Ethnicity and Freedom of Movement
By Teodros Kiros (Ph.D) 5-19-19
Ethiopians are a historical people, known for their hospitality and gentleness, unless attacked, and deeply conscious of their historicity as founders of a world civilization, namely the great Abyssinia, also known as Ethiopia, of Cushitic and Semitic roots in one seamless whole.
A long line of Greek thinkers beginning with the pre-Socrates to the great Aristotle have praised ancient Ethiopians for their endowments as tolerant and impeccably gentle, loving and heroic. We too should be proud of this legacy of our historicity.
Recently I argued that Ethiopia is a mosaic of ethnicities and that the challenge for any leader is developing the diplomatic art of organizing Ethiopian political life by a constitutionally mandated measure of harmony among the multiplicity of ethnic interests, passions and aspirations not by playing ethnics against one another but enabling them to live harmoniously and peacefully- free of suspicion.
I now add another argument. The harmonious coordination of ethnics does not require that we organize in divisive political spaces. This might have served the interests of the previous regime to control political space, so that it could lead shrewdly. This unnecessary move is now undemocratic and unnecessary. Ethiopians must exercise their citizen rights to move in and out of their ethnic dwelling places, when they want to, and run for any office they wish, as residents of a given region.
Ethiopianity is precisely the democratic right which empowers Ethiopian ethnics to choose any space within society to live in and flourish by contributing to the prosperity of an Ethiopian Common Good, once it is articulated by the existing transitional regime.
All Ethiopians must be allowed freedom of movement without restrictions, which is the ultimate expression of a Citizen’s right. We need to amend the constitution to include the freedom of movement as an inalienable right that regimes cannot restrict. The recent displacement of millions of Ethiopians can be fixed by a single amendment which addresses it directly and bravely. This is exactly what the present Prime Minister should do to avoid a national tragedy.
The only qualification is that when an Amhara wants to run for a public office as a resident of Tigrai, she must speak the appropriate language so that she could effectively communicate with the public. This is a universal demand. For example, an Ethiopian who resides in the US and wants to run for an office, is expected to be fluent in English. This is a reasonable and practical demand, so is the requirement that one is fluent in the relevant language to run for any office in Ethiopia.
(1) We must immediately correct the confusion on the ground that the imperative of mastering a language to blend and socialize with the lingua franca of a place is not necessarily discriminatory, other than an effective devise which facilitates living with others who speak different languages and have different values. Respect demands that we speak their language and accommodate them. They have the same rights as Ethiopians as we do.
(2) The regime in power must make concerted efforts to educate the public about their rights, duties and obligations. Every Ethiopian must respect every other Ethiopian and must also fulfill her duties and obligations. Rights presuppose duties and obligations and duties and obligations likewise must necessarily lead to respect. This practice must first be exhibited by the elites before it descends to the citizens.
(3) The Ethiopian state with the leadership of the Prime Minister must also play the role of the political educator by example and living practice, both of which we are now missing at the helms of power.
(4) The leader must first and foremost be an educator of those whom he leads. The leader, must lead by educating and his political performances must be guided by emotional intelligence, moral compass, mastery of issues, and fairly voicing the aspirations of all the ethnics.
Ethiopia is awaiting for a leader who can genuinely embody an Ethiopian Common Good.