Tigray’s problem is “sikifta” not narrow nationalism

(Gebremedhin Gebru)

There is no visible sentiment of narrow nationalism among the people of Tigrai; rather our “Culture of Excessive Sikifta” has hampered our developments.

I didn’t get the exact English word to the Tigrigna term Sikifta. Though not the exact definition; Sikifta could mean “forgo your feelings and/or advantages to keep or not to damage somebody else’s feelings and/or advantages”. Thus, I will be using the Tigrigna term with this basic meaning.

During the last 25 years, it was frequent to hear from some individuals as if there is visible sentiment of narrow nationalism among the people of Tigrai. However, this labeling lacks factual explanation on how the problem was being manifested and how widespread it is among the general public. It seems that such accusation has been portrayed purposely to further exploit the people of Tigray’s Culture of Excessive Sikifta.

Map – Tigray region and North Gondar, Amhara region

If there is someone who could answer to most of the questions below to the contrary with objective facts and supportive evidences; then I will tend to pause and re-consider my stand in this regard. Thus, the questions which I am forwarding to all Ethiopians will be the following:

1. Could there be any rationale for the people of Tigrai who had practically exhibited unselfishness during its’ seventeen years of intense and arduous armed struggle that resulted in the removal of the Dergue Fascist Regime at the cost of the scarification and injury of hundreds of thousands of it’s’ sons and daughters to be labeled as narrow nationalistic?

2. Did the people of Tigrai requested compensation for all the scarifications and destructions due to the 17 years of the arduous armed struggle?

3. Are the people of Tigrai favored by the federal government and did it take federal resources in excess of its share?

4. Did the people of Tigrai showed any resentment on the development of the other Ethiopian nations and nationalists?

5. Is it not the people of Tigrai who had primarily shouldered the impact of the Ethio-Eritrea war; and who still continue to be the victim of the “No War, No Peace” policy? Can someone imagine the psychological, social, economic, cultural and environmental implications of the policy in place for 15 years on the people of Tigrai?

6. Is it not the Tigrai region lagging behind most regions in terms of social and economic development as a result of the recurrent drought, civil war, the Ethio-Eritrea war compounded by mal-administration, corruption and because of its “Culture of Excessive Sikifta?

7. Is it not the people of Tigrai who has and who is tolerating all the targeting and discriminations by some of the opposition groups both locally and abroad?

8. Did the majority of the university students from all over Ethiopia that are studying/who have studied in the Universities of Mekelle, Adigrat and Axum ever witnessed any sort of intolerance to their language and culture from the people of Tigrai?

9. Did majority of the Ethiopian Army Members stationing all over Tigrai witness any sort of intolerance to their language and culture from the people of Tigrai?

10. Is there any race and language based discrimination in the EFFORT companies, which have diverse employees from all Ethiopian nations and nationalities?

11. Are they not the Tigrai Development Association, the Relief Society of Tigrai and Dedebit Micro Finance who were training and sharing their experiences for the establishment and strengthening of similar institutions in the other Ethiopian regions?

12. Is there any famous Tigrayan vocalist or artist who didn’t advocate Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity? The list goes on.

If every Ethiopian try to carefully and rationally answer such and other related questions without any bias; then I am sure the majority will come to the consensus that there was no visible sentiment of narrow nationalism among Tigrayans. This however does not mean that there are no individual Tigrayans who might show narrow mindedness when they feel that their culture, language and nationality is compromised excessively. Moreover, this doesn’t mean that there are no individual Tigrayans like other individuals from the other nations and nationalities who are corrupted and who abuse the system.

But, if any Tigrayan is exercising his/her right of using and enriching his/her language, culture and history and if this is creating some discomfort to others; it should be clear to them that this was one of the objectives of the People of Tigrai’s struggles; and they have to accept the objective reality and show tolerance than labeling that individual as narrow nationalists. Similarly, any Tigrayan should also respect the other Ethiopians right to exercise their identity.

Some individuals also show a sort of resentment when the Tigrayan’s brevity of recent history in overthrowing the militaristic junta is shown and narrated through different medias; and they consider as if Tigrayans are narrow nationalists. But, there is nothing wrong for Tigrayans to enlighten their history and trace the roots of their forefathers; as there could not be Ethiopian patriotism without Tigrayan Patriotism, without Oromo patriotism, without Amhara patriotism and without the patriotism of the other nations and nationalities.

The other accusation by some opposition groups and individuals is that excessive resources are allocated and the Ethiopians property is being dispatched to Tigrai. This is being expressed by these elements as “Tigrai Eskitilema Hulum Yidma”. This destructive propaganda which is portrayed repeatedly is not effectively countered neither by TPLF nor by the Tigrayan officials at federal level. This in itself could be attributed to our Culture of Excessive Sikifta.

However, as the Ethiopian Constitution clearly stipulates and endorses nationalism, we Tigrayans shouldn’t be trapped in our Culture of Excessive Sikfta in fear of not to be labeled as narrow nationalists, and we should stand together and defend the interests of our people. I do hope by now all of us and our leaders might have learned the hardest way from the recent unexpected uprisings in some towns of the Amhara Region and the killings of Tigrayans and the lootings and destructions of their properties and the portrayal of messages of hatred targeting the people of Tigrai.

