By Dula Abdu
Recently there were strings of articles hostile to Ethiopia most emanating from Aljazeera. Many Ethiopians are concerned about it in light of remarks by Egyptian politicians to destabilize Ethiopia by planting false propaganda and sabotage.
One of the articles originated from two scholars from American University. Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington and Frankie Martin, an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service, wrote a piece entitled “The Oromo and the War on Terror in the Horn of Africa” and claimed that Emperor Menelik from 1860-1900 killed 5 million Oromos. This is unknown to many Ethiopian and many historians. Some believe this is part of the propaganda to destabilize and saw the seeds of division as envisioned by the Egyptian government in order to stop the construction of the Nile Dam in Ethiopia.
Akbar and Frankie wrote, “The Amhara under emperors like Menelik II utilised modern weapons and European advisors against their opponents, who fought with spears. The result was devastation and death on an enormous scale. Between 1868 and 1900, half of all Oromo were killed, around 5 million people. The tactics employed were brutal. Following the defeat of the Oromo Arsi tribe of the Bale region, for example, Menelik’s general had the right hands of all strong men cut off and tied to their necks, and the breasts of the women sliced off and similarly worn.”
The article is based on hearsay and lacks credibility and the objective may be to create tension and mistrust among Ethiopians. Let us analyze the main thesis of the article, “half of the Oromos were killed” or around 5 million of them. According to Wikipedia and all available resources, “The population of Ethiopia was only about 9 million in the 19th century” Source: Ethiopia’s Population was only 9 million in the 19th century. Based on historical data, the Oromo population represented approximately 3 million out of the 9 million Ethiopian population in the 19th century. Therefore, if Menelik killed 5 million Oromos according to Akbar and Frankie, Menelik should have killed more than half of the Ethiopian population not only 3.1 million Oromos at that time. In 1935 and at the outset of the World War II, the whole Ethiopian population was estimated at 15 million( click here for reference: Ethiopia’s population was 15MM in 1935. Ethiopia undertook the first census in 1960’s; the total population was 18 million. According to 1960 statistics (the earliest available data), Oromos represented 34.4% of the total population or approximately 3.1 million of the Ethiopian population in the 19th century (using 2.3% average population growth).
Ethiopia is a country unlike Pakistan and many other countries Muslims, Christians, and other religions lived in peace and in harmony for centuries. Now Aljazeera with the help of Akbar and Frankie and others is trying to light a fire of discord to see if they can change this harmonious existence at the behest of Egypt or some unknown forces.
Ethiopians of all ethnic group and religion are trying their best to forge unity to bring a democratic order in Ethiopia that has been lacking for too long resulting in arbitrary arrest of not only Oromos, but also other Ethiopians and massive economic and political hardship for all Ethiopians. Currently Ethiopians Muslims are taking the brunt of this oppressive regime, as it continues to deny them the right to worship at place of their choice and to manage their own institution independent of government interference.
Most Southerners including my own family were subjugated and humiliated by Menelik’s invasion. My great uncle was killed fighting Menelik’s army. Nonetheless, this is not the time or the place to talk about conflicts in the 19th century, as we have issues that are more pressing on hand.
Most countries have overcome their historical animosities for the sake of developing their economies. The best example is Germany and the rest of Europe. Europeans do not dwell on Napoleonic wars, First World War, or Second World War. Europeans are trying to create a political and economic union and are pressing forward to solve their current problems than dwelling in the past.
Ethiopians are trying to do the same, as division or ethnocentrism has done more harm than good for all parties except the ruling party. However, enemies of Ethiopia are finding any excuses to instill suspicion and hate, sometimes conflict to keep Ethiopia from developing its resources. Among these countries Egypt stands as the main culprit, such as supporting the invasion of Ethiopia by Somalia in the late 70’s, promoting the session of Eritrea, Ogaden, funding any anti-Ethiopian elements for the sole purposes of keeping Ethiopia from developing the Nile and its tributaries.
According to documents released by WiliLeaks in September, 2012 the Egyptian and Sudanese governments had planned to attack the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and some Egyptian legislatures are supporting others hostile and clandestine operations, like planting false propaganda, arming rebels groups and instructing Egyptian spies to simply destroy the dam altogether. In light of these revelations and unusual resurgence of such distorted reports, we are concerned that Aljazeera may be serving as a conduit for the Egyptian government to destabilize Ethiopia and to create division among Ethiopian Muslims and among all Ethiopians for that matter regardless of their religious affiliation
Instead of exposing the ethnocentric and one party dictatorship in Ethiopia and the egregious human rights violations, Aljazeera pieces were focused on airing the grievances that took place in 19th century instead of the ” vicious dictatorship” as characterized by Congressman Chris Smith, Chair Subcommittee on Africa. In the process, Aljazeera appears to be promoting religious and ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia at the behest of a foreign regime that is recently openly stated such strategy against Ethiopia.
Akbar and Frankie piece violated all the tenets of scholarly work and basic research and it is not worthy of associating it with a great institution like the American University.
Dear Mr. President,
As known scholar on your own right and to maintain the integrity of university, please ask Akbar and Frankie to provide evidence to the Ethiopian community and to the media sources for their article, especially evidences of 5 million Oromos killed by Menelik, and the atrocities that he may have committed against the Oromos and other Southerners.
Dula Abdu, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org