THE NEW FRONTIER OF ANTISEMITISM: Racial Discourse and Oromo Extremism in Ethiopia - Girma Berhanu (Professor)

THE NEW FRONTIER OF ANTISEMITISM:  Racial Discourse and Oromo Extremism in Ethiopia

Author Contact Information:
Girma Berhanu (Professor)
Department of Education and Special Education
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

E-mail: Girma.Berhanu@ped.gu.se


Ethiopia is in dire straits due to a peculiarly malignant state system called Ethnic Federalism. In existence since the early 1990s, it has been sold as a brave attempt at empowering subjugated nationalities and, to borrow the Marxist parlance of the government that introduced it, ‘to let nations, nationalities and people’s blossom’.

The dialectics, tempting as they are, replicate the Bantustan policy of the apartheid government of South Africa. Under the guise of ‘national aspirations’, a crafty system of divide and rule is put in place so that regions and ethnicities squabble for limited power while the central government gets on with its misrule.

In Ethiopia, like in South Africa back in the late 1970s and 1980s, this system of ethnic federalism has created explosive animosity. Beyond the repeated outbursts of civilian strife engineered by local political entrepreneurs, two well-armed groups have harnessed the shortcomings of ethnic federalism to suit their own goals. These are, of course, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The latest scheme from the OLF and its allied Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) has been to declare an alleged North-South conflict based on racial narratives of Semites vs. Cushites. The OLF classify Oromos as Cushites, and as such they are honest, hard-working and, sadly, oppressed. This stands in contrast to the Amhara, who as a Semitic people are portrayed as deceitful, parasitic and exploitive. The echoes of Nazi ideology are all too evident to ignore, as is the fact that this manufactured racial cleavage is a copy-paste version of the Hutu Power discourse of Rwanda in the late 20th century.

As in Rwanda one generation ago, these toxic narratives are peddled with great success and have, to a large extent, infiltrated government policy. The OLF has progressed from innuendo and indirect hate-speech to open hostility, declaring war on Ethiopians of Amhara ethnicity on the grounds that they are Semitic settlers. When news breaks out, almost on a weekly basis, of some killings in villages and town across the south, east or west of Ethiopia, the underlying narrative behind the violence is invariably one of ‘rooting out the bad weeds’ – that is to say, killing the undesired Semitic Amharas. 

The OLF has gone so far as to issue an open manifesto declaring war against these people on all fronts. To this end, they encourage and undertake the desecration of places of worship, murder priests, and reprimand those who use their language, Amharic. 

In short, the OLF and the governing OPDO are bent on dismantling Ethiopia through war-mongering and focusing on destroying the very people who have played a central role in the survival and independence of this ancient country in East Africa –the Amhara.

The focus of this paper is to explore the danger of Oromummaa ideology that is bent on racist discourse imbued with anti-semetism that is engulfing the whole east Africa. Dawit (2023) succinctly remarked that it is the opinion of every legal expert involved in studying the crimes against the Amharas in Ethiopia: that genocide has and is being committed in Ethiopia with the intention of ethnic cleansing and establishing a Cushite Empire. 

According to Cush Media and Oromo literatures, Semites (Amharas and Tigrayans) are considered colonizers of the Cushites, in a very strange twist of history. To this end, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in the last 4 years causing the death of three million people and the displacement of 4 million Amharas. How many more have to die and be displaced for the international community to wake up and stop this madness? 

The concern in this paper is the Ethnic apartheid system and the expansionist greed by the Oromo officials that is in place under this new regime as a continuation of the previous regime’s policy. This structural discrimination is conducted within the Oromo nationalists’ main agenda, Oromummaa. ‘Oromummaa is a complex and dynamic national and global project. As a national project and the central ideology of the Oromo national movement, Oromummaa enables Oromos to retrieve their cultural memories, assess the consequences of the purported “Ethiopian colonialism”, give voice to their collective grievances, mobilize diverse cultural resources, interlink Oromo personal, interpersonal, and collective relationships, and assists in the development of Oromo-centric political strategies and tactics that can mobilize the nation for collective action empowering the people for liberation. Although the adherents claim that Oromummaa requires that the Oromo national movement be inclusive of all persons, operating in a democratic fashion, it is in fact a dominating, aggressive and excluding process aimed at dismantling Ethiopia. Abuses of power and control tactics are rampant. Underneath this grisly reality lies an appalling cycle of hate-politics that has been deployed against the Ethiopian people and in particular the Amhara people and is currently permeating the social, political, and cultural facets of the country. The world should be aware of this malicious, fanatic group that can destabilize the Horn of Africa by aggravating the conflict in the already inflammable geopolitics of the region. 

Another line of focus in this paper is to outline the remarkable resemblance between Oromummaa and Fascism/Hitlerism. Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation.”[Fascism is] based on an ethnic division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, an extreme ethno-nationalism. It’s based on nostalgia for a mythic past, typically in which members of the chosen ethnic group had an empire – and it represents the present as loss of that great empire, The Roman Empire, that natural standpoint in which members of this ethnic group dominated their environment militarily, politically, and culturally”. The corollary of that belief was the idea that anything that might impede national unity had to be gotten rid of, and violently. In fact, violence was seen as beneficial to society. The Oromos need to weigh this matter with accuracy as to which one is in the long-term interest of the Oromos. There are two thorny issues that I do not dwell here at length are (1) Oromo extremists are prone on putting Gadda at center stage, that is “at the heart of Oromo tradition and culture, which shapes the basis of Oromummaa.” The ultimate goal is to subjugate Islam and Orthodox Christianity with the aim of resurrecting and elevating Gadaa, Irrecha, and Waaqeffanna as unifying national identities of Oromo. This transformation from Cultural Expression to Political and Religious Annihilation is highly costly to the Oromo people because it is going to supersede the two main religions Islam and Christianity, to which an overwhelming majority of Oromos belong to (2) Another problematic issue concerns that Tigrayans can be perceived as victims of the anti-semitic attack in the country. One may be tempted to conclude that Tigrayans are targeted for attacks as are Amharas because they are Semitic people; and they struggle to withstand the Rovuma attack in line with Amhara forces (which is entirely not the case). Tigrayans brought the ethnic divergent rule system and finally made themselves victims. The attack on Tigrayans can be explained further in other dimensions besides the postulated anti-semitic attack. I will problematize the two thorny issues in another paper.

Oromummaa and Fascism

Ethiopian scholars including Prof. Haile Larebo, Achamyeleh Tamiru and Dr. Beza Assefa have exposed the nature of Oromo nationalism and olfism (onegawinet) which is founded on barbaric genocide and ethnic cleansing against all people considered non-original Oromo particularly Amharas. This savage cultural heritage is well documented by the Portuguese Jesuit cleric Paez who wrote in 1621 of  “Gallas slaughtering children, girls, pregnant women and old folks”! Actually, the Gada system, which is highly militaristic and excludes women completely, was designed to subjugate non-Oromo people by using shocking genocidal homicide to silence them into servile submission! Today this primitive form of savagery is being practiced by the OPDO/OLF dominated genocidal Abiy regime—spear headed by the Cushitic discourse— which as represented by Abiy, has had the temerity to say, “if you touch my power a hundred thousand people could die per day!  “and” I will plant seedlings to create shade for the massacred!” So, the Abiy Ahmed genocidal regime will never stop unless confronted by an equal or greater force for it is a deeply held cultural belief on the part of the 200-odd people now in power! Besides, the damage has already been done and there is no looking back as far as they are concerned! So expect more of the same in the next few years.

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