Reviving Ethiopian nationalism as Adwa Victory celebrated!
A hundred twenty-two years ago to the day yesterday Ethiopians displayed unrivaled heroism at Adwa to register an epoch-making victory that dealt a humiliating blow to European colonialists and inspired black people all over the world to hold their heads high. The 1896 Adwa Victory is an epitome of bravery, perseverance and sacrifice. Though the invading Italian army was armed to the teeth with modern guns, artillery and other armament the Ethiopian forces arrayed against it from all corners of the country had nothing more than outdated weaponry and an unshakeable love of country. Bound by a bond of unity they paid the ultimate price to rout the enemy. Our fearless forefathers achieved the most improbable of feats in spite of the untold suffering they were subjected to at the hands of the then leaders because they had a deep-seated love for their country and put above its sovereignty. Ethiopians can never forget this patriotism when we commemorate the Adwa Victory.
As we celebrate the unprecedented victory of black people over a European power at Adwa it is befitting to highlight some of its ramifications. It enhanced Ethiopia’s standing on the world stage thereby enabling it to become a founding member of the League of Nations and the United Nations. It dispelled the notion of white supremacy perpetuated by European colonialists and became a rallying cause for anti-colonialism struggles in Africa, Latin America and Asia. It further laid a strong foundation for the Pan-African movement and played a vital role in convincing Africans to choose Ethiopia as the seat of the former Organization of African Unity now the African Union. This is not an exaggeration. In fact it’s something the world has paid tribute to.
As the victory is celebrated, the present generation finds itself at a critical juncture that requires it to reflect deeply. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), opposition parties, civil society organizations, religious leaders and the general public all need to engage in a dialogue to seek lasting solutions for the political unrest rocking Ethiopia. The crisis is primarily attributable to the lack of maturity and civility in the country’s political culture even as the great symbolism that Ethiopianness represents is diminishing due to chauvinism and greed. It’s a disgrace and indeed appalling that a country whose citizens’ strong sense of nationalism and solidarity fueled incredible accomplishments is being roiled by deadly ethnic clashes in this day and age.
The historic mistake that the EPRDF and its allies committed in belittling Ethiopianism is today exacting a heavy toll as is the treachery of some in the opposition camp. The internecine conflicts incited by parochial politicians and their ilk have led to the death of thousands of innocent citizens, injured tens of thousands, displaced around a million and caused the vandalizing of the properties of hard-working folks. Ethiopians have never resorted to the kind of ethnocentric violence and destruction we have witnessed over the past two years. Nowadays there abound elements bent on sowing discord instead of doing their part to restore Ethiopia’s greatness by exploiting the considerable potential its patriotic and far-sighted people embody. They have no qualms about amassing power and wealth at the expense of the masses. This is why Ethiopianness is waning alarmingly.
At a time Ethiopia is at a crossroads failure to set in motion a broad-based process aimed at steering the country on the correct path and exert a concerted effort to revitalize Ethiopian nationalism is liable to make it the laughingstock of the world. To make matters worse the government’s inability to appoint a successor in place of the outgoing Prime Minister in a manner that reassures both the Ethiopian people and the international community only serves to exacerbate the air of uncertainty. In the meantime the unhealthy and frankly speaking inimical rivalry between the actors on opposite ends of the political spectrum as well as the vitriolic rhetoric spewed on social media is aggravating the political crisis. Resorting to heavy-handed tactics to resolve political differences and hang one’s on to power rather than demonstrating the courage to do so through civilized and democratic negotiations in no way help advance the interest of Ethiopia and its people. The only viable option is to forge a consensus on the way forward.
Ethiopianness can thrive when there are guarantees that the national interest will never be sacrificed on the altar of political power, when all stakeholders display the desire to work in close cooperation towards a shared goal, when the views of the public are heeded and duly addressed, when decision makers eschew obsolete outlooks and pass decisions grounded in the beliefs and needs of the current generation, when the profundity of the Adwa Victory is reaffirmed through concrete action, and when the heroism and sacrifice our ancestors paid at Adwa is replicated by succeeding generations. Needless to say all this can be realized by attaching great importance to the hallowed values that Ethiopianness represents: freedom, honor and love of country. It’s only then that Ethiopia can be extricated from the predicament it is in and write a new glorious chapter in its history. Ethiopianness is not a cloak that is worn when it is convenient and shed when it is bothersome; it is a living, breathing expression of the sacrifice of generations of forbear. That is why it is imperative to use the Adwa Victory celebrations as an opportunity to revive Ethiopian nationalism!