Ethnic and anti-colonial narratives

By Zerihun

One major task awaiting Ethiopian state builders is the issue of reconciling the post-1991 TPLF-led EPRDF ethnic politics with the Amharic-speaking elites-led anti-colonial narrative that goes beyond the Ethiopian sovereign.

As you can watch in the following clip click here the historical Ethiopia cannot be reduced to a mere empire where its ethnic groups were suppressed by the few elites from a few ethnic groups. What it means Ethiopia includes a historically established, anti-colonial consciousness which was led and narrated by Amharic-speaking Ethiopian elites. This consciousness has been reproduced not only by & within Ethiopia but also by foreigners & outside Ethiopia through various agencies.

The current ethnic politicians seemed to subvert the anti-colonial aspects of the Ethiopian sovereign even though they also in many cases consciously identify themselves with this narrative. For example leader of EPRDF identify themselves with the anti-colonial narrative of Ethiopia while they negotiate with the West (donors who attach conditionality to their support) by asserting themselves as free and independent (non-colonized mind) subjects.

This is a notion that contradicts the very depiction of Ethiopia, by ethnic politicians, as a colonial state and validates the Amharic-speaking elites-led anti-colonial narrative of Ethiopia.

If the TPLF-EPRDF elites share the anti-colonial narrative they must reconcile it with their current ethnic ideology.

But because they tend to undermine such narrative (when it comes to internal politics) while at the same they are in fact claiming a non-colonial subjectivity as a strategy to defend their power from external intervention I can only say that the current Ethiopian ethnic entrepreneurs have an ambiguous position on Ethiopian sovereignty. They neither are willing nor committed to accommodate the anti-colonial narrative of Ethiopia with the discourse of building the ‘new’ Ethiopia in which ethnic narrative can only be one competing discourse rather than the best and the only.

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2 thoughts on “Ethnic and anti-colonial narratives

  1. I really appreciate your short commentary. But, I tend to believe that the ruling regime is doing the manipulation of ethnic affiliations with the sole objective of staying in power by seemingly redefining national identity. In so doing, they can create a rift in between the historical “oppressors” and the “oppressed”, while they quench their power thirst. They are also very aggressive in diplomacy playing the rhetoric of being “democrats” in a country where democratic culture is lacking. And if the anti-colonial rhetoric / history is a useful card to play, then of course it is their weapon. They weaponize themselves in whatever way possible to win the war of the day.

  2. Zega, Thank you for your comment. I only agree with your idea that “the ruling regime is doing the manipulation of ethnic affiliations with the sole objective of staying in power”. It is true that ethnic politics in Ethiopia is instrumental to maintain elite political and economic power rather than empowering the majority ordinary Ethiopian peasants.

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