Somalilandpress -The Scottish referendum yesterday was noticed by many Ethiopians i know and it raised many questions. If one of the richest countries in the world can do it, why not us in Ethiopia? Are we too poor to hold such an important vote or are our people too emotional and not educated enough to know what is best for them?
And Which regions in Ethiopia want to secede?
The problem with Ethiopia and most of Africa is our boundaries are too fluid and contested. And honestly, some groups like the Afar and Somalis have unfair advantage because they claim every territory their cattles grazed by. For example, if the Afar people (in Ethiopia, Djibouti & Eritrea) want to secede, which lands can they really take? The nomadic nature of their existence means the Afar people can claim the whole Region adjacent to the Red sea; from Eritrea all the way down to Somaliland might be theirs. That is more than 300,000 kilometer square of land area for the small Afar community! And they are only 1 million people. Compare that to the 4 million Sidama people who live inside only 9,000 kilometer square of land! It is certainly not fair.
So which people really deserve to hold a referendum in Ethiopia?
I say the people of Shewa. Shewa is not only the most populous, but it is also the most developed. It is not just because shewa was my favorite province. I was born in Bishoftu/debre zeit and grew up in Adama. Somehow every city and town in Shewa feels like home. However, The last few years, things have changed with ethnic politics. Going out of Shewa, one would feel like a foreigner. Outside shewa, people care about tribe and religion too much. In Shewa, you can speak in Afan oromo or Amharic everywhere and nobody will stare down at you. In shewa, people have unique culture and custom. Maybe it has to do with previous governments, or maybe it is because Addis Ababa influences shewa culture. But people are proud to be called shewans. Being shewan is like being more civilized and more educated. Soon i think most shewans will be able to speak English. Actually, if shewans vote YES for independence, i think they should make English the official language of Shewa while keeping Amharic and Afan Oromo as local languages.
I don’t know the full ancient history of shewa. But i know old “shoa” region is totally different from present day shewa. Common belief is that it used to be under the great Aksum kingdom rule with tax paying Gurages settling there centuries ago. Then the Somalis and muslims arrived, changing the religion of some gurages from christian to muslim. Ofcourse finally, the Oromos and Amharas settled in Shewa. That is why oromos live in south shewa today and amharas live in north shewa.
Nonetheless, shewa is very diverse today and i think we shewans have been the most oppressed people in Ethiopia since 1991. I say this because homogenious regions in Ethiopia have benefitted from EPRDF government system while shewans are forced to accept a new system. Shewa is very much like America, a country of immigrants. Nobody really knows who was there first. Especially in Addis Ababa, not only is it diverse, but most people are ethnically mixed. Of course most Addis Ababa say they are Amhara. But, does anybody believe that Addis Ababa is 50% pure Amhara? No maybe 20% Amhara but i believe the rest are mixed. Anyhow, it does not matter what you are in Addis Ababa, everybody there belongs there. If you go to Gojjam, Tigray, Ogaden or Wellega or others, if you are not from the right ethnic group, you might feel like a foreigner. But in Shewa, everybody is Shewan, everybody living there belongs there. I think this is something special that is worth to protect!
That is why; if there is ever a referendum vote in Ethiopia, SHEWA should be the first state to declare independence and vote. Just like the scottish people, i think shewans will vote against independence. But that is not the point. The main point is the fact that we shewans deserved and got a chance to vote …. and that itself could bring an international spotlight to our suffering and to the injustice of the current system of ethnic aparthied.
The writer Tewodros Gobena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org