First a brief context issue: those familiar with Ethiopian History will know the current Academic Dilema of either:
1)continuing to focus Ethiopian History along the traditional lines (The Queen of Sheba, Orthodox, Abyssinia, etc... story) or..
2) re-focus Ethiopian History so it also takes into account other cultural and national heritages (Oromo, Kafa, Sidamo, etc.)
I found this book quite dissapointing, and i almost feel Getahun Benti has deliberately mislead the public by choosing such an innocent title as "Addis Ababa Migration and the Making of a Multi-Ethnic Metropolis 1941-1971".
The book's main focus is not so much Addis Ababa but on having a go at "the Amhara", who are always treated as a whole, as a collective. It's the Amhara brutalized this and the Amhara stole that. Sentences like "most prostitutes were Amhara" are bound to cause controversy (however statistically accurate) but again, it becomes evident that the intention of the book is not writing a detached, balanced history of Addis Ababa's multiethnic growth.
a) The book's introduction doesn't begin with an introduction to Addis Ababa or the role and evolution of cities in Ethiopia's history.Oh no, in fact, these two crucial academic topics (crucial for his book at least) are barely mentioned by Getahun Benti. Instead, the book begins with a personal declaration regarding the Amhara brutality, racism and discrimination against his Oromo kith and kin. Now, I have NO problem at all with his views (my family in law are all staunch and proud Oromo from Hararge), but i fail to see how Getahun Benti, presenting himself as an objective academic, believes this is the most appropiate introduction to a book on Addis Ababa demographic evolution.
b) Getahun Benti goes on and on about the terrible legacy of "the Amhara". I once again have no discomfort for such views: Ethiopian History must be re-evaluated in more balanced ways, and in it the Oromo people have a major stake, if only because of the simple mathematical fact that they are the majority of the population. What strikes me is how Getahun Benti makes this also be, mathematically, the most discussed issue in his book. I thought he was going to write about Addis Ababa.
c) So, about Addis Ababa. A reader would expect a book titled "Addis Ababa: Migration and the Making of a Multi-Ethnic Metropolis 1941-1974" as mainly focused on the demographic and social composition of the city, and how this presented itself on the ground.
Getahun Benti does the first part quite well: it's not that difficult: you print stastics and comment on them)¡. What he completely fails is to present how all this wonderful data that he got his hands on was manifested on the ground. Examples: most of the population of the city were Amhara because of favourable pull factors. Okay, we get it, good information. A few were Gurage, few were Oromo, but even many southerers were in fact Amharas re-migrating north. Okay again, very interesting point.
But all these amhara, oromo, gurage, etc, what did they do once in Addis?
For instance, where did the Gurage migrants go, where did they live in Addis, what kind of accomodation did they access? Could they buy a plot of land? Did they rent it? From who? What economic mechanisms did they use to consolidate their positions in the city, given that there was an open Amhara-First policy? Nothing is addressed. Why did such neighbourhood attract mainly such ethnic migrants, why did such other area attract mainly such other ethnic group? Again, Getahun Benti's masterpiece on Addis Ababa has nothing to say.
I fully respect Getahun Benti has a bone to pick with many Ethiopian historians and their classic, centralist views which have ignored the legitimate consideration of Oromo people, amongs others. What i have a problem with is he using an academic essay on Addis Ababa's migration patterns to expose his views, and then leaving far more rellevant topics un-mentioned.
For instance, in 1970 there was already a Somali Terra in Addis. Why? What push and pull factors came into play in this case? What about the Gofa Sefer, how many were indigenous from Gofa, how many Amharas who had settled in Gofa back in the day and now were going back to northern Ethiopia? What economic and social relations, cultural interactions occur? What challenges did Muslim Ethiopians face in setting up commercial businesses in Addis, from whichever backgroun -Oromo, Gurage, Hadiya, Harari, whatever. All this happened between 1941-1974, but is not worth any mention in this book.What about the Armenian community, and their role in developing houses, businesses, etc. What about the Italians, not only during the occupation, but after the Battle of Adwa?
Now, it is not necessary to discuss all these topics, each author to their own. What shocks me is that a professor should believe that none of these issues are as important as having a go at centralist/amhara historians and their approach. Perhaps he could have changed the title, that's all.