support of the secular and
ecclesiastical elite, though not as well from the common people, by presenting himself as
the champion of the historic nation, especially its religious purity.
His party accused

Aleqa Gebre-Egziabher Elias in his Biographies of Iyassu and Zewditu(Meskerem 1937) notes that Lij
!ass" #ante$ to era$i%ate &atholi%ism an$ 'rotestantism (rom the %o"ntr! so that he met harsh
)"nishments on Ethio)ian st"$ents o( mission s%hools* ))+3,* -7+ .he )rin%e is also re)orte$ to ha/e
remin$e$ the 0omalis in his 1911 /isit to 2ga$en* )+-9* that3 4M! "tmost #ish is that all Ethio)ian born
#o"l$ g"ar$ the %o"ntr!5s bor$ers in one s)irit+ E/entho"gh #e are $i((erent in matters o( religion* !o"
#on5t (orget that to "nite in the lo/e o( o"r %o"ntr! is absol"tel! ne%essar!+6
Aleqa Gebre-Egziabher o((ers a /er! interesting anal!sis o( the s"))ort base o( the three %onten$ers to
)o#er* namel! 7e#$it"* .e(eri an$ !ass"* )+1,13 4.he (irst gro") %om)rises o( ol$er men an$ %lerg!
abo/e (ort! as #ell as minors+ .he se%on$ gro") is those o( %lerks* !o"ngsters* an$ #ise men /erse$ in

Iyassu of apostasy and a design to Islamize Ethiopia, leading to the deposition and
excommunication of the latter on the day of Mesqel, 27 September 1916.
The power
struggles for Meneliks crown had not been conducted, as the conventional view has it,
Shoa versus others but in terms of political and ideological legitimacy to the historic
nation. Surprisingly, other regions such as Tigre, Agaw, Gojjam, did not stake significant
claim in this phenomenal power rivalry and Wallo itself was dragged in after the
abrogation of Meneliks nomination. And the fact that, technically, Ras Teferi was not
even based in Shoa is a unique phenomenon which set the stage for the future politics of
the nation.

Internationally, the conduct and conclusion of this power struggle had elicited two
responses bearing on the countrys nationalism. The rise of Ras Teferi to the pinnacle of
Ethiopian politics seems to have taken many contemporary observers by surprise as it
continues to baffle later historians. In the initial years, few among resident Europeans
trusted his capability to restore peace and stability and save the nation from
fragmentation. This was in line with the thinking of the Tripartite Treaty of 1906.
Actually the Italians had made some overtures towards Tigrean princes to exploit the
apparent confusion and reduce Ethiopia to their protectorate. The religious element in this
rivalry, especially Lij Iyassus preference for a coalition with a Muslim power in the

(oreign lang"ages+ .he thir$ is ma$e ") o( %on%eite$ an$ i$le lor$s li/ing b! rai$ing an$ looting+ 8o#e/er*
mer%hants an$ )easants are a"tonomo"s )eo)le #ho #ere not oblige$ to take si$es+ 9ho e/er is
%ro#ne$ or in/este$ as )o)e* the! onl! #ish (or a )ea%e("l she)her$+6 2ral n(ormant3 .e$la 7e!ohannes*
relating the )o)"lar s!m)ath! to Lij !ass" in 0hoa* )arti%"larl! $"ring the )atrioti% resistan%e+
Ras .e(eri5s %orres)on$en%e #ith Abba An$reas* $ra(t letter to the German em)eror Ghiom * ,7 Hidar
19:9( ; <e%ember 191;)+ Ras .e(eri $ra(t letter to the ."rkish so/ereign 0"ltan Mohame$ =* ,7 Hidar
19:9(; <e%ember 191;)+ >ahr" 7e#$e* Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia (AA? 'ress3,::,)* )+1;7* q"oting
an "n)"blishe$ a"tobiogra)h! o( Bejrond .ekleha#ariat (or similar /ie#s+
n the latter )art o( his )oliti%al %areer Em)eror 8aile 0elassie ha$ %onsoli$ate$ his )o#er base o"tsi$e
this region+ .his as Mesmak" mentions #as a 8arrar base$ han$)i%ke$ gro") at the helm o( )oliti%al
)o#er+ Mesmak" Asrat* 4Mo$ernit! an$ &hange6* )+9:

Great War, coterminous with his internal policy, had also drawn on his side Turkey and
other Arabs, particularly the Caliphate of Mecca, portending the future role of Muslim
and Arab states in Ethiopian nationalist politics.

Teferi, however, portrayed himself as a secular statesman with a progressive view of
Ethiopia for all its citizens. Even after defeating his arch rival and assuming de facto
power in 1916, he took great care not to alienate others who, for regional, religious or
political reasons, sympathized with the disgraced prince. He also took a longer course to
let Iyassu fade out of popular memory and perhaps could have succeeded had it not been
for the interregnum of the Italian occupation. Particularly, Teferis unprecedented exile
made a serious dent on the legitimacy and national image he meticulously built and gave
ammunition for his detractors. The patriotic struggle revived the issue of Iyassu who was
survived by his numerous sons, at least one of whom was allegedly crowned by regional
factions of the patriots.

Teferis progression to Haile Selassie laid the blueprint for modern Ethiopian nationalism
as an integral component of his modernizing drive. Some of the institutions which had
incalculable significance in a burgeoning nationalism include the establishment of
Birhanena Selam Printing Press in September 1921, mainly concerned with Ethiopian
internal affairs; Kesate Birhan Printing Press in the same year, focusing on European
affairs and literature; and the foundation of a national paper Berhanena Selam in 1924,
giving rise to a fledgling intelligentsia which was very articulate on secular national

Abba An$reas to Ras .e(eri* ,7 Tahsas 19:9(1 @an"ar! 1917)+
2ral n(ormant3 .e$la 7e!ohannes* see belo# on the %oronation o( Enge$ashet !ass" as Melake-.seha!
!ass!+ .here #ere also attem)ts in Gon$er an$ 9ello to %ro#n another son o( Lij !ass"* Aohannes
!ass"* s"))orte$ b! Bilata .akele an$ Bilata <eresa+ >irhan"* esar!na Abyot* )+31+

This reformist class was thoroughly grounded in tradition and had unequivocal
confidence in putting high the idea of modern Ethiopianism on the national agenda. It
advocated the abolition of class, ethnic and religious discrimination, respect for freedom
of worship and the separation of church and state.

There had even been a rare treatment of the nationalities question in terms of Amhara
Oromo protagonism and prescribing union by assimilation as vital to the survival of
Ethiopia. Tedla Hailes very interesting recommendations in this respect include:
education (secular and religious) and the army as the key institutions of assimilation. He
argued that administrative, judicial and economic actions of government should be tuned
to assimilation; which could be done by redrawing of provincial boundaries,
encouragement of settlement and appointment of governors across regions.
modern Ethiopian historiography was born in the prewar period, Ethiopianism was
conceived with Emperor Menelik as its model thus inspiring two important books of
similar title but divergent thrust, Dagmawi Ate Menelik and Ate Menelikna Etyopia
(1901 and 1912 respectively).
Hence, the prewar intelligentsia was also a pioneer of
modern Ethiopianism and the social nationalism of the postwar period.
The erection on 1 October 1930 of Emperor Menelik IIs monument was a form of
modern expression of nationalism intended to symbolize the place of the monarchy in the

>ahr"* Pioneers* ))+ Bi* 188+
Ibid+* ))+1,:-137* 188-19-+
.e$la 8aile(193:) q"ote$ in >ahr"* Pioneers* )+133+ .e$la ma! be %onsi$ere$ as a )ioneer o( the
assimilationist s%hool an$ his anal!sis o( Ethio)ian national iss"e ha$ anti%i)ate$ the likes o( Le/ine an$
.eshale+ Also* ))+19--,::+
>ahr"* Pioneers* ))+11* ;;* ;7+ Ale"a .a!e* #ho is a))ro)riatel! regar$e$ as among the )ioneers o(
mo$ern Ethio)ian historiogra)h!* #as %ommissione$ b! Menelik to #rite the histor! o( Ethio)ia+ .he
o"t%ome #as #e!Ityopia Hi$b Tari% (191: E+&)+

history and destiny of Ethiopia. The drawing of the new Criminal Code in 1930 was a
first significant step in the foundation of a modern legal system; and within it
demonstrated consideration of language in the dispensation of law.
The Ethiopian
nationality or citizenship law was also promulgated in the year 1930, as part of the
attempt to establish a nation on the basis of a legal community. After elaborating the
judicial system in Harar between 1915 and 1925, Carmichael concludes that his findings
"...undermine the idea that the court system in Harar was actively employed by the state
to impose its cultural values or ideology during the period. Rather, it would seem that the
'just' and 'fair' legal system Ras Tafari often spoke idealistically about...had taken root in
his model province of Harar, and the fruits he envisioned had begun to appear."

The inauguration of the first written Constitution on 16 July 1931 is perhaps the single
most important event in the prewar period which demonstrates the national program of
the state. Emperor Haile Selassies efforts to overhaul the legal and institutional
foundations of the state towards a truly national form could be regarded as progressive,
even revolutionary, especially in instituting a national legal framework, a national
political forum, a national educational system, a national ideology, and even a national
intelligentsia. It was during this early period that modernization evolved from mere
curiosity of enlightened sovereigns into a defined system with national dimensions, and
nationalism surpassed bare patriotism into purposeful and inclusive ideology to refashion

Marger! 'erham* The &o'ern(ent of Ethiopia (19;9)* ))+1-:--1+
&armi%hael* 4A))roa%hing Ethio)ian 8istor!*6 )+11-+

a modern nation. Haile Selassie laid the groundwork that could bind and integrate the
disparate regional, ethnic and cultural elements into a modern nation state.

The northern and central regions were more unified politically and culturally, and bound
by a common pre-national ideology of the historic nation. Characteristically, this was a
system maintained by a fine balance between strong regional interests and overarching
national institutions and loyalties. Any measure to alter this equation would have elicited
formidable reactions making this region politically unpredictable. In the eastern, western
and southern areas of the country, the main problem emanated from the capacity of the
state or the precariousness of its administrative and political presence. This vast and
ethno-culturally diverse region had been a geopolitical, cultural and historical part of
Ethiopia, the differences within the region no less diverse than between it and the rest of
the historic nation. The region had also been exposed to a unified political and
administrative framework, a paramount national structure with which the constituents had
come to identify themselves. The administrative centers dotting the various provinces
were veritable nuclei of sociopolitical interchange and integration. At the social level
there had been ongoing cultural influences in the spread of Amharic, Orthodox
Christianity to a limited extent, as well as etiquettes and lifestyles among various classes,
which was not hampered by the apparent rigidity of social boundaries of a town-based
regional aristocracy.

In the peripheries, there was the barest minimum of government in the prewar period;
hence the questions of maintenance of peace and order, regulation of border fluidity and

>irhan"* esar!na Abyot* ))+;1-;;+
>elete* 4Agrarian 'olit!*6 ))+-3* -7+ .esema* 4.he 'oliti%al E%onom!*6 ))+117* 171* 17,-173+

cross-border ethnic conflicts, and overcoming divided loyalties through pressures of
citizenship provided a common framework. However, even in the southern and peripheral
regions there were few signs of pan-ethnic resistance, let alone ethno-nationalism, though
expressions of local/ decenterd ethnicity had been a normal makeup of daily life. At this
early stage the government was partly successful in integrating regional balabbats by
granting feudal titles and privileges, defining political loyalties from the remotest corners
of the Ethio-Sudan frontier to the national center at Addis Ababa.

2.1 The Italian Interlude (1936-1941)
Italy had emerged as the most intractable challenge to Ethiopian national aspirations in
the region after acquiring foothold over Assab in 1871. In the subsequent period it used
its coastal possession, which had come to include the important port of Massawa, as a
launching pad for subterfuge and infiltration in Ethiopia. This episode ended up in the
Battle of Adwa (1896). In 1935, Italy made another military bid in a spirit of revenge,
this time driven by the new ideology of Fascism, which itself was a form of aggressive
ultra-nationalism. Besides the military preparations, the Italian campaign had taken years
of meticulous planning, careful studying of the political, social and cultural patterns of
the country, and cultivation of covert alliances among dissenting regional, religious and
political groups. Italy used its colonies in Eritrea and Somaliland as springboards for
subversion; inside Ethiopia it established consulates at Adwa, Gondar and Dessie as
centers of espionage and subterfuge.

Gambella 'eo)le5s Cational Degional 0tate (G'CD0) Ar%hi/es3 Co+ w 8E1* #ega(bella Awraja
Balabato)h+ w-,,9* Balabato)h+

In addition to this, Italy waged intensive propaganda campaign, on the grounds of alleged
backwardness, border raids, slave trading, arms dealing, etc., to ostracize Ethiopia among
the global community of nations, to deprive her platform for sounding grievances and
close off her sources of armaments. This double-edged policy was intended in the short
term to divide and paralyze the Ethiopian government, to minimize the costs of the
colonial war, and in the long term to quash any popular resistance to colonial rule.
ultimate target in this endeavor was Ethiopian nationalism, which Italians recognized to
be a formidable reality behind the veneer of feudal divisions. They reaped the fruits of
their diligence when on the eve of Maichew (1936) many prominent regional nobles of
Tigre, Gonder, Gojjam, Wallo, Jimma and Wollega one by one betrayed the king and
rose against what they called Shoans or Amharas. Though political opportunism and
conspiracy with the powers that be had been part of feudal realpolitik, its magnitude
seems unprecedented in Ethiopian history.
The Ethiopian government was sufficiently aware of Italys persistent colonial ambitions
over a part or whole of its territory. It knew the covert sabotage, espionage and
infiltration orchestrated by the consulates inside the country and the behind-the-scene
diplomacy threatening the national interests of Ethiopia. On the eve of the war, Tedla,
who was Ethiopian consul at Asmara, urged not only close surveillance of the Ethio-
Eritrean boundary but also active support and encouragement of the anti-Italian sentiment
prevalent among Eritreans.
Haile Selassie, perhaps more acutely than his predecessors,

>irhan"* esar!na Abyot* ))+,:-,1* relates his )ersonal eB)erien%e regar$ing the eBtent o( talian
)ro)agan$a an$ its e((e%ts in Ethio)ia* )arti%"larl! in A$$is Ababa* on the e/e o( the #ar+
>ahr"* Pioneers* )+13-+

was aware of the precariousness of Ethiopias unique independence in the face of strident
European colonialism and ultra-nationalism.
External sovereignty, which regards a states recognition by the global community of
nations on equal footing, is a crucial aspect of modern nationalism.
One of the
distinguishing marks of the government of Emperor Haile Selassie in the prewar period
was the maintenance of an active foreign policy based on a reasonably accurate grasp of
existing international situation and Ethiopias place in it. Haile Selassies success in
securing admission of Ethiopia into the League of Nations (1923) and his visionary
approach to international diplomacy were aimed not only at keeping the surrounding
colonial powers at bay and procuring an outlet to the sea, but also at building up the
countrys global standing and capacity. The modernizing nation cannot afford to be a
bystander, as in former times, and merely react to the fait accompli of European
diplomacy. It had to take the initiative and generate its own intelligence, cultivate its own
alliances, make its own treaties and bargains.
As a prime mover of this radical foreign policy direction in Ethiopian history, the Regent
and Emperor was unavoidably swayed by the optimism of liberal idealism reigning in the
international politics in the aftermath of the First World War(1914-1918). When that
exuberant optimism in the capacity of humanity to avert future wars foundered on the
rock of economic depression and social uncertainty setting in the late 1920s, the world
was again drawn into another round of carnage. The fact that Ethiopia became not only

@orge 0orenson* Introdu)tion to International Relations (1993)* ))+3,-33+


the first casualty of the Second World War(1941-1945) but also the first to be liberated
with an international assistance was a vindication of Haile Selassies prewar diplomacy.
Why did the imperial army seem less unified than that of a generation ago? More
significant even, why did Ethiopians, who had an apparent reputation for deferring their
quarrels in the face of national threats, this time easily resign themselves to colonial rule
than fight for king and country? There were long-term and immediate, internal and
external reasons for this state of affairs. The most important factor was Haile Selassies
overconfidence in collective security to shield Ethiopia from Italian (or any other
European) invasion and his procrastination to prepare for the eventuality of a military
In fact, the Emperors vital diplomatic decisions on the eve of the war seem to
indicate his underestimation of Italys ambitions. Even the desperate effort to counter
Italian propaganda by establishing YeEtyopiawian Hager Fiqir Mahber in 1935 was
initiated by patriotic citizens after the news of the Walwal incident in Ogaden.
defecting regional lords, perception of Ethiopias weakness vis--vis Italys superiority
might have appeared like accepting the inevitable.
Another factor which could account for Ethiopias defeat was Italian success in
weakening Ethiopian patriotism. Spreading ethno-regional dissension, particularly Shoa
versus others, was a corner-stone of about half-a-century of Italian diplomacy and politics
in Ethiopia. There has never been any exclusive, or as some Europeans would say
traditional, Shoa-Tigre rivalry prior to the advent of Italians and their maintaining so-
called Shoan and Tigrean policies. This divisive policy was set in motion in 1876

2ral in(ormant3 .e$la 7e!ohannes+
>irhan"* esar!na Abyot* )+,,+

when the first Italian mission to Ethiopia led by Marcus Oratio Antinori was granted a
quarter at Lit Marefya in Ankober. Modern Shoa was ideologically created by Italians, as
was modern Tigre, and vigorously pursued after Italys perception of Shoan-inflicted
wound at Adwa. Italy also employed the Catholic religion in the propagation of the
colonial ideology, as the relatively small Ethiopian converts proved their faithfulness
during the occupation period. Even among the prewar intelligentsia those who had
professed Catholicism were the most vulnerable to indulge in the criticism of the
Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Shoan kings for alleged inequities on other peoples in
the country. It is not surprising that they were the earliest to go over to the Italians.

So on the eve of the Italo-Ethiopian war pro-Italian tendencies of the principal nobles in
Tigre, Begemedir, Gojjam, and Wallo, had become common knowledge in the capital.
Most of the renegades had also found one or another grievance against Shoa to justify
their decisions. In Tigre, the success of the Tigrean Policy was demonstrated by the
betrayal of almost all the notable lords of the region, as far as bringing together rivals Ras
Mengesha and Dejazmach Hailesilassie Gugsa to stand in anti-Shoa front. The latter
attempted to justify his actions in terms of a regional bid for power: The motives which
have made me to part from the Negus [Haile Selassie] is not because he has hurt me but
because the whole Government has been taken away from us after King Johns death.
Since then the Scioa Government has ruled even the Tigrai in a very bad manner trying to
squash it as they know that we have not given up hoping to rule again. I can illustrate it:

>ahr"* Pioneers* ))+91-98* 131* 1--+

During the Ethiopian Empire from Menelik to Negus 50 years nobody [from] the Tigrai
has been given a chance by the Negus. Government was exclusively Scioa.

Similar sentiments regarding monopoly of power by Shoans were expressed in Gojjam by
Ras Hailu Teklehaymanot, who was already alienated as conniver and sympathizer to the
party of Lij Iyassu. It was in this spirit that the Gojjame lords Dejazmach Gesese Belew,
Fitawrari Tamrat, Fitawrari Gesese Niguse, Fitawrari Zeleke Kassa, Fitawrari Zeleke
Welle, Qenazmach Ayele Hailu, Qenazmach Merid Wasse, and Qenazmach Zeleke
Asege betrayed the king and returned home soon after the outbreak of the war, in early
December 1935. The Emperor seems very much incensed by the crumbling of his flank
prior to the decisive battle at Maichew; so much so that he immediately issued a
declaration against the perpetrators, and Abune Qerlos followed this with anathema (27
December 1935). In Wallo the grievance against Shoa was sharpened by the fate of Lij
Iyassu, though the dynastic and distinctive religious overtone was not yet pronounced in
terms of explicit OrthodoxMuslim or AmharaOromo dichotomy.

In general, the power rivalries between regional nobilities did seldom have pan-ethnic or
anti-Ethiopian aspirations. But resentments against the political center gradually
arrogated to Shoa an ethnic character and nurtured an anti-Shoa ideology which matured
during the Italian interregnum. In many places both in the north and south the betrayal
was not limited to mere surrender to Italians but included active hostility and attack
against the Ethiopian army. The peasants of Maichew, Yejju and Wajirat, for instance,
attacked and robbed the retreating Ethiopian army after the Maichew debacle. In the

Mo Files3 G"ksa File* )+1+
.e$la 7e!ohannes* Italia Be!Etyopia (A$$is Ababa3,::-E+&)* )+;-+

Ogaden, the Italian indigenous army led by a Somali chief Welol Jille fought the army of
Dejazmach Beyene Merid. The conquest and pacification of Ethiopia was achieved with
vital assistance by Raya irregulars, Somali and Hamassien askaris as well as indigenous
banda. Everywhere, the disoriented imperial army was harassed and much of the job of
hunting down and exterminating patriots during the course of the occupation was done by
Ethiopian renegades.

The Italians inflicted in five years a damage which still haunts the Ethiopian nation.
Italian ideology was not a mere replica of the divide and rule of benign colonialism, but
a reflection of the new Fascistic phenomenon which was based on the belief in brute
force, quasi racial theories such as Social Darwinism, and genocidal tendencies. Their
administrative policy was singularly devoted to foment communal hatred, conflict and
crisis by dividing Ethiopian people on several planes: ethnic, linguistic, religious,
regional, class, generational and occupational. Accordingly, the first major category
consisted of the so-called Semitic-Cushitic dichotomy based on quasi racial and linguistic
criteria of origin. The Semites were the peoples of Tigre and Shoa, Gojjam and
Begemedir, and the entire Amhara, while the Cushites were those located in the
western and southern parts of Ethiopia such as Wollega, Jimma, Sidamo, Arusi and
The second major division was that between the Amhara and non-Amhara,
which contextually had both ethnic, linguistic, regional and even class implications. A
crucial variation of this was Shoa, which sometimes overlapped with Amhara but often
constituted an exclusive group with regional and class dimensions, administratively

>elete* 4Agrarian 'olit!*6 )+88* on the talian $istrib"tion o( armaments to the 0omali an$ other slami%
)o)"lations o( the region s"%h as the Ar"si 2romos $"ring an im)en$ing $e(eat in 19-1+
,1$iq Mek"ria* #eEtyopia Tari% *atse Tewodros Is%e *eda(awi Hailesilassie(A$$is
Ababa3193;E+&)* ))+3:;-3:7+

defined even in contradistinction with the Amhara. The third major dichotomy was
between Orthodox Christians and Muslims, which roughly overlapped with the above
In addition to destroying the social fabric of the nation, Italian colonial ideology was
aimed at wiping out any traces of Ethiopian nationalism, its history, values, symbolisms,
institutions and the social classes that were considered as its carriers. It attempted to erase
the very name Ethiopia from history and memory by subsuming the country under Italian
East Africa and setting up ethnic regions instead. The Italians waged propaganda to
discredit the Emperor and the entire institution of the monarchy in the eyes of the
Ethiopian people.
They set out to destroy, remove, or ship off national heritages,
statues, monuments, pictures and documents. They replaced the Ethiopian flag by their
own, denigrated the national lion and symbolized the conquest of Ethiopia by erecting the
Lion of Judah statue and the historical Aksum Obelisk in their city squares. These
symbols had resonance in the national imagination so that even the lions in the city zoo,
considered as signifiers of the nation, were killed by patriotic Ethiopians immediately
before the Italian entry.

The Italians also targeted for cooption and ultimate destruction particularly two social
classes. The first and most entrenched constituted the ruling aristocracies throughout the
country, not even sparing minor clan chiefs in the peripheral areas. In Gambella, for
example, the initial Italian approach as liberators from Ethiopian rule, coupled with their
generous distribution of food and clothing to the chiefs and the common people, had

>irhan"* esar!na Abyot* ))+3:-31+
.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* )+;9+

gained them cautious support. Many Anywaa and Nuer also joined the colonial army for
its attractive pay. However, the native people began to turn against the Italians when the
latter mistreated and executed Anywaa and Majangir chiefs on the slightest of pretexts,
often considering them as mobilizers of traditional resistance.
The second target was an
urbanized miniscule class of modern intelligentsia, which, despite its small size and urban
softness, staged a determined and heroic resistance at all phases of the Ethio-Italian
conflict. It is a testimony to Italys deliberate genocidal intent that this fledgling class was
nipped in the bud during and subsequent to the 19 February 1937 massacre.

Italian ethnic policy was also aimed at destroying and demoralizing what had been
regarded as the twin pillars of Ethiopian nationalism, the Amhara and the Orthodox
Church. Italians deliberately cultivated anti-Amhara sentiments recasting local grievances
in ethnic terms and calling for historical redress. In southern and western parts of
Ethiopia, what had been a cultural-religious conception of Amhara as a dominant
Christian minority also attained ethnic connotation, and the military administrative
neftegna(a multiethnic elite class composed of mainly ethnic Amhara, Tigre including
Eritreans, Oromos and other groups of Shoan origin) was arrogated to the Amhara.
some of the peripheral areas, this highlander community was denoted by a broader
derogatory term, Abesha. Interestingly, in what was delineated as Amhara region
Italians emphasized Shoan racial impurity vis-a-vis, and its inequity against, ethnic
Amharas. Hence, the anti-Shoa ideology overlapped with a wider anti-Amhara sentiment

2ral n(ormant3 George Ci%olas+ E/ans-'rit%har$* 4F"rther 2bser/ations*6 ))+;3* 73+
>ahr"* Pioneers* )+31+
.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* ))+99* ,193 .he highlan$er %omm"nit! #as isolate$ an$ eB)ose$ to ethni%
atta%k in so"th#estern regions @imma* ll"babor an$ 9ollega+ .he most br"tal re)risal o%%"rre$ in @imma*
#here Abba @obir $e%lare$ to re#ar$ thirt! birr (or one Amhara hea$+

during the Italian occupation. This deliberate ethno-phobia laid the basis for the future
homespun ethno-nationalist ideologies and hate theories as the subsequent chapters
would attempt to illustrate.

The Italians were also the first to introduce an administrative structure based exclusively
on ethnicity, again mainly concerned with ensuring the ethnic divisions of the historic
nation by bringing all Tigre, Somali, and most of the Amhara under respective
administrative structures. According to Sbacchi, in applying ethnic principles in the
structuring of the Italian East Africa "the main Italian concern was the elimination of the
Amharas claim to superiority over other populations. [They] framed the division of
Ethiopia into Governorships in such a way that [this] hegemony was eliminated.
Employing Amhara in government offices and using the Amharic language in non-
Amhara territories was prohibited."
But the countrys diversity posed a challenge, as it
still does, against cantonizing/balkanizing it along a clean ethnic formula. This was
among the reasons for resorting to the Semitic Cushitic dichotomy by lumping the
greater half of the country into a Galla Sidama administrative region. In addition, they
applied the laws of Eritrea in the Amhara and Shoa regions, whereas that of Somalia was
applied in Harar and Galla-Sidama regions.

While the structural framework had the long term objective of giving it a life of its own,
the separation of Shoa was based on the isolation and insurance of control over the

t is har$ to (in$ re$eeming q"alities in Fas%ist a$ministration* sa!* (or instan%e* the abolition o( sla/er!
an$ ser($om* #hi%h ob/io"sl! #as a )rel"$e to the bon$age o( the entire nation+ &olonialism an$
$emo%ra%! are in%om)atible i$eologies* an$ the sa$l! o/erlooke$ )art is that Fas%ism in Ethio)ia has
%ommitte$ atro%ities #ith the same intent an$ )"r)ose* i( not s%ale* to %ontem)oraneo"s German
Alberto 0ba%%hi* Ethiopia +nder ,ussolini- .as)is( and the Colonial E/perien)e (Lon$on3 7e$ >ooks*
1981)* )+119+

heartland of Ethiopian nationalism and resistance. A concomitant of the ethnic policy was
the encouragement of local languages to rival Amharic and weaken its role as instrument
of national integration. Hence Italian, Amharic, Tigrigna, and Arabic were made the main
administrative languages in Africa Orientale Italiana.
In the southern part of the
country, Arabic as well as Oromina and Kaficho were made legal and instructional
The overall ethnic and language policy left its indelible mark on the
subsequent ideas of Greater Tigray or Tigray Tigrign, Greater Somalia, and even
Greater Oromia, all of which were conceived in contradistinction with a Shoan-
Amharan other. The British had too attempted, in addition to encouraging the idea of
Greater Somalia, to perpetuate the idea of Greater Tigray by continuing to administer
Tigray from Asmara rather than Addis Ababa in the early period of liberation.

Ethnic and religious balkanization, however, did not fare well as a policy of governance
as it did as a war strategy. General Rodolfo Grazzianis plan to terrorize and punish
Ethiopians, by replicating his brutal measures in Libya, worked against Italian
administration by intensifying more determined, widespread and coherent resistance in
the country. The exiled Emperor prophetically noted in his speech at Geneva on 30 June
1936 the turn of events: Italian aggression forced Ethiopian nobles/officials to come
closer around their monarch more than ever.
The 19 February 1937 massacre
ultimately revealed the true character of Fascism, as it did not spare any Ethiopian and

Mo Files3 Co+* 1+,+7:+19* Go/erno Generale <ell5A(ri%a 2rientale talians* 1939+
0ba%%hi* Ethiopia +nder* ))+1;:-;1+
=a"ghan* 4Ethni%it! an$ 'o#er*6 )+1,1+
Em)eror5s s)ee%h at Gene/a+

did not make the usual distinction between class or creed, region or race, etc. This
became a watershed event determining the course of the patriotic resistance.
The patriotic struggle was an outstanding achievement, without doubt the first of its kind
in the nations history, which once again proved that Ethiopian nationalism has deeper
historical and social base than its detractors would acknowledge. The patriotic war has
occasionally been misrepresented as a self-serving war of a section of the feudal nobility,
and a less brazen interpretation accords to the British forces a vital, even indispensable,
role in the liberation of Ethiopia.
The resistance was, however, a truly national
phenomenon both in its scale, geographical spread, and political objectives. As Italians
themselves acknowledged it was the tenacity of the internal resistance which ultimately
wore down their administrative and military efforts. What did the patriots fight for and
pay dearly in life and limb? Did they have a supreme unifying ideal or was the whole
endeavor a spontaneous resistance with petty causes?
The total conquest of Ethiopia had been as terrifying as the wars of Gran and sent
shockwaves throughout the nation. As Tedla described it the Ethiopian army
disintegrated seeming never to reconstitute again. There descended great calamity and
sorrow on the country and the people. Nobody could be found who knew the solution.

From the initiation of a propaganda campaign against Italy on the eve of the war to the
conclusion of the patriotic resistance in 1941, Ethiopian nationalism demonstrated its
resilience and supra-class, supra-ethnic, supra-regional and supra-religious nature. Shoa,

0imilar %o"nter(a%t"als are /eritable grist (or the mills o( ethno-nationalist #riters+
.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* )+;7+

which had for ages been an emporium of socio-cultural interaction and integration, once
again proved these true attributes of Ethiopian nationalism.
At the outset, the resistance did face several seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the
most important of which was how to convince the peasantry to accept the struggle in
terms of nationalism. From firsthand experience in Bulga, Mugere Zale area, Mitte
locality, Tedla Zeyohannes reminisces:"...For a peasantry, country is its immediate
locality. To elevate the concept of country from this narrow sentiment to the level of
Ethiopia became a serious problem. If it surpassed Mitte, it refused to go beyond Mugere
Zale. After lengthy deliberations [however] a general consensus was reached on not to
submit to the enemy.
Then the resistance to Italian occupation began on the parish
level, organized in traditional units called Yegobez Aleqa, and was enforced by public
opinion and communal punishment such as ostracization.
Local churches served as
centers of anti-Italian propaganda and rendezvous for patriots and supporters.
The localized(Yegobez Aleqa) and multiethnic nature of the guerrilla war was a serious
hurdle for the creation of a national front under a supreme command and unifying ideal
specially during the first there years. Regional, ethnic, religious, even personalities
interfered in the relationship between the various armies.
Especially among the patriots

.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* )+;7+ >irhan"* esar!na Abyot* ))+,,*,9
2ral n(ormant3 <esta Gebremariam+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* ))+7;-77* -9;--97* relates an interesting
in%i$ent abo"t a man name$ 8abte-E!es"s #ho re("se$ either to (ight the talians or e/en sta! ne"tral+
.he %omm"nit! )asse$ 4 a $e%ision to ostra%ize him* to re("se him (ire* b"rial in the )arish gra/e!ar$*
)assage o( himsel( an$ his %attle an!#here eB%e)t Gking5s roa$5+ .hen* realizing the $etermination o( the
neighborhoo$* he re)ente$ an$ aske$ (or mer%! on the thir$ $a!+ 8e stoo$ #ith the )eo)le+6
For eBam)le* the so"ring o( relationshi) bet#een Lij 9essen 8ail" o( 9ag an$ 0eja$(a)h Cegash
9orqneh o( 0imen ha$ bro"ght the t#o lea$ers to the brink o( #ar in earl! 19-:+ .his in%i$ent #as
allege$l! aggra/ate$ b! the (ormer5s ambition to assert himsel( on the o/erall %omman$ o( the northern
(ront+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia1 )+,1,*3-8+ .here #ere also se/eral instan%es* bet#een Lij 8i#ot 8a$er"
an$ 0eja$(a)h >ire* an$ 0eja$(a)h Aohannes !ass" an$ Ras(Amora#) 9"bneh in Gon$erH bet#een Lij

of Shoa, the question of a paramount leader had been circulating, though initially it did
not get serious appeal because of the oddity of crowning another king while the
incumbent is alive. However, by mid-1937, a number of factors moved the patriots
towards appointing a national leader. Among these were the failure of the 1936 attempt to
takeover Addis Ababa, and the 1937 Graziani massacre at Addis Ababa, Debre Birhan,
the monasteries of Debre Libanos, Zena Marqos and Ziquala, which made evident the
brutality of Italian rule. Therefore, after deliberating for four days from 26-30 August
1937 Shoan patriots crowned the son of Lij Iyassu, a fifteen years old youngster named
Engdashet, as Melake Tsehay Iyassu who, however, died on 7 October 1938.

The death of the prince on the one hand put to rest the question of two kings under one
sky, on the other it revitalized the demand for an overarching patriotic organization to
continue the struggle. Hence the predecessor of the Tintawit Etyopia Jegnoch Mahber
(Ancient Ethiopia Patriots Association) was conceived on 2 November 1938 at a place
called Anqelafagn in Tegulet. Deliberately or fortuitously coinciding with the coronation
anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie, the associations foundation charter pledged
unwavering faithfulness to the imperial state.
A declaration on 21 December 1938 by
Ras Abebe Aregay, who emerged as the overall commander of the patriotic resistance,
also indicates the attempt to perform simultaneous administrative activities, to protect the

8ail" >ele# an$ 0eja$(a)h >ela! 7eleke* an$ Bitweded Cegash >ezabih an$ 0eja)h Mengesha @embere
in Gojjam* bet#een the /ario"s lea$ers in 0hoa in%l"$ing Ras Abebe Arega!* ena$(a)h 8ailemariam
Mamo an$ others* et%+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* ))+337-3-;+
2ral n(ormant3 .e$la 7e!ohannes+ .here #ere also attem)ts in Gon$er an$ 9ello to %ro#n another
son o( Lij !ass"* Aohannes !ass"* s"))orte$ b! Bilata .akele 9ol$e-8a#ar!at an$ Bilata <eresa Amente+
>irhan"* esar!na Abyot* )+31+
.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* )+,11+

peasantry from the predatory lawlessness of the early phase and bring some kind of order
into the dispersed resistance effort.

The five years of heroic struggle was based on the capacity of Ethiopians at the
grassroots for self-regeneration. Not only the readiness of Ethiopians to sacrifice for the
Mother Land, the Flag and the King, but also their faith in the restoration of liberty of
the nation, their perseverance in the fight against all odds and in the absence of a
paramount national leader, and their ultimate success in reorganizing the resistance across
regional and personal divides was a telling tribute to the virility of the national idea and
its deep roots among the common people. In fact, it was the search for a unifying
ideology which led to selective recreation and revival of a truly national sentiment
expressed in terms of country, flag and king. A declaration by the patriots in August 1938
demonstrates the national conception of the struggle and its objectives.

!"" # $ % &' ( )*
( +' ,"- ./ 01 23 4" )55
&67 89 +:; &* 4 &,4* /,* +:/ &(4" )<)/ =>$
)?55 +"@A : 40 +B8C/ D +E 8 &"+: 2F $# &7*
&(1 &(3-:# $( $ &* 4 +&?) &(*4$6 (:4 G! ::

Mo Files 3Co+ SHm 07.11 #e!Arbegno)h Awajo)h- 2345644 EC+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia1 ))+1,1* ,81+
Mo Files3Co+ SHm 07.11 #e!Arbegno)h Awajo)h 1930-33 E&+

Hear You, Hear You, all the sons of Ethiopia!
All the children of Ethiopia, without calling each other Amhara, Galla, Somali,
Adal, Shanqilla, are equal brothers and it is appropriate that we shall unite to
destroy our common enemy.
Now take heart that our Motherland Ethiopia is to be renewed, our freedom
restored and our inheritance to be reinstated. May God help us reclaim our
fathers heritage, persevere in our respective faith, work hand in hand for common
benefit, help and love each other, and truthfully serve one Ethiopia our
Motherland. Amen!

2.2 The Genesis of Modern Ethiopianism
As it was a pillar of a reviving modern Ethiopian nationalism and pride, the patriotic war
had borne in it the seeds of future social and political divisions. For example, the
overwhelming dominance of Shoan patriots at all stages of the war and the proportionate
claims they made had generated a postwar crisis which Haile Selassie found hard to put
down. This was Ethiopias first test of a government taken hostage by liberation
The division into arbegna, sidetegna, and banda was based not merely on
ones stand regarding Italian rule or on loyalty to the Emperor but on the very loyalty to
the national idea and its dismal rewards immortalized in the following couplet.
H4I JK )L JL -:@ 4,$L +55

For eBam)le* in his #e!Etyopia Tari% )"blishe$ three !ears a(ter the liberation* ))+3:7-31:*$iq
en"merates the most reno#ne$ )atrioti% lea$ers3 (rom 0hoa (in%l"$ing Amhara* 2romo an$ G"rage371)*
.igre(3)* Gojjam(1,)* 0eqota(3)* Gon$ar(1)* >egeme$ir(1)+ >irhan"* esar!na Abyot* ))+33-31+

The patriots were of two main categories. The first group was those who fought for the
liberation of the country and restoration of the state, though not necessarily of the
Emperor. At the center of this group were prominent Shoan patriots whose determination
saved the fragmented resistance and served as the core of a national patriotic front. The
second group consisted of those who fought a local war with local objectives, and
continued throughout the period of occupation in the fashion of a traditional bandit.
Sbacchi, for instance, goes as far as saying that Belay Zeleke was a professional shifta
who...was not fighting for Ethiopia but for the independence of Gojam.
This assertion
seems to emanate from a misreading of the subtle and often contradictory interplay of the
personal, regional and national spheres at various stages of the struggle. Nevertheless, it
draws attention to this unreliable category, which also included those who at some stage
of the war shifted sides back and forth, and as fiercely fought other patriotic groups on
sundry pretexts as they did the Italians. Over and above these two were also the so-called
Yewist arbegna, an entitlement practically open to anyone who could muster an
The renegades were also of two categories. The banda, who to the end stuck to the
Italians and feared reprisals from the Ethiopian government and the patriots. Especially
the renegade nobilities of the northern regions were apprehensive of their unenviable
position and the intensity of public opinion against them.
Hence they attempted to avert
the inevitable by either seeking in the name of their people protection from the British

Alberto 0ba%%hi* Lega)y of Bitterness7 Ethiopia and .as)ist Italy- 234862392(1997)* )+183+ .e$la* Italia
Be!Etyopia* )+,-3* also relates an in%i$ent abo"t >ela! 7eleqe5s in$i((eren%e to the talian arm! retreating
(rom Gojjam to 9ello #hile he ha$ (o"ght its attem)t to enter Gojjam (rom 9ello+ .his iss"e ha$ been
later "se$ in the allegations against >ela!+
0eja$(a)h 8ailesilassie G"gsa an$ Ras 8ail" .ekle-8a!manot belong to the (irst %ategor!* #hile some
like Ras 0e!o"m Mengesha an$ 0eja$(a)h A!ale# >ir" relente$ at the last min"te+

or even from the departing Italians, or in some cases even the Somalis and international
organizations. All of these failing, most were bent on creating as much instability to the
government as they could muster among their peoples. The second division consisted of
some ethno-religious groups such as the Rayana Azebo, Wajirat, and Welene which, as
auxiliaries to the Italians, committed attacks on the retreating Ethiopian army, hunted and
harassed the patriots, and even used Italian equipped armaments to continue traditional
raids on neighboring communities.
These feared reprisals not only from the state and
the patriots but also from their neighboring communities.
The Emperor himself belonged to a third category, Sedetegnoch (Exiles), which he
attempted to use as a voice of moderation and reconciliation. In the immediate postwar
period he was confronted with a conundrum of social and political forces created by the
Italian occupation and the patriotic resistance. This was a historic moment which defined
the future of modern Ethiopia and the forms its nationalism adopted. Why do historians
maintain that the Italian war had been indirectly advantageous to the restored Emperor by
removing most of his cardinal regional rivals? How is this so? On the contrary, the war
seems to have made Haile Selassie weaker, as his exile destroyed whatever political clout
the Emperor established, created new rivals who based their claims on achievements in
the patriotic wars, in addition to preserving intact the major regional hereditary rivals as
collaborators and bandas.
Haile Selassies formidable initial task was to establish a
working order in the government which could accommodate the melee of claims and
counter-claims from these rivals.

.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* ))+1,9* 131* ,:9+
0ome )atriots like 0eja)h Fikremar!am an$ Blata .akele ha$ %onsi$ere$ the Em)eror5s eBile as
treasono"s a%t #hi%h #ill bla%ken Ethio)ia5s hono"r+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia1 )+;;+

Throughout the war, Emperor Haile Selassie had maintained links with various patriotic
groups in the country and abroad. Now, he made his redemption known to the people of
Ethiopia in a radio broadcast as soon as he set foot in Khartoum. On 9 July 1940, the
first written declaration was aerially distributed urging Ethiopians to persevere in their
liberation struggle. An Amharic weekly named Bandirachin was founded in the Sudan by
Ato (later Professor) Tamrat Amanuel and Blata Sirak Hiruy and its copies were
distributed by airplane along with other pamphlets and flyers. When victory seemed
within sight, on 20 January 1941(12 Tir 1933), the Emperor addressed his message to
the People of My Country Ethiopia and reminded all citizens to look forward to the
promises of the future rather than the bitterness of the past. In that spirit he granted
pardon to all who knowingly or unknowingly collaborated with the Italians to destroy
the Ethiopian state and people.

Again the opening lines of his victory speech on 5 May 1941 projected a new national
image: ...What I want to tell you before everything else and desire you to understand is
that this is the day heralding a new historic era for the new Ethiopia...In the new Ethiopia,
We desire you to be a people who will never be discriminated, who have equality and
freedom before the law...It is Our foremost desire and objective to do a work that benefits
people and country by establishing in Ethiopia a government which respects and protects
religion, and by permitting the freedom of conscience to the people...
In short, Haile
Selassies restoration promise was: a new Ethiopia where liberty, equality and fraternity
will prosper.

Mo Files3 Co+1+,+-+113 .he Em)eror5s $e%laration to the )eo)le o( Ethio)ia* Tir 1,* 1933E ,: @an"ar!
1,$iq* #e!Etyopia Tari%* ))+331* 3-1* 3-,+

Accordingly, the initial political measures were intended to allay peoples fears and
grievances created by the power vacuum. On 12 June 1941, the imperial state issued a
declaration to the people of Wollega noting Italian ethnic and religious divisiveness and
the governments renewed determination to bring about ethnic equality in Ethiopia. On 3
November 1941, another declaration outlined significant administrative reforms in Tigre
(abolishing regular tiklegna, continuing only the usual fixed tax, provisionally assigning
three judges per awraja to be elected by the governor, and prohibiting billeting of
soldiers), which was tantamount to affirming the traditional autonomy of the region.
These were among the moves intended to reassure the people of the various regions, as it
was to the respective ruling aristocracy, and to counter Italian propaganda.

There have been widely divergent views regarding substance and direction of the national
ideology and policy of the imperial state after restoration. The assimilationist school
regarded the overall objective as one of creating a homogenous nation by directly or
indirectly imposing a single language (Amharic), a single religion (Orthodox
Christianity), and a single culture (that of the Amhara) over the diverse peoples of
Ethiopia. This is dubbed by ethno-nationalist ideologues as Amharization of
The integrationist view, on the other hand, considers the overall attitude
and effort as rather one of building up a unified national society, not in a consciously
promoted policy of assimilation but as a byproduct of centralization and modernization.

Ethnicity was, therefore, stringently censured by government and integration was rather

Mo Files3 Em)eror5s e$i%t to the )eo)le o( .igre* ,- Ti%i(t 193-E 3 <e%ember 19-1+ .e$la* Italia
Be!Etyopia* )+111+
.his a))ears a $ominant /ie# hel$ not eB%l"si/el! b! ethno-nationalists b"t also other in$igeno"s an$
eB)atriate s%holars+ 0ee* (or instan%e* E$mon$ Ieller* 4Ethio)ia3 De/ol"tion6 an$ 9"$" .a(ete* 4.he
Ethio)ian 2rtho$oB &h"r%h+6
@ohn Markakis* 40o%ial Formation an$ 'oliti%al A$a)tation in Ethio)ia6* :,A;* *3(1973)*))+3;1*37:+

implicitly pursued.
The crucial media of cultural and national integration were,
according to this view, the Amharic language, Orthodox Christianity and a standardized
national education. Social mobility was another instrument of national integration, an
abiding feature of the historic nation which became more relevant in the context of a
modernizing drive.
Haile Selassies primary efforts even before the Italian occupation were centralization of
power, economic modernization and laying out the legal and institutional infrastructure
for national integration. These were the cardinal prerequisites of modern nationalism
which became more urgent in the period following liberation. In other words, the
insurance of Ethiopias survival must be followed by the rejuvenation of its nationalism
and in this respect the government was dealing with the main challenges faced by
modernizing states: ...identity: fostering a common sense of purpose among culturally
diffuse groups.. and ...integration: the creation of a coherent set of relationships among
the many groups and interests competing for access and control within the new state

How did the state attempt to create a unified national community and a pan-Ethiopian
sentiment? Or, how did it attempt to bridge the historical, social and cultural divides
among various groups and inculcate a supra-ethnic ideology of Ethiopianism? The
overall process of creating a national polity with a higher culture which could be called
Ethiopian was mainly pursued at the political (including legal and administrative) and

Ibid* )+37,+ &hristo)her &la)ham* 4&entralization an$ Lo%al Des)onse in 0o"thern Ethio)ia6* Afri)an
Affairs* 7-* ,9-(2B(or$ ?ni/ersit! 'ress3 1971)* )+78+ &armi%hael* 4A))roa%hing Ethio)ian 8istor!*6 ))+1,:
J 1,1+
&hristo)her &la)ham* Third <orld Politi)s- an Introdu)tion (?ni/ersit! o( 9is%onsin31981E1988)* )+1;+

cultural (including public education and mobilization) levels. It is appropriate to analyze
this by looking at the symbolism, mythology and history employed in the task, as well as
the simultaneous legal and organizational restructuring, and the formal and informal
means of dissemination of the national ideology.

Symbolizing the Nation
The Ethiopian state, as we have seen in the previous chapter, has a wealth of traditions,
values and symbolisms firmly based on the ideology of the historic nation. Among the
paramount institutions of the nation, the Crown stood for the continuity and glory of the
state, the Church for its religious purity, and both enjoyed a symbiotic relationship
through the ages. In the tradition of Eastern Orthodox churches, the monarchy was the
titular head of the church and a symbolic embodiment of both church and state.
Therefore, any serious challenge to Ethiopian nationalism primarily affected these two
institutions. The decision to preserve the monarchy as the symbol of Ethiopian unity was
at the very heart of Emperor Haile Selassies exile during the Italian invasion. As
supporters of the measure said: 6:M)N ? O) # ? *$55

The tentative expressions of modern Ethiopian nationalism in the prewar period
underscored the inseparability between the nations political and spiritual sovereignty. As
early as the 1920s, there was a perception that the national independence of Ethiopia
could not be completed without its independence from Egyptian religious hegemony.
This had initiated an official campaign which resulted in the consecration of four

18$iq* #e!Etyopia Tari%* )+,89+

Ethiopian bishops in Alexandria in 1929, and culminated in the full autochthonous status
of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1959 by the consecration of the first Ethiopian
In the prewar period, Haile Selassie established the Ethiopian flag as a formal
symbolic expression of the nation. The ceremonial display of the flag as a component of
state etiquette was evident soon after Teferis ascent to power. On several important
occasions the flag was used to decorate the streets and buildings of the city: on 27 Tikemt
1909 (6 December 1916) heroic welcome to Teferi after the Segele victory over Nigus
Michael; on 3 and 4 Yekatit 1909( 10 and 11 February 1917), on the occasion of
Zewditus coronation; on 29 Nehassie 1916( 4 September 1924), on Terferis return from
the European sojourn.

After restoration, the imperial states efforts in creating, recreating and systematizing
national symbolism and ideology was centered on the proto-nationalism of the historic
nation. One of the most elaborate expressions of such exercise was the Tiemirte Mengist
(Symbol of the State), an artistic representation of the throne called Menbere Mengist
(Seat of Government) symbolically encapsulating the entire ideology of Ethiopian
nationhood. Though Ethiopian kings have been known to use royal insignias from time
immemorial, the modern Tiemirte Mengist is believed to have been designed by an
Ethiopian intellectual named Hailemariam Serabion at about 1904/05(1897 E.C.). During
the reign of Emperor Menelik II, this design of the throne was printed in Europe and
displayed at various places in Ethiopia.

Brehanena ;ela(* 1:E3E,7+ 9"$"* 4.he Ethio)ian 2rtho$oB &h"r%h6* )+,:1+
Aleqa Gebre-Egziabher* Biographies* ))+ 78-79* 81* 1-9+
Mo Files3 Co+ ;3+1+11+18* #e!ti!e(irte ,engist Tari%* 1937E&+

Each figure in the design of the Tiemirte Mengist was intended to convey specific
messages which added up into a complete narrative of national value, culture and history.
The globe figure at the center declared that Ethiopia is one amongst the nations of the
world; the crown represented the glory of its kings and statehood. The cross symbolized
Ethiopias belief in the name of God and his ordinance; that God preserves her due to the
purity of her faith. And His promise and mercy for Ethiopia is represented by the rainbow
arch. The lion stood for the heroism of Ethiopians as well as its kings; and the heraldry
Moa Anbesa zeImnegede Yihuda, which is an allusion to Christ (Revelation: 5:5), also
denoted the Judaic origin of Ethiopian emperors. The lion carrying the national flag
indicated that Ethiopia has believed in Christ and been preserved by His succor.
meta-symbol remained an expression of the unity of nation and state until 1974(see
appendix I).
The unifying symbolism of the national flag, which is an artifact of modern nationalism,
was very important in rallying the patriotic struggle. It was the paramount emblem of
national unity in the highly uncertain couple of years after the Emperors exile. The
patriots erected the flag whenever they held court, and throughout the war it represented
the freedom, patriotism as well as the continuity of the Ethiopian nation. The symbolism
had even sparked international reaction as witnessed in the pitched resistance of
Ethiopian monks at the Jerusalem Monastery to foil Italian attempt to lower the national

Mo Files3 Co+;3+1+11+183 4ud< = cp LT SgS< = u!"#$# %& u'()* +,w-
S."/ 0123244 5=6% u7" = 819; 0:<; 81( +<< ;= 2> c<?@ +L>8 #LLA<B
ud< 1<C 819* %d<) D. = cp LT ,wE #wF uT.G 0+'HT244 9hen the talians took
8aile 0elassie5s throne to Dome* the! %"t o"t the (lag (rom the )a#s o( the lion+ .he re)atriate$ throne #hi%h is no# $is)la!e$ in the
Cational M"se"m has the lion #itho"t the (lag+

flag and overtake the monastery.
Emperor Haile Selassies war propaganda, in contrast
to Yohannes and Meneliks, embodied the flag and the king as the symbolic duo of
Ethiopian nationalism. His first act as soon as he set foot on Ethiopian soil on 20 January
1941 was to hoist the national flag at Omedla. Again on his arrival at Debre Marqos on
30 March 1941, he reminded the patriots that they had been able to see in Gojjam the two
eternal symbols of the freedom they had fought for, i.e flag and king.
In Addis Ababa
the power of this symbol had been strongly expressed when the victorious British hoisted
the Union Jack in the Jubilee palace on the morning of their entry on 5 April 1941. The
intensity of public indignation forced the British to hoist the Ethiopian flag on the same
afternoon in the precincts of the old palace.
For the first time in Ethiopian history, the flag attained prominence in national
consciousness during this period of national ordeal. We dont find any comparable
emphasis even a generation earlier at Adwa. Though the color and design of the
Ethiopian flag were drawn from past cultural, religious and political values, the very
meaning of the term P, Q translates into a sacred objective or destiny of the nation:
>O Q O $R55
This marked a shift from the trinity of the historic nation -
country, religion and wife - to the symbolism of the modern nation. Even the postwar
national anthem differed from the prewar by the latters emphasis on these two elements
of king and flag.
In the postwar period, the national flag became not only a symbol of

.e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* ))+131* 319+
;-$iq* #e!Etyopia Tari%* )+ 3,94 4#I<<< <8u'< 838;J:< 7/TK D. TKd< :<<* %2!
uHL% <T u-J:< <<446
#I <1<9 8Mc) <!"#$# cNO +/PQ<:<! <%<TK* R;=S!cp LTJ +S<c!.cp LTJ:<
d;NT <1SJ:< +/IJ:<44
Berhanena ;ela(* 9*8*,8+ &ontrast #ith Tari%na ,isale+

national survival, independence and identity, but also an integral part of social life and
sentiment honoring most intimate and vital social events such as weddings, burials and
public holidays. It even served as an injunction to call somebody to account: wedqo
betenesaw bandira!, bebandiraw amlak!, or ere bebandiraw! The Ethiopian flag
has additional global dimension by becoming an inspiring symbol for colonized people,
adopted first by pan-Africanists and later by many independent African states with some
Modern Ethiopian nationalism drew a part of its ideology from the period between Adwa
and the patriotic resistance by being defined vis-a-vis Italian colonialism as the
significant other. This experience has left its mark on the articulation of the key
concepts and symbols of the nation. For instance, the now popular term bandira is of
Italian origin and it gradually became common after the battle of Adwa, though it was
sparingly used prior to the five years of the Italian interlude. Gradually, bandira even
permeated official discourse and almost totally replaced Sendeq Alama in popular
usage. Another term Guh , also known and rejected by generations of Ethiopians,
featured first in folk poetry after the battle of Adwa and became increasingly common
after the Italian interregnum.

