Monday , April 19 2021

Comment: Conflict of Sidama-Wolayta: a primitive myth becoming reality? Hoola Halaleho



"To this end, it is worth mentioning a peace and reconciliation conference that was held in the town of Hawassa yesterday between the two communities as a step in the right direction."

Ambaye Ogato (PhD), by Addis Standard

Addis Ababa, November 19, 1919 It has now become evident that the country has been full of the various changes. Many developments that were unthinkable when viewed through the past political lenses of the country are happening within days and weeks with almost a speed of light.

Despite this avalanche of changes, however, there has been and continues to be some frightening news about conflict and violence in many parts of the country that have reached various media and social networks. In this comment, I will reflect on a recent conflict of this type that occurred in Hawassa, the capital of SNNPRS, and its surroundings for reasons I will explain briefly below.

Hawassa is my hometown, all my parents and grandparents and their great-grandparents are from Hawassa and its immediate surroundings. I saw Hawassa grow; I saw him settle peacefully and nestle all the Ethiopians. As I grew up, I have valuable friends from all ethnic groups. I can not disengage myself dispassionately when the realities are being distorted and disfigured by people with various interests who barely know or care less about knowing the history of the city and its people.

Secondly, Sidama and the city of Hawassa have been my area of ​​professional research and had the privilege of studying closely the various political, economic, sociological, historical and psychological dynamics of people and the city. I narrate this because it gives a perspective to the reader. So it's up to me to reflect on what I know about the city and its people.

Hawassa and its people

Prior to the founding of Hawassa as a "modern" city, the area was a cross-section of forest and Savannah inhabited by agrarian pastoralists of Sidama. The housing structures in the area were small huts of Sidama and traditional barns / enclosures (Howe in the language of Sidama), which were used for cattle. For the most part, the concept of Howe between the Sidama had the idea of ​​permanent possession and settlement. Sidama built Howe whenever they wanted to guarantee the stability of their settlement. When one Howe was built, was named after its owner, and others, in turn, recognized the property of the individual who built the Howe. Since a Howe was intended to impart stability, Sidama did not build a Howe in a volatile area where they were vulnerable to attacks and possible subsequent evictions. Later in Hawassa (Adare as it was commonly known in those times), some inhabitants began to practice small-scale farming alongside cattle raising. It is possibly such a spectacular view of the area and glamor of the local Sidama that later inspired the famous song of the veteran Ethiopian singer Melkamu Tebeje in Amharic: "Hawassa Langano Leshirishir Heje Yayehushi Ye Sidama Konjo endemin Alesh".

The people of Sidama, mainly the Hawella clan and other clans essentially under the umbrella of the Hawella clan, lived in Hawassa (Adaree) and its environs. A common cultural knowledge among the Sidama is that, certain territory is under the auspices of a certain clan, and that clan takes precedence over ritual blessings and other important matters. They considered the Tikur Wuha River as its ethnic border, crossing it to perform the Luwa rite of initiation of age-grade. Some older informants say that in a large tree by the river the initiates discarded their bracelets made of cow or sheep skin (nag– indicates that the initiates are at a certain stage of their Luwa initiation).

In 1957 (1949 Ethiopian calendar [EC]), with Ras Mengesha Seyoum leading the Sidamo Governorate (Sidamo Teklay Gizat), Emperor Haile Selassie was very interested in establishing a new city in the area where the city is now located. The area attracted the emperor on many levels. It was located on the important Addis Ababa-Moyale Highway (Kenya); its flat and expansive topography was conducive to the construction of cities; and the nearby tourist attractions of Lake Hawassa and Dume Hill (later called Tabor) provided a dramatic backdrop to the area. This primordial combination of physical attributes and convenient location led to Hawassa's transformation from scattered settlements and pastures to the agrarian shepherds of Sidama to an expanding urban center and thereafter to their present role as the capital of SNNPRS.

