March 9, 2020
Pervasive ethnic-based violence has slowed down in Ethiopia. But something bigger seems to be simmering underneath.
When Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) celebrated International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8, Oromo Media Network, whose former director is now a member of OFC party, aired it on tv live.
A woman, seemingly a radicalized ethnic Oromo nationalist, made a statement calling for all Oromo women not to marry habesha (a reference to ethnic Amhara and Tigre).
She went further and called for those who are already in an interethnic marital relation with what she called “Habesha” men to divorce them.
She spoke in the Oromo language. Citizens on social media translated her statement. It sounds as follows :
“Those of you who are from other areas need to take a lesson from Adama [Nazret]…The beginning of our struggle is on our men. We will make Oromo men who are chasing old habesha women the targets of our struggle. We will marry them, and we will not let them marry Habesha women. And those who already married to Habesha will divorce. Our leaders have no such problems and are good examples in that [they are married to Oromo]. The struggle of qeerree is on our men. Outside, he says he is an Oromo. But he has neftegna [habesha]wise at home.”
Core Oromo Federalist Congress leaders were in attendance in this televised hate speech, and they applauded it. Among those who were present were, Bekele Gerba and Jawar Mohammed, whose politically motivated claims about his own personal security caused the deaths of at least 86 Ethiopians back in October 2019.
Ethiopian news and current affairs enthusiasts, a more accurate description would be Ethiopians who are concerned about rising ethnic-based hate, did not take the matter lightly.
Many argue that the woman’s call not to marry and/or divorce “Habesha men ” constitutes hate-speech. For them, it is not just an individual’s viewpoint but rather a pattern of thinking very common among radical ethnic-Oromo nationalists.
The Ethiopian government seems to have noted that millions of Ethiopians are outraged by the blatant hate speech televised on Oromo Media Network – a media which many likens to Radio des Mille Collines – a Rwandan Radio that caused the Genocide in 1994 which claimed the lives of about one million people.
Nigussu Tilahun, Press Secretariat in the office of the Prime Minister, said on Monday that the government would hold political parties and media organizations that are working to create division between people. “Hate speech poses a threat to the unity of the country,” he said as reported by Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC).
Last month, Ethiopia approved the controversial hate speech legislation to The Human Rights Watch understood the bill as a response to ethnic-based violence or communal violence in their own words, but it rejected it as “…an ill-construed law that opens the door for law enforcement officials to violate rights to free expression is no solution.”
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