"Please read carefully as what the enemies of hararis think and talk about"
By Kassa Hailu (Ph.D.) | January 2, 2011
There are two important days for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians that move them to the eastern part of Ethiopia: The famous church of St. Gabriel at Kulubi, whose two annual festivities fall on 19th of Tahisas and 19th of Hamle every year.
Millions of Ethiopians enjoy the pilgrimage that has survived for almost a century. Attending this holiday was the main reason I travelled to Harar - my home town. Harar - the capital city of Harari region - is 525 km southeast of Addis.
Harar, which was established by the Somali-speaking people, is one of the oldest cities in Ethiopia. Its name originates from the crop 'sorghum' which has a similar name in somali language. Harar is the epicenter of Ethiopian cultural, religious, and commercial ties with the Arabian world that stretched as far back as the Ottoman Turkish territories.
Harar is also known for its beautiful architectural artifacts that include a masonry wall that circumscribed the oldest part of the city. The quality of the coffee grown around the city, the test of the khat (Cata edulis) consumed in the city, and the hospitality and friendliness of its people have been commended enough that any more effort in this line would be redundant. I left Harar later in 1990 to begin my carrier at one of the Ethiopian universities. I have been visiting Harar every now and then over the last 20 years. Yet, the sight of the current state of the city and the discussion I had with different individuals in the city forced me to put my fingers on the keyboard of my laptop. Read what I observed and go and check if you doubt it. The writing doesn't necessarily follow any structure but I have tried to touch issues of ethnicity, investment, and tourism. Let me hope that someone else will write about the discriminatory (and unconstitutional) employment and education policies in Harari and Somali regions.
Despite the fact that the concepts "Ethnic group" and "Ethnicity" are both political fabrications than anything else, it is important to remind that there is no one who claims to belong to a given ethnic group or ethnicity and can explain what he or she actually means by that. I am available for any sort of discussion on this regard with anybody interested. What is happening in Harar is nonetheless astounding. If you are not an "Adere" - as defined by EPRDF - then you are doomed to rejection and destitution (in fact 'Oromos' are treated with a bit of dignity). EPRDF's vague ethno-centric politics has apparently destroyed the socio-political landscape on which proud Ethiopian nationalism has been built in this part of Ethiopia - that is mission accomplished to EPRDF, I know. If your "given name" is meaningless in "Aderegna" (or in oromiffa), you are unemployable, anti-democracy, unwelcome, and despised.
People might want to know the "ethnic composition" of Harar at least as defined by EPRDF. The only clear evidence I have in this regard is what was left in the archives of the Dergue regime's Eastern Harareghe Administrative Office that show that Harar had 60% Amharic speakers (doesn't necessarily mean Amhara - unless we are confusing language with ethnicity just like EPRDF does), 30% 'Aderegna' speakers, and 10% others (mainly Oromiffa & Guragigna speakers) in 1991. While establishing Harari region, EPRDF annexed 17 rural Kebeles entirely inhabited by Oromiffa speaking people and made Harari region's governing body Aderegna + Oromiffa speaking. The former was given the presidency and the latter the vice presidency and less power. Another question people might ask is -why did EPRDF opt for minority rule? Unbelievable as it might seem, the truth is that EPRDF wanted vengeance against "Amharas" who, the front believed, waged war against it weeks after it has snatched virtually the whole country out of Dergue's grip.
EPRDF has a clear agenda against "non-aderes and non-oromos" such that they are not allowed to own any socially acceptable and long-term investment projects in the city. The texts below show how inhuman EPRDF and its Harari flagella are. For those who do not know what Harar used to look like a couple of decades ago, its current status might not mean anything, but for those of us who have seen the good old days of the city, what is there in the city is embarrassing to say the least.
Similarly, in Jijiga and other parts of Somali region the suffering "the Christians" and/or "the Habeshas - as they are being referred to by the Somali speakers" are going through is nothing less than genocide. What is worse is the wealth of evidence that EPRDF full-heartedly supports whatever being done by the crazy politicians and armed forces of the region. EPRDF or Meles Zenawi are entitled to their hatred of some "Ethnic groups," but they can't have this much right to abuse the rights of other Ethiopians only because they don't belong to unconvincingly defined political fabric.
Investment in Harar is possible only for "Aderes" and "to some extent - Oromos". If you do not belong to these 'Ethnic groups" the transaction cost, in terms of continuous bribing, is enormous and still you need to be lucky. Harar used to be among the few cities with advanced (relatively) social infrastructure until the downfall of the military regime in 1991. It used to be one of the best five cities in Ethiopia by then. After 20 years under the ethno-centric regime of EPRDF, Harar is one of the least habitable cities in the country and the least ranked city in the country - at least as per the 2010 competition of cities held in Awassa. The assertion that Harar is the city of co-existence is merely a cant. Islam is the only religion with the right to expand and build emirates everywhere in the city whereas Christianity, particularly Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has been under a continuous pressure to close its churches. Harari region is learning fast from Jijiga/Somali region where survival as a Christian has become virtually impossible. If you are not yet surprised, you will surely be when you know virtually all 'adere' politicians dream of Harar as an Islamic island. This is an illusion than a dream and they will never realize it even if EPRDF stays in power for 50 more years.
There is no any sign of co-existence when it comes to respecting the basic human rights of non-adere or non-oromo people in the city. Building upon what Meles and his colleagues (such as Tamrat Layne, Hassen Ali and very recently Tefera Walwa) sowed over and over, discriminatory policies and strategies have been framed and implemented to bar 'the unwanted people" from getting access to plots of land in the city to make investment on. Don't tell them to leave, rather make them leave.
