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Get the Evangelical God Out of The Prime Minister’s Office

Taming Polarization and Bridging Divides:  The Failure and Redemption of Ethiopian Politics 

Evangelical God _ Ethiopia
Yonas Biru (courtesy of the author/file)

Yonas Biru, PhD 

As I have maintained in several of my articles, the Ethiopian political landscape is dominated by two groups of people: Hermitized souls whose mindset is stuck in yester-century and those who have lost their soul to either Marxism or tribalism. The former sees their articles of faith as self-evident truth and the later lacks a moral compass. Both exist in a borrowed time unable to come to terms that the philosophical anchors upon which their political views are hanging have long expired.  

The perennial clashes across and within these two groups have deprived Ethiopia the ability to develop a deliberative conflict resolution culture and redemptive character. Such a culture brings to the fore conflict entrepreneurs and alienates thought leaders and nation builders. More than any time in our recent history, we are witnessing an unparalleled polarization in our political discourse. Consequently, simmering tensions are approaching a boiling point.  

The silver lining in these dark times is that the prevailing polarization in our political system does not reflect an inherently polarized country. What it signifies is that extremist political actors who tends to be loud and overbearing are dominating the public discourse bandwidth and the silent majority (aka the moderate majority) is morbidly silent.  

The emergence of the silent majority is a rational political phenomenon driven by two factors. The most important factor is whether public opinion has influence over public policy. If the government is perceived to pay little to no attention to public opinion, most rational people opt out of political debates. This is the case in Ethiopia whose PM is more like a cross between an absolute monarch and an evangelical patriarch. He does not see the people as owners and authors of the nation’s sovereign power from whence he draws his prescribed and limited authority. The PM’s Problem is partly rooted in religion, as I will explain at the end of this proposal. 

The second factor is the nation’s vulgar political culture that repels people of reason and conscience and attracts conflict peddlers and political profiteers from the ranks of the morally malnourished and ethically devoid demographic misfits. Casting the demons out of our political market, therefore, requires two deliberate actions. 

First, the PM must come to terms that his governance style is fostering political apathy exiling the moderate majority into a place of “hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil” political asylum. Capable Ethiopians with subject matter expertise, intellectual repute, psychological temperance, and fundamental human virtue find themselves alienated by him. The onus for taking the first critical step of involving the silent majority rests on his shoulders.  

The second, and just as equally important factor depends on the nation’s ability to overcrowd conflict peddlers and political profiteers by breaking the silence of the moderate majority. This requires deliberate and active actions by opinion entrepreneurs and moral leaders within the silent majority.  

Coordinated corrective actions by the PM and the silent majority will provide an impetus for change by fostering the emergence and influence of centrist opinions that are amenable for consensus building. Only when we change the dimension and function of the political calculus that governs conflict peddlers can we sanitize the political culture and create a conducive environment to bridge political divides on vital issues.  

Unfortunately, what we see is the PM and conflict peddlers accusing each other while paying no heed to the fact that each has a role in the political orgy that has begotten a basterdized political system with no rational foundation. 

To address the challenges noted above, I propose to organize a zoom conference to kick off discussions on four critical topics. There must be a concurrence plan to build on the inaugural conference with a series of subsequent in-person and virtual conferences to engage political stakeholders in Ethiopian and in the diaspora. Ideally, the conference should be organized by people of the silent majority demography both from the home front and the diaspora. Four proposed topics for the conference follow. 

1. Breaking the Silence of Reason and Conscious 

The moderate majority is the conscious of the nation. Even though those who constitute it are disinterested in engaging with the nation’s peddlers of conflict, they are neither blind nor deaf to the goings on. They are disengaged for reasons outlined above. The purpose of this conference topic is to foster discussion on ways to encourage both the PM and the silent majority on how best to break the silence of the nation’s conscious. Presenters will address existing challenges and propose innovative ways of building discussion forums and charting organizational layouts  to bring the moderate majority out of the cold. 

2. Unlocking Impasses and Expanding the Horizon of the Political Discourse 

Ethiopia is stuck in prolonged political deadlocks and irreconcilable tribal conflicts. Every political conflict is elevated to a make-or-break level. The challenge is how to unlock the impasse by counterbalancing entrenched extremist positions with diverse voices of reason and civil dialogue.  For three decades, the constitution has been the source of the nation’s political and armed conflicts. Yet, the political discourse has not moved an iota beyond the “unitarist” (አሃዳዊ) vs. “tribalist” (ጎጠኛዊ) labeling and counter labeling that the two warring camps throw at each other. 

Neither is prepared to consider alternative views outside of the አሃዳዊ vs. ጎጠኛዊ diatribal confines. The consequence has been aggravating the country’s existing deep divisions, rather than finding a middle ground or an alternative space of engagement. It is this dynamic we must understand if we are to deal with the political culture ravaging our nation. Only then can we transform political actors from being bestial remnants of our heritage as risen apes to becoming forgivable fallen angels.  

