By Prof. Al Mariam
Ethiopiawinet in a nutshell…
“Indeed, our diversity has been the amazingly distinctive feature of our Ethiopiawinet. The strong bond in the mosaic of our Ethiopiawinet is reflected in the diversity of our religions, traditions and cultural practices. The linkage of our unity over the ages has remained very strong. [Ethiopiawinet] is not something that dissipates like vapor in the air. It is not a thing swept by the wind and scattered or easily broken. It is a unity that is deeply rooted. It is great unity with [immeasurable] depth and strength.” Ato Gedu Andargachew, speaking at the Amhara Oromo Discussion Forum in Bahr Dar, November 4, 2017.
“Ethiopians are like sergena teff [staple foodstuff in Ethiopia made whose tiny seeds resemble poppy seeds eaten as flatbread called injera] (applause). [Grain] that is gathered together. Milled together. Eaten together (applause)… EthiopiaWINet is an addiction [deep passion]. It is in the heart of each and every Ethiopian. — Obbo Lemma Megerssa, President of Oromiya regional government, speaking at the Amhara Oromo Discussion Forum in Bahr Dar, November 4, 2017.
Everybody who has Ethiopiawinet inside them, [will forever] have it in them. That can never be lost. It is as deep as religion. Ethiopiawinet has a delicate mystery to itself. It has a very deep foundation. When we can agree on so many good things, it is not useful to dwell on the deficient things we have done together. — Artiste Teodros (Teddy Afro) Kassahun, in a May 2017 interview following his launch of the “Ethiopia” album.
“Addiction to Ethiopiawinet is the only cure for the T-TPLF cancer in the Ethiopian body politics. Ethiopians united (in Ethiopiawinet) will never be defeated by the T-TPLF.” — Alemayehu G. Mariam
Translator’s Note: The following is a translation of remarks given by Ato Gedu Andargachew, President of Amhara Regional State, at the “Amhara-Oromo Discussion Forum” in Bahr Dar, a city in north-western Ethiopia, on November 4, 2017.
Last week, I presented a translation of Obbo Lemma Megerssa’s remarks at the same forum.
In my January 2012 commentary, “Africans Unite! Ethiopians Unite!”, I declared, “Choose your humanity before your ethnicity and nationality. Doing it the other way around is downright insanity.” That is what I have always believed.
Gedu Andargachew, Lemma Megerssa, Teddy Afro and many other Ethiopians are saying the same thing. We all call it “Ethiopiawinet”, which I simply define as love of the humanity of the people of Ethiopia. Ethiopiawinet is simply the belief and practice of universal values of humanity in that little corner of the planet in northeast Africa.
More specifically, Ethiopiawinet is our version of the same faith the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaffirmed and proclaimed as fundamental human rights nearly seven decades ago– the dignity and worth of the human person regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, language, gender, age and all other artificial classifications used to discriminate between all God’s children.
Mea culpa: I have attempted to offer an accurate and exact translation of Gedu’s remarks in Amharic. I underscore the word attempt because I admittedly do not have the translation skills to capture the eloquence of Gedu’s refined diction, the subtleties of his ideas, poetic imagination and undiluted passion for Ethiopiawinet.
Translating Amharic into English has its special challenges associated with finding appropriate translational equivalences, finding comparable figurative language and accurately conveying the meaning of cultural terms, among others.
I apologize in advance to Gedu for any deficiencies in my translation of his remarks.
Gedu Andargachew’s Remarks:
([Announcer]… I invite to the podium Ato Gedu Andargachew, president of Amhara kilil to extend welcoming remarks (applause).)
[Gedu Andargachew] The Honorable Ato Lemma Megerssa, president of Oromiya regional government, honorable ministers, Amhara and Oromo killil leadership, honorable Aba Gedas and community elders, faith leaders and artists, honorable residents of Bahir Dar and guests of honor.
First, I want to express my heartfelt delight for the opportunity to be present at this collective forum and share my message with the people of Oromia and Amhara kilil. I extend a warm welcome to our guests for coming to Amhara kilil in peace (applause).
That our country Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity and a land of [magnificent] natural and manmade wonders is a truth known not only to us her children but also accepted by the world.
[Ethiopians] are a people who have persevered in honor and love despite oppression and injuries [inflicted upon them] various regimes and losses. They [Ethiopians] have worked together to build one [common] economic and social system. They have aimed far and made broad achievements as we are marching forward.
We Ethiopians have used our diversity in traditions, ethnicities, religions, history and other things to build a house for ourselves and used our diversity as strength and mark of beauty, and not as sources of [antagonistic] division.
Indeed, our diversity has been the amazingly distinctive feature and pride of our Ethiopiawinet. The strong bond in the mosaic of our Ethiopiawinet is reflected in the diversity of our religions, traditions, languages and cultural practices and common unity and our honored identity. (applause).
The linkage of our unity over the ages has remained very strong. It is not something that dissipates like vapor [steam] that dissipates in the air. It is not a thing swept by the wind [and scattered] or [easily] broken. It is [a unity] that is deeply rooted. It is a great unity with [immeasurable] depth and strength (applause). It is a powerful unity that is deeply rooted.
Our forefathers who made and preserved our history were not without differences and not without their obstacles and hinderances. [Despite their differences] they kept our beautiful Ethiopia shedding their blood and sacrificing their bones, protecting her from invasion by the enemy. [They chose] to stand together [not apart because of their differences]. [That’s] how they gained victory together, grew together and delivered [the country] to us.
