Part II. Abyssinia

 

VF: Your article appeared in the Yemen Times before you started posting your comments on Ethioindex’s Medrek forum. Another commentator, Yahya al-Olfi, also wrote on the Yemen Times with the title “Yemeni Africans, the Untold Story”. In that article, the scholar listed the Amhara, Tigre and Afar peoples as Yemeni settlers in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopian history teaches that whereas the Amhara and Tigre are Semitic peoples, the Afar are Cushitic people, as are the Oromo, Sidama, Somali, and so on. Apparently, there is some conflict here. What is your view on this?

 

Prof: Well, I am responsible for what I say, not the approaches of other people, even colleagues within the same newspaper. First, I prefer the term ‘Yemenite’ to the term ’Yemeni’, and I have published in this regard. Second, we know that both, Amhara and Tigray, emanate from the environment of Axum, Axumite Abyssinia. The name itself of Abyssinia, Habasha, has been attested in Ancient Yemenite, ‘South Arabic’ as many Western scholars say, inscriptions as ‘Habashat’, the name of a tribe. So, certainly one can say that the Amhara/Tigray/Axumite Abyssinians originate from the ancient Yemenite, Semitic but not Arabic, cultural – linguistic milieu. Let me add at this point in this regard that I reject the term ‘South Arabic’ / ’Sudarabique’ for what concerns Pre-Islamic Yemen. The appropriate term is ‘Ancient Yemenite’.

 

The Afar people did not come from Yemen, or if you want, we have not a single indication in this regard. You say, let me quote you, ‘, the Afar are Cushitic people, as are the Oromo, Sidama, Somali, and so on’. This is terminologically wrong. All the people you mention, Afar, Oromo, Sidama and Somali belong to the great Khammitic linguistic group that encompasses many subgroups, namely the Berbers of the Atlas area, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, who speak Tamazigh, a language that is written through use of an old scripture, the Haussa and Peul / Fulani of the Western African countries from Senegal to Nigeria, the Kushites of Eastern Africa. Oromos are Kushitic certainly, and there is vast Kushitic substratum in the area of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. As far as the Afar and the Somalis are concerned, I believe we can certainly classify them among the Khammitic peoples, but I am not sure they truly belong to the Kushitic subgroup. Of course, they are not Semitic; I disagree with this approach.

 

VF: You also wrote in the Yemen Times that “Habasha, Abyssinia, is a very beautiful name, and Abyssinians need not to think that they may shine to the Western eyes more impressively through use of the term Ethiopia.” Isn’t Habasha associated with half-caste? And if that is the case, why do you think the name Abyssinia is very beautiful?

 

Prof: Well, that sentence disturbed or at least intrigued many. It is a figure of speech that admittedly implies a lot of concepts, ideas, and approaches. Any name of a country, of a people, of an area is beautiful! One must be proud of one’s own national or ethnic name. Trying to hide behind a false name, usurping a national name that belongs to a completely different environment, are sick, problematic and finally disastrous policies. But you are right as well. Habasha was associated with a kind of caste, but this is normal, since the earlier homonymous group was an emigrant tribe that became the ruling class of the small Axumite kingdom at the northern confines of the present day Abyssinia and in the coast between Adulis and Avalites, which correspond to present day Massawa and Assab.

 

I say that the name is beautiful because I admit that, following various emigrations from Yemen to Axum, already in the pre-Christian periods of the Ancient Abyssinia, a significant civilization was developed in that part of Africa. After the christening of the country, an important monophysitic Christian cultural environment was developed there, and Abyssinia, along with the Copts of Egypt, who belonged to the Roman Empire, and the three Christian states of Sudan, Nobatia, Makkuria and Alodia, gave a distinct, African, dimension to the phenomenon of Christianity.

 

Of course, it would be pure naivety to search for innocence throughout History. All the ‘important’ states, countries, and peoples that developed civilization as we say, were oppressors of other peoples, and tribes, made unjust wars, committed crimes, and executed policies mostly characterized by discrimination, barbarism and criminality! Have no doubt about it! When we speak about World civilization, we use a very conventional term. But we must admit realities within that context.

