The ‘epistemological violence’ of Awol Allo

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Quite than attempting to talk throughout the divides, the academic-activist has fanned the flames of ethnic bigotry.

The primary time that I heard the time period ‘epistemological violence’ was at a convention on multilingual nationalism hosted by the Addis Ababa College Faculty of Federalism within the capital metropolis in 2019.
Dr. Awol Allo from Keele College within the U.Ok. had given an eloquent presentation, and when an viewers member insinuated that Awol had made a sure assertion due to his ethnic background, he responded, politely, that this line of questioning was a type of “epistemological violence”.
I used to be fascinated by the thought of epistemological violence—the idea that one’s query of how you recognize what you recognize could also be construed as an act of brutality.
Epistemology is the examine of the idea of information, or of how we all know what we all know.
It’s partly formed by private expertise, and, as a feminist, I acknowledge that the majority epistemology is gendered. We all know what we all know by the expertise of studying, or the psychological processing of that information.
The place the information is shaped by empirical information that’s however open to interpretation that might go in a number of instructions, however when a topic assumes that that the object-person has understood it in such a fashion due to their very own biases, then they might stand accused of epistemological violence.
Awol is aware of his affect as a political pundit.
He’s a captivating, Western-educated mental whom I loved talking to the few instances that we met. I feel he is aware of that he, together with different Oromo intellectuals, is setting a discourse that has been left large open whereas Ethiopian social media learnt to breathe once more.
He has presently stepped into the political void left by the, for my part, overdue arrest of Jawar Mohammed in early July, and I for one had been desirous to study what statements he would have on the clashes that claimed greater than 150 lives following the homicide of Hachalu Hundessa on 29 June. Would he apologize on behalf of Oromos for the bloodshed of harmless others, as he had completed in October 2019 following Jawar’s ’Tekebibiyalehu’ (‘I’ve been surrounded [by security forces]’ battle cry?
Would he set a reasonable center floor for the Qaarrees and Qeerroos who may hearken to his phrases?
The fact hit with the bitterness that many people didn’t need to expertise.
Within the interviews and social media posts that I noticed because the unrest, Awol has taken on a defiant place in his commentary on the homicide of Hachalu and the bloody aftermath.
His first publish after the homicide on 30 June, acknowledged: “They murdered our Haacaalluu, our irreplaceable icon, our definitive sound. Maybe the brightest mild of my individuals has simply extinguished. I’m heartbroken.”
Awol didn’t make clear who he assumed “they” have been—however, we all know who his persons are.
The Oromo intellectuals within the Diaspora that we had hoped would lead their communities out of the quagmire of blind hatred have been in actual fact drawing traces within the sand that sunk them deeper into an ‘us-vs-them’ narrative that was depending on their ethnic and non secular backgrounds—and never the extra complicated actuality that the majority of us dwelling in Ethiopia observe.
A query of epistemological truths— and of epistemological violence—seems when Awol to at the present time, continues to say that ‘they’ killed ‘our star’ even supposing two individuals with alleged hyperlinks to the Oromo Liberation Entrance have been arrested for his or her suspected roles in Hachalu’s homicide.
In subsequent posts and media appearances, Awol went on to decry the arrest of Oromo political leaders resembling Bekele Gerba and Jawar, regardless of their involvement  within the chaos that ensued following Hachalu’s loss of life, which degenerated into a number of nightmarish days.
Awol’s insistence on the political nature of the arrests is even supposing non-Oromo political leaders resembling Eskinder Nega and Lidetu Ayalew have additionally been arrested on costs of organizing the resistance to the Oromo youth who got here out carrying sticks from all corners of Addis Ababa and surrounding cities.
So far, Awol requires the discharge of the Oromo activist-politicians, and he holds his floor that the Prime Minister, whom he nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize final yr, has imprisoned them for political acquire.
Justifying the unjustifiable
There isn’t a credible risk to federalism in Ethiopia. Awol, and others, have common a bogeyman of Ethiopianness or Ethiopiawinet that neither him nor I, not to mention the Ethiopian youth (virtually all by definition youngsters of the EPRDF-era) know to be able to justify his silence towards the atrocities dedicated by his personal facet.
