Adwa is a colonial war among competing Colonial Empires despite the participation of subject peoples as footsoldiers

By: Tsegaye Ararsa

Indians, Nigerians, Ghanaians fought both World Wars (one of which is a purely colonial-imperial war) under the British. Eritreans and Lybians fought WWII for Italy. Likewise, Africans and Caribbeans fought for the French. In each case, the wars weren’t fought for their freedom. They fought the white man’s war as colonial subjects. It took decades of struggle for decolonization before these subject peoples fought for freedom.

Adwa is a colonial war of the scramble for the horn of Africa. It was a war among whites and honorary whites. Many subject peoples, most of them in chains, were weaponized against the Italians.

In the end, colonialism was entrenched and legalized in the horn of Africa. Eritrea was officially ceded to Italy as their colony. In subsequent treaties, the British title over the territories of the Sudan, Kenya, and British Somaliland was readily accepted. The Italian title over Eritrea and Italian Somaliland was legally entrenched. The French got full title deeds, as it were, for 99 years over the French Somaliland.

These Menelikan colonialist adventures were the price of Abyssinian sovereignty as per the colonial international law of the time. Abyssinian sovereignty, sanctioned and sanctified by colonial international law of the time–meant “to civilize the African ‘savages'” in Ethiopia and beyond, included many subject peoples into the fold of the territory of what was officially Abyssinia until 1946.

Today, those who like to fetishize the Adwa moment tell us that Adwa is the victory of all Ethiopians because even subject peoples have fought in the war. This is an attempt to include the subject peoples into the fold of their Abyssinian imperial adventures in order to totalize their own experience of the Adwa glory as the experience of these subjects. It is a strategy of retrospective legitimation by inclusion, I understand. But including the otherwise excluded for the sake of legitimizing the hegemon is still exclusion. It is exclusion by inclusion.

Adwa is anything but an anti-colonial war. Adwa accepted, confirmed, appropriated, and amplified the first premises and the logic of European colonialism and implemented it in the horn of Africa with a more barbaric rigor effected through European rifles. As such, it was merely a local instantiation of what Kipling called “the white man’s burden”, albeit done by black bodies.

Adwa is anything but a black victory over a white colonizer. Adwa was a moment of self-hating denial of blackness. Nothing typifies this more than the emphatic Menelikan disavowal of his blackness when he was invited to be an honorary president of the global association for the improvement of the life of the “Negro”. By saying “I am not a Negro; I am Caucasian,” Menelik stipulated that he is “an honorary white man.” This stipulation, while assuming alliance and identification with white Europe (the “community of civilized nations”), also inaugurated the habasha racism that, to date, discounts blackness, devalues black culture and identity, and belittles the dignity of black persons and all darker skinned peoples. In a way, Adwa was the inaugural moment for the birth of racialized hierarchy between and among the peoples of Ethiopia.

Adwa is anything but an African triumph over global imperialism. It was in fact a moment that contributed to the subjugation of Africa–the horn region–to European colonialism. It was a local instantiation of the global imperial project of the “scramble for Africa.” Much to the dejection of genuine pan-Africanists, this happened by propagating the Ethiopian exceptionalism in Africa (claiming that it is an ancient state, that it was Judaic/semitic, that it was christian, that is was the second Zion, that it was ‘civilized’, etc). Consequently, the Adwa moment ushered in the notion that Abyssinia, is IN Africa but not OF Africa, is “African but not quite.”

And yet, I understand that there are people who are passionately attached to this moment because of the positive material and moral consequences the moment yielded for them. That is as it should be, because it is experienced by them as their moment of glory.

That does not mean that everyone experienced the moment in the same way. Nor does it mean that the same positive consequences accrued to us all in the same way.

Yes, numerous subject peoples took part in it. Some in chains, some free. Some were deployed at a leadership level owing to their skills of war. Notable names of Oromo or of other non-habasha descent may have adorned the list of fighters or war leaders. But that doesn’t make the war theirs. Nor does it make any less colonial, any less imperial, or any more African, or any blacker. That Ghanaians, Indians, or Nigerians fought for the Britain; that Eritreans, and Libyans fought for Italy; that Francophone West Africans, Caribbeans, or Algerians fought for the French made the world wars wars of freedoms for their subject peoples.

To not celebrate your party is not to stand against it. It only means that it is YOUR party, not ours.

If you can hear this voice of hesitation, maybe, therein you will also find the hope of your redemption, inclusion on the terms defined by the hitherto excluded.

