Abyotawi medrek/Revolutionary Forum
An exercise in free expression in revolutionary Ethiopia
Abyotawi Medrek was a column published in in the Amharic newspaper Addis Zemen, during the early years of the Ethiopian revolution. It was a forum that came out in the Amharic daily, Addis Zemen that was the most widely circulated paper in the country. Abyotawi Medrek was launched with the aim of promoting public debate and free exchange between revolutionaries of contending political organizations and revolutionary tendencies. The publication of the forum began in early 1976 and continued until the end of 1977. Abyotawi Medrek was thus a revolutionary paper within a government daily that was otherwise the mouthpiece of the state. It facilitated debates not between revolutionaries of a single party but between different parties, revolutionary tendencies and points of views. The column provided a platform for civilian and military left parties including the EPRP, Meison Seded as well as individuals to debate in public, their political views and positions. However, it also served as a forum where latent meanings of revolution were exposed and disparate aspirations and social visions are divulged, not only by political organizations and their members but also by party unaffiliated individuals. While some tried to articulate what socialism should be like in an Ethiopian context and contended with the debate on “African Socialism” in other parts of the continent, others zealously advocated for the implementation of ‘scientific socialism’ and insisted that socialism has a universal application. In this unique experiment in free expression, it can be argued that those who wrote in this forum were primarily concerned with what the new revolutionary society should look like. In this sense, Abyotawi Medrek represented one of those rare moments in the history of Ethiopia and its revolution where authors expressed their ideas freely and registered their alternative views about common themes. This moment was however rudely interrupted by the horrors of the Terror Years that not only stifled free political deliberation and debate, but also threw the country into the carnages of authoritarian military rule. This presentation will explore the outstanding issues that are engaged in Abyotawi Medrek with a view to expose the diversity of views that the rubric of revolution encapsulated.
Semeneh Ayalew Asfaw is a researcher at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town in the Department of Political Studies at the Faculty of Humanities. He is currently finalizing his dissertation project that explores the relationship between urban space, social and […]