Whose Interpretation and Claim is the ‘Intellectual Adwa’?

By Habtamu Alebachew

1. Prelude
When I think of the concept ‘Intellectual Adwa’1 in the present context of Ethiopia, I recall in my mind one of the intriguing natures of politics—the rule of divergence versus tolerance. No great leader or a party has ever had produced a ‘magic bullet’ remedy for all problems of society that produces divergences. No influential leader or a party program has never had satisfied all citizens and groups equitably, if not equally. Trite but true, no modern values of humanity have had been absolute and spotless to the level of absolute consensus in societies. This rule was the major reason for the giant philosopher, Aristotle, to languish his entre life in search of what he popularly calls the ‘golden mean’ or
‘line of political moderation’.

‘Intellectual Adwa’, as an outgrowth of the Adwa Victory of 1896, is one of these controversial concepts in Ethiopia lacking a minimum of intellectual consensus. While ‘political and military Adwa’ is relatively clear, ‘intellectual Adwa’ persists in its obscurity probably shrouded by politically motivated polarized interpretations of history. I do not feel that it was wrong to read literatures by the recent and present generation of Ethiopian scholars in either owning or disowning the Adwa Victory, as our history has been equally one case of irregularities. The problem comes when a certain view argues that its position is an absolute representation of all the rest. In tune with this, the question of ‘intellectual Adwa’ is one that deserves discussions on its 117th anniversary.

According to Paulos Milkias, the growth of intellectualism in Ethiopia since the 1950s and 60s not only greatly diverged from the spirits of past glorious history of Adwa but also directly went headlong against its heritages. Paolus blamed on the obsession of the Ethiopian intellectuals with foreign knowledge in the search for Ethiopia’s domestic malaise. As the result, Paulos cites Immanuel Kant’s ‘immaturity’, as the characteristic feature of the Ethiopian intellectual where ‘foreigners’ tell us our own history. This is evident, for the author, that Ethiopia
has not achieved the politico-military parallel of the Adwa victory that is intellectual Adwa.

Before we see Paulos’s critic in some details against its relevance to Ethiopia’s intellectuals today, let us further draw intersecting borders between …

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Whose Interpretation and Claim is the Intellectual Adwa