A long bow and misplaced indignation
(An observation on Dr. Fikre’s letter and Dr. Beyan’s reply)
By K. Berhanu
May 31, 2013

I have followed the conversations between Dr. Fikre Tolossa and Dr. Beyan Asoba with interest. I have also read an article by Yajemal(B.B) on another website as a reply to Dr. Tolosa’s initial letter to Dr. Beyan Asoba. My focus is on the excessive stretch of arguments of Dr Fikre and the heightened, charged and in my view misplaced indignation of the responses of the two gentlemen on Dr. Fikre’s writings. I leave the historical, anthropological and linguistic substances of the debate to all the learned ones.

Let me first briefly summarise my understanding of the threads of Dr. Fikre’s arguments. He contends that based on his analysis of the history of Ethiopian races of pre Solomonic dynasty, the Cushitic Oromos were primary partners/rulers of the nation. And have also been intermittently ruling Ethiopia after the advent of the Solomonic Dynasty. He also emphasises the close linkage between the dominant races throughout the history of the country. His conclusion is that we are a country of intermingled, and to large extent indiscernible groups of people as far our genial linage is concerned. And hence he advises that we should strive to focus on our common heritage and nationhood. My take from his letter is that it tries to draw a positive line of thought and focus on the strength of our bondage rather than the gulf of our differences.

On the other hand, Dr. Beyan and Yajemal not only refute his claims but consider it a futile ploy by a disguised ‘Abyssinian chauvinist’ to gloss over the sufferings of the Oromo people for thousands of years. They start by doubting the identity of Dr Fikre and end with their assertion that he is actually a symbol of same old same old patronising Abyssinian ploy trying yet again pacify the Oromo people’s struggle.

Here is a question to all concerned? How far do you want to dig the rabbit hole in order to find a story, myth, relic, artefact, wall drawings and linguistic syllables to support your political arguments of 2013? I am sure that all the gentlemen would agree that history is not science. For all I know, it is a bag of goodies filled with a subjective arrangement of the objectively known – with a big missing part for the unknown. My point is that the objective of our primary endeavour should be how we can individually and collectively bring about a better understanding, respect and forward looking discourse in our debates. And when we seek support from history for a current political argument we should always exercise the utmost caution and use it responsibly with an eye for a better understanding of each other.

I am not dismissing the importance of history, heritage and culture to understand ones identity. But and a big but, this should not be made into a tool to build walls between people in order to right a past wrong or drive wedges among people to ascend to an imagined political throne.

For these reasons I think Dr. Fikre is drawing a long bow to substantiate his arguments, however well intentioned they maybe. While I believe that his historical analysis would find a rightful place in an academic setting, it would be a stretch to think that it would have a positive impact to our current and immediate woes.

I also think that Dr Beyan and Yajemal are being insincere in their indignation because I have found no ill intention on the part of Dr Fikre to deny their basic argument about the suffering of the Oromo people. Especially their allegation and slant on Dr. Fikre’s identity and objective is beneath the standards of a healthy debate.

Ethiopians of all ethnic origins have been suffering from elite imported ideologies at least for the last thirty five years. They have endured unmeasurable economic and social turmoil in the hands of their own ‘learned’ children who preached to have found the ‘philosophers stone’ that will bring a state of nirvana to the people. Those ‘learned’ once each had their newly minted history books and thought the people who they really are. They said ‘forget what you have been told until now, we will tell you how you came about and who your enemies are’. And all the while they have got away with it. I don’t see anything new in the current discourse between the learned doctors as to the veracities of their arguments, apart from the fact that they are not holding the palace fort in Addis Ababa (or dare I say Finfine).

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