Competing Nationalisms @ AFCON 2013: the Two Imperial Nationalisms of Ethiopia and the Liberation Nationalism of Oromiyaa
The last time the Ethiopian empire participated at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) was back in 1982, some eight years after the 1974 Revolution, which had promised the South’s emancipation from national oppression – the South is the region in the Ethiopian empire, it was conquered and colonized by Atse Menelik in the late 19th century. After the 1974 Revolution, instead of addressing the national question, the Derg military junta pushed an ultra Ethiopian imperial nationalist rhetoric to combat popular national liberation movements in all corners of the Empire: Eritrean and Tigrean in the north, Oromiyaan in the east and west, and Ogaden in the east. There were also other similar movements, such as the Afar and Gambella peoples’ movements in the northeast and southwest, respectively. In 1982, when it participated at that year’s AFCON, Ethiopia was nothing but an empire on the verge of collapse. What’s more, if there had been no display of competing nationalisms at the 1982 AFCON in Libya (as portrayed in the above pictures at AFCON 2013), it must have been due to the absence of Oromo and other immigrants in Tripoli and Benghazi, the two venues for AFCON games of that year, not due to the absence of competing nationalisms in the Ethiopian empire.
The Two Competing Ethiopian Imperial Nationalisms
Then came 1991. The Transitional Government (TGE), dominated by TPLF, drew up the Charter, a document that was ratified by nationalist groups, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and that promised to uproot the national oppression from the Empire, and implement, not only the self-governance of the nations, nationalities and peoples in their respective regions, but also fair representation of the regions in the central government. It took only one year for TPLF to violently tramp upon these aspects of the Charter, i.e. self-governance at the regional level, and fair representation in the central government. Over the next two decades, TPLF would use its regional proxies to institute a fake federal system, which continues to make a mockery of both self-governance at the regional level and fair representation in the central government. This episode has once again reminded the South’s conquered nations and nationalities that the Empire is incapable of making a “peaceful” and “democratic” transition to decolonization as it was stipulated in 1991.
Following the footsteps of the Derg, TPLF spent the last two decades hatching its own version of Ethiopianism, which has again alienated the Empire’s nations and nationalities, such as the Oromo, Sidama and Ogaden. Even the Amhara elites, the other Abyssinian force, who self-assuredly believe the Ethiopian Empire-State had been created by their forefathers for their pleasure, do not adhere to the TPLF-version of Ethiopian imperial nationalism – they actually have their own version of “exiled” Ethiopian imperial nationalism, which is professed to be the “purest” version; the Amhara elites accuse TPLF of corrupting the “real” Ethiopian imperial nationalism with “nationalisms” of the South.
The Oromo Liberation Nationalism – Oromummaa
Conquered and colonized in the late 19th century by Abyssinian warlords, the Oromo nation constitutes the largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa as well as the Ethiopian empire. After several decades of isolated resistance against the invading Abyssinian warlords, the emerging Oromo liberation nationalism (Oromummaa) started to unify the Oromo struggle against the national subjugation in the 1960′s. The call for a united and coordinated struggle culminated in the birth of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in the 1970′s. The OLF struggles for the national self-determination of the Oromo nation from the century-old Abyssinian colonization and for the independence of Oromiyaa, the country of the Oromo people.
After almost two decades of struggle, the OLF participated in the aforementioned Transitional Government (TGE) in 1991 – partly due to pressure from its then allies to seek a “peaceful” and “democratic” solution within the Ethiopian framework. However, the OLF was driven out of the TGE within a year by TPLF forces, which had decided to hold onto the imperial structure of the Ethiopian state through brute force. In the 1990′s, in spite of TPLF’s military might, the Oromo people defended themselves from complete subjugation using the Oromo liberation nationalism (Oromummaa); today, they have secured a region in the Horn of Africa called Oromiyaa, and they are also exercising their right to language and culture (making Afan Oromo the working and teaching language of Oromiyaa). On top of these gains, the Oromo people have continued to wage the national resistance struggle against the occupying TPLF army for the total political and economic emancipation of Oromiyaa.
The 2013 AFCON
It is under such a reality that the 2013 AFCON came to the spotlight. Though politicization of the sports is not the intended purpose, it is true that sporting events are where nationalisms are displayed unabashedly – sometimes, even celebrated widely by the world community.
In the Ethiopian empire’s case, there had been three competing nationalisms in display in South Africa over the last two weeks – though the most glaring conflict is between the two imperial nationalisms of Ethiopia and the liberation nationalism of Oromiyaa. Read More