In the literary works after the liberation, Habesha was used by Ethiopian writers to
satirize the national character, especially its backwardness or uncivilizedness, like
yabesha neger and yabesha ketero. In his book Tarikna Misale (Narrative and
Allegory) Kebede Michael had a lengthy poem titled Eroro(Litany) which related an

.he Arabi% term GuU G to $enote Ethio)ians is* to m! kno#le$ge* (or the (irst time "se$ in )o)"lar
)oetr! a(ter the A$#a /i%tor!3 G%8K2! +2V R8d IUB PwG LWL2 8u" 06 1K5) uU44... ucS< XY
RSZ< L"d#B +[,S Z<= uU L;0"#44.. uU 1<( < Z<= ++B \08 NG< +g] << R+44

imaginary exchange between an Italian officer and the author-character, the former
repetitively and condescendingly employing Habesha to denote Ethiopians. The wisdom
being a wakeup call for Ethiopians, it is but one of the ironies of history and social
psychology that Habesha was embraced as an alternative name for Ethiopia/n after the
departure of the Italians and at the very time when the Ethiopian state was striving to
erase the term Abyssinina from international use.

Emperor Haile Selassie was personally concerned with the task of instituting national
symbolism as an ideological expression of a reviving and modernizing state. The main
challenge in this endeavor was how to widen the proto-national ideas and symbolisms in
order to accommodate new concepts of citizenship and political liberalism. These
concerns were raised when a new ordinance for flags was issued in 1943/44(1936 EC). A
memorandum prepared for the Emperor in 1945/46(1938 E.C), after noting the antiquity
and sacrality of the Ethiopian flag and the religious significance of its rainbow colors,
elaborates the additional meaning it has acquired as a national symbol: the green
represents fertility, the yellow religion and hope, and the red blood or patriotism. In other
words, $#$S; 4 +T8C 3 SC1? U0L ,F V $ )?55
This is a
conception which is at one and the same time religious as well as secular, uniting country
and people in faith and patriotism. However, the religious element was gradually toned
down (by not explicitly referring to any particular religion) in the emerging public
interpretation and discourse of the postwar period. The textbook definition of the national

;^!& %d<)B1_ S`aMB %6"& 98 Nuw TK8K#" +b[Bc193d.%B ;=# uRe44
.ranslates as 42"r (ertile %o"ntr!* !o"r )eo)le #ho li/e on religio"s ho)e #ill s)ill their bloo$ (or !o"+6
Mo Files3Co+ ;3+1+31+:9* #esende" Ala(an ;ira!tina #ease"a"elun Endihu( #e(ise"elba)hewin Ba!ilat
Chi(ir #e(igelts Tari%* 1938 E&+ A han$#ritten memoran$"m to the Em)eror+

flag conveys that secular conception: Our flag is a tricolor of green, yellow and red.
They symbolize: the green hope, fertility and wealth; the yellow religion, flower and
fruit; and the red love, sacrifice and patriotism.

After the 1950s, the national flag becomes a purely secular emblem symbolizing national
aspiration. In the 1950s, for instance, the imperial state formulated a system of
representation, protocol and ceremony for its major institutions based on the national
flag. The flags of the royal family comprised that of the Emperor, Empress and Crown
Prince. What were considered as flags of the State consisted of the National Flag, the
Army (Ground Forces) Flag, the Air Force Flag, the Navy Flag, the Maritime Division
Flag, and the Posts Flag. The most important of all these is the National Flag, which was
carefully designed to convey the core values of the historic nation, particularly reflecting
the unity of State, Crown and Church in a single national symbolism: +-K +' W?( ,3*
+-K >X 8Y - >- ZO> +! 4[/? , ?$0\? +' C +Q? >]O ^+/55
+>-# 8 +20_0 #! P 0`M Q 8/8+/55 This was the famous Moa
Anbessa figure: At the center of the flag is drawn a crowned lion on the right side and
holding in its right paw the Holy Cross while looking towards the waving part. And on
the tip of the Cross is displayed the Ethiopian national flag drawn in the form of

This period saw some significant improvements particularly regarding the institution of
the flag vis-a-vis the new conceptions of national citizenship. One of these was the
symbolic separation of the crown from the state by assigning different flags for the two

;^!& %d<)B1_ S`aMB %6"& 98 Nuw TK8K#" +b[B193d.%B ;=# uR44
Mo Files3 Co+ 1+,+7:+17* ;ile ;ende" Ala(a* )+7:+

institutions. In addition, attempt was made to overcome the explicit partiality in the
symbolism of the national emblem, particularly that of the Cross-carrying lion for the
non-Christian population, by providing that: U0 +/ +Q - $+Q a0: +b; SP$?
8# U0 Q 8Y &7P$c +/WW de 8Y SP$V? 0`M Q +! !8f>:+ F2 C
=P* 855 That the Ethiopia national flag which is hoisted at home by the public on
the occasion of major holidays or that the public carries when officially ordered to march
could be prepared plain, without the lion figure.
This indicates an attempt to extricate,
or at least to play down, the monarchy and the national flag from their exclusive
association with the traditions and values of the historic nation and give both supra-ethnic
and supra-religious aura. What consolidates this point is the fact that the flag of the
Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate, which was different from that of the state, was assigned
a green color, in spite of the churchs traditional and ideological prerogatives over the
rainbow colors.

The Legal and Administrative Frameworks of Nationalism
Haile Selassies understanding of statesmanship and nationhood is arguably the first
which could be properly regarded as modern, as can be seen from the proclamation of
the written Constitution of 1931. A core element in this document was the establishment
of a stable monarchy, an institution that is free from the chaos and uncertainty of power
rivalries which had for millennia been a bane of the historic nation. The often criticized
restriction of the crown to the descendants of the Emperor (Articles 3 and 4), which

Mo Files3 Co+ 1+,+7:+17+
Mo Files3 1+,+7:+17+

perhaps backfired due to the reality of the Italian interregnum, seems way beyond
personal glory and power play a rational measure which could have assured the
continuity of the monarchy as the unifying symbol of a modernizing nation. The Emperor
had clearly explained the reason for this decision: In order to prevent any uncertainty as
to the succession to the Throne and avoid the gravest injury to Ethiopia, the right to the
Imperial Throne is, by the present Constitution, reserved to the present dynasty.

The reservation clause could also be regarded as a bold step to divorce the monarchy
from its exclusive association with the historic nation, and logically the fiercest
opposition to it came from this direction. Haile Selassies staunchest rivals were regional
dynasties in the northern and central parts of the country - in Tigre, Wag, Lasta, Gojjam
and Wollo - where the main demands were the preservation of traditional and historical
privileges, and the acquisition of more share in national politics. This was the region
where there had been basic consensus on the ideals of the historic nation while
simultaneously posing serious challenge to hegemonic state nationalism.

The other very significant aspect of the 1931 Constitution was the introduction of a
modern concept of Ethiopian citizenship and nationality, a civic-territorial concept which
accorded legal equality to all peoples within the boundaries of the state. The territory of
Ethiopia, in its entirety, is, from one end to the other, subject to the Government of His
Majesty the Emperor. All the natives of Ethiopia, subjects of the Empire, form together

The 2342 Constitution3 4:< L;08d& <= 1<; L;SZB = 1C 819 SO<% u=D
u5=6 61 SP9 +[fSu <2( L;0Z +#2444
.he Em)eror mentions in his book* Hiwetena #e!Ityopoia Er(ija* * )+1-7* his intention to iss"e a
%onstit"tion )rior to his ass"m)tion o( the throne+ t is almost tem)ting to think #hat )la%e the
reser/ation %la"se #o"l$ ha/e in it in light o( the a%%"sations o( )ersonal aggran$izement later atta%he$
to the %onstit"tion o( 1931+

the Ethiopian Nation.
The Amharic term of Geez origin, zegnet, which in the historic
nation stood for subject had been a concept which did not embody the attendant rights
and duties of citizens.
This constitution attempted to introduce modern ideas of duties
and rights of citizenship, however rudimentary in nature. By attaching nationality to the
territory of the empire, the constitution seemed to suggest a jus soli concept of
In his speech on the occasion of the signing of the constitution, on 16 July 1931, Emperor
Haile Selassie had outlined the key elements of the new law in seven points, the very first
of which was equality of all citizens before the law and the foundation of the Ethiopian
nation on a common unifying interest: 4 $" ( bP0 * Ug "( 6 C
"( hi )4E 4U@ +>"+: &7C: 8j?# >"+k T8 $W$R +S!: 2# .0l &7C:
$P?# 6 2F !8-:+ >"+: T8 &7>U* +$. &7 $m $ S)? 2# !8-:+
$ 6$n) Vd &8 $(16 )?55 Ethiopia must remain united and undivided like the
members of a family. The country must be subjected to a common rule by a Constitution
and governed by an Emperor. The strength of this accord must be based upon community
of interests, in such a way that the individual, whilst renouncing every ambition of a
personal character contrary to the common weal, may understand the power of the union
and the advantages he can derive from it for safeguarding his personal interests, without
any surrender or prejudice to himself.
In this conception of nationalism, state, country

The 2342 Constitution* Arti%le 1+
.his term is "se$ (or instan%e in the Amhari% /ersion o( the (amo"s 9"%halle .reat! an$ man! other
$o%"ments o( the 19
Marger! 'erham* The &o'ern(ent of Ethiopia* )*-,-+

and people were bound together by a single law. The Imperial Government assures the
union of the territory, of the nation and of the law of Ethiopia.

The Revised Constitution of 1955, which was promulgated on the occasion of the
Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Haile Selassies coronation (4 November1955), introduced
further provisions and refinements on national territory, citizenship and sovereignty. In
addition to outlining the extent of the national territory and introducing the concept of
national sovereignty, as distinct from the sovereignty of the Crown, the law emphasized
the indivisibility and inalienability of the two. But the national territory or the country
was not a purely physical expression because as Empire it was integral to the crown.
Now, according to a Jus Sanguinis conception of citizenship, the Ethiopian people were
not only those who resided within the limits of its territory but also those Ethiopian born
and living outside the empire.

Other vital introductions regarding nationalism were the provisions on the definition of
the national flag and the institution of Amharic as the official language of the empire.

The emphasis on the secular and inclusive attributes of the national flag found legal
assurance by limiting it to a bare tricolor of green, yellow and red without the symbols of
the historic nation. The provisions for civil and religious rights also legalized what the
government had de facto been practicing. There shall be no interference with the
exercise, in accordance with the law, of the rites of any religion or creed by residents of

Arti%le , o( the 1931 &onstit"tion+ 'erham* The &o'ern(ent* )+-,1+
The Re'ised Constitution of 2388* =E&ARIT &AZETA* 11
Aear* Co+,* A$$is Ababa* Co/ember -* 19113
arti%le 1H arti%le ,1+
Ibid+3 Arti%le 1,-34.he Flag o( the Em)ire %onsists o( three horizontal ban$s* the "))ermost green* the
mi$$le !ello# an$ the nethermost re$* in s"%h $etail as is $etermine$ b! la#+6Arti%le 1,13 4.he o((i%ial
lang"age o( the Em)ire is Amhari%+6

the Empire, provided that such rites be not utilized for political purposes or be not
prejudicial to public order or morality.

In a rather retrogressive step, however, the revised constitution reinstated the church as
an inseparable part of the monarchy. The Emperor and royal heirs were not only obliged
to profess the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, but also required to declare this formally in the
oath of coronation. The constitution further stamped the unity of church and state by
acknowledging the Emperor as the overall head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,
well as by declaring the latter as the established religion of the empire and eligible to
support from the state.
It also completed the absolute character of the monarchy by
making the Emperor not only the supreme authority in all internal and external affairs of
the state but also making him the sole embodiment of political sovereignty, responsible
for ensuring the defence and integrity of the Empire and protecting the welfare and safety
of citizens.

After a lapse of two decades, the 1974 Draft Constitution perhaps indicates some of the
changes and continuities in the conception of Ethiopian nationalism, particularly the core
elements of national territory, sovereignty and citizenship. This document reintroduced
the historical concept of the Ethiopian nation Bihere Etyopia instead of the Ethiopian
Empire and gave the nation a modern territorial definition entirely divorced from the
Crown. 0o1 + U0 F 4p) : S4q? 4: "k ,r; .Vk s#:

The Re'ised Constitution* Arti%les 38 an$ -:+
Ibid+* Arti%les ,1* 1,7+
Ibid+ Arti%le 1,;+ 4.he Ethio)ian 2rtho$oB &h"r%h* (o"n$e$ on the (o"rth %ent"r!* on the $o%trines o(
0aint Mark* is the Establishe$ &h"r%h o( the Em)ire an$ is * as s"%h* s"))orte$ b! the 0tate+ .he Em)eror
shall al#a!s )ro(ess the Ethio)ian 2rtho$oB Faith+ .he name o( the Em)eror shall be mentione$ in all
religio"s ser/i%es+6
Ibid3 Arti%les ,;* 3:

It preserved the previous definition of the Ethiopian people, but made
popular sovereignty, rather than royal sovereignty, the sole and supreme expression of the
nation state. It also underlined the indivisibility and inseparability of the full sovereignty
of the country and the people, making the Ethiopian nation the sovereign unity of people
and territory. The constitution declared that Ethiopia will be administered by a
constitutional monarchy and preserved the Emperor as head of state and symbol of
Ethiopian unity and history. Article 23 introduced both the Jus Soli and Jus Sanguinis
concepts of citizenship, that anyone born of any one of Ethiopian parents is Ethiopian and
that citizenship shall be inalienable except under extraordinary circumstances.

The imperial governments concepts of citizenship were seriously challenged in the
peripheral regions such as Borana and Gambella. In both regions, the claims of
indigenous status by Ethiopia-based groups such as the Borana and the Anywaa were
rivaled by mainly outside based ones such as the Somali and the Nuer respectively.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the imperial state gave primacy to the Borana and Anywaa
but did not deprive the Ethiopian Somali and Nuer their citizenship rights. The Ministry
of Interior rather tightened its control over the border and ordered regional governors to
use various ways to urge trans-border Somali and Nuer to accept Ethiopian nationality.
Emperor Haile Selassie, for instance, confirmed Ethiopias commitment to its Somali
citizens in his 1956 speech in the Ogaden: We remind you finally that all of you are by
race, colour, blood and custom, members of the great Ethiopian family.
In 1960, a
commission formed to solve the rival claims between the two groups decided "...that the

The 23>9 0raft Constitution* Arti%le 1+1+
Ibid7* Arti%les 1+,* 1+3* 1* 7* ,3+
Ethiopian ?bser'er* <e%ember 191;* %ite$ in =a"ghan* 4Ethni%it! an$ 'o#er*6 )+11;+

Somali of Borana were Ethiopians by virtue of their residence in the national territory
thereby ignoring the Borana argument that residence inside the country did not turn them
into Ethiopian citizens."

Again most surprisingly, the provisions about the Emperors faith (Articles 9.1 and 9.2;
and article 13) as well as the succession clauses were retained with minor changes in the
1974 draft (Articles 10, 11.1, and 12). This draft also confirmed the Ethiopian flag
(Article 2) and maintained Amharics official status (Article 4). Nevertheless, it
attempted to accommodate new ethnic and linguistic concerns: by providing in articles
32.2 and 33.2 for the right to be judged in the language one understands; and, more
importantly, declaring in article 45 the right of Ethiopian tribes and clans to preserve,
cultivate and develop their languages and cultures: t 4 >6E ^ -u &,.+v
)? ? )4w* x!N yyz?* "z? $>.+ $+:* $ >0 z?55

Ethiopias administrative structure had evolved through millennia as interplay of
geography, history and dynastic politics as noted above. The rationalization of provincial
administration was one of the concerns of the prewar intelligentsia; particularly notable in
this respect were Tedla Haile, Gebrehiwot Baykedagn and Teklehawariyat Teklemariam.
On the eve of the Italian invasion, Ethiopia was divided into 32 Ghizats.
We have
seen above how the Italians attempted to institute a radical reorganization of the

>elete* 4An Agrarian 'olit!6* )+,1;+ Also )ages ,-;-7* ,1:-11* J ,11+ For a strikingl! similar
$e/elo)ment in the Gambella region* see .e#o$ros* 4Gambella3 A 8istor! o( ntegration+6
.he 197- <ra(t &onstit"tion+
>ahr"* Pioneers* ))+117-1,:+ Asmelash >e!ene* 40ome Cotes on the E/ol"tion o( Degional
A$ministration in Ethio)ia*6 in 'eter .re"ner* etal(e$s)* Regional Planning and 0e'elop(ent in Ethiopia* *
(A$$is Ababa3 <D an$ nst"t"t ("r Da"mor$"ng "n$ Ent#i%kl"ngs)lan"g* 1981)* )+13:+ <aniel Geme%h"*
4A Cation in 'er)et"al .ransition3 the 'oliti%s o( &hanges in A$ministrati/e <i/isions an$ 0"b$i/isions in
Ethio)ia*6 2@
ICE;* *(199-)*)99+

Ethiopian state. Haile Selassie has not even taken the full reins of power when he
annulled the Italian administrative structure by issuing the first Yewist Agezaz Denb,
on 25 November 1941, for governing what had so far come under his right.
When this
was issued as Decree No.1 of 1942, it constituted a major step towards reorganization and
centralization which the state resumed with an unflagging zeal.
The imperial government was acutely aware of the ethnic basis of the Italian
administrative set up so that it consciously attempted to destroy any residues of that
structure. The new administrative configuration even did not entirely revert to the prewar
constitution of the empire. While maintaining the main regional outlines whenever
administratively feasible, it also tried to dilute the ethnic character of the subunits by
making constant readjustments. Decree No.6 of 1946 elevated the Awraja Ghizats to
Teklai Ghizats, Woredas to Awraja Ghizats, Meslenes to Woredas and also created
Meketel Woredas.
The internal administration regulation of 1948(1940 EC), which replaced the 25
November 1941 order, further enunciated the political organs and their constitution. For
instance, the provision regarding the Teklay Gizat Council(section V, no.24) stated:
Seated at the Teklay Gizats capital, under the chairmanship of the Teklay Gizat
Governor, councilors which deliberate on development, public interest and good
governance will be selected from among local landlords and elders, one from each
awraja. The meeting of these is called the Teklay Gizat Council. Similarly, while the
Teklay Gizat governors and deputy governors (section III, No.3,19,), Awraja Gizat
governors and directors (section X, no.52,54) , and Woreda Gizat governors and

Mo Files3 Co+1+,+;8+:1* #age$a$ 0enb* a han$#ritten 71 )ages $o%"ment* 19-: E+&+

directors(section XV, no. 79, 91) are all appointed by the Emperor, the provision for local
administration(section XX, no.114) states that the Atbia Shum in every locality is selected
from among local landholders and resident personages of good standing by woreda
governor and appointed by Teklay Gezhi.
All in all there were 12 Tekla Ghizats, 87
Awrajas, 387 Woredas and 1086 Mikitil Woredas. This structure was continuously
reformed based on various criteria, such as administrative efficiency, security,
development potential, history and culture. However, it remained as the basic framework
throughout the imperial period, only undergoing major change in 1962 with the split of
Hararghe (into Hararghe and Bale) and the addition of Eritrea.
While control is one legitimate concern of states, the innovations during the imperial
period were mainly concerned with the twin objectives of development and integration.
For example, the abolition of Mikitil Woredas, which constituted the lowest level of
formal authority from 1946 to 1960, was justified on the basis of administrative
efficiency, i.e, to cut the bureaucratic layers. Various instances of restructuring were tried
at woreda and awraja levels taking into consideration local as well as national concerns.
For example, in border areas the two major concerns were security and administrative
Haile Selassies experimental approach to development and simultaneous
efforts to earn the allegiance of various peoples had begun in the prewar period. Jigiga,
Chercher, Guma and Gera were among the provinces selected to be developed as models
of modern administration.
The Ministry of National Community Development and

Mo Files3Co+1+,+;8+:1+
Asmelash* 40ome Cotes*6 )+131+
>ahr"* Pioneers* ))+;: J ;1+

Social Affairs was established in 1957, originally to promote development in special
localities where natural conditions hampered progress.
In the continuous reformation of the national administrative policy and structure there
have been pressures to carry the decentralization upwards of the system. In 1962/63(1955
E.C.), attempts to set-up awraja self-administration failed as a result of Parliaments
failure to approve the legislation that was to provide for their revenue sources. The
general pressure by the Ministry of Interior towards decentralizing the system at the
awraja level, however, resulted in the Awraja Local Self-administration Order No.43 of
1966. However, this met opposition by parliament deputies from two directions and for
different reasons. Local elites were primarily concerned about cost due to existing
disparities of awraja revenues. Nationally minded groups feared that this decentralization
would encourage the growth of regionalism and parochialism. Deputies also argued that
the country was unintegrated and that the creation of autonomous awrajas before the
people knew one another would encourage separatist tendencies.
The dilemma was
between national development and national unity, the twin objectives of the imperial
state. The push for decentralization was so persistent among higher officials that the state
set in action its plans in 1973 by launching a pilot project which included 14 awrajas, one
from each province. Most of the appointed administrators were considered progressives
and oriented to development in the areas. This brief experiment was interrupted by the
1974 revolution.

@ohn M+ &ohen an$ 'eter 8+ Iohen* Ethiopian Pro'in)ial &o'ern(ent- I(perial Patterns and
Postre'olutionary Changes* Monogra)h Co+9* (East Lansing3 Mi%higan 0tate ?ni/ersit!* 198:)*)+1;+
Ibid+ )+18+

Educating for Citizenship
The earliest foundations of popular education, that is formal governmental, non-
governmental (community) and public schools as well as rudiments of a modern mass
media, were laid down in the prewar period. As every aspect of Haile Selassies postwar
achievements, the establishment of modern educational system with defined policy and
objectives, Ethiopianized and standardized curricula and textbooks, was initiated during
this period. The prewar intellectuals argued for a national educational system with
Ethiopian instructors, based on the Geez alphabet, Amharic as language of instruction,
and Ethiopian history as one subject. Ethiopians should be imbued with the love of
Ethiopia and nothing else. Missionaries are most often nothing but agents of European

During this period, the example and encouragement of Ras Teferi by establishing Teferi
Mekonen School in 1925 set in motion a nationwide movement for the expansion of
modern schools. If the opening of Menelik II School in 1908 had a defensive character,
that of Teferi Mekonen remained in line with Haile Selassies lifelong faith in modern
education. Teferis historic tour of 1924 had been described by himself as designed to
restore Ethiopias ancient glory through the expansion of modern education.

Nevertheless, it was only in the establishment of the Ministry of Public Instruction and
Fine Arts in 1930 that the educational undertaking got a responsible government body.

.e$la 8aile(193:) q"ote$ in >ahr"* Pioneers* )+1-:+
>ahr"* Pioneers* )+171+
Ibid7* ))+,3*,1* 33* 7;+

After liberation the state proceeded with a policy of thoroughly secularizing education
but, like the favored model Japan, with caution and moderation. The merit of secular or
modern education over religious or traditional education has been one of the most
debated issues in the prewar period.
After liberation the case for secularization of
national education was argued by Haddis Alemayehu thus: For ancient Ethiopian
schools had restricted their instructions to religion and social etiquettes and abandoned
instructions in economics, administration, political, military, technical and other arts,
their educational output could not satisfy the demand of the society.

In the early 1940s, the National Education Commission was busy identifying aspects of
the Orthodox Church educational tradition that could be integrated in the preparation of a
modern national syllabus.
The initial lack of trained teachers in the period had made it
necessary to recruit staffs that have Christian backgrounds, both expatriate and
indigenous, the latter particularly for teaching the two subjects concerned with
citizenship: Amharic and Ethical Education or Gibregeb. In addition, throughout the
imperial period the Orthodox clergy maintained traditional schools, known as Qes
Timhirt Bet, giving children literacy.

Even in the remotest corners such as Gambella, schools were open for all Ethiopian
children and the state made it a priority to attract children of peasants to school through

Ibid7* ))+91* 177+
8a$$is Alema!eh"* #e!ti(hirtna #e!te(aribet Tirgu((A$$is Ababa319-8E+&+)*))+1,,* also 1:8+
Mo Files+3Co+ SHm ;3+1+1,+:- * *e!Bilata ,ersie Ha$en <Air"os Lebiherawi Ti(hirt *o(ission
#e"erebe #ebete%ihnet Ti(hirt ,egle)ha* 1937 E&+ C:+ SHmB ;3+1+1,+:3 * ;ile(i(etaw Ze(en Bete
Ti(hirt Le!A(arigana Le!&ee$ Ti(hirt #e(iasfelgewn E"id Le(e(er(erna Le(astewawe" #ete(erete
*o(itte #e(eje(eria ;ibseba* 1937 E&+
Mo Files3 Co+:8+:9*#e(engistin Astedader ,eshashal Le(atinat #ete"ua"ua(ew *o(itte #a$egajew
#e(eje(eria Rapor* A$$is Ababa* &inbot 1917 E&+

various incentives. In addition to the regular schools, the state initiated literacy schools
from 1948 onwards to extend its outreach.
Schools were from the very beginning
accorded paramount importance as centers for cultivation of future generations in line
with the modernization objectives of the state. The aim was to produce responsible
citizens with common national aspirations and values, grounded in the tradition and
history of the nation and unencumbered by traditional and primordial loyalties. While
there has never been a systematic effort to make schools centers of brainwashing and to
manipulate curriculums to reflect an exclusive culture and religion, however, there were
conscious attempts throughout the imperial period to cultivate more inclusive and
representative values and symbols all over the country. The central government, for
instance, strongly urged schools to adhere to the performance of the national anthem from
the early 1950s.

Tarikna Misale, one of the earliest educational materials prepared under the direction of
the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts from 1941 to the late 1960s, is representative of
the nationalist conceptions and goals of the state. From the very cover design, the entire
content of this series is concerned with the definition of key components of nationalism:
country, people, flag and king. It is interesting to see that such textbook definitions were
more elaborate and wider while at the same time combining the legal and traditional
conceptions, values and symbolisms. They were secular and civic but with a mix of
primordial elements. For example, people were defined as humans who, in addition to
being related by birth, language, religion, common history and destiny, live together

G'CD0 Files3 .he 1913(19-1 E+&) Ann"al De)ort o( the Awraja Go/ernor5s 2((i%e* Co+,3,E :E,*
=ehassie ,-E19-1+
G'CD0 Files3 Letter o( the m)erial Ethio)ian Go/ernment to the Gambella Awraja 0%hools
A$ministration* Co+1:83E,E19* Hidar ,1E19--+

under the umbrella of one country, one state, one flag and one law.
A country was not
defined in its crude territoriality but as a part of the world in which such homogenous
community lives. Like the traditional symbolism, a country also meant an ancestral
graveyard in which the soil and the people are united; it is a mother who nurtures and
whose love inheres in the blood and flesh, and instills love and yearning.

Flag is a symbol of freedom, a peoples stamp, and a tough cord which secures unity.
King was also defined in terms of its political functions (as fountain of power, glory,
justice) and symbolic attributes (bond of unity, pride of country, junction of history).
There was also an attempt to outline desirable qualities and precepts of a good Ethiopian:
the preeminence of sacrifice for king, flag, country and freedom, or to eradicate what is
harmful to them. To love ones country means to do what benefits her, to stand by fellow
countrymen, to understand the worthlessness of individual wealth and joy without the
greatness of ones country and the co-prosperity of fellow Ethiopians. A good citizen is
dedicated to thinking and striving to make his country catch up quickly with other great

Another important aspect of national concern was the promotion of Amharic as a
language of instruction, particularly at the early primary level, and as a compulsory
subject throughout the other levels too.
When Teferi Mekonnen School was opened on
19 Miazia 1917(27 April 1925), the first curriculum consisted of English, French, Geez,
Amharic, Art, Sport and Technical Education. In fact, students were more interested in

;^!& %d<)B1_ SgHMB 3_ !M2Bc;=# uRBw"H& cL% T+TK u)B193d.%e 7;T0 1g :44
;^!& %d<+ 1_ SgHMB 3_ !M2Bc;=# uRBw"H& cL% T+TK u)B193d.%e.
Mo Files3 Co+ SHm ;3+1+1,+:-+ Co+ SHmB ;3+1+1,+:3+

learning English and French than Geez and Amharic. Naturally, the person most
concerned about the indigenous subjects was the headmaster Hakim Workneh.
Ministry of Education and Fine Arts commissioned various literary texts and
disseminated them throughout the school system; it even encouraged and sponsored the
publication of Amharic Tigrigna dictionary to be used in Asmara secondary schools.

In 1965, for example, Afeworq Gebbreyesuss Lib Weled Tarik(1908) was reprinted as
Tobia to serve as Amharic textbook. The state was determined to make Amharics utility
complete by pushing it upwards to higher learning, beyond being a compulsory subject
for admission. The Third Five Year Plan (19601965 EC) provided a basis for the
development of Amharic, particularly as language of instruction for science and

The Ministry of Education and Fine Arts had planned to do this task in cooperation with
the Haile Selassie I University by establishing a special institution called YeAmarigna
Merha Lisan or National Amharic Language Academy. The ministry set out in 1968/69
to prepare a list of nominees for the academy but it did not go further than that. Then in
February 1971, there was more determined effort which resulted in the establishment of a
special committee with members from the University and the Ministry of Education. This
body finally nominated 48 distinguished scholars from various disciplines, regardless of
ethnic and religious backgrounds, to serve as founding members of the academy. The

Mersie-8azen 9ol$e-Kirqos* A(arigna ;ewasew(A$$is Ababa3 19-8 E+&)* )+3+ .ho"gh )re)are$ in the
)re#ar )erio$* this book #as )"blishe$ in 1911E1; #ith the assistan%e o( MoEFA+
Mo Files3 Abba Aohannes Gebre-Egziabher5s a))li%ation to the Gibi Minister* 8+E+ Tsehafete$a$ .e(era
9orq* Tahsas 19E1911(,8 <e%ember 1918)+ t #as in 1917 that Amhari% re)la%e$ Arabi% an$ .igrigna as
Eritrea5s #orking lang"age+ >ereket* &on(li%t an$ nter/ention* )+ ;1+
.he .hir$ Fi/e Aear 'lan3 19;:-19;1 E&* )+-,1* Co+9+ .his i$ea ha$ been )art o( the )ro)osal o( Ernest
9ork in the )re#ar )erio$* an$ e/en the merits o( establishment o( Amhari% lang"age a%a$em! #ere
$ebate$ $"ring the talian o%%")ation+ >ahr"* Pioneers* ))+3-* 1;:+

express aim of the YeAmarigna Merha Lisan, which formally started functioning in
1971/72(1964 E.C), was to base modern education on the cultural and traditional
heritages of the country.

This belated attempt is otherwise a testimony to the imperial states supra-ethnic and
pragmatic attitude towards using Amharic as an efficient national medium of education
and integration. Besides its widespread use and literary development, this was a logical
decision for a poor state which also has an additional task of unifying a nation. In fact,
the impact of formal instruction of Amharic as a means of national integration remained
marginal because of its restriction to the elementary level. Students picked up their
Amharic skills not so much in the classrooms as in the day-to-day interactions of urban
setting, where most of the higher level schools were situated. Neither in the recruitment
and training of teachers nor in their assignment did the state adopt ethnic or religious
criteria. In remote areas such as Gambella, where qualified teachers were hard to come
by, the state encouraged local students to join the teaching profession in the above spirit.
What is more, the introduction of Amharic as official and instructional medium elicited
no overt reaction because language, especially its symbolic significance, had not yet been
politicized and the state did not consider it relevant to proclaim Amharics legal status
until 1955. In spite of the states belief that a nation ought to be linguistically unified or
bonded, linguistic homogenization was not confused with cultural homogenization. The
language policies, laws and actions of the state were never intended to Amharize, which
could not have been done by imperial fiat anyway, but to Ethiopianize, to create an

Mo Files3Co+1+,+1-+:7* .he Cational Amhari% Lang"age A%a$em!* Mengist" Lemma to 8+E
Tsehafete$a$ .e(era-9orq Ii$ane-9ol$* =ehassie 3E19;-+

integrated national community by consolidating Amharic as a national lingua franca,
which it had de facto been before or since.

The government allowed religious institutions to open schools and take part in the
national effort of spreading education. Nevertheless, church schools remained a
responsibility of the religious establishments, including the Orthodox Church which had
been constitutionally pledged state support.
The state also retained the right to
supervise and monitor their activities and, for instance, prohibited them from openly
reflecting religious, ethnic and other political ideals detrimental to unity of the people and
stability of the state.
It even intervened and banned attempts of some mission schools
to teach in local languages and introduce writings based on the Latin alphabet. The
government did not oppose translation or teaching in local languages as such, but it
wanted the Geez script to be used for all languages in the country.
Nevertheless, the
nationalist objective of education did not get a constitutional expression throughout the
period; and it was the 1974 Draft Constitution which explicitly provided that the
education given in Ethiopian schools shall be based on the literature, culture, history and
nature of Ethiopia.

.e$la 8aile an$ 0ahle .se$al" #ere the (oremost )ro)onents o( em)lo!ing 2rtho$oB religion an$
Amhari% lang"age as means o( assimilation an$ "nit!+ .he latter5s 1933 )ro)osal (or a national
e$"%ational s!stem(q"ote$ in >ahr"* Pioneers* ))+1-:-1-1) is #orth! o( note s)e%iall! as he #as then
minister o( e$"%ation* b"t )erha)s too ra$i%al to be %onsi$ere$ serio"sl! b! the state thro"gho"t the
im)erial )erio$+ E/en this %o"l$ be regar$e$ as Gethno%entri%5 or G%ha"/inist5 onl! on the narro#est
%onsi$eration o( ethni%it! an$ that retros)e%ti/el!+
G'CD0 Files3 Letter o( the Awraja 0%hool A$ministration* Co+,33E1E,* Tahsas 1,E19;1* regar$ing the
o)ening o( a )rimar! s%hool s)onsore$ b! an$ lo%ate$ in Gambella Ii$ane Mihret &h"r%h %om)o"n$+
>ahr"* Pioneers* )+,1+ The Re'ised Constitution of 23887
G'CD0 Files3 Report!na I"id3 19-7-197; E+&+
The 23>9 0raft Constitution* Arti%le 1;+3+

The state attempted to encourage the burgeoning literary culture by establishing a public
library in Addis Ababa, known as Hizb Bete Metsahift Wemezekir(Public Library and
Archives), which, in addition to providing easy access to a reading public, performed the
important task of being custodian of archives, manuscripts, and all published works in the
country. In 1946(1939 EC) another institution of excellence, known as Tequame Timhirt
Wetibebat (Institution for Education and Arts), was established which after a year (1947)
was merged with the Public Library and Archives as Hizb Bete Metsahift Wemezekirina
Tequame Timhirt Wetibebat.

As part of the evolving nationalism, there were growing concerns from both the state and
individuals to protect and preserve cultural and historical heritage of the country. The
National Museum was established as custodian of the heritages of the various peoples in
the country. There had been continuous efforts to define the institutional and legal
boundaries between local/individual and national interests, duties and responsibilities.
Thus various laws were proclaimed, for instance in 1947 and 1952, though the first
comprehensive legal provision came out in January 1966.
While the 1955 Constitution
made only the regalia and property of the emperor the historical heritage of the
it was again the 1974 Draft which introduced a visible concern for historical
and cultural heritage: +>6E +6 PN +T8C* +^ W:{ 8Y/ : S4| "M* /}]M

Mo Files3 Co+1,+11+:1* /erbal o( the meeting hel$ on Ti%i(t 1:E19-:+
Mo Files3 Co+13+183 hi_ S WN" 7B ;=# uR N" h1 7 19ij .%B = 1<C 819 SP9
8I^ I5)Z44 WN" hh9k19ij .%B 9<N;= ;^= p"lJ Z />44
The Re'ised Constitution of 2388* arti%le 19+

:~* EcN U0 O+k :~ $ 6 +S)? >P1 >6E >U6 Vd? v22:*
2+R ,:55

Like its educational institutions, the development of proper scholarly studies of Ethiopia
is Western-inspired but essentially indigenous in its essence and direction. Serious
academic work on colonial Africa had set off at the turn of the 19
century: Journal of the
Royal African Society (JRAS) was established in 1901. At about 1910 Britain launched
an ethnographic survey in its colonies of the Sudan and Kenya. In 1918 the first issue of
Sudan Notes and Records (SNR) was published and for a long time it remained the only
source for the frontier peoples in southern and southwestern Ethiopia. The International
Institute of African Languages and Cultures(IIALC) was founded in 1927, with the
objective to coordinate and focus the results of the work and research that was being done
by different individuals and European nations; or in the words of Frederick Lugard to
establish a closer relationship between scientific research and practical work in Africa.
Much of the work done by Europeans in Africa during the first half of the twentieth
century was ethnographic and anthropological in nature, concerned with tribes and aimed
at providing information for colonial administration.

Ethiopia was, however, at the margins of colonial scholarship of the period though it had
for long been part of the Semitic studies based in Europe. A serious home-based
academic study of the country and its people started with the establishment of the first

The 23>9 0raft Constitution* arti%le 139+
.he AL&* (or eBam)le* la"n%he$ in 193- its (irst GFi/e Aear 'lan o( Desear%h5 #hi%h #as aime$ at
in/estigating the im)a%ts o( %olonialism an$ atten$ant mo$ernization )ro%esses on A(ri%an so%ieties+
<ie$ri%h 9estermann* The Afri)an Today and To6(orrow(3
e$)* (2B(or$ ?ni/ersit! 'ress3193-E1939)*
))+/-/iii+ .he )re)aration an$ )"bli%ation o( the monogra)h Ethnogra)hi% 0"r/e! o( A(ri%a began in 19-1
in or$er to )ro/i$e >ritish %olonial a$ministration #ith in(ormation on the %"lt"re an$ histor! o( its
s"bje%ts+ Lor$ Fre$eri%k L"gar$(1818-19-1) #as a man #ho )la!e$ an im)ortant role in the (orm"lation o(
the so-%alle$ Gin$ire%t r"le5* a >ritish %olonial )oli%! o( a$ministration thro"gh in$igeno"s instit"tions+

higher educational institution, the University College of Addis Ababa (UCAA), on 20

March 1950. On 1 January 1963, the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES) was established
on the main campus. The Journal of Ethiopian Studies (JES), an organ of the IES, was
first published in this year and continued to come out twice a year until 1976. In the
period up to the revolution 22 issues were published in 12 volumes, with a total of 179
articles and book reviews, of which 120 ( 67%)were on history, and 29(16% ) book
reviews and source materials were also historical. Thus all in all about 83% of the papers
were concerned with various aspects of Ethiopian history.
In contrast to the above, the overseas branch of Ethiopian studies was a few years older
and it also had important difference both in the selection of research theme, the
participation of Ethiopian scholars and their professional orientation. The first
International Conference on Ethiopian Studies (ICES) took place in Rome in 1959,
initiated by none other than Enrico Cerulli, and was brought home when the third ICES
took place in Addis Ababa in 1966. The late 1960s and early 1970s were periods of
acceleration of social and historical research in the south of Ethiopia. Until 1988,
according to the analysis made by Shushma and Davendra, only a quarter of the papers
were contributed by Ethiopian scholars. And of all the total papers in the period, 30%
were on the history Ethiopia while the rest were concerned with language, culture, law,
politics, etc of the country.

0h"shma G")ta an$ <a/en$ra G")ta* 4Desear%h .ren$s in Ethio)ian 0t"$ies3 Literat"re Anal!sis o(
nternational &on(eren%es o( Ethio)ian 0t"$ies* 1919-1988*6 2@
ICE;* *(199-)* ))+9-:-91:+ >ahr"
7e#$e* >a!e Aimam* Eshet" &hole* an$ Al"la 'ankh"rst* 4From L"n$ to A$$is Ababa3 a <e%a$e o(
Ethio)ian 0t"$ies*6 :E;* LL=*1*(199-)*))+1-,8+

The most important contribution to the development of Ethiopian studies in the period
was done by the staff and students of Addis Ababa University. Particularly dynamic and
immense contribution was that of the Department of History, which from its foundation
in 1963 under the Faculty of Arts assumed a leading role in the scholarly study of
Ethiopian history. Bahru considered the late 1960s and 1970s as the highpoint of
department research, identifying two major limitations of the works of the period: i)
temporal, restricted to the 19
century, the 20
century being considered as a kind of
taboo; ii) thematic, bias towards religious and politico-military issues. Methodologically,
the researches lacked proper interpretive schemes (theory) and were then more narrative
than analytical. There were also financial and administrative challenges. Merid noted that
only a few of these works saw the light of publication; hence historical research remained
within the narrow confines of the academic world.

There was of course another serious problem which Ethiopian studies had encountered
due to its distinctively national character. First and foremost, it did not conform to the
ethnographic and anthropological tradition or to the wealth of materials amassed on
ethnic groups elsewhere in Africa. Hence the genesis of modern scholarship in Ethiopian
history and society faced a formidable center-periphery tension, of being center-
centered even before the center was properly born. The false urgency in regarding the
study of the so-called periphery as long overdue denied the useful balance that could
have been established in Ethiopian studies. This was confounded by the politics of
marginalization and ethnicization over-emphasized by the ESM, the Ethiopian

>ahr" 7e#$e* 4Desear%h 'roje%ts o( <e)artmental Members*6 2
Annual ;e(inar of the 0epart(ent
of History(1983)*))+3:1-3:7+ .a$esse .amrat* 4Desear%h 'riorities*6 @
Annual ;e(inar of the
0epart(ent of History* *(198-)*))+;--;9+ Meri$ 9ol$e-Arega!* 4Desear%h .ren$s in Ethio)ian 0t"$ies at
AA? 2/er the Last .#ent!-Fi/e Aears*6 B
ICE; (198-)*))+BB/-BB/iii+

Revolution and all subsequent ideological battles. The usability of history, its role in
informing public opinion, if not in particularly contributing to the nation-building effort,
was thus sequestered from its infancy. This hiatus was filled by the growth of interest
among the literati to prefer historical themes in the fledgling national discourse and

Popular Expressions of Ethiopianism
The informal channels of popular education and expression were more diverse in nature
and less amenable to direct state guidance and control. The newspapers were the most
important channels of voicing and shaping public opinion, which for the first time had the
power of creating a particularly articulate intelligentsia and what may be called a national
conscience. The more persuasive and appealing to the common people were, however,
artistic works such as poetry, drama, theatre, painting, musical performances and songs
whose major concerns were historical themes, the recreation of national heroes, definition
and redefinition of the national ideal and the national agendas of modernization and
Ethiopianism. The 1960s witnessed the flowering of Amharic literature by producing
historical novels and theatres still unsurpassed in literary excellence.

The Ethiopian National Theatre was initially established as Haile Selassie I Theatre
(HSIT), shortly after the 25
Anniversary, on 13 December 1955. The establishment of
the theatre was inspired by civic and cultural considerations. During the late 1940s,

Fikre .olosa* 4Dealism an$ Amhari% Literat"re (19:8-1981)*6 ('h+< +<issertation3 >remen ?ni/ersit!*
1983)+ Asse(a Aregahegn* 4.he 2rigin an$ <e/elo)ment o( Amhari% Literat"re*6 (M+A+ .hesis3 AA?* 1981)+
>irhan"* esar!na Abyot1 )+,1+

nationally-minded intellectuals felt that Ethiopia was experiencing the impacts of
Western cultural influx through music, cinema, consumer goods and lifestyles. They
wanted to stem this invasion while at the same time leaving a window of learning from
global artistic progress. They believed that it was imperative to develop indigenous
artistic fields and modernize them. Simultaneously, the government was convinced of
the power of musical and theatrical performances in smoothly promoting national ideals
and values such as citizenship, patriotism and love of country among the people. The
conjunction of these two objectives gave rise to the establishment in 1947/48(1940 E.C)
of a body for the expansion of theatre, known as Yetiatr Masfafia Drijit, followed in
1950/51(1943 E.C) by a music and theatre troupe, both under the Addis Ababa City
Municipality (AACM). These were the precursors of the HSIT.
The HSIT was inaugurated in 1955 by bringing the above two departments together, thus
opening the formative period for modern Ethiopian theatre and music. The states
emphasis on the educational value of this institution was evident in the fact that in 1959
HSITs administration passed from AACM to the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts.
Until this time, the dominant themes of plays staged were religious and historical, but
with the advent of educated Ethiopians to the profession after 1960 these gradually
shifted to social issues. The simultaneous improvement in artistic quality inaugurated the
classic period of Ethiopian theatre. The first two historical plays, Hannibal(Kebede
Mikael) and Tewodros(Girmachew T/Hawariat) were performed in 1955/56(1948 E.C.),
and until 1974 some of the most popular pieces were based on Ethiopian history:
Almotkum Biye Alwashim (Bitweded Mekonnen Endalkachew, 1952 E.C), Nigist Azeb
(Balambaras Ashebir, 1953 E.C), Petros Yachin Seat (Tsegaye G/Medhin, 1961 E.C),

Yedil Atbia Arbegna (Negash G/Mariam, 1965 E.C), Alula AbaNega (Mamo Wudneh,
1966 E.C).

The folk music department of the HSIT, which began in 1958/59(1951 E.C) with a band
known as Yehagereseb Musika Kifil, was another significant step in the recognition and
promotion of the countrys cultural diversity. Like the theatrical department, the music
department was not encumbered by external censorship in the choice of themes or
cultural groups. Its guiding mission from the very inception was to accommodate equally
traditional songs and performances of all ethnic groups of Ethiopia. Accordingly, it
strived to represent them as faithfully as possible by conducting observations and
researches in rural areas, again producing some of the timeless performances. This
department also played a significant role in introducing Ethiopian folk music to the
outside world; for instance, it performed in nine countries between 1960 and 1968:
Sudan, Soviet Union, China, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Canada and Mexico.

In the postwar period, the nomenclature of institutions, public squares, roads, buildings,
even airplanes and ships, etc very much reflected the liberation such as Addis Zemen,
Netsanet Priniting Press (Dessie), national symbols like Sendeq Alamachin, Orchestra
Ethiopia, Hager Fiqir Theatre, the glorification of historical figures or heroes (Tewodros,
Yohannes, Menelik, Alula), national battles (Meqdela, Maichew, Adwa), etc. It was a
novel phenomenon and Emperor Haile Selassie seemed determined to put his personal
mark in this endeavor as everything of significance, hospitals, schools, stadium, theatre,

Bitweded Mekonnen5s )la! is also )"blishe$ in book (orm #ith same title+ .he t#o A"strian nationals
#ho )la!e$ $e%isi/e role in this (ormati/e )erio$* b! $ire%ting m"si% an$ theatre )er(orman%es* #ere
Fran%is 7el/eker(")to 1918 E&) an$ Di%har$ Ager(a(ter 19;: E&)+
n 197;* this %"lt"ral team #as rename$ as I$ra #e!hagereseb ,u$i%a *ifil+ [-m [n& L18] oB
= wHpS= 1" q" ;^!& TKcZA< 12P<?$JB c8p h000 .%44

university, came to bear his august name.
The general reawakening of national
sentiment and patriotism was also reflected among the common people, particularly in
the various cities and towns, following similar trend in naming private and community
institutions, associations, daughters and sons after national heroes. Emperor Tewodros
was resurrected as the father of Ethiopian unity, epitome of its patriotism, and a model
for Ethiopian leadership. The personal name Tewodros is arguably the most popular
name across the ethnic divide with its initial heyday in the 1960s. This was perhaps
matched by another name Etyopia which, though sometimes given for males, was a
popular personal name for females.

A more organized form of expression was the establishment of various voluntary
associations or mahbers with express aims to promote Ethiopian patriotism, unity and
The Italian war had brought to life several such organizations as
YeEtyopia Hizb Yehager Fiqir Mahber (Ethiopian Peoples Association for Love of
Country,1935), Tikur Anbessa (Black Lion, 1936), YeEtyopia Gegnoch Mahber
(Ethiopian Patriots Association,1938), Tesfa (Hope, an association founded by the
Ethiopian monastery at Jerusalem which helped Ethiopian exiles, served as a link
between the patriots and exiles in Europe), the Young Ethiopia Society,

Mo Files3Co+kkP :9,+:1* A$$is Ababa M"ni%i)alit! to the &ro#n 'rin%e 2((i%e* Co.Ski79k3h* 1:
Ti%e(t 19-1+ Anno"n%ing the $e%ision obliging all %i/il ser/ants to %ontrib"te a month5s salar! in a !ear5s
time (or the %onstr"%tion o( a mon"ment as a trib"te to the Em)eror+
.he ann"al Ethio)ian 0%hool Lea/ing &erti(i%ate EBamination res"lt list+ .he name .e#o$ros be%omes
(req"ent a(ter 1981* most o( these (rom A$$is Ababa an$ Eritrea+
'erha)s the mo$el (or Ethio)ian sel(-hel) asso%iations #as the Lo/e an$ 0er/i%e 0o%iet! (o"n$e$ b!
8akim 9erkneh in 19,1 to $eal #ith the )roblem o( rehabilitating %hil$ren o( man"mitte$ sla/es+
Berhanena ;ela(* ,7*1* ,;+ >ahr"* Pioneers* )+39+ .e$la* Italia Be!Etyopia* )+319+
>ahr"* )+83* this asso%iation an$ its #omen %o"nter)art #ere (o"n$e$ b! Blata Ii$anemar!am Abera
to o))ose talian aggression an$ o%%")ation+

(September 1936, a club which was founded by Melaku Beyan and its mouthpiece
YeEtyopia Dimts), YeEtyopiana YeEritrea Andinet Mahber (Association for the Unity
of Ethiopia and Eritrea,1943) and its affiliate YeEritrawian Merja Mahber (Association
for the Assistance of Eritreans,1944) were a few among the many. Of the above
organizations, YeEtyopiana YeEritrea Andinet Mahber and YeEtyopia Hizb Yehager
Fiqir Mahber, had played very prominent role in the postwar period so that it would
appropriate to note some of their records.
The struggle for Eritreas reunification with Ethiopia was the most concentrated
expression of Ethiopian nationalism in the entire postwar period both in its popular and
official forms. Until it failed prey to Italian colonialism in 1890, highland Eritrea had
been an integral part of Ethiopia, reflecting the multifaceted historical, religious, cultural
and political bonds. The Italian period did not entirely severe these attachments, while
there were also ethnic and linguistic factors bonding various peoples including the Tigre,
Agaw, Kunama, Afar and Irob groups to their kins in Ethiopia. Throughout the Italian
period, Ethiopia remained a motherland for Eritreans who enjoyed full citizenship rights.
The people on both sides kept the spirit of fraternity, and the imperial state remained
always vigilant for opportunity to reclaim the province. During the liberation war in
1941 British authorities were well aware of the strength of the reunification sentiment
among Eritreans so that they enticed the latter, some of it in the name of Emperor Haile
Selassie, to desert Italians with the promise of speedy unification with Ethiopia.
In 1941, when the British Administration summoned a native Council to act as
intermediary between them and the population, all members of the Council proved to be

strong advocates of reunion.
Immediately, the Eritrean organization known as Mahber
Fiqri Hager or Association for the Love of Motherland was formed and branched out
throughout Eritrea. This was the so-called Unity Block (commonly known as Yehibret
Kifloch), a major driving force of Ethio-Eritrean unity which represented the greater part
of the Eritrean population. The delay in the process of unification gave rise to a more
militant youth wing of the unionist movement called Andinet which, according to the
testimony of Chief British Administrator Brigadier Drew, in the 1940s was active and
gained the support of many Eritreans.

Italy, seconded by Britain, remained most staunch opponent of the reunification struggle.
Italy strove to regain through international diplomacy what she had lost in war, and when
this failed resorted to obstructionism. Italy urged immediate independence of all her
former colonies and organized in Eritrea the so-called Bloco Independente, comprising of
Italian settlers, half-castes, and ex-askaris. This group also included the Muslim League,
a group which had its strongholds in the Muslim-inhabited lowlands, and the Liberal
Progressive Party, a British creation advocating Greater Tigre by including all Tigre-
speaking peoples in independent Eritrea.

