In the comments section under the "Ethiopian Naming System" posting a few weeks ago, one of the commentators opined the following regarding the north/south reference I had made in the posting:
...the talk of "north" and "south" is of course imprecise in view of how people over the centuries have settled, inter-married, traded or warred. I am certain Fikru’s caption "A Southern Perspective on Ethiopian Current Affairs" is simply an attempt to enrich our conversation and not to create a superficial distinction.No, I beg to differ with the gentleman; the reference to "A Southern Perspective" in the caption of this blog is not an attempt to create a superficial distinction between the Ethiopian north and south. I believe the north-south divide in Ethiopia is real and it is one of the main driving forces behind the current political struggle underway in the country. Let me explain.
Ethiopia, like many countries around the world, is made up of dozens of cultural groups who have unique customs of their own and lumping these cultural groups in two groups as I did in the posting mentioned above risks oversimplifying the complex nature of ethnic affiliation and self-identification. Broadly speaking, however, I think it is fair to say that there exists an observable north-south cultural divide in Ethiopia which results primarily from the linguistic groups that dominate the two geographical areas: the north being dominated by speakers of Semitic languages and the south by speakers of Cushitic languages.
In the last century or so, this cultural divide has been roughly matched by a concomitant political divide which has generally made northerners "the rulers" and southerners "the ruled". So, when I use 'north'/'northerner' or 'south'/'southerner' terminologies in a generic sense in the Ethiopian political/cultural context, as I did in the above mentioned posting, it is to reflect this reality.
Often times on this blog I use the term "South" to refer to the region called Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples Region (SNNPR) of today's Ethiopia and the term "Southerners" to refer to the people who inhabit this region. In this context, "South"/"Southerners" does not include Somalis, Oromos and other people from the south since they have their own separate regions. As I have suggested previously on this blog, the SNNPR is an artificial region that is created by the current regime without the consent of the people of the region, and its viability may not last beyond the life time of the regime. However, the SNNPR is a real place at this moment in time and I will make use of the terminology as long as the region exists.
This brings me to the reason why I chose the caption "A Southern Perspective on Ethiopian Current Affairs" for this blog. The reason is simple: it is to emphasize to the reader that this blog attempts to give a perspective (one among many) on Ethiopian affairs that is authentically Southern/southern, i.e. a perspective from folks who were born and raised in today's Southern Ethiopia. This is not to say that the opinions offered here are uniquely Southern/southern, which in most cases aren't, and that the opinions expressed here are representative of Southern/southern Ethiopia, which is not the claim. It is also not an attempt to suggest that non-Southern views are not entertained on Enset blog (they are most certainly welcome). I just feel that there is a need to accentuate Southern/southern perspective in the Ethiopian political ideas market place -- thus the caption.
Today's Southern Ethiopia and the greater southern portion of the country is home to diverse people groups and it would be ludicrous on my part to suggest that the perspective offered on Enset blog is anything but a sample among the many Southern/southern perspectives out there. I would like to think, however, that the views expressed here are a more sound and representative sample of Southern/southern perspectives than what one can find else where on the net. I am sure you will understand my bias on this :)
True, like the gentleman I quoted at the top said, people from the north and south have intermingled with one another in different ways for centuries and a simple distinction such as the one I employed may not give a complete or accurate picture of the complex relationships that exist among the diverse groups of today's Ethiopia. It is also worth noting that groups from the north and the south actually have more cultural things in common with one another than they have differences as the similarity of the naming systems they use amply illustrate.