Finally, to mitigate the multi-faceted problems emanating from our Culture of Excessive Sikifta, I suggest the following:

1. When it comes to our survival and our equitable and rational social and economic benefits; we Tigrayans should not wait a blessing from somebody else to exercise our constitutional rights; and we should avoid our excessive Sikifta mentality and be able to “call a spade a spade”.

2. The need to teach our children to be proud of their identity; cultivate them to be open minded and guide them on how they could express their thoughts and feelings diligently and without being trapped in the culture of excessive Sikifta.

3. We need to have a strong, independent and global media outlet with the aim to serve as a discussion forum with the aim to contribute in fostering the Tigrai people short, medium and long-term strategic interests.

Thank you


* The author Gebremedhin Gebru can be reached at ggebru4@gmail.com

View Comments (7)

  • Dear brother,
    I will start my comment by saying that we are not talking about Tigray people which did benefited similar to other Ethiopian nations and Nationalities. I have seen Tigray regions and there is nothing different from others parts of the Country.
    The major problems of our Country are;-
    1. At present there is no:- Democracy, the rule of law, free speech, free press, Equity in wealth, etc in Ethiopia.
    2.The military is dominated by few Tigryans(Not Tigray people)where the majority of Major Generals and Generals belong to this ethinicity and have got the upper hand.
    3. Few from this region with the help of their connection with the government officials and also by holding government positions have enriched themselves and become millionaires where as the Tigray people is still suffering economically similar to other Ethiopians
    4.Majority of the Security is composed of Tigry elites and they are earning a lot of money monthly while the professors in university earns 1/3 of them or less.
    5. The EPRDF officials which belong to this region are thinking about their long lasting ruling of Ethiopia advocating and associating with the Tigray people. It is shameful for Seyum Mesfin to talk about 6 million Jews massacred during world war II by Nazis. Be sure that Ethiopian people knows very well that it is not Tgray people but EPRDF is its enemy. The truth is he is defending his power(his job) which he did not loose even though he is deaf. His power brought him money, power, luxurious life and so on. The other person i should mention is Debretsion who is boasting about the Military which could crush the Amhara people(30,000,000). By saying this history has repeated it self (Derg have been boasting of its modern and 1st military in Africa which didn't saved it.

    Finally i would like to advise you that, may be you are also one of those who benefited illegally from the EPRDF regime which you are trying to divert the attention of the people to Tigray people by which you will not succeed.