 

Now, within any nation, all sorts of debates and reconsiderations or reassessments can happen. Any people can reconsider part of its past and, through an appropriate and well cultivated change, bring about a fresh, more human face. Germany did so after WW II. Admitting the commitment of a mistake, or understanding the limits and/or the inefficiencies of a certain national ‘face’ or ‘portrait’ is a great act that testifies to the strength of the national dynamics, to the force of renovation within the people in question, and so on!

 

If the development of the education, the economic growth, the diffusion of democratic political practices, and the intellectual endeavors are great within a country, then certainly the political – academic – intellectual establishment of the country will take the appropriate decisions in this regard. If a country has expanded up to the point of including neighboring peoples, annexing other lands, and enlarging the original surface, and at the same time this country reaches the aforementioned level of development, the country’s political establishment will be driven to the correct conclusions and the appropriate decisions. Many languages will have to be considered as official, political rights must be extended to all, cultural divergences must be incorporated into a larger context, the ‘face’ of the country must change in a way to be always representative, and even the name must change. France mobilized its resources in order to unify first another five countries, and later even more, but France would have completely failed from the beginning, if the French had insisted in keeping the name France instead for Europe.

In our world, representation and equity, equal right to everybody, have the same importance as freedom. Either you adopt this mentality, adapt to the new global environment, and cope with the rest, who also undergo many changes, or you die.

 

What I meant in the case of Abyssinia was precisely this:

-         either be frank enough to admit that you rule the country tyrannically for the interest of the Amhara tribe, and then be happy with naming your country ‘Abyssinia’, since the Abyssinian minority dictatorially imposes its language and culture, religion and behavioral system as the predominant elements and characteristics of the country,

-         or, if you want to call it ‘Ethiopia’, make the name correspond to the contents, accept the Oromo language as the only official language of the country, and stop preventing through undemocratic measures the Oromo people from controlling the political life of the country and the executive power, since they are the real majority.

 

In other words, only when the real representative of the name ‘Ethiopia’ will exercise power in that country, the country should be called like that. Amhara tyrannical and archaic rule and ‘Ethiopia’ as the name of the country is an oxymoron that perpetuates the dysfunctional character of a country that leads the world in misery, pestilence, poverty, starvation, plague, and death! I do not believe that the majority of the unhappy citizens of that country deserve such an ignominious destiny.

 

VF: You have written in one of your articles on the Yemen Times that Yemen’s history goes back to pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times. How important are pre-Christian and pre-Islamic histories to you? In some ways, isn’t the world going back to the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic times in terms of the search for the root identity, their olive trees, as your writings suggest? Some people argue that six thousand years of Judeo-Christian-Islam history ended in 1969 by the landing of man on the moon. What is your opinion?

 

Prof: For the countries, the peoples, the ethnic groups that have a part of History that antedates their Christian/Islamic Ages, automatically that part becomes the most authentic, the most genuine, the most determinant, the most preponderant part of their entire History. You may ask me now why this is like this. I will tell you and I will examine with you several examples. 

 

The reason behind this statement of mine is not that my field is Ancient History. In reality what happened in the Antiquity, from Sumer to Rome, en passant by Egypt, Phoenicia, Anatolia/Turkey, Iran, India, Yemen, Sudan, Greece, NW Africa, Eastern Africa, is that the local civilization in every case developed characteristics that were very genuine and very particular to every people. During those days, there was certainly an influence, an impact of one people, culture, civilization, on another. But, at the same time, there was also a very strong character of proper and adequate incorporation of the various new elements that were coming from outside. This is due to the fact that nature was an important ingredient of the composition of the civilization to a great extent. We cannot imagine Mesopotamia without vast surface between and around the twin rivers of Euphrates and Tigris. But Egypt is very different; it is narrower and longer. Anatolia and Iran mean mountainous plateau and cold winter. Greece means view of a few islands from the continental coast, or from an island. How many coastal places do you know in Greece from where you cannot see an island at all, and your view is lost in the horizon? Very few! But from the coast of Lebanon your view is lost in the western horizon! So, these environments made the Greeks different than the Phoenicians, the Egyptians different than the Assyrians. The more we study the topography of two ancient civilizations, the more we identify reasons for further variety, and differentiation.

