Dejawarizing, deolfizing Oromo region and beyond imperative

After the massacre of well over three hundred people in six months time, it is time to dejawarize Oromo region, SNNPR and activism in Ethiopian politics.

Jawar _ Oromo region
Jawar Mohammed. Reuters via VOA Amharic

July 13, 2020
Updated on July 14, 2020

This past weekend, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had a meeting with regional and zone level leaders of what is called “Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region.”

The prime minister has blamed the leadership for failure in ensuring peace in the region. He squarely said, as reported, that the region’s peace and political activity is hijacked by activists. If that is truly the case, it is a matter that should never come as a surprise.

It was not too long ago when Jawar Mohammed and Oromo Liberation Front mobilized ethnic Sidama activists to take the matter of forming an ethnic Sidama State in their own hands. In so doing, what was advocated for was to hijack political and security affairs in the Sidama Zone from government authorities. In consequence, the Sidama zone experienced an unprecedented massacre against ethnic non-Sidamas.

Regrettably, Jawar’s activism has been taken as a model among all ethnic politics activists. Establishing this or that ethnic-based media outlet, radicalizing the youth to the point of dehumanization and then dictating policy measures including on internal security matters, among many others issues, has been the pattern of activism.

For that matter, Abiy Ahmed’s administration has contributed significantly to the success of activism on the basis of radical ethnic politics through inaction to the point that many Ethiopians were confused if Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had forgotten what he pledged when he took over office. In worst cases, he even came to be understood as a radical ethnic Oromo nationalist with a moderate cover and the aides of Jawar Mohammed and the OLF. Yet, a considerable number of Ethiopians attempted to understand Abiy Ahmed’s inaction within the context of what went wrong in the past twenty-seven years – the entrenchment of ethnic politics in the country at the expense of Ethiopia’s existence.

As it turns out, it became clear that the radicalization of ethnic politics has made Ethiopia vulnerable to foreign powers that are hostile to Ethiopia. Egypt comes to mind. An investigation into the killing of Hachalu is revealing that.

As some people argued, Hachalu was selected for assassination partly because there was an understanding that it can easily trigger ethnic-based violence. It did not trigger ethnic-based violence because there was no ethnic reaction to the ethnic-based massacre( which in fact manifested the hallmarks of genocide). 

Everyone gets it that it takes time to de-radicalize ethnic politics. Yet, in view of the reality that ethnic politics is affecting the very community that supports it raises the hope that Ethiopians could overcome it before it plunges the country into total chaos.

Abiy Ahmed’s government should never back down from forcefully enforcing the rule of law. The idea of leaning to Shimgilena and traditional values is counterproductive when it is clear that the values enshrined in the society are no longer revered due to moral decay.

It is clear that the task of enforcing the law is to face some bumps as some in the federal and regional structure sympathize with the Jawarian structure (he called it the second government). The support could be for ideological reasons. It could also be for financial reasons as Ethiopia’s enemies have found a way to channel the colossal amount of resources to weaken Ethiopia through the agency of a Jawar like enterprise.  The Federal government should be skillful in going about rooting out these elements as it could bring about a fault line in the government structure. Outside of the government structure, engaging the youth ideologically is a task that should never be postponed. In that regard, it is important to make radicalized regions like Oromia accessible to different political parties.

On security matters, organizing the local community in a way to foil planned attacks is crucial.Because the government security apparatus failed time and again to protect the safety of citizens. Circulation of illegal arms and illegal hard currencies has been making news headlines for nearly two years now. The indication is that the security threat is not over. That is why organizing the community, in a kind of support role, to ensure the security of citizens needs to be considered seriously. Small but significant measures like that are very relevant to dejawarize and deolfize the troubled regions like Oromo region and SNNPR.

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