The struggle between the two major fronts of Unity and Independence was popularly
perceived and characterized as one between pro-Ethiopian and anti-Ethiopian
elements. As the Abun of the Asmara Orthodox Church succinctly expressed it when he
enjoined pro-unity groups in February 1950 never to buy goods from the shops of the

Mo Files3 E+ 0!l/ia 'ankh"rst(8on+ 0e%retar!)*.he nternational Ethio)ian &o"n%il (or 0t"$! an$
De)ort* G0)eakers5 Cotes5* EsseB* )+-
Mo Files3 E+ 0!l/ia 'ankh"rst* )+7+
Ibid*))+1* ,-+3+

Muslims who hating Ethiopia became Bloco Independente and rose to destroy Eritreas
chance and fought against us. When the tension between the two groups escalated on 21
February 1950 to a two-day violence(21 to 23/1950) in Asmara, it started as a war of
flags, Unionists barring the funeral procession for a member of the Bloco claiming h1
r1nr 0J8 )U As 1 ~n) 1 xAs n;Av9.

In addition, the opposition completely identified the pro-unity movement with Ethiopia as
the conciliatory letter written by Muslims who had fled to the Italian quarters stated
_C# &6=Y# 1# 8`55 +4 8 #-1? &n >* & $# &4,$
The conclusion of this conflict shows that at least the Muslims of Bloco had
no tangible internal cause to part from Ethiopia. On reconciliation between the two
groups, which took place on 25 February 1950 in the presence of the governor, the Abun
and the Qadi, the Blocos sole condition to unify with Ethiopia was a constitutional
guarantee for religious freedom expressly declared in Arabic, Amharic and Tigrigna by
the imperial state. The Bloco was, therefore, a colonial creation and the Muslim League
did not represent the aspiration of Eritrean Muslims who like their Ethiopian
coreligionists were not without a nationalist sentiment.
Inside Ethiopia, the struggle for unity was conducted by YeEtyopiana YeEritrea Andinet
Mahber, established in 1943/44 (1936E.C). The organizations logo was the African map
where Ethiopia is indicated and encircled by the motto Eritrea with Ethiopia, One

9hile the )ro-Ethio)ian gro")s ha$ the Ethio)ian (lag* the anti-Ethio)ian gro") %arrie$ an emblem o(
green an$ re$ similar to #hat has no# be%ome the national (lag o( in$e)en$ent Eritrea+
Mo Files3Co+kkP* :-9+113 *eye%iflu #etela%u Andand #e(istir ,astaweshawo)h. &o/er letter &a)tain
Ase(a 9ol$e 0ilassie* the se%on$ arm! %or)s lea$ing o((i%er* 3
ntelligen%e* to &ro#n 'in%e ,erid
A$(a)h As(a #ossen* #e%atit ,:E19-,* <essie+ .he se%on$ arm! %or)s hea$q"arters* <essie* intelligen%e
re)ort regar$ing the sit"ation in Asmara* to the im)erial arm! intelligen%e o((i%er* A$$is Ababa* Co+ ,_
!rE/SE::37E79:* #e%atit ,:E19-,*)+1+

Ethiopia or : # B 55 : O 7 55 Its declared mission
was to inspire all Ethiopians to the unification of the two people, and addressed its
messages YeEtyopia Lij Hoy, though more directly referred to Eritreans residing in
Particularly, there were widespread rumors about the hatching of anti-Ethio-
Eritrean unity activities in Dessie and Gonder towns with a possible link to Hammasien
(Eritrea), the British, and some Ethiopian notables such as Gobeze Tafete in Dessie.
affiliate YeEritrawian Merja Mahber was the earliest self-help association in the postwar
period, which aimed at assisting the rehabilitation of Eritreans in Ethiopia. Though the
main concern of both associations, and understandably their membership, was that of
Eritreans in Ethiopia, there were attempts to give the Andinet Mahber a national
dimension by making its membership open to any Ethiopian citizen or organization.

The Ethiopian Peoples Association for the Love of Country was founded by Ethiopians
on the eve of the Italian invasion with the aim of countering Italian propaganda by
fortifying public psychology and patriotism. In the post-war period it emerged as an
institution playing key role in various social and cultural events aimed at creating
national integration and harmony.
One of its major activities after its reconstitution in
1941 was the coordination of the annual celebration of the Muslim holidays of Araffa and
Ramadan as solemn national events. The imperial state was careful not to alienate its

Mo Files3Co+ kkP* :19+:13 #e!Etyopiana #eEritrea Andinet ,ahber* A$$is Ababa* =ehassie
Mo Files3 Cos3 :,;+19 an$ :,7+11+
Mo Files3Co+ kkP* :19+:1* the asso%iation5s %harter* Arti%le -+
>ahr"* Pioneers* )+7-+ Lij Mekonen 8abte#ol$ $ominate$ this asso%iation in both )erio$s+ .his
asso%iation later ga/e rise to Hager .i"ir Theatre+

Muslim communities and used every opportunity to integrate them into an inclusive
modern nationalism.
Especially during the postwar period, the state had in practice recognized the major
Muslim holidays as national events, formally celebrated in the royal palace, hosted by the
Emperor, with full solemnity and ceremony (including gun salute on the eve and dawn of
the holidays) and requiring the attendance of prominent officials, dignitaries and religious
personalities. This event was simultaneously held in major Muslim-dominated cities
outside the capital, and was intended to emphasize the states de facto recognition of the
two main Muslim holidays in par with similar Orthodox holidays.

The government also censored at all levels any explicit religious propaganda or negative
teaching against Islam or any other religion. The Emperor, though in 1955 ironically
established the Orthodox faith as the state religion, himself took a direct interest on this
indicating the gravity of the issue. In 1952, for example, Abune Gebriels sermons and
teachings had become so inflammatory to the Muslim community in Wallo that the latter
appealed on the matter to state officials. When the Abun refused to comply with the
intercession of regional governors, the issue, corroborated by Addis Ababa resident
Muslims of Wallo, was forwarded to the attention of the Emperor. The latter in turn
called the Patriarch Abune Basilios to address this with Abune Gebriel.
This policy of

Mo Files3 Cos+ 1+,+77+1: an$ 1+,+77+11+
Mo Files3 Co+ kkP :9:+18* ;ile Abune &ebriel* 9ollo Go/ernorate General <e)"t! to &ro#n 'rin%e
,erid A$(a)h As(a 9ossen 0)e%ial 2((i%e* 0)ei%al Co+ --E--* ,9 ,egabit 19--+

religious freedom was also expressed with more positive and substantial support by
granting land, money and construction of mosques with government budget.

Wallo, like Eritrea, is a showcase to the fact that the pan-Ethiopian idea is wider than the
traditional concept of the nation and overrides even religious divides. Located at the
center of the historic nation, this region had developed an identity and sentiment mainly
based on the unifying ideology of Islam and traditional ruling houses.
In postwar
Wollo such sentiments were expressed as conspiracies and plots spun around alleged
heirs of Lij Iyassu, even though the Crown Prince Asfa Wessen was the governor of the
region. Throughout the 1950s, for example, rumors and false prophesies implicating as
sources some notable personalities such as Gobeze Tafete circulated in the region.
exclusive Wolloye ideology of regional dissent is captured in a popular couplet of the
time: + B?! +' #W . &O ( Q> de "$ 55
It was also articulated in
the idioms of Ethiopian political discourse. One such instance of historicizing and
revering memory is related to the alleged inviolability of Meqdela Amba (Meqdela
Fortress) in par with Aksum and Gondar: +W> 1>C ? 4p )+k O+k ,U Q=

Mo Files3 .+.1,+:;* =etsanet* A De/ie# )"blishe$ b! the 2((i%e o( the De)resentati/e o( 8++M in
Eritrea* 'ress <e)artment+ .he Mosq"e o( Aqor$at* %ost o( #orks 318*::: Ethio)ian birr* %onstr"%te$ b!
the or$er o( 8is m)erial Majest!+
8"ssein Ahme$* Isla( in =ineteenth6Century <allo1 Ethiopia- Re'i'al1 Refor( and Rea)tion
(Cetherlan$s3 ,::1)* ))+119-13:* 131* 1-1+
Mo Files3Co+ kkP* :-7+:9* *eye%iflu #etela%u #e(istir 0ebdabewo)h* 7eleqe .a%hbele* Aej" A#raja
Gizat 2((i%e* to the &ro#n 'rin%e As(a 9ossen* =ehassie 11E19-:* regar$ing the "nrest in Aej" A#raja+
4;( 70 2> c=1s 2> =c< 2> 8< <S19 1K5)< "g2& ++2 << 6tu< LPRw cu< Nu
TK"c< L2p cvJ d0D8< 07G%4 5=6% 08 #w << u<? Pw wQ 8< L= u<)L Pw
2+cT%4 02W% 2> =c< ww_< 1K5) TK.G ug/ D. 2LA< @L< P u<? Pw wQ 8<446
Mo Files3 Co+ kkP* :-7+:9* Ameneshe#a .a$ele 9orq to the &ro#n 'rin%e* Co+;8* ,egabit 18E-1+

401 >, S"$? #" 6\ &, x,:* a# 8:+ & &, b >6E Sl.: C O2
# &O hE S] (1 O0 +W+n &.+- SC:

Historically, Wallo had been a region very much squeezed by the religious zeal of
indigenous Muslim orders and clerics as well as Christianizing Ethiopian emperors for
centuries. The political map of the region has never been contiguous with its cultural,
religious, and linguistic composition, which naturally made it an emporium of tolerance
and co-existence, a unifying rather than a divisive factor. In the modern understanding of
Ethiopian nationalism, therefore, Islam has been a force of national unity rather than
fragmentation. Muslim clerics had established Amharic as the second most important
media of teaching Islam and writing of religious texts during this period.
This is
possible partly because Ethiopian Islam, in contrast to later Islamic factions and fronts,
has been firmly based on indigenous time-honored traditions, values and institutions,
intercommunicating elites, and a supra-ethnic ideology and culture spanning the north-
south, center-periphery categories.

In sum, the decades between 1940 and 1970 were a period in which Ethiopia came ever
closer to an integrated modern nation state. The role of the postwar intelligentsia in the all
round activities of forging a nation from a war torn polity was indispensable. Especially
grilled by the hardships of occupation and emerging with keener appreciation of the
values of national freedom and unity, and the merits of gradual reform over radical

Mo Files3Co+ kkP* :;1+1-* .itawrari Minase .e$la* <e)"t! o( the &ro#n 'rin%e5s 0)e%ial 2((i%e* A$$is
Ababa* Co+,,-:-E1E-::* =ehassie ,1E19197
8"ssein* Isla( in <allo* )+178* notes that the (irst in$igeno"s M"slim %leri% to ha/e "se$ Amhari% in
religio"s tea%hings #as the Argobbe ;hay% .alha b+@a(r(181:-193;)+
Mo Files3Co+ kkP 0jd.0h* Co+1:1-E9* ,; #e%atit 191;+ x <SL 2;= +T 6tw !"#y8<&
L#LS< u( uSD u19iz % +'1< lT<) 'S uTKS< +cT< WZ& SP9 H uSE%
S#/{8 <S![2 W",s8* 1<fu44 8"ssein* Isla( in <allo* ))+31* 18;* 188* 189* 193+

destructiveness, this class raised its constructive and critical voices through subtler
means. This was a generation responsible for the flowering of Ethiopianism, a generation
which strove to establish the nation on firm pedestals. It was a generation which aspired
to link the lessons of history with the forces of the future, an active generation whose
achievements still glitter across time. Ironically, this generation is considered as barren,
submissive and missing and its achievements as immaterial.
Nevertheless, between
the tentative reformism of the prewar period and the disillusioned radicalism of the
revolutionary era lies a pragmatic nationalism of the postwar generation.

>ahr" 7e#$e(e$)* 0o)u(enting the Ethiopian ;tudent ,o'e(ent- An E/er)ise in ?ral History (A$$is
Ababa3,:1:)*)+1* seems to im)l! this bla%k hole #hen he regar$s the late 191:s as the beginning o( the
se%on$ )erio$ o( intelle%t"al inter/ention* the (irst being the )re#ar )erio$+


The modernization process in the post-Italian period involved interrelated political, social
and cultural transformations which inevitably led to systemic shifts in the structure and
outreach of government, in power relations from regionalized feudal aristocracy to
centralized imperial state, in the political influence of a burgeoning class of modern
intelligentsia and urban petty bourgeoisie, and in the increasing isolation and ultimate
abolition of the monarchy. The reviving nationalism of the period also underwent
concomitant changes: in the reformation of the proto-national ideology, tradition and
symbolism, in the creation and propagation of a more inclusive national culture across
social classes, creeds and regions. As the early 1960s witnessed the zenith of
Ethiopianism, however, the end of the decade saw the consolidation of social and ethnic
antitheses to the imperial state and its nationalist ideology. The conflation of hope and
disillusionment was captured in the best Amharic novels of the period, Fikir Eske
Meqabir(1965/66), YeTewodros Enba(1965/66), Kadmas Bashager(1969/70), and
These are the best indices of a blooming and confident nation as well
as the burgeoning contradictions in the social system.
Traditional social opposition in Ethiopia had been spontaneous and localized in nature
and took communal, regional, religious and class forms. The major expressions of
discontent and resistance in the post-Italian period combined one or more of the above,
conditioned by the divisive propaganda of Italian colonialists and British caretakers;

Tewodros Gebre, Amharic Novels of Disillusionment (!A! Thesis, AA"#$00%&!

abundance of armaments and feeling of social insecurity; perception of weakness in the
states political and coercive powers, its administrative inefficiency and inability to stem
widespread corruption; and attempts by social and regional malcontents as well as foreign
powers to exploit the situation. Generally, the major forms of opposition in the period,
peasant rebellions, were all localized or regional in origin and objective, and had little
pan-ethnic or anti-Ethiopian element, perhaps except in the case of the Bale rebellion.

The Weyanne(1943) and Gojjam(1968) rebellions were similar in their spontaneity and
briefness, in the lack of defined political objectives beyond specific local grievances, in
the leadership provided by regional nobles to masses of peasantry, and in the element of
anti-Shoanism in their articulation. Both were traditional expressions of discontent to
centralizing and modernizing drives of the state, and as such did not aim either to take
over the state or separate from it though in the case of Weyanne there was some
preference to Italian rule. However, from the perspective of nationalism, their
significance obtains in the long term impact they had on the genesis and evolution of the
national question in Ethiopia, especially shedding light on how oppositions evolve into
either ethnic or social nationalism.
The 1943 rebellion of the Rayana Azebo and Wajerat peasants against the imperial
regime, so-called Weyanne from a traditional feud war between various ethnic
communities (Oromo, Amhara, Agaw, Tigre) in northern Ethiopia, was both in its
inspiration and objective a continuation of the Italian period, and even a little belated

'e have to ta(e e)ce*tion for +ale, as it was an a**enda,e of the Greater -omalia ideolo,. rather than
an autonomous develo*ment with indi,enous ob/ectives!

phase of the colonial war.
A British report of April 5, 1941 indicates a resurgence in the
traditional rebelliousness of the Rayana Azebo, who allegedly declined to accept the
overlordship of Tigrean rulers ...saying that they had chiefs recently appointed by the
Italians and that the British are still far away from them...
Likewise, they were reluctant
to acknowledge the authority of the restored central government.
In fact, the Raya had grievances over the states punitive expeditions in 1929 for their
repeated raids on the neighboring Afar. By way of vengeance, Rayana Azebo irregulars
had allied with the Italians in the attacks against the retreating Ethiopian army in 1936, as
well as in the fight against the patriotic forces, and in the harsh suppression and
pacification of resistant communities during the occupation, particularly in Shoa.
Similarly, several prominent members of the Tigrean aristocracy had gone over to Italy
during the war and were now apprehensive of what was to come. On the fringes of this
was Italian-inspired anti-Shoa ideology of the Tigrean nobility claiming to reassert lost
privileges and Tigrays political centrality. Hence the temporary unity struck between
some Tigrean nobilities and the lowland Raya peasantry was based on anxiety and fear
over past misdeeds than any common future objectives. It is the apparent weakness of
the imperial state rather than its centralizing drive, as Gebru maintains, which made the
Weyanne revolt possible in the immediate postwar period.

1ral 2nformant# Geleta Tasew! The annual Weyanne conflict, a demonstration of braver. and manliness,
between nei,hborin, communities in erhabete is said to have been banned b. Lij 2.assu! This battle was
called 34e5we.anne torinet5! 6*hrem +etrewer7, Bihrere Hiyawan, a historical novel (8A 9rintin,
*ress#$005 6:&, *!$5!
o2 ;iles# No!1!$!<!15, Gu(sa ;ile!
Gebru Tare(e, 9easant =esistance in 6thio*ia# the :ase of the 'e.ane, Journal of African History,
$5(1><%&, *!?>! Gebru, **!<$, <%, maintains that the 1>%1 reformed ta)ation introduced b. @aile -elassie,
thou,h much less onerous than the *reA2talian *eriod, Bwas a**arentl. contrar. to *easant e)*ectations
and certainl. *roved an un*o*ular act!B 9easants also feared loss of autonom. and resented the state5s

In spite of its initial conciliatory approach, when the Weyanne rebellion escalated in May
1943, the restored state wanted to use this opportunity to punish Tigre and Raya by
way of settling past scores as well as discouraging future ambitions. The punitive force
led by Ras Abebe Aregay, which consisted of 18 battalions assembled from Dessie,
Debre Birhan, Ambo, Addis Ababa, Adama, Jimma, plus the regional army of Wag, was
easily able to repress the rebellion between May and October 1943.
As the conflict itself
had limited immediate significance, this incident was later incorporated as expression of
gallant Tigrean resistance to Shoa-Amhara oppression and an inspiration for ethno-
nationalism in the region. The rebellion was limited to a few areas of eastern Tigray
outside the Rayana Azebo woreda, but the self-proclaimed ideological successor, the so-
called Kaliay Weyanne(Second Weyanne) movement, assumed pan-Tigrean form by
subsuming the Raya under Tigrean ethno-nationalism. In sleight of hand, Blatta
Hailemariam Redda was also redeemed in Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF)
discourse as a national hero and founding-father of the movement. This canonization is
the more surprising since Hailemariam had been appointed by the Derg as leader of the
regional militia force set to suppress the Second Weyanne.

interference in their traditional raids and considered the 2talians as *referable to the restored state! This
does not seem a *lausible e)*lanation to *rovide a common ob/ective between the =a.a and the Ti,rean
nobilit., as he himself notes that the revolt was onl. limited to a *art of eastern Ti,ra.! +ere(et, Conflict
and Intervention, *! >0, maintains that there was a failed attem*t to unif. Ti,reans and 6ritreans under
Ras en,esha in the earl. 1>%0s!
o2 ;iles# No! // 01>!0>, DemisseD to Fitawrari +irru 'EGebriel, inister of 'ar, no date, a table
which lists the commanders of the battalions and re,iments, their command centers, with a headin,
Ti,rena Feme(tat 4etaGeGew 4eseletene 'etader! 6m*eror @aile -elassie5s letter to K
Sg Iw dated Mesere! 1>E1>0?, si,ned b. "sehafe "e#a# 'olde Gior,is! The em*eror than(s
the lords and *eo*le of 'a, for their assistance in *unishin, the rebels in Ti,re!
Gebru, 9easant =evolt, *!<0!

Similarly, the Gojjam peasant rebellion of 1968 is important from the viewpoint of
nationalism in the manner it was ex post facto articulated as an anti-Shoa struggle.
instigators of the rebellion were local feudal rulers who resented the abolition of the gult
system of tenure, but incited the peasantry against the state using as pretext the
enforcement of the agricultural income tax instituted a year before. Again like Tigre,
many of the members of the Gojjam nobility had unpropitious roles during the Italian
invasion and the occupation period, which naturally made them extra-conscious to the
slightest imposition from the center.
In addition, the anti-Shoa sentiment of a section of the regional nobility might have
resonated with the common people because of the tragic end of Dejazmach Belay Zeleqe,
whose outstanding patriotism was repaid by the injustice of depriving a part of his fief
Bechena (loss of Motta and Debre Marqos) and the indignity of elevating his arch rivals
above him, to wit Lej Haylu Belew to Ras as Governor-General of Gojjam and
Dejazmach Mengesha Jembere to Bitweded as Deputy Governor-General. Therefore,
Belays name later carved a place in popular memory as the Gojjame hero par
excellence, outshining all other equally illustrious patriots in the region, due to the
symbolic significance of his life/death both as regional challenge to Shoan hegemony and
as the Tewodros-like bravery of a self-made man. Belay Zeleqe, however, was a patriot
who later gained a rightful place among the national heroes of Ethiopia. What is more,

ar(a(is and Ne,a, Class and Revolution, *!%1, trace the o**osition to -hoan hi,hhandedness from the
a**ointment of $eja#!ach Hebede Tesema in 1>50 to that of $eja#!ach Tseha.u 6n7usilassie in 1>C<!

unlike Tigre, Gojjam regionalism did not evolve into an ethno-nationalism threatening
the very integrity of the nation.

Perhaps an unprecedented ideology which directly emanated from the questioning of the
restored Emperors legitimacy was the idea of establishing a republic in place of a
monarchical state. This idea had been floating during the patriotic struggle and debated
openly until the Emperor was redeemed in the final years. Haile Selassies restoration
after a period of desertion of the country amounted to some as treasonous in its
unprecedentedness. In the postwar period, this feeling was aggravated by the patriots
perception of unfair honors and privileges accorded to the collaborators and other exiles.
The fact that the arch proponents of this republicanism, who perhaps wanted not only to
unseat the Emperor but also to abolish the monarchy altogether, were men as different in
region, social background and personality as Wagshum Wessen Hailu, Bitweded Negash
Bezabih, and Blata Takele Wolde-Hawaryat testifies to the widespread appeal of the idea.
Wagshum Wesen began to sound views about the merits of a republic as an expression of
discontent over postwar administrative reforms which eroded the traditional status and
prerogative of his fief, Wag. He was particularly against the inclusion of Wag Awraja
under Wollo Governorate General according to the 1948 administrative reconfiguration.
He was, therefore, suspected of allegedly conspiring to incite rebellion in Wag, Seqota,

:olonel en,istu @ailemariam in "i%lachin, (Addis Ababa# Tseha. 9ub!, $00% 6:& reminisces the intensit.
of :olonel Atnafu Abate5s hatred for 6m*eror @aile -elassie and his *ressure for summaril. e)ecutin, the
latter! =e,ardless of its credibilit., this stor. ,ives clue to the currenc. of the re,ional sentiment amon,
various social classes! A,ain, however fleetin, and ridiculous it seems, this was the onl. Amhara re,ion
which saw a se*aratist claim, the ;ele,e Ghion *art., in the chaotic da.s of the earl. 1>>0s!

Rayana Azebo, Yeju, Simen and Tigre.
It was reported that in September 1948 the
Wagshum had gathered 15 elders from various localities in Wag and asked them whether
they were happy with the existing regime, to which the latter replied that it was good and
as long as Haile Selassie is alive they wouldnt complain. Then the Wagshum urged:
!" #$ %& ' "()*
+,-$ &./ 0 12 "&. 344 5303 6 % %&. 78 9: ;< =>
?44 It is but due to the lack of learning and civilization of the Ethiopian people that,
after having fought and erected its flag, according to the norm in Western countries, it
would have been ruled by ministers of its own choosing rather than by a single monarch.
He preached that Begemidir had rebelled due to the imposition of such kind of rule.

State officials in the region warned that the conspiracy in Wag could spread to Lasta and
Yeju because of which the Ministry of Interior ordered the Director of Wallo
Governorate General to closely follow up the matter and report regularly.

The Wagshum considered Wags subservience to Wallo as demeaning to its historical
distinction and pride and filed in 1949 a petition to the Emperor on behalf of his people,
in which he traced the regions autonomy, its special privileges as well as patriotism in
Ethiopian history from the time of Menelik I. What is remarkable about the petition is the
explicit attempt to exploit the alleged Shoa Tigre rivalry by drawing attention to special

o2 ;iles# :olonel Hifle 6r,etu, Director of 9ublic -ecurit., to Fitawrari Hifle Dadi, 'ollo Governorate
General Director, No!?E$?$>, Hidar CE1>%1 Addis Ababa! The Wa%shu! was even accused of s*readin, a
*ro*hes. about his imminent (in,shi*!
o2 ;iles# No! // 0%>!0C, &ile Wa% Awraja 'i#at Hunate (etesafu $e)da)ewoch,1>%$ 6:! No name,
addressed to the :rown 9rince, confidential, (eatit 1E1>%$! @e is referrin, to the *easant insurrection in
+e,emdir the *revious .ear!
2n the same file another confidential letter b. $eja#!ach en,istu Gebresilassie, 'a, -e7ota, to the
:rown 9rince, dated "ahsas <E1>%$!

ethnic and historical ties between Wags/Agaws and Shoans, more than the formers
relations with their neighboring peoples(meaning the Tigre).
...L1 17 7;J h1" J1 )A1 J r1)) ~u? 1 dn
r1"1 11.;1 ,C 1S nn1)r1S Ar s1C n^nJ. n ~J1 dxA0A n ~hJJ
CY& "S 1^ )ndJ r1"J 0C ~nh1 L1^U n1P n L1 1"C Y0JJ
~9 nJA9 Tnd 1S1 1Tn LnhUJ n "A )11A. A0A n ~hJJ
r1" UTT h1 UTT ,C CS s1C r1)) ~u? r1" 1J SUS hU
h1U USU T1&J )^A Tnd Y&
...We the people of Wag, rather than kings crowned in our neighborhood, have
positive attitude and special amity with those crowned in Shoa due to our
genealogical ties... ...On his way to the encampment of Prince Ras Mekonnen,
Ras Mengesha saw the army of Wag on the left and right and, as is still openly
told, exclaimed that we Tigreans cannot achieve our goal so long as these Agaws
were there... ...Prince Ras Mekonnen went[when the army of Wag asked to
follow him to Hararge after Adwa] after observing that as the people of Wag is
bonded with the people of Shoa by blood and love, you are our gatekeepers of
Tigre and it would be better to help us by staying in your own land...

In other words, what this meant was Wag is still indispensable in curbing any anti-Shoa
or anti-state ambition which comes from the Tigreans.
Whereas Wagshum Wessen was dabbling with republicanism to advance a personal and
regional objective, Bitweded Negash Bezabhih and Blatta Takele Welde-Hawaryat,
despite differences in regional and social background, contemplated the republican idea
perhaps driven by burning patriotism rather than any defined nationalism. The former

o2 ;iles# No! // 0%>!0C , &ile Wa% Awraja Hunate (etetsafu $e)da)ewoch, 1>%$ 6:! ;rom internal
evidence it is *ossible to discern that this elevenA*a,e document was written b. the Wa%shu! himself!
The *etition details instances of 'a,5s lo.alt. and achievements# the first to *a. homa,e to eneli( 22 at
+oru eda in 1<<>I the role of 'a,5s arm. at the +attle of Adwa as well as durin, Ras en,esha5s
rebellion, both under the commandershi* of Ras e(onnenI durin, the =a.a5na AGebo u*risin,s in 1>$>
and 1>%0, etc!

was a grandson of Negus Tekle-Haymanot of Gojjam who, beyond the regional and
dynastic mould, connived to assassinate the Emperor and proclaim a republic with Ras
Imru Hailesilassie at its head, which landed him in jail in 1951. Blata Takele, a Shoan of
humble background, was a one-time protge who turned into unrelenting enemy of the
Emperor from the very moment of the latters decision to go into exile after the Maichew
debacle. Takele was, however, a monarchist at heart and his initial attempt was to
obstruct Haile Selassies restoration by posing Yohannes Iyassu as a legitimate rival, a
plan which did not get off the ground during the resistance. Takele thus remained a
virtual nemesis to the Emperor until his death in a shoot-out with the police in November
Though the two attempts may have elements of social nationalism in their
aspiration of supra-ethnic and supra-regional ideal, their personalized, conspiratorial and
adventurous nature puts them in the category of the traditional shifta. Again like Belay
Zeleqe, it was in Blata Takele that a new generation of student radicals found a becoming
hero of the humbler classes.

A more organized and articulate effort to transform the historic nation was the abortive
coup of 14 December 1960, known commonly as Yetahsas Girgir (The December
Ruckus). This was a moderate aspiration, compared to the burgeoning republicanism
discussed earlier, to make Ethiopia a constitutional monarchy with Prince Asfa Wessen
as head of state and Ras Emiru as premier. The coup had involved three major branches
of the coercive arm of the state, the Imperial Body Guard, the National Security and the

2n the *rewar *eriod, Ta(ele was amon, the followers of Tafari who *la.ed a role in earnin, the
su**ort of the ehal -efari to the *rinceI and on the eve of the war he was director of the Addis Ababa
unici*alit.! Ta(ele was one of the three *ersons who o**osed to the idea of the 6m*eror5s e)ile, the
others bein, Blaten%eta @iru. 'oldesilassie and $eja#!ach 4i,eGu +ehabte! +ahru, *ioneers, *!?0!
+irhanu Din7e, however, rather includes @iru. in the o**osite ,rou*, +esar,na A)yot, *!$%!
Note the hi,hl. *olemical treatise entitled 3Tilahun Ta(ele5!

Police Force, at least through their respective leaders Birgadier General Mengistu Neway,
Colonel Worqneh Gebeyehu and Birgadier General Tsige Dibu. The coup makers had
also declared their ultimate objective in the dialect of the historic nation to restore
Ethiopias glory though by limiting their goal to enabling the country catch up with
the rest of Africa they acknowledged existing deprivation of even by continental
The 1960 coup is as debatable as many of the themes in modern Ethiopian history, which
had a knack for earning distinction in the manner of their failure than they would have in
their success.
Nevertheless, this attempt marked a transition into the epoch of modern
political opposition in the relative articulation of its objectives, in the overt manner of its
coordination and manifestation. The attempt might have dispelled the invincibility of the
Crown and proclaimed the rise of new classes of power contenders, a modern military
elite and a disgruntled intelligentsia, which, in concert or independently, would stake out
more unequivocal generational claims in the near future. Due to this, the 1960 abortive
coup could be regarded as the first clear example of social nationalism of its kind in
Ethiopian history.
Its distinctive feature cannot be overemphasized, however, for it was still essentially a
family affair in its leadership, part conspiratorial and adventurous in its execution, and
even suicidal and tragic in its conclusion. Again, the brothers massacre of senior
government officials they detained in the Genete Leul Palace and their cynical
justification of the act with no absolution without blood set a precedent and rationale
for bloody coups and revolutionary killings. As Bahru noted, Germame Neway, the

-a., for instance, in contradistinction with the success of the $er% in oustin, the re,ime!

intellect and the moving spirit behind the attempted coup and the more radical of the
two brothers, was like a bridge between the pre-war intellectuals and the student radicals
of the 1960s and 1970s.
This metaphor could be stretched to the manners of displaying
a high sense of civic responsibility and concern for the underprivileged, and even to the
marked irreverence (perhaps utter disdain) for tradition per se, which becomes the
hallmark of the latter.

3.1 Ethno-national Challenges to the Ethiopian State
The major challenge to the Ethiopian state in the immediate postwar period was the
proliferation of ethnic and religious tensions and conflicts all over the country. Much of
this was the result of Italian propaganda similar to the Weyanne case above. For instance,
by the time the prospect of defeat was looming in 1941, the Italians had distributed
armaments to their loyal supporters in Borana area. "The most important recipients of
these Italian arms were the Somali and a few other non-Somali but Islamic populations of
the region such as the Arsi Oromo."
Similarly in Gambella, the Italians attempted to
enlist the help of the Nuer by arming and supporting their claims against the Anywaa.

The Italians had promised to their loyal subjects that they would eventually reverse the
tables and come back triumphantly. In the meantime, the latter were encouraged to resort
to insurgency and harass the restored Ethiopian administration.

+ahru 8ewde, A History of Modern -thio.ia/012230456(Fondon# James :urre., 1>>1&, *!$10!
+elete, A,rarian 9olit., *!<<!
6vansA9ritchard, ;urther 1bservations, *!?0!

Such revolts in the early period (1942-3) were framed as opposition against 'Amhara rule'
and united the Somali of Borana and the Muslims of Arsi. The Borana Oromo, however,
stood on the side of the state. The mutiny of Mesqan Gurage Territorial Army in 1944, a
contingent constituted from ex-bandas and Italian irregulars, "also reveals the negative
effects of the Italian occupation in the inter-ethnic relations between Ethiopian Muslims
and the state."
The mutineers killed Christian soldiers within their company, even
reportedly hoisted an 'Islamic flag' and postured as avengers of Lij Iyasu in their rhetoric.
The controversy over grazing and territorial rights between the two main ethnic groups in
Borana region, the Borana and Garri, is in many respects similar to that of the Anuak and
Nuer in Gambella, including the correlation between settlement pattern and claims of
indigenity, the degree of allegiance to Ethiopian citizenship among rival groups, and the
perception of regional officials regarding the loyalty of subject groups.

Eritrea and Ogaden were the two major challenges which emerged coterminously with
the genesis of modern Ethiopian nationalism. The Italians were the foster parents who
created and institutionalized Tigrean ethno-nationalism and Somali irredentism, while the
British were the midwife who gave political expression to both. In the decade after
liberation, the latter promoted the ideas of Greater Somalia and Greater Tigre as ethnic
antitheses to Greater Ethiopia. They wanted to append Ogaden to British Somaliland and
merge this with the former Italian Somaliland christened as Greater Somalia. Eritrea
was to be divided and its lowlands to be joined to the Sudan while the highlands were to
be merged with Tigre as a separate Greater Tigre state, reviving the traditional Tigray-

+elete, A,rarian 9olit., **!15>, 1C0AC1!
-ee Tewodros, Gambella# a @istor., :ha*ter 222!

Tigrign idea. It took over a decade of diplomatic wrangling to resolve the issue of these
territories in favor of Ethiopia.

The Ogaden question was born in 1943 when the British supervised the formation of
Somali Youth Club (SYC) with an explicit territorial claim to the Ogaden region. In the
mid-1940s, Ethiopian officials begun to worry about such developments and weighed the
possible fallouts on regional peace and stability.
The 1945 London Conference of the
Allied Powers rejected Ethiopias claims to both Eritrea and the Ogaden regions. The
SYC, which was reconstituted in 1947 as the Somali Youth League (SYL), maintained
the irredentist aspirations in a nine-point declaration aiming to end colonialism in all
Somali lands, and then to make the people live in unity under one government and

The Ethiopian state was very anxious to curb any expressions of pan-Somali nationalism
in the region, including the symbols such as pins, shoulder sashes, hats, flags and
The use of Arabic, Somali, English and Italian languages encouraged by
Italy and Britain was considered as detrimental to Ethiopian nationalism. This was a
legitimate concern since the anti-Ethiopian slogan of the SYL, Somalia Hanolato,
Ethiopia Hadimato, (Long Live Somalia, Death to Ethiopia!) had simultaneously gained
resonance with many Hararis who started in 1948 the so-called Kulub movement
opposing Ethiopian rule. The Ethiopian government seems to have at the time a very

o2 ;iles# No! 1!$!15!0?, &ile -thio.iana -n%li#, an anon.mous confidential memorandum, dated Mia#ia
<E1>%0, s*eculates that +ritain had decided to establish a -omali state as a reven,e for 6thio*ia5s
contractin, an American com*an. for the 1,aden ,as, *!$!
:armichael, A**roachin, 6thio*ian @istor., *!1>>!
I)id! **!$0%, $0>,$10!

intimate knowledge of developments in the Ogaden, while it had no comparable
knowledge about the Harari. In fact, it was surprised to find that the latter had ganged
with the Somali in their opposition against Ethiopia.

In 1948, however, the British suddenly agreed to withdraw from parts of the Ogaden,
retaining only the Haud (northeast) and the so-called Reserve Area between the Haud and
the border of French Somaliland (later Djibouti). This reluctant decision further provoked
Somali ire, which gained a state backing with the creation of an independent Republic of
Somalia in 1960. A meeting of the Imperial War Council held on 25 May 1961 at the
Genete Leul Palace, in the Shekla Bet, and presided by the Emperor acknowledged the
gravity of the Ogaden situation and its threat to national security.
The appropriateness
of this concern was proved when the first Ethio-Somalian war ignited in 1963.

Somalia was one of the three African states, along Togo and Ghana, which opposed
OAUs decision, AHG/Resolution 16(1) adopted by the second summit in Cairo in 1964,
on the retention of colonial boundaries. It argued that maintaining the status quo would
split ethnic groups into various territories and sought to have them drastically altered.
Ethiopia countered by advocating respect for existing boundaries and underlining the
inapplicability of the principle of self-determination to groups within the boundaries of
newly-independent states. Somalia pursued irredentism by both diplomatic and military
means. It sought to enlist international support for its goal, capitalizing on its cultural and
religious affinity with the Arab world, the Sudans conflicts with neighboring Ethiopia,

:armichael, A**roachin, 6thio*ian @istor., **!$1C, $1<, $$5, $$C,$$?, $0$, $0<!
o2 ;iles# No! 1!$!15!0$, Fetter of the 2m*erial s*ecial eta!ajor, +ir,adier General 'oldesilassie
+ere(a, to the various di,nitar. members of the 2m*erial 'ar :ouncil, attachin, minutes of the 2':
deliberations, 'in)ot 1>50!

and the strategic interests of the Soviet Union...
In addition to the strategic
encirclement of Ethiopia, Somalia created and hosted all kinds of anti-Ethiopian elements
from the 1960s. In the very year of its establishment Somalia set up a so-called United
Liberation of Western Somalia (ULWS), this claimed all of Hararge, Arusi, Bale and
southern Sidamo in its definition of Western Somalia. In 1963, another group called the
Ogaden Liberation Front (OLF) replaced ULWS. In 1964, Ethiopia and Kenya entered
into a political military alliance and coordinated their anti-guerrilla activity.
A direct outcome of Somali irredentism was the Bale rebellion (1963-1970), the only
serious peasant insurrection in the period which occurred outside the central and northern
territories of the historic nation. In addition to its more conventional, rather than
spontaneous, nature, the rebellion differed from contemporary incidents in its
protractedness, external inspiration and support, and secessionist objectives. Whatever
internal reasons there were, such as the aggravation of tenancy after the institution of
qalad in 1951, large-scale land alienation and increased taxes due to the introduction of
land measurement in 1963, or inequities of government officials, the rebellion was not
aimed at addressing such genuine peasant concerns, which actually did not differ
significantly from those elsewhere in southern Ethiopia.

Insurgency began in El-Kere, led by Kahin Abdi, and spread to Wabe, Dollo and Genale
the same year the Ogaden Liberation Front was established. The Somalis named the
movement as the Liberation Front of Western Somalia with Waqo Gutu as General of
Western Somalia. "To downplay the potential for conflict between Somalis and Oromos,

-aadia Touval, 9artitioned Grou*s and 2nterA-tate =elations, in A!2! Asiwa/u(ed&, *artitioned Africans7
-thnic Relations Across Africa,s International Boundaries/ 011630416(Fa,os#1><%&, *, $$<!

the Somali government encouraged the insurgents to emphasize Islam as a common
denominator and picture their struggle as a jihad against Christian Amhara domination."

Thus it will be appropriate to consider the Bale rebellion as a sideshow of Somali
irredentism for its fate was inextricable to the political context in Somalia than in
Ethiopia. This is evident in the fact that the insurgency collapsed from 1967 onwards due
to the withdrawal of Somalias support as well as the massive Ethiopian government

The Somalis served as the promoters of the age-old anti-Ethiopian thesis of Abyssinian
colonialism, later adopted and modified by indigenous ethno-nationalists as internal
colonialism or settler colonialism. Like all other ethno-nationalist movements in search
of historical precedent, the Bale rebellion was later glorified as the origin of Oromo
ethno-nationalist struggle, though neither Waqo nor his followers thought themselves as
ethnic Oromos, and in spite of the fact that the insurgency was opposed by Waqos
brother himself and finally crushed by the Ethiopian army led by General Jagama Kello.

In fact, Somali irredentism remains a serious complicating factor for Oromo nationalism
due to the overlap in territorial claims between the two. Curiously enough, the anti-Shoa
ideology also featured in the scholarship which correlated the peaking of discontent in
Bale to the appointment of Fitawrari Worqu Enqusilassie as provincial governor in 1963,
just as his brother is alleged to have elicited similar uprising in Gojjam in 1968.
This is

9aul @enGe, =ebels and -e*aratists in 6thio*ia! =e,ional =esistance to a ar)ist =e,ime, A =e*ort
9re*ared for the 1ffice of the "ndersecretar. of Defence (=and :or*oration#1><5&, *!01!
+elete, A,rarian 9olit., **!0$CA$?, 00C!
This is the main thesis of Gebru Tare(e in his e)cellent boo( -thio.ia/ *ower and *rotest7 *easant
Revolts in the 89
Century(Fawrenceville# the =ed -ea 9ress, 1>>C&! -ee for similar views ar(a(is and
Ne,a, Class and Revolution, **! %1 and %$!

implausible since the rebellion had already been brewing at least a couple of years before
and it was evident that a more direct contemporaneity than this fortuitous appointment
would have been the Ethio-Somali war of 1963.
Eritrea is an integral part of historic Ethiopia and the genesis and development of its
nationalism takes many of the forms and ambiguities of Ethiopian nationalism. Eritrea is
a major casualty to Ethiopian nationalism in the days of imperialism. Though Italian
military adventure in Tigre and Mereb Melash resulted in two defeats at Dogali (1887)
and Adwa (1896), which featured high in the nationalism of modern Ethiopia, these
inconclusive Ethiopian victories did not save the province from falling prey to Italian
colonialism as Eritrea between 1890 and 1941. The half-a-centurys rule laid the ground
for Eritrean identity which tentatively emerged as a rival to Ethiopian nationalism about
the time of the regions liberation. Eritrean separatism was born in this period, making
Adwa, which is the pinnacle of Ethiopian national independence and sovereignty, a blot
in Eritrean history and a mark of its bondage.
What may be called the Adwa complex easily lent itself to the ideologues of Shoa-Tigre
particularism. First, by promoting among some Eritreans a sense of betrayal by Ethiopia-
Menelik-Shoa, it served as legitimate reason to reject any claim for reunification between
the two countries. Second, by consequently attributing to Menelik-Shoa an evil design to
divide and weaken the Tigre ethnic group, it indirectly rendered the idea of Tigray-
Tigrign credible and worthy of pursuit.
Hence, in the struggle for unification inside

26- s! No!$1?1, 38e5etsehaf5! +ahru, *ioneers, *!CC, considers GebreA6,Giabher, the foremost
*ro*onent of this view, as someone who antici*ated the unionist movement in 6ritrea b. more than four
decades! 2t would be more consistent to GebreA6,Giabher5s 2taloA*hilic attitude to consider him as a

Eritrea, the anti-unity fronts minimum and maximum demands were reflected even
within families, as Dejach Abraha Tesema, for instance, supported reunification with
Ethiopia provided that Eritrea is given administrative autonomy lela yeshewa tewelaj
sayshomibin(provided that no Shoan born is appointed over us), while his father Ras
Tesema was adamant on unconditional independence.
It was the genuine nationalism of
the Unity block in Eritrea which made possible reunification with Ethiopia.
The unification effort inside Ethiopia started later (1943/44) and remained rather slack
and ambivalent. The early evidence of this attitude was evident in the 1944 decision of
YeEtyopiana YeHamassien Andinet Mahber (Hamassien KeEtyopia) to change its name
to YeEtyopiana YeEritrea Andinet Mahber(Eritrea KeEtyopia) and retain a common
supra-ethnic reference to the region, perhaps a hint of national aspiration even within
the forces of unification.
One grave factor which sat uncomfortably on the conscience
of Eritreans as well as Ethiopians in the period was the fresh memory of the role of about
100,000 Eritrean askaris in the conquest and occupation of Ethiopia. We dont find
among Eritreans in Ethiopia the popular enthusiasm of their counterparts in Eritrea.
In fact, overt and covert anti-unity activities were evident in some regional towns such as
Dessie and Gondar, where the postwar atmosphere had created tensions that made routine
administrative and legal mishaps easily escalate into ethnic conflicts. For example, a

*redecessor of the +loco, thou,h +ahru attributes GebreA6,Giabher5s *reference to disa**ointment with
6thio*ian leadersD
o2 ;iles# No! //, 0%>!11# :eyeiflu (etelau Andand (e!istir Mastaweshawoch,:over letter :a*tain
Asefa 'olde -ilassie, the -econd Arm. :or*s leadin, officer, 0
2ntelli,ence, to :rown 9ince Merid
A#!ach Asfa wossen, (eatit $0E1>%$, Dessie! The second arm. cor*s head7uarters, Dessie, intelli,ence
re*ort re,ardin, the situation in Asmara, to the im*erial arm. intelli,ence officer, Addis Ababa, No! $
ESE000?E?>0, (eatit $0E1>%$!
9resident of (e-tyo.iana (eH!assien Andinet Mah)er(Ha!assien :e-tyo.ia& to the :rown 9rince Asfa
'ossen, No!$>0E$>, ;ehassie 10E1>0?, Addis Ababa!

decision in 1946/47(1939 E.C)by Gondar town municipality allegedly to demolish a
Catholic Church and use the land for other purpose had provoked violent reactions
among Eritrean residents, many of whom boycotted work and were detained and tried in
court. The Mahber president advised the Crown Prince to be moderate and conciliatory
towards the instigators as this kind of measure would be inimical to Ethio-Eritrean
This incident was a sign of urban ethnicism, which in the subsequent period
became progenitor of one branch of Eritrean nationalism, especially that affiliated with
the ESM.
In general, it would appear near the mark to say that the imperial state was ambivalent, or
perhaps not too enthusiastic, about the aggressive pursuit of Ethio-Eritrean unity. It rather
maintained pressure on the diplomatic front and closely watched the movement in Eritrea
to take its natural course. The federation was tolerated by many of the anti-Ethiopia
elements in Eritrea and Ethiopia. However, full unification seemed an affront not only to
successors of the Bloco in Eritrea but also many pro-unity Eritreans in Ethiopia, which
swung the very generation into a deadly enemy of the nation. An epitome of this
transformation was Woldeab Woldemariam who in the late 1960s conspired with
Egyptians and other anti-Ethiopian elements in the region to gear up support for Eritrean
independence. According to a contemporary observer, Woldeabs aim was to establish a
Tigre state, if possible including Gojam and Begemedir, if not only Hamassen and Tigre.
His intention was not only to disintegrate Ethiopia but also to incite a civil and religious

o2 ;iles# Nos# 0$C!1> and 0$?!51! The "N decision to federate 6ritrea with 6thio*ia, =esolution 0>0
A(v&, $ December 1>50!

war, and at the head of all this is Nasir.
The rise of Baathist politics firmly aligned
Arab states of the Middle East behind the Eritrean secessionist struggle thus making the
Muslim factor decisive in the early phase.

3.2 The Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) and the National Question
The ESM is the single most important factor influencing the direction of Ethiopian
history since the late 1960s.
The birthplace of the movement was the University College
of Addis Ababa (UCAA), which was founded on 20
March 1950 and expanded within a
decade by opening a total of six branch colleges, two of which, Alemaya (1951) and
Gondar (1954), were outside Addis Ababa.
The production of a homegrown
intelligentsia was supplemented by sending many students abroad to pursue higher
education. This constituted the first phase of the ESM in which student organizations
emerged inside and outside Ethiopia, originally to deal with intracampus and living
concerns. The new generation of educated Ethiopians then began to worry about the
countrys backwardness even by African standards; they raised general economic, social
and political issues.
This led to the second, reformist, phase that set in after 1960 with students critical self-
appraisal of their historical role in alleviating the predicament of the nation.
As the
influence of African scholarship students in the late 1950s and early 1960s was

o2 ;iles# No!00!0$!0%! An anon.mous letter to $eja#!ach 8ewde GE-ilassie, written from @ambur, on
1?E1EC% 6!:, in re*l. to the latter5s letter of 10E1E1>C% 6!:!
+ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!$!
o2 ;iles#No! 1!$!%?!0<, ar,aret Gillett, =e,istrar, @2-" 1ffice of the =e,istrar, *ros.ectus 04<=304<6,
*ublished in June 1>C0!
Challen%e, K,1, arch 1>C5!

instrumental in making UCAA students aware of their African identity and international
duties, the abortive coup of 1960 opened their eyes to domestic civic responsibilities.

The students were practically jolted by the coup and things were never the same again.
Campus-based unions began to consolidate with the establishment of the National Union
of Ethiopian University Students (NUEUS) in 1961. Ironically, it was almost a year after
the abortive coup, on 18 December 1961, that Haile Selassie I University (HSIU) was
formally inaugurated and the Emperor donated the Genete Leul Palace grounds for the
main campus of the new university. The same year, the College Day presentation of a
critical poem entitled Dehaw Yinageral soured relations between students and the palace,
as the latter demanded in 1962 a preview of contesting poems to avoid another such

The amalgamation of unions at continental and national levels was driven by the increase
in student commitment and their understanding of their roles, which was indicated in the
very names and preoccupations of their journals. The concern then surpassed discussion
of how to break the vicious circle of poverty and ignorance in Ethiopia to filing petitions
to the government demanding reforms. When these entreaties fell on deaf ears, students
became openly critical of the Emperors autocratic powers, the absence of civil and
democratic rights, the rampant corruption and incompetence in the government. They
demanded more roles for the educated, autonomy for courts, and freedom of press and
thought for citizens.
Progress became a key term in the student lexicon, and

+ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, **!11, $$!
+ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, **!1$, $5! ulu,eta +eGabih5s cravin, to e)*ose @is a/est. to *ublic
redicule,*!%C, became a measure of one5s radicalism!
"i%lachin, -*ecial 6dition, Mesere! 1>C0 6!:!

progressives were determined to fight everything that was deemed conservative,
opportunist and reactionary.

The third, radical and revolutionary, stage was marked by the rise of the Land to the
Tiller question on 24 February 1965. Thereafter, students intensified their opposition and
struggled for nothing less than change of the entire system itself.
Now the main
questions were how to overthrow the imperial government; what kind of system to build
upon its grave; what roles students should play in this revolutionary endeavor, etc.
general consensus among student activists in and abroad on the inevitability of the armed
struggle echoed the spirit of the abortive coup: no absolution without blood.
As the
years passed by, students became more determined, confrontational, radicalized and
divided. The establishment of USUAA and the publication of its mouthpiece Struggle on
23 March 1967 marked the fall of the home front under radical elements.
The USUAA from the outset acted more as a political party than a civic association with
student concerns, and, judged by its publications, at least the most articulate section has
already adopted the radical rhetoric of the left in 1967.
Evidently, domestic students

Andar,achew Ase,id, Bachir (ete>eche Reji! 'u#o! Meison Be,-tyo.ia Hi#)och "i%il Wust (Addis
Ababa# :entral 9rintin,, $000& , **!0$! Challen%e, K, 1, arch 1>C5! Dessale,n =ahmeto, in 3Art +etra.ed5,
rebu(in, Afewor( Te(le for advocatin, his 3o**ortunist and reactionar.5 view for an 6thio*ian audience,
at 9hilli*s +roo(s @ouse, @arvard "niversit., on 5 December 1>C5! The ne)t issue contains a re/oinder b.
@ailu ;ulass criticiGin, Dessale,n!
+ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!1, notes the ,eneral consensus on this demarcation!
Alem @abtu in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!C5, notes# 2t would seem that it was at this time that the
union be,an its leftAwin, trend!
"i%lachin, -*ecial 6dition, Mesere! 1>C0 6!:! 4eraswor( Admassie in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!5?!

&tru%%le, 2, 1, arch 1>C?! &tru%%le, 22,1, 1>C?! &tru%%le, 22, $, Januar. 1>C<! Accordin, to +ahru,
2ntellectuals and -oldiers# the -ocialist 6)*eriment in the @orn of Africa, 9a*er *re*ared for :1D6-=2A5s
Anniversar. :onference, Da(ar, <A11 December $000, *!0, a surro,ate *rotoA:ommunist cell called
:rocodiles, which was established in 1>C%, introduced the socialist ideolo,. amon, students and
radicaliGed them between 1>C< and 1>?0!

had to reckon with financial, administrative, political, security and intelligence matters
and did not have the freedom their counterparts abroad enjoyed. Besides such
constrictions, bearing the brunt of government repression and reprisal might have
contributed to making them prone to passion and violence. Hence they were dismissive of
peaceful ways of struggle and when they applied themselves to the investigation of global
issues, they invariably drew radical lessons. The key terms which fully described student
ideology after 1967 then became: struggle through guerrilla warfare to bring about a
revolution in the country.
A crude drawing of a rifle-wielding arm became a favorite
symbol in the movement, apparently prescribing the same medicine to Ethiopias ills.

The radicalization pace was paralleled by drives for some spectacular action to show off,
the more sanguine boldly claiming our country needs turning upside down. Even a small
minority can do it, but it takes faith and courage.