 

Hesiod truly copied the Assyrian/Babylonian epic of the Creation (‘Enuma Elish in Assyrian/Babylonian means ‘when high’ and the epic starts by these two words) in his Theogonia (Genesis of Gods) but, if you read Theogonia, you recreate an Ancient Greek environment, not Mesopotamia; this means adequate incorporation of a foreign element, adaptation. During those times, the basic perception of the world was mythical, and the mythical expression respects the natural environment much more than the rational expression.

 

When at the times of the Late Antiquity we reach at the level of systematization of religions, cults and ideologies into rational/mythical systems of thought, the so-called Gnosticisms, then we achieve that a concept, an idea, an ideology can be diffused in another country and among other people without adequate incorporation into the new environment. In such case it remains as projection of the original environment. Christianity emanated from the environment of Gnosticisms. Islam presents striking similarities with a Gnostic system, Hermetism. Accordingly, Christianity and Islam brought the natural environment of the deserts of Judea and Arabia to Europe, India, everywhere they were spread out.

 

Through all this, you can understand what is authentic as character for a Turk today is the Hittite/Anatolian behavioral system, for an Iranian it is his/her Achaemenid – Sassanid past, for a Greek it is Ancient Greece, and for an Egyptian the Pharaonic periods.

 

The Judeo-Christian-Islamic past does not go beyond 1200 BCE, covering therefore just 3000 years. What do we know of Abraham? A few pages of text, be it Coranic, Evangelic, or Old Testamentary. This line represents a very wrong schematization of the Oriental History. Without the Assyrian Babylonian Ut Napishtim, there would never have been the Biblical – Coranic Noah. There is so much of Ancient Egyptian monotheism and aniconic ideology in the Bible and in the Coran that no one can interpret today the three aforementioned religions properly without Egyptology, to give you just one example. Without Akhenaten’s religion there would never have been a certain Moses – Musa.

 

Without the concept of Etana – Messiah of the Assyrian/Babylonian sources, and without the identification of Assurbanipal of Assyria (669 – 625) with the Messiah – Mahdi, as a first appearance heralding a second, ultimate one, there would never be so many Messiahs, Christs, and Mahdis…

 

What is the longer and more original text about the fight between the Messiah and the Anti-Christ at the End of Time? Certainly it is the lengthy Hieroglyphic composition of the temple of Horus (the Egyptian Messiah) at Edfu, Upper Egypt. The book of the Revelation is short, abridged… In addition, this book of the New Testament almost copies word-by-word expressions of the Hittite Book of Revelation that described the Ultimate Fight, Tasmisu against Ullikummi. The ‘Beast rising from the Sea’ is the first reference within the World Literature to the Hittite Anti-Christ, Ullikummi, 1400 years before John is bestowed with the keys to the originality of the secret Hittite thought to which modern decipherment offered us access again! Ullikummi antedates his latest copy, i.e. Masih Dajjal, the Islamic Anti-Christ by 2000 years. That is not ‘yesterday’, you know.

 

Even more, in Egyptian and Assyrian/Babylonian sources of theological contents we have more literature on a more … difficult subject that Judaic, Christian and Islamic philosophy and theology tried not to tackle: What was God doing before the Creation? How was it then?

 

Landing on the moon did not have any consequence and did not change anything in this regard. It was already known as possible to Lucian, and more recently to Jules Verne. Man on the moon is depicted on a Phoenician relief…

 

VF: When you started writing about Abyssinia, a careful reading of your comments suggests that you were in a way advising Abyssinian political establishment in a positive way to face the truth and chart a better course for the future. It seems many participants from Abyssinian side chose not to listen well and you ended up being viewed as their adversary. Do you agree with this assessment?