In 1958/1959 (1950/1951 CE), by order of the emperor, a seasonal palace for him was built along Lake Hawassa in an area called Kutuwa. The construction of the palace intensified interest in the area among many people, most notably the empress herself went on to claim extensive acres of land in the name of the emperor. As the city grew, more than 3,000 people living in the area were displaced. Dubale (2010) also notes that a political dispute accompanied the Sidama displacement of the Hawassa area. Governor Ras Mengesha Seyoum (r. 1955-1960) enthusiastically supported the urbanization of the area, regardless of its impact on the Sidama who lived there, while the successor of Governor Ras Andargachew Mesay (1960-1965) was much more concerned about the impact of this displacement on the people of Sidama. Ras Andargachew Mesay has refused to endorse the implementation of a major mechanized agricultural project in and around the Hawassa area by the Ministry of National Development unless it has secured alternative land for the thousands of Sidama homes. Their homes were simply demolished without any prior notification and compensation. However, despite its efforts to delay or block the displacement of Sidama by the city's emerging plan and mechanized agriculture scheme, the government was not deterred from its intentions and many Sidama were expelled from the city and its surrounding areas (Dubale 2010 ). .

After the displacement, about four hundred heads of families who served in the war against Italian aggression from 1936 to 1941 were brought from Wukro and Korem (northern Ethiopia), Harar (eastern Ethiopia) and Addis Ababa, and were given land to settle in Hawassa. The places they colonized still carry the names of their places of origin.

In 1960 (1952 CE), the deputy district governor's office moved from Hawella Tulla to Hawassa. In 1962 (1954 CE) a municipality was founded. The move from the political center to Hawassa was not an immediate or easy decision, as there was significant opposition from landowners in Yirgalem, who benefited substantially from having the political center in their city. Initially, when Sidamaland was incorporated into the "modern Ethiopian empire," the political center was in Hagereselam (85 km from Hawassa); during the reign of Ras Desta Damtew, the center moved to Yirgalem in 1941 (1933 CE). In the brief period of the Italian occupation, the Italians moved the center to Aposto, a small roadside town located at the entrance of the town of Yirgalem and along the paved road connecting Addis Ababa and Moyale (Kenya).

Finally, the political center moved to Hawassa in 1968; until the fall of the imperial regime in 1974, served as the capital of the Sidamo Governorate General (Sidamo Teklay Gizat), which included Sidama, Wolayta, Gedeo, Jemjem, Borena and Arero. In 1974, the Derg military regime established Hawassa as the capital of the district of Sidamo (Kifle Hager). Later, during the transitional government, Hawassa became the capital of region 8 and soon thereafter as the capital of the Zone of Sidama and SNNPRS so far.

Why the tense relationship between Wolaita and Sidama?

For many newcomers who do not know the area and the relationship between the two ethnic groups, the various media campaigns and reports can project as if the two ethnic groups had disagreed since the time in a memorial.

To give a perspective, there is no recorded history of conflict between the Sidama and the Wolayta in Hawassa. Hawassa and the Sidama have peacefully accommodated the Wolayta and other ethnic groups. Having grown up in Hawassa, I have observed respectful people from Wolayta, with whom we had fraternal relations, with whom we went to churches, weddings, funerals, "Eddirs" and schools. This has been the Wolayta people I know and to whom I have enormous respect and love. My father, a local person who was born in the Tumura area (now called the "Diaspora") and his younger brother was born in the area of ​​?? Fara & # 39; (now Sebategna camp) are transferred to Garaha Gando for their other lands in the territory of the Hawella clan. their homes and enclosures (Howe) in both areas were demolished due to the urbanization process. My parents witnessed the growth of the city firsthand, although their memories of their displacement are not pleasant.

