The violence itself is an enactment of the original project of othering. It’s the operationalization of the logic of othering, the rule of violence, and the imperative of disciplining the ‘savage’. This is what Ethiopia is. Much to the shock of many ‘educated’ urban dwellers, this barbarity is quotidian in our day to day life everywhere except that it is normalized, sanitized, and naturalized by mediation through the bureaucratic processes of detention centers, technologized tortures, prisons, land administration offices, urban planning, etc. It is in the institutions of ‘rule of law’ used as rule by law in Ethiopia. It is also meted out on us discursively in the everyday discourses of the dominant Ethiopian political class, even in these spaces. The ongoing violence in Oromia is an instantiation of this fundamental truth of the otherness of the Oromo and the wider south to the Ethiopian state. When a northerner or an urban dweller protests, he is arrested, tried, imprisoned, and released after sustaining some abuse and torture along the way. When an Oromo protests, he is shot dead on the spot. Or he will be injured. If he survives, he will be thrown in a concentration camp to be subjected to torture and abuse. If a southerner of darker complexion such as those in the Omo area, Gambella or Benishangul protests; or the people of the pastoralist peripheries protest, the treatment degenerates further and the acts become more barbaric. This is in line with the hierarchical structure of the foundation of the Ethiopian state: the habesha at the top, the Oromo in the middle, and the darker-faced people at the bottom. The muslim, the jew, and those with indigenous faiths also constitute the exterior of the state.
That’s why I insist on the need for a double transformation in Ethiopia: transformation of the politics by democratization; and transformation of the state through people’s right to self-determination.
Our ailment is deep. There are no easy, quick fixes. That’s why the mechanics of electoral democracy (even in its freest and fairest form), liberal human rights, and the ideology of rule of law cannot capture, contain, prevent, or resolve the problem. That transforms the politics and changes regimes but it falls short of state transformation. It is only the latter that redefines the state-society relations in the country. It’s only the latter that helps include the other peoples in the polity. It’s the latter alone that ends the tragedy of the Oromo and the southern Ethiopians who are still standing outside looking in”. By Tsegaye Ararssa