Haile Larebo, is a highly experienced Oxford educated Ethiopian professor of history teaching in Morehouse College, USA. Recently, he appeared on two Ethiopian Diaspora media outlets, ESAT and another voice chat room, ECADF and spoke extensively about Ethiopian history.
He spoke from his perspective and based on his research works. Initially, one may assume that since Haile hails from the Southern region of Ethiopia, he would serve as an impartial and unbiased source of history and could not be labelled by anyone because the groups that often clash about Ethiopia’s history are the largest ethnic groups of the North, Central and peripheries of Ethiopia. However, his take on Ethiopian history was immediately attacked groups mainly by Oromo activists in the Diaspora as soon as his interviews were aired.
This Oromo ethnonationalist Website, which was very offended of all, called the media outlet that aired the interview to apologize. The website said the fact that Haile used the G**** word (although he said it in a reported speech) and refereed to the 16th Century Oromo migrants as “nomadic pastoralists” was offensive (in fact he said “herdsmen”). The Website goes on to refer to the Professor, the media and some audiences as “Ethiopianists”, “Right Wing” and so forth, terms which could not be applied to an Ethiopian or African context.
Although Haile released another video explaining himself and clearing the air, an online petition calling for the Professor’s “dismissal” was launched by two individuals namely Bizuayehu Haile & A Keto saying “we the initiators of this petition request that Professor Haile Larebo be displined for distorting history and using derogatory terms. ”
The petition targets 1000 signatures and has been signed by 900 people so far.
On the other hand, people who supported Haile’s analysis and “freedom of expression” have started their own petition with a goal of collecting 2000 signatures and have so far reached 1330 signatures. The group on its part argues:
we are outraged and stunned by the baseless accusations and the hate campaign orchestrated by radical tribal groups who wish to defame Professor Haile Larebo’s reputation by branding him as racist for his teachings on history and interethnic understanding in Ethiopia.
Therefore, the petition calls on the College ” to take appropriate steps toward protecting Professor Haile Larebo’s integrity and well earned reputation and to honor him for his continuing effort on advancement peaceful coexistence across ethnic groups in Ethiopia and across the globe.”
Ethiopia’s history, like many other countries is so complex and driven by various interest and political groups. While it is possible to solve misunderstandings and miscommunications through discussions, it is unfortunate that it is becoming a culture to campaign, smear and boycott individuals such as Haile Larebo and musician Teddy Afro for merely speaking their own truths.
A bit of tolerance, patience and listening could probably save us.