Ethiopia facing a possible national security emergency; government should understand it that way

Ethiopia _ Security
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borkena
editorial
June 30, 2020

On Monday, June 29, 2020, one of Ethiopia’s singers with millions of fans in the Oromo region of Ethiopia was slain in his car in the capital Addis Ababa, as reported by the Federal Police Commission. Apart from his prominence for his songs, many seem to have known him for his activism for equality.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gave his testimonial about it when he spoke to the nation on Tuesday. Regional authorities in the Oromo region of Ethiopia including Shimeles Abdissa spoke in the same tone.

The tragedy has shocked the country and most Ethiopians – even those Ethiopians who have a different political conviction.  The Federal Police has shared with the public the result of the preliminary investigation. Some of the suspects in the murder case of Hachalu Hundessa are said to be in custody although their degree of involvement is unknown to the public at this time.

Federal Police Commissioner Endashaw Tassew described the killing as a very complicated and organized one. He also noted that it might take time to find the underlying cause of it. 

However, the question as to who could be behind the crime and the motive of the killing does not seem to be so complicated – at least in terms of locating areas of speculation.

A considerable number of Ethiopians including top government officials are expressing that the killing of Hachalu was planned and executed in a way to trigger civil war-like chaos in the country.  Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed himself said so when he spoke to the nation on Tuesday.

It is also speculated that there has been coordination between external and internal enemies of Ethiopia. What Egypt has been doing against Ethiopia in connection with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiation and the policies it pursued historically in terms of supporting dissidents to destabilize the country seem to have convinced many Ethiopians that external help in the latest attempt to destabilize the country, as manifested in the murder of Hachalu Hundessa, came from Egypt.

Internally, the top candidates are Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and extremist forces who are disguised as patrons, defenders, and guardians of “Oromo people.”  And it is believed that these forces coordinated with each other and with external actors interested in destabilizing Ethiopia.  The assassination of Hachalu came a year after the assassination of Chief of Staff of the Defense force, Seare Mekonene. A year before that the Chief Engineer of GERD was found dead in mysterious circumstances.

Those who plotted it probably rated Hachalu’s assassination as one that would mire the country in a political and security crisis it will not survive. Yes, it has already resulted in a crisis like situation in the country although the government has, so far, controlled it. Not without the loss of many innocent lives, though. The extent of the damage is unclear at this time as the government has shut down the internet. More worrisome, it is hard to say if the worst is over.

The assassination of Hachalu may sound something unexpected. However, anyone who was closely following Ethiopian politics (with the postponement of the Ethiopian election which was, arguably, done in accordance with constitutional procedures as interpreted by an Inquiry Commission) domestically and Egyptian tactic to buy time in GERD negotiation would expect at least some disruptive, if not worse, incident. Perhaps, the Ethiopian government expected it after September 2020.

Jawar Mohammed, and those who share his extremist political convictions, overtly vowed that a protest of grand scale would happen to reject the government after September 2020. Based on the police report, his followers exchanged fire police and one member of special force from Oromia was killed as his followers tried to snatch the body of Hachalu Hundessa on the way to his home town and to bring it to Addis Ababa – and that against the will of his family. Reuters reported that there were at least three explosions in the capital Addis Ababa. In light of those situations, the analysis that Jawar and those with whom he was coordinating had a plan to cause chaos of large magnitude in Addis Ababa to shake Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Certainly, the tragedy that Ethiopia experienced on Monday and what has unfolded in the hours following the incident is not going to be the last attempt. “Activists” based overseas are already inciting maximum possible violence by painting an image that the killing of Hachalu is an attack on “Oromos” by neftefa (it means ethnic Amhara in their language). As indicated above, the extent of the damage they caused is not as big as they intended it to be so far. While addressing the daily security challenges, the government should be thinking in terms of dealing with the root causes of it once and for all before Ethiopia descends to total chaos. It should even be treated as a national security priority. It is not more about politics or power struggle.



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