A certain Girma G. Kassa got hold of some statistics on Ethiopia’s demography and then went ahead with making a mess o…

A certain Girma G. Kassa got hold of some statistics on Ethiopia’s demography and then went ahead with making a mess out of it. The job of an analyst is to simplify a rather complex subject and then explain, or clarify issues. People like this guy approach it the other way round: complicate a rather simple and straightforward matter. Incidentally, this is typical among graduates of Ethio-nationalist school of thought.

Oromia’s demography does not need much analysis, unless one is set out to muddy the water. It is one of those clear and straightforward matter to anyone with elementary familiarity with Ethiopia’s political economy. Girma seems to fool himself, rather than anybody else, when he tries to argue that Amharic speakers are the majority in Shawa. The fact is as shown in the upper part of the table posted further below. Even in E. Shawa, where Amharic speakers constitute a relatively larger proportion, Oromo speakers constitute about 70% of the population in that part of Oromia. In other cases, Oromo speakers are well over 80%.

The case of Oromia’s garisson towns, including Addis Ababa, would need to be looked at differently. Here, it is not enough to look at language but also ethnicity. Even in this case the reality is that Oromos constitute a much larger proportion in the garisson towns than we are often led to believe. In the second table (below), I distinguished between language and ethnicity, because, there are lots of Oromos who report that they are Amharic speakers. In Addis Ababa, we keep hearing Oromos are in single digits, this is the case because, this judgement is based on language. However, the same data, Census 2007, show that over 20% of Addis residents have reported themselves as Oromos.

The case of Adama is even more interesting. Although Oromo and Amharic speakers are reported to be 26% and 59% respectively in Adama, this ratio changes dramatically when we consider ethnic composition – Oromo (39%) and Amhara (35%), the latter suddenly turning to a minority. In other words, the single majority group in Adama are Oromos. But why do we get confused messages then? Traditionally, the Amharization doctorine meant a deliberate confusion between language and ethnicity. So, a good proportion of Adama residents, who are either Oromos or other ethnic groups, but speak Amharic have been grouped into Amhara ethnic group, thereby falsifying not only historical but also demographic facts.

The case of Jimma City is even more dramatic. On language: Oromo (40%) Amharic (42%) but on ethnicity: Oromo (47%) and Amhara (17%).

The likes of Kassa are obsessed with the language criteria, although even this does not take him any further. As shown, his central point, Shawa being majority Amharic speaking, is far from the truth, rather a wishful thinking!

In any event, it is a well known fact that regionalization and nationalism have never been defined only by language but also history and geography. Almost all people of the Republic of Ireland are English speakers, but that never stopped them from breaking away from the UK. A Dubliner would feel insulted if you question his Irishness simply because he speaks English. The Scottish and Welsh barely have any other language of their own but this has never stood in the way of their movement for independence or regional autonomy. Why all this fuss with Amharic in Ethiopia then?


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