Tribalism, Regionalism, Nationalism
The place of nationalism in the ESM was a direct outcome of the radicalization of the
movement due to global and domestic factors. The intensification of anti-colonialist
struggles, the concomitant influence Marxism came to wield in the Third World as a
liberation ideology, the Cold War atmosphere, the global student revolutionary
movement all constituted the international contexts for the ESM. Internally, besides the

&tru%%le, 2,$, 1>C?! &tru%%le, 22,$, Januar. 1>C<! &tru%%le, 22, 0, arch 1>C<!
&tru%%le, 22, 5, December 1>C<!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>! &tru%%le, K, 1! &tru%%le, K, $, November 1>C>! The im*erial state5s
lenienc. in the face of such o*en treasonous a,itations is trul. remar(able, thou,h it went down as a
te)tboo( e)am*le of *olitical suicide!


inspiration of the 1960 abortive coup, the decade witnessed the proliferation of ethnic and
regional insurgencies in various parts of the country, mainly in Ogaden, Eritrea, Gojjam
and Bale.
During the reformist phase of the ESM nationalism was understood as love, loyalty and
patriotism to Ethiopia and its people, ideals which constituted the raison dtre of the
various unions. Students, therefore, strongly opposed any rival and sectarian elements
such as the so-called Ethiopian Orthodox Students Association in Europe.
They also
denounced signs of ethnic exclusiveness as tribalism and were firm in the conviction
that ...Ethiopia is one and indivisible; its people will remain one and earn their freedom
in unity.
During the early 1960s, the apparent disunity in the student body and the lack
of awareness of genuine nationalism like the youth of its generation elsewhere... was
explained in terms of excessive egoism and conservatism in its national trait. The
studentship was considered uninspiring because it is not yet Ethiopian, but Tigre,
Galla(sic) and Amhara serving those whose interest cannot flourish without accentuating
the differences implied by these labels.

Nevertheless, gradual manifestation of sectarian tendencies prompted the Question of
Tribal Differences as a discussion topic for the 13
Congress of ESANA, held at

Challen%e, K,$, Au,ust 1>C5, editorial e)*resses admiration for 6thio*ian students in 6uro*e for
heroicall. re*ulsin, and discreditin, such sectarian elements as 6thio*ian 1rthodo) -tudents5
Association in 6uro*e and the soAcalled 6ritrean -tudents5 "nion Abroad and concludes that !!!6thio*ia
is one and indivisibleI its *eo*le remain one and earn their freedom in unit.!
Challen%e, K, $, Au,ust 1>C5! +ahru, *ioneers, *!<%, considers Tedla @aile5s A thesis(1>00& as the
first serious attem*t to address the issue of national inte,ration in 6thio*ia, albeit from an unabashedl.
chauvinistic stand*oint! The central theme of the thesis is the need for the assimilation of the 1romo!
Challen%e, K, 1, arch 1>C5!

Harvard from 6 to 12 September 1965.
At home, ethnicism alias tribalism or
regionalism had by 1967 ranked among the immediate concerns within the movement.

By 1968, awareness of ethnic identity and representation has permeated all aspects of
campus life, as some expressed dismay at the college talent show in which only Amharic,
Tigrigna and English songs were performed while the numerous ethnic groups were
There was a general apprehension about the divisive potential of
ethnocentrism, threatening not only students internal unity but also national integrity, so
that activists attempted to ward off its ascendance by drawing attention to the
consequences of tribal conflict elsewhere in Africa.
They called for tolerance, for
renouncing petty tribal, linguistic or religious differences, and for the creation of a united
front under Ethiopianism: So long as the spirit of Ethiopianism abides within us, so long
as we continue to think and work within the Ethiopian context, success will always be on
our side.

As a form of national soul-searching, students had to contend with the traditions and
conceptions of historic Ethiopia, at least from a tactical aspect. Two of the most
important bones of contention in this respect were the fate of the monarchy and the
pertinence of the Orthodox Church to Ethiopias national ideology. Many believed that
the monarchy was a unifying institution binding diverse elements of the nation and its
abolition would spell the countrys disintegration. What is more, the self-perception of
Eritrean liberation organizations as part of the Pan-Arabic Movement was incompatible

Challen%e, K, $, Au,ust 1>C5!
&tru%%le, 2,0, 1ctober 1>C?!
&tru%%le, 22, %, 1>C<!
&tru%%le, 2,0, 1ctober 1>C?!
&tru%%le, 22,1, 1>C?! &tru%%le, 22, 5, December 1>C<!

with the prevailing view of Ethiopia as a Christian island in a Moslem sea, and any
explicit affiliation with such elements would incur the student movement a political
A part of the radicalization process was evident in activists attitude towards
religion, which was generally unfavourable but particularly hostile to the Ethiopian
Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church was accused of complicity with the imperial
regime and some called for a revolution to purge it.
Nevertheless, there were no
parallel analyses whatsoever of other faiths, such as Islam or Catholicism, or on the
general history or theory about religion and its place in the future of the nation.

Again there was little evidence of serious application to understand Ethiopian history and
culture to corroborate the apocalyptic assertions that the generation has been born
the crossroads of Ethiopian history: a turbulent period of social dislocation and
readjustment. Old values are collapsing and new values are being formed.
hammered the irreplaceable role students would play in liberating the masses from
bondage and leading them to welfare, freedom, unity and progress.
This generational
confidence infused a cynical attitude towards history which some ridiculed as regressive
appreciation of days past. Therefore, whatever engagement with Ethiopian history there
was, it was revealed only in highly eclectic and propagandist application to buttress an
The main objective at this point seems to oppose and agitate rather than

Hiflu Tadesse, (a,"iwlid II7(elewt Mai)el Be,-tyo.ia("-A# 2nde*endent 9ub!, 1>>>&, **!50, 5$A50!
Andreas 6shete in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!10%!
&tru%%le, 2,$, 1>C?! &tru%%le, 2, 0, 1ctober 1>C?!
&tru%%le, 22,$, Januar. 1>C<! &tru%%le, 22, 0, arch 1>C<! &tru%%le 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!
&tru%%le, 22, $, Januar. 1>C<!
&tru%%le, 22, $, Januar. 1>C<!
&tru%%le, 22, 5, December 1>C<!
&tru%%le 22, 5, December 1>C<!

understand and enlighten. As Desalegn reminisces ...we were at sea in the sense that we
could not identify properly the problems confronting us, much less seek solutions for
them. We were too obsessed with fad expressions...mostly correctly address
out problems by examining the relevance of these slogans to our country.

In spite of undercurrents and underground activities, nationalism per se was not tabled for
open discussion by USUAA until the late 1960s. In late 1967, for example, an observer
wished that the university is not flooded by words ending with ISM (Nationalism is
an exception!).
Yohannes W/Giorgiss Nationalism was the first of such title in this
series which directly attempted to grapple with the definition of nation and nationalism:
A nation is a conglomeration of tribes, religion and groups bounded by economic
interest. Historical background and geographical conditions of a particular place
determine the kind of life people lead as one large group, i.e, a nation. Nationalism is
the state of mind in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt due to the nation
This rudimentary understanding does not bear an ideological brand in spite of its
Marxist-like emphasis on the economy. It is, however, representative of the original
conception of unity between Ethiopianism and nationalism. Tribalism was
condescendingly reserved for primordial ethnic, linguistic and religious sentiments,
whereas nationalism seemed a more respectable equivalent to Ethiopianism.
The intensification of ethno-regional movements in the country and their growing
influence on the ESM itself again compelled the adoption of regionalism as a
compromise between tribalism and nationalism. Both the 1968 ESUE congress at

Desale,n =ahmeto in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!0<!
&tru%%le, 2,0, 1ctober 1>C?!
&tru%%le, 22,1, 1>C?!

Zagreb and the 1969 ESANA congress at Philadelphia raised the question of regionalism
in Ethiopia and passed unanimous resolutions. In fact, the latters resolution considered
separatist movements as counter-productive and reactionary.
At home, the general
demand for an orderly treatment of nationalism in order to clarify the blurred hierarchy of
loyalties between internationalism, pan-Africanism, Ethiopianism, regionalism and
tribalism continued throughout 1969. Some even openly expressed their wish to see the
day when Ato Mesfin W/Mariam will write on these issues, so that the 1969 panel
discussions and lectures were tuned to subjects such as tribalism, nationalism and African
Unfortunately, none of the panelists of the year presented theoretical and/or historical
treatment of nationalism and, perhaps driven by the exigency of saving the movement
from disintegration, dwelt on its ancillary aspects and outward manifestations like
tribalism as a feudal tactic of divide and rule.
Students were dissatisfied so that they
attempted to contextualize nationalism in terms of Ethiopianism or Ethiopian
nationalism, as nationalism alone does not mean anything these days.
Abdul Mejid
Hussein, for instance, defined Ethiopianism as the concept that transcends personal,
tribal, and regional loyalties. It is a belief held by the Ethiopian who thinks in terms of
the people as a whole.
So far, the dominant conceptions of nationalism in the student

Andar,achew , Meison, **!$0A$$, %0A%$! Challen%e, L, 1, 1>?0!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>! The *anel b. Ato 6shetu :hole, Dr! @aileAGebriel, Dr!Tadesse, Tse,a.e
GEedhin and Gebru Gebrewold addressed issues of tribalism and the state5s role in a,,ravatin, it! 2n
fact, Gebru5s titile was Tribalism as a ;eudal Tactic of Divide and =ule! The *anelists on African -ocialism
were Ambassador -ahnoun, Ato esfin 'oldemariam, Dr! John ari(a(is, Dr!Fow, Dr! =ichard :aul(, and
a certain *rofessor from Ghana! &tru%%le, K,$, November 1>C>!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!

movement, inside and abroad, remained generational or social, aiming to takeover the
state and reform it rather than demand for its dismemberment.
Ethnicity is, however, characteristically opportunist and able to adapt itself to any
situation and ideology until it finally reigned supreme over it. This chameleonic nature
was bound to be aggravated with the gradual leaning of the student body towards leftist
ideology and the obsessive factionalism inherent in the latter. Therefore, divergent views
on the application of Marxist-Leninist theories to explain Ethiopias political system,
such as oppressor versus oppressed nation, class versus national rule, regional
versus national distinctions, and cultural autonomy versus political secession escalated
According to a News and Notes report, the 1968 contest between a
leftist Tilahun Gizaw and a reformist Mekonnen Bishaw for the presidency of the
USUAA was decided in favor of the latter due to a malicious secessionist and tribalist
allegation spread against the former.

The understated tribalist rift here referred to the traditional Tigre-Amhara rivalry
represented by the contenders as well as the perception of a radicalized anti-Amhara
front, which was evident in its sympathy to secessionism and ethnic rather than class
explanations. After Tilahuns defeat, the acrimony in the student body was
institutionalized between the presidency and the mouthpiece, and disagreement on the
control of Struggle continued between USUAA and the editors. The paper itself became
brazenly biased towards Tilahun, so much so that by October 1969 it openly called for

&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!

Mekonens resignation from the USUAA presidency, notwithstanding his election by a
majority vote.

The imperial state had been closely following developments, especially so from 1965
onwards, and was alarmed by the increasing politicization and radicalization of university
students. However, it generally maintained a low-key stance on the repeated protests
characterizing them as attempts to sow seeds of dissension between peasants and
landlords (1965), between the people and the government (1966), and perhaps also
masterminded by foreigners/outsiders(1967). The government was apprised of the
sinister developments, especially its Marxist leanings and ethnic underpinnings. It also
knew that Ethiopian students abroad published and sent for dissemination at home
bulletins and papers which allegedly incited tribal dissension, opposed the existing
administration and agitated the masses towards grave social unrest. Intelligence sources
reported that students on national university service in various provinces used this
opportunity to spread unrest among the peasantry, workers and civil servants.

Until late 1968, the government had shown remarkable caution and restraint, perhaps
interpreted by students as evidence of weakness and inviting ever bolder confrontations.

However, the March to April 1969 unrest was alarming in its duration, intensity and
scale, showing the spread of the movement to secondary schools and with possible links
to the international branches. The imperial government had also anticipated that the year
1968/69 would witness the dissemination of the movement to other regions in the

&tru%%le, K, 1, 1>C>!
o2 ;iles# No ! 1?!$!%C$! 0?!
&tru%%le, 22, %, 1>C<! &tru%%le, 22, 5, December 1>C<! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$! 0?!

country. Therefore, a detailed security plan was prepared in advance to be jointly
executed by the army, the IBG, regional police forces and the national army in all
governorates general except Eritrea. The plan was approved by the Emperor.
Then an opportunity offered itself when the Ministry of Education (MoE) issued a news
release, which in brief noted that out of the 10,000 students sitting for the national school
leaving examination that year, the university had capacity to accommodate only about
1,500. Student activists realized that if this matter was pumped-up, it would have wider
resonance since it also concerned about 75,299 students above the 7
grade. Accordingly,
they held a large demonstration on 3 March 1969 and circulated pamphlets demanding
improvement of the educational system, denigrating the administration and leadership of
the imperial state.
The government quickly denounced student actions as irresponsible
and dangerous for the unity of the nation. The interior ministers advice and ultimatum, 3
March 1969, opened with the following words: @ A"B$ C3 3 %3 'D :EF
/0 "G HIJ K2;L M,N=O PQ$ & /(R ;".ST UO %-I' +" 1I
VW +'1 F-XLQ$ YQ$ Z> [ S" 8B \( "( / %0:$3 K/
+'3 ] 2 2A ^ _ "&0 `8Y "_* :X;$Z44 ... In recent years, in an
unprecedented manner anywhere else in the world, the Haile Selassie I University
students have been annually making attempts and insurrections on matters of politics and
government which they did not yet grasp and weigh, and you know that these illegal and

-tatements issued b. various ,overnment bodies# (eatit $1E1>C1 b. the o6I (eatit $%E1>C1, (eatit
$?E1>C1 and Me%a)it $E1>C1 b. the o2I (eatit $5E1>C1 b. the 9olice ;orce! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$!0?!

undisciplined activities would be inimical to our longstanding cultural foundation and
strength of unity.

On the same day, 3 March, the government ordered the temporary closing of the
University and all secondary schools in the Addis Ababa.
Simultaneously, it attempted
to mobilize public opinion against the movement. Various committees representing Addis
Ababa residents, parents of students, the University President and the Board of Directors,
and even the Prime Minister himself made several unsuccessful overtures to start
discussion with the student body. Students adamantly refused even when asked to present
their case to the Emperor. Now the situation seemed to go out of control and
compromise so that the government decided to harden its stance. On 7 March 1969, the
Emperor made a televised speech noting, similar to the above, that the irresponsible acts
of university students would no more be overlooked and vowed to take appropriate
measures on perpetrators and their accomplices.
While he toned down the official
propaganda about the imminent threat the unrest posed for national unity, yet he scorned
students that their premature actions would be dangerous for nations like Ethiopia:
...L^" nn1,S r1d1J )AS nhS ?n1h9 1h ru?1J 1&\ 19UC1J )~
0An n9C 0A1~1 LC9A n~s;1 ~h " 1n)9 LJx n1\Z) ^n 1d
0UA ~ ?d dx ~S9 n~& UT0 nx11 ~u?J ~1JT )nA,A

o2 ;iles# No!1?!$!%C$!0%, (e,te!ariwoch &ela!awi &elf "iya>e! This is a ver. im*ortant file which
contains several securit. and intelli,ence re*orts on the student unrest throu,hout the countr., includin,
letters, *am*hlets, resolutions, manifestos, ultimatums, le,al orders, summaries of measures ta(en and
*lans to 7uash the u*risin, b. the ,overnment, etc!
o2 ;iles# No!1?!$!%C$!0%!
o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$!0?!
Translates as# 2t is necessar. to reco,niGe the fact that to attem*t to resolve intractable and com*le)
social, economic and *olitical *roblems even before com*letin, one5s education, with *remature

Again when its attempts to defuse the standoff by reopening classes were opposed, the
government issued another ultimatum on 13 March 1969 to punish students of the
university and high schools who sabotaged efforts to bring peace and order by agitating
and intimidating others to stay out.
Nevertheless, after a months intermittent boycott
only part of the university students registered by apologizing and signing statement of
guarantee; some among these resumed inciting unrest in the campus while the
unregistered mobbed around schools and threw stones from outside. Finally, on 3 April
1969, registered students were forced to evacuate and the university and all secondary
schools in Addis were closed again.
The following figures might give a clue to the regional dimension and intensity of the
student movement in this particular period. In the three months of unrest, from 3 March
1969 to 7 June 1969, government estimates show that a total of 92 schools and about
76,513 students had taken part throughout the country. At the vortex of the unrest, in
Addis Ababa, an overall 49, 995 students from 28 schools had actually taken part. What
is more, even those who did not actively participate had created security problems by
supporting the unlawful activity and swelling the demonstrations. According to this
report, about 3,212 students were apprehended by the police in Addis Ababa, Shoa,
Arusi, Keffa and Wello. More than 85% of these were from Addis while Shoa and Addis
Ababa together constituted about 95% of the total. During the eight years this disturbance
has been going on intermittently, students of mission and private schools have seldom
taken part in protests.

mentalit. and rec(less measures is es*eciall. dan,erous for *eo*les li(e 6thio*ia who are ma(in,
transition from tradition to modernit.! o2 ;iles# No!1?!$!%C$!0%!
o2 ;iles# 1?!$! %C$!0%!

Most of the detainees were immediately released after appearing in a court of justice and
only a few ringleaders were sentenced various prison terms. On New Years Eve, 10
September 1969, the Emperor gave general pardon for all by commuting their sentences
to parole, and those from the university were allowed to continue their studies according
to the directives of the University Board.
The students, however, did not show any sign
of remorse and in 1969/70 they resumed agitations and protests. This was the critical
period which emboldened the hardcore radicals to openly come out with heretical views
about the nationalities question. Up to this point, the student body had been striving to
exorcise itself from the ominous spirit of ethnicism, to purge it as a feudal legacy and
acknowledge instead internationalism which knows no boundaries.
In early 1969, the regionalist school within the USUAA tentatively aired the first explicit
denial of Ethiopias national status as well as the existence of socially, linguistically,
economically and culturally unified tribes in Ethiopia.
Throughout the year, however,
nationalism remained in the background of student activism. Waleligns provocative
piece On the Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia was a climax of this intellectual
ferment, which broached the question so far kept discreet for two major reasons: firstly,
because of fear that it may alienate certain segments of the student population... and
secondly, the government may take advantage of an honest discussion to discredit the
revolutionary student movement.
The first reservation was so far prompted by the need
to mitigate the political risks of a hardening anti-Amhara stance within the radical
section, which Walelign was willing to incur by endorsing the tribal rule viewpoint and

o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$!0?!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>!
&tru%%le, K, $, November 1>C>!

denouncing the Amhara (and to some extent Amhara-Tigre) masquerade going by
Ethiopian culture. He quoted Marxist literature to the effect that ...cultural domination
always presupposes economic subjugation...(sic) and demanded economic as well as
cultural equality for all. Waleligns essay was not only an exposition but also a
prescription in which he dismissed a military coup as a solution to Ethiopias problem
while curiously subscribing violence...and revolutionary armed struggle as the only
way to establish a genuine egalitarian national state.

All other pieces published along with Waleligns article were evidently intended to
reinforce its main arguments.
Tagels editorial was entitled Yetecheqonena
Yetebezebeze Hizb Mamets, Biret Mansat Gidetaw New (it is inevitable that an
oppressed and exploited people should rebel and take a rifle) and underlined the
imminence of the armed struggle. Abraham Gebregziabher also wrote Hizb Weys Ahzab
in Ethiopia? (people or peoples in Ethiopia?) in which he dismissed the idea of one
Ethiopian people: there is nothing as such called an Ethiopian people; it is rather rulers
A little earlier Tiglachin had elaborated on the question of Ethiopian unity,
albeit in the form of a later favorite distinction between territorial and popular unity, or
the people or peoples argument.
Another piece Yesost Shih Amet Yenetsanet
Firewoch (fruits of three-thousand years of freedom) attempted to prove Amhara

&tru%%le, K, $, November 1>C>!
Abdul Ahmed5s account in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!15, re,ardin, the ,enesis of 'aleli,n5s essa.
durin, his detention at Alem +a7a,n seems debatable in this res*ect! @is e)as*eration was evident even
before this as his 3Le,awaju Awaj, indicates! The 7uestion of nationalities was 'aleli,n5s harshest reven,e
on the state, hittin, out where it most hurts! Abdul himself observes such develo*ments in +ahru,
$ocu!entin% -&M, **!>?, 100
9erha*s an echo of a more elaborate essa. in "i%lachin, no!1, Mesere! to "ahsas 1>C$ 6!:!
"i%lachin, no!1, 1>C$ 6!:! # !!!= Iw K< wKA T<^ u_ K wKA S! I" <##
u S$%<& u Suu'< ()*+< L, ;<-)*+<##

oppression by quoting statistics on regional distribution of hospitals, doctors and child
mortality rates, which contrariwise showed the extent of deprivation in Amhara
There were also several revolutionary quotations from Che Guevera, Frantz
Fanon, Lenin, Marx and Engels, marking the tradition of citing quotations as a distinctive
trait of student subculture.
Did Walelign introduce any novel or original thought in his essay? A close reading of
student publications during the 1960s reveals that there was little in his piece which had
not been implicitly or explicitly touched upon, more coherently and dispassionately so by
the overseas front. Waleligns tentative summary earns distinction in rather for the first
time ascribing nationhood to ethnic and regional groups instead of Ethiopia as a whole.
In this respect, he stuck to the Leninist rather than the later Stalinist dogmatism adopted
by the movement.
Walelign also did not define his terms even when he proclaimed that
Ethiopia is not a (homogenous) nation, and then, like his compatriots, he became self-
consciously bogged in the ideological swamp between nationalism and secessionism.
There is nothing wrong with secessionism as such, he echoed the party line, without
establishing first what constituted Eritrean national status. After applauding reactionary
movements such as Gojjam and Bale peasant revolts, he nevertheless insisted that the
sole criterion for judging any movement is whether it is socialist or reactionary, not
whether it is secessionist or not.
Therefore, rather than coherence, originality or

&tru%%le, K, $, November 1>C>!
9erha*s one ma/or difference in the nationalist theories of Fenin and -talin, which is relevant in this
conte)t, emanates from the determinist definition of the nation advanced b. the latter and its
overwhelmin, influence amon, the revolutionaries in the Third 'orld!
&tru%%le, K, $, November 1>C>!

brilliance, the power of Waleligns essay seems to lie in its sensationalism as a timely
battle cry for a desperate youth.
A very surprising aspect of the ESM was its inability to extricate itself from the Eritrean
question, which ultimately sounded the movements death knell. Initially, students had
welcomed regional and ethnic insurgencies and oppositions as signs of crack in the
moribund imperial state and aspired to harness them in the struggle to overthrow the
When the International Union of Students (IUS) passed a resolution in support
of Eritrean independence tabled by Arab students in 1966, NUEUS had rejected it on the
grounds that it was inspired by student unions which were protgs of the Syrian Baathist
Party. The 1967 NUEUS congress also reinforced this stand by condemning the
protagonists of secession and calling on the IUS to disown the resolution at its
forthcoming congress.

In 1968, the WWUEUS regarded the Eritrean struggle, like the Bale and Gojjam
insurrections, essentially as a peasant rebellion and displayed no explicit commitment to
the principle of self-determination.
Within the USUAA it was Tilahun, who, following
his defeat in 1968, first made a clean breast of the tactical justification for the secessionist
stand. He urged students to tolerate secessionist movements ...only in so far as they
weaken the regime and can serve as the basis for revolutionary action with the aim of
emancipating the whole people of Ethiopia in unity and not in diversity(sic).

Andar,achew, Meison, *!5<! Hiflu, (a,"iwlid II, **!50, 5$A50! Also re,ardin, crac(s within the 69=9,
**!15%A15C, 1C0! &tru%%le, K, 1, 1>C>!
@ailu A.ele in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M , **!5%, 55! Also ela(u Te,e,n, *!10<!
"i%lachin, -*ecial 6dition, Mesere! 1>C0 6!:!
&tru%%le, 222, 1, Januar. 1>C>! Andar,achew, Meison, **! %0A%$, 5<!

however, the socialist camp vacillated between political separation and cultural
autonomy, partly not to give the state ammunition to attack the movement.

After Waleligns paper, the state intensified its propaganda portraying the movement as a
threat to social harmony and national unity: %1/ "`- " a %3\ H 2A
"b ! \( /0 +6-- K\ +H/ %B$ +c0 K\ &0 Dd
+ef/ %0G +g 2AG +X- > +- a 8: ;J T +'`- A;
S -c/44 They have been driven by evil spirit to destroy the system which was
willingly accepted by the people; they have risen with an objective to erode time-honored
tradition, undermine religion, denigrate fathers, divide up Ethiopia religiously, tribally
and ethnically, threaten its unity, destabilize its order, demonize its culture and disturb the
security and peaceful life of the people.
The government believed that communist
inspired rhetoric reflected in student publications confirmed the assumption about the
involvement of a foreign hand in this unrest.

Following that, USUAA president Tilahun Gizaw was mortally wounded on the night of
28 December 1969.
After his death was swiftly rumored in campus, a group of students
wrested the corpse by force from Yekatit 12 hospital and carried it to the university
compound. On 29 December, students declined requests from the deceaseds family and
the police to handover the body; and conducted postmortem exam in the university clinic.
In response to the call distributed to all schools in the city, about 15,000 students flooded

&tru%%le, K, 1! 2nterview with a -ocialist *resents a conversation with a r L, some
misunderstandin,s about the socialism of ar), 6n,els and Fenin!
o2 ;iles# No!1?!$!%C$!0%!
The re*eated allusion to 3forei,n hand5 meant outside hel* which was ,enerall. accurate! +ahru,
$ocu!entin% -&M, *!55! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$!0?!
"i%lachin, 1, Mesere! to "ahsas 1>C$ 6!:! 'aleli,n5s tra,ic end came in December 1>?1 when he
alon, with other com*atriots was shot dead while attem*tin, to hi/ac( an 6thio*ian air*lane!

the university compound carrying various slogans and chanting Wendimachin Tilahun
begif tegedele behagerachin(Our brother Tilahun is brutally assassinated in our
After declining repeated entreaties to handover the corpse to his family, it
was decided that the IBG should take it back by force. Students jeered at the soldiers
crying Soldier ready, shoot, finish us!

On police interrogation, three of the ringleaders gave similar accounts of Tilahuns
assassination, surprisingly at variance with their subsequent agitation propaganda. Gebru
had three probable assumptions: 1/ as it is rumored the state could have him
assassinated; 2/ those who call themselves Eritrean Liberation Front could have
assassinated him to create conflict between the state and the people; 3/ persons who
seek to overtake state power could have assassinated him in order to antagonize students
with the state. Walelign had two alternatives: 1/ as Tilahun is a popular and progressive
student the state through its security could have assassinated him to terrorize others and
make him exemplary but the ordinary manner of the killing leads one to the other
assumption; 2/ a body which wants to benefit from a conflict between students and the
state might have killed Tilahun. It rather seems, Walelign reasoned, that a force which
was convinced that students are not rising up for demonstration even if their magazine
Tagel had been banned and are peacefully continuing classes might have committed the
killing. Primary suspects could be powers who do not support student progressivism,
oppose the states policy and aspire to establish a separate state different from and

=e*ortedl., Tilahun was hit b. three bullets fired b. two unidentified *ersons, at a *lace called
Afencho +er near the 6rer Gota ,reen ,rocer! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$! 0?!
Accordin, to securit. re*orts, the rin,leaders of the disturbance were Gebru ersha, 'aleli,n
e(onen, ehari 4ohannes, Dawit @iru., Dariwos odi, @ailesilassie Gebremi(ael, Te(ali,n
'oldemi(ael, and 4ir,a Tesema! A slo,an attributed to Gebru ersha! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$! 0?!

between the two. In this line of suspicion should be the armed forces, educated civilians,
perhaps also the Eritrean liberation organization.

Whatever the case may be, Tilahuns death had a very serious impact on the general
student movement as well as in the subsequent preeminence of ethno-nationalism in the
country. When the student movement showed signs of recovery from that tragic incident
and the attendant upheaval a year later, it had become irreversibly disintegrated and
The initiative and leadership of the home front had been taken over by
high school students and the movement had evolved into two major underground
factions, which later emerged as the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and
the All Ethiopian Socialist Movement (AESM). It is not surprising that now the
nationalities issue emerged as the single most important question of the
The next issue of Struggle was brought out in May 1970 by a group which called itself
the Underground Revolutionary Press(URP), taking over the symbolism of a rifle
wielding arm on the title page along with the generations war song e\ hih R &'>
]> /"j Published only five months after Waleligns essay, in the same Marxist
framework and upholding its fundamental arguments, this was, however, far superior in

This is a statement b. the individuals ,iven to the *olice immediatel. after the incident! 'hile latter
evidence shades doubt on the truth of the matter, it nevertheless ,ives clue to the *erce*tion of e)istin,
ali,nment of *olitical forces b. the leaders of the movement! Three AA" students, Abi.u +irile, 6subale
Tebe/e, Admasu Techane, were alle,edl. cau,ht redAhanded while attem*tin, to derail the Addis Ababa M
D/ibouti train on $5 "ahsas 1>C$! o2 ;iles# No! 1?!$!%C$!0?!
Abdul ohamed in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M , *!??!

comprehension and presentation of the nationalities question that it could be considered
as the first coherent treatise ever to come out of the student body.

The writers attempted to highlight historically and theoretically the relationship between
feudalism, regionalism and national oppression with rare modesty and balance. They
argued that what then existed in Ethiopia was a conjunction of class exploitation and
cultural domination resulting from the relationship between feudalism and regionalism.
There are no nations and nationalism in Ethiopia but regions and regionalism. Therefore,
the national question is relevant only from the perspective of cultural oppression; there is
a feudal class rule but Amhara cultural domination. Contrary to Waleligns assertion, the
authors maintained that regionalism shows the economic drive of feudalism while
national subjugation is a means of facilitating economic exploitation and not an end by

A similarly tempered view was advocated by ESUE, analyzing the tribe versus class
enigma and the oppressor-oppressed nationalities distinction, with care and sensitivity
than the propagandist anti-Amhara rhetoric of the home front: ...though Amhara is tarik
yeweledew bale tera, the entire tribe is not responsible for this problem. Therefore, why
we stand in unison alongside the Ethiopian people is not to liberate the Tigre from the
Amhara, the Galla (sic) form the Tigre, or Islam from Christianity but by toppling down
and destroying the feudal system to establish in its place a system where the life of the

Hiflu, (a,"iwlid, *!<0! &tru%%le, no number, *ublished b. "=9, a. 1>?0! 2n fact, this issue did not come
out of the leaders of the home front as Andreas 6shete and @a,os Gebre.esus were returnees from
&tru%%le, *ublished b. "=9, a. 1>?0! This treatise comes com*lete with the formalit. of relevant
7uotations about Amhara domination from =ichard Greenfield, Donald Fevine, :hristo*her :la*ham,
Geor,e Fi*s(.!

masses is improved, national and individual rights are respected, the suppressed culture
and language of each tribe flourishes in equality, and religion becomes an individual
choice and does not interfere in government activity.

The 10
ESUE Congress reaffirmed its stand on the Eritrean insurgency as one among
popular struggles for democracy in the country waged to overthrow economic, social,
cultural, linguistic and religious domination. However, it withheld support for the
leadership due to latters suspicious revolutionary credence.
Again the 11
congress of
ESUE-WWUES, which took place at Berlin under the theme Biherawi Guday
BeEtyopia(the National Issue in Ethiopia), in principle acknowledged the right of self-
determination of nationalities but subordinated it to class unity in struggle as well as in
progress based on equality. The duty of progressives is, accordingly, to fight to wipe out
the two extremes: 1/ the chauvinism among the working social classes of oppressor
nationalities; 2/ the narrow nationalist sentiment among the peoples of oppressed
The resolutions regarding the armed struggle in Eritrea were so far
provisional, keeping a watchful eye on the movement and its leadership. Naturally, such
moderate position invited recriminations from two angles; the state charged it with evil
intent to disintegrate the country; ultraethno-nationalists condemned its call for unity as
an Amhara chauvinist hoodwink.

"i%lachin, No! 0, 'in)ot to ;ehassie 1>C$ 6:!
"i%lachin, 1, "ie!t 1>C0 6!:, *roceedin, from the 10
:on,ress! 4eraswor( in +ahru, $ocu!entin%
-&M , **! 5< N 5>, believes that serious dissension in the student bod. emer,ed at the 1>?0 con,ress as a
forerunner of the ,enesis of under,round s*linter *arties!
"i%lachin, 1, Mesere! 1>C% 6!:!
"i%lachin, 1, Mesere! 1>C% 6!:!

This was a period in which divergent trends were hardening and ethno-nationalist
elements had been striving to prey upon the movement. The first confrontation on the
national question occurred between the Addis-Algeria group and the ESUNA delegates at
the 10
ESUE congress in 1970. However, it was at the August 1971 ESUE congress,
also held in Berlin, that the formers radical position was adopted as noted above. The so-
called Algerian group, an ultraradical sect constituted by student planejackers under the
shadow of the ELF, had been out on campaign to take over the overseas contingents.
Therefore, it made the acknowledgement of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia and their
unconditional right to self-determination imperative.
In fact, this group had been
instrumental in keeping the Eritrean issue at the heart of the ESM, and ultimately
derailing and splitting the movement on this bedrock. Of particular importance was the
circulation of a highly polemical expose by this group in October 1970, attacking the
ambivalence of student unions on Eritreas unconditional right to secession and their
characterization of the various insurgencies in the country as regionalist and

The paper claimed to present the most just, correct and democratic solutions for the
national question, which the author/s asserted to have been incontrovertibly defined and

Andar,achew, Meison, **! C%, ?5, <1! Andreas in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!105! @e believes that
the national 7uestion was onl. a *rete)t for rival ta(eover bids of the forces which later emer,ed as 69=9
and eison! Hiflu Tadese, (a,tiwlid, 22, *!50, 5$A50!
The National Ouestion(3=e,ionalism5& 2n 6thio*ia under a *seudon.m Tilahun Ta(ele! Andar,achew,
Meison, **!C%, ?5, ?<A<0, <1, <>A>0, alle,es that Hiflu has admitted to him of bein, the author of this
document! Hiflu didn5t ac(nowled,e it in his boo(s! Nevertheless, a careful readin, of the te)t hints that
the wor( was a /oint effortI unmista(able traits of "-"AA (Al,erian contin,ent& are evident!
Andar,achew, "he -thio.ian Revolution,*!10?, on the other hand maintains that it was widel. believed at
the time that the *a*er was the wor( of +erhane es7el =eda!

resolved in Marxist-Leninist theory and practice.
Generally, the student body had
been captivated by the deceptive simplicity of Stalins definition of the nation. This work,
however, went beyond and regarded Leninism-Stalinism as a revealed truth. It argued
that nations are generally evolved from tribes at the epoch of rising capitalism and
disintegrating feudalism, and declared that there were some full-fledged nations or
nationalities fast transforming into nations in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, nations/nationalities
are not constituted in the act of definition and claim, beyond which the paper did not go.
How did that transformation occur and even vary within a single sociopolitical
framework? How would a feudal multinational state, even at that Shoan feudalism, be
possible? What is the logical relationship between cultural domination, which the paper
considered as the cardinal question, and political secession?
The paper denied that Eritrea is a nation, nonetheless upheld the right of self-
determination up to secession to the peoples of Eritrea! In contrast, it opportunistically
evaded questions of whether a multinational state is possible or advisable; and reserved
judgment on the Ogaden, Bale and Arusi movements right to join Somalia. What is
remarkable about this work was the disproportionate influence it exerted on the ESM.
According to some observers, Tilahun Takeles work was able to have a special ring to
students who joined AAU after 1970 due to its explicit emphasis on chauvinism and its
advocacy of the principle of national self-determination up to and including secession as
the raison dtre of the struggle.
Starting from 1970, Eritrean students in both ESUE
and ESUNA abandoned these associations and formed a separate organization known as

The authors of the 1?
6-ANA con,ress are es*eciall. mar(ed for mudslin,in,# 3social chauvinists5,
3racist bour,eois *olitical scientists5, 3cadets5, 3Ab.ssinian di*lomats,5 etc! Andar,achew, "he -thio.ian
Revolution, *!10?!
ela(u in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!10>! Andar,achew, Meison, **!?<A<0!

Eritreans for Liberation. Ethnic based study circles began to form among Ethiopian
students at home and abroad.
In January 1971, the WWUES not only reaffirmed its
solidarity with the Eritrean peoples struggle for self-determination but also explicitly
endorsed the secessionist agenda.

Still some elements were not satisfied with WWUES stand on Eritrea so that they
strongly criticized it as moderate and unscientific. They claimed that Eritrean struggle to
establish an independent state must be believed and supported not because of its
usefulness for the people of Ethiopia but only on its own merit...The people of Eritrea are
different from other Ethiopia not only in geography but also in history, religion, culture,
etc, thus the formation of separate Eritrean student unions was inevitable and correct.

The tension came to a climax at the 19
ESUNA Congress in 1971 and split the
association into the old ESUNA and the new ESUNA. Already a week before this, the
ESUE had adopted the position of the Algerian group at its 11
Congress held in Berlin
in August 1971. Finally, at Berlin in April 1973, the strife between rival trends in the
overseas unions resulted in the restructuring of WWUES into the World Wide Federation
of Ethiopian Students (WWFES) and the emergence of EPRP and MEISON.

The social nationalism of the ESM was defeated because of its failure to innovatively
adapt Marxism-Leninism to Ethiopias concrete situation. The Algeria group in particular
considered the question of nationalities to be of paramount importance and the rest to be

Andar,achew, Meison, *!C>! Abdul ohamed in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!?>! Hiflu, (a,"iwlid II,
"i%lachin, $, "ir 1>C0 6!:! A -tatement b. the ''"6- =e,ardin, the 6ritrean 9eo*le5s -tru,,le in
o**osition to measure ta(en b. the 6thio*ian state!
"i%lachin, 0, Mia#ia 1>C0 6!:!
Andar,achew, Meison, **!?C, >0, >%A>C! Hiflu, (a,"iwlid II, *!10>, on *reA1>?% rift between 69=9 and
62-1N! Andar,achew, "he -thio.ian Revolution, *!10$,10?!

of little consequence.
The historic nation had never been exclusively identified with
the Amhara as argued in chapter one. However, the generation of Walelign distorted that
conception to target the Amhara and anyone who believed in the survival and unity of the
Ethiopian nation as chauvinists.
It consigned the fate of an entire nation on a piece of
conjecture and the Leninist-Stalinist dogmatism it advocated ultimately reduced the
nationalities question to family tree politics. The primary difference between the EPRP
and MEISON factions was not ideological but their tactical stand on the resolution of the
nationalities question.

When the next issue of Struggle (since 1969/70) appeared in September 1974, both the
political context and the relevant questions have changed inside Ethiopia. The revolution
has erupted and power was in the hands of a new military junta calling itself Derg, and
the opposition was now demanding the military to restore Power to the Peoples! The
civilian intelligentsia which took over the student movement was forced to reassess its
role. Struggle now appeared to speak on behalf of this realignment of forces rather than
on behalf of the studentship: ...The ESM is well aware that it cant and will never ever
champion (play the vanguard role) the movement of the great masses and then carry the
revolution to the end because it is the masses alone who are the locomotives of any
revolutionary movement. In any anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggle, the student
movement has a very limited role to play because, as is well known, such a struggle is

Abdul ohamed in +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!?<! Andar,achew, "he -thio.ian Revolution, *!1%5!
Are,awi +erihe, A 9olitical @istro., on T9F;5s accusations over other *anA6thio*ian ,rou*s, **!1>?A
1><! -ee for similar views erera Gudina, (e,-tyo.ian "e!ariwoch Msilil 'u#ona (ehiwote
"i#itawoch(Addis Ababa#$005 6:&, *!%?!
+ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, **!1C, 5<AC0, C<, <0A<1! Andreas, *!105, and ela(u,*!110, also believe
that the national 7uestion was not even a fundamental 7uestion, it was little more than an instrument in
the stru,,le between or,aniGations! -ee also Andar,achew , "he -thio.ian Revolution, **!10$, 10%, 10?!
Hiflu, (a,tiwlid 22, **! 1%0A1%C, on *ostA1>?% drift between 69=9 and 62-1N!

composed of the working class, the peasantry, the left wing of the national bourgeoisie,
the conscious sector of the petty bourgeoisie, the intellectuals, the lower sections of the
military and finally the students. The military ALONE also cant and will never...thus
there must be a UNITED FRONT

By the end of 1974, the National Question left the platform to other pressing questions:
Land to the tiller! Formation of political parties! Freedom of the press, assembly, speech
and demonstration! Socialism via New Democratic Revolution in Ethiopia!
immediate task at hand was the establishment of a PROVISIONAL DEMOCRATIC
GOVERNMENT and the sloganeering was epitomized by Power to the People! while
the battle cry for the other (military) camp was Ethiopia Tikdem! The tone of the
nationalities issue was much watered down: Equality of nationalities and all religions,
and the separation of religion from politics. k$ l:Q$ "/ ; :$
em k$ ?/ "-( EnSnm An article by Ayalew Yimam entitled: o ]/
Epqr also suggested preconditions for the peaceful resolution of the Eritrean question.

For many students of Ethiopian history the major cause of ethno-nationalist grievances is
the expansion of the imperial state over ethno/regional territories. A Leninist application
of this view advanced by the ESM argued that the south was born as a result of
conquest by the north, a phenomenon which created difference in class and culture
between the two entities and made the former a hot bed for ethno-nationalism.
class culture convergence thesis of the Ethiopian left is premised on taking the north

&tru%%le, K2, 1, -e*tember 1>?%! All em*hases in the ori,inal!
&tru%%le, K2, 1, -e*tember 1>?%! Hiflu, (a,"iwlid, **!1$<A101, 1%0A1%C!
&tru%%le, K2, $! +ahru, $ocu!entin% -&M, *!?C!
ar(a(is and Ne,a, Class and Revolution, **!10%A105! Andar,achew , "he -thio.ian Revolution,

and south as autonomous and internally homogenous units which at the same time were
antithetical to each other. In addition to its reductionism, this view cannot explain the
apparent incongruity between the expansion of the Ethiopian state, which had been going
on for millennia, and the genesis of ethno-nationalism in the south, which is a recent

Contrary to the above, where class oppression was assumed to prevail, opposition did not
take class form and strong ethno-nationalist movements became evident within the very
core of historic Ethiopia. Another assumption which squarely contradicted the facts is
related to the emergence of ethno-nationalism among peasant classes in rural setting. The
original bearer of ethno-nationalism has been an urban based intelligentsia that
conscripted its allies in the struggle from various classes of ethnic members. Particularly
in the imperial period, nationalist sentiments were hatched in urban contexts, in
administrative centers from Woreda to Teklay Gizat, which were points of cultural
contact and also became potential hotbeds of ethnicity. In the more developed cities, such
as Addis Ababa, it was rather the competitive atmosphere created by the conglomeration
of sections of the various groups which bred ethnic rivalries and politics. This new
ethnicity may be regarded as the consequence of the expansion of the periphery to the
center. The emergent ideology was couched in terms of traditional issues such as
territory, history, culture and religion, but at its root were claims over modern resources
such as markets, political offices, posts in the civil service, in the military, representation
in educational institutions, etc.


In its early phase, urban ethnicity was expressed as ethnic solidarity in primary
organizations like equb, edir, senbete, and mahber. Ethnicity, however, is not merely an
internal consciousness of group identity but also externally defined in contrast to others
and expressed in various forms, from mild stereotyping of other groups to no holds
barred conflicts. The new ideology is so pervasive and overriding that it levels all intra-
ethnic differences and tends to interpret everything in terms of ethnicity. Hence group
identity, ideology, and organization mutually reinforce each other and prey on other
contexts to evolve into nationalist form. During the late 1960s, tensions between the
major ethnic groups Amhara, Oromo and Tigre were being spontaneously manifested in
cities. The annual brawls between the Oromo and Tigre groups at the feast of Timket in
Jan Meda and elsewhere in Addis Ababa is an indication of the simmering hostility
between the two groups. This was attributed to the ethnically and culturally
condescending attitude of the Tigre towards the Oromo, the former considering the latter
as slaves.

Interestingly, while the imperial government was adamant in the suppression of ethnic
and religious particularisms, these annual brawls were attributed to secret maneuvers of
the Amhara.
An anonymous document(7 pages, type-written) of the late 1960s
elaborating prophesies about impending civil and religious wars in Ethiopia, mainly due
to the undeserved status of Sabeans (to mean Tigres of Eritrea) in the government and the
establishment of the Somali state, predicted that the Amhara people will be the main

9resident Girma 'olde,ior,is, bio,ra*h., a *ersonal account of this attitude while he was wor(in, in
6ritrea in the 1>50s!
Tilahun Ta(ele, "he ;ational +uestion, *!00! "nder a subtitle Pethnicit.P sma(u relates a fascinatin,
and 7uite revealin, *ersonal incident which s*ea(s volumes about the ethnic undercurrent in the late
1>C0s,**!11>A1$1! This is also a tellin, s*ecimen of how Amhara intellectuals of then as now find such
ethnocentric e*isodes as utterl. incom*rehensibleD

victims of this threat. This not only shows the understanding of the imminent sources of
challenges, that is Eritrea and Tigray as well as Somalia, but also demonstrates that there
had been a recognition of the surging anti-Amhara sentiment, at least among some
sections of the society.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the enthusiasm for change had gradually
percolated down the ladder to the masses. The peasant movements and the military coup
had inspired the student movement, while the oppositions within the working classes and
civil servants as well as the urban petty bourgeois had taken its cue from the students.
This general discontent permeated even the highest ranks of government both in the
military and the civil service. While this latter elite group was less organized and less
radical, it nevertheless was not exempt from ethnic politics.
In the early 1970s, a group
formed by such high profile dissidents was concerned that if any military clique took
advantage of Ethiopias chaotic situation to wrest power, then the country would be
doomed to unending chaos by dictators. An anonymous friend of Dejazmach Zewde
Gebresialssie advised the latter to closely follow the developments and control the power
politics in the hands of civilian intellectuals like him. This individual had sent Zewde a

o2 ;iles# No! 0?!1?, (i>irta (e!ay%e%nlet &ihtet! The ,eneral hatred for the Amhara, es*eciall. for
-hoan Amhara, is corroborated b. the writer of the anon.mous letter to $eja#!ach 8ewde, who relates
his distaste for the *ower elites and observes that nefte,na site,ib e,Gher .ale a.meslewm! o2 ;iles#
No!00!0$!0%! An anon.mous letter to $eja#!ach 8ewde GE-ilassie, written from @ambur, on 1?E1EC% 6!:,
in re*l. to the latter5s letter of 10E1E1>C% 6!:!
o2 ;iles# No!00!0$!0%! An anon.mous letter to $eja#!ach 8ewde GE-ilassie!

study about the situation in Ethiopia and its future prepared by a group concerned with
the countrys predicament.

The process of urbanity also had with it an ideology of modernity, of being advanced and
more sophisticated than the rural areas. Addressing the specific issue of Ethiopian
modernity Donham writes that 'becoming modern, 'of the times'(zemenawi),
'civilized'(silitane)(sic), 'educated'(yetemare), required one to some considerable
degree(especially if not Protestant or Muslim), to adopt Orthodox Christian customs...
Since the meta narrative of modernity was channeled in Ethiopia through the political
center controlled by the Amhara, the notion of progress was mapped on ethnic
The modern idea of civilization or zemenawi silitane advocated by
Ethiopian kings and intellectuals of the 19
and 20
century was specifically aspiring for
Western science and technology. But in the context of the popular concept of silitun,
yetemare or zemenawi , it referred to the ethos of a new class of the Western educated
elite or their lifestyle, which was considered generally appropriate to be imitated. Hence
there was no integral or logical relationship between being Amhara/Orthodox and being
zemenawi, yeseletene or yetemare. And conversely, being a Protestant or Muslim
and becoming zemenawi or siltun or yetemare were not antithetical. Nevertheless,
the unexplained and undeclared norms of urban etiquette or socialite demanded, among
others, command of Amharic as they still do, while being yetemare or even siltun and
zemenawi were gauged more by the command of Western languages, French and

o2 ;iles# No!$5!0$, Le,-tyo.ia Min,aynet Men%ist (asfeli%atal? A ?5 *a,es anal.sis of the e)istin,
situation and *ro*osal on the future of the 6thio*ian state, written in a ver. ,ood Amharic and an
e)cellent ,ras* of *ro,ressive *olitical thou,hts!
Donald Donham(1><C&,**!1$<A$>!

The mutiny of the 24
Unit of the Fourth Division in Negele and Dolo in January 1974
was a clarion call for an insurrection by the Ethiopian armed forces and the chain reaction
of events which developed to a revolutionary upsurge. The announcement of increase in
the price of petroleum on 13 February 1974 sparked widespread public unrest; and the
taxi drivers of Addis Ababa stopped work. On 18 February, Ethiopian teachers called out
a general strike in protest against the Sector Review educational reform. On 20 February,
students and workers in Addis jointly held a large demonstration escalating the situation.
These events culminated in the first round of military uprising that led to the resignation
of Aklilu's cabinet on 27 February and Endalkachew's appointment next day as Prime
The reshuffle satisfied none of the revolting classes, the military, intelligentsia,
professionals, labour or even the disorganized aristocracy. The expression of public
discontent in Addis Ababa and Asmara spread to other regional cities within a short
period of time.
Most importantly, the labour unions coordinated a general strike of the
working force effective between 7 and 11 March 1974. In some of the centers of
strongest popular uprisings between 29 March and 6 April, such as Jimma, Metu, Assela
and Arba-Minch towns, people flooded the streets demanding the dismissal of
incompetent and corrupt governors and other officials.
So far the demonstrators made it

Addis Zemen(AZ), 12 Miazia 1966.
Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, pp.46-47.

clear that the changes they were demanding should be peaceful but radical.
feature of the uprisings between January and June 1974 was that they were limited to
urban areas. Nowhere in the country did the rural peasantry take active part in these early
It was the urban corporate groups that paralyzed government by strikes,
boycotts and marches demanding the dismissal of their officials and the right to form
trade unions. A writer on Addis Zemen jokingly observed that since the movement started
two months ago, the only section of the society which did not take to the streets were
mJ+\S 9AT(soothsayers and witch doctors).

In spite of the clear ethno-nationalist tone of the student activism, the popular uprising of
the early revolutionary period was not dominated by ethnocentrism and sectarianism.
Whatever religious, regional and ethnic demands there were, they appeared on the
margins of the popular upsurge. In one instance, on 25 April 1974, about a hundred Afar
balabbats, elders and Afar students attending schools in Addis Ababa filed a complaint to
the Minister of Interior, Zewde Gebresilassie, detailing the injustices done by Awash
Valley Authority in depriving the Afar of their communal lands and trampling on their
nationality rights. A far stronger and more popular pressure than this, which was inspired
by the revolutionary activism of Addis Ababa, had started on 18 April when
representatives of the Muslim community submitted to the Prime Minister demands for
the freedom of belief and religion. The Ministers promise for a speedy reply could not
avert a huge public outburst only a few days later.

AZ, 27 Megabit 1966.
Andargachew, Ibid, pp.54, 55, 57-58, 59.
AZ, 11 Miazia 1966.

In what was the biggest demonstration of the period, held on 20 April 1974, thousands of
Muslims and their Christian supporters as well as students of the HSI University and the
various Addis Ababa high schools took part in the call for religious equality. Their key
motto was U)S1 r"A 1d U1C r, 1d![a popular saying of Emperor Haile Selassie].
Other banners included Religion Must be Separate from State Administration, Ethiopia
Shall Not be Divided Along Ethnic and Religious Lines, Ensure Religious Equality,
Ethiopia is Ethiopians Island, Unity is Achieved through Equality, Equality for All
Ethiopian People, and Muslim Holidays Shall be National Holidays.
Some of these
slogans will appear again and again in the political debates of the subsequent period.
As much as it was a show of solidarity, however, this event had split public opinion in
Addis Ababa. On the one hand, progressive elements stood by the demonstrators and
acknowledged their demands as long overdue rights. They also welcomed the spirit of
cooperation between Christians and Muslims as a sign of harmony and beneficial for the
unity of the nation.
On the other hand, a conservative section of the society regarded
some of the above expressions as too radical and threatening. What the Addis Ababa
Orthodox clergy and a part of the laity found to be particularly inflammatory was the
alleged denial of Ethiopias conception as a Christian island: !
In both the applications of representatives of the religious community and that of the 42
Orthodox Churches in the city, submitted on 21 April to the Prime Minister and the
Patriarch respectively, it was emphasized that this disavowal would constitute a menace
to the longstanding unity and historical identity of the nation. This referred to the
persistence of the personality of the historic nation, Bihere Etyopia. The clergy

AZ, 13 Miazia 1966.

underlined that a threat to the Orthodox faith is a threat to the Ethiopian state, now as it
had always been through the ages. The Prime Minister was only too anxious to avert a
major sectarian confrontation and he was grateful when the Christian community
cancelled a planned counter-demonstration in compliance with his request.

The revolution seems to have caught the civilian left by surprise, both organizationally as
well as ideologically wanting. After a decade of agitation and violence the student body
did manage to rock the imperial regime. But the movement itself had irreversibly
bifurcated into antagonistic groups, more clearly so outside the country. The only known
domestic underground organization called Abiyot was also weak and had minimal role in
the revolutionary upsurge. What seems undeniable is that student activists who had made
the nationalities question the most important platform of struggle since 1969 were not
vindicated by the dramatic events of early 1974. The popular revolts which ushered in the
actual revolution were not focused on ethnicity or national freedom or even national
oppression, but were primarily about the soaring price of consumer goods, declining
standard of living, and for democratic and administrative reforms. Hence the ESM and
the organizations which claimed to represent it were overtaken by the spontaneous
popular uprising of the period. As the only well-organized and disciplined group of the
society, the military and security forces had a more decisive role to play.

