Prejudice, stereotype and discrimination, however rich, educated and self actualized one might be, disillusion the person, if victimized. Aside with skin color, ethnic, religious and other types of discrimination experienced in most parts of the world in this day and age, one form of discrimination is still widely abound in most developing countries particularly in Ethiopia, occupational. This short piece solely based on secondary sources, reviews the embedded occupational, social, cultural and ethnic discrimination and regime oppression against an isolated and little known society in the southern part of Ethiopia, the Manjo or also spelled as Menja or Manja.
Eating: As a society of hunter gatherers the Manjo eat porcupine, colobous monkey and wild pig, and also meat of un-slaughtered animals and in terms of behavior; the Manjo are believed to dislike education, like polygamy, and hate hygiene. These were eating and behaviors that were unacceptable within the dominant society of Kaffa who were Christianized much earlier than the Manjo. Added with the historical power stratification since the Kaffa Kingdom, the social, occupational and culture of the Manjo put them at a disadvantage of being discriminated by their own lookalikes who have similar language, skin color, geography and ‘blood’. Manjos are not invited to parties, gatherings by their neighboring ethnic communities such as the Kefecho. They live excluded in the low lands, and their children are also excluded from sitting in same schoolroom desks and taking part in school activities by other ethnics. In one interview with an ethnographer, a Manjo father said “why can dogs enter keffecho’s houses and we (menjos) are not allowed in?”
The discrimination and stereotypical racism against the Manjo by the dominant ethnic group of the Kaffa has been extreme. Yoshida (2009) speaking to individuals from both groups recorded this,
Some Kafa people say, ‘The Manjo have nails divided into two. Men have tails at the back of their heads, and women have tails on their foreheads’. The Manjo regard the Kafa as liars, ready to deceive the Manjo. And the Manjo also consider the Kafa as cowards and extremely suspicious, whereas the Manjo are brave and honest.
Yoshida says the domination and oppression of the Manjo community exceeds norm and culture and is even exhibited in manners of clothing and greetings, “When a Manjo happened to wear the same clothes and shoes that a Kafa wore, the Manjo was, more often than not, beaten and forced to take them off. Moreover, when a Manjo encountered a Kafa on a road side, the Manjo was expected to humiliate himself, stepping aside, bowing and greeting the Kafa with the phrase ‘showocchi qebona’ literally meaning, ‘let me die for you’.”
Yoshida puts the oxymoron contrasts of the Kaffa towards the Manjo when it comes to food production. The Kafa people eat honey which is collected by the Manjo but disgust to drink the Tejj they brew.
When the Derg was overthrown by the current regime in 1991, the Manjo that enjoyed the former’s protection were left exposed to the angry Kefecho who associated them with the regime (Yoshida, 2009).
The coming of the current regime, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to power had brought the emerging changes started by the former Junta backwards. According to a PhD thesis on the Manjo society written by De Sisto in 2011, the current regime’s ethnic federalism that defines ethnicity along “linguistic lines” got the minority ethnic group of the Manjo even more “marginalized”.
As the Manjo speak the language of the majority ethnic group, the Kaffa, the current regime didn’t legitimize them to be independent ethnic groups that would enjoy their own ethnic, religious, economic, political and rights and independence. Most Manjos today argue that the current regime’s ethnic polices have forcefully assimilated them. Tekle (2005) asserts the Manjo today suffer again from the regime’s “non recognition and exclusion from political and administrative powers”.
According to Yoshida’s 2008 article, two educated Manjo elites after studying the habits, customs, discrimination, injustice and local government oppression, distinctness of their language; petitioned the government (local) to be recognized as a people, establish their own special Woreda (District Administration), form their own political party and for self determination. However, the Federal regime and the local authority subjectively disqualified their requests saying their population was too small, have few educated members, and they have the same language and culture as the Kaffa. The Manjo petitioned again in 2007 but were again refused.
This writer recalls the bold statements of one of the founders and considered by some as the “Father” of the EPRDF, Sebhat Nega’s interview with the Voice of America (VoA) Amharic Service regarding ethnic rights in Ethiopia since the current regime took power. In his interview a couple of years ago, the veteran politician said that most Ethiopian ethnic groups did not previously even know amongst one another before the coming to power of the current regime and the implementation of its ethnic federalism which he believed was an achievement in all forms.
A PhD thesis on the Manjo people by De Sisto completed in 2011 conversely reveals the deterioration of the status of socially discriminated minorities under the current EPRDF regime.
Strong arguments by academics depict the fact that there is vivid evidence that the position of the socially discriminated minorities has worsened since EPRDF’s seizure of power (Vaughan, 2003; Pausewang and Zewde, 2002).
Kochito, W.M. (1976). The Historical Survey of Kaffa,1897-1935. Unpublished Essay in History. Addis Abeba University, Ethiopia.
Levine, D. N. (1974). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Petros, G. (2003) Differentiation and Integration: Craft Workers and Manjo in social stratification of Kaffa Minorities of Craft Workers and Hunters in Southern Ethiopia. Unpublished Master’s thesis. University of Berger, Norway.
Tekle, S. M. (2005) ActionAid Ethiopia Social Integration Project: Root causes, factors, and effects of Discrimination on Manjo Community in Kafa Zone: The Case of the Decha and Bitta Woredas. Unpublished Report.
Yoshida, S.(2008) Searching for a way out of social discrimination: A case study of the Manjo through the 2002 incident in Kaffa. Nile-Ethiopian Studies, 12
Yoshida, S.(2009) Why did the Manjo convert to Protestant? Social Discrimination and Coexistence in Kafa, Southwest Ethiopia, In: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, ed. by Svein Ege, Harald Aspen, Birhanu Teferra and Shiferaw Bekele, Trondheim 2009.