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Asafa Jalata

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Two National Liberation Movements Compared: Oromia and Southern Sudan

Asafa Jalata addresses anticolonial struggles in the postindependent peripheral nation-states of Ethiopia and Sudan. In each authoritarian state, national movements have emerged to oppose colonial domination, economic exploitation, cultural destruction and repression, and the denial of individual and national rights. Political disfranchisement and exclusion, repression and war, and massive human rights violations in Oromia and southern Sudan foster the development of Oromo and southern Sudanese nationalisms. The “ethnocratic” nature of the Ethiopian and Sudanese nation-states and their racist ideologies have prevented them from transforming themselves into multinational civic states that can protect the interests of all peoples regardless of their ethnic or racial origins. Cultural arrogance and racist beliefs in Sudan rest on the ruling group’s linkage to the Middle East rather than to Africa and a legacy of southerners as a one-time source of slaves sold in the north and the Middle East. Oromos in Ethiopia are also derogatorily referred to using a term that characterizes them as slaves. Successive Ethiopian regimes have used the ideologies of Christianity, “socialism,” and “democracy” to legitimate colonial domination and exploitation, while in Sudan ideologies ranging from “democracy” and “socialism” to Islam have justified domination of the southern Sudanese. The author believes that only a democratic settlement leading to national self-determination can achieve a durable peace in this part of Africa, or indeed, avoid a human tragedy on the scale of Rwanda, Burundi, or the former Yugoslavia.

social movements; national liberation struggles; Ethiopia — politics and government; nationalism — Oromos — Ethiopia; political theory — self-determination; southern region [Sudan] — politics and government; Sudan — politics and government

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 27, No. 1 (2000): 152-174