The Derg was in fact a hastily constituted committee of low ranking officers from various
branches of the Armed Forces so that, in spite of later ethnic considerations by its
detractors, the only thing which united the group was desire for change. As men in

AZ, 15 Miazia 1966.
Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.57.

uniforms the members strength lay in discipline and deference to authority, the very
qualities lacking in the organizations of the civilian groups. The Derg announced its
formation on 28 June 1974 and immediately began to make the revolution real by
dismantling the imperial regime. The detaining of former senior officials started on 29
June 1974. On 3 July 1974, the Derg demanded the Emperor to release political prisoners
(except those who had committed crimes against the unity and development of the
country), to pardon political exiles, and to speedily proclaim the newly-drafted
constitution. On the same day, Lt General Aman Andom was presented by the committee
and appointed by the Emperor as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.

The Endalkachew government begged two things from the Ethiopian people: peace and
time! Very expensive commodities during a revolution indeed, and after six months of
sincere effort it was in turn replaced on 22 July 1974 by Ras Imrus cabinet. The ultimate
political decision was taken by the Derg on 12 September 1974: Proclamation No.1
1974, article 2 demoted the Emperor effective from that day; made the Crown Prince
successor to the throne; limited the monarchys powers to that of head of state and
stripped it off all executive and other functions. Article 4 shut down the Imperial
Parliament, article 5 suspended the 1955 Constitution while article 6 gave the Committee
provisional powers.
A few days later, Proclamation No.2 of 15 September bestowed all
powers on the Derg and its name was officially known as Provisional Military
Administrative Council (PMAC).
A new era was in the making.

AZ, 3 Meskerem 1967.
AZ, 7 Meskerem 1967.

4.1 The Genesis of Socialist Ethiopianism
When the burgeoning crisis forced a change of government on 28 February 1974, the
incumbent cabinet of Endalkachew issued on 8 April 1974 a document outlining its
objectives, aims and beliefs. Accordingly, the consolidation of the unity of the country,
maintenance of its territorial integrity, the promotion and preservation of the culture of
coexistence among its peoples were on the top of the agenda.
The constitution drafted
by this government also espoused moderate changes over the structure and shape of the
state. Its pronouncements on the identity, integrity and future of Ethiopia were, however,
little different from the previous constitutions of the imperial regime. In fact, as noted in
chapter two above, its conception had even reverted to the references of the historic
nation as Bihere Etyopia.

The Derg signaled from the very beginning that its nationalism would be of a different
order, more like a military intervention to oversee the revolutionary change towards
national renaissance. As its 4 July 1974 meglecha (statement) to reassure the public of the
Committees seriousness of purpose attempted to underscore, in general, those who
started the current military movement are children of the Ethiopian people, burning with
Ethiopian sentiment, caring and worrying to the utmost about the safety of the Ethiopian
people and their Emperor, and everything they do is based on a true Ethiopian spirit...

Etyopia Tikdem(Ethiopia First) was the first Derg policy statement, announced the
same day (4 July) and published in Addis Zemen on 10 July 1974.

AZ, 1 Miazia 1966.
AZ, 27 Sene 1966. AZ, 28 Sene 1966. AZ, 1 Hamle 1966.

What was the meaning of Etyopia Tikdem? The Addis Zemen editorial defined it in what
appears like a verbatim from Tarikna Misale: Its meaning in short is to defer to the
interest of the country, to sacrifice oneself to the benefit of the country and the people
to think about the well-being of the majority instead of the luxury of the few.
the Dergs official explanation about Etyopia Tikdem was published on 27 July 1974, it
outlined the major ideological components: a national call to dedicate oneself to the
purity of history, to the development of the civilization and the common good of the
country and the people. It was also a plan to avoid conflict and discord, to bond with
unity and love, to cultivate national feeling among the people; to avoid discrimination
based on birth, religion, race, wealth, power, etc, and to establish trust, equality, unity and
harmony of the highest order among Ethiopians.

Originally, Etyopia Tikdem was little more than a convenient slogan to give a sense of
direction to the ad hoc committee.
The Derg assumed political power with modest
objectives and never contemplated of radical measures, let alone radical socialism, for
Ethiopia. Initially, the Derg defended its home-spun nationalist position by deeming
Marxist-Leninist solutions as alien and inappropriate to Ethiopia's problems. The
committee, however, eventually fell under immense pressure from various quarters so
that it began to abandon its reformist positions. Even though the Derg had practically
discredited the crown by stripping the reigning monarch off his powers and prerogatives,
the debates within the committee between 6 and 10 September 1974 were centered on the
identification of appropriate government for future Ethiopia. A constitutional monarchy

AZ, 9 Hamle 1966.
AZ, 20 Hamle 1966.
Mengis!, Tiglachin, p.157.

remained on the table until the ultimate deposition and arrest of Emperor Haile Selassie
and the suspension of the 1955 Constitution on 12 September 1974. The Derg wanted to
immortalize this event by making September 12 a Revolution Day.

The Derg published its second official explanation about Etyopia Tikdem on 31 October
1974. The core principle was now framed as follows: When we say Ethiopia First, we
mean lets say We instead of I. This was a more refined and coherent presentation
which could be considered as a comprehensive political program or policy outline of the
regime. It touched major socioeconomic issues such as education, health, social security,
infrastructure and public amenities, balance between cities and rural areas, land
ownership, legal justice, culture and history.
Of the thirteen points of the outline, about
half were concerned with the cultivation Ethiopian nationalism, eradication of traditions
and customs inimical to the progress and unity of the country, abolition of ethnic,
religious and other discriminations, and the faith to achieve these national goals resting
on the uniqueness of Ethiopias history and culture. The call for Ethiopia Tikdem was in
part an attempt to inculcate a sense of a national and common Ethiopian identity beyond
that of particular regions or nationalities.
Arguably, that single statement had served to
rally representatives of the armed forces and influence the course of Ethiopian history for
better or worse.

The key terms representing the personality of the military regime, i.e, its name Derg
(committee) and its philosophy Etyopia Tikdem, seem to have made it at once enigmatic
and popular, at least in the initial period and among the common people. Many people

AZ, 21 Tikemt 1967.
Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.66.

still believe that these terms were introduced by the NCOs who took power in 1974.
Colonel Mengistu himself has mentioned in his recent book that the original 108 member
committee was christened as Derg by one of the officers with a cleric background. He
also claimed to have originated Etyopia Tikdem as a rallying slogan in the very first
gathering of the committee.
In fact, Mengistu had attempted to capitalize on this
resourcefulness and publicity after he scored a temporary victory over his rivals in the
Derg in early December 1974.
However, in the simple sense they had been originally
used by the Derg, both terms were not uncommon in the literature. For instance, Etyopia
Tikdem appeared in Addis Zemen at least in three different occasions and topics between
late 1973 and early 1974, whereas Derg was a more frequently used term during the
same period.

Etyopia Tikdem, however, soon proved to be the regimes Achilles heel. Especially, the
civilian left leveled strong criticism at the lack of ideological sophistication of the
military and the nebulousness of its nationalist precept. Within six months, therefore, the
Derg was forced to toe the Socialist line partly to stymie this pressure. On 20 December
1974, it issued to this effect a hybrid political and economic program called
Hibretesebawinet (Ethiopian Socialism), purported to be an elaboration of Etyopia
Tikdem; a philosophy springing from Ethiopian soil, her history, culture and religions.
According to this document, the political philosophy which emanated from our great
religions and their teachings on the equality of man, from our tradition of living and

Mengis!, Tiglachin, p.151.
AZ, 10 Hidar 1967.
Zerih!n "egese, a p#e$ eni%ed &'(#pia )i*de$+ criicising he s!per,%!#!s pre#cc!pai#n #, s#$e
,ans wih nai#na% s#ccer $aches, AZ, 22 Meskerem 1966. AZ, 27 Meskerem 1966. AZ, 1 Miazia 1966. AZ,
4 Miazia 1966. AZ, 9 Miazia 1966.

sharing together, as well as from our History so replete with national sacrifice, was
Hibretesebawinet. In what amounted to a restatement of Etyopia Tikdem, the detailed
policy could be subsumed under five basic principles: national sovereignty, the
absoluteness of Ethiopia's unity, national self-reliance, the dignity of labour, and
precedence of the public good.
Now another slogan was appended to n1\Z) 11x9
[n4C+] )dx9!] that is , UT10911 )n9A9!(Let Socialism Flourish!).
Throughout its tenure the military regime used this motto to build up Socialist

The shallowness of the historical analysis underpinning Hibretesebawinet was evident,
especially in how it traced the origin of exploitation in Ethiopia to the previous forty
years! Though it was designed to allay the radical left, both Yesefiw Hizb Dimts (Voice
of the Masses) and Democracia compared Ethiopian Socialism to, among others, Hitler's
National Socialism. The latter particularly rebuffed the program's historical premise
stating ... that blaming Haile Selassie for everything was to deny the existence of class
contradictions and its preponderance over the centuries." It also condemned as Fascistic
the regimes emphasis on the absoluteness of Ethiopia's unity for giving precedence to
the unity of the country over and above the freedoms, rights and benefits of the broad
Democracia moreover labeled the Derg as r9C ~hJS J (elite officers
gang, actually a cumbersome Amharic phrase for junta), implying that soldiers were
incapable of handling such subtle ideology as Marxism-Leninism.

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, pp.86-87. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, pp.128-131.
)his was a ,a$i%iar arg!$en #, he s!den $#.e$en /#h in and a/r#ad as n#ed in he pre.i#!s
chaper, and a$#ng is inheri#rs n#w as i was hen.

The initial questions of the various splinters of the civilian left, most of which surfaced
after the revolution, were focused on guaranteeing democratic rights and the handover of
power to a provisional peoples government. The Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Party
(EPRP) came into the open in Addis Ababa on August 31, 1975. Though it claimed to
have been founded in April 1972, its members inside the country launched the weekly
paper Democracia only in July 1974. In August 1974, another group which would
emerge later as the All Ethiopian Socialist Movement, commonly known as MEISON,
too started its own weekly called YeSefiw Hizb Dimts. Leaders of this underground
organization also began returning to Ethiopia a few months later in January 1975. In
February 1975, EPRP and MEISON failed to reach agreement on tactical positions; and
the latter officially pledged to give critical support to the Derg in March 1975. The
historic proclamation of 4 March 1975 for the nationalization of rural land had impacted
MEISONs decision to review its characterization of the military regime.

The next ideological leap of the Derg was the proclamation of the National Democratic
Revolution Program of Ethiopia (NDRPE) on 20 April 1976. This was considered by
Marxist-Leninists as a transitional package which would prepare pre-capitalist societies
for full-fledged Socialism or Scientific Socialism. In this program, the Derg pronounced
its basic difference from other civilian groups on the issue of nationalities. NDRPE
affirmed the Marxist precept that national, religious and gender contradictions are
secondary to class contradictions. This was also the official line held by the civilian left
though in practice the national question had come to dominate all others as noted in the
previous chapter. The real difference, however, consisted in the vexed principle of the

right of nationalities to self-determination, especially on the recognition of the right as
including political separation.

Paragraph five of the new program acknowledged the right of self-determination for any
nationality in Ethiopia in terms of regional autonomy, limited only to local self-
government and cultural rights. It provided that the history, identity, culture, tradition,
language and religion of every nationality will enjoy equal respect and recognition. The
ultimate rationale for unity between Ethiopian nationalities emanated from the necessity
of a common struggle against their class enemies now as well as on building up a future
life based on mutual trust, cooperation, love and equality. n1\Z) 1u0 u1;
rTY0 11 nU? d11 n; rnd TY0 )h0)1d 1dJ nn1&xC(^SA
1S) )^1d ~T1 ,1 ~u?! J1d9 TYT )h0d rdn 1&\1J
n~~Ah1S nn1&xC ?n1h nhS U9 ?Cd r1 +J+dJ n~m19S dn
nn1&x r1 ~P1J nn1&&P1J n~9 ~T1 )S1A
Cognizant of Ethiopias
concrete situation that existing nationalities contradictions could be resolved by ensuring
their rights for regional autonomy, every nationality shall enjoy the right to handle its
internal affairs and govern itself, to use its own language in its political, economic and
social life and to elect its own leaders and administrators. But the NDRPE had one
serious handicap, namely that it was hurled at the people from above.

It is relatively easy to discern the ideological pedigree of the NDRPE from its moderate
regionalist prescription to the national question. By this time even the Derg seems to
have been obliged to echo the Menelik villain rhetoric of the ESM, apparently due to

0123, par 44, n#.5.
AZ, 14 "inbot 1968.

the influence of MEISON and other civilian allies, as Mengistus TV and radio address (
20 April 1976) on the occasion of the declaration of NDRPE indicates.
In fact, the
nationalism of each regime has been defined instrumentally so that the Derg justified its
dedication to equality in unity by denouncing the imperial regime for dividing up the
Ethiopian people in order to perpetuate its rule. The so-called policy of n))1U "d
was among the accusations leveled at the executed officials of the imperial government.

Mengistu also gave a twist to the term biherawi/ national in NDRPE: the program was
called biherawi because it liberated the people from neo-colonialism and imperialism. It
was also called 'democratic' because it abolished feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism,
made the masses owners of the means of production, gave them democratic rights, and
resolved the national and workers' questions democratically."

The proclamation for the establishment of a Peoples Organizational Affairs Provisional
Office (POAPO) was also issued on the same date (20 April). This body, which became
mainly staffed by members of the MEISON, was given mandate to prepare and
disseminate articles and directives on the philosophy of socialism in the languages of
various nationalities. Already in December 1975, the Derg had established a MEISON-
dominated committee in charge of politicizing and organizing the masses under a slogan
Sefiw Hizb Yinqa, Yideraj, Yitateq! This event sparked off in the government-
controlled as well as respective papers a series of public debates between the EPRP and
MEISON. In April 1976, MEISON also formally announced its program but stopped
short of calling itself a party. At the same time the Derg invited all progressive forces to

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.159.
AZ, Hidar 17 1967.
AZ, 13 Miazia 1968. AZ, 16 Miazia 1968.

form a joint front against reactionaries and other enemies of the national revolution. In
May 1976, EPRP rejected this invitation by putting forth several preconditions, the most
important of which was the regimes stand on the nationalities question. With the
assistance of MEISON and other allied organizations the Derg proceeded to establish the
Yekatit-1966 Political School in May 1976.

Why did the adoption of Marxism-Leninism by the Derg fail to bring about greater
harmony and cooperation among the various forces in the country? This, among others,
was because ultra-leftist groups were generally skeptical of the regimes capability as
well as its motives regarding the nationalities question and particularly the principle of
national self-determination.
As will be noted below, the two major groups - EPRP and
MEISON - made this the ultimate reason for breaking up with the Derg. At the outset of
the revolution, most contending civilian parties and organizations were pan-Ethiopianist,
if not always multiethnic in their composition as well as unionist in their prescription.
This means they accepted the national integrity of Ethiopia as a matter of principle and
aimed to overtake and radically transform the state rather than dismantle it.

The Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) was the only organization, besides the Derg,
which did not originate in the ESM. Being founded by prominent members of the
imperial regime, it was perhaps the most conservative of the political organizations of the
period in its approach to the national question. In contrast to mainstream political
organizations, EDU upheld liberal democratic ethos, moderate reformist rather than
radical prescriptions to the nationalities issue. It aspired to abolish the monarchy and

5ee Andreas 'shee in 6ahr!, #ocumenting ESM, pp. 1067 A/d!% M#ha$ed, p.787 Me%a*! )egegn,
p.110. Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.145

restructure the state in some kind of administrative federalism. It also advocated that
existing national and class problems in Ethiopia could be resolved if viewed as questions
of democracy, by guaranteeing equality in unity for all constituent elements of the nation.
"EDU claimed that its membership consisted of all Ethiopians, whatever their class,
nationality or ideology, so long as they were opposed to the Derg."
Its highest authority,
the Supreme Council, had seventeen members representing the different parts of
Ethiopia. The three pillars of EDUs political program were democracy, federation and
land reform.

All other groups were formed as splinters of the ESM, espoused leftist ideologies and
carried over the movements divergent lines on the resolution of the nationalities
MEISON, ECHAAT, MALERED supported in principle the right of
nationalities up to and including secession, although they did not accept the legitimacy of
secession in the conditions prevailing in Ethiopia and subscribed to the NDRP which
denied such right, even in principle.
The Ethiopian Oppressed Peoples Revolutionary
Struggle, commonly known as ECHAAT, was a predominantly Oromo organization
which put special emphasis on the oppressed nations and nationalities issue. In fact,
there were some rumors about the link between ECHAAT and Oromo-based secessionist
movements. There was also a gradual identification of MEISON with the South, not as
exclusively Oromo-affiliated group but as an advocate of the regimes land reform

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.125.
Andargachew, Meison, #n Meis#n+s sand #n he nai#na% 8!esi#n, pp. 76, 94-96, 203-204, 206, 232,
290, 313-315, 319, 355, 406-407, 4197 #n '323+s sand #n he nai#na% 8!esi#n, pp.98-997 #n 1erg+s
sand #n he nai#na% 8!esi#n, pp.183, 186, 190-191, 201-203. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, #n '323+s sand #n he
nai#na% 8!esi#n, p.83. Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, '323 #n he nai#na% 8!esi#n, pp. 176,
1787 #erg #n he nai#na% 8!esi#n, pp.266, 318-319
Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.235.

program in the region. When the battle of words intensified, MEISON was slandered by
EPRP as a party of Fidists, narrow nationalists and the Oromo intelligentsia.

Due its dominance in the POAPO, MEISON was able to use effectively its access to
government-controlled media to disseminate its views. In the national daily Addis Zemen,
a column entitled TY9 n1 (national sentiment) was started in 1975 and another
known as nT\;9 ~h (revolutionary forum) in 1976. Particularly the latter was
considered to be an exclusive forum for rd UTT 9 J r?n1h
x,P(supporters of the Voice of the Masses group) which allegedly abused their
privilege to discredit the rival Democracia group and promote their sectarian agendas.

This was the period of escalated political tension between EPRP on the one side and
Derg and the rest on the other.

After celebrating the second anniversary of the revolution, the military regime once again
extended invitation to all Ethiopian progressive forces to come under a Marxist-Leninist
umbrella in early September 1976.
Again the nationalities question emerged as a
stumbling block to political understanding between the various civilian organizations and
the Derg. EPRP responded by another set of preconditions which demanded that the
right of national self-determination up to and including secession was to be recognized,
especially for Eritrea, and the organization leading the secessionist struggle in Eritrea was

AZ, 6 Miazia 1968. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, p.152, #n ehnic /ased !ndergr#!nd #rgani9ai#ns /( '323.
Andargachew, Meison, p.69, #n ehnic /ased s!d( circ%es a$#ng s!dens.
AZ, 4 $uagmen 1968.
AZ, 13 Meskerem 1969.

to be recognized as a legal representative of the people."
This radical reaction
constituted the final rupture between the two organizations and set the stage for a regime
of terror.

In September 1976, the EPRP kill squads made an alleged attempt on Mengistus life
(23 September) and followed it by many high profile assassinations, notably those of
Fikre Merid (1 October) and G/egziabher Hagos(12 October). On 25 October 1976, the
Yekatit-66 Political School was burnt down again allegedly due to a bomb detonated by
EPRP. On 31 October 1976, therefore, the Derg issued an ultimatum stating that it would
no more tolerate such terrorist actions.
This act signaled the reign of nT\;9 LC9A
(revolutionary measure). A state of emergency was declared on 9 November 1976 to be
immediately effective in Addis Ababa and its environs. The law gave security forces
discretionary power to take summary measures! The crackdown on EPRP then
commenced from early November 1976.

The Joint Front of Ethiopian Marxist-Leninist Organizations, or commonly EMALEDIH,
was established in March 1977(consisting of five organizations MEISON, ECHAAT,
SEDED, MALERID, WEZLIG) and its paper Voice of Unity was launched in September
EMALEDIH had as one of its subcommittees the nationalities committee whose
functions included coordinating nationality movements and working for the recognition
of the culture of various ethnic groups in the country. The marriage of convenience

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.176. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, pp.202-204, 209, 250. Andargachew,
Meison, pp.98-99.
AZ, 16 Meskrem 1969. AZ, 24 Tikemt 1969.
AZ, 24 Tikemt 1969.
Hibret #imts, 0#.1, 30 %ehassie 1969.

between the Derg and MEISON, however, did not last much longer. The latter announced
its decision to go underground (r1"A nA1 nd) on 20 August 1977 citing among its
reasons for doing so: MarxistLeninist organizations must implement the right of self-
determination of nationalities immediately, and not recognize it only in principle, as the
Joint Front had done"
This volte face seems a spin-off from the underhand
maneuvers for political supremacy between SEDED and MEISON. In January 1978, the
Derg charged ECHAAT of conniving with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and
suspended it from the Joint Front. On 20 July 1978, MEISON was also officially expelled
from EMALEDH membership.

Cultivating and Disseminating Socialist Ethiopianism
The 1963 was an eventful year which saw the bold poem of Ibssa Gutama entitled
Mannew Etyopiawi (Who is an Ethiopian?), the establishment of the Mecha-Tulama
self-help association and the subsequent politicization of ethnicity and language in
Ethiopia. It was no mere coincidence that one former member of parliament recalled how
he and his compatriots had been pushing an agenda for launching a radio program in
Galligna (sic) since 1963. Their demand was, however, swiftly hashed up and even did
not get a chance to be floored for deliberation in the lower house. In 1972, the Ministry of
Education and Fine Arts had announced a plan to launch radio programs, with technical
and financial support from the British government, in order to assist Ethiopias

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, pp.23-236. Andargachew, Meison, pp.94-96, 203-204, 206,
232, 390, 313-315, 319, 355, 406-407, 419.
AZ, 13 Hamle 1970.

educational and economic endeavor.
This had revived interest among the intelligentsia
and politicians of the various groups to benefit from the plan. Again this did not
materialize until the revolution.

The National Amharic Language Academy (NALA) had been established on the eve of
the revolution according to the provision of Order No. 79/1964(EC). In fact, as the
Emperor acknowledged in his parliament inauguration speech, the nomination of
members for the Academy was made on the occasion of the 43
Crown Anniversary (2
November 1973). Following this, NALA office announced the appointees in the fields of
language and literature, culture, science, modern and ancient/traditional education, fine
arts, history and law. The 23 member NALA Council then held its first convocation on
28 December 1973.
Its cardinal objectives could be summed up into two: building up
Amharics capacity as a language of instruction and science at higher levels, and
enhancing its efficiency as a national language. As the Minister of Education noted, a
special common national language is necessary for countries at similar social and
economic level of development to ours.

The NALA temporarily revived the pre-1941 debate about reducing some dysfunctional
characters in the Amharic alphabet by soliciting public opinion on the matter on 9 August
1973. The issue had never been about science or knowledge but about history and
heritage, as the lively public debates on the eve of the revolution testify.
However, this
institution was the first victim of the revolutionary uprising; for it was closed due to

AZ, 20 Megabit 1964.
AZ, 17 Hidar 1966. AZ, 18 Hidar 1966. AZ, 20 Tahsas 1966.
AZ, 20 Tahsas 1966.
AZ, 3 %ehassie 1965. AZ, 1 Tikemt 1966. AZ, 3 Tikemt 1966.

university students demand. Once the revolutionary fervor was over, the issue of
nationalities, especially with respect to the status of languages, emerged as the most
sensitive concern among the educated elite. The debates about national and local
languages escalated following the promises of Etyopia Tikdem and even more after the
announcement of the Development through Cooperation Campaign in 1974. The debates
were centered on education at literacy and primary levels. The argument was that, though
Amharic was the official national language, it would be appropriate to reach the speakers
of one of the largest languages (namely Oromigna) in Ethiopia through the radio until the
time the people learn to read and write Amharic. Writers argued that given the cardinal
objective of the upcoming campaign was to equip the peasantry with practical and
problem solving skills, it would also be advisable to use other indigenous languages
besides Amharic.

During the short period of freedom of opinion from early 1974 to mid-1976 the pressure
to test the military regimes commitment to the promises of Etyopia Tikdem and
Hibretesebawinet intensified. In its Ethiopian Socialism program the Derg had stated
that n1\Z) dn )n1 rJ1d9 TYC 0UAS ;^^1 +J+P LJ8)1 )x,n
provision, if put into practice, would be the second most important instrument, next to the
realized religious equality, to cement unity, cooperation and love among Ethiopian
people. The gist of the discussion was that equality precedes unity, not the other way
round. According to the principles of socialism, to promote the language of one
nationality and let the others wither is unacceptable, writers argued.

AZ, 25 Hidar 1967.
AZ, 11 Tahsas 1967.

On 20 June 1975, the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts announced that it was
finalizing the preparation of a new national curriculum in line with the principles and
objectives of Ethiopian Socialism.
In the numerous articles published as a response to
this call, many argued that besides its unquestionable educational merit, the language
issue was an important precondition for the resolution of the nationalities question. Some
even challenged Amharics status as the official language of the nation. They argued that
the question of deciding the national language of a country must be settled only after the
other major languages are given right, support and a long period of gestation. How to
communicate in the meantime? There was what looked like an audacious proposal: lets
use a foreign language such as English for national/official purposes, but keep local
languages for day to day communication. Another interesting proposition was regarding
language of instruction. There was a suggestion that every Ethiopian child should learn
two languages besides the mother tongue, with the teaching materials being prepared in
mother tongues. Amharic should be given as one subject for all and those whose mother
tongue is Amharic should also learn two other languages.

In order to promote the development of major languages, they must be used in the mass
media such as radio and newspapers. A start was made in this direction when the PMAC
launched a one hour radio program in Oromigna on 24 December 1974. However, this
was not deemed enough as the language must be used for official and instructional
purposes in its locality [particularly at the primary level]. In addition, the development of
the target language could be facilitated when it is extensively used in the theatres, music,

AZ, 7 "inbot 1967. AZ, 9 "inbot 1967.
AZ, 20 Hamle 1967.

literature, etc.
Only this would solve, according to proponents, the unfair advantage
Amharic speakers had over speakers of other languages in Ethiopia. Even the Addis
Zemen editorial repeatedly emphasized that rectification of the hegemony of one
language and culture over the others would be the fundamental prerequisite to national

The battle was pitched at the primary level education where strong cases have been made
on the merits of enabling the child grow firmly centered on the day to day life, culture,
language and history of its locality. Only a child confident and proud of its ethnic identity
would grow up a good Ethiopian!
While this claim was itself debatable, a related issue
regarded the choice of a script for a particular language. Now the universal applicability
of the Geez-Amharic script was being challenged openly. There appears a general
compromise on the values of promoting equality and development of the vernaculars
while disputing the educational and economical justification of imposing English or other
foreign languages under this pretext, even as a temporary measure, except being a zero-
sum expression of hatred for Amharic. Therefore, the best solution would be not to ban
Amharic altogether but to teach local languages in Sabean (to mean Ethiopic)
This, proponents reasoned, is substantiated by the history of linguistic
evolution. All great languages have borrowed their script from others; Ethiopic itself was
borrowed and thus not an exclusive property of any group in Ethiopia. It could be
appropriately called Ethiopian.

AZ, 11 Megabit 1967. 4denica% arg!$en !nder he i%e &!ni( hr#!gh e8!a%i(+ in he iss!e #, 8 "inbot
1967. AZ, 27 Miazia 1968, de$and ,#r he :#%%a(ia a radi# pr#gra$ in he %#ca% %ang!age.
AZ, 14 "inbot 1967. AZ, 7 "inbot 1967.
AZ, 19 %ehassie 1967.
AZ, 22 "inbot 1967.

It is evident that these public exchanges were surface expressions of the political
undercurrents regarding the nationalities question. The military regime might have
encouraged such a compromise solution to the issue as its subsequent measures indicated.
The Derg did not get a breathing space between 1974 and 1978 due to internal and
external problems. In 1979, however, it launched a massive public education program by
establishing the National Literacy Campaign Coordinating Committee (NLCCC) under
the Ministry of Education. In fact, it was during the literacy campaign that the fifteen
most widely spoken languages of the country began to be used for educational purposes.
However, this official list did not automatically disqualify other minority languages
which already had some experiment in transcription. A January 1978 report by Getachew
Mekuria, entitled Report on the Pre-Implementation Survey Mission to Gambella,
notes what was observed from the meetings with the various peasant associations in the
awraja: The Anuak and Nuer languages were both written: Anuak in Ethiopian
characters and Nuer in the Latin script. According to the new democracy the use of local
languages should be encouraged for educational purposes but a thorough study was
required to be able to do this and this was still lacking at the present time. They [the
peasant associations] recommended that the Nuer language should also be written in the
Ethiopian script.

In 1979, the military regime established in place of the NALA a new Ethiopian
Languages Academy, though for a long time this body did not do significant work on
other Ethiopian languages except Amharic and Geez.
For much of the Derg period,

;3025 <i%es= 'd!cai#n 6!rea!, a rep#r wrien in 'ng%ish, >an!ar( 1978.
Me*!ria 6!%ach, ?)he "ang!age 3#%icies #, 'hi#pian 2egi$es and he @is#r( #, :rien A,aan
Ar#$##= 1844-1994,B &'S, 4,2(1994), p.108.

Amharic remained the medium of instruction at elementary (1-6) level and it was given
as a subject at higher levels with emphasis on the grammatical aspects. Amharic literature
was not taught both at elementary and secondary levels and the few books which had
been deposited in school libraries were intended to assist Amharic learning, rather than
for their literary qualities. However, towards the end of its rule, the Derg had briefly
launched a trial use of Amharic as a medium of instruction in selected secondary schools.
The Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature at AAU was the only place where
some attempts were made to teach Amharic literature. Even then the courses offered were
predominated by Amharic with respect to linguistics and by Geez with respect to
literature. This was due to the nature and history of the two languages. Geez has a well-
developed literary tradition and heritage though it is obsolete for practical communication
purposes. In contrast, Amharic has a national communicative significance but a brief
literary life and a wealth of literature far less than Geez.

The second most important concern in the educational reforms of the period was the
content of the national curriculum. Unlike the imperial regime, both formal and informal
systems of public education were highly centralized and closely monitored. School
curricula of the Derg era were also heavily permeated by state ideology. From the outset,
some subjects such as geography and history, religious or ethical education, were singled
out for being outdated and in need of revision. The first two were debunked for they were
regarded as instruments of national oppression by perpetuating the ideology, history and
culture of a certain ethnic group. The others were similarly deemed one-sided and even
more irrelevant in the new context of socialism. The national education policy was

AZ, 3 Tikemt 1966, iner.iew wih pr#,ess#rs #, he depar$en @ai%! <!%ass, A/rha$ 1e$#9,and
A$sa%! A*%i%!.

single-mindedly devoted towards cultivating the new Socialist citizen and the direction
and content of syllabi reflected this goal. The Yekatit-66 Political School, which was
initially established for training cadres, also produced teachers who could handle a
subject called political education at the secondary and tertiary levels.
The escalation in the intensity of student politics had its repercussions on the
determination of the worth and status of academic history. During the period of political
uncertainty between 1974 and 1979 university students, especially ethno-nationalists,
opposed the teaching of history altogether for it was perceived to be unrepresentative of
the various Ethiopian peoples. There was of course an ideological bent for this opposition
and ...members of academic staff in the History Department were being accused of
being anti-Marxist, because of not teaching the history of the masses as this related to the
Ethiopian people. There was a period, in 1977-78, of considerable underground ethnic
secessionist activism from which the University and in particular the History Department,
did not escape. Students interfered, created chaos and dictated to a number of
teachers...It became very difficult to teach history without this being used or perceived as
a contribution to the political debate.

The military regime, however, did not cancel history from the curriculum of higher
education though it wanted it to be in line with socialist ideology. The initial
masterpieces of modern Ethiopian historians dealt with historical and institutional
continuity (Tadesse), ethnic interactions and reorganization (Merid), and national

2andi 2#nning 6a%s.i*, The (uest )or E*pression+ State and the ,niversit- in Ethiopia ,nder Three
Regimes. /01232441(AAC 3ress= 2007), pp.91-92.

survival (Rubenson).
The AAU Department of History launched its annual seminars in
1983 and up to the fourth seminar, which took place in 1987, a total of 41 articles on
various aspects of Ethiopian history were published. This period assured the departments
role as the institutional home of Ethiopian historiography, spanning diverse research
issues employing the concepts of class and ethnicity, touching on economic, social and
institutional issues. In the early 1980s, there was a renewed interest drawing expatriate
historians and anthropologists to the study of peripheral Ethiopia. Of particular
significance was the conference organized by Wendy James, Peter Garreston and Donald
Donham, who were themselves attracted to Ethiopia through the study of the Sudan.
Between 1979 and 1981, they organized two workshops specifically aiming to see the
people in southern Ethiopia and its borderlands not in their generality but individuality, terms of the links imposed by the conquest.

Truilzi dubbed the renewed attention of foreign anthropologists and historians on
southern Ethiopia, including his own concern on Wollega history, as the peripheral
school and elaborated its rationale and purpose. In his view, Ethiopia did not so much
attract anthropologists and their advent could be regarded as salutary because they
represented the periphery in contrast to the center-oriented perspective of historians.
He also noted that this modest effort was intended put together a body of local
sources for each southwestern region which will enable us to redress the imbalance in a
historiography which is still heavily dependent on external sources and official center-

1#na%d Dr!$$e(, ?5#cie(, 5ae and 0ai#na%i( in he 2ecen @is#ri#graph( #, 'hi#pia,B &ournal o)
A)rican Histor-, 31(1), (1990), p.104.
2ichard Da!%*, ?:#r* /eing d#ne #!side #, 'hi#pia #n 'hi#pian his#r( and re%aed #pics= a s!r.e(,B
5irst Annual Seminar o) the #epartment o) Histor- 61983), pp. 324, 325.

oriented chronicles.
Nevertheless, pursuing a separate peripheral school in contrast to
the central one was not necessary because: ...the final aim of these regional and local
studies should not be, in my view, the writing of some sort of counter-history for the
periphery, but an attempt at writing a comprehensive history of the Ethiopian people a
history which, so far, we have failed to produce.

The increasing relevance of ethnicity unleashed by the revolution was reflected in the
sphere of academic history as well."Undergraduates at Addis Ababa University
anticipated the importance of this issue in a number of theses dedicated to non-Semitic
speaking peoples in the years before the Revolution. Of the 103 theses accepted then in
the History Department, 76 dealt with Ethiopian topics, and, of the 76, 13 or 17-I per cent
dealt with peoples other than the Amhara or Tegray."
Interestingly, it was the late
Professor Tadesse Tamrat who explicitly noted the dire need for interdisciplinary studies
on the history and culture of Ethiopian nationalities. After outlining research priorities,
which he suggested could be undertaken as regional studies based on geographical units
such as the Awash basin, Gibe-Omo, etc, he concluded: With the development of our
research capacity here at A.A.U. and in other future centers of higher education in
Ethiopia, parallel studies of these areas could be made so that within the following ten
years we will have been able to build up quite a vast material on the rich cultural heritage
of the peoples of Ethiopia.
But this was not an easy task in practice since, for example,
from about 177 best B.A. theses produced in the Department of History between 1972

A%essandr# )r!i%9i, ?Dener E 3eripher( 2e%ai#ns in 'hi#pian 5!dies, 2e,%eci#ns #n )en Fears #,
2esearch #n :#%%ega @is#r(,B 7
I8ES (1982), p.359.
Ibid. p.362.
Dr!$$e(, ?5#cie(, 5ae,B p.113.
)adesse )a$ra, ?2esearch 3ri#riies,B 2
Annual Seminar o) the #epartment o) Histor-, 44 (1984), p.68.

and 1998, only one had direct relevance to the history of the Nilotic peoples of the

The adoption of socialist ideology also demanded a reinterpretation of national history
and recreation of collective memory and culture. In 1975, the Derg changed the date for
the celebration of Victory Day from 27 Miazia (5 May) to 28 Megabit (6 April), claiming
that Ethiopian patriots had victoriously hoisted the national flag on the latter date. This
momentous event was considered as the victory of the Ethiopian broad masses rather than
its rulers; and even the venue of celebration was temporarily shifted to Menelik II Square.
To consolidate its measure, the regime hailed two historic flags which had served as
symbols of unity and inspiration during the five years of patriotic resistance. One of
these, used as banner for Shoan patriots, was entrusted as a national heritage to the
keeping of the Ancient Ethiopian Patriots Association. The other was the flag Ethiopian
patriots had hoisted on the afternoon of 6 April 1941 when they victoriously entered
Addis Ababa alongside the British allies.
This measure was considered an instance of
returning history to its owner.
Therefore, the Socialist regime envisioned a complete
revision/rectification of the writing and teaching of history itself; the national discourse
from the history of kings, aristocrats and personalities to that of the common people, the
real motors of history.

The Derg wanted to refashion the national emblem, TY9 nC, as a symbolic
expression of its departure from the previous regime. On 17 February 1975, decision was

)his was Aie/ Ah$ed 1a,a%%a, ?5hei* -h#Ga%e A%-@assen and 6enishang!%= 1825-1938,B (6.A. )hesis,
AAC= 1epar$en #, @is#r(, 1973).
AZ, 6 Miazia 1967.
AZ, 24 Megabit 1967.
AZ, 25 Megabit 1967.

passed to prepare an artistic representation of the nation based on the philosophy of
socialism. Accordingly, the Ministry of Culture announced a public contest on 18
February 1975 inviting Ethiopian artists to take part. The singular criterion for the
intended emblem was that it should be based on the fundamentals of Ethiopia First
thinking and the political philosophy of socialism, while not entirely divorced from
Ethiopianness both in history and sentiment. n1\Z) 11x9 ~;9 nn1T ^)
r1~h uS UT10911 r?n1h sAnsS ~1 ;h9 u1 n1 s9
n1\Z)911J )n11 ~uJ )SC;A
Already the Derg had changed the Jubilee
Palaces name to National Palace on 25 August 1974 and the Haile Silassie I Theatre to
National Theatre. Starting from 10 September 1974 the names of some hospitals, squares
and roads were also changed thus setting a pattern for the regimes own symbols and

Nevertheless, the official representations were again based on the symbolisms and
markers of the historic nation though given a new socialist interpretation and emphasis.
The tricolor flag and the lion were the two main national symbols retrieved from the
historic nation. The Derg removed all other symbols from the Moa Anbessa flag and
maintained the plain green-yellow-blue without changing its shape and size. This
remained the ultimate national emblem while its interpretation emphasized only the
history, culture, patriotism and development of the Ethiopian state and people.
Simultaneously, however, the regime adopted another flag, the red banner, to stand for
its ideology and internationalism.

AZ, 11 Yekatit 1967.

Though removed it from the flag, the Derg did not entirely reject the national lion (of
Judah). It initially wanted it to be Ethiopian, a plain figure now symbolizing the
patriotism and independence of the Ethiopian nation. The regime gave the lion symbol a
historical turn by resurrecting the 'Black Lion' as a symbol of Ethiopian resistance. The
major government institutions including the army, the air force, the navy and service
giving organizations such Anbessa Buses and Ethiopian Ari Lines utilized these
paramount national symbols, flag and lion. The new national currency prepared by the
Derg in 1976 would not have been called truly national if the lion hadnt been embedded
in it. The military regime capped its creation of national symbolism by erecting in
September 1984 Tiglachin, a monument of the Unknown Soldier, to celebrate the
revolutionary struggle of the Ethiopian people.

The period between the defeat of the Somali invasion in late 1977 and the onset of the
most severe famine in recent history in 1984 marked the zenith of the military regime.
During this brief period the Derg launched several projects bringing about profound
social and economic changes designed to forge Socialist Ethiopia. In fact, the major
mobilization decisions of the regime in the entire period had an element of promoting
unity and integrity at core. The first among these was the Development through
Cooperation Campaign (Idget Behibret) which, besides other explicit objectives, was
intended to consolidate Ethiopian unity.
This controversial plan was set in motion on 18
October 1974, when the Directorate for Development through Cooperation, Knowledge
and Work Campaign was formed. The inauguration of Idget Behibret was celebrated

AZ, 2 Meskerem 1977. Mengis!, Tiglachin, p.5.
M#4 <i%es= 0#.714H7, 1, YeEdget 9ehibret Zemecha. AZ, 2 Yekatit 1967.

throughout the country on 21 December 1974 and the earliest campaigners mobilized
from Addis to southern Ethiopia on 10 January 1975.

The high school and university students included in this campaign were divided over its
relevance and goals. A part of the student body was enthusiastic about the Idget Behibret
as it seemed to answer to the call so far as a slogan fanno tesemara and others also
welcomed it as a means of mobilizing grassroots opposition to the military government.
Still a vociferous minority seriously opposed it as a strategy to remove student activists
from the political center and claimed we are the leaders of the movement so we will not
go out of this city unless we have established a popular government.
In the early days
of exuberant optimism many believed and argued that Ethiopia had a philosophy suitable
for administration and leadership, that the national life was suitable for socialism, and
that its distinctiveness justified a unique homespun ideology and statesmanship for the
new Ethiopia.
This nationwide application of the ideas of Ethiopia First set the trend for
Dergs massive mobilization programs in the period.
The 4 March 1975 proclamation nationalizing rural land also provided immeasurable
boost to the Derg. What is more important, it established a legal framework for elaborate
structures to administer land and deal with legal issues at the local level. This in turn
enhanced the regimes capacity to access, supervise and indoctrinate at the grassroots
The strength of the Derg or its superiority over other civilian rivals lay not only in
its monopoly of raw force or its control of the vast state apparatus and resources but also

AZ, 28 %ehassie 1966.
AZ, 16 Tikemt 1967.
AZ, 14 Meskerem 1967. AZ, 19 Meskerem 1967.
AZ, 25 Yekatit 1967.

in its ability to create effective propaganda machinery through mass communication,
mobilization and organization. That was the relative weakness of the imperial regime. For
this task the Derg started what was called yewideta gideta, a term apparently
contradictory but an effective means of suppressing dissenting voices. It organized and
regimented the society along various lines: urban dwellers associations, peasant
associations (its power bases), youth associations, womens associations, teachers
associations, workers associations, etc. It even attempted to control and mobilize
religious institutions and other traditional associations such as Idirs. The Derg
accompanied every measure in this respect with a floodgate of meglecha, mabraria,
awaj, mefokir, and a background march music which still echoes in ones mind.

Other means of dissemination and mobilization of the people effectively used by the
Derg included arts, music and sports. The regime did an impressive job in promoting
tradition, culture and music of the various nationalities in line with the governing socialist
ideology. In a meeting held on 2 April 1974 between the then Minister of Information,
Ahadu Sabore, and employees of the Haile Selassie I Theatre, the latter urged among
others that this generation has a great concern for tradition, therefore, serious care is
needed when it comes to cultural music and tribal languages...As Ethiopia is home to so
many tribes with distinctive performances, the cultures of all groups should have been
collected and studied instead of making the dance of a few tribes represent the entire
traditional plays of the country. This is inappropriate and counterproductive.
In a
similar evaluation of its achievement so far, the Hager Fiqir Theatre also raised the need
for further work on traditional/folk music of the various groups. As the administrator

AZ, 1 Miazia 1966.

noted, the effort to represent the various folk dances and songs as faithfully as possible
must continue. In addition, the efforts to make cultural songs and dances performed by
members of the respective groups themselves (which were often performed by non-native
artists) have to be supplemented by the translation of the songs into Amharic and their
presentation to the public.

From the very outset music and the arts were intended to serve social purposes: h11
n~x. Some of the most famous theatres such as U U nn1 dC, LS1 n9 m?,
0nh0S 0n&0, C rC8, )n)A 1&, xJ, 1Y, nl& 1), etc appeared in
the early revolutionary period with explicit indoctrination purposes.
For instance, in the
period between nl& 1)(1974) to )dJ1 hTT(1983,the first non-political theme
since the revolution) all the twenty theatres and musical dramas hosted by the National
Theatre were politically themed.
The Derg also established a network of music and
theatre bands known as kinets from region down to kebele levels performing both modern
and hagereseb (folk) works.
It was only later, especially after the Ethio-Somali war,
that the regime relaxed the ideological burden on music and theatre and even gave more
freedom for private bands to operate.
The overall cultural achievement seems
unparalleled both in its outreach and dynamism. The local bands gradually evolved into
veritable seedbeds for famous artists and singers thus ushering in the early 1980s the
second revival of Ethiopian music.

AZ, 9 Sene 1966.
AZ, 27 Hidar 1972. AZ, 7 Meskerem 1973. AZ, 9 Meskerem 1973. AZ, 17 Tikemt 1976.
<e*ad! <e(e and 'enesh -assa, YeEt-opia 9ihera!i Theatre Achir Tarikna Yemisetache!
M#4 <i%es. 0# n!$/er, Ye:i)lehageroch Yebahilna Yekinet Achir Report (1967 'D). AZ, 6 Meskerem
1971. AZ, 11 Meskerem 1971. AZ, 10 Tikemt 1976. AZ, 14 Tikemt 1976.
AZ, 8 Hamle 1970.

On the eve of the revolution in 1973, the first domestic tourism program called Etyopian
Eneweq (Lets Know Ethiopia) was started jointly by the National Tour Operation and
Wollo Commerce, Industry and Transport Share Company. This program was launched
with the intention that domestic tourism would be more beneficial to see and understand
Ethiopias natural resources, captivating topography, historical heritage and longstanding
An Addis Zemen editorial further argued that knowing ones country and her
historical treasures should be a civic obligation.
The Derg promoted the Hagerhin Eweq
(Know Your Country) clubs in schools, the civil service apparatus and various popular
organizations. In 1978, the regime launched the First Annual Cultural Development
Campaign Plan with explicit objective to promote national culture. In its second annual
plan the study of the nationalities languages, particularly research on the internal
structure(morphology) of the various nationalities as well as the collection and
compilation of folklore, songs and poems were integrated.
The NDRPE had also
pledged to make a special concern for the peripheral and forgotten peoples of Ethiopia.
Sports were among the channels of collective expression, which during the imperial
period were generally dominated by themes of Ethiopian patriotism and nationalism.
Club names included such as Tewodros, Andinet, etc and the various provincial teams of
Shoa, Eritrea, Tigre, Arusi, etc, which gave very lively entertainment to the general
public, were intended to strengthen regional against any ethnic loyalties and
identifications. The latter occasionally backfired due to the ethnic character of some of
the regions. A notable example could be the soccer tournament among the 14 regional

AZ, 13 Tikemt 1966.
AZ, 14 Tikemt 1966.
AZ, 27 Hidar 1972.

teams held on the occasion of the 1973 Crown Anniversary, in which the Tigre Football
Directory evoked a serious political wrangling by changing the regional name to Tigray
on the teams placard.

The Derg again encouraged the establishment of various sports teams upward from the
kebele level and spent considerable resources to engage the youth in healthy pursuits. The
intention was to make the kebele not only an institution of local administration and
control but also a place of provision, leisure and socialization. The regime also allowed
the reestablishment of military and police sports clubs to compete with civilian teams at
various levels in the national league. The Dergs idea of promoting unity in diversity
gradually began to permeate and find expression in the spheres of the arts, music,
literature, etc. The famous artistic representation of Ethiopian diversity, displaying
different groups and nationalities within the Ethiopian map, was painted in 1975 as a
promotion to the Ethiopian Commercial Bank. Tellingly subtitled as rUn9 n1\Z)9
1d!(see appendix II), this kind of display set a pattern for the future.
The most outstanding example of the Dergs commitment to national unity was its
massive mobilization and propaganda in defence of the Mother Land. The Somali
invasion and the war of 1977-78 specially became the fire test of the regimes capacity to
handle a national crisis and the one which stamped its legitimacy. This was in fact a time
the military regime felt that it was literally encircled by the enemies of the revolution -
nY)J(anti-revolutionaries), nSChn1(anarchists), 11J^\(secessionists), C7
10(infiltrators), 1^(mercenaries), etc.
Mengistu passionately appealed to the

AZ, 25 Hidar 1966.
AZ, 2 Meskerem 1971.

national patriotism of Ethiopians in the Call of the Motherland speech he made on 12
April 1977. The drafting, training and equipping of hundreds of thousands of peoples
militia forces to supplement the Ethiopian regular army at such a short call, and the
mobilization of the entire country behind the fighting forces was a huge task.

The military regime mobilized every organization for the war effort. The best example of
these had been the coordination of the urban Idirs. The imperial regime had also
attempted to mobilize the people for peace, development and unity through neighborhood
self-help associations such as Idirs.
These institutions which were established and
spread over a period of thirty years following the Italian period in the various Ethiopian
cities had performed important activities in consolidating the public sense of tolerance
and coexistence. Though originally established as socialization and self-help associations
based on ethnicity and workplace, they had gradually abandoned their professional,
ethnic and religious bases and become common associations based on neighborhood and
In this respect Idirs have surpassed other similar institutions such as Mahber, Senbete and
Iqub. On the eve of the revolution Idirs had begun to coordinate their members for
development activities, to play significant roles in improving the socio-economic life of
communities and in consolidating peoples sense of unity. The fact that Idirs equally
embrace both ordinary members and government officials made them an exemplary way
of life for urban communities throughout Ethiopia. The military regime used Idirs
effectively from the very moment of the announcement of the Call of the Motherland on

AZ, 18 Sene 1969, a/#! 300,000 new%( rained $i%iia $ade a grea parade a he &2e.#%!i#n 58!are+
and sa$e dae Mengis! warned 5#$a%ia # s#p an( .i#%ai#n #, 'hi#pian erri#r(.
AZ, 2 Tikemt 1966.

12 April 1977 to the conclusion of the war in December 1977. In addition to this, the
regime established elaborate urban residents associations in the 248 towns throughout
the country.

It is in such critical moments of national survival that the Ethiopian state instinctively
called upon the ideology, culture and traditions of the historic nation. In this respect the
military regime used the vast networks of peoples associations to appeal to national
sentiment, to raise the peoples morale, to draft volunteers en masse, and to organize
support events for the army throughout the country. Its war propaganda was also
unrestrained in the denigration of the rival Somali nationalism, history and identity. The
Ethio-Somali war not only boosted the regimes nationalist stand but also served it to
expose and destroy domestic civilian opponents, who fell in public disgrace by allegedly
stabbing the army in the back.
There were strong rumors that while the Ethiopian
army was fighting a last ditch battle in places such as Quore, and Karamara, its
commanders and bravest fighters were often shot from behind. Many soldiers who took
part in the war claim that such insider killings were aimed at demoralizing the army.
While the truth of this allegation should be doubted, the very absurdity of invoking the
nationalities principle for an international invasion shows how far some among the
contending groups were prepared to go.

The Ethio-Somali war also had another enduring impact on the regime. Victory made the
Derg confident in its military might and complacent towards the peaceful resolution of
internal insurgencies and oppositions. It rather kept the country on a war footing. The

AZ, 9 Tahsas 1966. AZ, 2 Meskerem 1970. Mengis!, Tiglachin, pp.383-388.
)his is an !n,#r!nae a%%egai#n /! #ne which $( #wn ,aher, wh# had a*en par as a ;4 in he 'hi#-
5#$a%i war re$e$/ered in disg!s.

militia was never demobilized but maintained as part of the gigantic army the Derg built
in the subsequent period. Particularly, the introduction of national military service
became the most unpopular project which led to the demise of the regime. National
military service, as Emperor Haile Selassie noted in his 43
Crown Anniversary speech,
was intended to instill discipline and love of motherland in the youth of the country.
Though the idea had been raised back in 1955, the actual law for its implementation was
not promulgated until October 1973.
The Derg revived this plan by proclaiming a
compulsory national military service in 1983/84 (1976 EC) for all Ethiopian youth
between ages 18 and 30. The first draftees entered training camps in April 1984. The
motto was nnT\;91 n1\Z) Un9 T )19! The Derg sacrificed the youth and
resource of the country and led to the last hour an embattled nation.

The Management of Ethnic and Nationalities Issues

The military regime employed two parallel and complementary policies to manage ethnic
and nationalities issues. These were based on the very different nature and expression of
ethnicity and ethno-nationalism. Ethnicity, more appropriately traditional ethnicity, is
localized and spontaneous in nature and ranges from simple stereotyping among different
groups to communal exclusions, taboos and dissensions. Ethnicity is a part of day to day
social life and the best thing that can be done is to manage its conflictual manifestations.
A purely cultural practice of body markings, like in the Tigreans, Wolayita, Nuer,etc,
may be used as powerful ethnic diacritical marks. Some of the group labelings, such as
bariya, buda, baleij, shanqilla, related to minority groups and had deeper historical

AZ, 25 "inbot 1966.

roots. The deployment of these features in a wider ethnic ideology first begins in
localized settings at the points of cultural contact between different groups. The Derg was
genuinely devoted to eradicate all features of ethnocentrism and strictly censored public
expressions of stereotyping such as linguistic, religious, color, gender and occupational
At the local level the regime attempted to arbitrate traditional feuds between
various communities in the country: often through the traditional institutions but backed
by a strong government presence.

The nationalities issue was more organized and politicized in nature. From the very
beginning the regime showed determination to consolidate Ethiopian unity by a one
country one people slogan. The translation of its nationalist ideology both as Etyopia
Tikdem and Hibretesebawinet was closely allied to the nation-building effort. The regime
justified the policy by historical as well as pragmatic arguments, n1\Z) ~S1 dn
nJ n1C rnJ UTT 1 uS Sn; it saw ethnic-based organizations suspiciously and
made ethnocentric agitations strictly punishable. The Derg was reasonably sincere in its
effort to redress the historical injustices suffered by oppressed faiths, classes and
nationalities. A ground breaking measure in this regard was the announcement on 23
December 1974 about the legal equality of Ethiopian national holidays. For the first time
in the countrys history, the Derg officially sanctioned major Muslim religious festivities
to be national holidays in par with Christian holidays. As noted in chapter two, the
imperial regime had in practice accorded them national status without acknowledging it
in public law. The Derg made many significant concessions to accommodate the diverse

AZ, 27 Miazia 1968.
AZ, 23 Yekatit 1967.

linguistic, religious and cultural diversity of Ethiopia. On 24 December 1974, it launched
a one-hour radio program in the Oromo language transmitted from the Addis Ababa radio
station. Books were published in Afaan Oromo and a weekly paper named Barissa was
also launched. The requirement of a pass in Amharic to join higher institutions, as well as
the freshman courses Amharic 101 and 102 were rescinded, and even the Amharic
Department itself was temporarily closed during the heyday of the revolution.