We have taken turn and kept the country [together] this way. We did not see Ethiopia belonging to one group or one segment [of society]. She collectively belongs and is home to all nations, nationalities and peoples who have built her. We have used our diversity as beauty marks so we can have constitutional governance and that is the serious responsibility of our generation.
Ethiopiawinet is unity, togetherness and respect for each other. Our enemies far and near who do not know this aim to use our weaknesses as springboard to take advantage. They try to divide us by taking advantage of any gaps in our [unity] by [slithering through] and spreading lies (applause).
This action arises from the fact of not deeply and properly appreciating Ethiopiawinet. We should appreciate Ethiopiawinet [is fundamental decency]. It is about providing hospitality, providing shelter, sharing food, to send off those going away with tenderness. In general, (Ethiopiawinet) is about brotherhood. The amazing thing is these practices and traditions (of Ethiopiawinet) are common to all ethnic groups in Ethiopia.
Returning to one of the sacred elements of our forum, the Oromo and Amhara people have lived for ages in good neighborliness. I want to note their relationship is deep-rooted and have strong bonds.
The Amhara and Oromo people are interwoven in tradition and lifestyle through marriage, adoptions and so many other ways. They are one united people.
The fact of the matter in our present situation is that the millions of Amhara people living throughout Ethiopia have intermarried with Oromos and lived together in love and harmony for ages. They live with their identity recognized and respected.
Indeed, from time to time conflict have arisen for reasons indicated above, but the Oromo people have brought the wrong-doers to justice. They have protected the properties of their Amhara brothers, even sacrificing their lives defending them. They have helped those who have been damaged and aided them in rebuilding their [lives]. We have seen this done numerous times.
Despite what some [ill-willed] people say, Oromo people do not discriminate. They have demonstrated they embrace all people with their traditions (applause).
On the other hand, there are nearly one-half million Oromos living together with Amharas [in Amhara kilil] in brotherhood. They are living among Amharas maintaining their natural comfort, their constitutional rights protected, administering their own affairs and living in love. They also have representation in the [Amhara] kilil government and play their role in the development process.
Moreover, the right of Oromo children to learn in [Oromiffa] [in Amhara kilil] is affirmed.
In 257 schools, one hundred thousand children are learning in Oromiffa (applause).
The bonds between Amhara and Oromo people are strong.
Even when conflicts arise from grazing and farming rights, we have resolved them using the Oromo Geda or the Amhara elder conflict resolution system. History testifies to this.
Even today those living near Oromo border – Gojjam, Wello, Shoa – cooperate on many different social and economic issues. They have strong desire to [work together] and great love is seen among them.
The deep-rooted relationship between these two people is well beyond our understanding as current leaders. What is amazing above all else is that [those hostile to Oromo-Amhara unity] are mobilizing to create conflict and weaken the relations [unity] of the Oromo and Amhara peoples using history as a propaganda tool for years. But the two people are maintaining their unity and going forward (applause).
Indeed, there is great effort underway today to ensure this unity develops in a new way.
Recently, the young people of Oromiya came to help with the water weed problem [water hayacinth] on Lake Tana [feeding the Blue Nile/Abay River]. The message goes well beyond rooting out weeds. It shows the unity of the two peoples [shows unity and solidarity] (applause).
[What they did] echoes far and yonder. It is echoed by millions [of Ethiopians] and [they] sing, ‘Tana is ours. Abay is ours. Oromiya is ours. Amhara is ours. Ethiopia is ours.’ It resonates Ethiopian unity.
Recently, those who hate Ethiopian unity, using the media as a propaganda tool, are deliberately waging a conspiratorial campaign day and night trying to get the two people in conflict. But our wise people have refused to [accept the propaganda of hate] and the daily provocation [of those trying to divide and rule] is failing.
This foresight of the people has nullified the efforts of those seeking to divide [and rule].
Have full faith our struggle against such shenanigans [of those seeking to divide and rule] will continue in a focused way (applause). The new generation will strengthen the equality-based historical legacy of Ethiopiawinet of our forefathers based in the spirit of brotherhood.
I wish to remind all at this opportunity that our unity is for our peace and peace is for our unity. That is our strong foundation (applause).
The leaders who are present in this hall today, Aba Gedas, community elders, teachers, youths, professionals, and all people of Amhara and Oromo [should realize], our principal mission is to pass [Ethiopiawinet] to the next generation.
We the people of Amhara and Oromo at this forum have shown not only our unity, [but we also send] a message to our bothers throughout the country, especially our [immediate neighbors] that we shall strengthen our bonds of cooperation and expand effective opportunity [for all].
These kinds of ties between people, nations and nationalities shall be the foundation of an equality-based new Ethiopia. We have a responsibility to strengthen that. I want to reassure of that (applause).
In our time, the choice for our country and people is to build democratic unity founded on equality. All of our people living in freedom. We shall have a social justice democracy in Ethiopia when we can build that.
For this people-to-people communication between Amhara and Oromo is one of the things that needs to be strengthened (applause). Such people to people communication must also continue with people in other kilils.
Lastly, Oromo Aba Gedas and Amhara community elders have showed us our unity and togetherness will strengthen. [You have shown that] by travelling a long journey to come to the capital of our kilil.
I want to thank you again in the name of the Amhara kilil. I express my admiration and respect.
I wish your stay in Bahir Dar will be a time of love and happiness.
Ethiopians united (in Ethiopiawinet) will never be defeated by the T-TPLF.”