My father recounts with great respect the pioneer evangelists of Wolayta who came to Sidama and the last Hawassa with Norwegian missionaries like Magre. He recalls the great evangelists such as Anjulo Masebo, Kemere de Wolayta (from Fango), the evangelist Tanga, the evangelist Tona, the evangelist Anja and others. These were the first Wolaytas to come to the land of Sidama and settled with the people of Sidama. Later on, many people came from every corner of the country and there was never any ethnic conflict in the city.

Geographically, Sidama and Wolayta share a common boundary around the Bilate River, which is very far from Hawassa. They have friendly trading relationships and mostly trade in a market called Dimtu. Whenever small skirmishes appeared in this area, he would not be moving to other areas, certainly not Hawassa. Rather, local elders, using traditional institutions, resolve their conflicts and resume normal life. Hawassa has never been a fault line of border conflict with the Wolayta, as it is placed in the heart of a land of Sidama. The neighboring ethnic group is the Arsi Oromo.

To be more judgmental in our analysis, we must take into account the economic reason for the conflict in Hawassa between the Sidama and the Wolayta. Although economic reason alone is not a reason for conflict, as some argue, even such reasons and such lines of argument could not sustain water. Most Wolayta people who live in Hawassa like any other group are common Wolayta who try to reason their lives for their own hard work. A casual observer could not see the Wolayta as the economic threat of the Sidama in Hawassa. The relationship between the two has been nothing more than symbiotic in many ways.

Psychology is also important in conflict situations. I have studied Sidama and discussed its various relationships with the groups that surround it. I have found no psychological predisposition to invoke conflict with his Wolayta colleagues. Some cultural practices among the Sidama require that the adults make attacks against their neighbors, but these attacks never sanction an invasion against the Wolayta. In addition, traditionally the Sidama never make "war songs" or Gerarsa against the Wolayta. This shows that there was no psychologically rooted cause of conflict between the Sidama and the Wolayta throughout Sidama and particularly in Hawassa.

So if the above was correct or hold some element of truth, then what explains the recent conflict between the two? Moreover, although there are so many ethnic groups in the city of Hawassa that are numerically superior to the Wolayta, and even economically stronger than the Wolayta and even geographically more contiguous than the Wolayta, why was the conflict aggravated between the two?

I propose greatness, if not the only explanation and the candidate to answer the above question is the role of elites and elite politics.

From the early 1990s, due to its new political salience, Hawassa attracted many people from all over the country, especially from various parts of the south, as the city became the political seat. The town began to expand unprecedentedly, displacing the local farmers of Sidama. It has become a political battleground for elites to control various political offices in Hawassa. At different times there was land grabbing by politicians and their henchmen to consolidate their economic, social and political capital in the city.

Advancing, juxtaposed to this, the Sidama have demanded their regional autonomy instead of being labeled with the category of SNNPRS. This demand from Sidama has been used by other southern elites and by some elites of Sidama as a war cry against any Sidama initiative aspiring to its own regional status in the federal arrangement. Hence, it was formulated in various ways, particularly in order to incite fear among non-Sidamas living in Hawassa, as if Sidama's pursuit of regional status could pose a threat to his very existence.

In the continuum of Sidama's demand for regional status, May 24, 2002 is monumental in support of this discussion.

The Sidama went out en masse to make a peaceful demonstration to demand their cause. During that time, the regional state president who happened to be Wolayta and his vice president, who happened to be a Sidama, warned protesters to abort any plan of demonstration. Using the public (government media), these officials warned people that if they did not comply with the order, there could be serious consequences.

Defying the warning, the people of Sidama went to the Loqqe region, where there is a leader of Hawella, the Clan Gudumale, (8 km from the outskirts of Hawassa) to attract confidence and appeal. After Loqee's meeting, the protesters made their way to the center of the city and on the way, the security apparatus began firing on people with live bullets. Many people were killed and injured. After that, thousands of Sidama were arrested, many fled the country and no one was blamed for the shooting and murder of the people; instead, the victims were perpetually persecuted and their views expunged. The president was "promoted" to another position in Addis Ababa, while his deputy was sent to a foreign country as ambassador.