One could easily tell how erratic and nonsense the 'policy makers' of the region are by simply looking at the series of slum type shops on road sides and pedestrian-pavements right at the center of the city. The Kenyan taxi (matatu) drivers say 'there is always one place for one person' - and that is no matter how full the minibus is. If you are an adere (and Oromo), there is always a plot of land in Harar you can put up your shop on. Go to or simply call anyone you know in Harar and ask who invested on what in Harar. If the profile of the investors shows any heterogeneity (in terms of the attributes we are talking about), then my apologies for misinforming. I assure you though you would prove me right.
Another good example for the lack of vision among politicians in Harari region is the challenge Haramaya University if facing in running its health science college situated in the former well-acclaimed Harar Military Academy. One would rationally expect any responsible politician to be pleased with the presence of any higher learning institution close to the populace he/she is "serving". Harari politicians have done all they could to obstruct the smooth operation of the college which could have contributed, at least to a limited extent, to the resurrection of the dying city. This is a case in point to see how the Felana-Ber politicians are behaving and further information can easily be acquired from any of the university officials, unless they are scared of the consequences of "freedom of speech".
In a nut shell, EPRDF and its irresponsible subordinates in Harari region have shown how myopic they are by destroying one of the most of attractive city in East Africa - simply by creating a market failure through shamelessly preventing the basic market forces from operating in the city.
It is a glaring fact that Harar used to be one of the most touristic places in the country for its social and cultural attributes. Although I don't have the figures fabricated over the last few years, I remember that Harar used to be a tourist destination as frequently visited as Lalibela and Axum. One good example might be the comment made by European tourists on Ethiopian radio some fifteen years ago that Harar resembles old European cities and attracts Europeans more than any other place in the country.
Come 2010, Harar is one of the least visited places in the county essentially for lack of any conducive environment. If you expect to get a hotel whereby you will have access to shower (be it cold or hot) everyday, then you will prove yourself wrong no matter how much you pay. The corruption behind the potable water for Harar project has never been an issue to EPRDF.
Sadly enough, the tourism industry is not likely to revive in Harar soon as no single Hotel has been built in the city since EPRDF came to power. There are only two internet cafes wherein you would wait for hours to send a single mail. Anyone who knew Harar in 1991 would be bemused by the speed with which Harar has deteriorated. In fact, one positive development is the building of 14 mosques over the last ten years in each corner of the city. These mosques are in fact serving the Muslim community constrained only by the lack of water.
It is really disheartening and discouraging to see Harar and its warm hearted people so distraught and degraded. Rest assured though those European tourists are not coming back to be shocked. How long?
There is no any moral justification to treat people in Harar so inhumanly only because they declined to usher in EPRDF in 1991 open handedly. EPRDF/Woyane was truly an enemy of the people and Harar people including "Aderes" and "Oromos" have fought against EPRDF's occupation of Harar. If EPRDF has to revenge for what happened in 1991 (Meles' barbaric mentality won't allow him to think otherwise), it shall do it against all Harar people. It is irrational and unacceptable to isolate some "ethnic groups" and collectively abuse for what they have or have not done.
So many people have left Harar to the pleasure of the illiterate politicians of the region and to the satisfaction of the dumb leaders of EPRDF. This is not to be happening forever. There is a limit for everything and that limit is approaching. EPRDF might not want to do anything about what is happening in Harari (and Somali) region. The short term consequences would be borne by the unfortunate "ethnic groups". The medium and long-term consequences, however, would be enjoyed by the currently dancing politicians of Harari region, Somali region, and EPRDF.
EPRDF would keep on confusing people with its meaningless diction of nation, nationalities and ethnicity. It will soon fail however and the current tide would flow the other way burning all those fingers and tongues poked against innocent people. Ethiopians have lived through a lot of trying times and they would prevail again and again. Politicians are however temporary. EPRDF and politicians in Harari and Somali regions have for the time being whatever they need to effect whatever pleases them. But, it is a matter of time before they are held responsible for everything they have been doing. I am sure millions of Ethiopians would love to see such irresponsibility held to account for all good reasons. To speak of myself, I would love to see that and I am too young not to see it through.
I never doubted that EPRDF has been the engine behind all ethno-centric atrocities in Harar, Bedeno, and Water (a small locality in Eastern Harareghe). I never expected either that EPRDF will have a national and humane agenda for Ethiopians in general and those of us in Eastern Ethiopia in particular. What worries me more is the naivety of the felana-ber cabinet who are being fooled for so long by the divisive and ambiguous discourse of the bunch of rebels at Arat Kilo.
No matter what the discourse might imply, the crime against innocent people, only because they don't belong to a given religious denomination or a vaguely defined ethnic group, would not be trivial when the time comes to answer for it. People have been traumatized, rejected, made destitute, and destabilized for their essentially natural identity under the encouragement of EPRDF. It is so saddening to see people carrying their belongings and "migrate" to safer places to escape from state-sponsored terror in Harareghe - an area which used to be the core of Ethiopian nationalism.
EPRDF and its half-hearted followers argue that some of us don't see the priest on a mountain of sugar; i.e., the democracy that group of nations, nationalities and people are enjoying, and complain too much for minor incidents. We all know that this 'group right' thing is in fact a lipstick on a political pig and yet some of us feel that 'some groups' are in a zero-sum game that is destroying the livelihoods of other groups without changing an iota of their own. Similarly, we don't need to be slapped on the face to know how painful a slap on the face of another person is. We are just saying EPRDF and its followers are committing a series of crimes which are unbearable and shall be stopped.
It is my hope that EPRDF and its Harari servants will change their 20 years old song of 'Adere only' and start acting responsibly and effectively. The cost Ethiopians will be incurring in the future only because of the irrationality so far would surely be tremendous. Woyane and its aderes should start cleaning up their mess.