The question of identity and the question of ownership that are being raised boldly and repeatedly since the advent of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) got me wondering if this question should have been raised in the first place. I know I am an Ethiopian. That is my (only) identity. I was born, raised, and currently live in Addis Ababa. But never in my mind have I questioned the ownership of the city. The city is the capital city of Ethiopia. And therefore it belongs to Ethiopians. And whatever resources or income the city is generating does not belong (in my mind) to any specific ethnic group but rather should be shared equitably among the citizens of the country. All cities have historical backgrounds. At some point in history, a group of people (could be from one ethnicity) may have contributed to its flourishing and growth. But that does not mean that group of people should have any right to claim ownership of the city and its resources. So why we are bickering about who the “owner” of the city is?
Sometimes, I fear that the question of identity that is being repeatedly brought up risks of creating countries within a single country. Don’t you sometimes ask yourself ‘But aren’t we all Ethiopians?’, ‘Aren’t we from a single country?’. You hear on the news that people who share regional “borders” are kicking out those people who they consider not be “one of them”. To go to the basics, how does one define the ethnic group one belongs to? That is the question that I keep asking to myself when I see on TV people who get on and on about the issue of identity. Who am I aside being an Ethiopian? Am I an Oromo? How do I decide that? Ok, let’s say I am born in Addis and speak only Amharic. Let’s assume both my parents are born in the Oromia region. Only one of them speaks Oromigna. And to make matters more complicated, my parent who speaks Oromigna is born to a father who was born in Tigray and speaks both Tigrigna and Amharic and to a mother who was born in Oromia and speaks Amharic and Oromigna. The other one of my parents is born to a mother who was born in the Amhara region and speaks Amharic only and to a father who was born in Oromia region but only speaks Amharic. So now, what would be the exact formula to determine my ethnic group? I bet a complicated mathematical model is needed to answer this question!
For me, the question of (ethnic) identity is one that is very difficult to answer and one that definitely does not deserve the loss of a human life! The fighting over cities in regional borders to the extent of destroying people’s lives is a matter I fail to understand. In a time of reconciliation with neighboring countries like Eritrea, I do not see any rational justification behind the fights between brothers sharing a regional “border” within the same country.
As much as our cultural and language differences reflect our beauty as a country, it is also risking of becoming a curse to our nation if we keep on building on those differences. The world knows us as a poor country. And this perception does not distinguish between regions. As an Ethiopian, the shame of a poor Ethiopia and the crave for a better Ethiopia should be shared by each of us regardless of where we come from within the country!