Smash neocolonialism in Ethiopia, erase the fake borders!

African people in Ethiopia today are torn apart by violence—the legacy of colonialism.

Despite the fanciful notion of an uninterrupted independence from colonial rule in Ethiopia, neocolonialism grips the territory and is evidenced in the ethnic violence that serves no one except the regime in power and white power that only thrives so long as Africa is divided.

Originally adopted by the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) in the U.S. in 1979, the Party’s 14-Point Platform has always recognized that the struggles Africans in the U.S. are engaged in are inextricably tied to the struggles being waged by Africans in Africa and elsewhere around the world where we have been dispersed.

Points 12 and 14 demand an end to the “self-serving U.S. regime and Western European political, economic, and military interference in the affairs of Africa” and the “total liberation and unification of Africa.” These points both reflect the understanding that for Africans anywhere to be free, Africa must be freed from the shackles of colonialism.

The Ethiopian demography

Ethiopia is made up of eighty ethnic groups within borders created by war or diplomacy. The diversity of Ethiopia can best be fathomed by looking at linguistic categories.

The most numerous are the Cushitic, Omotic and Semitic. Among the Cushitic, there is the Afaan Oromo language spoken by the Oromo: the largest group in Ethiopia (34 percent). Among the Semitic, there are Tigrinya and Amarigna (Amharic) spoken by the Tigrinya (6.1 percent) and Amhara (27 percent).

Though there are many groups classified under these lines, the ethnic issues we witness today are primarily among the Amhara, the Tigrinya and the Oromo.

Modern Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s current territorial state found its definition in the Battle of Adwa in 1896, in which Menelik II’s forces defeated Italy. At this point, Ethiopia was made up of various regions.

Under Menelik II, the central regions began to consolidate. Ethiopia’s internal borders continued to change until the most drastic change was made in 1992 by the Transitional Government. This government was predominantly led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a neocolonial organization that was a tool used by Western imperialists to overthrow the previous government that was closely allied with the Soviet Union.

They redrew the borders of Ethiopia along 10 ethno-linguistic regions, borders which resembled the same plans Italy had in the bid to colonize Ethiopia, with the claims that it was to cede sovereignty for every group.

Not only was this not feasible—considering the large number of groups—but it was also nonsensical because, for generations, the ethnic groups in Ethiopian society have intermixed due to social interactions. The population is far from homogeneous.

Aware of this, the government gave huge portions of lands to the Oromo, Somali, Amhara, Tigrinya and Afar, and then it bunched all the other minority groups into one region and named it “Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples.”

What was put forward as a measure to return land and power to historically subjugated groups was quickly revealed as the TPLF’s nefarious intentions on emphasizing ethnic differences and dividing groups in order to establish itself as the sole harbinger of order. The EPRDF, claiming to be a coalition party representative of all groups, violently silenced political opposition in any form for decades.

Neocolonialism permeates Ethiopia

Despite the assertion that Ethiopia was never colonized, imperialist intervention, both direct and indirect, has brought Ethiopia to the state it is in now. Beyond the Italian occupation of Ethiopia from 1936 to 1941 that overthrew Ethiopia’s ruler Haile Selassie and forced him into exile, the British continued to occupy parts of Ethiopia for years even after Selassie’s return to power.

After the second imperialist world war, the United States permeated every facet of Ethiopian life physically, through its military presence, and culturally, through education. Dubbed the “American era” by historians, the 1950s and ‘60s marked U.S. efforts to influence Africa by ways of Ethiopia.

Internally, this influence was manifested by the 1991 U.S.-backed TPLF overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Marxist government which ruled after the Selassie monarchy. The U.S. then used Ethiopia as a launching point for proxy wars in the region, allowing it to exercise its colonial will to Africa’s detriment.

Violence breaks

The violence witnessed today is a result of various sectors of the petty bourgeoisie fueling ethnic divisions to push forward their own political agenda at the expense of the people. This is exacerbated by the fact that the neocolonial government cannot meet the needs of the people.

In all of the ten regions, violence has permeated. In April, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in the southern portion of the Amhara region in which 300 people were killed a month before. This added pressure to the already fragile relationship between the Amhara and Oromo in the ruling Prosperity Party.

Also in March, at least 30 Amhara residing in an Oromo village were allegedly killed by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) though the OLF denies this and blames Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a group that split from the OLF. More recently, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces sent to the Tigray region have been accused of raping Tigrayan women in their homes and committing atrocities and war crimes.

African Internationalism and Ethiopia

As African Internationalists, we recognize that our primary identity cannot be Oromo or Amhara or Tigrinya or Fula or Zulu or any other ethnic identity. Nor can our identity be defined by the colonial borders drawn all across Africa creating definitions like Nigerians and Cameroonians and South Africans, etc.

Our primary identity is as Africans, and our future is in building a united Africa under the leadership of the African working class and poor peasantry. We must oppose the African petty bourgeoisie who enrich themselves and their colonial masters at the expense of the rest of us.

The division of our people along ethnic lines only serves the neocolonialists, who use those ethnic divisions to advance their political aspirations, and the imperialists, who are more easily able to exploit a divided people who don’t recognize who the real enemy is. The neocolonial government of Abiy Ahmed cannot create a future for African people in Ethiopia; nor will installing another neocolonial government in its place that will continue to serve colonial interests in the region.

The future of Africans in Ethiopia is in building a revolutionary African Internationalist party led by the African working class. It is in building the African People’s Socialist Party on the ground in Ethiopia, recognizing that it won’t be an Oromo or Amhara or Tigrinya future, or an Ethiopian future alone. The future is in One Africa! One Nation!

Build the African Socialist International!


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