Demystifying Citizenship, Identity, Language and Culture



Ethiopian is the only national identity some folks recognize. Well and good. I am good with that.
Then, will they keep talking the same narrative when they change their citizenship to American, Canadian or UK? I haven’t seen any of them stop using Amharic, replacing it by the official languages once they leave their country. I haven’t seen them not asking me on the street, “Are you Habesha?” at every encounter. By the logic they keep giving us, the shared national identity should stay in Ethiopia as soon as they board the plane.
Little did I know, their issue is only one. It is only the official culture and language that boards plane and shows up overseas. It is a crime if you smuggle Oromo identity to foreign countries. That is a contraband with serious consequences.

Let me try to clear the confusion a bit: Citizenship is what you carry around on your passport. Identity is what you live every day - from the language you speak, the way you worship Waaqa (I mean God), the holidays you celebrate, to the food you eat, the clothes you wear and your norms and values. That is a life you live. Citizenship is on paper. Huge difference right there. Oromo is an identity. Ethiopian is a citizenship. Don’t mix them up - if you do, don’t expect me to do the same too. Because of differneces in identity, the Amhara, Oromo, Somali, Tigre think totally different. When the Oromo thinks in terms of Gadaa and power based on the will of people, a typical Amhara thinks of a Teodros like Xeqlay Gezhii to keep the whole country by force and they thank him for that condoning all the killing. Yet, they want to jump to democracy with that same attitude. No way Jose!

Look guys, please stop this childish argument of taking a citizenship as an identity with culture and language. You are selling Amharic and Amhara culture as the only Ethiopian culture. We can’t have these low conversations all the time. We have a lot to discuss, such as: the rule of law, right of citizens to vote freely, the right of free assembly, expression and speech / religion, respect for private property (to stop land grab from each other, state driven enrichment / impoverishing of citizens), true federalism and self governance - the Oromos are capable of self administration, we all are capable of that.

Let’s stop dancing to the same tune all 27+ years while keeping generations prisoners of your reactionary ideologies of the past. Time moves forward. I call these monotonic policies as filibuster from moving to important discussions. We can’t be stuck on ethnic federalism. We have always had ethnic administrations that told us we can only speak amharic, sing amharic songs etc. Those days are gone.

As for official languages, we can entertain 22 of them like India. Don’t create shortage amidst abundance. if you have room for French and other European languages, you can squeeze in one more language - pick from Afaan Oromo, Tigre, Somale or any you like. Live and let live!

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