A view from concerned Ethiopian who live in the UK
By Zelalem Meseret
August 11, 2020
When you read this article, please consider that the intended audience of this article was the international community who have no or less knowledge about Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the cradle of mankind and ancient civilization with more than 80 ethnic groups living in nine regional states and two federal city administrations. Nearly two-thirds of these 105 million people are from the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups.
Armed groups fighting for power at various times in Ethiopia since the 1960s have been grounded on the narrative of the Amhara people as oppressors and enemies. In fact, Ethiopia was a monarchy until the late 1960s and it is clear that the monarchical system was mostly oppressive in nature. But the oppressors are the ruling class of all ethnic groups, and the victims of oppression are the subject classes of all ethnic groups. So the oppression in Ethiopia was class oppression, not ethnic oppression.
However, these groups, which are struggling for power, have widely used the motto “We are oppressed by the Amhara people” to make followers and provoke ethnic resentment. Even if we look at the 1976 manifesto prepared by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), which has controlled and ruled the Ethiopian federal government for the last 27 years, labelled as the Amhara people number one foe of the people of Tigray and decided that the Amhara must be contained and eradicated. Therefore, after taking power in 1991, TPLF has been doing all evil things against the Amhara people by employing various techniques. The Amhara people have been nicknamed the Neftegna by various ethnic based groups for their long-running conspiracy to defame the Amhara people. NEFTEGNA means rifle bearer.
The Oromo youth is known as Qeerroo. He and other Ethiopians played a significant role in the struggle to overthrow the authoritarian regime led by TPLF. The current Prime Minister, Abiy, is an Oromo. Abiy came to power two years ago by collaborating with other Oromo nationalists to form a group called Qeerroo and form a chain of command to overthrow the government in a popular uprising. Most of these groups, Qeerroo, have returned to peaceful activities following the regime change two years ago. Still, a significant number of Qeerroo members, under the auspices of extremist activists and government officials, have inflicted unspeakable atrocities on Amhara and other non-Oromo ethnic groups including vulnerable children, mothers and the elders.
Abiy’s rise to power as prime minister has left the Ethiopian people hopeful of building a democratic system, but has handed over control of the country’s key areas of defence, justice, security and financial institutions to the people from the Oromo people ethnic group. Although the people of Amhara have been isolated from central power for half a century and have sacrificed their lives in the struggle to bring the Abiy to power, Amhara is still envisioned as an enemy and its institutional structure remains. Shimels Abdisa, a former advisor to the prime minister and current president of the Oromia region, in his Irrecha 2019 speech said “we have broken the Neftegna /Amhara in the same place where they broke us.” In a country where such a death sentence is being transmitted out by the country’s top officials, as I noted in an article I wrote in the 61th edition, the concern of Ethiopians was not protection of democratic rights but the guarantee of life.
This group, the Qeerroo, has repeatedly carried out racially motivated killings of non-Oromo people in the Oromia region. The most notable of these genocides were attacked in September 2018 , October 2019 , and July 2020. It is recalled that Ethiopians have set up a committee to stop these genocides orchestrated by government officials and put forward to the European Union (EU). The government of Abiy Ahmed has imprisoned the chairman of the committee, Eskinder Nega, known to many Ethiopians as iron man, in a dark prison on charges of ‘insulting Qeerroo’.
On June 30, following the assassination of Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa by unknown individuals, a propaganda campaign was launched claiming that the killer was from the Amhara ethnic group. The Qeerroos, who were preparing machetes to kill ethnic Amhara, an informal Oromo youth group behind most of the atrocious killings in Oromia in the past 2 years – responded with their machete against those whom they perceive as Amharas.
Post-event reports indicate that,prior to the incident, local officials disarmed the victims, a well-prepared list of victims was prepared, and the attack took place just minutes after the artist’s death. Despite adequate security forces in the vicinity of the attack, they did not do anything to save the innocent, saying, ‘we have not been instructed by the authorities’. It is not necessary to be educated to assume that the attack was orchestrated by/with government officials.