If not, you will dance to your own chants alone. That is fine by us as long as you don’t ask us to dance to your chants. To be in the house isn’t exactly the same as being in the party.

PS. For the mindless and homeless political rascals: now go out and fetishize the Adwa moment like you always do, like you fetishize most everything Abyssinian alright. But don’t ask us to dance to your chants.

THE PEOPLES’ ADWA: The Imperative of Embracing Plural Interpretation

Tsegaye R. Ararssa

1 March 2016
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Every year, when March is around the corner, Ethiopian social media activists start to be noisy. The defenders of Adwa as a phenomenal black history moment and the revisionists battle it out fiercely, often in a vulgar mode of exchange. Over the last two years, I have been observing this discussion between those who seek to promote the old narrative of state orthodoxy as the only and the universal meaning of Adwa and those who take a more sceptical stance seeking to show the darker sides that the Adwa moment signifies.

The following paragraphs were written in response to those who seek to impose on the Oromo this exhausted old narrative of the ideologically motivated imperial State Orthodoxy.

1.There are right reasons to celebrate the battle of Adwa. But to say Adwa is a black man’s war fought for securing the freedom of the people of the black race is celebrating the event for the wrong reason.

2.Truth be told, it was a colonial war fought among colonial empires, framed by rules of colonial international law, with a colonizing consequence for Africa.

3.It was a war fought between two maiden empires competing over the fate of black peoples in Ethiopia and beyond. This was clearly stated by the emperor himself several times, the emperor who also clearly denied that he is black, the emperor who rather mysteriously claimed to be Caucasian, the emperor who refused to identify with Afro-Americans and Haitians who saw him as one of their own and sought to salute him for his achievements at Adwa, the emperor who brutally murdered millions of black people, the emperor who personally owned over 70, 000 black slaves, the emperor who negotiated with white colonial powers on the fate of other black peoples (Eritreans, Djiboutians, Somalis, and the Sudanese) under white colonial rule.

4.To say Adwa is a pride of black people, therefore, is a distortion of historical truth and a gross misrepresentation of the man and the event.

5.To say that our people sacrificed, especially those of them who were in chains, to preserve a semblance of an African sovereignty; to commemorate the lives lost in that war and to honor the sacrifices thereof is the right reason to celebrate it. As someone whose forefathers have paid dearly for this and for the subsequent fascist war, I feel the pain, I share the loss, and I honor their sacrifice.

6.As I honor their sacrifice and commemorate and celebrate the lives of the many black bodies lost there, I speak the truth, the whole truth, and stick only to the truth.

7.To my compatriots who insist that we should celebrate it for the wrong reason, I insist in telling you the truth, the raw truth, especially on the issues we disagree strongly.

Doing this is paying a proper tribute to the agony and anguish of those who lived and died in chains to defend a state that left them outside of the polity. To do this is a sacred duty, a civic duty, an act of loyalty–even to the state that is formed on my forefathers’ graves.

This is an act of sacrifice, as I am fully aware of the past and present reality of rejection in Ethiopia, completely cognizant of its violent beginnings and violent bearings in the present, totally imbued with faith in redemption, and immensely driven by the almost impossible hope of transformation, even of transfiguration.

To those of you who don’t see the gibberish in the incoherence of, and the irony in, the Menelikan claim to be (an honorary) whiteman but think I am making a gibberish (you know who you are!);

To those of you who claimed that we prefer an Italian colonial rule to an Abyssinian one (almost all of you in the Menelikan fetish camp have said it!);

To those of you who–being the children and grandchildren of bandas and the shumbash–came out to whitewash yourself by calling me names such as banda (and you know who you are!!!);

To those of you who, because of historical misinformation–via political and cultural propaganda such as songs by Gigi, Tedy Afro and essays by Bewketu, and a self-conscious and yet a romanticizing film produced by Professor Haile Gerima, etc– to those of you who could not distinguish the right from the wrong reasons for celebrating the event as a result;

For you, I have only pity.

But I like to restate to you in the strongest possible terms that I come from a people of hope and redemption.

I note the fractured beginnings of the state.

I note its violent inauguration.

I note its deficits of pan-Africanism (which is still the reason that Ethiopia is IN Africa but not OF Africa).

I note the Ethiopian State’s imperial and colonial beginnings.

I note all of its ‘original constitutional sins’.

And I will openly tell you about it.

I will be happy to engage you in a conversation in public or private.