 

Prof: Yes, that is plain truth! I have no problem with any state in the world. I reject totalitarian regimes, but before expressing an advice, I do not start arguing. These participants you refer to may live very tragic circumstances in their psychic world, and if things continue like this in Abyssinia, they will face even worse situations at the level of social participation and national politics.

 

VF: As a follow up to the previous question, you remind me about the Habasha person with his Gabi in North America during the summer (Gabi is similar to a scarf, which is made of cotton and much wider that covers the whole body above the knee). If one helps him to put it down, he resists or his best relatives tend to put it back on him, as a reflection of culture, not realizing how uncomfortable his dress is in this climate of rationality. It seems you tried to take off the Gabi from them by bringing out the truth, but there was stiff resistance in the way of insulting than in the way of genuinely debating on your ideas. Did you have similar observation?

 

Prof:  Absolutely! The matter is not that simple however! I attempted to do so on several occasions and within various contexts: Greece, Turkey, Islam, Europe, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and Abyssinia! It is a persistent case! You may ask me why I proceed so, of course! Anticipating the question, I will answer right away! Large part of the world is currently under colonial domination, exploitation and manipulation, without any chance of disentanglement, innovation, and reassessment of the past and the present, without any truly free, unbiased, choice for the future. The colonial rule lies on large part on a perverted manipulation and subtle maneuver through which the 'third world', the domain of the engulfed and exploited masses of Latin America, Africa and most of Asia, sticks to its traditions, while trying to mix part of them with a badly understood and perceived modernity. This is precisely the trickery. Though the western disciplines of Humanities the colonial rulers are easily maneuvering the situation without the colonized masses and governments, academia and intellectuals understanding!

 

In reality a tradition emanates from an entire cultural environment to which this tradition consists in an indispensable, organically linked, part. But this entire cultural environment as a living expression of living human beings changes, undergoes various reassessments, can reach a universal peak in its rise, or can get disintegrated totally and irreversibly; this last situation means that the civilization in question ceases to exist. A civilization can also undergo a long lasting decay. When the decay is there, the various elements of the 'entire cultural environment' cease to have a real meaning, becoming therefore meaningless acts and/or beliefs without any real value. This is the Physics of the Civilizations. Nothing can revivify a disintegrated, meaningless, act or belief in such a case; it is a clinically dead element.

 

Now, if a foreign power manipulates the administration of a people in decay in a way to lead the unfortunate decadent people to stick to the dead element, any sort of traditional act or belief, it is guaranteed that the people in question – or the intellectual class of this people, or at least some of that class' members/elements – loses completely the last chance of distancing from the marshes of cultural stagnation and decadence, and of reassessing/reconsidering the entire situation. By sticking to the dead element, the people in question cannot revivify either the element itself or the original 'entire cultural environment'. Simply, these people are stuck more and more to the marshes of decadence, becoming therefore a pathetic imitator of foreign elements, cultures, behavioral systems, civilizations. The situation becomes worse when the thought surfaces among the decadent and besotted – through the foreign cultural and educational interference – that a successful marriage of its own culture with the colonial expanding culture can be carried out! The ensuing barbarism consists basically in an obnoxious and uncontrolled mixture of

  1. a collapsing culture of which none among the people it expresses has a mastership, understanding and real assessment, and
  2. an expanding, and yet not truly understood, foreign, colonial culture that is used as a means of domination by the colonial country over the decadent people.

 

In such a situation, the tradition we started speaking about, the dead element that originates from an earlier 'entire cultural environment' that does not exist anymore, must be deleted, eradicated and forgotten. From these people one must remove the Gabi you are talking about, from Muslims the hedjab (veil) and the useless prayer must be uprooted, so that all the decadent peoples and cultures be forced either to ultimate original thought and reassessment of their situation (as well as of the world affairs) or to final death. 

 

VF: Some Amharic metaphors and common names tell something unique about the Amhara people’s culture. For example, one metaphor in Amharic goes sewun mamun qabro newu, which roughly means trusting a person is after burying him/her. Some common names are Gizachew, which means rule them, Getachew, their master, and so on. Do the metaphor and names suggest to you a culture of suspicion and fear?

