I was watching a recent viral video clip in which Abdi Mohamud Omar, the Somali Regional State President, was retelling a legendary Somali story in a briefing to members of Jig-Jiga University staff that puts the current national issues in to their proper context.
As legend has it, two village youngsters secretly wed. Unfortunately, before they go public and notify their respective parents and the community, the young lad died in some sort of an accident in a bizarre twist of events.
The young lady found herself in an awkward situation as she cannot publicly and openly grief for this tragic loss of hers. If she does so, she will be accused of more sinister crimes that have dire consequences both socially and spiritually. Then, her younger brother who was attending to the family herd fort that day broke the sad news that he lost a billy goat to fox attack.
She then started crying hysterically for the lost billy goat. As the father came by and observed the situation, he wondered how she was deeply troubled about the killing of the billy goat and said ‘barroor tu orgi ga ka weyne’ in Somali which roughly translates to as ‘this cry is bigger than for a dead billy goat’. So, why don’t you tell me what the real deal is about, daughter!
So, to come back to the point, when you look at the all the arguments, the allegations and the different point of views espoused by the current active opposition forces both home and abroad, from the self-described Patriotic Ginbot 7 to the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF); about the alleged control of TPLF over other EPRDF member parties, or the skewering of resources to Tigray Region or the unparalleled access to economic opportunity of Tigrayans, or how Oromiffa should be the national language or the supposed dissatisfaction with some master plan by some-agency-somewhere, it is clear that the ‘cry is more than for a dead billy goat’. It gets clear though when you dissect the nuances of their messages and strategies as well as the activities they promote.
The reason I am saying this is that all the genuine calls for reform and many more countless legitimate grievances by the people can be addressed without resorting to violence, massive civil strife or the of loss of life and destruction of property. All this and more serious matters can be addressed in a constructive dialogue and civil engagement.
One of the many go-to lines for simplistic arguments by these opposition forces which is to my believe, a façade for their real sinister plot, is that the there is no political space to channel their grievances in which no way I am defending its adequacy. Then, there is a giant hole poked in their logic when they suggest that the current system should be crumpled to create and new political space. This is a very simplistic and dangerous characterization of how to approach things of this significance.
In fact, it ignores the possibility that the current space can be expanded to address the genuine need for progress and the ultimate achievement towards open society with all the democratic virtues that comes with it.
To be blunt, the real plot is to reverse the current federal system, fold the current constitution and impose a uniform, unitary, centralized government structure that is not adequately equipped to address the ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences of all Ethiopian Nations Nationalities and Peoples’. Unfortunately, this disregards the fact that it is the first time the concept of being an Ethiopian is by one’s conscious choice rather than something imposed up-on people.
It is also true that we live in a time where there is the highest expressed positive sentiment for being an Ethiopian. There is national awakening going on every corner of this country in which people are really proud to claim their Ethiopian heritage and identity they chose on their conscious state of mind, thanks to the sustained peace, appreciation for diversity, overall development and expansion of economic opportunity as well as some landmark projects like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that galvanized a new sense of ownership and patriotism.
Unfortunately, what will others want you to believe is that there is impending disintegration and threat to national unity and cohesion. Well, for those people, the recent massive demonstration in Jig-Jiga City and across North America and Europe by the Ethiopian Somali diaspora in defense of federalism and unity is an answer for them. Don’t look too far for this new sense of ownership, solidarity and patriotism, ask a Somali Ethiopian!
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