In fact, I encourage a deeper public conversation on the matter. Yes, a deeper national conversation that is long overdue. (This might also help us develop a sense of ‘ethical listening,’ a sense of agonistic listening, to each other as a polity.)

And I do so because I believe in the hope of transformation. I believe in the hope of going beyond and above those inaugural wounds. I believe in building a better future in spite of, and BECAUSE OF, those wounds. I believe in the transfiguration of society.

I will also tell you what I won’t do:

I will not pamper you.

I will not come to you with half-truths.

I will not mystify the objective truth.

I will not shrink the meaning of the event or the historical figures into one and only one. I insist on multiple interpretations of Adwa and all other historical events in Ethiopia. I insist on multiple popular interpretations.

I will not regurgitate and reproduce the state orthodoxy of the past as the truth or the one and only interpretation of historical truths.

For far too long, we have seen historical narratives told to us ex cathedra.

For far too long, the voices, the stories, and the narratives of peoples have been suppressed.

For far too long, your grand narratives have ignored, silenced, and erased the voices of the peoples–especially the voices of the frontier peoples (the peoples who were never people in the democratic–the demos–sense of the term).

Also, I will not flatter you, especially if the truth refuses to flatter you. I won’t spare you from my wrath if you come and write a gibberish, or, even worse, your insults (as most of you are bent on doing). I promise you: I will return the compliment in kind, or I will block you.

If you want a civil conversation, I welcome you (especially if you are willing to do your part of the home work).

To the people of hope, to the people of redemption, to the people that were not ‘people’ in the past, I say:

YOU HAVE COME A LONG WAY, EVEN TO THE MOUNT OF ADWA (for no gain or glory). You have survived darker days. You shall survive these ones, too.

As we resist the present abuse, we also resist a hegemonic discourse that fetishizes the cause of all our ills into a benign state orthodoxy.

Resist we will, in part because, to do so has now become our (unchosen) way of life.

Resist we will, because for some of us, it has now become a way of being in the world.

And we will do so in truth. … Told in love. … Told with an undying hope.

Happy celebration of the peoples’ Adwa…and, for once, a celebration for the right reason.
***** ***** *****
Source: https://advocacy4oromia.org/…/the-peoples-adwa-the-imperat…/

Free OFC Leaders and All Political Prisoners!

The TPLF led Ethiopian government has jailed almost all leaders of the Oromo Federalist congress (OFC), the largest Oromo political opposition party in Ethiopia. The OFC political leaders icluding Merera Gudian (PhD) (chairman) and Bekele Garba (deputy chairman) have been jailed not because they committed crimes, but because they worked to defend the interests (political, economical and cultural) of the Oromo people.

They have been jailed for they spoke against human rights violations, land grabs (eviction of Oromo framers from their land) and the minority rule. They have been jailed for they demanded freedom, justice, equality and democracy to prevail in Ethiopia. They have been jailed for they demanded equal share of power and wealth; for they called for free and fair elections to be held; for they campaigned to enable the Oromo people to get the place they deserve in Ethiopia.

In TPLF gulag, these brave souls are at times denied basic human rights that prisoners deserve-they are abused, tortured, denied access to medication when they are sick (mostly because of the ill treatments they receive at the hands of the jailers) and prevented from meeting their family and lawyers.

We demand the TPLF/EPRDF leaders to come to their real sense and release the leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress and all other political prisoners if they really care about peace & stability. And they must do it now!

Image may contain: 4 people, text

#FreeBekeleGerba

#FreeMereraGudina

#FreeDejeneTafa
#FreeAddisuBulala

#FreeGurmessaAyana

#FreeOlbanaLelisa
#FreeAllOtherPoliticalPrisoners

United Nations Grants Oromia Support Group Australia the UN Special Consultative Status

(Advocacy4Oromia, 04 December 2016) Oromia Support Group Australia (OSGA) has received UN special consultative status, a significant achievement for the NGO. The status allows the organisation to attend UN conferences and circulate statements at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

“It’s very exciting for us because we were just dreaming of getting at this stage and it has been our wish for almost 10 years,” Marama Kufi, leader of OSGA, told Diaspora Action Australia (DAA) in a recent interview.

It wasn’t an easy path for the Oromia community in Australia to get the highest status granted by the United Nations to NGOs.

The road to consultative status was a long one. OSGA first sent the application in 2009, the decision for which was postponed twice. It persevered through long silences and continued requests for updates.