  • Here are my answer to your questions.
    1) I don't understand how the "unselfishness" applied during the armed struggle against the derg regime. I don't personally believe Tigrayans are more selfish than the rest of humanity but I don't get how struggling for your own freedom can be merited "unselfishness" unless you think that it was only TPLF that brought down the derg regime by itself and the struggle of the OLF, ANDM and other groups didn't matter. It's acknowledge even by the leaders of the TPLF that without the help of the rest of Ethiopia TPLF wouldn't even have a chance to become a ruling party, the derg regime was weakened and eventually fail because it was attacked in all directions by all groups that represented the different ethnicity in Ethiopia. You are exercising hegemony over 17 years of struggle that was led by all Ethiopians, don't fool yourself.
    2) Ya Tigrayans along with rest of Ethiopia who shed their blood have received their compensation, it's called "FREEDOM!" They all fought for freedom from a repressive tyrannical regime and that's what they got. But I believe freedom was not on your mind when you said compensation, I believe the form of compensation in your mind was material compensation. This line of thinking evened the ground for the genesis of one of the most corrupt organization in Ethiopia, EFFORT that was built by tax payers money (EFORT had taken a loan of 1.8 billion ETB from banks and was accused of not paying any of it's interests, even the premium, read {Reporter gazette, tikimt 16,1996}) and this is only the least of it's vice. So let me answer with a question, Do you think it's fair to have an organization that pays reparations in different forms only for Tigrayans (which the majority haven't even fought a single war and were not part of the struggle) and leave out those who are non-Tigrayans but have been affect by the war?
    3) "The 5 year industrialization plan of Tigray" which was prepared by our late PM Meles Zenawi while he was sitting on the leadership chair as the PM for Ethiopia (which is ludicrous)is one of the many examples that show indeed the federal government favors Tigrayans more. How about the fact major industrial and government sectors like METEC, INSA, the Defense Minister and other small scale sectors are utterly dominated by Tigrayan work force.
    4) The development of which nations and nationalities? Don't throw out a vague statement as such. Resentment of one a less fortunate group towards a privileged group is a reality through out the world's history but what makes it concerning is when one group is systematically privileged by the government. I am personally against the very thought of resenting other groups for what ever reason because it would kill myself esteem and endows me with a slave mentality but when there is a clear injustice I call it out, I too "call a spade, a spade". And what is disturbing is the picture you paint by claiming the rest of Ethiopians have a deep resentment towards Tigrayans because of all the success they had, that's bullshit!!! The only strong resentment the people have is toward a biased government that has hold them captive denying them their basic right and stifling the chance they have to create and grow a business a free market economy.
    5) It's understandable what Tigrayans went through during the Ethio-Eritrea war but who is to blame for that war, the Ethiopian people? You put as if Ethiopians are responsible, TPLF and EPLF are responsible for that war. And as for the inflicted pain and suffering of Tigrayans, the narrative supposed to be that Tigrayans were caught in cross fire and they handled it bravely and protected the sovereignty of Ethiopia. But sadly, mantra that is heard by TPLF and it's cadres is, Tigrayans to the full hit for the rest of Ethiopia so the rest of Ethiopia owes Tigrayans. If you weren't think along the line of narrow ethno-nationalism and ethno-isolationism you have realized that Tigrayans are also Ethiopians and the war occurred in the northern part of Ethiopia where Tigray is coincidentally located. You don't see the northern part of USA claiming the rest of the US owes them for the distraction during the Mexican war.
    6) That's a funny claim. In what way is the Tigray region lagging behind the rest of the nation? Hazeb Mesfin claimed that the Tigrayan region is experiencing an economic growth which is unprecedented and it can be seen as a model for the rest of Ethiopia on EBC, so where did you get your information? Or is it your "Sikifta" talking?
    7) Please stop with the self victimization. We have seen what happened in Gondar. The fact that some Tigrayans were evicted made the news and became a topic of discussion by government officials but when it comes to the hundreds killed in the weekend massacre 2 weeks before the eviction the government put it's head in the sand. It's funny how you try to make Tigrayans the victims where more than one thousand innocent people were killed by the government since November 2015.
    8) No one said Tigrayans are inherently racist towards others, if there are people that say so (and I believe there are), well they are WRONG! The people of Tigray are no the problem, TPLF is! But there are racist Tigrayans as there are racist Oromos and Amharas. So I don't know how this point proves anything.
    9) Read answer number 8.
    10) No that's not true there is a clear disproportion in the work force representing the different ethnic groups. But the question is not if EFFORT has diverse employees because if they recruit employees with only merit and all of them happened to be Tigrayans, then there would be no problem. But merit has taken a back seat in Ethiopia whether it be in the government structure or EFFORT employees, there is too much nepotism, too much favoritism and too ethnic bias. And when it comes to the military it's one of the government structure where ethnic bias is eminently present. During the reign of Meles Zenawi and before the '97 election, the Major generals and colonels where around 40-50% Tigrayans and the rest a composition but after '97 during both PM Meles's and PM HD time a major attrition happened where a lot of qualified Major General and colonels were let go and replace by those who are more zealous toward the regime. The ones that were let go were highly experienced and educated in Britain and other countries and their qualification were granted when Meles Zenawi himself awarded them. The ethnic composition after the replacement was 74% Tigrayans and the rest composition. Don't tell me it's by merit they got there position, if it was so the government wouldn't have evicted Major General and colonels who have military experience far superior than the ones that there left.
    11) How so?
    12) What's is that supposed to prove? uh.

  • There is so much hate being spewed against Tigrians and this comes particularly from the Amharic speaking population. I remember in 1991 the first group that started opposing the entry of EPRDF forces to Addis were people from Gondar mainly members of EPRP and Derg Cadres who were executing young Ethiopians left and right. Actually, the Gondere's were raising money to bring Melaku Tefera, the butcher of Gondar from Djibouti before he was returned to Ethiopia. There was actually a big uproar when he was returned to Ethiopia. Therefore, we should not be surprised with what is going now. The Amharic speaking people from Gondar has always been anti- tigrians even during the previous regimes and yet their economy was dependent on Tigrian and Eritrean investors. Gondar will not be what it is today if it was not for the Tigrians and Eritreans who were the main engine of the economy in formerly known Begemeder.

  • Is the TPLF monopoly on the military and security an outcome of sikift? Your selective analysis of information reduces this to mere propaganda. And Daniel, you have returned back to your ethnic shell. Overall, this attitude does not help Tigray or Ethiopia in any way

    • Hi there,
      Who makes the military/security as synonym with Ethiopia. In your world, domination in the military means a complete domination. For your info, you can not allocate military titles in proportion to population. It has to do with experience in service and bravery in action. When people went for further studies or remained in their comfort zones in the 70s and 80s, the brave Tigrians left college and went to the bush to fight and defeat the Dergue. That is how it translates into military tittles. For a fact ministries of Economic Development, Agriculture, the Federal Police and other have always been led by Oromos and the the Ministry of Education and Justice by ANDM people, to mention some. A recent data also revealed that more than 60% of staff working in the Intelligence and Immigration Office is ethnically Amhara as is in the entire Federal offices. Have you ever thought of that as a domination? in early 90s, more than 85% of all AAU professors were from Amhara and that was understandable, they were more urban and had access to education. Was that an issue? For some reason, your eyes are only open when it comes to Tigray. That's called mekegninet. So, as far we remain in the federation, we need representation and that is happening. Deal with it!

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies.