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Ethiopia, just like the UK, is not made up of people from the same origin growing in numbers over a period of time and becoming a nation.
Instead it's made up of different tribes from different origins settling in an area which later becomes united under one rule to become a nation.
These diverse people have their own language, culture and traditions and occupy their own lands within the country.
A universal trend towards urbanization has presented these different groups with common interests and problems, as they now live side by side.
One of the biggest challenges these societies are facing is overcoming prejudice to create equality and harmony.
- Unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, esp. of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group.
- An unfavourable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
- An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.
- A preconceived preference or idea.
Prejudice in a society can be expressed between different kinds of groups. This could be because of a difference in skin colour, religion, political belief, sexuality etc.
And this problem is not found only in the western world, although people have more awareness, but all over the world even in the smallest group of people that live together.
Today I would like to present briefly a comparison of how this issue affects societies in my country and the UK.
I would like to start by looking at the different composition of groups that make up these societies in terms of ethnic divisions.
- Pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.
- Referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.
Ethnic Groups in Ethiopia
Like most African nations, Ethiopia is a land of many tribes, ethnic groups, cultures and religions that exist together under a common flag.
The largest ethnic group, comprising 40% of the total population is the Oromo.
The Amhara are the second largest ethnic group at 30% and an additional 20% of the population speaks their native tongue, Amharic.
Smaller ethnic and linguistic groups include the Tigray at 15% of the total and the Somali, Gurage, Borana, Awi, Afar, Wolayta, Sadama and Beja.
Ethnic groups in the UK
UK: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; note - Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales.
According to the 2001 census ethnic groups in the UK are classified as : white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6%.
As we have seen above ethnic diversity in the UK is different from Ethiopia in that the ethnic minority groups in the UK include people from different countries or even different continents while in Ethiopia the diversity is limited to people from a smaller geographical location.
However regardless of how far away people come from the issue still stands that some form of prejudice still exists in both societies.
Let's see how these ethnic groups relate to each other:
Ethnic Relations in Ethiopia:
Traditionally, the Amhara have been the dominant ethnic group, with the Tigreans as secondary partners. The other ethnic groups have responded differently to that situation.
Resistance to Amhara dominance resulted in various separatist movements, particularly in Eritrea and among the Oromo.
Eritrea was culturally and politically part of highland Ethiopia since before Axum's achievement of political dominance; Eritreans claim Axumite descendency as much as Ethiopians do. However, in 1889, Emperor Menelik II signed the Treaty of Wichale, leasing Eritrea to the Italians in exchange for weapons. Eritrea was an Italian colony until the end of World War II. In 1947, Italy signed the Treaty of Paris, renouncing all its colonial claims. The United Nations passed a resolution in 1950 establishing Eritrea as a federation under the Ethiopian crown. By 1961, Eritrean rebels had begun fighting for independence in the bush. In November 1962, Haile Selassie abolished the federation and sent his army to quell any resistance, forcefully subordinating Eritrea against the will of its people.
The "Oromo problem" continues to trouble Ethiopia. Although the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, never in their history have they maintained political power. During the period of European colonialism in Africa, the Ethiopian highlanders undertook an intra-African colonial enterprise. Many ethnic groups in the present state of Ethiopia, such as the Oromo, were subjected to that colonialization. Conquered ethnic groups were expected to adopt the identity of the dominant Amhara-Tigrean ethnic groups (the national culture). It was illegal to publish, teach, or broadcast in any Oromo dialect until the early 1970s, which marked the end of Haile Selassie's reign. Even today, after an ethnic federalist government has been established, the Oromo lack appropriate political representation.
But things have been improving. As more and more integration between different tribes takes place, with time, people are learning to be more tolerant and respecting towards each other.
This could also be due to the fact that people have learned to recognise their differences openly and accept each other.
This is typically exemplified in that now;
- News papers and radio broadcasts are available in different languages.
- TV air time is assigned for Oromigna and Tigrinya broadcasts.
- Although Amharic is still the official language, different regions are now teaching their languages in primary school
Ethnic relations in the UK:
What we see in the UK is completely different. Some people believe that this is one of the more tolerant societies where people from outside are welcomed and given a fair treatment by every one.
We have to admit that this country has a long experience of having a diverse society. This can only help in that, people understand that there is always another way of doing things (other cultures, belief), equally important to the individual as it is for them.
But still I believe there is a lot of room for improvement where people, not only the native ( UK born ones) but the ones that come from abroad to live here need to make a conscious effort to improve their understanding of other's cultures there by learning to accept and respect them.
All these improvements imply that as people learn that the best way to live together is by understanding each other's differences and respecting them, they will form a better society where prejudice is overcome.
I believe the society in Ethiopia is far from perfect but at least it is heading in the right direction.
People can recognise their differences but are expected to respect each other.
If we continue in this direction and also educate the young generation about our cultural diversity in a positive way, we could look forward to a much brighter future where prejudice gives way to understanding and harmony.