 

Prof: Abyssinian – Amhara – culture is the expression of the Semitic people that dwells in the limited, marginal, mountainous area of Gondar around Lake Tana. The Christian Abyssinian kingdom of Axum pursued expansionist policies in the very beginning, invaded Ethiopia, that is present day Sudan, in 370 CE and destroyed its capital Meroe, where still today one finds many dozens of pyramids and mortuary temples for the 'Qore' and the 'Kandake", the Ethiopian kings and Queens. Later and within the context of an alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire, Axumite Abyssinia attacked Yemen and attempted to find a way for its ally at Constantinople to contravene the Sassanid Iranian control of the Eastern trade (with India, Eastern Africa, and China). Of course, the Iranian supremacy was such that they kicked the Abyssinians out of Yemen, the Abyssinians’ original land to which they had returned as invaders, and annexed Yemen, strangling therefore the Eastern Roman Empire with heavy taxes and customs. Soon after that came the Islamic explosion. Not only Axum lost all its chances to come back to Yemen, but the Eritrean coast was permanently cut off, and the Abyssinian state was isolated from its derailed ally at Constantinople that had lost all its provinces in Africa and all its Asiatic possessions at the east of Taurus mountains (that separate Anatolia, present day Turkey, from Syria) and the upper flow of Euphrates.

 

To address the situation, the also isolated Christian kingdoms of the Sudan, Nobatia, at the North with capital at Faras near Wadi Halfa, and Makkuria at the center with capital at Old Dongola, 600 km in the south of Faras, merged. They were able to survive without many contacts with the Caliphate that controlled Egypt – first, in the 7th c., not further than Assiut in the south, and without any control of the Red Sea; the Saharan roads of trade with the Western Africa world around river Niger permitted unified Nobatia /Makkuria to stand until the 12th century. Contrarily to the Sudanese Christian state, Axum collapsed, since the vicinity of the coast, the Islamic supremacy in the coast, and the lack of connection with other parts of Africa predestined it to be doomed for many long centuries. The transfer of the capital at Gondar, and the medieval rise of the Abyssinian kingdom came after a long period of decay. Even then the feeling of having lost to Islam, and of having been defeated and isolated, as the Western legend of the 'kingdom of Priest John' lets us surmise, created a cultural, behavioral system that has nothing to do with imperial behavior, abundance, knowledge, science, exploration, expansion, research, culture, wealthy life, spectacles, grandeur of art and of royal manners, and all the ensuing majestic environment. Axum and Gondar Abyssinia was focused on a mere survival, a hard effort to preserve as a hysterical opposition to Islam the monophysitic perception of Christianity that was rejected by Constantinople and Rome with the same vigor by which also Nestorianism (the diametrically opposed to Monophysitism Christian theology) was denounced. I say 'hysterical opposition' because I understand that to anything in this world one can expect always a 'positive' or 'constructive' opposition. But this was not the case in this regard.

 

To go straight to the heart of your question I understand that the conversion of numerous Abyssinians into Islam brought a long period of obscurantism and backward situation in the country. Most probably the outright majority of the intellectuals and artists, erudite scholars and learned wise men adhered to Islam early. It is quite indicative that, when the illustrious Caliph Maamun contacted kings throughout the world in the second half of the 8th century, in his particular effort to collect manuscripts and parchmins, and to make of Abbasid Baghdad the universal epicenter of the learned world, he did not contact anyone in Abyssinia. There was nothing important left there…You understand that, by saying this, I do not imply that Gueze literature is insignificant, but I assert that the most representative specimens had already been taken away from Axum by the Abyssinian intellectuals who were converted to Islam.

 

There was no domain of knowledge left in the tiny state of Abyssinia after the rise of Islam. What were left there were a limited political continuity, and an insistence on religious traditions that had been shaken by the explosion of Islam, and by the conversion of many Abyssinians to the faith that challenged Christianity. From these basic characteristics emanate the suspicion and the fear you ask about.

