By Kebour Ghenna
“If I knew a thing useful to my nation that would be ruinous to another,
I would not propose it to my prince, because I am a man before being a Frenchman,
because I am necessarily a man, and I am a Frenchman only by chance”. Montesquieu (400 years ago)
We have a warmer than usual rainy season here in Addis Ababa. We start our days with creeping clouds, followed by a bit of sun, and continuing rains in mid-afternoon. All in warmth! The next day, we start all over again.
Being humans and more essentially primates, we like warmth, we like to connect, hang out together and engage. And when you spend the entire day working the last thing you want is to have to work your brain even further trying to make small talk with people who are presumably incredibly boring.
According to a study done at the University of Arizona a certain number of substantive conversations a day can increase happiness but in my view, if I can just get through one dinner party without talking about Arsenal – I will be happier.
I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first, let me take a comment from a reader in response to my recent article of the “Destroy Addis Ababa – Adios Ethiopia” and reflect on some additional issues.
<<<Extract from a reader’s comment>>>
“For the alarmist writers like Ato Kebour Ghenna Desta, the primary objectives are not solving the century-old question of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities identity and self-administration questions but to protect the narrow interests of their base by telling us “how shocked and how surprised they are at EPRDF’s attempt to right the historical wrongs!”
I always wonder as to when people like Ato Kebour Ghenna Desta, respected people by any measure, will start thinking about the rights of the wider Ethiopian population including the Oromo, outside the narrow scope of the economic and political power interests of their ethnic base. What a shame?!”
<<<end of extract>>>
More for entertainment than enlightenment or utility! But let’s leave it at that.
My article was basically about the effect of the proposed new law on Addis Ababa. Alarmist it is, some say. I don’t think that I have been alarmist — maybe alarming. We have a society in which most people have become unable to understand or appreciate that we live in a ‘fragilized’ society, where ethnic discord can undermine the state. Are the risks of such assumptions greatly exaggerated, or conversely are they underestimated? We need to think this through.
But first some reflections on few issues; starting with the status of Addis Ababa, I don’t want to rehearse the whole sequence of events that got us to where we are. But it’s important to understand what happened: It’s Ato Meles who abruptly relocated the capital of Oromia from Addis Ababa to Adama, and then back again from Adama to Addis Ababa….Why? I’ll let you speculate.
The political fallout from these follies, however, has yet to materialize. For now the fact that Addis Ababa/Finfine is the capital city of Oromia and of Addis Ababa has hardly disturbed any soul. What needs to be resolved with tact and cool heads, however, is choosing the right modus operandi for governing the city. Ignore the mob behind ‘the chasing non-Oromo Ethiopians out of Addis Ababa’. They must be dreaming!! Remember that countries and peoples who have lived together for any length of time hardly get apart painlessly.
On the question of division of responsibilities – A federal union demands shared responsibility between Addis Ababa City Government, Oromia Regional State, and the Federal Government on issues related to Addis Ababa. These negotiations should begin in earnest, and the strategy for keeping Ethiopia whole should be based on three main lines: Strengthening Oromia within Ethiopia; improving Ethiopia’s federal system; and expanding the role of Oromia (and the other regions) in the international scene.
On the question of right of the residents of Addis Ababa: You don’t need to have visited Addis Ababa to appreciate how different the metropolis is to the rest of Ethiopia, residents of Addis Ababa are more diverse lot than any other population in Ethiopia, its size and economic dominance as well as the presence of all three branches of the federal government, the AU Commission, and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on its territory makes it unique. In fact its label as Chartered City is one testimony to this fact. The residents of this city come from all corners of the country, and to certain degree from all corners of the continent. More reason then for the federal government to protect and maintain a commonwealth for the whole Union.
Going back to my last article, my main issue was not to question the sovereignty of Oromia over Addis Ababa, but rather to point out the problems that follow with the creation of two different rules for Addis Ababa: one for Oromos and the other for everyone else. When governments (city or federal) allot benefits to residents of a chartered city (a city for all Ethiopians) based on, say, ethnic affiliation, it necessarily means that government discriminates against others who don’t share those ethnic characteristics. What I am calling is, for both Oromia and the federal government, to take the right step of governing for the whole Union and not just for its largest and most powerful part.
Dear readers, a mere rhetoric and rancor does nothing to elevate the discussion. To argue for a fair and just social contract has nothing to do with one being Amhara, Oromo, Welaita, Harari and so on. Until such view is righted, it appears to me many will be dejected to contribute to the construction of a fair and prosperous society. Building a federated nation takes hundreds of years and is never complete, because federations by their nature are subject to life threatening power games stemming from the opportunistic behavior of the central government and federated units. The challenge for our nation is to find a way not simply to coexist, but to thrive and assert our identities, individually and collectively.
Now let me turn back to my initial beat: Arsenal. Can someone tell me if we’ll see Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil at the Emirates this season?
To a bright future!