By Denboba Natie
Genesis Of the Ethiopian Empire
About 120 to 125 million populated Ethiopian empire is geographically located in the horn of Africa. The empire is claimed by the outside world, its traditional rulers, and their supporters to be an independent that has escaped European colonisation. This claim superficially appears to be genuine to those who remotely understand the dynamics of the empire’s sophisticated background. Instead, the indicated account is strongly refuted by the academia of the colonised subjects of the political south in addition to the other circles of global academia who argue the empire has in fact underwent an internal colonisation becoming the Africa’s unique character and making the event the Africa’s only internal imperialism.
Regardless, the empire has presented itself as an extremely confusing entity and its successive rulers ruled the empire with iron feast employing contradictory one-sided narratives as means of governance only boasting a hot air political stature. Moreover, its history is erroneously asserted by the nations of a historically colonised Africans who view the empire’s stature differently- as being a beacon of freedom and equality whose subjects enjoy equal status. The recent ‘No-More’ movement that was masterminded by the very group at the helm of the previous and current regimes was wrongly asserted. In fact the ‘No-More’ movement aimed at restoring colonially aspired empire although it was widely and erroneously supported by some of the Africa’s youth who assume Ethiopia as being the symbol of black resistance.
The ‘No-More’ movement in fact has aimed at denouncing Tigray nation’s self-defence war waged by Amhara elites inspired government that is keeping the nation under siege since June 2021- denying access to necessities with the goal of committing genocide. The empire’s history thus remains the subject of confusion -adversely impacting the implicated subjects and its ideological allies alike. Therefore, its malignancies are rulers caused historical and current disillusionments, confusions, and irreconcilable contradictions.
The Argument Of ‘Never Colonised’ And the Misled Africans!
The argument of ‘never- colonised’ best suited the ruling Amhara elites who fondly yearn for their old hegemony by glorifying it- as they work hard to restore their past glory taken away from them since 1991. Apparently, the empire’s rule was taken over by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that was predominately inspired by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the other federalist forces in mid-1991. Its colonial makers argue they must restore the Ethiopia’s old glory. The African brothers and sisters who underwent real colonisation remotely understand the plots of the empire’s traditional rulers as they inadvertently support those who are dehumanising the wider peoples of indigenous precolonial conquest Ethiopia. The Africans supporting the cases of the empire’s historical rulers genuinely believe that the peoples of Ethiopia stand on the same historical stature in the aspect of their rights and equality. They fail to assert a historical and current fact that the nations of the empire to date remain under the colonial occupation of Amhara and Amharanised elites.
Moreover, the African nations who underwent European colonisation do not understand how the Ethiopia’s historic rulers view them as. The Amhara elites in fact view African brothers and sisters as being inferior race who deserved Civilisation and Christianity as they did to the rest nations of the Ethiopian empire since their 1880s colonial expansion. The pretext under which the Europeans have sliced African into pieces was Civilising and Christianising pagan Africans. Eventually, they also introduced modern Commercial activities under the infamous thrice, triple ‘C’. I arguably add the fourth and Fifth ‘Cs’ (Conquest and Colonisation) as main reason for their expansion as is the case with the Ethiopian empire. Therefore, those Africans who ally themselves with the brutal Amhara expansionist elites must pragmatically assert the historical fact thereby distance themselves from their inadvertent failure.
Formerly known as Abyssinia, the oldest Ethiopian empire (before the additions of the political south since 1880s) was known to be the most closed empire to the outside civilisation for dozens of centuries following the demise of Axumite Kingdom in the late 10th century. Since its creation, the Ethiopia’s true picture is obscured with the fact that the colonised and the colonisers are of the same look with their colours; uniquely becoming bewildering. Since it has been moulded in today’s form in 1880s by the Amhara king Menelik II, the empire was erroneously asserted as being the symbol of black resistances against European colonisers and indeed against white supremacy. Diametrically opposing to the indicated is that those who have successively ruled the empire for several centuries from the Amhara elites claim they do not belong to the black race unless they want to use it for their political project as was the case during emperor Haileselassie’s era when he has become one of those Africans who have established an OAU.