We’ve moved far past the instances the place Ethiopia was a cultural hegemony with one state faith, and we’re all of the richer for a multiethnic, multicultural Ethiopia with a wholesome competitors between dominant narratives. We’ve critical issues, sure, and they’re as ethnic-borne as they’re gendered, however a threat of return to the reductive model of Ethiopiawinet that Awol rails towards just isn’t one in all them.
In different phrases, his threats of the annihilation that can swallow Oromos and different non-hegemonic ethnic teams if Ethiopiawinet is unchecked are hole, and don’t justify his refusal to acknowledge the murders of unarmed individuals who didn’t select their ethnicity, or the place they discovered themselves when all hell broke unfastened.
I’m a non-Oromo girl of blended Ethiopian heritage who has at all times been drawn to the underdog story of the Oromo battle, and I gave my son an Oromo title in acknowledgement of a tradition that I got here to like early on in life. I can’t be silent now when in a sick twist of Teregnanet (‘It’s our flip now’), it’s now Oromos who kill and terrorize Others.
In his writings Awol identifies with Oromos who have been dispossessed previously, however many Ethiopians determine with those that are defenseless at the moment. Moreover, whereas us pan-Ethiopianists bestow admiration on these Oromo activist-intellectuals who’re calling out hate by their very own, we additionally must confront those that is not going to, significantly after we used to carry them to the next esteem than the warmongers of the activist sphere.
The ‘neftegna’ narrative
We’d like Oromo intellectuals now greater than ever earlier than.
Nonetheless, they lose credibility once they willfully ignore the horrific twists that Oromo Protests have taken. Who ought to know higher than an Oromo mental, and one as sensible as Awol, that ethnic labels are deadly?
I learn his cussed protection  of the time period ’neftegna’, a time period that was innocent sufficient when it referred to non-ethnic Oromos dwelling in Oromia, however which has now morphed into the rally cry of ethnic cleaning together with the newly coined, ’neo-neftegna’ and query what could also be driving the usage of this language.
Phrases are impartial till they’re all that you just hear as you’re being dragged from your own home, or till a kindly Oromo landlady saves you by vouching for you in Afaan Oromo as occurred to my cousin, a physician who has lived in Oromia all his life, when he escaped hazard in Batu (Ziway) on the second day of the unrest.
I ponder if the non-Oromos who have been hacked to loss of life in Shashemene heard the echoes of ‘neftegna’ as they struggled for his or her final breaths?
Did their youngsters, born third or fourth era in that locale, with no extra choices of the place to go than I and my youngsters would have if ‘Finfinne kegna’ (‘Finfinne [the political Oromo name for Addis Ababa] is ours’) remains to be to go deadly? The place are you able to go when the place the place your grandparents have been born labels you with a goal in your again? What alternative do you’ve gotten however to battle, or to die, or to die preventing?
I have no idea whether or not historical past might be kinder to Awol and to his fellow discourse-setters than it has been to the ancestors whose hateful phrases Oromo liberation fighters heard as they have been overwhelmed and tortured.
Ought to he have identified higher than to articulate the bigotry that will deny the self-proclaimed identities of tens of millions of Ethiopians who view themselves as Ethiopian which, nevertheless he cloaks it in academic-speak, remains to be bigotry? As a result of epistemological violence works each methods.
When an mental with appreciable voice like Awol decides to border empirical truths in a manner that belittles and in the end harms whom he has made clear are Others, that’s as a lot an epistemological violence because the protection he levied at that convention when accused of considering in a sure manner as a result of he’s an Oromo Muslim.
The epistemological violence of Awol lies in his denial of the self-proclaimed identities of tens of millions of Ethiopians who view themselves as Ethiopian, and of his selective outrage when Oromo lives are threatened. His model of epistemological violence places Awol on the vanguard of the brand new wave of victimization that might hang-out Oromia, and Ethiopia, for one more 100 years.
I discover his cussed stance to be deeply regrettable.
I ponder if he may have helped stem the tide of ethnic violence whereas it was nonetheless stoppable? Would any of the killers have listened?
Will he nonetheless rectify his discourse, whereas we’re all nonetheless right here to study, forgive, and alter? Or will he defend his place till it’s too late, a 21st century perpetrator of the epistemological violence of his personal making?

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Primary picture: Awol Allo.

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