 

VF: Abyssinians have intermingled with Africans, perhaps with Oromos more than with any other people. Few Amharas may have no trace of Oromo or other African people. Even the Amhara rulers including the 16th century emperors in Gondar are rumored to have Oromo trace. If you talk to an Oromo farmer in Macha, western part of Oromo country, he tells you that after seven generations, Godgam, a province of Amhara state, becomes Oromo. Some theory goes that the Amhara people were formed from Oromo and Tigre armies of the ruling class in the late 13th century as a result of the former’s rebellion to the latter. This story goes that the Amharic language was created to confuse the ruling class in this rebellion. In the early 1990’s, some Amhara scholars including Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Organization, argued that there are no people called Amhara. In fact, some people believe that many Amharas are Kush’s children. Some genetic evidence (see Figures 1 and 2) also puts certain genetic trait frequency of the Amhara people close to that of the Oromo, and interestingly, both similar to the Greeks. We can also compare the number of Amhara and Tigre people, which is estimated to be about 32% of Ethiopia’s population, with that of Yemen. Ethiopia’s current population is roughly about 70 million, which puts the Amhara and Tigre peoples’ number at roughly 22 million. On the other hand, according to a July 2004 estimate, the total population of Yemen is about 20 million. If we assume that most of Yemen’s citizens are Yemeni and that the growth rates on both sides of the Red Sea have been comparable since the migration, it seems that one out of two people from Yemen migrated to Africa. That seems to be unlikely since migrants are generally much lower in number than the people left behind. So, doesn’t it appear that the people who are called Amhara are more Oromo or African than they are Yemeni?

 

             Figure 1. Correspondence analysis showing a global view of the relationship between
             Mediterranean and sub-Saharan and Black African populations according to HLA allele

             frequencies in three dimensions (bidimensional representation). HLA-DRB1 allele

             frequencies data (adapted from Arnaiz-Villena, 2000, HLA genes in Macedonians and

             the sub-Saharan origin of the Greeks).

 

             Figure 2. Correspondence analysis showing a global view of the relationship among West
             Mediterranean (green), East Mediterraneans (orange), Greeks and sub-Saharan populations
            (red) and Blacks (gray) according to HLA allele frequencies in three dimensions
            (bidimensional representation). HLA-DR and DQ (low-resolution) allele frequencies data
            (adapted from Arnaiz-Villena, 2000, HLA genes in Macedonians and the sub-Saharan origin
            of the Greeks).

 

Prof: No, I totally disagree with the last point, but you asked me many things altogether. There is no proof for an artificial construction of the Amharic language. Both, Tigrinya and Amharinya emanate from Gueze but with several differences due to diverse intermingling, and to the isolation phenomenon. You know Portuguese and Spanish, and Tigrinya and Amharic are equidistant from one another, and yet before 1000 years there was neither Portuguese and Spanish in the Iberian Peninsula nor Tigrinya and Amharic in the Abyssinian plateau. There was certainly an intermingling with other people, Afar, Oromo, etc. But we have so little information about that and we cannot deduce concrete, imperative conclusions. 

 

Prof. Woldemariam may have democratic sensitivity and be a Human Rights activist, which is to his credit certainly, but he is a fully accredited member of the Amhara ruling class. As such, he expresses – through his papers and contributions – the Amhara political, cultural, ideological and financial interests.

 

To say that Amhara and Tigray peoples are Kushitic, so therefore Khammitic and not Semitic, is an aberration. There is no case to convince any serious specialized scholar in the world by saying this. What happened to these supposedly Kushitic peoples and they speak suddenly today totally Semitic languages as Amharic and Tigrinya? Who semitized them linguistically and later … disappeared? None, of course! I must add that it would be even worse error to say that Axumite Abyssinians and Gueze speaking people were Kushitic as well!

 

All this testifies to Amhara paranoia and incredible fear of losing the political – financial – ideological control over a country that apparently is not theirs, and a vast area of which they have been 150-year occupying tyrants. It is a provocative alteration of history that we have all to denounce as a colonial scheme. The entire problem is the existence and the tyrannical control Amhara people exercise outside the province of Amhara; yet, that province is their realm, there they must stay. To perpetuate their illegal and colonial control of the Oromo country they entered into the colonial scheme that I will describe to you briefly.

