Seyoum Hameso Unveils Evil Amhara Proj ects of Cultural Genocide in ´Ethiopia´

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jul 28 13:57:33 UTC 2008

Sidama Intellectual Seyoum Hameso Unveils Evil Amhara Projects of
Cultural Genocide in ´Ethiopia´
Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

July 27, 2008
 One of the best analyses of the tyrannical methods implemented
throughout Abyssinia (fallaciously re-baptized ´Ethiopia´) in order to
impose the world´s most loathed language (Amharic) and perpetrate an
appalling Cultural and Spiritual Genocide against many African
Kushitic and Nilo-Saharan nations has been composed by the leading
Sidama Intellectual Seyoum Hameso.

Contributing to a very informative book on ´Arrested Development in
Ethiopia´ that he edited along with Mohammed Hassen, Seyoum Hameso
analyzed – within a part dedicated to ´Nationalism, democracy and
Self-determination´ – a critical topic, namely ´Languages, Nations and
National Self-determination in Ethiopia´.

In it, Seyoum Hameso reveals how the Amhara invaders of the different
lands and kingdoms in the south of Oromia (Sidama Land, Hadiya, Gedeo
Land, Kaffa, Shekacho Land, Kambaata, and Anuak) pursued a colonizing
policy by tyrannically imposing Amhara Monophysitic settlements among
the subjugated nations.

The illegal Amhara settlers, by using the threat of guns against
totally unarmed but highly cultured indigenous nations, have
ceaselessly usurped and practically stolen for more than 100 years the
natural resources of the occupied and annexed territories.

At a later stage, and this is what Seyoum Hameso brilliantly
demonstrates in his contribution, the scarce presence of the Amhara
settlers (less than 1% of the local population) and the few local
renegades, traitors and Quislings (equally less than 1% of the local
population, people selected to "represent" their subjugated,
tyrannized and massacred nations) became the means of, and the pretext
for, the imposition of a new dimension of Amhara Monophysitic tyranny,
at the educational, linguistic, cultural, spiritual and religious

In fact, the Cultural and Spiritual Genocide perpetrated against the
subjugated nations targeted their total annihilation and, when
rejected (as it has always been), it was matched by the physical
genocide that the racist, perfidious, criminal and inhuman Amhara
settlers carried out with the help of the Abyssinian pseudo-national
army, which was in fact a heinous tribal force of death squads.

The nightmarish situation that Mr. Seyoum Hameso describes so serenely
and plainly has survived down to our days in the barbaric realm of the
Tigray Monophysitic (pseudo-Christian) dictator Meles Zenawi, who is
reviled by more than 80% of the country´s nations and ethno-religious

Ginbot 7 and Kinijit: Amhara Aspirants worse than Tigray Butcher Zenawi

Even worse, the slight progress made with the nominal introduction of
the (otherwise non-implemented) federalism is now rejected by the
villainous, ultra-right, chauvinist and fascist Amhara political
parties, notably Ginbot 7 and Kinijit.

Shamelessly playing the role of the "suffering" democrats who have
been jailed by Meles Zenawi, people like Andargachew Tsige, Muluneh
Eyoel, Ephrem Mademo, Berhanu Nega and Giday Assefa have it easy to
exclaim that "the Spirit of Ginbot 7 will prevail" and to shed their
ridiculous crocodile tears about Ogaden.

In fact, all know what the Ginbot 7 ´spirit´ is; negation of
federalism, denial of the right of every subjugated nation to secede,
and preparation for another turn of Amhara tyranny and African
Genocide. If they were true in their intentions, they would explicitly
accept the right to secede for the Sidamas, the Ogadenis, the Oromos,
and all the rest.

But if they did so, they would drastically harm their own interests,
and they would be constrained to go back to Gondar because all the
Amhara at Finfinne are simply illegal settlers.