Simultaneously, the Derg also harshly punished what it considered to be violent
organized expressions of ethnicity. One important case in point is the fate of Brigadier
General Tadesse Biru, the founder of Mecha-na-Tualama self-help association. Though
Tadesse had been sentenced to death for inciting communal dissension and violence in
1963, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by Emperor Haile Selassie. He
was then released and his pension reinstated when the Derg gave amnesty to all political
prisoners in early 1974. However, within a year, Tadesse was again accused of actively
engaging in ethnic agitation and armed insurrection against the new regime. In March
1975, Tadesse and his compatriot Lieutenant Colonel Hailu Regasa were apprehended at
Meta Robi in a locality called Guro Mako. The Supreme Military Court sentenced the
former to life imprisonment and the latter to death. This decision was, however,
overturned by the then Chairman of the Derg, General Teferi Benti, and Tadesse and
Hailu were executed along with other revolutionaries such as Meles Tekle, Rezene
Kidane and Alula Bekele.

)i%ah!n ;a$a, ?)he 3#%iici9ai#n #, M( Ar#$#-'ng%ish 1ici#nar(= he :rier+s 2e,%eci#ns,B &'S, I44, 1
J2(2000), p.3.
AZ, 10 Megabit 1967.

From a pragmatic point of view, this action seems to have been intended to preempt rival
civilian organizations (including EPRP and MEISON) whose political agenda regarding
the nationalities issue has become a public secret. The regime argued that rn1\Z)
TY9 nJ11 Y)A 1d U)A9 nJ11 1d rA uA (Today Ethiopias national
tune has become unity is strength and strength is unity).
By mid-1976, the ethnic
undercurrents simmering in the various popular, civil and professional associations began
to erupt even on the pages of Addis Zemen. The main fault line was drawn between
opposite views labeled as narrow nationalism and chauvinism. For instance, the
incriminating exchanges between the Wollega and Gondar branches of the Ethiopian
Teachers Association had been centered on whether or not there existed what were
called m0T TY1^11 (narrow nationalism) and oppressor nationality.

Another important point of dialogue was regarding the use of biher instead of gosa for
each ethnic group, as the latter implied exclusiveness and backwardness. The Derg
consistently employed gosa(clan/tribe) for ethnic specific issues while it restricted
biher to the Ethiopian nation in general until 1976. It was after 1976 that another term
bihereseb was introduced to highlight the distinction between nation and nationality.
Though biher and bihereseb eventually came to be used interchangeably, in the
subsequent period bihereseb completely replaced gosa or neged to refer to ethnic groups.
Hereafter, the term gosa (or gosegna/ gosegnet) was occasionally used as a pejorative
reference to ultra-ethnonationalists or the so-called narrow nationalists.

AZ, 28 Hidar 1967.
AZ, 18 %ehassie 19687 25 %ehassie 1968.

One means of combating ethnocentrism contemplated from the early days of the
revolution was redrawing the provincial structure inherited from the Imperial regime.
This was because the awraja teqlaygizat system, though it was designed to solidify
regional against ethnic loyalty and identification, had left some historical entities such as
Tigray and Eritrea intact, thereby inadvertently solidifying ethno-regional sentiments.
Now one of the proposals to counter such pan-ethnic as well as ethno-regional
developments was the formation of wider administrative entities comprising of diverse
ethno-cultural units or to group kiflehagers into central, northern, western and eastern
regions. For instance, to make Wollo, Begemedir, Tigre and Eritrea into the northern
Ethiopian region, etc.
However, this brought another conflict with the NDRPE which
explicitly endorsed regional autonomy for the nationalities. This means a genuine
implementation of the program would demand the regrouping of ethnic groups into
contiguous regions.

The task of dealing with the nationalities issue was initially entrusted to the Nationalities
Committee which was subsumed under the party structures of the Derg and its affiliates,
especially in the Joint Front. This body had become defunct after MEISON and
ECHAAT abandoned it in late 1977. The Institute of Nationalities Studies was later
established in 1983, headed by Yayehyirad Kitaw and including a number of staff
members from the AAU.
Broadly speaking, the tasks of the institute consisted of
drafting the constitution of PDRE after having carried out the necessary research into the
national composition of the country, the administrative divisions of the regions and

AZ, 28 Hidar 1967.
M#4 <i%es= 0#.129, 6.14, Yebihereseb Institute. 0#.50, Sile 9ihereseboch Tinat.

comparative constitutional law of the socialist countries.
In the documents presented
for the Second Congress of the Commission for the Organization of the Workers Party
of Ethiopia (COWPE), 6-9 September 1984, which founded the Workers Party of
Ethiopia (WPE), it was clearly stated that the structure of the government will be unitary
and be based on the realities of the country's economy and shall take into account the
territorial configuration of the nationalities.

Moreover, cadres argued that the right of nationalities has always been the concern of the
revolutionary government but this right would be implemented according to the
provisions of the NDRPE, which is regional autonomy. The regime denounced any
variation to the unitary structure of the state. "The desire to secede from socialist Ethiopia
is a desire to join imperialism and the reactionary camp; there is no third alternative to
The Department of Nationalities was also announced on the Second Congress and
was filled by cadres and party functionaries headed by Shoandagn Belete. Generally,
until towards the end of the period the Derg maintained the basic pattern of the imperial
regimes teklay gizat system by renaming it kifle hager. But the very elaborate parastatal
structure down to local administration enabled it to make central control easier through
party officials. In sum, though the issue of Rasberas Yewist Astedader(internal self-
administration) had featured in the political discourse of the Derg from the early period
of the revolution, its adoption as Ras-Gez Astedader in 1987 was forced by the realities of
the nationalities war. The only autonomous region, according to the 1987 Peoples

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, pp.266-7.
M#4 <i%es= n# n!$/er, Sile Rasberas Ye!ist Astedader Yetederege Tinat (1969 'D). 0# n!$/er,
Yebiher 9ihereseboch Mete-e;na Tinat(1971 'D). AZ, 1 Meskerem 1977.
Andargachew, Ibid, p.266. M#4 <i%es= n# n!$/er, Rasn 9eras Astedader 9emeshegageria "izena
9ehibreteseba!inet Amerar (1969'D).

Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE) constitution, where the administrative unit was
coextensive with the national composition was YeAsseb Ras-Gez Akababi (Afar).

4.2 The Nationalities versus the State

As noted in the previous chapters, the early 1960s marked the apogee of the imperial state
and its version of Ethiopianism. This period also witnessed the origin of its ethnic and
regional antagonists. Somali, Oromo, Eritrean, and Tigrean ethno-nationalists emerged to
demand the dismantling of the Ethiopian state. While the early ethno-regional
insurgencies were all inspired and driven by external forces, the ethno-nationalist
movements which began in the 1970s mainly among the Eritreans, Tigreans and Oromos,
however, had been part of the general prise dconscince inspired by the ESM and the
political uncertainty it engendered in the imperial regime.

Until the onset of the revolution most of the domestic political movements and activities
of the period were conceived and executed in Addis Ababa. Ideologically, they were also
influenced by the ESM and its Marxist-Leninist tendencies, with all its implications to the
resolution of the nationalities question. The ethno-nationalist forces within or outside the
student movement were induced by the perception of economic, political and socio-
cultural disparity in the framework of a city interaction. Their understanding and
prescriptions also ranged in the political spectrum from equality in unity to outright
independence. Paradoxically, the 1974 revolution and the concomitant state

M#4 <i%es= 0#.15836, YeTigra-. YeAsseb. Ye#ireda!ana Ye'gaden Ras "ez Akababi!och Siltanina
Tegbar <eme!esen Ye!eta A!a= (1980'D).

transformation intensified demands for decolonization.
As an exception to the Third
World, Ethiopia harbored a nationalistic or anti-imperialist element in both causation
and ideology, but this was subordinate to that of internally generated contradictions.

The Eritrean problem was one of the most intractable political challenges the Derg
inherited on taking power. Arguably, few other factors, perhaps with the exception of the
student movement, have left their mark as deeply on the course of subsequent history of
Many scholars dispute the existence of any Eritrean consciousness apart
from Italian-induced antagonism in the imperial period. They argue that not even a
collective oppression under a colonial rule for over half a century had produced any
unifying nationalist tradition within Eritrea.
On the contrary, regional identification
seems the major common denominator in Eritrean nationalism and it had much longer
historical roots than the Italian period. This traditional regionalism was the bedrock of
modern Eritrean nationalism. In fact, in the post-Italian period Eritreans had embraced
some of Italian-induced identifying marks, such as a distinctive sense of urbanity and
civilizedness in contrast to the rest of Ethiopia including Tigray. As mission schooled
they had been favored for senior posts in the hierarchy of the Ethiopian state apparatus
including the army; as inheritors of Italian skills, garages, vehicles, hotels, pastries and
various institutions, they were highly represented in the service giving sector in the rest
of Ethiopia.

5a%%( @ea%(, ?)he Dhanging 4di#$s #, 5e%,-1eer$inai#n in he @#rn #, A,rica,B in 4.M."ewis(ed),
%ationalism and Sel)3#etermination in the Horn o) A)rica("#nd#n= 4haca 3ress, 1983), p.102.
<red @a%%ida( and MaKine M#%%ine!K, The Ethiopian Revolution ("#nd#n= Iers#, 1981), p.14.
@en9e, ?2e/e%s and 5eparaissB, p.41.
Me%a*#! )egegn, ?'rirea= '.#%!i#n )#wards 4ndependence and 6e(#nd,B in A/e/e Zege(e and
5ieg,ried 3a!sewang(eds), Ethiopia in 8hange+ $easantr-. %ationalism and #emocrac-("#nd#n= 6riish
Acade$ic 3ress, 1994), p.79.

The perception of incongruity between an exalted social and economic position and the
relative lack of political power vis a vis the Amhara was at the core of burgeoning
Eritrean consciousness during the imperial period. The Eritrean movements, therefore,
later developed their ideology as the negation of Amhara-Ethiopia. They conflated
Ethiopia and Amhara and limited Ethiopia to two or three Amhara provinces. Ideologues
of the Eritrean cause against Ethiopia, such as Bereket Habte Selassie, even fabricated a
separate history for the two entities based on a dichotomy of Axumite versus
Nevertheless, it was the collective suffering in the protracted war against
the Derg and the war effort that finally brought various Eritrean groups together for a
common national aspiration.

The two main rival Eritrean insurgencies - Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean
Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF)- were established in 1961 and 1973 respectively. ELF
was a Muslim-dominated organization that started armed rebellion by targeting the life
and property of Eritreans who struggled for unity with Ethiopia. Founded by Saed Awate,
its ideology emphasized the Muslim-Arab nature of Eritrea partly for tactical reasons.
The second organization was an offshoot of the ESM and played decisive role in the
Eritrean liberation struggle. Following the Ethiopian revolution, EPLF grew in number
and strength as new recruits, mainly Christian Tigreans, swelled its ranks. This condition
brought after 1975 an ideological shift towards the left and at the expense of Arabism. It
also showed that the Eritrean issue was tied more to events and developments inside
Ethiopia rather than to the Arab world.
Besides having the staunchest advocates of

6ere*e, 8on)lict and Intervention, pp.48-49. Me%a*#!, ?'rirea,B pp.79-80.
M#4 <i%es= 0#., Eritrea. 6ere*e, Ibid, p.64.

Eritreas right to secession in mainstream Ethiopian left, EPLF had also capitalized on
well-placed Eritreans within the Ethiopian government to sabotage and weaken the Derg.

What the Endalkachew government did regarding the intensification of insurgency in
Eritrea during the transition was to impose a temporary martial law and continue to seek
peaceful resolution.
The Derg first signaled its desire for a negotiated settlement of the
Eritrean problem when it issued Etyopia Tikdem in early July 1974. As a gesture of
rapprochement it also sent then Chairman Aman Andom to canvass public opinion and if
possible establish a window for future dialogue with the insurgents. Paradoxically,
however, Aman was accused of conniving with the rebels on his fallout with the military
regime in November 1974. The Derg went as far as nominating an Eritrean administrator
for the region, sent high level delegates to hold public deliberations as well as initiate
talks with the rebels through the intermediary of Eritrean notables and elders. This group
also went on a diplomatic mission to Arab countries, principally the Sudan and Syria,
which were supporting the insurgents.
The Derg reiterated its willingness for a peaceful solution to the Eritrean problem
immediately after proclaiming Ethiopian Socialism in late December 1974.
By then a
mediation committee from central Ethiopia led by Abuna Filipos had been trying for
about four months to avert bloodshed between brothers. Nevertheless, developments at
the center begun to cast their shadow on the peace option when in the course of this effort
Eritrean representatives boycotted the parliament and returned to the region. Many
Eritreans in higher government and civil service posts were allegedly found complicit

AZ, 11 Sene 1966. AZ, 13 Sene 1966.
)he ,a$#!s G#!rna%is and a!h#r, he %ae Ma$# :!dneh, was a ire%ess ad.#cae #, he peace,!%
s#%!i#n agenda. AZ, 1 Tir 1967.

with the insurgents, and many more went to join the rebels. Even the delegates trusted
with mediation were accused of secretly making peace between the two rival
organizations, ELF and EPLF, in Eritrea. The escalation was capped by the insurgents
fierce armed attack on Asmara in early January 1975.

This was the first flareout since the revolution which forced the PMAC to override the
partial proclamation of 1970/71(1963 EC) and declare full martial law on Eritrea
effective from 16 January 1975.
In a 27 January 1975 statement the PMAC denounced
Syria and the Baath Party for interfering in Ethiopias internal affairs by supporting
Eritrean insurgents. The Eritrean problem had reached serious proportions so that the
regime formed on 30 August 1975 a high ministerial committee to seek lasting solutions.
This was accompanied by an ultimatum to all Eritreans throughout the country to stay
away from any reactionary activities.
The overall plan, however, seems to have
lacked sincerity since Dergs official line remained nC1 n19 n1nd9!; and that
the problem was caused by a few wonbedewoch (outlaws)and lackeys of our historical
enemies the Arabs, that most Eritreans were dedicated to Ethiopian unity.

The NDRPE was the military regimes first serious attempt to address the nationalities
issue, evidently featuring Eritrea as a top priority. Again on 16 May 1976, the PMAC
disclosed a nine-point policy to resolve the Eritrean problem peacefully. It also called for
cooperation and clarified its intention to start dialogue with progressive forces in Eritrea
on the implementation of the self-determination provision outlined in the NDRPE. The

6ere*e, 8on)lict and Intervention, pp.30, 67. AZ, 1 Tir 1967. AZ, 27 %ehassie 1967.
AZ, 9 Yekatit 1967.
AZ, 29 %ehassie 1967.
AZ, 8 Yekatit 1967. AZ, 18 Yekatit 1967. A%s# 19 Yekatit 1967.

Derg particularly affirmed its commitment to the realization of regional autonomy, which
was elaborated in paragraph 2 of this program as follows:
!" # $%&'() *+,- ! ! ./- 0123 456- 7893
:*- ;5 ! </ 5=>- ?2 @9A )# ,BC) D 6E FG H$
4;II H$ &J KL,1M3 N/ O ?EP 1Q RK?! &S;II To put this
in practice, taking into account the history, interaction, geographical settlement,
economic condition, and suitability for development and administration of every region
in Ethiopia and its component nationalities; the government will study and propose the
future structure to the public at the appropriate time. The Ethiopian people will then
democratically deliberate on the issues and decide for themselves.

The problem for the Derg had been that Eritrea was not a nationality seeking regional
autonomy but a multiethnic region (with nine ethnic groups) demanding full
independence. On 7 July 1976 the Derg proclaimed the establishment of the Special
Commission for Eritrea Region entrusted with the task of implementing the nine-point
policy, especially points 5, 6, and 7. A mission led by Captain Sisay Habte and
accompanied by Haile Fida was dispatched to Eritrea. This scheme was, however,
interpreted by the insurgents as a device to eliminate the Eritrean problem by eliminating
Eritrea itself. The Derg continuously issued calls to Eritrean progressives to take a
revolutionary stand on the issue.
The EPLF responded by adopting its own "national

AZ, 10 "inbot 1968.
M#4 <i%es= 0#.1360, YeEritrea :i)le Hager "uda-. AZ, 13 "inbot 1968. 6ere*e, 8on)lict and
Intervention, pp.36-37. @en9e, ?2e/e%s and 5eparaissB, p.48.

democratic program" at its first congress on 31 January 1977. This document explicitly
underlined "Ethiopian colonialism" to be the major enemy of the Eritrean revolution.

Meanwhile, the year 1977 saw the Eritrean struggle firmly entrenched in the region. After
the Dergs call in April 1976 to all Ethiopian revolutionary groups to establish a common
front, ELF and EPLF also agreed for partial cooperation and proceeded to establish a
joint front of their own in January 1977. Within a year, both organizations succeeded in
gaining control of Eritrean towns and this campaign demonstrated EPLFs superior
efficiency and power. During this period, in June 1977, the ELF-Revolutionary Council
and EPLF established a coordinating body called the National Democratic Front (NDF)
to include non-Eritrean anti-Derg organizations. This was intended to offset the regimes
success in bringing most of the Marxist-Leninist groups under EMALEDIH three months
earlier. What followed was a temporary disengagement as the Derg shifted its concern
towards the Somali threat.

The Tigrean insurgency was in part inspired by the Eritrean insurgency, just like the other
civilian groups which took to the bush in the period. At the core of its ideology was an
intense anti-Shoan sentiment nurtured by real or imagined grievances. The 1955
Constitution, articles 45 and 47, allowed Ethiopians to form any association unless it is
used to incite ethnic and religious dissension and is found harmful to public interest or
decency. In fact this provision did not preclude the formation of political parties.

Nevertheless, it was the ethnic organizations which took to the stage in the late 1960s in

M#4 <i%es= n# n!$/er, Eritrea :i)le Hager Tsetita "uda-na Hizba!i "inbar Harnet Eritrea
Yeme=emeria! "ubae Sened(1970'D).
The /011 Revised 8onstitution, aric%es 45 and 47.

the form of self-help associations. The initial expressions of ethnic dissent and
mobilization among Tigreans brought together a part of the educated elite and the
hereditary nobility, represented by Ras Seyoum Mengesha, in the foundation of a semi-
legal cultural association known as Bahil-Tigrai. This cover organization engaged
teachers and students of the ethnic group in promoting their culture, which was a
reaffirmation of Tigrean identity. It lasted for about a year only. A weekly newspaper
called Semyenawi Kokeb (Northern Star) was also set up but that closed as well."

Again the university and the ESM provided suitable forum for mobilizing students and
focusing their concern on the problems of their respective region. The Tigraian
University Students Association (TUSA) that was formed in the early 1970s served as a
contact and coordination center. It linked students with the wider ethnic kins, particularly
with people who could contribute economically and politically to alleviate the problem of
the region. This marked the maturity of Tigrean ethnicism from mere concern with
culture and identity towards some form of organized, but still clandestine, action. To
broaden ethno-nationalist awareness and reflect on necessary measures, occasional
informative papers like Etek (Get Armed) and Dimtsi Bihere Tigrai (Voice of the Tigrai
Nation) were produced and distributed freely to the people.
These activities attracted
many influential members of the ethnic group from various walks of life.
The next step in the evolution of Tigrean ethno-nationalism was the establishment of a
quasi-political organization known as Mahber Gesgesti Bihere Tigrai (MAGEBT) or
Tigraian National Organization (TNO) at the beginning of 1974. This body within a year

Aregawi, ?A 3#%iica% @is#r(B, p.58.
Aregawi, ?A 3#%iica% @is#r(,B p.61.

transformed itself to Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and started armed
struggle on 18 February 1975 at a place called Dedebit.
Originally, TPLF held a
moderate stand on the national question, especially regarding Tigray. It maintained that
its goal was the establishment of a united and democratic Ethiopia where Tigrays right to
self-determination is respected. This original program was temporarily replaced in 1976
by the so-called Manifesto-68, a hardliner document which advocated the secession of
Tigrai: 1 H$ $%13 ; T&U51 $%13 VW- T&UX+@H RKY T&UZ! [\3 ]S^
6 /II !_ $*3 ; `a5 [a*3 D` [X+@H /b N/ 1 KL,1M3
+c$@, 5dd N;II That the Tigray peoples national struggle is anti-Amhara national
oppression, anti-imperialist, and anti-petty bourgeois reformism. Thus, the objective of
the revolutionary struggle will be to found a Tigray Democratic Republic free from
feudalism and imperialism.
This manifesto is interesting because it outlined the basic
ideology of Tigrian nationalism which still permeates a part of the TPLF thinking.
Particularly for the TPLF, this radical ethnicism had posed challenges on the tactical,
strategic as well as historical and sentimental levels. The advancement of the colonial
thesis for Tigray and the demand for independence from Ethiopia had threatened the
organizations integrity as a majority of its members found it to be a bogus claim, neither
justified by history nor theory. Perhaps a more pragmatic consideration for its
abandonment was, however, the opposition of EPLF to the matter and the danger of
losing strategic alliance in the insurgency against the Derg. EPLFs policy of shoving the
colonial thesis down the throats of the Ethiopian opposition first borne fruit with TPLFs

)3"< 1968 Mani,es#, p.i.. Aregawi, Ibid, p.46. )here was a%s# a sh#r-%i.ed ri.a% #rgani9ai#n *n#wn as
)igrai "i/erai#n <r#n which de$anded #!righ independence ,r#$ 'hi#pia.
)3"< 1968 Mani,es#, p.18.

ready concession in late 1970s.
TPLF had accepted EPLFs push for acknowledgement
of Eritreas colonial question to curry the latters favor vis a vis EPRP and other rival
organizations operating in the region. At this time, EPLF opposed rival secessionist
movements for self-serving purposes: not to provide the Derg political ammunition and
the fear that they would blur Eritreas distinctive character.
In sum, Manifesto-68 was
quietly dropped when it faced strong internal skepticism compounded by EPLFs
pressure and EPRPs repeated accusation in the form of a campaign against the TPLFs
separatist project.

A turning point in the TPLF insurgency came when the Derg shifted its concern from the
north to the southeast during the 1977 Somalian invasion. The shift was forced by a
strategic choice to avoid war on two fronts as well as the preferability of conventional to
guerrilla warfare. However, the fact that the Derg had also considered the northern
insurgency as a less threatening internal strife and its difficulty to justify and mobilize
Ethiopians against Eritrea and Tigray seem to have considerable impact on the
During this respite the TPLF was able to defeat militarily a rival Tigrean
organization in the region called Tigray Liberation Front(TLF). It also defeated the EDU
and Ternafit (an irregular organization formed by peasant outlaws) and finally chased
EPRP out of Tigray in April 1979. Thus taking control of rural Tigray, TPLF continued
to employ every political and ideological weapon to isolate and antagonize the people
from the rest of Ethiopia. Perhaps the greatest tactical achievement of the TPLF was its

>#hn F#!ng, ?)he )igra( and 'rirean 3e#p%es+ "i/erai#n <r#ns= A @is#r( #, )ensi#ns and
3rag$ais$,B &MAS, 34(1), (1996), p.106.
6ere*e, 8on)lict and Intervention, pp.76, 93.
Aregawi, ?A 3#%iica% @is#r(B, p.198. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, pp. 146, 166-167.
M#4 <i%es= 0#.123.48, 9e-a;tacha! Silekebebun Tornetoch Tinat(1970'D).

ability to elude the Derg to the last minute and avoid a large scale sacrifice in Tigray,
which would have a negative impact on the struggle.

In general, all ethnic organizations made it a point to attack state nationalism in whatever
forms while they failed to deal with and propose a different view of Ethiopianism. When
the armed struggle against the Derg intensified, ethno-nationalists even condemned
political groups which advocated an inclusive social nationalism as mortal enemies. In
fact, by posing an ethnocentric ideology and propaganda they deemed Ethiopian
nationalism an exclusive ideology of the Amhara. TPLF, like EPLF, OLF and other
ethno-nationalist organizations of the period, subtly encouraged anti-Amhara propaganda.
"Cultural events, theatrical performances as well as jokes and derogatory remarks were
used to disseminate this poisonous attitude."
It also made the acceptance of what it
called the realities and implications of Amhara domination as a criterion for
cooperation. Accordingly, the EPRP and other pan-Ethiopian organizations were
derogatorily known as Abay Etyopia(chauvinists who want to establish Greater
Ethiopia) and Tigreans who joined EPRA, the fighting wing of EPRP, were ridiculed as
Habuy Kurkur(Big Amhara Dogs).
In addition to evoking historical and ethnic
grievances, TPLF exploited the religious grievance of the Muslim community in the
By the time the Marxist Leninist League Tigray (MLLT) was established in July 1985,
the ethno-nationalist position of the TPLF leadership has incurred it a heavy cost. Now,

Aregawi, ?A 3#%iica% @is#r(B, p.201. -i,%!, Yat!lid II, pp.138-139, #n #pp#sii#n # '323 in :#%%ega.
Merera, YeEt-opia $oletika, p.47.
-ahssa( A/rha 6isra, YeAsimba 5i;ir, (Addis A/a/a=<ar 'as )rdg, 2005'D), pp. 35, 36,46, 186. F#!ng,
?)he )igra( and 'rirean,B pp.113, 119.


the reality of separating Tigray while the Derg was at large in the vast territory of
Ethiopia had become very controversial.
Hence the secessionist agenda had to be
subordinated to the conquest and capture of the Ethiopian state. This led to the
formation of EPRDF in 1990 under the auspices of TPLF, a pragmatic move for
mobilizing other ethno-regional groups against the state. It is undeniable that, besides its
pragmatism, the TPLF decision was according to accepted historical patterns. And from a
nationalist perspective it answered to the deep-lying Ethiopianism of a significant portion
of its members. Whatever the case may be, the fight for the takeover of the Ethiopian
state necessitated a cover ideology. This is where history comes handy in the
advancement of a new, albeit Tigrean, view of Ethiopia and its national survival to
counter the Shoa-Amhara view of history. That will be for the next chapter.

While the Eritrean and Tigrean ethno-national demands have been temporarily resolved,
that of the Somalis and the Oromos still remain at large. The Somali question has
probably been quite different from other nationality issues inside Ethiopia. As noted in
the previous chapter, the problem was part of a wider pan-Somali irredentism and had a
state sponsor. The Somalis consider Ahmed Gran as the predecessor of modern Somali
nationalism as far as erecting for him a statue in the capital Mogadishu. This selective
deployment of the past was an antithesis to Ethiopian national history and ideology.
Hence the threat Somalia posed by claiming a third of Ethiopias territory always elicited
strong reaction and sentiment from the Ethiopian state and people.

F#!ng, ?)he )igra( and 'rirean,B p.109.

In the first military confrontation between the two rival nationalisms in 1963, Somalia
had been beaten and for a time it had cooled down its aggressive activities. Nevertheless,
to abate the diplomatic hostility between the two nations, the 1973 OAU Heads of States
meeting held in Addis Ababa had formed a special committee composed of eight heads of
states and led by President Yakubu Gawan of Nigeria.
The next brazen and
unprecedented propaganda move by Somalia happened in the 23
OAU Ministers
Council, which was held in Mogadishu in early June 1974. In the course of this meeting,
Somalia distributed to the participants documents targeting Ethiopia and Kenya.
with several writings accusing Ethiopia of occupying Somalian territory, there was a
book by the Italian writer Luigi Pesta Loza entitled Somalian Revolution. This book
dismissed as groundless Ethiopias accusation about Somalias provocative actions in
1973 and rather claimed that Ethiopia was preparing for an imperialist invasion to reverse
the Somalian revolution. Ethiopian delegates to the meeting strongly countered that
Somalias action was hostile and contrary to the spirit of the OAU.

Again in his speech for the 11
Summit of African Heads of States, President Siad Barre
(1969-1991) attempted to present the Ethio-Somalian issue as a territorial dispute
inherited from colonialism. Haile Selassie replied on 12 June 1974 that there was no
territorial dispute between the two countries except issues of some border demarcation.
This diplomatic wrangling continued throughout the 1970s. Until 1977, Somalia did all it
could to create instability in Ethiopia rather than engage in frontal attack. Radical Oromo
ethno-nationalist groups first emerged in alliance or under the tutelage of Somali

AZ, 7 Sene 1966.
AZ, 4 Sene 1966.

irredentism. One such organization was the Western Somalia Liberation Front (WSLF),
which was established immediately after the independence of the Republic of Somalia in
1960. After a brief limbo due to Somali states withdrawal of support in the late 1960s,
WSLF was reactivated in the early 1970s. In 1973, a splinter group of the Bale rebellion
known as the Ethiopian National Liberation Front(ENLF) emerged claiming to have its
focus on the liberation of the Oppressed' peoples of Ethiopia, especially the Oromo."

In 1976, the Somali Abo Liberation Front (SALF) was established to mobilize the Somali
and Oromo of Arsi, Bale and Sidamo and liberate the region to create Greater Somalia.

In addition to providing all-round support to the Eritrean and Tigrean rebel movements in
the 1970s, "the Somali regime also supplied small arms to the urban networks of the
Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and greatly contributed to the urban
terror of the 1970s."
In early October 1976, Siad Barre publicly accused the Ethiopian
government for cold-shouldering Somalias proposal for uniting the two countries under
confederation and expressed his readiness to sign agreement to resolve the territorial
issue between the two nations.
The Derg, like Haile Selassie, denied the existence of
any territorial question between the two countries and pointed out that it would be
unnecessary to labor to resolve a non-existent problem. The tension between the two
countries escalated when Somalia detained for eight months an Ethiopian Air Lines plane
and its crew on charges of espionage. The Derg appealed to the international community
and denounced Somalias role in inciting internal conflicts by arming anti-Ethiopian

Andargachew, The Ethiopian Revolution, p.24.
Ibid., p.254.
AZ, 5 Tikemt 1969.

forces. In June 1977, the two countries were embroiled in a seven-months long frontal
war: Everything to the War Front!

The affinity between Oromo liberation fronts and Somalia masked a more serious conflict
of interest between the two. Oromo ideologues repeatedly hint at unity of experiences,
outlooks and objectives with what they generally called the south, though they were
openly at loggerheads with Somali irredentism. In ethnic terms, the Somalis were known
to be more arrogant and paternalistic towards the Oromos and even had an explicit
ambition over a large part of Oromo inhabited areas in Ethiopia. The Somalis scarcely
hid their intention to occupy and assimilate inhabitants of these territories. The
realization of that dream would have been a great tragedy for the Oromos...
according to Oromo historians, is for two main reasons: that Siad Barres regime is no
better than Derg; that Greater Somalia would have turned millions of Oromos and their
territories Somali.
Since the first insurgency in the 1960s, therefore, there had been
disagreements on what the relationship between the Somali state and each of the Oromo
affiliated organizations would be. There were also internal contradictions between the
Somali and Oromo groups within Somali-Abbo which suggests that, as in the 1960s, the
organizations failed to create a supra-ethnic ideology to effectively mobilize together the
Somali and the Oromo.

AZ, 19 Hamle 1969.
M#ha$$ed @assen, ?A 5h#r @is#r( #, Ar#$# D#%#nia% 'Kperience, 3ar )w#= D#%#nia% D#ns#%idai#n
and 2esisance 1935-2000,B &'S, I44, 1J2(2000), p.155.
6e%ee, ?Agrarian 3#%i(B, p.396.

Oromo nationalists considered the suppression of the Mecha-na-Tulama and arrest of its
charismatic leader General Tadesse Biru in 1967 enough reason to intensify the Oromo
cause. Though the organization was formed as self-help and was legally open to all
Ethiopians, it nevertheless exclusively advanced Oromo interests. Its very name was
designed to emphasize Oromo unity and the official Oromo symbol (later adopted by
both the OLF and OPDO) the Odda or sycamore tree was chosen by this association.

Similar to other ethno-nationalist movements of the period, the initial concern of Oromo
nationalists was the history, language and culture of the ethnic group. After 1963, Oromo
students at AAU had began to form clandestine association and in 1969 a paper named
Kana Beekta (Do You Know?) briefly circulated among the members.
This paper,
which had a life of only about a year and half, had the support of prominent Oromos such
as the Reverend Gudina Tumsa, secretary-general of the Evangelical Church of
Mekaneyesus. Then there were attempts to form links between educated and influential
Oromos abroad and inside Ethiopia. The lasting Oromo nationalist group which explicitly
emerged in 1976 as an insurgency against the Ethiopian state was the Oromo Liberation
Front (OLF).

Oromo nationalists recognized that the most important, perhaps the only, binding element
among Oromo people was their language. Therefore, the movement had been very
conscious of language issues from its inception. Of particular concern in this respect was

A%ana Z#ga, "izitina "izot(Addis A/a/a=1993), p.19.
Me*!ria 6!%cha, ?)he %ang!age 3#%icies #, 'hi#pian 2egi$es and he @is#r( #, :rien A,aan
Ar#$#=1844-1994,B &'S, 4,2(1994), p.106.
M#ha$$ed, ?A 5h#r @is#r(= 44,B pp.124,125, 126. 6( acciden #r design, he wriing #, Hirmata
#ubbi ,#%%#ws he "aini9ai#n #, 5#$a%i scrip /( 5iad 6arre in 1972. ;!dina )!$sa was a%%eged%( *i%%ed /(
he #erg near he !ni.ersi( c#$p#!nd in 1979.

the adaptation of the Latin alphabet to the Oromo language, later known as Qube. In
1973, the first Oromo grammar written in Latin characters, titled Hirmata Dubbi Afaan
Oromoo, was produced in Europe allegedly by Haile Fida and Mitiku Terfasa.
the period of alliance between the Derg and MEISON the status of Oromo language and
the appropriate characters for it were hotly debated issues. Even in the doom and gloom
of Alem Beqagn, a row had been raised between the Oromo group and the Eritrean group
over the self-teaching of Afaan Oromo using the Qube rather than the Ge'ez script.
co-authors of Dergs NDRPE and its various policies until the rift in July 1978, members
of MEISON and their followers were disappointed by the regimes reluctance to
implement a radical language policy.
This, as discussed above, was one of the reasons
the party withdrew from the Joint Front and went underground while some of its
members who survived Dergs hunt down, such as Ibssa Gutama, joined the OLF.

Some non-Oromo members of MEISON, notably of Sidama origin, also fled the country
and established separate Sidama Liberation Front (SLF), which was closely allied with
the OLF. "The primary role in organizing the Sidama against the Derg was carried out by
Wolde-Amanuel Dubale, the son of a former Sidama balabbat."
Even though SLF
never had much material presence on the ground during the entire period, it had been
advancing the Habesha colonialism thesis and struggling to the liberation of the Sidama

-i,%!, Yat!lid, p.104, regarding @ai%e <ida+s Ar#$# scrip in "ain. Me*!ria, ?)he "ang!age 3#%icies,B
p.106. <e(issa 1e$$ie, ?@is#rica% Dha%%enges in he 1e.e%#p$en #, Ar#$# "ang!age and 5#$e Agenda
,#r <!!re 2esearch,B &'S, 444,(1996) 1J2, pp.19, 23.
Ms$a*!, ?M#derni9ai#n and DhangeB, pp.214-215.
AZ, 13 Hamle 1970.
6e%ee, ?Agrarian 3#%i(B, p.383.

Other liberation fronts such as the Gambella Peoples Liberation Movement
(GPLM), which was established in 1984, had more specific grievances against the Derg.
As the founder of the movement and first president of the region put it: Rulers of the
Imperial regime had put Gambella under Illubabor Province for their own convenience.
When Derg came, it sold out Gambella for Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in order
to compensate for the insurrections in Eritrea and Tigray. For this very reason the peoples
of Gambella had lived as second-class citizens in their own land. The SPLM had
committed bloody massacres than the Derg, but the military regime closed its eyes to
such outrages on its own people...The SPLM is the cardinal reason for the problem of
peace in the region.

In spite of the fluctuating relationships and often antithetical aspirations between them,
the Sidama, Somali and Oromo ethno-nationalists have attempted to maintain an
ideological unity against the Ethiopian state. Their ideologues advanced the Habesha
colonialism thesis and waged vitriolic propaganda against Ethiopian nationalism.
Radical ethno-nationalists do not stop at demonizing an ethnic enemy within the state but
campaign to taint the very name, history, traditions, symbols and values of the nation.
Their favorite terms Abyssinia [the country or the state] or Habesha[the people],
specially to those who like the Oromos, Somalis, and Sidamas consider themselves as
Cushitic, refer to so-called Semitic-speaking conquerors.
Ethiopia is thus dismissed as
an artificial unit... and its sovereign independence is discounted as the mythology of

5e(#!$ @a$es#, ?)he D#a%ii#n #, D#%#ni9ed 0ai#ns= he 5ida$a 3erspeci.e,B &'S, I, 1J2(1998),
A*e%%# A$an, ,irs presiden #, ;3025, AZ, 1 Meskerem 1985. A4. A*e%%# ;n(ge%#, sec#nd presiden #,
he ;3025.
6e%ee, ?Agrarian 3#%i(B, p.383.

Greater Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not only a local colonizer but also itself a victim of
colonialism. Its state formation is externally induced and it was no exception to the rest of
colonized Africa.

The actual nationalist politics has always been much more complex than the ideologues
of respective sides would offer. The best illustration for this could be the concept of
Abyssinia for Eritrean, Somalian, Tigrean, and Ormo nationalists. As noted above,
Tigrean and Eritrean nationalists had dilemmas over the historical relevance of this term,
and the often interchangeable term Ethiopia, for their respective groups. Due to their later
reliance on the Eritrean fronts, the term Abyssinia also posed a dilemma for Oromo
nationalists, since it supposedly included Tigray and Eritrea too.
colonialism is called settler colonialism centered on the neftegna gabbar relationship.
Sisay had three categories based on the colonial relations in Ethiopia: i. conquered
nations (militarily), the Oromo; ii. annexed nations(politically), Eritreans and Ogaden
Somali; iii. subdued nations, Tigray, identified with oppressor culturally and

Ethno-nationalists maintained that Ethiopia is a continuing empire in spite of the
revolutionary transformations which established a socialist republic during the period of
the Derg.
Throughout the period, the national question was articulated by all ethno-
nationalists in terms of the old theories of Leninism Stalinism. For instance, writing in
the hopeful days (1990) and drawing on Eritrean ideologues such as Bereket Habte

5isa(, The Invention, pp.93-94. )he a!h#r draws his $aG#r arg!$en ,r#$ 6ere*e @a/e 5e%assie,
8on)lict and Intervention in the Horn o) A)rica (0ew F#r* and "#nd#n= M#nh%( 2e.iew 3ress, 1980).
Ibid, p.94.
5isa(, Ibid, p.405.
6ere*e, 8on)lict and Intervention, p.166. 5isa(, Ibid>, pp.388, 389.

Selassie, Sisay defined the national question as follows: It is a matter raised by a people
who act together as a unit, usually a people who share a common language, territory,
economic life, and psychological make-up expressed through a common culture.
Stalinist premise has led to the emphatic assertion of Oromo homogeneity as well as
distinctiveness: Oromos have always been historically, culturally, and linguistically
different from the Ethiopians

While most Oromo nationalists accepted the colonial thesis, their solutions to the
nationalities issue were not uniform. There were several sticky points of history and
theory among the various groups and individuals. For moderate ethno-nationalists, such
as Mohammed Hassen, the Oromo are one of the indigenous peoples of Ethiopia.

This school admits the variable historical relations of the Oromos with the Ethiopian state
and even stresses the importance of and the need for building bridges of understanding
and tolerance between the various peoples of Ethiopia.
Mohammed discredited the
mechanical theory of a pure Oromo tribe derived from a single founding father... and
advanced a dynamic conception of the Oromo peoples in their interaction among
themselves and their neighbors as well as the Ethiopian region.
Another point which
does not sit well with the colonial thesis is the role of the Oromo in the conquest of the
south. While many denied or played it down as the evil work of a single selfish

5isa(, The Invention, p.404. A rep%ica #, his 8!#ai#n in 6ere*e, D#n,%ic and 4ner.eni#n, pp. 74-75.
Merara ;!dina, 8ompeting Ethnic %ationalisms and the (uest )or #emocrac-. /0?43
2444(0eher%ands= 2003).
M#ha$$ed @assen, The 'romo o) Ethiopia+ A Histor- /1743/@?4 ()ren#n= )he 2ed 5ea 3ress, 1994),
Ibid., p.96.
Ibid, p.98.

individual, Ras Gobena, others admitted that the Oromo have a dual history of being
both conquerors and conquered.

Without doubt until the fall of the Derg, Oromia as a territorial entity had no meaning
inside Ethiopia. It was an exile construct. Nevertheless, Oromo nationalists have labored
to forge a name, territory, history, culture and elaborate ideology to that construct. The
first one was the establishment of the collective name Oromo to the target group, a
process which began in early 1970s and was popularized during the Derg period. It is to
be noted that even some prominent Oromo such as Haile Fida used the term Galla(sic)
in reference to the group, at least in their public statements, and this reference regularly
appeared in the newspapers and other publications in Ethiopia well until 1976.
second claim about the territorial limits of Oromia had remained nebulous throughout the
Derg period though it was defined as a territory in which the Oromos live, often
expressed in the wider sense as the south and sometimes including territories inside
The third component was the writing of the history of the Oromos, often as a counter-
discourse to Ethiopian history. In this continuous experiment Oromo nationalists always
noted that their objective was to redress the sinister and systematic plot by the Amhara
ruling class to destroy Oromo national identity.
This endeavor made ethnic

<#r he ,irs .iew see )ese$a, ?)he 3#%iica% 'c#n#$(B, pp. 160, 1617 and M#ha$$ed, The 'romo,
p.99. )he sec#nd .iew is represened /( Merara, 8ompeting Ethnic, (2003).
Acc#rding # )ese$a )a+a, ?)he 3#%iica% 'c#n#$(,B p.8, he er$ &;a%%a+ was !sed ,#r he ,irs i$e in
'!r#pean s#!rces #n <ra Ma!r#+s 1460 $ap. Man( Ar#$# nai#na%iss /e%ie.e ha his was a der#ga#r(
re,erence in.ened /( he A$hara, whereas he .ariai#n #, he er$ is !sed /( as di,,eren pe#p%es as
he An(waa (&;a%aa+) and A,ar (&;a%i+ #r &;a%ai!+) as a re,erence # #!siders.
M#ha$$ed, ?A 5h#r @is#r( 44B, pp.109-198. <e(issa, ?@is#rica% Dha%%engesB, p.18. M#ha$$ed, The
'romo, p.95. )ese$a, ?)he 3#%iica% 'c#n#$(B, pp. 11-28.

nationalists adopt a regressive view of Ethiopian politics and history. The most elusive
part was perhaps the elaboration of common culture and national personality called
Oromuma or Oromoness, which is centered on the Gadda system. The OLF had been
most active in the invention of traditions, history and culture to forge Oromuma. It had
sponsored the writing of Oromo history and made learning the Qube a requirement for

During the 1980s, the OLF was able to publish literacy and primary textbooks to be used
for its members and refugee children in the Sudan. In the late 1980s, it also launched with
the assistance of the Sudan government a daily radio broadcast called Sagalee Adda
Bilisummaa Oromoo (Voice of the Oromo Liberation Front).
Its unwavering
dedication to the Oromo cause had made the OLF immensely popular among the
Oromos, even among those who do not subscribe to its secessionist agenda. The year
1984 marked the emergence of Oromo studies as a recognized scholarly pursuit centered
on the identity and nationalism of the Oromo.
The first comprehensive Oromo-English
dictionary by an Oromo author was also published by IES in 1989. The author frankly,
perhaps with a dose of exaggeration, admits that the writing of the dictionary was a
political act more than a need to address a knowledge gap.
As we shall see in the next
chapter, the material and ideological preparation of ethno-nationalist forces would bear
practical fruits after the demise of the Derg in 1991.

Me*!ria, ?)he "ang!age 3#%iciesB, p.110.
3): 6aKer, ?Dhanges and D#nin!iies in Ar#$# 5!dies,B &'S, I, 1J2(1998), pp. 36, 44.
)i%ah!n ;a$a, ?)he 3#%iici9ai#n #, M( Ar#$#-'ng%ish 1ici#nar(= he :rier+s 2e,%eci#n,B &'S, I44,
1J2(2000), pp.1-18.

The military regime was discredited internationally and defeated on the battlefield by
ethno-nationalist forces, mainly the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and
Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF); and secondarily the Oromo Liberation Front
(OLF) and other ethno-regional combatants. The three fronts fought to dismantle or, at
best, reconfigure the Ethiopian state and articulated their ideologies instrumentally, in
terms of real or perceived injustices suffered by ethnic groups and the relative historical
and cultural ties to the state. All identified the Ethiopian state with the Amhara ethnic
group and the Shoan aristocracy and leveled their propaganda contextually blending
subtle national-regional-ethnic distinctions. The intelligentsia regarded the struggle on
behalf of respective ethnies as a historical and moral imperative. Economic, political,
cultural and historical grievances were framed in a Marxist-Leninist discourse to
transform ethno-regionalisms into combative ethno-nationalisms.
For TPLF, the ethnic struggle was necessary to redress the manifold injustices suffered
by Tigray due to the historical shift of power and influence to the Amhara elite.
Tigrayans had been economically disadvantaged by keeping the region underdeveloped,
culturally dominated by banning their language, and politically subordinated to Shoans.
By articulating these grievances in terms of historical symbolisms and memories, the
modern intelligentsia ironically championed the struggle of the feudal aristocratic classes.
TPLF claimed that Tigray is the birthplace of the Ethiopian state and its civilization, its
Aksumite origin. Nevertheless, the regions historical centrality and leading role in the
survival and continuity of the nation has been undermined by Amhara-Shoan rulers in

modern Ethiopia.
"The neglect of Tigrai in the 1900s until the 1974 revolution was
perceived by many Tigraians as a deliberate and systematic policy of the Showa-Amhara
ruling class to weaken and demoralize them. This view was a reflection of the historical
rivalry between the two ruling houses and the Tigraian and Amhara aristocratic classes.

The Eritrean and Oromo ethno-nationalists went beyond the national to the colonial
question, partly to tap the global anti-colonial movement and ideology. They claimed that
Eritrea and Oromia had remained politically and culturally independent nations until their
conquest by Ethiopia/Abyssinia/Habasha. Both blamed Emperor Menelik and the Shoans
as the original source of their predicament. Eritrean nationalists first accused Menelik for
selling them off to Italian colonialism in order to divide and weaken the Tigre-speaking
group. Later again they blamed Emperor Haile Selassie and the Shoans for re-colonizing
an Eritrea decolonized from Italian rule.
Oromo nationalists similarly argued that the
conquest of Oromia by Menelik was part of the Scramble for Africa and they have been
since under Habesha colonialism. Habesha-Amhara rulers or neftegnya (literally
riflemen) had exploited the Oromo economically, dehumanized them socially, suppressed
and denigrated them culturally and linguistically. Therefore, both the EPLF and OLF
considered Ethiopia as colonizer and fought for the decolonization of their respective
Who were the Shoans? A number of scholars have attempted to answer this question in
terms of region, religion, ethnicity and class. The straightforward definition is that
Shoans were none other than Menelik's courtiers, his warrior lords of the south (the apex

Aregawi, A Political History, pp.45, 50, 51, 56,71.
Ibid., p.71.
Bereket, Conflict and Intervention, pp. 52, 0.

of the neftegna) and their descendants.
In contrast to this political-class understanding,
the Shoans are also viewed ethnically as a hodgepodge of various groups who were not
accepted by the Amharas of the north as pure Amhara. In fact, contends this view, the
northern Amharas and Tigrayans believed that the Shoans had usurped their legitimate
Similarly among Oromo nationalists, walmaka (impure) is the pejorative term for
Shoan Oromos who were considered as thoroughly Amharized and complicit in the
empire-making project. As Merara argued, Orthodox Shoan Amhara elite is the
embodiment of the trinities of empire creation religious, regional and ethnic factors.

The above was the dominant Italian school which depicted Shoan identity in
contradistinction to other Ethiopians. Andargachew, for instance, seems to push the Shoa
versus the rest view too far when he suggested that in the early days of the 1974
revolution the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) rejected the question of reinstating the
monarchy because it was supported only by its Shoan members which were in the
This is dubitable since the organization was then led by a prominent member
of the Tigrean royalty, Ras Mengesha Seyoum, who, above all others, had a vested
interest in the preservation of the monarchy. What is more, there is little in the EDU
program and action to substantiate the above allegation and, as we shall see later, this
multiethnic organization has throughout maintained a sober view of the nationalities

A"#argc$ew, The Ethiopian, p.16.
Ibid. Aregawi, A Political History, p.71. %. &alole,'$o Are t$e &$oa"s( Horn of Africa, )), 3*17+,
,erara, Competing Ethnic,p.2.
A"#argac$ew, Ibid, p.127.

Modern Ethiopian ethno-nationalist discourse converged on Shoa and held the post-
Italian process of Shoanization responsible for subordinating both the north and the
south economically, politically and culturally. According to this view, the total overtake
of the state by the Shoan aristocracy weakened not only the traditional nobility of the
north but also severed the bond of loyalty between the government and the people.
crisis of Ethiopian statehood under Haile-Silassie cannot really be reduced to the north
versus south, nor to the Amhara ruling class (let alone Amhara) versus the rest, but stems
largely from the nature of the Shawan aristocracy itself.
Did the identification of the
state with Shoans stop after the demise of the last Shoan monarch? No it didnt! In fact,
anti-Shoanism continued and was even intensified by the various ethno-nationalist
insurgencies which maintained that [t]he politics of the Darg was a continuation of the
politics of the Shawan aristocracy.

The post-Derg period, therefore, witnessed how the above major political currents were
played out conditioned by internal and external contexts. The almost overnight
disintegration of the military regime and the apathy of international mediators to work
beyond the fait accompli were significant preambles to the period. The London peace
negotiation of May 1991 was little more than a winner-take-all affair which negatively
impacted the future of the country. The ethnic insurgencies EPLF, TPLF (now EPRDF)
and OLF dominated both this event and the subsequent Addis Ababa Peace and
Democracy Conference of 1-5 July 1991. After securing the state, ethno-nationalists

A"#argac$ew, The Ethiopian, p.16.

A#$a"a Haile, ,-tatio" o. &tate$oo# a"# /o"te0porary Politics, i" A1e1e 2egeye a"# &ieg.rie#
Pa-sewa"g*e#s+, Ethiopia in Change: Peasantry, Nationalism and Democracy*3o"#o"4 Britis$ Aca#e0ic
Press, 14+, p.27.
A#$a"a, ,-tatio" o., p.2!. Bereket, Conflict and Intervention, .or si0ilar 5iews.

translated their military victory into ideological, legal and institutional hegemony. The
new regime enshrined ethnicity as the governing principle of national life, redefined and
restructured the territory, memory and ideology of the Ethiopian nation. This radical
approach to the national question, its intolerance to moderate views and underestimation
of residual social nationalism characterized the post-1991 period.

