By Teshome M. Borago
January 21, 2020
Spokesman of the Ethiopian ruling party, Taye Dendea, accused Oromo politician Jawar Mohammed of staging an incident to play victim in Oromia on Monday.
Taye is a leading official of the former Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), the party of current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Since the Prime Minister transformed his ODP to join an all-inclusive Prosperity Party (PP), Jawar Mohammed has fiercely became a vocal opponent. But some of Jawar’s tactics have become controversial, with activists nationwide blaming him for much of the ethnic and religious violence.
“You are inciting hate by dividing people by ethnicity and religion. But then you blame others when the consequences of your divisive words cause violence,” said Mr. Dendea, in a statement he published online in Afan Oromo.
The latest crisis occurred during the Epiphany (Timket) nationwide Orthodox celebrations in Ethiopia. As a sign of tolerance and co-existence in the diverse nation, this week’s Orthodox festivals were peaceful and colorful in most parts of the country, even in the Somali region’s capital city of Jigjiga where Christians are a very small minority.
But in parts of Oromia, where Jawar Mohammed is mobilizing his supporters against Orthodox Christians who display the Ethiopian flag during the festival, sporadic riots and violence marred the religious celebrations. Such tactics have angered many Ethiopian Christians; especially since both OLF and Oromo traditional flags were used without opposition from non-Oromos during Ireecha festivities.
In and around Harar region, where Oromo nationalists want more administrative control over the local Harari people, anti-Orthodox riots blocked roads as some faithful stayed home to avoid confrontation. Some Orthodox priests and Christians were also forced to remove their clothings that displayed the Green-Yellow-Red colors.
However, instead of calming his supporters, Jawar blamed the government security for ignoring protestors who later threw stones at an office belonging to the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a political organization Jawar recently joined. For this incident, Jawar’s supporters blamed Fano (Amhara youth) and Satenaw, a youth movement that grew out of Dire Dawa and Adama towns of Oromia. Unlike Fano, the Satenaw group is multiethnic and opposes segregation or ethnic-based politics in Ethiopia, similar to the ANTIFA group in the United States.
In response, Taye Dendea blamed Jawar for all of the problems during Timket.
In his latest statement, Mr Taye said:
“We know your routine. Yesterday you use a bunch of unemployed youth to stone your own office and tomorrow you will use your media to play victim and collect money from Oromo diaspora.”
Mr. Taye also accused Jawar of bringing up old Oromo grievances, on Emperor Menelik, referring to ethnic politics rising from development in the 1800s.
“Everytime you lose support from Oromos, you throw the words ‘habesha’ and ‘Menelik’ because this is your business and source of power,” he added.
The next national election in Ethiopia is scheduled for August, 2020.
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