30 October 2012

Ethiopia: Remembering the Inimitable On Ethiopian Flag Day


Ethiopian Flag Day was celebrated for the fifth time in a row across the country on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Cities and towns including the major ones such as Addis Ababa found another reason to come exceptionally alive as they remained throughout the day clad with millions of flags waving, from dawn to dusk, in the hands of people parading in the streets or from makeshift poles as well as masts.

The whole event was such that it was as if everyone and everything were competing in their own ways to inject the traditional Ethiopian patriotic values into the colour and fanfare these cities and towns usually reveal. Men and women, and young and old alike came out early in the morning to their schools, businesses and offices with one thing in their mind: that Monday was a day on which they observed, like they did four times previously, past legacies that gave new meaning and purpose to old symbols and terminologies.

There are many countries around the world which celebrate Flag Day once annually. These countries take it as their primary duty to pay tribute to their flags and everything they represented. Our country is doing it for the fifth time for purposes that, unlike the many other celebrations Ethiopians undertake, transcend immediate, short-term gains, whether they are religious or secular. Ethiopian Flag Day symbolises things, ideas, events or circumstances of much higher value. They stand for living together in peace and tranquillity accomplished with blood paid in a fierce struggle by millions of people over an extended period of time--peace and tranquillity, two things that were a rarity in much of our country's long history. Days like last Monday bring to memory the fact that people sacrificed their lives so that others could do their best in order to effectively prevent the necessity for similar future bloodshed and sacrifice. No other people can appreciate this very fact better than Ethiopians.

Though Ethiopian Flag Day is only five years old, the significance of the Green-Yellow-and-Red Ethiopian flag, a star with a light-blue circular background in the middle of it, has been telling a unique piece of story for the last two decades. This story is the story of the many nations, nationalities and peoples living now in unity and equality without the need to divest their respective original identity. It is to be remembered that this combination of things--namely, unity, equality and diversity--which, in bygone days, was equivalent to mixing highly volatile chemical compounds is a new phenomenon not just in Ethiopia but also in many other parts of the world. When the FDRE Constitution boldly stressed the imperative to adhere to this new scenario as the only mechanism to bring various ethnic groups together under the theme of Ethiopianness and, therefore, asserted it, some people thought that this was like building a house of cards. Days like Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, are a living testimony that Ethiopia's ambition as a unified, democratic country is built on a solid ground now more than any other time before.

From the above position, it follows that the utility of living together cannot be nominal. This is true not only among groups of people with their own unique traditions and memories, but even among people with the same elements of identity, as well. The social, political and legal structure which Ethiopia has instituted in its Constitution goes even further to make it possible for people who have a reason to be dissatisfied with their unity to isolate themselves and go their own preferred way. Thus, one is not bound to feel overburdened by any kind of association which he or she cannot do away with. And this includes being a part of a larger polity such as Ethiopianness represents. The Ethiopian flag which we celebrate every year stands for a much more accommodating, generous and tolerant system than its counterparts in the several previous regimes. This and the other reasons discussed above--and the many others left out uncontrollably, for that matter--make it all the more necessary to venerate, uphold, and be proud of the Ethiopian flag and everything it represents.

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