Civilian deaths in Bahir Dar and the danger engulfing Ethiopia

August 7,2016

Bahir dar protest Source : ESAT
Bahir dar protest
Source : ESAT

In the latest string of wide spread protests in Ethiopia, residents of Bahir Dar City took to the street this morning (Ethiopian local time) in what locals are saying is a record high number in the history of the city.

Social media reports seem to suggest that at least two civilians ( one of them reportedly a girl) are killed and more than 40 are wounded after Agazi forces opened fire on protesters.

As many as forty of the City’s Felege Hiwot Hospital new patients were chanting songs and slogans in the street of Bahir Dar ,just half an hour or so ago before admitted to hospital,for the causes that they care about ; Wolqaite identity question, freedom and democracy in Ethiopia.

As in the cases of other cities where there was protest against the ruling party, defense force (mainly agazi) was deployed by the government. Heavy weapons and artillery are also deployed in the city according to ESAT report which cites sources local sources.

Thirty people were reportedly killed in yesterday’s protest in Debre Tabor, Gonder, and other cities in south, south west and south east of Ethiopia.

Telephone lines are disconnected. Internet and social media platforms are blocked.

Protesters demand

For several weeks now, protests in various cities in north western parts of Ethiopia are demanding identity question and at the centre of it is Wolqaite – a territory which used to be part of Gonder region and was incorporated to Tigray region of Ethiopia following take over of power by Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Ethiopians who seem to be articulated and well informed about political developments in the region do have the conviction that the ruling party is rather in the business of implementing its long term clandestine plan of exterminating Amhara ( some use the language genocide) in pursuit of perceived interest in realizing a political project of “Greater Tigray Republic.”

Another widely held belief is that TPLF is basically all about dismembering Ethiopia and they point to wealth creation project for Tigray at the expense of the rest of Ethiopia (East, west, center and south) and repression against all Ethiopians except Tigray, in their view, as an evidence that TPLF after something else, not Ethiopia.

What is clear is that the Ethiopian region that constitutes Tigray swelled geographically after incorporating lands from adjacent areas in the west, south east of Tigray which the Leaders of Tigray Liberation Front leaders consider to be very important strategically and economically – perhaps a clue that the “Greater Tigray Project” is a serious one as far as leaders of TPLF are concerned and a big number of them are high ranking officials in the Federal Government of Ethiopia. Further more, TPLF leaders have established a special relationship with Sudan’s Albashir government. Sudan is given land from the western parts of Ethiopia which is settled by Amharas. Sudanese political leaders, including Al Bahsir himself, are regulars at TPLF party celebrations in Tigray.

One of the most common description of Ethiopia’s ruling elites ( they are locally known as woyane and it is a specific reference TPLF) that resonates in protests (past and present) is “leba” – meaning thief.

Ethiopia’s flag is one of the many controversial issue between greater number of Ethiopians and Tigray People’s Liberation Front government. Ethiopians insist that the Ethiopian flag they revere and love is the one that Ethiopian patriots carried when they fight against foreign invaders to maintain the independence of Ethiopia.

Among many political reforms that the current government initiated and implemented after taking power, through the then lucrative appearing ethnic politics, was changing Ethiopia’s historical flag. Whenever there is a protest, in the country abroad, one of the incidents that happens is that protesters remove the new flag and raise Ethiopia’s historical flag. It happened at the Ethiopian embassy in the US. It happened in Israel. It happened in African countries. It happened in Ethiopia.

Protesters in Bahir Dar also demanded release of political prisoners,including Bekele Gerba who is a leader of Ethnic Oromo political party, democracy, freedom and an end to the TPLF rule. Ethiopian constitution does not outlaw political demands so long as they are peaceful. All the recent protests including the protest in Bahir Dar this morning demonstrated a remarkable peaceful signs. Reactions of Ethiopians in social media is that forceful military action was absolutely unnecessary.

The future of Ethiopia

The future of Ethiopia is clearly uncertain. Many fear that it is degenerating to chaos faster than any one could imagine.

Many Ethiopians in the country and abroad criticize the United States and its allies for not exploiting good relations with their client regime in Ethiopia in order to avoid a Rwanda like genocide experience in the near future.

It is very apparent that the country seem to be consumed by a potentially dangerous ethnic politics that could distabilize the whole region.

TPLF plays it from a position of power – and wants to play it with a cover of Ethiopia. Other radical Oromo groups based in the diaspora, with apparent connection to middle east, play it from a position of opposition politics. And now the regime is deliberately instigating Amhara movement by inciting hate against Amharas in Tigray; basically by adhering to what rather look like anti-Amhara policies in a number of ways. Horrifying killings have started to happen in the hands of regime forces. Observers say while the killings in Southern, South Western ans South Eastern Ethiopia against Oromo speaking Ethiopians is motivated mainly by economic goals, the purpose of killings in North Western Ethiopia is entirely different.

If all the accounts are true, and they seem to be, missed point for TPLF leaders is that no group of people is likely to benefit from the impending danger. It could even affect the entire horn of Africa where you have Turkish presence (and interest), other major powers and also radical elements like Al-shabab.

Written by Dimetros Birku
Could be reached on twitter : @dimetros

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