Marama recalls DAA’s constant encouragement through those tough times: “DAA invested a lot of energy, advice and consultation without hesitating. When we sometimes didn’t hear anything from the UN about our application, DAA would give us encouragement and motivation.”

It was not until July of this year that the organisation received the ECOSOC’s final decision.

With its special consultative status, OSGA can now participate in the work of the United Nations, such as attending the meetings of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on human rights issues. “Any time when we have human rights concerns in Ethiopia, we can report them to different bodies of the UN. Also, we get UN official invitation when there is a conference on human rights issues. We can also send a delegation when there is consultation time, as well as accessing in the periodic reviews every three years, where we can sit down and listen and then answer the questions,” Marama explains.

OSGA aims to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, particularly on Oromo people. It advocates against abuses and violations, based on the International Human Rights Law. Its efforts are focused on ensuring human rights and self-determination for all the people of Ethiopia.

Linking the organisation’s aim and its new UN special consultative status, OSGA’s next step will be to work hand in hand with the UN body in order to have a close connection and a way of reporting the human rights abuses in Ethiopia. OSGA’s members are still discussing the best manner to work with this recognised international body.

Despite being only one branch of a larger Oromo community network spanning many countries such as the USA, Canada and Europe, Oromia Support Group Australia is the only Oromo organisation in the world that holds this UN consultative status.

At the end of the interview, Marama reflected on the importance of OSGA’s achievement for other groups: “This new access to the UN will benefit others who work on the same human rights issue, such as Ogaden and Sudema communities. This achievement is not only for OSGA, but the entire region. We are helping others. We became a channel for global voices.”

Source: United Nations Grants Oromia Support Group Australia the UN Special Consultative Status

The European Commission rebukes the Ethiopian government

The European Commission issued statement on Friday (2 Dcember 2016) warning the Ethiopian government to “start addressing the legitimate grievances of the Ethiopian people”.The statment was made after the arrest of Merera Gudina (PhD), a veteran Oromo opposition political party leader who was arrested by the Ethiopian security forces hours after he returned from Europe. At the European Union hearing about the political crisis in Ethiopia, he spoke against the state of emergency that was declared in October this year after a year long protests that rocked the Oromo and Amhara regions.

The European Commision spokeswoman on Friday said that the Ethiopian government should engage in political dialogue and interaction to start addressing the grievances of the Ethiopian people. She also added that the state of emergency should be implemented respectful of human rights and

She emphasized that the arrest of Mr. Gudina is therefore detrimental to process the process of reconciliation and dialogue that the EU was eager to support. She also called the Ethiopian government to clarify the situation.

Running from Ethiopia: The Oromo Exodus

Running from Ethiopia: The Oromo Exodus is a documentary  produced by Thomson Reuters Foundation in August 2016 and it tells the story of Muaz, a student who fled  Ethiopia after being detained and tortured by security forces, and Jawar, who runs a popular Oromo TV channel from exile in Minneapolis. Jawar’s channel closely followed the story of Muaz as he made the treacherous journey to Europe, only to be caught in one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks of 2016.

Read full story here.

Will Ethiopia’s Year-Long Crackdown End?

Report by Human Rights Watch

See the Original here.

When I met 15-year-old “Meti” (not her real name), she felt her dream of becoming a nurse was over. In February, Meti and her classmates joined a protest in East Hararghe, in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, against the government’s displacement of farmers around Addis Ababa, security force abuses, and the repression of opposition voices. When security forces started shooting, she and her classmates ran; she turned to see her brother shot dead. Later that night, security forces arrested her father and two of her brothers. Then school officials informed her they were suspending her from school for her participation in the protest.

Now she is trying to leave Ethiopia for South Africa. “I have no future,” she told me. “The government will not hear our voices. They will keep killing and arresting until we stop our protest.”

This week marks one year since protests in Ethiopia began and, sadly, Meti’s words have come true.

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.© 2016 Reuters

 

Security forces have killed hundreds, detained tens of thousands, and shattered the lives of countless families over the last year. Protester anger boiled over following October’s Irreecha cultural festival, when security forces’ mishandling of the massive crowd caused a stampede, resulting in many deaths. In response, angry mobs destroyed private and government property, particularly in the Oromia region. On October 9, the government announced a country-wide state of emergency, signaling an increase in the militarized response to protesters’ demands for reform. So far, the announced measuresappear to codify many of the security forces’ abuses thus far, including arbitrary detention.