 

A) The name 'Ethiopia' represents an older, greater, more enlightening, more appealing, more meaningful to Westerners, and better documented past than the name 'Abyssinia'.

B) The real rightful users of such a name are the oppressed Kushitic peoples of Abyssinia, the Oromo, the Sidama and others.

C) So, ‘we’ will eradicate the name of Abyssinia, and we will diffuse the theory that Amhara are Ethiopians as well, renaming the country as 'Ethiopia'.

 

I want to stress in the most categorical way here that I do not claim that they had the originality of this thought! This colonial perversion belongs exclusively to French, English and Italian historians, in their efforts to address demands of their colonial diplomats and politicians. But the Amhara people’s uncultured and uneducated political class fell victim to such a trap!

 

This led them to hate themselves and their own identity, the Abyssinian identity from which they – by themselves – have been stripped off! A terrible case of a self-inflicted disaster! The result was more than 100 years of Abyssinian misery, poverty, tyranny, pestilence, starvation, and death. The Oromos were not fooled by this ludicrous argumentation! Because the Amhara rulers are besotted enough to think that it is possible to press a button and become Chinese, or Kushitic, this does not imply that they have the right to rule a country of which they do not represent more than a sectarian 20%! It is as provocatively idiotic as it would be for 1 million Mongolians to announce "we are Chinese; let us rule 1 billion Chinese now"!

 

There is an essential question one may advance at this point; why did the invading Abyssinians of the 19th century not try to expand Amhara culture, Abyssinian culture, among the people they invaded? Well, they attempted it through the imposition of Amharic as the only official language in the country, but they failed and they realized their failure. This phenomenon is due to the fact that Oromo culture and Sidama culture are superior to Amhara, and I employ this term on this occasion in the sense of 'alive'. You must not limit it among these peoples only, since Afar and Ogadeni are equally concerned. It has to do with what we discussed earlier. Amhara – Abyssinian – Axumite culture is dead; what one may see among them is the permanence of some dead stereotypic elements of the Abyssinian culture that are the crumbs of Axum. In the case of Oromo, the traditional pastoral system that was formed after this Kushitic people settled in the pasturelands of the Oromo country survived to far greater extent.

 

The Amhara Abyssinia must truly be a hell of fanaticism, barbarism, fear and hatred. They seem to forget that the entire country shifts to Islam, and they do not know how to react. You can change a national name, shift from Abyssinia to Ethiopia, but you cannot pursue such tactics with regard to religion.

 

I want to discuss another point of your question. You attempted to make an equation, i.e. 20 million Amhara and Tigray people originating from Yemen vs. 20 million Yemenites, and then ask how they represent the same number of population since the former were just a small tribe that left Yemen at a time it did not constitute even 5% of the Ancient Yemenite population. Well, things that happen in History are very different from Mathematics.

 

I could say that why Tunisians, who are the descendants of Carthaginians, who in their turn left their city, the famous Tyr of Phoenicia, being just a tiny part of its population, outnumber the present day Lebanese, who are descendants of almost all the Ancient Phoenician cities – states, not just of Tyr (present day Sur). One can repeat endlessly this concept in many numerous cases.

 

What makes the difference is the various trajectories followed by two different peoples. You know, at the eve of WW I Germany had 88 million people and France 44 million people. Why now, only 90 years later, Germans are just 82 m and French are 60 m people? The answer is easy: 'different trajectory'. Greece had the same population as Yemen in 1960, but now Yemen has almost double the Greek population!