External evidence supporting the above argument are abundant. It is worth referring to the independent accounts of travellers who have documented the reality about the Ethiopian empire and the accounts of those who were at the helm of successive rules as follows: – ‘Ethiopians of ruling class -the Amharas who live in the high central provinces consider themselves to be ‘White’, no matter what their colour is, and are terrifically proud people. They consider the ‘Blacks’ are slaves from Sudan, or other Negroes from the rest parts of Ethiopia; Europeans (including Americans) are thought of as ‘Pink’; John Gunther 1955, pp250.
Dominated by the successive rules of Amhara Orthodox ideology that is heavily dressed in the assertions of imperial legacy and proud to die for it; the empire has indeed endured and thrived to date without succumbing to the pressing demands of the oppressed mass whose quests for decolonisation and liberation was often shelved in a drawer. Those who demand their rights to be restored always seen as anti-peace, anti-national sovereignty elements thus considered by the Amhara elites as irrelevant.
Instead, the Amhara elites put their utmost efforts on retaining their dominant position under the guise of Ethiopian unity. Their goal is keeping their territorial possession gained during their colonial expansion. John Gunther once again in his 1955 ‘Inside Africa’ ascertains this as follows: ‘’……the government and ruling classes almost solidly Christian (Coptic) pp 249’’. David W Phillipson (1998) states- the ruling elites exclusively belong to mainly Amhara elites.
Furthermore, one of the Oromo’s prominent academics eloquently stresses as follows:
‘Successive Ethiopian state elites have used their Blackness to mobilize other Africans and the African diaspora for their political projects by confusing original Africa, Ethiopia, or the Black world with contemporary Ethiopia (former Abyssinia) and at the same time have allied with Euro-American powers and practiced racism, state terrorism, genocide, and continued subjugation on the indigenous Africans who are, today, struggling for self- determination and multinational democracy. Exposing the racist discourse of Ethiopianism and liberating the mentality of all Africans and the African diaspora from this “social cancer” must be one of the tasks of a critical paradigm of Afrocentricity’; Asafa Jalata- Journal of Black Studies Vol. 40, No. 2 (November 2009).
How Did Amhara Elites Unchallenged Retain Their Colonial Possessions To date?
Confusing assertions of the empire’s far and close history need to be understood to address the indicated question. The empire’s assertions are always based on the dictated histories recorded by and for the ruling elites. As I have argued, the ruling elites exclusively belonged to the same make, mainly the Amhara or Amharanised elites of the colonised nations often converted to an Orthodox Christianity before assuming leadership roles. Leadership positions were always given by the good will of Amhara or Amharanised central rulers and Orthodox religious group who have to date retained an equal or even superior positions to the ruling Amhara elites. Evidently, for nearly one and a half century, Orthodox religion has consolidated superior positions in the King Menelik II created Ethiopian empire. The other religions such as Islam, Waqiifataa, Aaboo, …were relegated to the inferior positions. In fact, this was the case since the empire was created simply because Orthodox religion has boasted the support of all politicians in the upper echelons of powers who are often anointed by them.
Secondly, the concept of Amhara and Amharanisation are intertwined with Orthodoxisation. Hence any person who is converted to Orthodox religion is automatically assumed to be converted to Amhara culture, ways of lives and mentality by ditching his/her natural identity. This was the conversion process that was step by step introduced by the ruling Amhara elites on the elites of the oppressed nations since 1880s. The converted elites of the oppressed nations in turn using their politico-culturally dominant positions trickle down these poisonous and self-destructive ideologies to create an artificial, subservient and Amharanised society whose original values were relegated and eroded to create today’s disillusioned-new-hybrid barbaric generation that is capable of remorselessly burning people alive and starve their own citizens to death.
Therefore, the empire’s rulers have retained their position with sheer level of violence, subterfuge, and brutal subjugation of the citizens whilst blowing hot air although the subjects globally remain the examples of a miserable, significantly wretched life and indignities as Daniel Topolski (1976) unequivocally recorded in his diary.