The proposed conference in this regard will invite people with different perspectives and opinions on how to move the debate away from አሃዳዊ vs. ጎጠኛዊ impasse. The conference will help broaden the parameters of the political contours. It will also move the nation toward reducing the prevailing political congestion and softening the polarized discussion. 

3. Defusing the Gathering Storm in the Amhara-Oromo Political Nexus  

This is one of the most critical areas that can become an existential threat for the very survival of the nation unless addressed expeditiously and handled judiciously. Internal (TPLF) and external (Egypt) forces are doing everything in their power to capitalize on the conflict between the two tribal camps. Addressing the vexing problem requires dealing with different parts of the Amhara-Oromo political nexus.  

On the two extreme ends of the spectrum, we have adherents of Ortho-Amhara extremism and believers of the OLF tribal liberation theology. The Orto-Amhara designation refers to the marriage of extremist Orthodox followers and Amhara tribalists. For Oromo extremists, the PM is building a “Neo-Menilik” kingdom and committing suicide against the Oromo. For Ortho-Amhara extremists, he is committing genocide against the Amhara “በጥንት ጊዜ ግራኝ መሃመድ በከፈተው በር ገብቶ.” These are extremists with next to none chance for reconciliation. Spending time on them is a zero-calorie intellectual effort. It will produce neither light nor power that makes change possible. 

On the relatively less polarized part of the Amhara-Oromo nexus exists a second group of people who are emotionally invested in the conflict after years of politically nurtured tribal radicalization. These are people who may be able to recast their perspectives and see the situation in a different light if engaged in a constructive discourse. There is yet a third group representing a large swath of the people who constitute the silent majority.  

The challenge is facilitating constructive political discussions across the second and third groups of people to overshadow and crowd out the venomous noise and thwart the destructive clashes perpetrated by adherents of Ortho-Amhara extremism and believers of OLF tribal liberation theology.  

The conference will help broaden the parameters of the political discourse and move the nation toward softening our polarized discussion.  

4. Getting the Evangelical God Out of Our Politics 

One of the most dangerous developments that has occurred since PM Abiy came to power is the evangelical seduction of the nation’s political governance. It is partly responsible for the crisis we are embroiled in. The phenomenon is no less dangerous than the brewing Oromo-Amhara conflict. Unless dealt with a sense of urgency, it will lead to serious problem with existential consequences.  

I have addressed this issue in detail in one of my earlier articles. In summary, the most salient point worth repeating is that the PM’s anti-intellectual sentiment and his reluctance to seek advice and guidance from subject matter experts is rotted in his expressed belief that he gets advice and counsel from divine forces. The fact that the PM is a devoted Christian is not a problem. If anything, it is important to have a God-fearing leader in charge of the leavers of political power. The problem is his inclination to smuggle divine forces in our secular constitutional order.  

God makes the blind see and raises the dead. But he neither formulates political policies nor runs  bureaucracies. Despite the PM’s belief, God is not into dispensing political and military advice. Leaving mundane political, bureaucratic duties to God has led our nation to deep-rooted bureaucratic dysfunctionality, security breakdown and abysmal diplomatic failure. 

There are two issues in need of national consensus. First, should religion have a place in our nation’s politics? If so, which religion? This is not a trivial issue because the theological foundation of

Prosperity Gospel that the PM adheres to is orthogonal to the guiding principles of Orthodox Christians, for example.  

In time of national distress, the Orthodox would call up on its flocks and friends to plead God with collective እግዚኦታ. In contrast, followers of Prosperity Gospel feel that at any moment they have more to celebrate than to lament. Therefore, they are not into እግዚኦታ. Instead, they do እልልታ even at the time of crisis and string of mass murders. That is why the PM’s office called upon the people of Ethiopia to do a collective national እልልታ to praise the Lord.  

Ethiopia is going down in flames as its PM leads the people with a synchronized እልልታ with ጭብጨባ.  If  you  wonder  why the  PM  does  not  talk a  lot  about  mass  murders and does not travel to Wellega to console the families of victims of mass murder, you have the answer in his religious belief.The Prosperity Gospel’s  two guiding principles “our destiny is in God’s hands” and  “the Power of Positive Thinking” may be good for our spirit, but it is colossally bad for our mundane politics. From political perspective what the country needs is neither እግዚኦታ nor እልልታ, but a political  leadership supported by people with subject matter expertise and administrative experience. That is why our constitution is secular and there is no mention of God or divine deity in it. It is in violation  of this cardinal principle that the PM has unilaterally smuggled his religion in our body politics and  put our nation at a grave risk. The people must insist  that if he cannot do without his religion, he  should leave politics. If he wants to remain in politics, he should leave his religion with his family and  his church. The proposed conference will open this critical issue for a national debate. The nation’s  survival depends on it.  