That´s I why Seyoum Hameso´s text not only sheds light on what
happened in the past, but also helps us get an illuminated vision of
the nightmare evangelized by the Ginbot 7 racists and the disreputable
Leaders of Kinijit who are the former friends, colleagues and
ministers of the Communist thug and tyrant Haile Mengistu.

That is why I re-publish excerpts from Seyoum Hameso´s contribution,
adding at the end a unit from the author´s portal Sidama Concern
(About Us), and details about the book that I highly recommend to all
those who want to know more about the (meticulously and scrupulously
but futilely) hidden (by the untrustworthy and highly manipulated
Western mass media) realities of the Abyssinian tyranny.

Languages, Nations and National Self-determination in Ethiopia

By Seyoum Hameso

From: Arrested Development in Ethiopia

Essays on Underdevelopment, Democracy and Self-determination

Edited by Seyoum Hameso and Mohammed Hassen

The Red Sea Press, 2006

Part III, Nationalism, democracy and Self-determination

p. 203 – 209 (Chapter 9)

On the one hand, conflicts over such matters as language policy,
representation, education curriculum, land claims are by definition
among collectives rather than individual persons. For instance, an
individual right to freedom of expression does nothing to resolve the
question of language of instruction in schools, the individual right
to vote does not resolve the issue of how electoral boundaries are to
be drawn. If such matters are to be mediated through an individual
rights paradigm, one would need to assume that the State is a
´neutral´ guarantor of non-discrimination among the holders of
competing claims about the issue. Since no State can possibly be
neutral regarding these matters, its policies and practice will in
reality be a system of group rights´ that support the majority
language, history, culture, and calendar. The need for the collective

rights model is clear in view of the fact that most of the recent and
current conflicts and civil wars around the world are about rejection
of assimilation or pursuit of multiple national cultures (An-Na´im

The Politics of Language

This chapter begins with the exploration of the historical background
to the elements of collective rights, languages, cultures, nations and
nationalisms of oppressed peoples. The present day Ethiopia comprises
of several ethnonational groups. Over 70 languages are spoken in a
country with a population of 70 million people. The major
ethno-linguistic groups are Cushitic, Semitic, Nilotic and Omotic. The
Cushitic group constitutes the majority, but for over a century, they
remained a "political minority." They include Oromo, Sidama, Afar,
Somali, and Hadiya. These people of Cushitic descent are believed to
constitute about 60-70% of the empire´s population and they live in
the southern, western, eastern and central areas of Ethiopia. Semitic
groups, who form the other major group, include Amhara, Tigre, Gurage
and Adere. With the exception of the last two, most Semitic groups
live in the northern and north-central parts of Ethiopia. The Nilotic
and Omotic groups live in the western and southwestern regions. Like
elsewhere in the world, all or most of these groups have their own
distinct cultures, languages and socio-political structures. Due to
the process of conquest and concomitant settlement of the Northern
people in the South, there are sizeable minorities who speak northern

Languages are the markers of national identity. For obvious reasons,
systematic study into the languages and linguistic groups in Ethiopia
is lacking as it has been discouraged by the state system. Both the
cultural and the political landscape has been dominated by northern
languages and ethnie. One of these languages is Amharic that assumed
special status accompanying Amhara dominance momentarily interrupted
by Italian occupation (1935-1941). When Italian army was defeated by
the Allied armies, the Emperor received external support and attempted
to upgrade absolutist feudal autocracy by introducing some measures
such as promulgating the constitution, the formation of professional
military service, and the establishment of schools.

The first state school was opened in 1908 to promote French language.
After 1917 until the late 1940s, Amharic and Geez (the languages
associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church) were promoted. Between
1947 and 1958, English was made the medium of instruction in all
schools and Amharic being given as a subject.