Suffocating Nations’ Voices as Means of Retaining Power Until 1994.
Evidence is abundant proving the empire’s successive rulers have imposed and retained their rule over the ruled mass by suffocating and subduing the oppressed mass until the enactment of the new constitution in 1994. The 1994 constitution laid an historic foundation for multi-national federal political arrangement with principle of nations rights to self-determination; the framework that has become EPRDF/TPLF’s trademark. The constitution is also believed to be capable of settling the grievances of the oppressed mass for the first time in empire’s history. Effectively, implemented, the indicated political settlement is asserted to be the best and the only solution that resolves the tragedies befalling this God-forsaken empire and its subjects- potentially avoiding its possible disintegration.
Ironically, the enactment of 1994 constitution has remotely pleased traditional rulers of the empire. Thus, their persistent claim for the restoration of the empire’s old hegemony is causing miseries and persistent civil war that is subjecting the citizens to a harrowing life condition for reason which the Amhara and Amharanised elites are blamed for failing to accept responsibility. Instead to date they are actively masterminding and stage-managing war and conflicts as they expand their colonial territories by wreaking havoc throughout the empire. They have also invited the Eritrea’s dictator whose army and security optative are committing genocide and crimes against humanity on own citizens to cause incalculable human and material costs.
Why Do We Need to Learn History To End Oppression and Subjugation?
History is a mirror through which the peoples of given country can view themselves. Mirrors show face with all its dirt, purity, or cleanliness. If there is a dirt, a person must clean his/her face with the cleaning material before moving on to doing anything. If a man or women invited to attend occasions, he or she can not go out without looking at his or her face in the mirror. Politico-cultural and socio-economic issues are the same in this context. Understanding history helps the nation or country to understand what went wrong, how, and why it went wrong and what could be done to void the repetition of the previous mistakes. Furthermore, doing so also plays crucial roles in two keyways including firstly it correctly diagnosis the disease and secondly it prescribes the right medicine that treats the underlying cause/s. Therefore, understanding of history and appreciating its relevance helps the country or generations to clearly define their future. Today in the Ethiopian empire doing so is strictly prohibited. Unless the generation understand history, it will be like walking in the darkness without knowing direction, the scenario in which the empire currently is wobblingly immersed in.
Therefore, I argue a critical examination is necessary to understand the intricacy of the empire’s history, the mentality and mindset of her successive rulers and her oppressed and suffocated mass. Rodney (1972) in fact states in the Ethiopian empire ‘History was written to glorify the king and nobility specially under the restored ‘Solomonic’ dynasty which replaced Zagwe in 1270 after common era (ACE); and ever since fine illuminated books and manuscripts became a prominent element of Amharic (riling elites) culture’ (Walter Rodney 1972 pp50). Therefore, the subjects inherited contradicting historical accounts with irreconcilable narratives that is increasingly misleading the oppressed mass.
To further this, the empire’s histories are narrated from the two antagonising angels. On one hand those who have written their own history and the distorted histories of their subjects defend their stories as being the history of the empire that represent all subjects. They claim they have rather defended the empire and its subjects from the European colonialists who could have enslaved both parties. They claim they have created Ethiopia; therefore, their subjects must be grateful for the fact they were never colonised by the Europeans -as if becoming the colonies of black race is a blessing. Furthermore, based on the indicated assertions, there is less tolerance to different justifiable historical assertions of various nations of the empire who come up with evidence than the one that is recorded by and for the ruling elites.
For example, their Fitha Negest narrates about Justice of the Kings a theocratic legal code focusing on ecclesiastical aspects where slavery was also recorded as an official business of the ruling Amhara elites until 19th century. And Kibra-Nagast – the glory of the kings where the genealogy of Solomonic dynasty is recorded and glorified by glamorising them. In the contrary, they regard the rest of nations of the empire as pagan slaves who needed civilisation by Orthodoxicising and Amharanising them. These historic and ideologies fallacies to date make the foundations for today’s confusions and contradictions. Moreover, these assertions also lay foundation for today’s poisonous cocktails of empire’s persistent malice. In fact, the recorded histories are exclusively written and narrated by and for certain groups of elites who were at the upper echelon of the ruling class- thus, the reason for the empire’s being at an abysmal condition.
