Saturday, August 18, 2007

Local History of Ethiopia

Here is an interesting web site that serves as a repository of the local history of Ethiopia. Bernhard Lindahl compiled it and here is his description of what the web site is about:
The concept of this work is to make extracts from printed external sources and to sort them geographically and chronologically. It concerns environment and events in the countryside of Ethiopia mainly from the early 1800s and onwards. The special effort is to shed light on places which are seldom mentioned in print and to make searchable the contents of various published sources.
I like the web site's search feature a lot. For example, when I searched for 'Wolayta' one of the search result pages I got contained an entry for Girmame Neway, a man who knew what was wrong with Ethiopia and tried to do something about it:
Girmame Neway was appointed as governor of Welamo sub-province in the late 1950s. He was well received there because he had a famous forefather, Dejazmach Girmame, who had negotiated with the chiefs prior to Menileks re-occupation of the area.
Girmame led the people to build roads and bridges and schools. After he had been governor for just over six months he is said to have produced som E$ 30,000 for a school. He surprised everyone by announcing that the money came from bribes which he had accepted and put aside for the school project.
Governor Girmame organised the people into their own watch committees when they complained of the dishonesty and brutality of 'Amhara' police. He distributed undeveloped land to the landless. The landowners complained of this and of Girmame's settling squatters from their land, leaving them with no labour supply. D. Levine in Africa Today, May 1961, states that a wealthy landowner named Desta Fisseha managed to arrange Girmame's transfer through the customary channels of Palace intrigue. Girmame was recalled and posted to Jijiga. Together with his brother he became the leader of the failed coup in December 1960.
[R Greenfield, Ethiopia, London 1965 p 371]
Typed in 'Alula' and here is one of the entries I found:
HET86c Mannawe, about 25 km south of Abiy Adi. 13/39 [n]
Ras Alula (1847-1897) was born in this small village. It is not confirmed that his year of birth really was 1847. His father was the farmer Engda Qubi with wife Garada who was daughter of Nagid, a local notable from the neighbouring village of Baga. A few old people in Mannawe remembered these names when they were interviewed by Haggai Ehrlich in February 1972.
Alula once told an Italian journalist that his father and grandfather had been soldiers. He was educated in the local church school by the Memhir Welde-Giyorgis and "being an aggressive and dominating youngster, he soon became the leader of the children".
"When his Tigrean patron became Emperor Yohannes IV, the young Alula was translated from the provincial to the national scene -- Alula's excellent military services in fighting external enemies and consolidating the emperor's supremacy in Ethiopia established him as a king's man." History remembers particularly Ras Alula's time as administrator of Mereb Mellash = the future Eritrea.

One of the search results for 'Hadiya' returned the following entry:
"The Muslims of Hadiya who earlier had suffered at the hands of the Oromo, no longer had any desire for war with the Christians. The attitude was expressed by the action of Azé's soldiers, who refused to fight with Sarsa Dengel. Only the malasay, the Muslim force from Harar, fought. Deserted by their fellow Muslims and outnumbered by Sarsa Dengel's men, they were easily crushed. Aze reconciled himself to the king, who was magnanimous in return. The king left Aze in his office, but stripped him of real power. Takla Giyorgis was made the commander of the provincial soldiers." [Mohammed 1994 p 33]
Thanks to Bernhard Lindahl, you may be pleasantly surprised to find historical information about the local area that you come from within present day Ethiopia. Just peruse around and satisfy your intellectual curiosity.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou,
a very interenting Website.

I hope those ethnocentric ppl. will undertand how the ethiopian ppl. is mixed with eachothe. For me it is difficult to complain, that i belong as one ethnic group and this is good.
My ethinc group is ethiopian. My forefatether and mothers belong to amhara, oromo,, tigre(tigrean and eritrean).

Thankyou Ephrem.

enset said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, the web site I shared puts a lot of information that previously would have been accessible only to scholars in the hands of lay people like you and me. But a word of caution is in order: any time you read historical information, like what find in that web site, you need to keep an open mind and have a healthy skepticism about the information that you absorb because historical information is subjective in most cases since history is mostly written from the perspective of the victor.

Regarding your quandary about ethnic identity, I feel your pain and do identify with you to a certain extent. The current ethno-centric regime has defined an ethnic identity too narrowly on the basis of language alone and has forced millions of Ethiopians who have multiple ethnic heritages to make a choice that they would rather not make. As you stated well, the fact of the matter is that mixing among Ethiopia's ethnic groups has always existed and will continue in the future. Unfortunately, this mixing of ethnic groups favors the bigger ones (especially the Amhara and the Oromo who, BTW, could only have gotten to be as big as they are now beccause, among other things, they were able to absorb people of other ethnic groups) and happens at the expense of the smaller ones. That is where Ethiopians need to be careful about the delicate balancing act that is needed to preserve a workable equilibruim that encourages unity while respecting diversity.

Fikru

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Anonymous

I tried to understand the concept of ethnics group called "Ethiopian". May be you are advocating Ethiopian as single entity with monotonous culture, belief and so on. My brother, you are leaving in the world of delusion and emotional love of Ethiopia. We, if not all, most of us at least, love Ethiopia. We want Ethiopia as a country to prosper, develop and all group of people on that geographical location to have a sense of belonging. This all is an ideal scenario. But the reality of human society, politics, ethnicity and economic circumstances tells as differently.

You don’t have to be ashamed of saying you are, Oromo, Walita, Amara, Guji or Gurage... By saying that you belong to this ethnic group or that group doesn’t implicate that you are against Ethiopinism (If such a concept or philosophy exists at all). Or by saying that your Ethnic group is "Ethiopian" doesn’t necessarily mean you are the true Ethiopian.

