Diffusion and delusion tactic on Adowa : From victimhood to vindictive mentality

By Dereje Yimer

The political horizon of Adowa 

The victory of Adowa is a critical juncture in the course of mankind’s history.  Its impact goes beyond the horizon of Africa. Those who traced their origin from Africa and lived in North America and Caribbean used the victory as a means of boasting their black identity.   The indomitable spirit of black consciousness has laid its foundation on Adowa.  The prominent black nationalists, Marcus Garvey, came up with the motto of” one aim, one God and one Destiny” for all blacks with the thought of invincibility  in front of a formidable foe. The genesis of invincibility begins its chapter from the history of Adowa. In such a context, Garvey torched a light of consciousness to break the mental slavery uploaded by the imperialists.   

Had it been our forefathers succumbed to the power of colonial invaders, the prevailing heterogeneous cultures and values would have lost in the thin air.  The country might be fragmented into tiny banana republics. Without having smashed the colonists, it would be unthinkable to get the present large territorial size and undiluted indigenous cultural values. It is an undeniable fact that Ethiopia was born as independent and sovereign countries in the womb of Adowa.  

However, the victory lost its grace and was tarnished by the ethno-centric political orientation after TPLF/EPRDF captured the state power in 1991. The TPLF/EPRDF led regime was predominantly known for corrupting history for political sake. The political group had put forth its narrative with the intention of inculcating the supremacy of “Tigrian” in the Minds of the rest of Ethiopians. In addition, the meta-ethnic fabric in the course of history was disregarded and instead the oppressed and oppressor dichotomy had overwhelmed the political realm. To re-write history in favor of TPLF, the state apparatus had been engaging fully in uplifting   Ginbot 20 at the expense of Adowa.  The so-called nation nationalities and peoples were forced to commemorate the day as Independence Day in which all ethnic groups would have become free from the colony of Amhara. 

 In short, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s infamous dictum “የአክሱም ሃውልት ለወላይታ ምኑ ነው” can be considered as a footnote of the last three decades narrative with respect to history. Cutting the social fabric with other ethnic groups; re-creating history in the context of ethno-national map; hyperbolizing once own identity in the course of history are the dominant tactics employed by the former ethno-centric clique.    

The incumbent OPP/PP led regime holds the track of TPLF’s political scheme different from the classical Oromo elites’ colonial thesis. The new Oromo elites in PP are able to revitalize a little bit the OLF’s historical account. As we all know OLF was enveloped in a victimhood mentality in interpreting history. This would jeopardize the psychological make-up of Oromo elites and lead them to get trapped in the defeatist camp.

The parochial elites from the Oromo tribe have already disentangled themselves from the pride of Adowa. After having reprimanded Adowa, they would have created the political narrative that fit for alienation and marginalization. Those Brave patriots from the Oromo tribe, who demonstrated heroic stamina in front of the invader force were considered traitors. This was the gist of classical historical accounts for the last five decades.  OPP/PP employs another toxic scheme to liberate the elites from the Melancholy state of mind. 

The OPP/PP tactical move

The OPP/PP elites have become away from the classical naïve judgment. It designs the new conspiracy scheme to erect hegemonic political power using fabricated narrative like TPLF did. The new fabricated scheme follows two patterns:  first, it has constructed a diffusion mechanism. The prime intention is to disband Adowa from the emperor Menelik’s figure. In light of this, the epicenter for celebration, Piassa Menelik Square, has been contested for the last three years. Meskel Square and Adowa Bridge were added as an alternative avenue to meet the diffusion mechanism. OPP’s deliberate move is intrinsically connected with its clandestine project against the emperor. 

Second, OPP/PP has constructed a delusion tool: Like TPLF employed bogus narrative on Aksum civilization; OPP plagiarizes the same tactic to claim hegemonic role on the Adowa victory. To make the tactic effective, the brave war leader’s ethnic identity has singled out deliberately.  For instance, the Gurage identity in Balcha Aba Nefeso and Habtegiorgis is totally ignored for the sake of bogus monopoly. Thereby, Balcha Aba Nefso was designed to be the sole figure during the day to quench the thirst of the extremists.  

The new Adowa Museum pursues both diffusion and delusion tactics. The Menelik statue erected in the Adowa museum is graceless: it doesn’t take into account the glory contribution for the war. It’s purely an extension of the diffusion project. Shifting the center of attention from the architect of the victory is utterly unacceptable in the eyes of history. Adowa would have been mission impossible without Emperor Menelik’s diplomatic and leadership skills.  

Delusion tactic is also visible in the museum while observing the statue of twelve warriors.  Some brave warriors designated a new Oromo name to fit the OPP/PP conspiracy scheme. Fitawerarri Gebeyehu and Ras Mekonnen W/Michael’s grandfathers have been changed into Gurmu and Gudisa consequently .It is a blatant lie. No historical account testifies the designated name. We find their grandfather’s name as Yegdemework(የግድምወርቅ) and weldemelekot (ወልደመለኮት) in all historical documents, instead.  

Adowa is beyond the ethno-nationalists’ frontier  

Ethno-nationalists tend to draw an artificial primordial boundary on history for the purpose of fulfilling their parochial goal. Adowa is one of the victims in this respect. The Tigray extremists tried to cast shadow on it before. Now the Oromo extremists start disseminating doctored- narrative from the prevailing ethno-centric politics point of view. Readjusting the identity of brave patriots in the context of ethno nationalism emanates from a vindictive mentality: corrupting the historical episode then claiming exclusive ownership on it.  It is purely the opposite version of victimhood mentality.  

If we look back to the cultural identity of those 12 brave patriots, more than half of them were mixed. In addition, their political identity is far from the frontier of ethno-nationalism. The king’s egalitarian approach helped the nobilities and war lords to hold key positions in the state apparatus from the heterogeneous cultural background. So the political DNA was characterized by meta-ethnic. The Meta-ethnic political posture (Ethiopianism) won on the battlefield. Hence, no single ethnic group is entitled to claim the victory exclusively. 


The Spanish philosopher George Santayana says that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We should use history properly to get the desired reward. Otherwise it could retaliate against us severely. Therefore, what matters is the right interpretation, not the actual historical episode. History could not be an end by itself. The way we use it, makes it great or not. 

The success in the remote past can be used as a locomotive of nation building process like the western power did. Yet, this grand project could be successful, when history is liberated from narrow minded ethno-centric elites. Bearing in mind, the pitfall that we observe in commemorating the victory of Adowa is resolved once and for all, when enlightened intellectuals hold the driver’s seat and shed the light on it. Otherwise we would end up circulating in a vicious circle.

Editor’s note: – views in the article reflect the views of the writer only!!

By ethionegari@gmail.com

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