Ethiopia: Politics of Hatred – Challenge to Ethiopia’s Unity

by Zelalem
Photo: Addis Standard

Businesses and schools are closed, and transport was disrupted to and from Lege T’afo, on the eastern outskirt of Addis Abeba, as the stay-at-home protest in Oromia enters its second day.


Hatred in any country or socio-political setting emanates from multiple causes. Some of the causes are historical, economic and socio-psychological. History is full of incidents of war, ethnic squabbling and sporadic fights on scare resources instigated by hatred and blind biases about this or that group of people or even persons.

The incident of the Holocaust in which Nazi Germany committed unprecedented genocide was triggered by Hitler’s anti-Semitic propaganda machine which spread lies and biases which resulted in hatred against the Jewish community in Europe that had led to the inhuman mass massacre of 6 million Jews.

The genocide in Rwanda perpetrated against the Tutsi by members of the Hutu majority government resulted in an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans killed during the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, constituting as many as 70% of the Tutsi population. This is another regrettable manifestation of hatred in which even those who are educated had participated in it.

In July 1995, another manifestation of inhuman atrocious hate induced massacre was Srebrenica massacre in which more than 8000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were killed and more than 20,000 were displaced in what in most cases is referred to as the worst ethnic cleansing atrocity in the post war Europe.

The prevalence of hate politics is also related to the prevalence of a spontaneous needs, interests and values of peoples in a certain period of time. People have the tendency to attribute their unmet needs, interests and values to a group of people whom they hatefully take as a reason for their own socio-economic crisis.

The vile massacre that ISIS has conducted in Iraq and Syria under the guise of formation of caliphate is a politico-religious fantasy that is based on hatred towards other religions in the world, particularly the Christian religion.

Although the situation in the pre-1994 period could have warranted ethnic based wars and conflicts, the magnanimous Ethiopians have never got into any level of ethnic wars of hatred over the last couple of decades. It is true that the nation has witnessed several conflicts in several parts of the country over the last 2 to 3 years but such conflicts did not emanate from a deliberate inborn hared that prevailed among the Nation, Nationalities and Peoples’ of this country.

Among other factors, however, competition on scarce natural resources particularly in the areas bordering different peoples in the country, abject poverty, clandestine activities of religious zealots, disruptive actions of absentee politicians who instigate politics of hatred through remote online leadership are gradually attempting to spread hate politics among the peoples of Ethiopia.

True enough, the government has admitted the shortfalls that have led to the current situation in different parts of the country and has vowed to take reform actions on them. Indeed, some of these public concerns and grievances like lack of economic equity, bureaucratic red tape, corruption among public servants, inadequate power supply and potable water services, unnecessary delays in infrastructural development programs, misappropriation of public fund by a number of government institutions including institutions of higher learning have contributed to the development of public mistrust on the government.

Even in all these cases, Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of this country had endured cases that could have resulted in nationwide outrage and resultant civil war. While a number of countries are engaged in religious and ethnic based conflicts, Ethiopia and Ethiopian’s have maintained their unity and peace. However, unmet public demands, disequilibrium in benefiting from national wealth resources are factors that are becoming a good ground for the spread of biased hatred among the peoples of Ethiopia.

Unless these social concerns are met on time and the government has not kept its promises, the peoples of this country will resort to a spontaneous and irreversible mass upsurge that could be a major threat to the peace and socio-economic development that the country has proudly registered to date.

Although the government is expected to spear head in the maintenance of peace and development in this country, unless other elements of the political system are ready to take measurable remedial steps, to augment to government efforts, the desired result to ascertain peace and tranquility could be far off.

Ethiopia has both traditional and modern civil society organizations that are always close to the public and possess a potential capacity of reducing hate induced conflicts that are eroding national unity and putting the social fabric into shreds.

Religious institutions, home grown administrative, economic and social institutions, traditional self-help and funeral associations, regional local development associations, institutions of creative arts can play a positive role in helping to wipe out any level of hatred.

Time and again the ruling party has declared a campaign of in-depth reforms. However, these attempts and reforms have been conducted later right up to the lowest government structure but the results of the reforms are still sluggish and need to be accelerated if the government would wish to gain more public confidence.

Ensuring sustained accountability at all government structures and putting legal sanctions on those who trample with the rule of law can help to diminish the psychology of hatred among the public. The authenticity and professional standards of official reports submitted to the standing committees of HPR by sector ministries, agencies and commissions need to be scrutinized and enforcement of accountability need to be maintained.

Mere professing of unity without addressing outstanding public grievances and working towards economic equity among the public will have a boomerang effect of triggering hatred and remaining indifferent to national issues of public importance.

The spread of narrow nationalist and chauvinistic views in Ethiopia prepares a good breeding ground for hate politics. However, political hatred is totally incompatible with democracy.

Unity presupposes accepting and honoring diversity and fighting off polarization of differences out of scope of unity. Those who are in favor of empty glory of forced unity also tell us that the unity of this country is at stake. Some international media outlets are already busy heralding imminent doomsdays for Ethiopia.

The dialectical link between unity and diversity presupposes that unity is composed of differing elements of a society including Nations, Nationalities and Peoples but always in unison. The peoples’ of Ethiopia make up what we today call Ethiopia. If any one of these are in trouble, if externally induced hatred falters the unity among the people, this unity could be at stake. Unity Ethiopia is therefore an indispensible factor for the survival of the country.

Unity also comes through economic equity in which the public could benefit from the gains of the development outcome of this country. Nepotism, any level of parochialism and unjustified favoritism could endanger the unity of this historic and proud country having respectful people. It could also further trigger the social psychology of hatred.

On the other hand, shifting the prevalence of hatred to the federal order of the country is a grave mistake. Misconceptions on the essence of democracy and mixing democracy with anarchism would logically lead to irrational hatred that could eat up the very essence of Ethiopia’s development strides. Total externalization of challenges in social and economic development to a certain group of people or social stratum is tantamount to a cross eyed view of the objective reality and does not help to solve the social hurdles that jeopardize the unity of the peoples of Ethiopia.

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