5.1 Ethnic Empowerment and Redefinition of the Ethiopian Nation

The Transitional Charter, which not only served as the law of the land between 22 July
1991 and 21 August 1995 but also became a blueprint for the entire EPRDF regime, was
drafted by ethno-nationalists and reflected their radical attitudes towards the fate of the
Ethiopian state and people.
The preamble to the Charter stated that the military regime
was a continuation of the past while its demise provided an opportunity to refashion the
state anew. The enshrinement of ethnicity as the major principle of political association
became a typical expression of disengagement from the past. As noted in the previous
chapters, both the imperial and the military regimes had seen political ethnicity as a
danger for national harmony. On the contrary, the new regime regarded the
acknowledgement and institutionalization of ethnicity as the ultimate guarantee for
national unity.
The Charter made nations, nationalities and peoples the foundation of the Ethiopian state
and provided for their political and cultural autonomy (Article 2 a & b). This was again in

A"#argac$ew, The Ethiopian, pp.32!, 335. Hagos %e1reyes-s *15+, p.7. 3ee"co 3ata *1!+, p.56.

stark contrast to Dergs regional autonomy which bestowed the right on administrative
entities rather than social groups.
The EPRDF-led regime immediately proceeded to
dismantle the old apparatus and replace it with new institutions. The Boundary
Commission that was set up in August 1991 to determine the structure and composition
of national and sub-national units for the transition period faced many legal and practical
challenges. Though Article 13 of the Charter provided for the establishment of regional
and local administration on the basis of nationality, it did not define what nations,
nationalities and peoples were and how, if and when they desire, they would exercise the
right of independence (enumerated under Article 2c).
This problem was addressed by another bill to establish national regional administration
approved by the Council of Representatives on 14 November 1991. Issued on 12
December 1991 as the National Regional Self-Government Proclamation No.7/1991, this
law rendered nations or nationalities as:
! " #" $! % &' "%(( This was a far cry from the Stalinist
dogma of the pre-1991 ethno-nationalisms. Based on the definition, Article 3 of the
proclamation identified 63 nations, nationalities and peoples and established them into 14
Kilils (literally closer in meaning to Reserves). Nevertheless, language became the
ultimate criterion the 10-member Boundary Commission used to carve administrative
regions. This is inevitable as nothing was done to assess popular will and expressions of
common psychological make-up among communities.
Actually, the resolution of the nationalities question in terms of language proved
intractable since very few areas in Ethiopia were linguistically homogenous. The ultimate

Transitional overnment of Ethiopia Charter, Negarit a!etta, 15 Hamle 1!3.

result was composite regions, except Afar and Somali (Kilil 2 & 5 respectively),
containing more than one ethno-linguistic group. Some 48 of the 63 nations, nationalities
and peoples were established as self-governing units at woreda and above levels. The
remaining 17, which were found to have less population than the minimum set for
woreda administration, were represented in their constituencies as minority
nationalities. Proclamation No.7/1991 further provided that any adjacent self-
government units within the 14 Kilils could voluntarily form larger regional units. This
was a significant improvement on the Charter forced by the limits of ethnicity as a
universal principle, as well as an anticipation of developments in the southern region.
Though neither the Charter nor the proclamation did explicitly determine the structure of
the state as unitary, federal or confederal, what emerged in practice was an ethnic federal

As noted above, the Transitional Charter and the subsidiary laws for its implementation
were results of a back door deal orchestrated by TPLF and OLF. The Boundary
Commission was constituted by handpicked individuals representing the interests of a
few ethno-nationalist organizations. Therefore, the outcome of this caucus was bound to
be very much like a postwar settlement. There was little public deliberation on the matter
in spite of the invariable assurance by proponents about the new systems reflectiveness
of majority interest and its merits in creating strong popular unity. The principle of
ethnic self-determination upheld by the law was considered as the ultimate resolution of
two antithetical views on Ethiopian unity, i.e, territorial unity of the chauvinists versus

6asil 7a$o0, Constit"tion for a Nation of Nations *8$e 9e# &ea Press4 17+, pp.44:45.

popular unity of the democrats.
The state propaganda campaign attending the entire
process of transition rather labeled any kind of skepticism regarding the law and its
import as chauvinism.
In its initial couple of years, the Derg had been preoccupied
with explaining the merits of Etyopia Tikdem and Hibretesebawinet; now EPRDF was
likewise busy selling the idea of National Regional Self-Government throughout 1991
and 1992.
One immediate consequence of the new paradigm shift was the proliferation of
organizations vying to represent ethno-linguistic groups. A plethora of fronts, movements
and parties formed and reformed often reflecting little more than the political whims of
individual actors. A total of 24 ethnic organizations had taken part in the July
Conference, whereas only 6 pan-Ethiopian and 2 professional associations were
represented. This was determined by the new regimes discriminatory measures as well
as its capacity to seek out and coordinate pliable ethnic allies in the hubbub of the run
about to the Conference. Within a few months, however, at least two organizations
emerged for every ethnie and began to vie for recognition and power in the idioms of
identity, legitimacy and history. The very ones to be targeted were the original ethnic
organizations which had acquired seats in the Council of Representatives.

For example, in early 1992, a newly-formed Wolayta Peoples Democratic Organization
(WPDO) mobilized residents of Areka town and the surrounding peasantry to denounce
the Wolayta Peoples Democratic Front (WPDF) as an agent of the past regimes.

A2, 3 Tir 1!4.
A2, 1 Tir 1!4.
A2, 23 Tir 1!4.

Similarly, the Sidama Liberation Democratic Organization (SLDO) leveled
incriminations at existing political organizations on behalf of the group including the
Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM).
The Somali and Oromo regions were the most
contested, where multiple contenders came out to haggle for political space. In extreme
cases, no less than nine political groupings were established in the name of various
Somali clans. Those vying to represent the Oromo were equally fragmented on the bases
of region, religion as well as ideology. The Oromo Unity Liberation Front (OULF), under
the erstwhile leader of the Bale rebellion Waqo Gutu, claimed that it was the oldest
organization fighting for Oromo freedom. Now in the intra-ethnic race to win the hearts
and minds of the Oromo people, the record of the former Western Somalia Liberation
Front (WSLF) and whose interest it had been advancing was being questioned. The
OULF argued in self-defense that despite the malicious rumors it had always been an
autonomous Oromo organization and nobodys agent.

Characteristically, the nationalities issue was not limited to a political controversy over
the spoils of government but even led to inter- and intra-ethnic debates over territory,
history, identity and legitimacy across the north-south divide. Some of these were low-
toned dialogues such as the overlapping identity of Irob Saho. On the one hand, there
was the view of those who considered Irob as the groups name and reserved Saho for a
language family spoken by the Irob and other neighboring groups. Others contended that

A2, 27 Tir 1!4.
A2, 1 inbot 1!4.

the name of the ethnic group was Saho while Irob referred to the land in which the Saho

There were also more radical claims to recreate separate identities from an overarching
one. The Issa and Gurgura Liberation Front (IGLF), for instance, was accused of
merging two peoples (Somali and Oromo) with distinct settlement patterns, cultures and
life-styles. According to the splinter Gurgura Liberation Front (GLF), the decision to
detach Gurgura from the common front with Issa was passed in a December 1991
meeting held at Dire Dawa town by members of the group and their traditional leader. A
forerunner of Silti ethnicism also began to mobilize pressure in 1992 against the Gurage
Peoples Democratic Front (GPDF) and other organizations formed in the name of the
Gurage. As we shall see below in more detail, this was originally a political bid claimed
on the basis of separate linguistic-cultural identity for a people called the Gogot.

A slightly different case from the above, but still based on ethnic and historical claims,
was that of the three woredas of Wolqayt, Tsegede and Humera. These had been historic
parts of north and northwestern Gonder, now merged with Region One (Tigray) on
linguistic grounds. Public representatives of the three areas opposed the demarcation as
inconsiderate to the culture, sentiment, economic and social ties of the people. Their
appeals to regional and federal authorities, including the Council of Representatives, the
Presidents and PMs offices, were rejected for allegedly being inspired by EDU
propaganda. Similarly, the merging of Metema, another historical part of Gonder, to

A2, 20 #ia!ia 1!6. A2, 4 inbot 1!6.

Region Six (Benishangul-Gumuz) was contested by residents. In both cases, TPLFs
decisions were influenced by concerts of strategic, economic and historic calculations.

The 1994/95 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) was
an elaborate affirmation of the basic ideas of the Transitional Charter. Federalism based
on ethno-linguistic units became a permanent contrast of EPRDF to those of previous
Ethiopian regimes. The Constitution accorded ultimate political sovereignty to the
nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. This was not a united popular sovereignty
but a composite sovereignty of the national groups. Ethiopia became a nation of nations
and was structured accordingly: States shall be delimited on the basis of the settlement
patterns, language, identity and consent of the people concerned.
The outcome of this
provision was in the main a solidification of the transitional structure by transforming
numbered Kilils to explicitly titular ethnic Kilil Mengistat (Regional States) named after
their dominant groups. These entities were then recognized as mini-states with elaborate
trappings of government, including separate constitutions, working languages and flags.
Members of the Federation may by law determine their respective working

The right to secession (Article 39.1) was the most radical outcome of ethno-politics and
the one which made nationality rights a highly controversial part of EPRDF measures.
The regime defended this anachronistically Leninist position as the only way to establish
trust among the peoples of Ethiopia. However, in spite of its ideological justifications,
there was no way the regime could have excluded this right after endorsing the

Tobia, 21 $ene 1!6.
The %D&E Constit"tion, /$apter );, Article 41, 7o.2.
Ibid', /$apter ), Article 5, 7o.3.

independence of Eritrea (23-25 April 1993 referendum). What the FDRE Constitution did
to offset the disintegrative potential of the secession clause was build into the system as
much procedural encumbrances as possible. As the linchpin of EPRDFs ideology of
governance and legitimacy, however, the right to self-determination constituted
interrelated aspects of territory, history, culture, language and government. In other
words, it was about a broad spectrum of cultural and political empowerment.

One of the very first decisions of the Transitional Government regarding nationalities
rights was on the use of their language for educational instruction. The Council of
Representatives decided on how to provide primary education in the mother tongue on 10
October 1991. A body called the Coordinating Committee to Oversee Translation, Study
and Evaluation Project, ) '* +!! ,-. / 012 was established to
facilitate the implementation. In its meeting held on 26 January 1992, the Committee set
a guideline that regarding social studies, the curriculum must be consistent with the
spirit of the charter denouncing the previous system, while consolidating the equality and
spirit of coexistence of peoples, nations and nationalities.

The Coordinating Committee selected five nationalities languages to commence primary
education in the mother tongue for the 1992/93 academic year. The government did not
trust the job of preparation of educational materials for political parties but invited
professionals throughout the country. However, this matter sparked controversy even
before the preparation was off the ground. Especially in the south, the nomination of
Walaytigna elicited stiff reaction. Politicians of other ethnic groups such as the Gamo

A2, 17 Tir 1!4.

complained that the peoples of the region had not been consulted about the conduct of the
process and the fact that imposing Walaytigna on others would be endorsing Walaytas
oppression on them, allegedly like in the Derg period.

Now this was not merely about linguistic issues, as groups under the Omotic family were
mutually intelligible and considered as dialects. Neither was it about workability, since
Walaytigna had precedent as a language of literacy during the Derg period. This was
rather about ethnic boundary and prestige, a symbolic expression of defiance aggravated
by the existing political atmosphere. Some among the opposition conceded that the
project could work, but if so the name of the common language should be changed to
Gamugofigna or Omigna.
This original conception would lead later to a grand attempt
at creating a unified language called the Wogagoda from an acronym for Wolayta,
Gamo, Gofa and Dawro(the major ethnic groups in the region). In 2000, the fiasco from
this experiment led to a serious ethnic conflict which resulted in the creation of three
separate zones in the region Wolayta Zone, Dawro Zone and Gamo-Gofa Zone. The
new education policy approved by the Council of Representatives in 1994 limited mother
tongue education to primary level mainly due to the high resources and preparation it

Another important aspect of the language policy was the determination of script for the
various groups, which beyond intrinsic pedagogical and linguistic merits evoked
widespread political and symbolic elements. The OLF was the first to implement such

A2, 10 $ene 1!4.
A2, #ia!ia 1!6.

right by convening a public meeting on 3 November 1991 at the Parliament Building in
Addis Ababa. In addition to previous experience during the insurgency, the front had
already introduced literacy in afaan Oromo by using Latin script in the areas it controlled
following the demise of the military regime. Therefore, the meeting was only to
emphasize the historic significance of the issue. Following this formal endorsement,
Qubbe became the alphabet of work and education throughout Oromia. During Ibssa
Gutamas tenure as Minister of Education (September 1991 to June 1992) textbooks were
prepared and teachers crash-trained in Qubbe phonetics. Mother tongue instruction at the
primary level fully commenced from the new academic year in September 1993.

Interestingly, the issue of adopting a script was not a simple ethnocentric choice but took
roughly the Semitic-Cushitic divide. In a public discussion regarding the preparation of
script for the Hadiya language, held at Menelik II School in January 1992, the advocate
of Qubbe, Dr Tilahun Gamta from the Ethiopian Languages Studies, was guest speaker
on the merits of Latin in contrast to the Sabean (Geez) alphabet. The participants of this
meeting recommended for further studies to be conducted on the suitability of Latin for
Hadiya language.
Nevertheless, many languages of the Cushitic family, such as Hadiya,
Kambatta, Sidama, Gedeo, Afar, Nuer, Somali and others, adopted the Latin alphabet
with little popular consultation or consent. This issue proved to be persistent. In May
2003, the Benishangul Gumuz regional bureau announced its decision to use Latin for
writing the Berta language. Even as late as 2011, Tigray region itself faced mounting
Kunama pressure to adopt the Latin script.

A2, 16 Tir 1!4.

Whatever differences there were on the pedagogical and philological aspects, ethnic
entrepreneurs were unanimous on the political merits of linguistic autonomy. The
struggle the Oromo have made for self-determination has started to payoff. They have
adapted the Latin alphabet to their language without fear of incrimination.
This was a
laudatory measure not only for its intrinsic value but also: The development of the
Oromo language would, in the 1990s, mark the beginning of the end of Amharic
expansion at least in Oromia.
As Seyoum Hameso argued in a wider context, besides
being united by the quest for freedom, justice and democracy the ...Cushitic nations are
bound by ethnicity and cultural affinity. There is no readily available reason why all the
Cushitic-speaking nations should remain subservient to alien rule.
The process of
Latinizing is perhaps the single most important testimony to the role of a numerically
small intelligentsia in shaping the identity and destiny of the ethnic group.

A direct outcome of the ethnic arrangement was an obdurate choice between assimilation
and eviction for non-indigenous groups which were included or found in other regions or
zones. Their ethnic rights were circumscribed by retroactively depriving them of the right
to work, be judged and learn in their own mother tongue. They became an internal
diaspora' who suddenly found themselves excluded from the politics of their areas. Even
in regions which have made Amharic working language, such as Southern Nations
Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS), Gambella Peoples National
Regional State (GPNRS), or even Waag-Himra Special Zone, the move was considered

8ila$-" %a0ta, <-11e A.aa" =ro0o4 9easo"s .or /$oosi"g t$e 3ati" &cript .or >e5elopi"g a" =ro0o
Alp$a1et, ()$, ), 1*13+, pp.36, 3!.
,ek-ria, 8$e 3a"g-age Policies, p.111.
&eyo-0, 8$e /oalitio" o., p.125.

as a temporary strategy pending the development of local capabilities. This was
witnessed in the abortive Wogagoda experiment in the southern region in 2000
mentioned above. In the Amhara Regional State, the Waag administration had adopted
Amharic as a 'temporary strategy' in line with the policy objective of government. "By
1999 educational materials in Himtanga had been developed for school grades 1 to 4, and
the following year it was introduced in grade 5."
Meanwhile, zonal authorities made the
teaching of Himtanga for government workers and other residents compulsory.

Language was only one aspect of the symbolic assertiveness, or even sometimes an
expression of symbolic revenge, against a real or perceived oppressor. The wider
reclamation of ethnic history and culture led to a return to the values and ways of the
ancient pristine community in every aspect of life. The initial period witnessed en masse
name change of ethnic politicians, to some extent the common people, from Amharic or
Amharic-sounding to local languages. The Oromos were quick to search for authentic
ethnic names while the Tigreans and Eritreans initially retouched some names such as
Sisay to Shishay, Kassaye to Kahssay, etc. This was also considered as a symbolic
freedom from the lifelong weight of Amhara names. Place names as well were rectified
and reclaimed, for instance Alemaya to Haromaya, Nazareth to Adama, Debre-Zeit to
Bishoftu, Illubabor to Illu abbabora, Awash to Hawas and Awassa to Hawassa, even
Addis Ababa to Finifine, etc.

In some cases, attempts to estrange ethnic groups from Ethiopia were multifaceted, for
instance like adopting the Gregorian calendar and referring the Ethiopian one as ALH or

;a-g$a", ?t$"icity a"# Power, p.244.

Akka Lekofss Habasha (according to the Habasha Calendar). It was during this period
that public celebrations of Gadda ceremony as well as the annual Laga Horra or Irrecha
feast at Bishoftu were reinitiated as moments of ethnic communion. The resumption of
the celebration of the Gadaa tradition fosters public appreciation for Oromo cultural,
political, and social heritage.
Another case in point was the Sidama, who revitalized a
native ideology based on Sidama sky god; Sidama truth or Halale; and age-old national
sentiment or Aydu Ayana. The major Sidama holiday and its New Year festivities or
Fiche Chambalala was considered as a day of no work in the zone, even though there has
been no claim to make it a national holiday.

The Management of Ethnic and National Demands

The cardinal justification for the right of nations to self-determination was the belief that
it would bring sustainable popular unity based on equality and trust. The regime defended
its record by pointing out that there has never been a single demand for secession so far.
Many argued, however, that ethnic federalism and ethnic politics has proliferated
communal dissension and violence at lower rungs of the state structure to an
unprecedented level. Hence, rather than consolidating national unity it has been further
weakening social and historical bonds at the grassroots. If there was a superficial show of
unity, it had been forced by strict political, structural, and fiscal control by the federal
government. It is important to see some instances highlighting the management of ethnic
and national issues at various levels: ethnic or local, regional and national.

A#0ass- &$-"k-ri, 8$e )".l-e"ce o. A1yssi"ia" *?t$iopia"+ Political /-lt-re o" =ro0o 7atio"alis0 a"#
9e1ellio", ()$, )), 1@2*15+, p.66.
A2, 1 #egabit 1!6.

Generally, political mobilization in terms of ethnicity and the added promise of the
Charter as well as the Constitution to redress regional prejudices were recipes for
communal conflict. Appeals to ethnic sentiment in political elections based on ethno-
regional constituencies were a facile avenue to state power. Under these conditions the
growth of ethnicity was assured.
The ruling coalition, EPRDF, also had its share in
escalating the strife by creating the so-called PDOs (Peoples Democratic Organization,
the common name for its satellite organizations) to undermine independent ethnic parties.
This was a calculated risk designed to maintain the regime in power, though EPRDF had
little safeguards against the wastefulness of political fragmentation and duplication or for
controlling primordial dissensions going astray.
An unprecedented policy of beating up ethnic tension from above and simultaneous rising
expectation from below characterized the incumbent regime. In his speech on the
occasion of Eritrean independence celebrations in 1993, then President Meles said in
Tigrigna Do not scratch your wounds, we will not scratch ours!
He did reverse this
reminder in Ethiopia. In his televised meeting with Somali elders, clan representatives
and members at Harar in February 1994, Meles assured the audience that the Somali had
been forced to become Ethiopians a century ago and now there is no way that should be
repeated. There were also high profile agitations and inflammatory speeches by state
officials, such as Tamrat Layne in the Somali region, Tefera Walwa and Addisu Legesse
in the Southern region, publicly giving state endorsement to ethnocentrism and anti-

=k-#i1a 7"oli, *nderstanding Ethnic Conflicts in Africa *1!+, p.21.
9-t$ )yo1, 8$e ?t$iopia" A ?ritrea" /o".lict4 >iasporic 5s Hege0o"ic &tates i" t$e Hor" o. A.rica, 11:
2000, (#A$*2000+, p.67, B-oti"g Hadas Eritrea*13+.

Ethiopianism throughout the transition period. EPRDFs favorite metaphor to Ethiopian
unity was a marriage contract to be dissolved anytime by any of the signatories.
The early period was particularly propitious for the expression of spontaneous and
organized ethnocentrism. Various ethnic organizations attempted to exploit the
transitional instability to incite respective groups by reopening historical wounds. In
Gambella, the entire Nuer ethnic group fled to the Sudan during the power vacuum in
1991-1992. The Gambella Peoples Liberation Movement (GPLM) initiated a terror
campaign by killing, looting and intimidating Nuer communities to flee across the
The longtime resident Gurage people in Dilla town were attacked and their
properties looted during this chaotic period. The Gedeo Peoples Revolutionary
Democratic Movement (GPRDM) was later founded in a conference held at Dilla town
(3-5 January 1992) promising peace and security for other ethnic groups living in the
area. In 1994 again the mobile drama team was mobbed at Dilla town by
Gedeo youth who were allegedly infuriated by the theatres chauvinist message.

The most flagrant and systematic dissension campaign was carried out by ultra-ethnic
Oromo activists, at the forefront of which were the OLF. In January 1992, the OLF
organized a commemorative ceremony for the martyrs of Anole, the massacre
committed by Emperor Menelik 106 years ago.
OLF ethnic propaganda was so much
engrossed in giving precedence to blood, even to language, as the quintessential
criterion of Oromoness so that it sometimes tended to have a racist tone. It went as far as

8ewo#ros Haile0aria0, %a01ella4 a History o. )"tegratio" o. t$e Perip$ery,*AAC4 ,.A. t$esis i"
History, 17+. >ereDe 6eyissa, 8$e ?Eperie"ce o. t$e %a01ella 9egio"al &tate, *=saka C"i5ersity4 "o
#ate+, pp.10:11.
A2, 1 Tir 1!4.

making distinction between full-blooded and half-blooded Oromos. This ideology of
blood was sometimes employed in intra-Oromo infighting, for instance, labeling OPDO
as Oromo-speaking naftegna, or Shoan Oromos as walmaka, etc.
The primordial
politics of the day also had far more dangerous implications for all Amharas and other
northern groups resident in Oromia, who were now labeled as descendants of the original
naftegna conquerors and hence accountable for their fathers sins.

For instance, an Oromiffa weekly named Mede Welabu aired such extremist ideas as
opposing the assignment of Amhara and other non-Oromos in the regional civil service.
The Orthodox Church and its followers were not spared from the identity politics of the
period, especially so in the southern regions. Organizations such as the OLF explicitly
denounced Orthodox religion as only appropriate for the neftegna.
Even an intra-Oromo
conflict between Protestant and Orthodox followers was considered as a neftegna plot to
set brothers against each other.
In many places in the southern and peripheral regions
kekililachin yiwtulin (out from our region) became a convenient slogan. In fact, this
extremism seemed to threaten the very fabric of society and the viability of the system if
pushed too far. The Oromia regional authorities countered that eviction and
discrimination were a violation of constitutional right and they would continue to appoint
all Ethiopian citizens except in the judiciary. Some even argued that ultra-exclusiveness
was an individual agenda which conflicted with the traditional hospitality of Oromo

A2, 2! inbot 1!4. ;a-g$a", ?t$"icity a"# Power, p.221.
=)4 &$i.eraw ,-leta, perso"al co00-"icatio".
A2, ! #ia!ia 1!6.
A2, 15 #ia!ia 1!6.

The transition period was a time of soul-searching for the Amharic-speaking people
which, above the frameworks of the local and regional identification (as Yewenze lij) and
below an overarching Ethiopian sentiment, seemed to lack experience in a middle level
pan-ethnic identification. One of the most publicized dialogues of the early EPRDF
period was on the existence of the Amhara nation! In a 1992 televised debate between
then president Meles Zenawi and Professors Mesfin Woldemariam and Andreas Eshete,
Mesfin brought up an argument that there is no single homogenous nation called
This was in a sense a continuation of Mengistus historical analysis in the last
hours of the Derg, stating his finding about the meaning of Amhara as a people living in
mountainous region. The standing argument against the coalescence of the Amhara
under an ethnic party was that Amhara is an all-Ethiopian nation. It is a nation which
should not be dispossessed of its Ethiopian sentiment. To do this will only pave the way
for the disintegration of the country. Therefore, the Amhara should not be restricted to a
primordial party and separated from other nations and nationalities.

Nevertheless, the theoretical subtleties regarding the identity of the Amhara could not
stem the external ascription and violence engendered by ethno-nationalism in the period.
Now all native Amharic speaking people could not escape their Amharaness, and, if they
attempted to resist by asserting Ethiopian identity, they were subjected to harassment.
Again this took spontaneous as well as institutionalized forms. While all other ethno-
nationalist forces within EPRDF gave lip service to Marxist class solidarity and worked
to consolidate vertical ethnic bonds, the regime systematically divided up the Amhara

)" .act, ,es.i" see0s to retract $is origi"al arg-0e"t i" $is 14 1ook Etyopia +eyet ,edet.
A2, 10 Tir 1!4. %etac$ew Haile, -e.Amara/ Hi!b Tari01Amara, 'as$i"gto" >/, 30 ,ay

into chauvinist and oppressed, and a new addition was hodam, classes to weaken the
groups solidarity.
The Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement (EPDM), or
sometimes criticized as the Amharic department of TPLF, was the institutional face of
this policy.

The sidelining and exclusion of the Amhara was a major hiatus in the transition process,
though EPRDF argued that the allotment of 10 seats in the Council of Representatives for
EPDM (in par with TPLF and OPDO) was to safeguard Amhara interest. Neither its
name nor its deed confirmed that claim until EPDM began to champion the oppressed
Amhara cause in late 1991. 3&45 6% &' 78 6"9 78 &' 8: ;<"9
86= /(( >& ? ;<@ 6 ABC 6 6D E:6?D * 0FG
/(( EPDM maintains that the Amhara people should be organized as a nation on the
basis of being Amhara and as a people on the basis of being oppressed. For this reason, it
deserves a national democratic organization which distinguishes the oppressed Amhara
from the oppressor Amhara.
Accordingly, EPDM introduced its agenda by hosting in
December 1991 what it called Oppressed Amhara Nations Peace Conference in Bahir
Dar city. This body later changed its name to the Amhara National Democratic
Movement (ANDM), though it was from the very outset considered as a stooge of TPLF,
just like the other ethnic PDOs.

The irresponsible and vindictive politics of the transition period, not an anomaly but a
continuation of insurgency propaganda, led to the death and destabilization of many

A2, 1! $ene 1!4. A2, 1! #ia!ia 1!6.
A2, 1 Tir 1!4.
A2, 27 $ene 1!4.

hundreds of Amhara in Asebe Teferi, Bedeno, Weter and many other places in the
country. The most glaring was the Araba Gugu massacre orchestrated by top government
officials, Hassen Ali (then Oromia chief), Hussien Adem, Dima Gurmessa(whose real
name is Captain Welde Senbet Gurmessa) and Kuma Demeksa.
Such tragedies
precipitated the establishment of the All Amhara Peoples Organization (AAPO) on 23
January 1992. According to its president, the late Professor Asrat Woldeyes, the overt
and covert attacks which then gained a TPLF blessing had their origins during the Italian
invasion in 1935-1941.
AAPO has remained an object of EPRDF subterfuge and
harassment throughout the period.

Oromo nationalism has been another major contentious issue throughout the EPRDF
regime. Although a number of organizations had claimed to represent the interest of the
Oromo people, OLF was generally believed to be the only one enjoying wider popular
support in the region. It had decades long history of struggle and a better military and
organizational capability than its rivals. The disagreement between TPLF and OLF
started on the eve of the demise of the Derg when the former created in 1990 a rival
Oromo organization in OPDO. The OLF believed that this action would undermine the
Oromo question and opposed it seriously. In addition, due to the inferiority of its military
might in contrast to EPLF and TPLF, the OLF was not seen as an equal player in the
transitional power arrangement.
Ironically, the political tension between the two fronts

,s0ak-, ,o#er"iFatio" a"# /$a"ge, pp.26:270. ,es.i" 'ol#e ,aria0, Etyopia +yet ,edet21A##is
A1a1a4 %-r0ayle P-1lis$ers, 1!6 ?/+, p.25.
A2, 10 Tir 1!4.
Assa.a Galata, 8$e =ro0o4 /$a"ge a"# /o"ti"-ity i" ?t$iopia" /olo"ial Politics, ()$, ), 1*13+, pp. 17,
1!, 1. ,o$a00e#, A &$ort History )), pp.153:54.

further escalated by the so-called colonial thesis to which Oromo nationalists adamantly
stuck even after victory over the Derg.

In an agreement signed between the two organizations on 26 September 1990, both OLF
and TPLF had identified their priorities. The OLF decided to agitate for national identity
and independence of the Oromo while letting the issue of unity with other peoples
emerge from future cooperation and trust building. The TPLF countered that in the event
the oppressive state is dismantled and peoples interests were safeguarded, it would be
mutually beneficial for all sides to work for democratic unity. On the issue of the right of
self-determination, both agreed that . . . the exercise of the right shall be through a
democratically held referendum and the choice of the concerned people either to form
their own state or join with others in a union shall be respected."
One of the cardinal
concerns of the July 1991 Conference was outlining the principles for resolving issues of
right of self-determination to dependent peoples.

Thus, the real test of EPRDFs commitment to national self-determination emerged in the
very first year of transition. Though OLF considered the Charter a partial victory, it was
not at all satisfied with its secondary position in the government as well as the increasing
erosion of its regional power through OPDO. The June 1992 elections were the climax of
the rupture between EPRDF and OLF. In his public radio and TV address on 19 June
1992, then president Meles accused OLF of disrespecting the agreement to keep its
army in barracks by deploying them in fighting positions. In response, OLF boycotted the
emergency meeting of the Council of Representatives held on 20 June 1992. What is

A1iy- %eleta, =36 a"# 8P364 ,aDor )ss-es a"# =-tco0es o. a >eca#e o. 7egotiatio"s si"ce 11, ()$,
H, 1@2*2003+, p.6.

more, members of the front who held ministerial posts in the Transitional Government
submitted letters of resignation to the Prime Minister on 22 June 1992. On the next day,
OLF wrote a formal letter to the Council of Representatives announcing its withdrawal
from the Council and the Government. It claimed that the withdrawal will disqualify the
integrity of the Transitional Government; hence OLF will no more consider itself bound
by decisions emanating from this body.

After the withdrawal of OLF from the Transitional Government, talks were held in
Asmara in September 1992 at which TPLF made OLFs commitment to unity a priority
agenda. Third party mediators also pressed OLF to accept unity of the Ethiopian
All attempts in the period between 1993 and 1998 failed to bring peace
because of the uncompromising stand of the two parties. However, in 1998 some OLF
members showed tendency to accept the above preconditions in order to break the
deadlock. Towards the end of the 1990s, a new leadership of the OLF moderated its
demand for political separation and advocated a compromise regional autonomy solution.
This meant EPRDF was to admit that Oromia had been colonized whereas OLF was to
abandon its unconditional independence agenda. Mohammed Hassens statement is
representative of this view: I believe, what is needed is the decolonization of Oromia
through the devolution of real power to the Oromo.

In fact, government repression in the Oromia region had been severer than other regions,
as also testified by Human Rights Watch and other international and local organizations.

A2, 1 $ene 1!4.
A1iy-, =36 a"# 8P36, p.!1.
,o$a00e#, A &$ort History )), p.1!0.

However scanty the military presence and capability of OLF were, as it had been unable
to recuperate since the 1992 debacle, it seems to enjoy some sentimental hold among the
youth and educated section of the ethnic group. The EPRDF had been bent on uprooting
OLF from the region so that it incriminated the organization for sabotages and explosions
on public utilities. It also waged intensive propaganda campaign against the front as a
terrorist organization. In the late 1990s, the regime cracked down on members of the
reestablished Metchana Tulama Association and the Oromo Human Rights League.

Both organizations were closed in 2003. In spite of occasional rapprochement between
OLF and EPRDF-TPLF, therefore, the prospect of unity in equality seems still bleak.

While the Amhara and Oromo issues concerned the two major ethnic groups and their
places in the overall national apparatus, most others were of localized and regional in
character. One episode of ethnic struggle which demonstrates the protean nature of
ethnicity and nationalism was the protracted Gurage-Silti question. The Gurage region is
roughly categorized into three main language zones - namely northeast, middle and
southwest. If these three zones were to be strictly viewed by linguistic criteria, they
would be further divided into 17 parts. The Gurage Peoples Democratic Front (GPDF)
was formed in 1991 to represent a united Gurage and claimed to struggle any divisive

&tate0e"t s-10itte# 1y 8$e A#5ocates .or H-0a" 9ig$ts*AH9+, to t$e 4!
sessio" o. t$e C"ite#
7atio"s /o00ittee o" ?co"o0ic, &ocial a"# /-lt-ral 9ig$ts, 30 April A 1! ,ay 2012, pp.2,7 "otes4 8$e
%o5er"0e"t o. ?t$iopia acti5ely i0pe#es t$e rig$ts o. #isa#5a"tage# et$"ic gro-ps to sel.:
#eter0i"atio"*Article 1+. 6or eEa0ple, i"#i5i#-al =ro0os a"# =ro0o "o":go5er"0e"tal orga"iFatio"s are
o.te" ass-0e# to s-pport t$e =ro0o 3i1eratio" 6ro"t A a" orga"iFatio" t$e %o5er"0e"t c$aracteriFes as
a terrorist gro-p A -"less t$ey acti5ely eEpress s-pport .or t$e r-li"g party. 8$ese allege# =36 ties are
-se# to D-sti.y arrest, .iri"g, eEp-lsio" .ro0 sc$ool, a"# co".iscatio" o. property. Bir$a"- 7ega,
-e.Netsanet oh $i4ed *Ia0pala4 ,.,. P-1lis$ers, 1! ?/+, p.22, eyewit"ess acco-"t a1o-t t$e 0aDority
o. t$e i"0ates o. <aliti &tate Pe"ite"tiary 1ei"g =ro0os s-specte# o. a..iliatio" wit$ =36. ,o$a00e#,
A &$ort History )), p.165. Ber$a"- %-te0a Balc$a, 9estr-ct-ri"g &tate a"# &ociety4 ?t$"ic 6e#eralis0 i"
?t$iopia, *P$> >issertatio" i" >)94 Al1org C"i5ersity, 2006+, pp.227:22.

tendencies and forces.
The Silte, originally Gogot, question was born in the attempt to
form a pan-Gurage organization but started to occupy public attention in 1994.

Coordinated by a diverse group which named itself the Silti, Azernet Berberi, Alicho
Werero, Mesqan, Melga and Welene Gedebano Democratic Organization (SAMWGDO),
it demanded that the chair held by GPDF in the Council of Representatives in the name of
the Gogot should be returned to the Gogot nation! The Silti politicians took issue with
GPDFs conception of identity hierarchies, that Silti=gosa, Gurage=biher, then
Etyopiawinet. They argued: Menelik called us Kembatta, Haile Selassie Gurage, the
Derg continued same, the Hadiya Gende, whereas the Gurage Adiya. However, our
people called themselves as Islam or Silti. They claimed that the two peoples are
different in history, language and culture as the Silti traced their origin from the eastern
part of the country, specifically the Harari, while the Gurage are of northern origin. They
also labeled GPDFs attempt to maintain Gurage unity as zemenawi timkhitegnet.

The issue which originated as a demand for zonal representation escalated into public
pan-ethnic conflict in 1994. The political organizations in the name of the Silti people
had their first chance of testing public support in the elections for House of Peoples
Representatives and regional councils held on 7 May 1995. Six years later, in a
referendum held in April 2001, the Silti were able to achieve a separate zonal
administration from the Gurage and a direct access to the national resources. This was
perhaps a classic example about the active creation of ethnic groups and ethno-

Tobia, 10 -e0atit 1!6.
A2, 21 #egabit 1!6. A2., 25 #egabit 1!6. A2, 5 #ia!ia 1!6. A2, 25 inbot 1!6. A2, 13 #ia!ia 1!7.
A2, 20 #ia!ia 1!7. A2, 4 inbot 1!7.

nationalism by a determined elite acting primarily in self-interest.
The selective
appropriation of history; drawing support from linguistic and other anthropological
studies eclectically; the emphasis on cultural, religious and linguistic boundaries; the self-
perception of a separate identity and self-name; the articulation of real or perceived
political oppression and economic injustice either by the Gurage or the central
government or in concert; and capitalizing on current political atmosphere all these
were involved in the Silti question.

The Gambella Peoples National Regional State (GPNRS) was another example which
shows how regional, national and even international issues impact the evolution of
ethnicity and nationalism. In general, Gambella regional politics evolved through three
overlapping phases. The transitional phase, 1991 1995, in which Gambella Peoples
Liberation Movement (GPLM) single-handedly ran the region, was marked by poor
governance, misappropriation of public resources and escalation of ethnic conflicts
especially between the two dominant groups, Anywaa and Nuer. GPLM was established
by Anywaa dissidents back in 1983 to fight against the Derg.
On the fall of the military
regime in 1991, the movement assumed uncontested control of Gambella and radically
transformed the political balance between the various groups.
Like any other neighboring people with different socio-cultural practices and lifestyles,
Anywaa and Nuer communities had a long history of ethnic integration, cooperation and
conflict. Together constituting about 80 percent of the total indigenous population in the
region, the relationship between the Anywaa and Nuer has always been vital to regional

;a-g$a", ?t$"icity a"# Power, p.265.
=kello =0a", A2, 1 #es0erem 1!5.

peace and stability. During the second-half of the 20
century, the traditional systems of
maintaining ethnic balance were challenged by events such as natural disasters, regime
changes, the Sudanese civil wars and the unprecedented refugee influx into the region.
The Anywaa harbored increasing resentment against the Nuer who enjoyed a favored
position as woreda and awraja administrators during the Derg period. In addition to this,
the Anywaa had serious grievances against the depredations of Sudan Peoples Liberation
Army (SPLA) which had many Nuer members in its ranks. Therefore, at the fall of the
Derg entire Nuer communities in Gambella were forced to flee to the Sudan in fear of
reprisal by the Anywaa.

When the Nuer began to repatriate seeing a modicum of peace and stability in the region,
they found themselves totally excluded from the political apparatus. Therefore, they
formed in 1992 the Gambella Peoples Democratic Union Party (GPDUP) to regain
political space in the region. Now the traditional rivalry between the two groups assumed
modern institutional forms sanctioned by the new regime. On 18 March 1994, the GPLM
was transformed into Gambella Peoples Liberation Party (GPLP) partly pressurized by
the federal government to accommodate regional demands. The party also elected 23
permanent and 4 alternate members to its central committee, the latter to represent the
minority communities(Opuo and Komo) in the region. The conflict between the Anywaa
and Nuer, further escalated in the 1995 regional elections. Though the two parties had
agreed to work jointly through the regional council, the ruling GPLP created obstacles to

=ral )".or0a"t4 &a0so" Go$", .or0er speaker o. t$e %P79& /o-"cil.

GPDUP while the latter retaliated by preventing GPLP members from running in Jikawo
and Akobo woredas.

Mark Chuol Jewik, a Gambella Nuer, reminisced that he was elected as Deputy to the
Ethiopian Parliament four times up to 1969 by both the Nuer and Anywaa peoples.
During the Derg period he had served in various posts, as woreda and vice awraja
administrator, as advisor for Gambella affairs in Illubabor region and also as advisor in
Illubabor affairs in the Ministry of Interior. In the heat of the Anywaa Nuer ethnic
rivalry in 1994/95, he was accused of and convicted for conspiring to detach Gambella
and join it with the Sudan. He observed that what currently emerged in Gambella was an
ethnic-based tussle between GPLP and GPDUP, which will eventually go down to the
people unless solutions were sought immediately.
The Anywaa were afraid that Nuer
bid will erode their hegemony. They even sacked their leader Okello Oman in 1995 for
being submissive to external pressure and for accommodating other groups interests.
However, Okello was reelected president for second term due to the support from
highlanders and the Nuer.
The EPRDF intervened to bring about some accord between the five ethnic groups in the
region: the Anywaa, Nuer, Majangir, Opuo and Komo. In its first convention on 10 July
1995, the Gambella Regional Council decided on the regions flag, language, and
It also allotted one seat for each of the minority Opuo and Komo groups and
agreed to give them direct representation in the councils executive committee as they
would not be able to win elections due to the size of their populations. The conference

Tobia, 24 inbot 1!7. A2, 12 Tir 1!6. A2, 7 @ 10 #egabit 1!6.
Tobia, 24 inbot 1!7. A2, 2 @ $ene 1!7.
8$e legal 1asis .or t$is was t$e 15 /o"stit-tio", /$apter ), Article 3, 7o.3 a"# Article 5, 7o.3.

also approved a power-sharing formula for top executives by electing an Anywaa
president, a Nuer vice-president and a Majangir chief secretary/ later speaker/.
In 1996,
the Gambella regional state acquired its own constitution, similar to other regions issued
from the center, which provided a legal basis for the establishment of self-government
and proportional representation for indigenous groups in the regional and federal
structure (Chapter II, Article 30, No.3). It also stipulated that regional political
arrangement should take into consideration the democratic relationship between the
nations, nationalities, peoples and political forces in the region (Chapter V, Article 51).

The second phase in the dynamics of Gambella ethno-politics commenced with the
FDRE election in 1996 and continued until the TPLF infighting in 2002. This was a
period of unprecedented escalation of controversies over the manner of Nuer
participation, mapping ethnic zones and power sharing. The Nuer intensified their
demand for a fair political, social and economic representation in the region. Highlanders
in the region, though hardly represented in the political structures, initially had direct
influence through their votes and indirect pressures. This period witnessed a growing
disaffection between the regional and federal government, mainly due to the latters
unconstitutional highhandedness on the pretext of streamlining regional parties along
EPRDF lines. Okello Oman once again found himself in the political crossfire; thus in
1997 he landed in prison on charges of corruption.
The rivalry between the Anywaa and the Nuer, however, continued through the regional
political apparatus as well as the civil service. This was a too common problem the

A2, 5, 11 @ 15 Hamle 1!7.
8$e 16 %P79& /o"stit-tio". 9egio"al co"stit-tio"s were a#opte# i" G-"e 15 a"# re5ise# i" 2001.

EPRDF regime faced among what it called allied organizations. In August 1997,
therefore, the federal government conducted a series of conferences in Benishangul,
Somali, Dire Dawa, Afar and Gambella regions aimed at evaluating performance and
resolving outstanding issues of corruption, inefficiency and proliferation of ethnic
conflict. In the same month regional representatives were invited to attend the occasion of
unity between four political organizations in Benishangul Gumuz. Similar efforts in
Gambella had been going on for a year to create a united front between the GPLP and
In particular, the Gambella Peace, Development and Democracy Conference,
held between 10 and 22 August 1997, criticized the two parties for distancing themselves
from the people and negatively contributing to ethnic conflicts of the region. At the end
of the Conference, a united organization named Gambella Peoples Democratic Front was

This period also witnessed the transformation of elite politics into grassroots ethnic
violence. The federal government attempted to stem this tide by bringing the contending
parties under GPDF. The Federal Affairs Minister also appointed its own advisors to the
region who became de facto bosses until the split within TPLF. The period saw
unprecedented escalation of ethnic conflicts as the Nuer vied for a dominant position in
the regional leadership arguing that they had larger population than the Anywaa. They
also demanded for a fair resource allocation to Nuer woredas as well as the reconstitution
of the administrative structure which allotted more kebeles to Anywaa woredas than Nuer
ones, even though the latter had larger population size. The emergence of other rival
ethnic parties in the fray, Gambella Peoples Democratic Congress(GPDC January 1999,

A2, 4 #es0erem 10. A2, 16 #egabit 10. A2, 13, 2 @ 30 Nehassie 10.
&eporter, ))), 34J13, 26 #ia!ia 10. A2, 17 #es0erem 10.

Anywaa) and Gambella Peoples Democratic Union(2000, Nuer), further escalated inter-
ethnic tensions and became a hurdle for the creation of a common political space; the
division even started to go down to the common people.

The third phase, from 2003 on, was a period of restructuring and overhaul of the parties
starting in November 2002. GPLP was reconstituted as Anywaa Peoples Democratic
Organization (APDO) consisting of Anywaa and Komo. GPDUP was reformed as Nuer
Peoples Democratic Organization (NPDO) consisting of Nuer and Opuo groups. The
Majangir Peoples Democratic Organization (MPDO), a new party for the third largest
group, was established from Majangir who were formerly members in Anywaa and
Nuer parties. Then the three PDOs were joined in a common front named as Gambella
Peoples Democratic Movement (GPDM). This was a very intricate process which has
done little to alleviate the inter-ethnic strife in Gambella regional state. After 2002, the
conflict between the two major rivals, Anywaa and Nuer, spread among the rural
communities. The traditional conflicts were localized and ignited by cattle raids and
trespassing of grazing areas. Now these transformed into pan-ethnic violence and came to
include urban areas. If a Nuer is a boss in a government post, the Anywaa did not take
orders and vice versa.

As the above four cases illustrate, ethno-national demands for empowerment during the
EPRDF period took various forms. These represent three categories in scale and

A2, 26 Tir 11.
=)4 /$a" %atl-ak, 7-er, 5ice:c$air0a" o. Gikawo /oreda at t$e ti0e o. i"ter5iew o" 14 #ia!ia
15*22J4J2003+ at Gikawo. %ro-p #isc-ssa"ts4 Go$" 9iek 7i$al, ,oses %atk-ot$, 'atga %at#et$,
i"ter5iewe# at 8eil-t o" 15 #ia!ia 15*23J4J2003+. 6or striki"gly si0ilar #e5elop0e"ts o" t$e Bora"a o.
t$e 1or#erla"#s see Belete, Agraria" Polity, pp.3!4, 445, 450, 451. His co"cl-sio" also works too well
.or %a01ella regio", p.444 ,y 0aDor arg-0e"t $ere is t$at rat$er t$a" lea# to political sta1ility, et$"ic
.e#eralis0 as practice# i" Bora"a $a# .-rt$er i"crease# political i"sta1ility a"# eco"o0ic -"certai"ty. 8$e
policy $a# i"te" local co"test o5er la"# a"# political power.

objective, national like that of Amhara and Oromo, local or regional like that the Silti and
Gurage or the Anywaa and Nuer respectively. The accommodation also varied according
to the magnitude of the problem and the threat it posed to the regimes political integrity.
EPRDF might have taken genuine steps to the resolution of the national question.
However, its insecurity emanating from the narrowness of its TPLF base often overrode
the proper accommodation of ethno-national demands. What the regime granted
constitutionally, it took away by the imposition of rigid central control through elaborate
party and parastatal apparatus.
Perhaps an outstanding fact in the intricate political brinkmanship of EPRDF was the
representation of the nationalities rights to self-determination as antithetical to Ethiopian
unity and identity. Timkhit and tebabinet were now contextually defined, if and when
they did not specifically refer to the Amhara or Oromo, to mean feelings of superiority or
sectarianism respectively. For instance, the Harari considered the Oromo claim to their
region as timkhit whereas the intra-Harari division along clan lines is dubbed as
tebabinet. The Silti labeled pan-Gurage sentiments as zemenawi timkhit, whereas intra-
Silti localism was tebabinet. Similarly, the conflict between various ethnic groups in
Gambella or Benishangul and between different clans in Somali or Afar regions was
referred as tebabinet.
Like its predecessors, or perhaps in a more profound manner, EPRDF attempted to
control and define national political space and dialogue. It directly or indirectly
controlled the mass media, attempted to regiment the entire civil service and manipulated
educational curriculum in its own ideological image. Higher Education Proclamation
No.351/2003 provides a special protection to academic freedom. In practice, however,

"all levels of education are politically influenced. This practice violates the right of all
ethnic groups and people of all political views to receive education."
launched vast indoctrination and conscription activities in colleges, universities and high

In the entire political drama federal government attempted to operate from backstage and
maintain a semblance of ethnic or national autonomy. If zemecha (campaign) had been
the key term expressing the Derg, an even more apt term for EPRDF would be
koreta(diversion). The period also saw the expression of rival conceptions of popular
history, as well as a reinterpretation of Ethiopian history along ethnic lines. Even among
professional historians, an Oromo view or Gojjame view was taken for granted. In the
heyday of nationalism, the battle between opposite ideological fronts was fought on the
fields of history.
It was a classic example of the relationship between the power regime
and the knowledge regime.

History, Memory and Power
In war or peace nationalists fought for the hearts and minds of the people and in this
endeavour history became the handmaiden of embattled nationalism. During the
insurgency, TPLF and other ethno-nationalists embraced a compartmental view of history

8$e A#5ocate# .or H-0a" 9ig$ts, ?t$iopia4 ;iolatio"s o. t$e rig$ts o. t$e #isa#5a"tage# et$"ic gro-ps
protecte# 1y t$e )"ter"atio"al /o5e"a"t o" ?co"o0ic, &ocial a"# /-lt-ral 9ig$ts, a state0e"t s-10itte#
to t$e 4!
&essio" o. t$e C"ite# 7atio"s /o00ittee o" ?co"o0ic, &ocial a"# /-lt-ral 9ig$ts, 30 April to
1! ,ay 2012, p.24.
Tobia ,agaFi"e, Kear ), 7o.1, 1!4. &ee ,o$a0e# Hasse", The )romos of Ethiopia *14+, a"# 8es$ale
8i1e1-, The #a0ing of #odern Ethiopia: 5678957:;*8$e 9e# &ea Press4 15+ .or t$e respecti5e =ro0o
a"# %oDDa0e 5iews o. ?t$iopia" $istory. A#$a"a i" ,-tatio", p.15, also s"i#es 8a#esse 8a0ratLs
i"terpretatio" as M&$oa"L4 ...a" e0i"e"t ?t$iopia" $istoria" .ro0 B-lga*i" "ort$er" &$awa+.

based on radical ethnicism. Over and above the skepticism towards Ethiopian history in
general, this ideology conceded little beyond ethno-history. In 1992, then President and
Chairman of EPRDF and TPLF, Meles Zenawi, famously proclaimed that Aksum is
nothing for the Walayita and Lalibela is nothing for the Anuak (sic). This seemed a
logical assertion to ethno-nationalists given their fresh military victory over state
nationalism. Again it was a grave miscalculation regarding the depth and magnitude of
Ethiopianism which haunted the regime throughout the period.

The assumption of a role as defender of the sovereignty and integrity of Ethiopia
demanded an ideological framework accommodating the apparently incompatible roles.
The necessity of an Ethiopian face to the regime demanded a rival historical narrative,
one which cut to the ruling group a distinctive niche in the national past. After a brief
spell of ultra-ethnicism, therefore, the TPLF-led government started to search for an
appropriate historical legacy and legitimacy. It shifted from total rejection of the past to
selective use of the past. It attempted to span the ethnic as well as the national aspects of
history, still with an inherent proclivity to the former. The new official ideology called
revolutionary democracy attempted to marry residual Marxism with traditional

Interestingly, TPLFs alternative narrative and justification seemed to replicate the age-
old aristocratic rivalry of feudal Ethiopia. By reinvigorating an anti-Shoa/Amhara
propaganda, which incriminated the group as cause of the destruction of Ethiopia, TPLF
ideologues arrogated to themselves a new mission as saviors of the nation. The regime
hailed what it called the new politics of to be (revolutionary democracy) as an

antithesis to the former politics of not to be, i.e., to chauvinistic nationalism and a
nationalism of withdrawal plus everything in between. The latter are the offshoots of
the politics of the Shawan aristocracy (old and new). Both share the same thought
patterns and frames of mind: hate and exclusiveness. ...Both work to complete the task
the Shawan aristocracy left unfinished: the disintegration of Ethiopian statehood.

The EPRDF cast its roles and achievements in favorable light while it subtly
undercommunicated or debunked what it regarded as a history of Amhara regimes.
Aksum featured as an exclusive symbol of Tigrays historical legacy and a goading star
for Ethiopias future. In a February 1992 interview to Addis Zemen, Fitawrari Amede
Lema, a veteran member of the imperial parliament who was at the head of a 1967
motion for the repatriation of Aksum obelisk, reminisced Haile Selassies tacit opposition
to the move. Amede noted that the Emperor overrode the decision by a joint committee of
both houses (Hig Memria and Hig Mewesegna) demanding him to suspend his visit to
Italy until the obelisk was returned.
When EPRDF later revived diplomacy for the
repatriation of this historical relic, the state media played down similar efforts during the
Imperial and Derg periods. The Derg attempted to restore history to the masses whereas
EPRDF wanted to give it to the ethnic groups.

The occasion of Adwa Centenary in 1996 provided another instance of seeking historical
legitimacy. Originally the regimes tentative decision to host the national
commemoration in Adwa town was retracted due to strong public reaction. As a
compromise measure, therefore, twin celebrations were held in Addis Ababa and Adwa.

A#$a"a, ,-tatio" o., p.2!.
A2, 2 Tir 1!4.

The ethnicization of history and memory became more explicit with the retrenchment of
the regime after the 2004 elections. The ruling power portrayed itself as the Renaissance
Generation and traced its roots to the ancient civilization of Aksum. Radio and TV
documentaries propagated that Aksumite equality and freedom in Ethiopia had been
interrupted by the intrusion of Amhara feudalism between the 13
and the 19
In fact, the ruling style of Emperor Yohannes IV was uniquely regarded as federalism,
endorsing the Tigrean leaderships legacy of democratic values. The repatriation and
erection of the Aksum obelisk in 2010 was also presented as the quintessence of revival
of Tigrayan power and glory.

Besides its eclecticism, EPRDFs general lack of concern for the national past and the
worth of history as an academic discipline seem unprecedented. In the early period, all
expressions of national history and culture were unceremoniously dismissed from public
forums as well as school curriculums. The regime substituted Yekatit66 Political School
by the Civil Service College in 1995 to produce a new breed of cadres and middle level
functionaries. It replaced Political Education by Civic and Ethical Education to infuse its
ideology through the national educational system. At the tertiary level, common courses
on Ethiopian history and geography were replaced by composite courses such as Civics
and Social Studies (containing history, geography and civics). Ethiopian history was
redesigned in line with the new emphasis on nations, nationalities and peoples.
At all
educational levels, the very title of the subject/course was changed to a wider Ethiopia
and the Horn and the specific reference Ethiopia was substituted in textbooks by a
more general and vaguer Ethiopian region. Though the course title Ethiopia and the

,es.i", Ethiopia +e.yet ,edet, p.14, recalls $ow two 8P36 ca#res ca0e to t$e -"i5ersity at t$e o-tset
o. t$e regi0e to i"str-ct t$e sta.. wit$ t$e "ew 5ersio" o. ?t$iopia" $istory.

Horn was originally introduced by the AAU Department of History, its adoption to
lower educational levels was in line with the governing ideology of the regime.