On another hand, the ruled subjects object to the indicated assertion instead arguing the empire’s histories are exclusively pro-ruling elites that denounces and denigrates the histories of the subjugated mass. The later further argue their culture, ways of life, religion and social and moral components were taken away from them to be replaced by the cultures of the oppressing minority that has proved nothing but barbaric brutality. Ironically, there are also historical correlations between the European colonial powers and the Africa’s unique character, the Amhara counterpart in imposing their cultures, religions, and ways of lives on their subjects. This is the case to date that infuriates the historic rulers who are to date embarked on war of territorial expansion.
The argument is- the European colonial powers left their subjects to be emancipated whereas the indicated unique Africa’s colonialists perniciously linger even without acknowledging their prime roles in putting the empire on its precarious position.
Conclusion And Recommendations
A critical diagnosis of a history and finding remedy for its malignancy is crucial to save the Ethiopia’s wobbling empire from its likely demise. If no urgent action, it is on the verge of destruction as it eats itself by committing genocide on own people.
The empire whose history is stitched together with lies and deceits; and of course, with irreconcilable narratives can only survive under two harsh preconditions. The first and foremost is accepting the historical fallacies about the creation of the empire and how the subjected nations were brought together and suffocated to remain loyal slaves to date. We cannot deny the fact that the empire’s subjects were forcibly brought together in the same manner as European colonial masters have conquered and colonised the African and Latin American nations to create their colonies. The Europe’s colonial masters have committed genocides on indigenous people of their colonises during the process of their colonial expansion. The same was true with king Menelik II’s Amhara and Amharanised colonial forces who have committed genocides and crimes against humanity on the subjects as they conquer them and colonise their lands. This must be brought to the table and discussed openly to resolve it once and for all!
Secondly, the empire’s nations who were forcibly colonised and to date kept subjugated must be allowed to exercise their rights to genuine self-determination under multi-federal political arrangement as per the current constitution. This writer is fully aware of that the Amhara’s ruling elites’ vehement rejection to the ideals of equality in the empire is the reason why they are stirring hatred and civil war using their countless media outlets. Besides, various nations and nationalities must exercise their rights without the interference of traditional rulers who are currently wreaking havoc throughout the empire using various excuses as they work to retain and expand their colonial territories. This must be brought to the table and openly discussed to find lasting remedies.
If the indicated options are disallowed and all doors are closed by the ruling elites who trade by the name of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity; the colonised nations of the empire will have no political, moral, cultural, and social obligation to remain eternally enslaved. Therefore, the agenda for full ‘DECOLONISATION’ must be on the table. This is becoming unavoidable reality for the future of God-forsaken empire. Once decolonised, various nations of the empire can freely choose who to fraternally live with. Additionally, it must be clear that, nations of the empire may not be obliged to live with those Amhara and Amharanised far right fascists who burn citizens alive, deny citizens access to food and necessities as they commit genocide.
Therefore, the nations of the empire must assert the indicated irrefutable facts otherwise their suffering in the godforsaken empire continues. If the rulers adamantly continue with their erroneous beliefs and genocidal actions; the choice for the oppressed nation is on their hand. They must decide whether they work in unison to emancipate themselves or remain their eternal slaves.
By Denboba Natie (May 21, 2022) – could be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asafa Jalata (2009) Being in and out of Africa: The Impact of Duality of Ethiopianism- Journal of Black Studies Vol. 40, No. 2, Sage Publications (available online)
Betana Hotesso (2012), The Sidama Nation- The People and Their Culture
Daniel Topolski (1976), One Man’s Africa, Arlington Books, London
David W. Phillipson (1998) Ancient Ethiopia, British Museum’s Press
John Gunther (1955) Inside Africa, Hamish Hamilton, London
Walter Rodney (1972) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Howard University Press
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