A Dialogue with Soreti on Ethiopia\’s Governance Crisis

A Photo With Soreti (Second From Left, Boniface, Soreti) & Other Oromians, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya, 2022

Unveiling the Paradox

Last year, Ayako invited me to participate in a dialogue centered on the Ethiopian crisis at Westlands, Nairobi. I have known him for quite sometime and in addition to our shared history in student politics, our conversations often revolve around global affairs and narratives of Pan Africanism. Consequently, his invitation perfectly aligned with our mutual interests, prompting me to enthusiastically accept it.

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At the location, the scene was awe-inspiring, surrounded by a diverse community of Chinese, German, Italian, and Indian residences and eateries. Our conversation was scheduled in a library that seemed to have once been a colonial home, now exuding a timeless charm with its organized setup and vintage ambiance.

In the discussion were Ethiopians who are residents across different sections of Mathare in Eastlands Nairobi, particularly the Oromians. Additionally, I encountered Maganga from the Revolutionary Socialist League, along with Nana Nambuya, Joe Musyoki, Kennedy Omwando, Samuel Oduor, Joram Gitau – all my then fellow comrades at the Technical University of Kenya.

I additionally encountered Soreti, a passionate Ethiopian young woman dedicated to advocating for good governance and human rights. Her kindness was evident, her smile exuded warmth, and her voice resonated with unwavering determination for her community\’s cause. She united us, aiming to share stories and chart a collective path. Equally, Billa remains in memory, positioned by the doorway. He enriched our discourse with the wisdom of experience, complementing Soreti\’s insights.

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Narrating the stories at some point proved challenging for the Oromians present, prompting Soreti to intermittently translate between Oromo and English. This ensured comprehensive comprehension. Soreti\’s commitment to engaging everyone in the discourse was commendable.

Throughout the dialogue, a particular aspect emerged as noteworthy. While the consensus largely attributes Africa\’s challenges to colonization, Ethiopia, under Menelik II\’s leadership, defied colonial subjugation in the Battle of Adwa. However Ethiopia currently grapples with a distressing combination of severe governance challenges and a humanitarian crisis, which manifests as follows:

Historical Marginalization: Despite The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia (35.8% of the population), numbering about 40 million, they have historically experienced marginalization and exclusion from political power and economic opportunities.

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Food Insecurity and Famine: Ethiopia has faced recurrent cycles of food insecurity and famine due to factors like drought, poor agricultural practices, and inadequate infrastructure for food distribution. These challenges have led to malnutrition and even deaths among vulnerable populations, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Ethnic Tensions and Conflict: Ethiopia is a diverse country with multiple ethnic groups, and tensions between the Amharans and the Oromo have often escalated into violence. The Oromo people have been at the center of ethnic tensions due to their historical grievances and demands for greater representation and autonomy. You recall even the Oromoo language was banned till 1991.

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Economic Disparities: Socioeconomic disparities persist among the ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Oromo people, despite being located in resource-rich areas, have often not benefited equitably from these resources due to unequal distribution and economic policies that favor certain groups.

External Influences: While Ethiopia escaped formal colonization, it has not been immune to external influences. Historical interactions with European powers and neighboring countries have shaped the country\’s politics, economy, and social dynamics. External actors like the Eropean Union and the Pentagon continue to play a role in regional conflicts and diplomatic negotiations, impacting Ethiopia\’s stability and direction.

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We had injera as our lunch that day, its flavor hinted at fermentation. I\’m unsure if I enjoyed it more than Ken, given his plate was spotless. Equally intriguing, despite an Oromo-native Prime Minister in power, Oromians remain marginalized, facing attacks, loss, and resource exploitation. One might expect change, yet the unchanged status quo persists. This raises the puzzling query of why some Africans disregard their own. It\’s like a famished hyena accusing its offspring of smelling like goats.

Similarly, this circumstance prevails in numerous other African nations. Hence, there\’s a pressing requirement for Africans to cultivate compassion for their compatriots. We must transcend skin-deep identities and truly embrace our African essence. Let our hearts resonate with our skin color, uniting us as authentic Africans- being Africans on the skin and in hearts as well. This shift will be transformative, empowering us to collectively elevate Africa. The paradox of an uncolonized nation grappling with such challenges remains astonishing.

-By Boniface Muema Harrison

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