Joint Open Letter to the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Support of the Use of the Legal name Finfinnee by the U.S. Embassy

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We, the undersigned Oromo-American scholars and professionals (OS&P) together with our colleagues in Europe and Australia, write to express our concern about the unprecedented online attack against the Head of Mission in Ethiopia by some Amhara extremists. The extremists are reportedly “outraged” because the Embassy posted content online that referred to the capital city of Oromia and Ethiopia by its original name, Finfinnee.

Historical record clarifies that in 1887, Emperor Menelik’s wife renamed the city of Finfinnee (which means hot spring in Afaan Oromo) as “Addis Ababa” (new flower in Amharic) following the forcible incorporation of Oromia into the Abyssinian Empire (later renamed the Ethiopian Empire in the 1931 Constitution of Emperor Haile Selassie). During the era of Emperor Menelik (1889-1913), Ethiopia instituted an assimilationist policy that centered on the Amharic language, Amhara national identity, culture, and Orthodox Christian religion at the expense of the languages, religions, and cultures of other nations and nationalities, which is why Finfinnee was renamed as Addis Ababa. This assimilationist policy—which would last from 1889 to 1991—was designed to facilitate the conquering and transferring of resources from the conquered peoples including the Oromo, the single largest national group in Ethiopia, and to gradually erase indigenous languages, cultures, and identities. For instance, Afaan Oromo, the Oromo language, was banned and it was not permissible to teach, preach, write, and broadcast in the language up to 1974. Even today, the Orthodox Church does not permit preaching and publishing in Afaan Oromo. Oromo Orthodox Christians are denied the right to worship, teach, learn, and reason their religion in their language.

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