Tigray Capital Mekelle Currently This narrative war is fought between adherents of what we have termed “Pan-Ethiopianism” and “Ethno-nationalism”. The ethno-nationalist camp takes Walleligne’s thesis as accurate representation of Ethiopia as a nation of nations. As we have noted, in mainstream Ethiopian history, Emperor Menelik is considered as the architect of the modern Ethiopian state. He is especially credited with expanding the Ethiopian empire to the South from his Northern strong-hold of Shoa.
To the outside world and to Ethiopians alike, his epic victory over the Italian colonial force in the Battle of Adwa is widely celebrated as a key moment in Black anticolonial consciousness. In stark contrast to this picture, in the ethno-nationalist discourse, Emperor Menelik figures as the archenemy. To the ethno-nationalists Menelik’s supposedly mundane “state-building” endeavours were marked by violence, forced assimilation and suppression of cultures of peoples of the South, especially the Oromo. Echoing Walleligne’s thesis, they insist that rather than a nation built on the consent of the “nations, nationalities and peoples” of Ethiopia, Ethiopia is imposed on the wider South through conquest, violence and assimilation by Ethiopian rulers of Amhara, and to a certain extent, Tigre extraction. In their view, rather than an inclusive multicultural state, Ethiopia is made in the image of the Amhara and the Tigre.
Despite the indisputably positive changes, he introduced and results achieved, Abiy’s Ethiopia also saw its most turbulent years in recent Ethiopian history, including internal displacements, violence that claimed the lives of hundreds—including the murder of the brother of one of the authors of this article, an attempted assassination on the premier himself, high-profiled assassinations, and skirmishes with a splinter military wing of the OLF, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in western and southern Oromia region.
There also is the ongoing tension with TPLF—whose top leaders are now in their stronghold Tigray region—that has the potential to erupt into a full-blown war with the federal government or the bordering Amhara regional state. Abiy’s recent decision to postpone the August national election due to COVID-19 has further destabilized the country and put in tatters his promise of transitioning Ethiopian into democracy. Further complicating Abiy’s agenda of stabilizing the East African nation is the tension with Egypt in relation to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (the GERD) and broader geopolitical issues.
It was amid this ongoing turmoil Abiy established the Prosperity Party at the end of 2019, which brought together three of the four major parties that constituted the EPRDF as a coalition and five other smaller parties, considered within party circles as “allies” to the EPRDF. Based on his vision of national unity among Ethiopians that he calls medemer, which literally means “coming together”, this re-branding of EPRDF was meant to stave off the ethnically divisive politics and address ethnically motivated conflicts that engulfed the country during EPRDF’s 27 years in power. This seemingly mundane action, however, did not sit well with everyone and it brought to the surface a dormant issue for the last quarter of century in the Ethiopian formal political scene, namely: how to historicize Ethiopia. There is now an all-out war of narratives among Ethiopian elites on the history of Ethiopia.