Ecological Degradation, Ethno-Nationalism And Political Conflict In Ethiopia

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( By Assefa Negash, M. D. )

This article has bearing on the ethno-genesis of the TPLF as an ethno-nationalist movement. Although the alleged “Amara oppression in Tigrai” is projected as the main cause for the emergence of, what has now become, a very virulent Tigrean ethnic nationalism, the underlying problem of ecological degradation in Tigrai which significantly contributed to the ethno-genesis of this movement has been hardly touched upon. It is this salient aspect which I have tried to elucidate in this article. One can only understand the aggressively expansionist nature of the incumbent Tigrean fascist state and the violent inroads it made into fertile districts of Gondar as early as December 1979, when one grasps the underlying ecological degradation which created Tigrean social Darwinists who think that the strongest (Tigreans) should survive by killing the weakest (non-Tigreans). This expansionist drive of Tigreans has not stopped at Gondar but has spread its cancerous tenactles into all nooks and crannies of Ethiopia, including the capital city Addis Ababa & its outlying rural areas. Whereas the expansion of Addis Ababa into the outlying rural areas of Addis Ababa has provoked massive Oromo protest, the systematic displacement of long-time residents of Addis Ababa and their replacement by new rich Tigreans has hardly received attention nor led to a massive urban protest commensurate with the scale of the displacement. I believe that  the number of long-time Addis Ababa city residents deliberately displaced from their houses and neighborhoods (in which generation of their families lived) by far exceeds the number of those displaced from the outlying rural areas of Addis Ababa. This systematic displacement of residents of long-time inhabitants of Addis Ababa city is a product of a social engineering process that has rendered these erstwhile residents of Addis Ababa helpless and dehumanized. This article which I wrote in 1994, was then published in the now defunct Ethiopian Register monthly magazine based in USA which many Ethiopians were not able to access. This article would help readers grasp the ecological dimension of Tigrean ethnic nationalism which impelled the Tigrean fascists state to create Lebensraum (a German word meaning extra space needed for for the survival of a superior people) which German Nazis created for Germans by occupying lands that lay beyond the German borders (in Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc). I believe and I shall show, with sound arguments, that TPLF has evolved into a movement whose features bear the hallmarks of a fascist state.

A paper which builds on the theme of Tigrean fascism as an expression of ultra-nationalist Tigrean movement that hyperbolizes the identity of the Tigrean ethnic group by establishing a supremacist apartheid state in Ethiopia will follow soon. Fascism is the apogee or apex of an ultra-nationalist revolutionary mass movement that glorifies the unique virtues of a particular ethnic group and it is suffused with issues such as the purity of the blood of a superior ethnic group (i.e.Tigreans in this case) and the inferiority of the other ethnic groups i.e. non-Tigreans. Fascism mobilizes people who are in the throes of deep socio-economic problems with message of hope that heralds the rebirth of a new country and new people out of the ashes of a dark past. It glorifies violence, it cultivates and exudes hubris among its followers. These are things which we have been witnessing in Weyane’s Ethiopia. The recent video images beamed on you tube (a few days after hundreds of Ethiopians were killed in Gondar, Bahr Dar, Aweday, Ambo, Nazareth, Robe, etc) in which hundreds of learned Tigreans, many of them long-time residents in USA, were enthralled by the hypnotizing and blinding effect of Tigrean fascist hubris that has struck deep roots in contemporary Tigrean society. That spectacle eloquently speaks of the pervasive hold of Tigrean ethnic nationalism on Tigreans & the lack of empathy and sensitivity (to the pain of the ethnic others) it generates among its followers. Today Tigrean fascism, like all fascist movements before it, has imbued and fired ts fanatic followers with a sense of superiority, extraordinary sense of patriotism that glorifies the identity of the Tigrean ethnic group and exudes contempt for non-Tigreans. My forthcoming paper, which is divided into several parts, is written in Amaric language as I hope to reach as many Ethiopian readers as I possibly can.

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Ecological Degradation, Ethno-Nationalism And Political Conflict In Ethiopia
By Assefa Negash, M. D.

Introductory Notes

Conventional political discourse on Ethiopia’s problems has tended to focus attention on the so-called nationalities question. Currently the ascendant political assumption is that the nationalities question is the major problem of Ethiopia and accordingly the last three years have seen the catapulting of the nationalities question on top of the agenda. At the risk of swimming against the tide of conventional wisdom and ruffling the feathers of many a reader, I contend that the so-called national/nationality question · which is today elevated onto a higher political pedestal · is hardly germane to the issue of survival that has confronted millions of Ethiopians across ethnic and regional divide. lnspite of £PROF’s self-serving media hype regarding the sanctity of the ”national question”, for millions of Ethiopians the issue of survival from one day to the other continues to be the overriding concern, if not the paramount daily preoccupation, that haunts them like a spectre. If anything, the impending famine which is hanging like a sword of Oamocles on 11 million Ethiopians 1 does not rhyme with this diagnosis of the nationalities question as being Ethiopia’s malady. The issue of the concatenation or relation between environmental stress and political conflict has rarely been taken up by those who have been dominating the political discourse in Ethiopia. I am not in the least trying to reduce all of Ethiopia’s current crisis to environmental causes since no one single variable can explain away Ethiopia’s conundrums as myriads of factors underlie Ethiopia’s current malady. The interplay of a host of structural factors such as the nature of the political system, the subsistence economy, the dead-weight of socio-cultural institutions and the physical environment, etc underlie Ethiopia’s current problems although I have to admit that the political system has a determinant role in mitigating or exacerbating the influence of these other factors.

If I am reflecting on this issue, it is because I feel that environmental degradation · one of the least recognized challenges facing Ethiopia today · not only deserves mention in passing; but must be given due attention as the consequences of environmental neglect not only are degrading the natural environment, but also dehumanizaing society and hrutua/izing people. Ethiopia has not only witnessed the degradation of its physical environment hut als.o the concomittant degradation of its very social environment which has been characterized by increasing level of violence, displacement, internicine war, etc. The bloody wars that raged in northern Ethiopia during the last decades are a sad commentary on the level of poverty, hopelessness and desperation that have driven hundreds of thousands of disgruntled young people into being cannon fodders for ethnona· tionalists bent on the seizure of state power · which is by far the major source of wealth and resources in Ethiopia. Environmental degradation, which is in part a symptom of the an ever dec/i· ning agrarian economy, and the attendant rural poverty and desperation has created a class of marginalised and impoversished desperados that have no repect for the values, mores and institutions of the society of which they are a part but from which they are alienated by thousand and one ways. Environmentally degraded areas like Tigrai have continued to be fertile niches of nationalism by pushing desperate peasants into the arm-fold of ethnonationalists. Although I sincerely doubt the acquaintance of EPLF/TPLF’s leaders with theories of social Darwinists, I submit that in practice they have, during the last three years in power, excellently proven to the world how the fittest group in society (Tigreans/Eritreans) can survive today at the expense of non· Tigreans even if that meant deriving one’s existential needs /Jy depriving and starving fellow countrymen (non· Tigreans).  …………..  ( Read more, pdf )