 

You cannot therefore compare the isolated in the Abyssinian inland Amhara and Tigray with the exposed Yemenites, famous seafarers on the shoulders of whom lies all the legendary Islamic maritime tradition from trade to tale. From the Eastern coast of Africa to India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Indonesia and China, plus the entire Red Sea area when we are talking 'Islamic thalassocracy', a phenomenon that lasted many centuries, we mean mainly Yemenites, and to lesser extent – and in later periods – Persians. In the same way, in the Mediterranean, Phoenicians, Alexandrian Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and Greeks converted to Islam (rather known as Turks, since very few Muslim Turks arrived in the 5th Islamic century to the area of Anatolia, present day Turkey that is the Asiatic part of the Eastern Roman Empire, and it is mostly the local Greek speaking population that adhered gradually to Islam) affirmed the Islamic maritime superiority for more than 1000 years. You cannot ask similar questions, when you have migrations of all sorts. Spaniards are just 40 million people but how many millions of Latin Americans are the descendants of Spaniards, who left Spain and settled in the 'New World'! Yemenites are present in significant numbers in Abbasid Baghdad, Iran, Arabia, the Indian coast, and Eastern Africa; even in China there was an 'Arabic district' in several historical harbors, and when we say 'Arabic' in this case, we mean exclusively 'Yemenite', since Arabs never had maritime tradition.

 

VF: The previous question was referring to some sections of Amharas only. Certainly there are Amharas that are Semitic. And the fact that Tigres are Semitic is not in dispute. As far as the numbers go, in some ways, we are talking about what happened in recent tumultuous times versus what may have happened since the Abyssinians started migrating to East Africa. Another point we need to explain is the fact that Amharinya is more recently developed language compared to Tigrinya and since the number of Amharas is at least twice as much as Tigres in both Ethiopia and Eritrea combined, isn’t it intuitive that Tigre Abyssinians would be naturally larger in number than Amhara Abyssinians?

 

Prof: Tigres are Semitic as well. They look closer to the Axum times Gueze. They lived separately from Amharas for centuries, were not included in the Gondar kingdom, and this signifies a different trajectory. Tigres were more exposed to Islam, so I do not understand why it is strange that Amhara outnumber them. Again different population growth does not give the key to important historical issues and to linguistic matters. The grammatical structure in both cases is absolutely Semitic, irrespective of the various degrees of ethnic and tribal intermingling.

 

VF: Abyssinians wrongly refer to other peoples in Ethiopia as Habashas. After your comments, it was evident that some Habasha participants declared “from now on I am an Ethiopian”, thus distancing themselves from Habasha. Even many Oromos are not conscious about the exact meaning of Habasha and refer to themselves as such. Obviously, the culture of believing in mythology than reality is far too common in Abyssinia. In this sense, the peoples in Ethiopia under the influence of Abyssinian ruling class may have been living in their Dark Age, and when they face the truth, they show the tendency for some change. Did you feel that this era may be the beginning of the Kushitic and Abyssinian peoples’ Renaissance in the Horn of Africa region? And if yes, do you feel that your comments are making a contribution towards that?

 

Prof: It is an aberration if Amhara and Tigray Abyssinians call other peoples living in Abyssinia 'Abyssinians' or 'Habasha'. The only modern Habasha, as continuation of the Semitic Yemenite tribe Habashat the name of which we find in Ancient Yemenite epigraphic documentation of the second half of the first millennium BCE, are the Amharinya and Tigrinya speaking people of Abyssinia and Eritrea. The Oromo people must mobilize their resources to search about their link with the great Kushitic past, the great Ethiopian state at the area of the present day Sudan, to retrace the connection with the area of their origin, and to identify the Oromo National Heritage in a pertinent way. They must also seek their link and connection with some people among those living in the neighboring Sudan. Efforts, endeavors and various issues must not be isolated one from another, and must be left only within the frame of collapsing Abyssinia. Great perspectives for culture, education, and politics must be engaged everywhere Oromo communities live. For too long, Darkness prevailed in the entire area from Sudan to Mozambique; there were indigenous and there were colonial reasons to it. Now, light must prevail, human rights must prevail, Democracy must prevail, and a conceptually rich search for the African Past and the African Identity must be engaged. Many scholars from Africa, from America, and from the non colonial world may be ready to help in this regard. An authentically Kushitic new Oromo generation of intellectuals must be formed to address many issues, from the needs of the Oromo nation at all levels of an auto-determined administration to the African rejection of the colonial inspiration bogus-historical dogma of Greco-Romano-centrism. I feel most honored to contribute to this direction of developments.