These planned and racially motivated attacks took place in about 40 districts of Oromia and lasted for three consecutive days. In this attack more than 239 non Oromo most of them Amhara ethnic group have been killed. In some places the attack is said to have focused not only on ethnicity, but also on religion. In addition, moderate Oromo ethnic groups supporting these targeted minority ethnic groups were also harmed. This is very similar to what Interahamwe did during the Rwandan genocide.Many describe the incident as similar to the Rwandan genocide.
The Washington Post quoting local sources reported that, in what appeared to be a tactic drawn from the playbook of the Rwandan genocide, “in Shashamane town some people were going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents . Recent violences in Ethiopia’s Oromia region show hallmark signs of ethnic cleansing, according to minority group rights . The organisation described the tactics used in the attack as “federal and local government security forces turned a blind eye” and “regional forces were attacking the victims when they tried to defend themselves”. It is believed by some senior government officials that government security forces provided the weapons to the attackers.
In this attack the 80 year old man was beaten to death in front of his wife,a boy who asked the mob to stop beating his father was brutally killed in front of his father. Survivors of the attack told us in a spirit of despair that they had been subjected to unspeakable atrocities. Eyewitness accounts and victim family testimonies are too gruesome to hear. I found the most devastating story of a woman who lost her 22-year-old son In one of the reports about the massacre
This poor woman, who says that my eyesight, tells her story “My son was out and about with his friends. He usually comes home at midnight but on Tuesday night, he failed to show up after midnight. I thought he was safe with friends, but deep in my heart I knew I wasn’t going to see my son again,” said his devastated 46 year old mother. Mid morning on Tuesday, her son’s body was found badly disfigured and dumped in a ditch on the other side of the city from their residence. “My son had never had any argument with anyone” his mother said, “He was a joyful, kind soul.” She moved to the city with her son in 1998 from north Shewa, in Amhara regional state, after her husband died of illness and she lost her belongings in a family tussle that followed. “All I wanted to do was take my son and leave everything behind and that was what I did 22 years ago. I raised my son alone; he was my eyesight.” She asked both her name and her son’s name not to be mentioned for fear that she will be retaliated for speaking about his death. A double agony.
”…… But deep in my heart, I knew I wasn’t going to see my son again”. Some kind of special attachment between parent and child whispered that she had lost her child. The inability to do anything for the dying people, the mother who lost her child, by the Political gambling of dictators and power-hungry people hurts and bled most Ethiopians heart. This woman is a symbol of Ethiopian mother. In this woman’s tears, we saw our country, Ethiopia, weeping bitterly. How to estimate the depth of this woman’s soul fracture? How can the wound be healed? What kind of compensation and support would allow her to live as a human being again? And the killer group sentenced her to hold all this grief without telling anyone. They told her that if she did, they would attack her again. The government led by Nobel winning prime minister, neither save her son from death, nor help her to mourn and talk about her son’s death. The Abiy government has once again killed those innocent people by portraying the innocent victims of the genocide as “victims of the conflict.”
Genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, religious, political, or ethnic group. In our country, many people have been murdered because of their ethnicity, religion or both identity. This is the truth! Hiding and concealing this is inhumane; it is, after all, a crime. Instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, financial and logistical support, and irresponsible government officials, Abiy Ahmed’s government arrested prominent human right activist and opposition figures, such as Eskinder Nega and engineer Yilkal who had told the international community that the genocide was imminent.
To conclude, let me mention some of the reasons why I blame the Abiy’s government for this genocide.his inablity to protect the safety of citizens which is elementary duty of the government.He did not neutralize this informal group called Qeerror from the beginning, especially after taking control of the government.Abiy’s government has ignored calls made by various human rights institutions to investigate the genocide committed over the past two years. Because he ignore senior officials who were directly involved in the genocide, from incitement to cover-up, and used this incident to arrest the oppositions and the victims who had nothing to do with the case. And because he denied the actually happened genocide and called the incident a “conflict”.
Don’t be surprised because of Abiy’s Nobel Prize winning. Adolf Hitler, the genocidal mastermind, was also once nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1939.
This article is published in monthly Doncaster conversation club newsletter on august 2020.