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The Amhara: Understanding the Call (Zelalem Eshete, Ph.D)

March 24, 2014


Zelalem Eshete, Ph.D.

I have seen several negative articles and comments in response to my recent article entitled: “Ethiopia Anew: A Call to Amhara Ethnic People”. These articles/comments have too many deficiencies for me to respond directly. Let me explain why:

First, the articles/comments are off topic: instead of dealing with my article, they discuss other people.  I don’t understand why I have to speak for other people. I invite my opponents to reconsider my article and objectively present their case against it.

Second, the article/comments missed the mark: instead of challenging the merit of my article, I am simply asked to choose one of the two camps: the government or the opposition. It is sad how we rush to labeling instead of having an intelligent conversation on the subject. It seems an independent voice has no place in the current polarized debate culture.

Third, the articles/comments reveal a deficiency in understanding my article. I found this to be the most important for a healthy dialogue. Therefore, I will attempt to aid understanding by quoting from my article to show how the arguments against my message are flawed.

Flawed Argument 1: A single ethnic group shouldn’t be a target

Understand my article, I quote: “This is a call to Amhara ethnic people from an Amhara ethnic individual. This is a about looking at ourselves inwardly first than looking at others outwardly.”

In reconciliation, we focus on ourselves to give an account. When each ethnic group does self reflection, then healing comes in to view. I disclosed my ethnic group so that I speak for my own. The alternative is to defend ourselves and demonize the other in order to come over as the winner. Reconciliation is not about winning alone, it is about winning together. For that, we put our feet in shoes of the other and seek to understand.

If you don’t like my approach, then answer this: what did you benefit in majoring on others and forfeiting self-reflection? Is the status quo acceptable to you so long as your pride is not compromised? What do you choose: in humility find peace and healing or keep on marching to the same old tune and perpetuate the antagonism forever?

Flawed Argument 2: Amhara is the victim recently

Understand my article, I quote: “Unless we move ahead with a new wholesome identity, we relive the mistake of the past reformatted differently that even makes us a victim today.”

Unless we deal with the root problem via reconciliation, we continue to be the victim. Pride always works against us. In humility we not only should ask forgiveness for our mistakes, we should also take the lead in forgiving others for all wrongs against us even if they are not asking for it at the moment. We caused the pain first, and we should be the first to extend forgiveness to others as well.

Flawed Argument 3: Most Amhara peasants are innocent

Understand my article, I quote: “It doesn’t matter if we personally do not have a prejudice against another ethnic group. The debt of past tragedy needs to be settled. It is real and grave.”; “We need to teach history to our kids so that they too stand in the gap and become a part of this historic healing process by acknowledging the shame.”

That may be true, but by itself doesn’t negate the need for standing in the gap. Again, self-righteousness doesn’t take us far. We lose if we treasure the illusion of being right. We need to stand in the gap and take responsibility for all the past generation for the benefit of attaining reconciliation for the future generation. It takes innocence to take on the ills of the past generation. Those who are oblivious to the past ills may be the ones who entertain prejudice against others even to this date.

Flawed Argument 4: The mistakes of Amhara are not presented / Amhara has done no harm

Understand my article, I quote: “There is nothing more tragic than considering and treating another human being as sub-human because they are of a different ethnic group.”

To say there is no grave humiliating discrimination against other ethnic groups is to insult the hurting people once more. It is like telling them that they are liars for crying out. No wonder the saga continues. What good this denial has gotten us so far? Why are we so obsessed to be right to the point that we are losing our brothers and sisters? How can we speak of loving Ethiopia and such absurd denial using the same mouth?

Flawed Argument 5:  Amhara has nothing to confess

Understand my article, I quote: “The Greek word for “confess” is homologeo which means: “to say the same thing” and then “agree, admit, acknowledge”. It is time we say the same thing as the truth.”

Confession is not going to the clergymen to speak of our mistakes. It is simply to say the same truth that the hurting ethnic people are speaking against Amhara. It is about speaking the truth so that all the people of Ethiopia are on the same page. It is about creating harmony in our discourse. It is about putting our defense to rest and instead opening our harms to embrace those who have something against us.

Flawed Argument 6: The past is past, talk about the present

Understand my article, I quote: “Lack of repentance (change of thinking), forces us to perpetuate the ills of the past right into the future.”

The fact that we are against repentance shows we are no different from our past generation in our view about other ethnic groups. Defending the past generation reveals that we have the same prejudice against those ethnic groups who suffer. In light of this, the mistake of the past is still alive taking different forms and formats.

In conclusion

There is no other way for all of us to continue as one people other than we bow down to reconciliation with enthusiasm. Otherwise, we continue to give flesh to the spirit of the past ills to continue haunting our Ethiopia into the future. Please provide an alternative pragmatic solution to our problem at hand instead of discrediting the message and/or the messenger using hate words.

Other writings of Dr. Zelalem Eshete can be found at http://zehabesha.com/?s=+Zelalem+Eshete+can&x=5&y=4


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