Discussion on Ethiopia’s Nation-Building in Mekelle

Many observers of the Ethiopian political and social life conclude that the nation-building in the country continues to face important challenges. How do those challenges look like? How to overcome them? How to make sure that a nation building process turns more to the future than to the past?

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Mekelle University wanted to shed some more professional light on the matter and invited to a joint conference on March 30/31, 2018 in Mekelle. The prospects and challenges of the past and present nation-building processes in Ethiopia, the roles of history and civic culture in nation building as well as the paradigm of continuity and discontinuity were discussed.

Amongst the presenters were Professor Bahru Zewde (Emeritus Professor of History, Addis Ababa University), Dr. Assefa Fisseha (Center for Federal Studies, Addis Ababa University), Professor Medhanye Tadesse (London Kings College), and Dr. Tenna Dawo (Department of Philosophy, Addis Ababa University).

The relationship between national consensus and nation-building; whether Ethiopia needs to rewrite its history or not, and if so, who should do that; who is a historian and what is the professional ethics, methodology and source standard required; if lack of consensus on Ethiopian history is destroying the people’s togetherness and social fabric, should Ethiopians forget their past and start afresh; the dangers of selective history, and the need for an inclusive history that excludes negative feelings; the urgent need for standardization of Ethiopian history teaching process in the country, and the relationship and distinction between nation-building and political contestations in Ethiopia, were the some of the topics that were raised and debated on the conference.

The presenters stressed that the issue of nation-building along with its main actors and approaches has become part of the country’s pending controversies on the broader history of the country, and the conference highlighted that it is crucial to create consensus on the issue to smoothen prospective efforts of nation-building. In this context, the vital roles of Civics and Ethical education were emphasized. The impacts of previous nation-building processes and their ingredients are still very much alive.

More than 150 participants contributed to the event and stressed that the issue is very timely as politicians, academicians and civil society organizations try to engage on the matter.