For much of the EPRDF period, regional education bureaus produced their own texts and
teaching materials often reflecting an ethnic version of history. Similarly, other relevant
bodies such as Culture and Tourism or Youth, Culture and Sports bureaus were
responsible for the promotion and preservation of regional culture, history and heritage.
This decentralization has undeniable merits in the opportunities it created for self-
government and empowerment, for drawing concern as well as material, financial and
human resources to sub-national and local values, institutions and traditions. Although
susceptible to propagandist and unscholarly abuses, one positive outcome of the post-
1991 period was the forum it opened for public and dialogue and research endeavors on
ethnicity, nationalism and their political and cultural implications. This was a period
when ethnic studies became a vibrant industry.
In tandem with global and national paradigm shifts, Ethiopianist scholarship entertained
vigorous calls by social scientists that preferred the emic approach in ethno-history to
the etic methods of historians. As argued by Ivo Strecker: Ethiopia offers great
opportunities for ethno-historical studies today, or perhaps I should say it demands them,
for there are still many people who want to tell their history to the world and by doing so
assert their identity and their position within the wider Ethiopian orbit.
The 13

International Conference on Ethiopian Studies(ICES), held in Kyoto in December 1997,
was themed Ethiopia In Broader Perspective to reflect the shift from center to
periphery, from national to ethnic concerns. Generally, in the main professional Ethiopian

)5o &trecker,?t$"o:History a"# )ts 9ele5a"ce .or ?t$iopia" &t-#ies, (E$, HH;))), 2*15+, p.4!.

outlets such as JES and ICES, there was similar gravitation towards ethnic and peripheral
issues. In some emerging universities, autonomous regionalist institutes were opened,
such as the Southern Studies Institute in Dilla University (2007), later renamed as the
Institute of Indigenous Studies, to rival the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES).
An outstanding testimony to flourishing ethnic scholarship was the emergence of Oromo
studies and the publication of its bi-annual journal, Journal of Oromo Studies (JOS),
since 1993. It is an index to the stage of Oromo nationalism that it has been engrossed
with the rediscovery, reconstruction and propagation of the history, culture and tradition
of the national community. At the forefront of this endeavor are historians, sociologists,
anthropologists, linguists/philologists, etc., though historians are highly represented.
According to a prominent Oromo historian, Oromo intelligentsia must play roles at all
phases of the collective attempt to carve a niche in the past, to justify the nationalist
struggle and give credibility to the ethnic view and ideology. Educated Oromo have a
national duty to argue for the self-determination of Oromia. They have also the moral
responsibility to articulate the Oromo yearning to live in unity, harmony and peace with
the people of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
An instance of such radical vein is the
attempt by scholars, notably Assafa, Sisay, Mohammed and Ezekiel, to historicize the
colonial thesis in their recent works.

,o$a00e# Hasse", o" a re5iew o. Assa.a GalataLs 1ook, )romia in Ethiopia, ()$, ), 2*14+, p.11.
,o$a00e# Hasse", A &$ort History o. =ro0o /olo"ial ?Eperie"ce, 1!70s:10s4 Part ="e4 1!70s to
135, ()$, ;), 1@2*1+, pp.10:15!. Also4 A &$ort History o. =ro0o /olo"ial ?Eperie"ce4 Part 8wo,
/olo"ial /o"soli#atio" a"# 9esista"ce4135:2000, ()$, ;)), 1@2*2000+, pp.10:1!. ?Fekiel %e1issa, 8$e
3esser o. 8wo ?5ils Para#ig0 o. /olo"ial 9-le4 A /o0parati5e &t-#y o. /olo"ialis0 i" t$e &-#a" a"#
?t$iopia, ()$, ;))), 1@2*2001+, pp.1:33.

The major problem in the above development has been the lack of a healthy balance
between ethnic and national perspectives. The political context tended to underscore
every gain for the former as a loss for the latter. However, ethnic closure and disregard to
commonalities and overarching bonds would be inimical to the national interest of the
Ethiopian peoples. Perhaps a widespread and damaging outcome of this particularistic
attitude has been the ongoing destruction of collective memory and heritage in the
country. In times of crisis and upheaval, the main targets of organized and mob
vandalism and larceny have been such institutional and material repositories as cultural
and historical artifacts, relics, buildings, works of art and archives. In the history of the
nation, this had happened countless times whenever certain groups, localities and
regions rose up against central or local administration. In the more recent periods, the
internecine war between insurgents and the state had destroyed official archives in
conflict zones.

Transitional lapses such as the 1974 revolutionary upheaval and the demise of the Derg
in 1991 were particularly notable for nation-wide vandalization of official documents. In
addition to spontaneous occurrences, the lack of proper legal and institutional care goes
very far to threaten the nations historical memories. As argued above, the process of
obliterating history seems to be ideologically justified in the current political system,
which has condemned everything that reminds of the past. Neither the federal
government nor the regions have provided clear policy and appropriate institutional
dispensary for official archives. This is notwithstanding to the fact that the regime had
promulgated Proclamation No.209/2000 on Research and Conservation of Cultural

Heritage in place of a similar provision of the Derg Proclamation No.36/1989 for the
Study and Protection of Cultural Heritage.

The EPRDF issued Proclamation No.209/2000 after a decade of foot-dragging partly in
response to civic and professional pressure. The law scarcely refers to archives as worthy
of conservation as its definition of heritage is inclined to cultural assets of the nations,
nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.
The Authority for the Research and Conservation
of Cultural Heritage founded by this proclamation is based in Addis Ababa and has so far
been inactive in the various regions. Again the National Archives and Library Agency,
which has been reestablished in 1993 by Proclamation No. 179/1993, is totally
dysfunctional outside Addis Ababa. Ethno-politics and its institutional and legal
interpretation in federal structuring have particularized history. The Cultural Policy
adopted in 2004 seems to put the onus on ensuring the recognition, respect, preservation
and conservation of the languages, historical and cultural heritages, fine arts, oral
literatures and other features of nations, nationalities and peoples. There is no good
history to be cared for but localized ethno-histories which were counterpoised to national
meta-history. Even the Ethiopian National Museum has been relegated to an insignificant
department because, in the words of its former boss Ahmed Ugaz (Afar), there is nothing
so-called biherawi.

In the reigning ideological, legal and institutional confusion, Ethiopia is losing its
historical witnesses which are the unique features of the country in the continent. The

%ederal Negarit a!eta, 6
Kear, 7o.3, 27
G-"e 2000. Procla0atio" 7o.20J2000.
=ral )".or0a"t4 a" o..icial i" t$e A-t$ority .or t$e 9esearc$ a"# /o"ser5atio" o. /-lt-ral Heritage,
i"ter5iewe# i" A##is A1a1a, &epte01er 2012.

impact of this state of affairs on the care and preservation of not only of archives of the
relative past but also current official documents can be observed throughout the
Cases in point can be the Gambella Regional State and the Amhara Regional
State. Though these widely divergent localities were selected from first-hand experience,
it is evident that the same goes for other regions and localities. The pre-1991 Gambella
archives, only a tiny portion of which were salvaged from destruction during the early
1990s, have been dumped to rot in a junk room in the Regional Council compounds.

Likewise in the Amhara Regional State, the localities I endeavored to survey, such as
Dangella, Anjebara and Finoteselam, have virtually lost the entire pre-1991 documents.
Whatever extant archives there were had been carelessly abandoned in an underground
cellar of the old Tsehayu Enquselassie residence at Debre Marqos. More recently, there
has been a salutary effort on the part of Debre Marqos University to rescue these archives
by housing them in its compound.

5.2 The Resurgence of Pan-Ethiopianism

The military victory of ethno-nationalism did not mean the resolution of the national
question or the ultimate defeat of Ethiopianism. Force has never been a good solvent to
deep-rooted historical and social problems. Unfortunately, what has been seen in the
post-1991 period was a reversal of roles between primordialist and unification

=ral )".or0a"t4 3aeke0aria0 Ae0ro, >e1re ,arBos, represe"tati5e o. Historical A..airs, 2o"al /-lt-re
a"# 8o-ris0 B-rea-.
) $a5e wit"esse# t$is o" 0ore t$a" two occasio"s, w$ile #oi"g 0y ,.A. researc$ i" 2004:6 a"# "ow
a.ter .o-r years i" 0y P$.>. proDect.
=ral )".or0a"t4 Ale0- Ale"e, $istory #epart0e"t, >e1re ,arBos C"i5ersity.

nationalisms, as EPRDF underestimated the depth of social nationalism (Ethiopianism) in
the same way the previous regimes failed to understand the persistence of ethnic
identities. Aregawi argued that since its inception in the ESM, the national question has
been distorted and used opportunistically. This had derailed the effort to find a genuine
solution to the question to date. Its analysis could then help to unravel the continuing
engagement between state, social and ethnic nationalisms and shed light on the behavior
of political actors such as the MLLT/TPLF who seem to be bent on redefining popular
demand and exploiting grievances to promote a desire for power.

From the outset, the EPRDF demonstrated a willingness to employ ideology for self-
serving pragmatism. In 1991, it went to considerable lengths to resurrect and prop up
weakened ethnic insurgencies such as the WSLF and ONLF. It did not show similar zeal
towards peaceful pan-Ethiopian organizations such as the EPRP and MEISON. The effort
to create every possible obstacle against multiethnic groupings, while sponsoring the
formation of ethnic organizations, narrowed the political foundation of the new
government and led many to doubt its sincerity for meaningful political reform. A part of
the problem emanated from the nature of TPLF, the narrowness of its basis, its political
highhandedness and opportunism. "By taking over the ethnic agenda, the EPRDF has
been able to keep other key issues out of the political limelight."
By presenting itself as
the champion of oppressed nations and nationalities, the EPRDF effectively sidelined
pan-Ethiopian social nationalists and denied rival ethno-nationalists, especially the
Oromo and Somali groups, an exclusive identification with the south.

Aregawi, A Political History, p.13.
3o5ise Aale", Ethnic %ederalism in a Dominant Party $tate: the Ethiopian E<perience 57759=>>>*Berge"4
/$ristia" ,ic$else" )"stit-te, 2002+, p.47. ,es.i", Ethiopia +e.yet ,edet, pp.11:24.

Hence, opposition to the regime came from both ethno-nationalist and multiethnic
quarters. Some emerged in an effort to counter the divisive and domineering pressure
from predator groups such as the EPRDF and its surrogate PDOs. Western Somalia
Liberation Front (WSLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) agreed to form
a united organization in 1992. Democratic Unity Party (DUP) was another Somali
organization which expressed its major aim as being to create peace and unity among
Somali ethnic groups, to accept the equality and freedom and peaceful coexistence with
other neighboring peoples, and to stand with other democratic forces for the sovereignty
of the country.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Abo also agreed to
collaborate to stem the increasing pressure from EPRDF/ OPDO, before the ultimate
withdrawal of the former from the Transitional Government in July 1992. The two Afar
based organizations, Afar Peoples Democratic Organization (APDO) and its
predecessor, the seat-holding Afar Liberation Front (ALF), also agreed in June 1992 to
work hand in hand for the peace and interest of their people within the Ethiopian

Other oppositions arose as a reaction to the regimes policies and their impact on the
national interest, unity and destiny of the Ethiopian peoples. One factor should be noted
in order to fully understand the characteristics of the TPLF-led regime. That is, a
secessionist trait lingering from its past among the hardcore Marxist-Leninist League
Tigray (MLLT) members sitting at the helm of power. "In spite of TPLF claims to the
contrary, it is likely that the document [Manifesto 68] did represent the thinking of
important elements within the leadership at the time it was written, and that it continued

A2, 11 -e0atit 1!4.

to reflect significant political currents in the leadership."
Even among the ethno-
nationalist sympathizers, EPRDFs readiness to sacrifice Ethiopian interest became clear
after the mishandling of the Eritrean issue and the collateral loss of an outlet to the sea.
The Dergs accusation of TPLF as asgentay appeared to hold true though the TPLF
couldnt have stopped it even if it wanted to.

Still others gradually hardened after observing TPLFs partiality to its regional and ethnic
base, the regimes apparent lack of sincerity towards the resolution of the national
question as well as the flagrant abuse of state power by political actors. Even its former
allies deplored the use of the federal structure as a facile device for economic and
political control, and as a means to divide and dominate other ethnic groups, especially to
sow dissension between the Oromo and Amhara.
Now it was TPLFs turn to be accused
of Tigreanization of the political and economic structure of the country.

The early 1990s were a period of intense hostility against pan-Ethiopian forces variously
labeled as chauvinists, Dergists, monarchists, etc. One observer explained the
atmosphere thus: Today all history is considered as fabricated history. The unity stand is
considered as basically anti-democratic. To argue for unity is regarded as a design to
oppress the people and to obstruct the attempt of each community to know itself. When it
is said that one official language is necessary, it is denounced as a desire to destroy
others languages.
When on 18 July 1991 the then chairman of the Afar Liberation
Front (ALF), Hamfre Ali Mirah, declared that the Afar have come to the July Conference

Go$" Ko-"g, Peasant &evol"tion in Ethiopia: The Tigray People.s ?iberation %ront, 57:@95775*/a01ri#ge
C"i5ersity Press4 17+, p.. Aregawi, A Political History, pp.1!6, 1!7, 1, 200*."+, 201.
>i0a, /o"teste# 3egiti0acy, pp.170, 16, 17. Aale", Ethnic %ederalism, p.3.
A2, 25 -e0atit 1!4.

because they believed in Ethiopian unity, it became stunning front page news. Few
thought that support for Ethiopian unity would come from the least expected quarters at
the most unlikely of times.

While the transitional period promoted the proliferation of ethnic and identity claims at
the local level, it also saw the development of new identification and loyalty at higher
level, particularly in the southern region. In a Peace and Development Conference held at
Awassa that brought together 45 ethnic groups and five regions from 7
to 11
1992, it was decided to merge the seven autonomous units into one united regional state
in accordance with Proclamation No.7/1991. This was a pragmatic decision not only for
administrative efficiency but also for the more urgent task of stopping the rampant ethnic
conflict and bloodshed orchestrated by the OLF, Oromo Islamic Liberation Front (OILF),
Sidama Liberation Front (SLF), and Gedeo Peoples Democratic Organization (GPDO)
and others in the region.

Tamrat Layne, then Prime Minister, turned around the implication of the decision as
proof that the self-determination up to secession logic is working, and that voluntary
unity is the model for future Ethiopia. Even though the amalgamation of the seven
regions into SPNNRS was an unexpected regional initiative, its relative success and the
smoothness in which debubness entered into national identity discourse was
The southern region immediately became a bulwark of Ethiopianism and
confirmed that it was and will remain an integral part of Ethiopia. In March 1993, the
Kembatta Peoples Congress (KPC) issued a historical analysis entitled Kembatta

A2, 5 inbot 1!4.
A2, 13 #ia!ia 1!6.

beGiragina beOromo Inqsiqase Zemen which argued that Kembatta and other southern
regions were part of medieval Christian Ethiopia.

In the early 1990s, there were also widespread efforts to rally the forces of unity both
inside and outside the country. Following the unification of the southern region, the ten
political organizations with parliamentary seats formed a coalition named the Southern
Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Union (SEPDU). In Europe conferences to link the
domestic and diaspora opposition were held in Bonn in November 1992 and in London
on 10 March 1993. The Paris Peace Conference On Ethiopian Peace, held between 10
and 12 March 1993, notably passed a decision calling for the convocation of a peace and
reconciliation conference to amend the wrongs being done by the Transitional
Government (TG). What made the Paris Conference different was the participation of
SEPDU thus sparking a public row between the regime and opposition groups in
parliament. The Council of Representatives demanded the ten coalition members of
SEPDU to explain their actions which allegedly contravened the charter they accepted.

The tension escalated when the Council attempted to divide the SEPDU by apparently
conflicting measures. On the one hand, it released a statement to the effect that half of the
coalition, namely Kembatta Peoples Congress (KPC), Gurage Peoples Democratic
Front (GPDF), Wolayita Peoples Democratic Front (WPDF), Burji Peoples Democratic
Organization (BPDO), and Kaffa Peoples Democratic Unity (KPDU), have escaped
punishment by conceding their mistakes and rejecting the decision of the Paris
Conference. On the other hand, it decided to oust the other half, the Sidama Liberation

A2, 14 #egabit 1!5.

Movement (SLM), Omotic Peoples Democratic Front (OPDF), Hadiya National
Democratic Organization (HNDO), Yem Peoples Democratic Movement (YPDM), and
Gedeo Peoples Democratic Organization (GPDO), from parliament effective from 1
April 1993 allegedly for persisting to abide by the general decisions of the Paris
However, nine of the above organizations jointly protested against the
Councils deliberate misrepresentation of their stands, adding grievances such as the
Transitional Governments lack of transparency in handling the upcoming Eritrean
referendum. The GPDF similarly objected the Councils falsification of its views as if the
front had opposed the Paris decisions.

In March 1993, the EDU also issued a statement urging a balanced view to the
establishment of sustainable peace in the country. 3HI% 1G 1'1G 1G8G
1JG % KA 1" L / M 8 8 N@ O PQ=
G! N" 1R! 1A- S 0T O+1U N" "%(( That to be
prepared to accept the view about Ethiopians being suppressed, oppressed, denigrated
and dehumanized is not an injustice perpetrated on a single specific nationality or religion
is the direct road to bring tolerance and coexistence.
The EDU urged multinational
organizations to let all Ethiopians, regardless of language, race, religion, region and
culture, participate equally in the economic and social affairs of the country and live in
mutual agreement and love. Some of the multiethnic organizations, which were
signatories of the transitional charter, expressed similar hope that they would work within

A2, 25 #egabit 1!5.
A2, 5 #ia!ia 1!5.
A2, 7 #egabit 1!5.

the given parameters to disseminate their ideas and counter the threat posed on the unity
and integrity of the nation.

The Ethiopian Peace and Reconciliation Conference, held in Addis Ababa from 18 to 22
December 1993, was another major attempt to pressure EPRDF to be more inclusive in
the political process. About 70 organizations, including 6 which held seats in the
transitional Council, were represented in the conference. As the tenure of the TG was to
expire on 22 January 1994 , the conference concluded by establishing a Peace and
Democracy Alternative Forces Council(PDAFC), commonly known as Amarach
Hayloch, to pave the way for the establishment of an interim government in which all
political parties including EPRDF will be represented.

The alternative way was thought to be imperative due to EPRDF/TPLFs record of
compromising the sovereignty of Ethiopia particularly in its unbalanced relations with
Eritrea, its factional and ethnic exclusiveness, its monopoly over the political and
economic spheres as well as total control of one ethnic group within the army, the police
and security apparatus. Moreover, EPRDFs attempt to present one group (the Amhara)
as a historical enemy of the other nations and nationalities was considered as a recipe for
bloodshed. Its undue emphasis on group rights rather than individual rights was also
deemed undemocratic.
According to the conferences spokesmen, the seven political
organizations which formed the Paris Peace Conference (March 1993) did not take part in
the deliberations, though they were in agreement with the move to bring back home the
Ethiopian political opposition initiative from the diaspora.

Tobia, 14 Tahsas 1!6. Tobia, 12 #es0erem 1!7.

The two platforms for political opposition during the constitution drafting process were
the inclusion of the secession clause and the so-called joint ownership of land by the
state and the public which was regarded as a euphemism for state control.
so uncompromising on both points that in December 1993 the Ethiopian National
Revolutionary Party (ENRP) withdrew from the Constitution Drafting Commission
complaining that the political direction of the TG is contrary to the interest and view of
the Ethiopian people. Similarly, a member of the Council of Representatives and
chairman of the KPC, Tesfaye Habisso, opposed the inclusion of the rights of
nationalities up to secession in the constitution (on 19 March 1994) because its liability to
abuse by ethnic entrepreneurs.

More importantly, on 2 April 1994, KPC and four other organizations with parliamentary
seats, the Ethiopian National Democratic Organization (ENDO), the Ethiopian
Democratic Coalition (EDC), GPDF and WPDF, established the Ethiopian National
Democratic Party (ENDP) with Dr Fekadu Gedamu as president. In its program, the party
opposed the constitutional endorsement of secession and noted that current concern
should be on promoting the common interest of the Ethiopian peoples. It also argued that
ethno-nationalism is a route to serious conflicts and civil war, which the regime should
do well to counterbalance by promoting cohesion and unity.
Etyopiawinet had been
perhaps the only organization of such a name expressly formed to counter the
disintegrative and ethnocentric politics unleashed by the transitional charter and the new

Pa-l H. BrietFke, ?t$iopiaLs 3eap i" t$e >ark4 6e#eralis0 a"# &el.:>eter0i"atio" i" t$e 7ew
/o"stit-tio", (o"rnal of African ?a/, 3*1+, *15+, p.25.
A2, 14 #egabit 1!6.
A2, 27 #egabit 1!6. A2, 2 #ia!ia 1!6. A2, 1 #ia!ia 1!6. A2, 24 inbot 1!6. Tobia, 2! #egabit

government. According to its leader Bitweded Zewdie Gebre-Silassie, the cardinal aim of
the civic organization was to make Ethiopians aware and be proud of their history of
freedom and unity and consolidate it in popular democracy.

The EPRDF deployed its surrogate organizations to counter dissident voices in and
outside the parliament. This set off a string of demonstrations and oppositions, as
discussed above, orchestrated by the PDOs. For instance, KPCs opponent the Kembatta
Peoples Democratic Organization (KPDO) publicly expressed its support to the
secession clause.
The regime also turned a deaf ear to all calls for political inclusiveness
and national reconciliation. The EPRDF line had been that there was a reign of peace and
democracy in Ethiopia and, therefore, national reconciliation where there is no conflict
is irrelevant. This was reminiscent of Dergs stubborn idiom politics is not a quarrel
between husband and wife. Some radical ethno-nationalists, notably OLF, also
denounced the effort of pan-Ethiopian organizations as neftegna caucuses aimed at
removing the secession clause from the charter and possibly from the upcoming
Though the OLF itself had been ousted from the transitional government
exactly after a year, it considered the right to secession as its signature achievement.

The three major contenders of the period, EPRDF, OLF and AAPO, represented so
sharply contrasting views that they could not come together to the negotiating table
throughout the transition period. For instance, the Atlanta Conference held at the Carter
Center on 7 and 8 February 1994 was the last chance before the approval of the EPRDF

A2, 16 #ia!ia 1!6. Tobia, 25 Tir 1!7.

A2, 1! #egabit 1!6.

Tobia, 10 -e0atit 1!6.

constitution. The value of this meeting was, however, compromised due to the absence of
EPRDF, and the refusal of the OLF and AAPO to take part. When the OLF, AAPO,
SEPDU, CEDF, Common Political Forum (CPF), and EPRDF for the first time sat for
talks on 5 February 1995, mediated by the USA, the OLF, AAPO and CEDF withdrew
after the initial meeting.
The regime promptly replied mengedun cherq yarglachhu,
meaning what is earned by war could be lost by war only.

The resurgent Ethiopianism, contrary to the ethno-nationalist rhetoric of EPRDF or OLF,
had not been limited by ethnic, regional, religious or other sectarian divides. TPLF made
little disguised effort to rally the Tigray people by portraying the overall struggle as a
question of survival to the region, as an Amhara-led conspiracy to restore oppression.
"One of the TPLFs survival strategies has been to invoke the malleable material of
ethnicity and ethnic nationalism. It claims that if the opposition takes over or wins power,
the entire people of Tigrai will be doomed as a result of ethnic discrimination and
hegemonism, if not worse."
In spite of the subtle and overt maneuver to implicate
Tigray and isolate the region from the rest of the country, EPRDFs policy did not go
unchallenged among the Tigrean intellectuals some of whom had been among the
harshest critics of the regime.

An organization calling itself Tigray-Tigrign Ethiopia Popular Movement was
established in early September 1994 to oppose the division of one people (the Tigre) into
two states as a result of tribal politics enforced by Shabia and Weyanne. The movement
rejected Eritrean statehood and vowed to struggle for the unity and Ethiopianity of

Tobia, 25 Tir, 2 -e0atit, 14 #egabit 1!7.
Aregawi, A Political History, p.3!3.

Tigrayans. It also denounced the attempt of the so-called Ethiopian Patriotic Front (EPF)
to alienate the Tigrean people by implicating them in what was perpetrated by the TPLF-
Another such organization was the Tigraian Alliance for National Democracy
(TAND) or Demokrasiawi Mitihbibar Tigray which aimed to counter the attempt to
isolate the Tigrean people by rallying them alongside other Ethiopians in the struggle for
democracy. TAND was formed in a meeting held in Washington (11 to 13 February
1995) among the Ethiopian Multinational Congress Party (EMP), Tigrean Peoples
Democratic Movement (TPDM), Ethiopian Democratic Coalition (EDC) and former
members of the TPLF.

Ideally, the right to self-determination deemed political sovereignty and cultural
sovereignty intrinsic to each other. In practice, however, self-interest demanded striking a
modicum of balance between federal and regional, ethnic and national, historical and
ideological interests. Even with the apparent commitment of the EPRDF to full political,
linguistic and cultural rights of ethnic groups, the issue of an overarching means of
communication, symbol and identity could not be ignored. This pragmatic consideration
led to the adoption of Amharic as the working language of the federal government, while
at the state level it was left to the discretion of respective regions. In the words of one of
the architects of the Constitution: The balance will have to be made between the need
for non-cumbersome mode of communication as is required for a modernizing state on

Tobia, 5 #es0erem 1!7.
Tobia, 14 #egabit 1!7.

the one hand, and on the other the need of the different ethnic groups to feel that their
identity is fully recognized and respected.

Another delicate balance between ethnic-regional and national-federal prerogatives was
regarding the symbols of the state, the national flag, national emblem and national
anthem, all of which indicated eclectic use of the past with an eye to special aspirations
of nations and nationalities. The FDRE Constitution had no radical departure from those
of previous regimes in terms of the form and meaning of the national flag and anthem.
The only novelty was a national emblem, a bright star at the middle of the flag, intended
to show the equality of the nations and religions of the country. The national anthem also
reflected the ideology of the regime couched in terms of history, patriotism and loyalty of
the Ethiopian people. Regional states were allowed to issue their own flags and emblems
though not their own anthems.

Citizenship was the single most important overarching bond between all Ethiopian
peoples. As an individual legal status, this aspect often rivaled with the set of group rights
given precedence in the FDRE Constitution. The definition reaffirmed the jus sanguinis
principle by bestowing automatic citizenship on any one born of either or both of
Ethiopian parents. The constitution also specifically provided that Ethiopian nationality
rights including movement and residence cannot be deprived or abridged by the federal
nature of the state. The most important thing was, however, harmonization of these
unifying laws, symbols and ceremonies to group and nationality prerogatives and
practices, which the EPRDF regime had been explicitly lacking.

6asil, Constit"tion, p.56.
%D&E Constit"tion, /$apter ), Article 3, 7o.3.

In general, during the first decade of subtle and overt campaign against Ethiopian
sentiment and unity, the national flag was almost non-existent or undermined in the
regions, it was commonly referred as YeFederal Bandira instead of YeEtyopia
Bandira, daily flag ceremony in government offices and other institutions was neglected,
and even schools had abandoned the singing of the national anthem. In spite of the
nominal right of all Ethiopians to travel, work and live anywhere in the country, people
officially categorized as non-indigenous faced institutional discrimination, were
constantly reminded of their ethnicity and told to go to their kilils.

Eritrea and EPRDFs Refound Ethiopianism

The intransigence of the EPRDF was put to the test during the Ethio-Eritrean hostility
which began in the late 1990s. After the separation of Eritrea in a referendum held
between 23 and 25 April 1993, the major issue between the two governments had become
economic and social disengagement. This was not as simple as the political secession.
Because there was a millennia of traditional, cultural and religious bonds between the
peoples who were now almost suddenly made citizens of two nations. This huge and
complex task, which is beyond the capacity of TPLF and EPLF, was compounded by the
authoritarianism, haste and secrecy attending the entire process of Eritrean
Lack of seriousness in self-determination is reflected in the boundary
negotiations between the two countries which neglected to involve the interests of
peoples like the Irob and Afar.

Ialewo"gel ,i"ale %e#a0-, ?t$iopia a"# ?ritrea4 t$e <-est .or Peace a"# 7or0aliFatio"s,
*C"i5ersity o. 8ro0so4 ,.A. i" Peace a"# /o".lict 8ra"s.or0atio", 200!+, p.1.

Many Ethiopians thought that the relationship between the two countries was unbalanced
and detrimental to Ethiopias national interest. In the Agreement on Trade and Friendship
signed between the two nations in June 1993 and another on economic issues in
September 1993, the two countries were tied with a common currency in Birr. This was
not accompanied by an agreed monetary policy.
Many Ethiopians felt that Eritrea was
taking unfair advantage of the agreement, especially when it was known that Ethiopian
coffee was bought cheap and re-exported in hard currency by the latter. It was inevitable
that popular anger should well up after the unprecedented enthusiasm Eritreans in
Ethiopia showed during the referendum, and the contrast between the postreferendum
dismal and abject situation of Ethiopians in Eritrea and the complete freedom, deferential
treatment and leniency Eritreans in Ethiopia enjoyed. Nevertheless, when in late August
1994 then Eritrean ambassador to Ethiopia, Haile Menqorios, issued a statement warning
Eritreans to consider themselves as immigrants and not to expect equal treatment and
rights with Ethiopians, it came as something of a shock even to Ethiopians. The
ambassadors statement anticipated the gist of what was to come a few years later: It is
unthinkable to claim equal rights with other Ethiopians after voting for Eritrean
independence in the referendum.

What finally ended the four years of honeymoon between the two countries was Eritreas
introduction of its own currency, the Nakfa, in November 1997. The Ethiopian
government retaliated by changing the Birr in January 1998.
On 14 May 1998, the

Ialewo"gel, p.3. 9-t$, ?t$iopia":?ritrea", p.670.
Tobia, 3 P"agmen 1!6, B-oti"g t$e state0e"t o" MHa#as ?riteraL "ewspaper, "o. 104, 1y Haile
,e"Borios t$e" ?ritrea" a01assa#or to ?t$iopia.
Ialewo"gel, ?t$iopia a"# ?ritrea, pp.31, 40, 4!.

EPRDF government announced that Eritrea had violated Ethiopian border on 12 May
1998. In fact, the initial violation had occurred on 6 May 1998.
Ethiopia demanded the
Eritrean government to withdraw its forces immediately without any precondition and
warned to take whatever measure necessary to maintain the sovereignty of the country.
On its statement issued on the occasion of the 7
anniversary of Ginbot 20 (28 May
1998), EPRDF tentatively adopted an Ethiopian patriotic voice, ...our past and recent
history testifies that we have both the might and heroism to defend any power which
attempts to wrest our territory by force.
It also called on all Ethiopians to mobilize
and involve in the defence of the motherland in absolute Ethiopian sentiment. The prime
minister followed this with orders on 5 June 1998 to the Ethiopian army to take any
measure to reverse the Eritrean invasion.

Now the issue of relations between the two peoples loomed large when the Eritrean
government began to persecute, dispossess and expel Ethiopians in Eritrea. The Ethiopian
government was quick to reassure that its brotherly attitude towards Eritreans in Ethiopia
or in Eritrea would not be altered. Simultaneously, however, it announced that it is taking
measures on Eritreans who were considered as risk to national security. It started to
deport some Eritreans and relieved those who held senior positions in government
The measure raised uproar among the international community as a case of
ethnic cleansing, allegedly in some ways imitating the Kosovo incident.

A2, 5 $ene 10. 9-t$, 8$e ?t$iopia":?ritrea", p.663.
A2, 6, !, 20, 2! inbot 10.
A2, 5 $ene 10. A2, 6 $ene 10. 9-t$, p.675.

For Ethiopia, in addition to human and nationality rights, this mass deportation had a
repercussion on the rights of citizenship as most of the victims held Ethiopian citizenship.
In other words, if, for example, Ethiopia went to war with Somalia, would Ethiopian
Somalis face similar expulsion?
All peoples residing in Eritrea, except those who had
foreign citizenship, were made Ethiopian citizens by imperial order issued in 1960.
Article 33 sub-article 1 of the FDRE Constitution states that no Ethiopian national shall
be deprived of his or her Ethiopian nationality against his or her will. Sub-article 3 of
the same article also states that any national has the right to change his Ethiopian

Now the argument from the Ethiopian side was that loss of Ethiopian nationality is
automatic on the adoption of another nationality, which in fact was not explicitly stated
anywhere in Ethiopian law. This was a retroactive argument based on the Ethiopian
Nationality Law of 1930. Eritreas first proclamation of nationality rights in 1992
accorded all Eritreans living in and abroad citizenship rights through jus sanguinus and
naturalization. It also demanded all claimants to fill out forms and obtain identity cards
called Meninet. This gave diasporic Eritreans including those in Ethiopia de facto
What is more, Eritreans in Ethiopia had voted in the referendum, as
admitted by the Eritrean ambassador above, and thereby attained Eritrean citizenship. As
the 1930 law does not allow double citizenship, then Eritreans will be disqualified from
Ethiopian nationality even though they had voted before the proclamation of the FDRE

A2, 1! @ 1 inbot 11. &a0-el Asse.aLs paper .or a pa"el orga"iFe# 1y A.rica" )"stit-te .or
>e0ocratic >eli1eratio" a"# Actio".
9-t$ )oy1, pp.663, 664.

This was indeed an intricate legal debate which, nevertheless, shows the
tension created by the war.

Again the Ethiopian people have a surprise in store for EPRDF as they had for the
military regime. In spite of the governments ethnocentric and divisive records in the past
seven years and the existence of widespread grievance among various groups in the
country, the popular response to the Eritrean invasion was almost spontaneous and
overwhelming. It was true that both the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea in different ways
had misjudged the residual strength of Ethiopian nationalism and patriotism. The EPLF
attempted to present the problem as an intra-Tigre affair, exactly what TPLF dreaded to
hear, but couldnt isolate the regime as the popular reaction testified. The EPRDF, on the
other hand, was not militarily and psychologically prepared for the aggression, much less
to the support it would gain from nationalist forces. However, the EPRDF attempted to
justify this show of unity in line with its nationalities policy. It argued that in no way had
the unity and Ethiopian sentiment in our people had plummeted. In fact, it had been
consolidated thanks to the nationalities policy.

The values and traditions of the Ethiopian state had become vital during the Ethio-
Eritrean war. Nothing demonstrated more vividly the value of building up a common
space than crisis and war. Marxism or any other ideology is threadbare when it comes to
appealing to the inner senses of national patriotism and sacrifice to the Motherland.
Ethiopian national culture and tradition is built through time via the medium of Amharic:
symbolisms, war cries and songs, poems and a rich legacy of nationalism were given free

A2, 1 $ene 11. 9-t$, p.671.
A2, 27 $ene 10.

reigns in the mass media. The EPRDF did not hesitate to deploy even what the Derg, in
its passion for socialist Ethiopianism, had added to the wealth of the nationalist fund.

Interestingly, in the course of the first year of the war the EPRDF rhetoric completely
reverted to Ethiopian historic heroism and national sentiment: 3HI OFT%
1F+- VW &'XY ! & M RN O% A / Z[! !+ 6D 0\ /]%
^Y 8! + 1_ T N` ; "%(( That Ethiopia is renowned not only for her
natural resources, the languages and cultures of her peoples, but also for being preserved
by the blood and bone of her children who have the utmost love and unwavering national
sentiment to their country.
Statements issued by various regional states left behind, at
least temporarily, the obsessive association of concern for Ethiopian unity and national
integrity or sovereignty to chauvinism(Amhara) and reaffirmed a direct bloodline of
legacy between Ethiopian patriotism and the history of national sacrifice of our fathers
and forefathers to the current generation. The Oromia Regional States press release
reads: 7! 6T 6R]% M 1@ A%8W a &]% R09 b! Kc / dZ
1_S 6 7Z 8]% 7$ e/D"W 8< f 6]% +]% +% < gZ
g/Z =T ^Y 0Gg" 1A6 T "h" 8i !(( That our Motherland had been an
island of freedom, preserved by the sacrifice of millions of patriotic children who are
self-confident, give their life unstintingly to shield her from the violation of her

The brief and bloody fraternal war was brought to a halt by the signing of Agreement on
Cessation of Hostilities on 18 June 2000. Its formal conclusion was the signing of the

A2, e#itorial, 12 $ene 11.
8$e =ro0ia /o-"cil ?Eec-ti5e /o00ittee &tate0e"t o" t$e 5ictory o. t$e ?t$iopia" ar0y, A2, 1
inbot 12.

Algiers Peace Accords on 12 December 2000. After the conclusion of the war with an
Ethiopian victory, the Meles government did not extract itself from Ethiopian nationalist
discourse. It rather wanted to tone down previous ethnic radicalism and allowed a margin
of popular and state expressions of Ethiopianism. During the Ethio-Eritrean war the idea
of erecting a statue for Emperor Tewodros II was conceived by an Ethiopian artist named
Bizuneh Tesfa with the overall sponsorship and coordination of the Mega Advertisement
and Arts Center and the approval of the Addis Ababa City Administration.
Square had been dedicated in 1968 to signify the centenary of the death of the unifying
Emperor. Almost 35 years after this, the Addis Ababa City Administrations Meqdela
Heritage Repatriation Committee erected in 2003 a replica of the Sebastopol Grand
Cannon to pay tribute to the emperors deed as the father of modern Ethiopia.
The full
statue of Emperor Tewodros was erected in Gonder town only in January 2012.

In early 2000, EPRDF brought a new or renewed ideology of revolutionary democracy
as the only way to ensure the building up of a strong and united Ethiopia. XT
0A! "W OT K6 3HI HD 4:6? 0 6; j% Z
EPRDF claimed that revolutionary democracy had been officially adopted as the
partys ideology since 1983, that is along with the establishment of Marxist Leninist
League Tigray. In fact, this was the line used to effectively purge opposition from the
very core of TPLF in 2001. Whatever the real reason behind the near fatal rift in the
TPLF, among which are the divergent lines the factions followed in the Ethio-Eritrean
war, the issue of rife corruption within the ruling elite, even personality clashes, the main

A2, 7 Hidar 12.
A2, 1 inbot 15. A2, 10 inbot 15.
A2, 23 inbot 13, etc. MA1yotawi >e0ocracyL special iss-e, inbot 13.

agenda presented by the opposition was tenberkakinet (submissiveness) while Meless
was Bonapartism(entrenchment) or mussina(corruption).

In the confusion and uncertainty created after the factional battles in the TPLF, other
regional bodies had taken various positions. The so-called allied parties of the peripheral
regions also had a full months conference in May 2001 to clarify their stand and in this
EPRDF conceded that the paternalistic/custodian relationship between regions and the
federal government will henceforth be regulated according to the constitutional
provisions. For the past decade the regions had been subjected to full guidance and
control of the Regional Affairs Department under the PMs office. This office had been
responsible for preparing the political and development plans annually.
Another point
underlined by the developing (formerly called underdeveloped) regions was the practice
of their exclusion by EPRDF from national affairs, in the national power sharing
including the army, police, security and the ministerial and diplomatic structure. As
Okello Gnygello, then president of GPNRS, said, the country is ours too, so we have to
participate at every step of the nation-building process.

EPRDFs Revolutionary Democracy is like Dergs National Democratic Revolution, a
transition program towards capitalism in the case of the former. This is allegedly because
Ethiopia does not have the social and economic foundation to implement liberal
democracy. When it comes to rights and freedoms, revolutionary democracy considers,
for instance, the right to self-determination not only as simple question of democracy but

A2, 20 inbot 13, a state0e"t 1y ?P9>6 o" t$e occasio" o. t$e 10
5ictory a""i5ersary. A2, 22
inbot 13, a state0e"t 1y A7>,.
A2, 3 $ene 13. A2, 7 $ene 13.
A2, 7 $ene 13.

an intrinsic part of human rights. Revolutionary democracy subordinates individual rights
to group rights, meaning nations, nationalities and peoples rights. Since the 2005
elections the regime had tightened its grip on every aspect of society by a proliferation of
sub-kebele structures. The amist-le'and (five-to-one) grouping is a phenomenal
adaptation of TPLF tirnefa strategy.
EPRDF believed that this is especially important
to safeguard the unity and integrity of the country.

According to this line of argument, Ethiopia avoided the fate of Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra
Leone, or Liberia because of the peaceful accommodation of the nationalities questions
provided by this ideology. Particularly, the conflict in the ruling party had magnified the
danger posed by the secession right as many perceived. But EPRDF argued that
revolutionary democracy is intended to bring a fast economic and social development
which would undercut the bases of secessionist claims. If we build a just system that
ensures the social, economic and political development of our peoples, then we will
guarantee the unity and integrity of our country, so argued the cadres.
Again after the
2005 election controversy the regime began to soften some of its attitude regarding the
symbolism and values of the nation. The national Flag Day was approved by the House
of Representatives in 2007 and started to be celebrated annually in 2008. This was an
explicit attempt to counter-balance to the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day which
had been started as a national celebration in 2006.

3o5ise Aale" a"# IDetil 8ro"5oll, 8$e ?"# o. >e0ocracy( /-rtaili"g Political a"# /i5il 9ig$ts i"
?t$iopia, &evie/ of African Political Economy A815=>3, *200+, p.1!.
A2, 2! @ 2 $ene 13, &eyo-0 ,es.i" a"# >awit Ko$a""es o" t$e eEisti"g sit-atio" i" t$e co-"try.

Nevertheless, a glaring testimony to the regimes insincerity is the controversial Article
39(1). This unconditional right to secession is curtailed in ambiguity in sub-article 4(b)
which does not specify who is entitled for referendum. This becomes clear when it is
compared to Chapter IV, Article 47(3) which specifies the procedure for a nation or
nationality to form its own state. Here sub-article 3(b) clearly states that the referendum
will be held in the particular nation, nationality or people that demanded the statehood. It
is true that the right to secession is a standing invitation to militant groups or, in
Horowitzs words, "...effectively advantages militant members of ethnic groups at the
expense of conciliators."
That the choice between secession and murderous conflict is
a false choice has been superbly illustrated by the case of Eritrea. Therefore, the emphasis
must be "on fostering interethnic accommodation within states."
Inter-group relations,
exchanges and mutual influences are also part of the collective memories of the Ethiopian
peoples and these should get proper institutional and constitutional acknowledgment.

>o"al# HorowitF, 8$e /racke# 6o-"#atio"s o. t$e 9ig$t to &ece#e, (o"rnal of Democracy, H);,
2*2003+, p.11. BrietFke, ?t$iopiaLs 3eap, p.35.
HorowitF, Ibid.,p.14. Go" A11i"k, ?t$"icity a"# /o"stit-tio"alis0 i" /o"te0porary ?t$iopia, (o"rnal
of African ?a/, 41*2+, *17+, p.163.


This dissertation has set out to document the history of modern nationalism in Ethiopia
roughly beginning from 1941 to the present. Why since 1941 as Ethiopia arguably had
many hundreds of years of continuous nationhood? The introductory part has analyzed
the theoretical justifications for the demarcation of the study. It has been underlined that
the emergence of nationalism as an ideology and social movement is premised on the
modernization of society, particularly the functional expansion of the state, economic and
technological transformation and the concomitant emergence of new social classes and
forces. Modernization is a highly contextualized process which for Ethiopia took a stable
course after the Italian intervention (1935-1941). Hence I have used the epithet modern
for the history of nationalism in Ethiopia in the postwar period.
However, the pre-1941 history of Ethiopia cannot be dismissed as simply irrelevant. In
fact, the long period of Ethiopian statehood from the ancient to the recent and its rich
historical and cultural legacy has been vital for the evolution of modern Ethiopian
nationalism. This vast expanse of time is termed as the formative or proto-national phase
of Ethiopian history. Therefore, the first chapter has attempted to highlight the changes
and continuities in the basic components of the historic nation. This was also intended to
establish a baseline for identifying the persistence, reconfiguration and transformation of
these elements in the construction of the modern nation at various eras. It is the
contention of this study that symbols, ceremonies and memories were the most enduring
features of Ethiopian nationalism that have weathered cataclysms, revolutions and
ideological divides.

In chapter two, attempt has been made to trace the genesis and evolution of modern
Ethiopian nationalism. It has been shown that the imperial state had played central role in
forging a national community through vast projects of political socialization,
standardization of education, administrative structuring, etc in line with its modernization
objectives. Haile Selassies nation-building effort in the postwar period was part and
parcel of his modernization and Addisitu Etyopia was its quintessential expression. The
regimes nationalism was natural, homegrown and firmly based on the values, traditions
and symbolisms of the historic nation. Its handling of the centrifugal forces and
tendencies within the state were more traditional and less experimental. Its administrative
structure and reforms did not significantly depart from the historical evolution of the
awraja unit (even though the Teklay Gizat was a new concept). Its guiding ideology, if it
could be said so, had been modernization with limits. The regime had to be mindful of
the increasing modernization call of two main voices of the nascent intelligentsia: the
Westernizers who took for granted European civilization and wanted Ethiopia to open her
doors widely, and the so-called Japanizers who advocated a more moderate and
cautious approach to modernization.
It was during the imperial period that the enduring national symbols of modern Ethiopia
were established as expressions of the states modernity; a national flag, national emblem
and a national anthem all re-crafted from the values and traditions of the historic nation.
In this respect, the imperial regime was faithful to the secular-religious conception of
Bihere Etyopya and still symbolically exclusive of a large part of the Ethiopian people.
The monarchy identified itself with a national Orthodox Church and a single dynasty, but
it did not make a single faith or a single ethnicity a criterion for Ethiopian citizenship. It

conferred on all Ethiopians legal membership to the nation by the nationality/citizenship
law of 1930 as well as by the constitution of 1931. In fact, later in the 1950s the
monarchy as an institution symbolically separated itself from the state. This was part of
the attempt to create a modern Ethiopian nationalism more representative of the
constituents of the state.
Was there assimilation during the imperial period? May be, as a concept it might have
adherents among some nationally-minded individuals. However, this study contends that
assimilation did not exist as a state policy and in practice it was beyond the means of the
government. There was a drive for linguistic unification in the belief that it was the single
most important expression of national unification. This belief was not limited to the state
or to members of any single ethnic group but had currency among many of the prewar
and postwar intelligentsia. The results were quite extraordinary in the post-Italian period
in which a flood of Amharic literature by various authors across ethnic divides
established the foundation for modern Ethiopian literature. It is when a language passes
beyond the formal administrative and instructional roles to become the medium of artistic
expressions that it attains a smoothly and creatively integrative power. It was in these
spheres that Amharic had become a truly national language during the imperial period.
The third chapter has attempted to document the emergence of the second broad category
of nationalism, non-state nationalism, as a form of critique to the modernizing project of
the imperial state by the modern educated class. The production of a modern educated
intelligentsia was the core element, the most important social infrastructure, of the
imperial regimes nation-building project. It is the major contention of this study that the

nationalism of the imperial regime began to founder when a new generation of student
activists turned against the entire social system.
This study has identified its two variants according to their political objectives and
chronological emergence in Ethiopian politics - social nationalism and ethnic
nationalism. The former had its roots in a generational quest for change among the
budding intelligentsia in the prewar period but continued in a reformist tone in the
postwar period. The ESM started as a more vigorous continuation of this kind of
nationalism until the mid-1960s. The late 1960s marked the time when Ethiopian students
in and abroad picked up a more radical ideology, namely Marxism-Leninism. This
changed the objective of the struggle from issue oriented demands for reform to a radical
revolution to demolish the ancien regime.
It was on the eve of the revolution that the student body metamorphosed from a nebulous
pressure group into rudimentary political parties. Nevertheless, by this time another
feature of the movement had taken root. Ethno-nationalists, who aimed to break away
from the state or gain autonomy within it on behalf of a specific ethno-regional group,
had begun to have a strong sway in the movement. For much of the imperial period,
political ethnicity was a non-issue though there were growing concerns for the language,
history and culture of the various groups among the respective intelligentsia. This was
particularly true for the Tigrean intelligentsia which produced quite a number of
publications in Tigrigna. Most of these works were published in Asmara, the rest in
Addis Ababa, in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The self-consciousness of ethnic groups and

Preliminary data from the catalogue in the Legal Deposits section, the Ethiopian National Archives and
Lirary Agency!

their politicization into nationhood was a post-Italian phenomenon, though the Italians
had contributed to its emergence, which took three decades before a budding modern
intellectual of the various ethnies began political agitation under cover organizations. In
fact, the pioneers in the national movement were members of the so-called historic core
communities in Eritrea and Tigray, as there were also the Oromos and Somalis in the
Already by 1970, a militant section of the student body had begun to give particular
emphasis to the national question. The Ethiopian student movement which started as a
generational quest for change began to derail the moment the national question emerged
to divide its ranks. The Leninist-Stalinist nationalities question was little more than an
ethnic question in content. It gave primacy not to peoples, not to workers even, but to
nations and nationalities which were marked off by primordial criterion, most importantly
common language and culture. This inevitably transformed the student movement from
inter-generational social nationalism to intra-generational ethnic nationalism. It is my
contention that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the ethnicization of politics in Ethiopia
led to the defeat of the civilian left by depriving it a nation-wide agenda and much needed
cooperation. It was EPLF and TPLF, not the Derg, which defeated the armed wings of
multinational insurgencies such as EDU and EPRP in the late 1970s.

The defeat of the multiethnic groups left the field to ethno-nationalist insurgencies to
influence the direction of the general struggle for democracy towards the nationalities
question. In this context nationalism became political in form but cultural and historical
in content. Meaning, ethno-nationalists aimed at dismantling the Ethiopian state, wresting
power from it or seeking empowerment on behalf of a specific group. To achieve their

goals they mobilized the target group by cultural and historical appeals. These appear
easier to personalize than more abstract universalist ideologies such as Marxism-
Leninism. This was why ethno-nationalisms in Ethiopia had been particularly successful
in mobilizing for a protracted war. In addition, ethno-nationalist insurgencies have been
pragmatic Marxists, using the ideology only in the service of their ethnic agendas.

Chapter four is concerned with the period of the military regime or the Derg(1974-1991).
The Derg wrested political power with a single slogan, Etyopia Tikdem, and maintained
its power for seventeen years by trumping up the patriotism of indivisible Ethiopia. The
military regime employed socialism in the task of radical national integration. Its zest to
forge a unifying higher culture was based on the selective emphasis of national history
and memory. In what it termed as Ethiopian Socialism, the Derg completely secularized
the national ideology and symbolism. It divested the flag and anthem of all monarchical,
religious and mythological-symbolic elements so that all Ethiopians could identify with
it. The state identified itself with the common/ oppressed people. In word and deed the
regime was committed to one country one people and its very ambitious projects such
as nation-wide literacy campaign, massive resettlement, national military service were
justified in the name of the Socialist Motherland.
The Derg maintained the provincial administrative structure; but through elaborate
organization and mobilization of the masses it was able to propagate its ideology to an
unprecedented level. For the first time local communities became actively involved in the
management of their affairs and served the regime as grassroots agents of control and
repression. In its eagerness to bring together the disparate cultures, identities, sentiments

and ways of life into a new progressive socialist culture the regime overstepped the limits
of the possible. Its ill-planned campaigns did not resolve social and economic problems
and its supra-ethnic nationalism failed to provide credible alternatives to time-honored
bonds of community. Its heavy handed top down approach discouraged grassroots springs
of Ethiopianism, both traditional and modern civil societies. Most important of all, the
military regime destroyed the social infrastructure of nationalism by brutally crushing
and suppressing the development of an autonomous and self-confident class of
Though the regime had made sincere attempt to address the economic, social and political
inequalities among the various nationalities and ethnic groups, this failed to moderately
satisfy the demands of ethno-nationalist fronts. This study lends support to the conclusion
that as a result of its repressive and authoritarian nature the Derg failed to prevent the
growth of large-scale ethnic rebellions. Its cavalier treatment of ethnic demands alienated
various peoples and drove them to their primordial groups. Ethnic accusations were
leveled at the regime, as an Amhara junta in military uniform, by ethno-nationalists
which had to justify their struggle in terms of communal grievances. Nevertheless, the
demise of the military regime was intertwined with the fate of socialism globally.
The last chapter dealt with the period of the EPRDF regime (1991-2012) the heyday of
ethno-nationalism in Ethiopia. The fall of the Derg and the simultaneous march of the
TPLF-led coalition as EPRDF into Meneliks Palace and EPLF into Asmara for a time
seemed to conclude Africas longest and most destructive war in the name of identity.
Assisted by global winds of change the rebel forces established a new status quo with an
apparently different discourse. EPRDF traced its ideological pedigree to the student

movement and made a radical commitment to the nationalities issue its raison dtre. It
consciously distanced itself from all brands of pan-Ethiopian nationalism (euphemism to
so-called Amhara chauvinism). It claimed to build a new Ethiopia based on complete and
untrammeled equality and autonomous will of its nations, nationalities and peoples. The
new government even wanted to prove the authenticity of its commitment by promptly
signing away Eritrea along with Ethiopias legitimate access to the sea.
One important distinction the EPRDF regime had from the previous ones was that it did
not define itself as a nation-state. To emphasize this, not only did it restructure the state in
the form of federal union but one that was formed from different ethno-linguistic nation-
states. In other words, it reversed the process of nationalization of the ethnic groups into
ethnicization of the nation. This reversal was conscious and deliberate and negated the
history, values, traditions and ethos of the Ethiopian nation. This must be so, because
TPLF and its allies had fought for decades in the name of particular ethnic groups.
Therefore, they couldnt simply ignore that and adopt an apparently lost cause. The
EPRDF period also differs in that public political discourse was not issue oriented; it was
rather encouraged to be ethnic oriented. Political parties are mostly ethnic based and their
rhetoric is particularistic rather than nationalist.

Generally, this study has highlighted that the Ethiopian state, during the imperial regime
and the Derg, had crucial role in the expansion of the historic nation and creation of an
inclusive modern secular nation. It is the state which provided the framework as well as
the infrastructure for the socialization of the masses into national membership. The state

Ain&, 'Ethnicity and (onstitutionalism,) p!1#*!

defined the masses not only as members of the nation but also as its defenders.
states nationalism was defined instrumentally both to counter rival nationalisms and
external aggressors and to mobilize the people towards more positive tasks of national
A related characteristic of state nationalism was its unifying tendency, which emanated
from the pragmatic need to maintain the integrity of the ruling elite and its power. The
capacity of the Ethiopian state to perform this multifaceted activity, to penetrate down to
the grassroots level and convince the people to identify with a larger national community,
had been enhanced or undermined by various contextual factors. Therefore, this study
draws the conclusion that any comparison between nationalisms of different eras must
take into consideration the general political, economic and social context of the