This was changed in 1958 when the medium switched to Amharic in
primary schools while English retained its place in secondary schools.
The move toward Amharization of curriculum was all too apparent with
the associated measures of power centralization which precipitated, in
the early 1960s, in armed conflict in Eritrea and a failed coup
attempt against the Emperor. The move by the imperial regime was a
clear indication yet of the policy of assimilation into Amhara
culture. The imposition of language of a single ethnic group as the
medium of instruction in primary schools and as official language
helped secure the dominant position of Amhara elite in other spheres
of life for a considerably long time. On the other hand, it caused
enormous socio-political imbalance crowding out other indigenous
languages, and by implication peoples.

Through time, the very existence of modern education posed informed
challenge to the autocratic feudal system and the whole system
crumbled in the face of devastating famine and oil price hike. What
followed the 1974 event sounded like a revolution but there was hardly
a fundamental change in the nature of Ethiopian state. In the name of
socialism, the military regime pursued centrist and assimilationist
policies. In the sphere of education, it introduced mass literacy
program with the prime aim of mass mobilization for its political

A limited literacy program in indigenous languages was introduced, but
in Geez or Ethiopic script and all formal education continued to be
delivered in Amharic.

In a country where the majority of the people—over 80 per cent—live in
the rural areas without speaking nor writing Amharic, maintaining the
status of Amharic had perverse role in higher education. In primary
schools, the use of Amharic language as a medium of education in the
majority non-Amharic speaking areas was fiercely resisted as unfair
and unjust as it favors Abyssinian settlers at the expense of
indigenous speakers at the state level. According to Edmond Keller,
the Oromos, Eritreans, and Somalis, among others, resented the use and
imposition of Amharic language "not only because it disadvantaged them
in the competition for university places, but also for the implication
it had for the destruction of their own languages and cultures"
(Keller 1991:140). It goes without saying that the imposition had
serious implications on jobs and other social and political

Like any other foreign language, the imposed medium served as a
constricting and restricting factor for non-native Amharic speakers
who score poorly on Amharic language (see Hameso 1997a). At one time,
passing Amharic at a secondary school leaving examination was a
requirement to join the only university that existed in the country.
The development of indigenous languages and education through mother
tongue were denied the opportunity to thrive. Many people were
compelled to change their names or attempt to hide their cultural
identities. Daily life in a prison house of nations is a constant

The issues of socio-political domination coupled with resentment over

cultural and political symbolism led to protracted struggle oft en
involving intense conflict and warfare. In the early 1990s, the armed
conflict was concluded in favor of yet another northern-based
rebellious group, namely the Tigray People´s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The Front, after assuming control over political power in 1991 with
professed commitment to socio-political justice, promised guarantees
for languages and cultures, as well as administrative structures based
on federal arrangement. At the level of theory, these promises were
unprecedented in the history of Ethiopian empire. Within a year, the
regime which included the leaders of southern national liberation
movements, draft ed an interim education and language policy. The
elite from oppressed national groups supported the project, in manners
not dissimilar to what Dmitry Gorenburg observed elsewhere:

Although native-language education is particularly important in
promoting nationalism, the level of education in general is likely to
be positively correlated with support for minority nationalism because
individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to retain
a strong sense of common ethnic identity. Highly educated people,
regardless of the language in which they received this education, are
more likely to be interested in history and culture generally, leading
to greater exposure to information about the ethnic group and its
history. In many cases this exposure can lead to a sense of community
with other members of the ethnic group that is similar to that
imparted by being educated in the native language. Individuals with a
more extensive education are also more likely to follow current
political events closely, leading to more knowledge of the local
nationalist movement´s activities (Gorenburg 2000:123).

The support for new direction was not limited to nationalists from
oppressed nations who joined the Transitional Government whose role,
without exaggeration, was important. The commencement of primary
school education in indigenous languages was received with greater
enthusiasm among non-Amharic speaking peoples. Most languages became
official languages of respective "administrative zones" temporarily
protected by constitutional guarantees. For example, Articles 2 and 3
of the Constitution stated that "all Ethiopian languages shall enjoy
equal state recognition" and "the member states of the Federation
shall determine their respective official languages" (Ethiopian
Constitution 1994).