I would argue that such an incident contributed in part to the realization of the fragmented relationship between the two ethnic groups. Since then, most of Sidama have begun to think that the Wolayta are conspiring to abort Sidama's quest for regional status. In addition, there is no real or perceived mire in the relationship between the two ethnic groups.

One could ask why Wolayta only? I submit, based on anecdotal evidence, that the imprecise perception of Sidam of the Wolayta officers (political elites) as symbolic representation of the Wolayta people has suspected that they were on their way to the demand for their regional status. For a general reader, there are more than 56 ethnic groups living in Hawassa.

Unfortunately neither the political elites of Sidama nor the political elites of Wolayta formally left and tried to diffuse the tension and the suspicion that was accumulating between the two ethnic groups.

In addition, political elites who held various positions in government have sown suspicions, discord, hatred, and fanaticism. They have buried their heads in hatred and fanaticism. Fanaticism has been its political basis for living. A meeting of hatred and intolerance has been their remarkable achievement as they report to their bosses in the center to get promotion and go through the ranks of government offices. In fact, employees who successfully participated in a frivolous activity by cutting and cutting people went up the government ladder. Unfortunately, most of these people and their henchmen are carried away with their cheap political chatter on social media. His speech is full of dangerous demagogy and blatant lies about the two great people who have lived in peace for generations.

In addition, an important factor contributing to the transformation of people's attitudes is that the demand of the people of Sidama has its own regional status. Nobody with a sane mind would say that it is illegitimate and I would not give in to that kind of notoriety that is very cheap, because the demand of the people of Sidama under the Ethiopian constitution is legitimate and legal, which needs to be resolved by granting she . However, one can not deny the presence of groups that are using this request to incite and even conspire to use the Wolayta as Trojan horses to disturb the peaceful coexistence of the Wolayta and the Sidama people. These groups included individuals who were in various privileged positions prior to the arrival of the federal agreement in 1991 and who lost their influence due to the various arrangements that came along with the new federal layoffs; many of them have fueled their disdain for the new approach that somehow alienated them. Hence the restlessness of the good relationship.

The dissemination of well-crafted information in social media also strengthens demagogues and promotes ethnic conflict. For example, using the name of the famous Dinshu Dana, an artist, fake social media accounts have published messages of division and hatred until she left publicly and said she did not do so and rejected the message in its entirety. She emphasized the close and respectful relationship between the two communities and enjoyed the culture of Sidama where she is raised.

It is important for sober observers to note that the various defamatory messages that spread on social media should not and will not represent the relationship of the two great people. The chorus of hatred will become more audible when the audience and people are silent in moments of crisis like this. I ask all sane people who love peace to stand up and silence the cacophony of hatred and discord. As Burke says, "Let sanity and common decency take over."

Finally, I would urge all those attentive observers with a clean mind and heart to calm the evil narrative about the two people. The irrational reaction and the feast of the false narrative of social media would encourage the pure myth and make it a reality. The people of Sidama and Wolayta are two hardworking people who have lived peacefully for decades. Political elites who strive to establish a new narrative of animosity between the two great people could learn a thing or two from that. To this end, it is worth mentioning a peace and reconciliation conference that was held in the town of Hawassa yesterday between the two communities as a step in the right direction. However, we must be attentive to the task ahead and work hard to create a cultured reason and wonder why such a tragedy happened between the two ethnic groups in the first place in this particular period. The theatricality of a handful of political elites who succeeded in successfully stigmatizing the good relationship between the two ethnic groups is partly because the responsible citizens of both sides have chosen to maintain themselves sufficiently. AS


Editor's note: Dr. Ambaye Ogato is a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MAxNetAging) at the Max Planck Institute for the Department of Integration and Conflict of Social Anthropology. It can be reached in: [email protected] /[email protected]



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