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On ‘The Battle of the Campus’

January 9, 2013

Back in 2010 Jawara Mohammed wrote an article regarding to student conflicts in Ethiopian Colleges and Universities, their causes and the goals and Abiye Teklemariam wrote a ‘brief-response’ to Jawara’s view on the case and now, after early 2013 students conflict in Addis Ababa University, 4 Kilo Campus the debate reinvigorate.

The Why’s

Most of the arguments and counter arguments arise are in relation with the cause of ‘scholars’ battle’ in the academia. Jawar blame the ‘Leviathan’ as the main cause of the ‘campus wars’ with a special emphasis to benefactors and ‘state secret agents’. And Abiey gives much emphasis to students as a forefront runner of causing such conflicts and pointing to the ‘Deconstructive Oromo Students’ and the ‘Hegemonic Non-Tigrian northern’ students.

As a passive ‘warrior’ in the campus wars, I prefer a mediocre view on the cause of such ‘battles.’ As a student I was witnessing about three ethnic clashes in my four years University enrollment but, my pacifism can’t help me from a big scar in my leg that resulted from the ‘battle’.

All the three clashes that I witnessed involve Oromo students in the one side. At this moment, we may ask, why always Oromo students? And we may conclude that something is wrong with the Oromo students and their culture of tolerance as Abiye argues.

However, this can’t be the sole justification for the question of Why always Oromo’s? Rather we have to ask the question of why Oromo students develop such mentality?  It should go far to the victim mentality of an Oromo and an ongoing repression to the Oromo’s, thanks to OLF et al. The trend is, if an Oromo student had a critical view on the regime, the system label such students as the destructors of Ethiopia via OLF.

So, how can students who knows and experience such labeling had a constructive view on the Ethiopian state? And can able to think beyond the Oromoness/Oromummaa? It is difficult.

However, some students also should take the blame of Intolerance. Why a student is happy to read Assefa Jalta’s books and unhappy on Aba Bahri book? Ok, if someone considers that, Aba Bahari’s book as a distorted one, then deal with that in a scholarly manner. But, as the past told as some students raise their voice against Aba Bahari’s book and ask for ban of it in the libraries. There are so many such incidents that happen in Ethiopian schools. If a Grade 6 student grows to put an Amharic textbook in a trash pan and develop hatred, how can s/he swallow a book with any ‘pejorative’?

Back in the campus, my colleagues apply to the university to ban a book about State Formation in Ethiopia, because of that, the writer mentions the ‘G’ word in different many pages and successful in their ‘effort’. But, Is this the way forward?

As Alemayhu Fantaw in his latest “Response to Abiye Teklemariam’s piece re: Campus Wars” put It “I don’t see the problem with deconstruction as long as it is used to critique or revise the received opinion of Ethiopian history.” But, my problem is the way peoples deal with it. Application for banning of a book because of you are ‘offended’ in the content is Laughable at best, Madness at worst and it can’t help us to solve the ongoing crises.

Therefore, In the one hand the government and its benefactors labeling of an Oromo student as trouble maker and the new version of it ‘Terrorists’ pushes students to feel to be in an aliens land and in the other hand some students unwise ‘protection measures’ of their ethnic group ablaze the fire. The role of ubiquitous party as well as idiocy of students takes the blame.

Vicarious Liability

As of my experience, most of the ‘ethnic battles’ in the campus are started from individuals brawl and diffused to an ethnic level. Here, the main problem is pointing to individuals who have no stake at all in the quarrel. When Gemechu and Hagos had a disagreement, why the blame transcend to Tola and Teklay? Why other students are vicariously liable for what they had no idea at all? This is the very essence of ‘campus wars’ in Ethiopia, Tribalization of individuals tussle and transferability of an individual’s fault to the group.

‘The New Deal’

The good thing is such Bi-ethnic and Tri-ethnic clashes seem diminished in the last 3 Years. Why? We can list so many reasons for such ‘improvements’.

Deal 1:

The Tribal relationship takes an ‘All-against-all’/’Every-One-is-Enemy-of-Every-One’ stance and that reduces a clash between two or three Ethnic groups. On recent arrest for the AAU incident, you can notice that there are some names from different Ethnic groups in the South, that had a conventional ‘observer capacity’ in different ‘Campus Battles’ in the past.

Deal 2:

Even if the enmity is still exist but there is one center of the cobweb, EPRDF. At this time almost all University students are members of EPRDF. As EPRDF recently claims that, in all Ethiopian Universities the party had around 200,000 Members. So, when there is a sign of a clash, it should be reported to the party organization in the moment and different ‘Cells’ that are organized in the department level discuss the matter unto revealing the culprits. Students are very cautious of such ‹አውጫጭኝ› and they prefer to keep going on the road.

Deal 3:

Students awareness on their surrounding is not as much as it was in the past (Sorry for spelling this, but it is my view). In such ignorance, they are only able to do with fun and glee. When such different concerns braided with the above mentioned two, it can only delivers deafening silence (The recent 4 Kilo incident is very exceptional)

But, beyond this fear based and far to the problem bushes, we had to look at the well founded Tree.

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