The implementation of such broad constitutional provisions is
doubtful. A decade after the pronouncements, there is no clear
direction of language of education policy and it is not clear how
indigenous languages are to be treated in the future. Except the brief
interlude of the transitional arrangement in the early 1990s, there
has been no open discussion into language policy in Ethiopia. Secrecy
still underpins language policy.

Initially, it seemed that there was a semblance of policy shift which
had important implications for indigenous languages. The idea of
conducting primary education through the medium of a child´s mother
tongue augurs well with the United Nations Scientific and Cultural
Organization´s (UNESCO) recommendations. In areas where the new policy
was implemented, education in mother tongue was embraced with great
enthusiasm. In one such area, in Sidama for example, a development
worker wrote:

I visited about 25 elementary schools mainly those built by our
development program. I see that the children are very much interested
and motivated to learn in their mother tongue. One child said:

´We now know what we are learning because it is our own language´

(personal correspondence).

The issue here is not only of indigenous languages but also of
developing the scripts for these languages that have so far been
denied the opportunity to develop their own language. In adopting a
new script, most Cushitic languages are compatible with the Latin
script which is phonetically more suitable than the Geez script. (Note
that Cushitic languages have sounds that cannot be fully spelt and
pronounced in Semitic languages and Geez or Ethiopic script). The use
of indigenous languages was politically emancipating from the bond of
cultural domination.

The reasons for the objection to language imposition and the search
for alternatives are political, social and pedagogical. Politically
and socially, Amharic, as the language of the ruling elite, was an
instrument of domination and a device to screen out disfavored ethnies
away from public office. Initially, children from non-Amharic speaking
areas find themselves in tremendous disadvantage in translating, and
attempting to understand and reflect new concepts which is not the
case for native Amharic speakers. To non-native Amharic speakers, the
language imposition restricts access to education and knowledge.
Moreover, the early childhood disadvantages transcend directly to
later life in which the same mechanism is used as a means of

Pedagogically, as far as non-Abyssinian nations are concerned, Amharic
language is difficult to learn with Geez or Ethiopic script which has
275 character symbols as opposed to 26 in Latin alphabet. The adoption
of the latter scripts is found to be more suitable compared to the
Ethiopic script with restrictive impact on children from non-Amharic
speaking origin. It means that pupils starting at elementary schools
were diverted from studying their immediate environment, language,
culture and history and they were forced to learn about issues,
languages, cultures and histories that are remote to them, their life
and their environment.

There is also the issue of access to existing computerized ASCII formats in

Latin script without the need to incur additional costs to develop new language

soft ware for non-familiar and difficult scripts. This presents a vast
potential opportunity to translate written materials in English and
other languages from around Africa and from the world without the
constraints of Ethiopic script. Finally, as far as the majority of
people are concerned, such a policy is perceived to pave the way for
linguistic and national independence from alien, repressive and
abusive central authority. Yet the new initiative and policy are not
without problems.

The fact that Amharic is still the official language of the government
carries all the weight that it acts as a medium of instruction in
schools. In the so-called southern region, more than ten language
groups were merged to form one region for the sake of administrative
expediency. This regional grouping uses Amharic language as official
language because it found it impractical to use all the constituent
peoples´ languages. Besides, as the northern settlers in the South do
not speak the local language, they prefer Amharic as official language
and the medium of education in Ethiopia. This makes it difficult for
the region to continue using any of the constituent languages other
than Amharic. In effect, this makes it likely that the old policy will
revive, forcing a switch to Amharic at secondary schools. This causes
what the conflict between Kiswahili and English did in Tanzania.
There, the language of education, instead of "becoming a liberating,
door-opening agent, it becomes constricting and restricting factor
where basic concepts which should grow with a child, and be added
constantly as the child learns more, are shaken midway by an
ineffective change of medium" (Yahya-Othman 1990: 51).