I see here a danger of mixing Patriotism with nationalism. First love yourself. Be proud for what you are and your origin is. Love the others who don’t belong to your ethnic group. Then the bigger ethnic called "Ethiopian" will take care of it self.

Extreme nationalism is source hatred that leads to a politics of fascism. But loving ones origin and ethnicity will brig peace and a sense of belonging to a community and sheer determination of building the country, Ethiopia.

enset said...

I do not think it is fair to force Ethiopians who claim multiple ethnic heritages, like the first anonymous commentator, to declare one of their heritages as "their" ethnic group if they do not want to. In such cases, if such persons wish to declare their ethnicity as "Ethiopian", that is perfectly okay with me and they should have their choice respected. Conversely, those Ethiopians who do not wish to identify with one ethnic group need to respect those who do, even if those who do identify with one ethnic group use their ethnic affiliation to further a political goal.

Anonymous said...

Hallo All,
It is a very intersenting discussion what we are doing.
@ enset: thanks for your advice:
i have lived and worked in Sidamo with sidama's, Welyta's and Guji's during the Derg ära. It was for me a good oportunity to see the other side of ethiopia.

@anonymous:
i am not advocating nor defending here. I didn't say am proud ethiopian.
What i said is i am multi-ethinic. Becuase of that a new ethnic is formed. I call this ethnic group ethiopian. This has nothing to do with ethiopianism. As enset said no one can say me i am oromo or amhara.or tgre /tgrei or eritrea. I think this my decision.
Take my message apart of any political idea or patroitism.
why should i leav my amhara part by saying i am oromo or vicecersa ?
I don't believe too, as you want to understan,ethiopia as a single entity. I an milloins like me are good example for diverisity.Because devirsity is in my home let alone in my country.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,

I hope I didn’t offend your good intention of expressing your self as a multi ethnic Ethiopic person. I just wanted to make a point of remark on some trendy politicians who consider themselves as the only warier for the “unity of Ethiopia”. I do believe that there is a intrinsic quality of being an Ethiopian. At the same time I do advocate democratic Ethiopia that is prospered on free will of its citizens and ethnic groups.

It is good to engage in dialogue with out hard feeling to each other. After all we are all Ethiopians and at the same time different item within it. Being different is natural. To overcome this difference and to manage leaving in peace and harmony is truly humanistic and civic in its core value. I do understand that talking about ones nationality or ethnic origin is highly contentious issue. But we can only solve problems surrounding this when we can openly participate in a rational discussion here, there, now and every time where and when it is necessary.

As for the host of this Blooger, credit to him/her for engaging and facilitating this all.

Take care Bro!!

Gooch said...

Many advocate for ethnic federalism on the basis of 'freedom', the freedom to allow people to identify with their ethnicity without feeling 'ashamed' or 'threatened'.

Then these folks turn around and insist that those who self-identify inconveniently or who do not have strong ethnic identities are deluding themselves and that an overriding 'Ethiopian' identity does not really exist.

Oops, what happened to freedom?!

Well, it actually never existed. Actually, ethnic federalism is simply another paternal imposition just as much as Communism was.

If ethnicists were so sure that that's what the people wanted, they could have always put it to a vote! But, of course, their whole idea was to carry out yet another grand imported experiment in Ethiopia.

If people want ethnic federalism, fine, let them have it. If large groups want to secede, fine, let them. That's democracy. But it would help if we ask them first.

Anonymous said...

Hallo Anonymus,

Good idea Bro.

Anonymous said...

Hallo Gooch,
good point.

HAYKEN HAILE said...

PEOPLE YOU BETTER BE AWARE OF THE WORD AMHARA! AMHARA IS NOT ANY ETHENIC GROUP, THIS CAN BE PROVED BY DEFINING THE TERM AND BROADENING THE IDEA. AMHARA IS A GEEZ WORD MEANING 'FREE PEOPLE'. 'AM' MEANS FREE AND 'HARA' PEOPLE. THIS TERM WAS CAME TO EXSISTANCE AROUND 40 YERAS AFTER THE BIRTH OF CHRIST WHEN THE APOSTLE PHILIP BAPTISE ABAEMELAKE, THE ETHIOPIAN ENNUCH AND BECAME NEW AND FREE IN CHRISTS FROM THE 'orit' LAW HENCEFORTH HE BECAME THE FIRST AMHARA (ACHIVED COMPLETE ETHIOPIANISM!!! FOR MORE INFORMATION READ BOOKS LIKE:

THE DEVINE TRUTH ABOUT ETHIOPIA
ETHIOPIAWI BE MANENETU FELEGA
ETHIOPIA YE ALEMU MEFAREJA
ETHIOPIA AND ETHIOPIAWINET,. VOLUME 1 TO 3.
BY NIBURE-ID ERMYAS KEBEDE WOLDEYYESUS.

Wachemo said...

Hey,

I appreciate the website concerned on the local history of Ethiopia; there are lots of issues to be revealed.
Let me start with question. Does it hold true saying that exercising own culture, values, norms, beliefs, and practicing own language as Ethnicity? To my perception, definitely it is not!! Every society as a collection has its own history and culture that should be practiced, developed and transferred to generations, which forcefully prohibited by the previous dictator regimes (the imperialist and the communist). But many people perceive that speaking own language and showing cultural practices and history as racism (ethnicity). Moreover, People always tend to say Oromo and Amhara (their history) whenever they speak of Ethiopia. How many of you people know the history of other ethnic groups in Ethiopia, like the Hadiya? I believe not only in Unity but also in diversity and colour.

Thanks,