The government’s blocking of mobile internet, restrictions on social media, and bans on communication with foreign groups mean little information has gotten out since October 9. Government limitations on free expression and access to information undermine the potential for the inclusive political dialogue needed to understand protesters’ grievances, let alone address them.

Ethiopia’s government has shown little willingness to engage in meaningful reforms over the last year, choosing brutal force over discussion. It’s clear this approach hasn’t worked – as the brutality of security forces increased, so too has the intensity of protests and the calls for reform. Moderate voices have been jailed, and outlets for peaceful expression of grievances shuttered.

The government says it is responding to the needs of the people, and has removed key regional government officials from their posts, shuffled cabinet positions, and stated a commitment to proportional representation. But these changes fall dramatically short of the protesters’ demands for reform. Meti and all Ethiopians have a right to criticize government policies without fear of reprisals, but justice and accountability for people like Meti’s family aren’t even talking points on the agenda yet.

The Ethiopian government and its international allies should refocus attention on the need for justice, accountability, and meaningful reform – or next year’s anniversary will be even less hopeful.

Ethiopia: After a year of protests, time to address grave human rights concerns

Report from Amnesty International

Nearly one year on from the start of a wave of protests that has left at least 800 people dead at the hands of security forces, the Ethiopian government must take concrete steps to address grave human rights concerns in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The protests began in the central Oromia region on 12 November 2015, in opposition to the Addis Ababa Masterplan, a government plan to extend the capital Addis Ababa’s administrative control into parts of the Oromia.

 

A year after these deadly protests began, tensions in Ethiopia remain high and the human rights situation dire
Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“A year after these deadly protests began, tensions in Ethiopia remain high and the human rights situation dire, with mass arrests internet shutdowns and sporadic clashes between the security forces and local communities, especially in the north of the country,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“It’s high time the Ethiopian authorities stopped paying lip service to reform and instead took concrete steps to embrace it, including by releasing the myriad political prisoners it is holding merely for expressing their opinions. They should also repeal the repressive laws that imprisoned them in the first place, including the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation that has also contributed to the unrest.”

Even after the Addis Ababa Masterplan was scrapped in January 2016, protests continued with demonstrators demanding an end to human rights violations, ethnic marginalization and the continued detention of Oromo leaders.

The protests later expanded into the Amhara region with demands for an end to arbitrary arrests and ethnic marginalization. They were triggered by attempts by the security forces to arrest Colonel Demeka Zewdu, one of the leaders of the Wolqait Identity and Self-Determination Committee, on alleged terrorism offences. Wolqait, an administrative district in the Tigray region, has been campaigning for reintegration into the Amhara region, to which it belonged until 1991.

Just as in Oromia, security forces responded with excessive and lethal force in their efforts to quell the protests. Amnesty International estimates that at least 800 people have been killed since the protests began, most of them in the two regions.

The Ethiopian government’s heavy-handed response to largely peaceful protests started a vicious cycle of protests and totally avoidable bloodshed. If it does not address the protesters’ grievances, we are concerned that it is only a matter of time before another round of unrest erupts
Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

One of the worst single incidents took place on 2 October 2016 when at least 55 people were trampled to death in a stampede during the Oromo religious festival of Irrecha, held in the town of Bishoftu, about 45 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa. Oromo activists blamed the stampede on the security forces who they said fired live rounds and tear gas into the crowd causing a panic. The authorities deny any wrongdoing.

No protests have been observed since a state of emergency was declared on 9 October, but this has come at the steep price of increased human rights violations, including mass arbitrary arrests and media restrictions, including internet blockages.

“The Ethiopian government’s heavy-handed response to largely peaceful protests started a vicious cycle of protests and totally avoidable bloodshed. If it does not address the protesters’ grievances, we are concerned that it is only a matter of time before another round of unrest erupts,” said Michelle Kagari.

“The restrictive measures imposed as part of the state of emergency only sweeps the underlying issues under the carpet. To fully address the situation, the government must genuinely commit to human rights, including by amending legislation like the anti-terrorism proclamation to bring it fully in line with Ethiopia’s human rights obligations; and ensure its people can enjoy their right to express their opinions including those which criticise government policy and action; and their right to peaceful assembly.”

Background

Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 includes an overly broad and vague definition of terrorist acts and a definition of “encouragement of terrorism” that makes the publication of statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has repeatedly promised to undertake fundamental reform in governance, but has shown no overt sign of genuine commitment to reform. It continues to use excessive force against largely peaceful protesters, labelling them as anti-peace forces, instead of acknowledging and addressing their legitimate grievances.