Today, as before, various problems confront access to knowledge. Like
other poor countries, the perennial problems of illiteracy and low
levels of income limit access to educational materials. In the context
of Ethiopia, the lopsided "development" based on few urban centers
resulted in phenomenal neglect of peripheral areas which also happened
to be homes of the majority of people.

One consequence of uneven distribution has been that libraries are
limited to the few urban centers. The most affected are the
marginalized groups, women and people in the rural areas. In one
instance, in the South, there were only a couple of public libraries
for a population of over three million people and there are only three
libraries in three high schools for that population group. The problem
of insufficiency of libraries was compounded by the shortage of books.
The lack of reference and supplementary books meant that students
could hardly develop their analytical understanding of textbooks. The
knowledge industry is controlled by the political centre which applies
discriminatory principles in the sphere of education as in anything

The real problem remains political. The oppressive and authoritarian
nature of the polity causes the suppression of ethno-national
diversity and dissent. Though the TPLF regime promised reforms on
state monopoly and censorship of published information, the rhetoric
falls far behind the deeds as changes were halfhearted, minuscule, and
extremely slow in pace. In 2003, even the slightest gains by the
oppressed people from the arrangement of the early 1990s were reversed
worsening the social, political and economic imbalance. In the field
of literacy, most schools and higher education establishments are
still concentrated in and around the capital. The major publishers and
small to medium-sized private printing presses are located in Addis
Ababa. The biggest printing houses are owned and controlled by the
government. School textbook publishing is monopolized by the
government´s Educational Materials Production and Distribution Agency
(EMPDA). The same agency publishes children´s books and controls the
suitability of content and availability of materials for schools.

In another context, there is an obstinate political resistance to the
new initiatives

particularly from the benefactors of the old regime. The adoption of
Latin script and the new initiatives in primary schools seemed to
reduce the role of Amharic. Adherents of Coptic Church around Addis
Ababa tried to excommunicate the use of indigenous languages in
non-Amharic or Ethiopic script as the work of the devil. Similar
loathing exists among institutions predominantly peopled and created
by Amharic or Amharanized technocracy.

The leaders of the ruling party, who paid attention to language issues
in their own nations, lacked the political will to pursue and
encourage the same policy throughout the country. This reluctance
caused intense uncertainty as to how far the policy of education in
indigenous languages will continue. There are also serious concerns
over human rights situation of independent writers, editors,
publishers, and educationists many of whom were jailed or exiled.

As the result of political problems regarding the future of the
teachers trained in indigenous languages, the students who started
their schooling in their mother tongue, and indeed the future of
education policy are in a limbo. To compound the problems, the pupils
rarely have access to supplementary materials. When translated from
Amharic and other foreign languages, the books are inaccessible
because they are direct translations and not developed in accordance
with the local reality. Therefore, children who started their primary
schools in their mother tongue are trapped in the process of language
instruction where there is scarcity in written materials. In sum, the
key areas of national development (namely language, culture and
education) are overly controlled and undeveloped.

>>From the Sidama Concern website - About Us

The Sidama Concern is devoted to scholarship and human right activism
with the aim of supporting society by providing information. As a
medium, it focuses on the history, culture, and economic-political
developments of Sidama people of north east Africa, in today's
Southern Ethiopia. As events in the surroundings have effects on the
said populations, it also covers the current affairs in the Horn

As part of its aim, the Sidama Concern encouraged knowledge creation
and promotion of hitherto neglected area by producing and reproducing
works related to the Sidama world and its surroundings. In a small
way, it contributes to understanding of the prevailing contradictions
and the human condition. We also believe that change, progress and
improvement are always possible provided there is will. And the will
comes from people.

Here is your chance to participate!

Bibliographical Note

More on "Arrested Development in Ethiopia – Essays on
Underdevelopment, Democracy and Self-determination": and

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