Editor’s note : the article was first shared on P2P forum on August 20,2022

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I wish we keep religion out of our discourse. Let’s stay as far away as the farthest stars in the farthest galaxy. Both major religions of the old country do not teach or preach evil. Some individuals may twist the verses to their advantage but that is where they stopped being adherents of their religion. Please let’s not muddy the waters of both religions including their denominations thereof.

  2. Much ado about nothing. Why write about a “proposed conference” instead of trying to organize one? Surely it will take more than a single conference to resolve all these issues, no? No shame in having a small conference that eventually grows into a larger series of conferences.

    I am unsure as to why you bash tribalism while then praising the constitution. That’s inconsistent. Also, you are overestimating your takes on the “silent majority”. Everyone has skin in the game and everyone has opinions. The obvious reason why people aren’t shaking for their beliefs is because they see any dissenting voices being persecuted, killed, and arbitrarily detained. Look no further beyond what is happening in Gurage and Wolaita, of the fact the Ethiopia was one of the worst jailers of journalists this past year. It’s easy to blame an imagined “silent majority” for political inaction but the fact is most people just want to work and raise their kids but have been unable to. I suggest you become a lot more specific to identify groups you think are not participating and diagnose the reasons why that is rather than taking a broad strokes approach to the topic.

    FYI, “silent majority” is a deeply American term used by political candidates to short-cut their way to more support and ultimately refers to the act of voting. Please consider using a more accurate term for what you are trying to convey.

    Cheers,
    MJ

  3. I have sai a lot of time,
    ur intellectal is null and void.
    You have a fear, tp speak of the murders against the ethiopian ppl. SPecially Gamo wolayta and Amhar ppl.
    YOu are giving silly wordss like “Ortho-Amhara extremists”.
    Biele me, nobody will be slinced b/se of uir silly words.
    PROUD to be an ORTHODOX
    PROD to be AMAHARA
    PROUD to BE Tigre, OROMó Wolyta, Gamo
    Take ur sheet hands out of my religion.

  4. Yonas your previous articles are long contradict themselves and for the most part DONT offer any real solutions. Now you want to compare Creflo Dollar, Joel Olsteen and Benny Hinn’s and Abiy Ahmed’s bastardized version of Christianity with the 2000 yr old tradition of our Mother church Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo. Shame on you and your minuscule brain. The EOTC who made Ethiopia the proud symbol of a free Africa, the same church that established learning centers, developed song and art, produced amazing scholars and researchers who wrote millions of Brana books on creation, science, astronomy, civil society, laws and on and on. The same church the narrow minded Abiy is trying to destroy and replace with his corrupt capitalist version of the discredited prosperity gospel. Step the fu$& away from our church and our traditions you black European. Don’t ever the fu$& bring the EOTC INTO your mindless dribble. Dumbass.

  5. Yonas, your article lucks relevance because it is very contradicting, disgusting and confused. It seems that you have no clue of the very humble and transcendent, the First Original Christian religion, the Orthodox religion that lived for over 2000 years.
    Keep our beloved, cherished and highly respected Orthodox religion out of your crappy politics.

    Speak for yourself and your own religion if you have one. You must be an atheist or a diehard communist.
    You have no right to speak about Orthodox religion that has many million followers across the glove that you don’t belong or believe in.

    Abiy is a busted wolf in a sheep cloth and you seem to be the other.
    When you tried to portray Abiy as a religious man was then your intention was busted. What is your motive? What are you trying to achieve? Abiy is not salvageable because his hands are soaked in Amhara and Orthodox Christian Genocide.
    Many of our Orthodox brothers and sisters have been massacred under this evil man leadership that you seem to paint as a man of religion.

    What good religion believes in Genocide and indiscriminately massacring Orthodox Christians? Such a cruel man who never cared for human sufferings and gruesome massacring’s that is bent on diverting attention by planting tree only comes from the demon Abiy Ahmed who worships his kind.

  6. Ethiopia now days feels more of a theocracy than an autocracy. “God” is always invoked in every govt press releases and the PM considers him self (shared by his devout diehards as well) some sort of messiah rather than a mare mortal with low intellectual apptitude and of high emotional IQ that he is.

  7. Hey friends, what I didn’t understand is that did he (the writer) say anything bad about Orthodox Church. Why you do not just focus on his argument, and present your counter-argument, if any. That is a civil dialogue.

    • Solomon TG,

      Here is a quote from the article calling Orthodox Amharas extremists:

      “On the two extreme ends of the spectrum, we have adherents of Ortho-Amhara extremism and believers of the OLF tribal liberation theology. The Orto-Amhara designation refers to the marriage of extremist Orthodox followers and Amhara tribalists.”

      Literally. He does not identify any group or person with this group. Therefore, this implicitly labels Orthodox Amharas (some 30million+ people) as not worthy of engaging with for useful political discourse, and lumps them together with OLF who have killed thousands and displaced possibly millions of innocent citizens since PM Abiy was appointed.

      Several responses address the author’s nonsenical takes. Perhaps you need to read again, and if you have an issue address people’s posts instead of making blanket statements. “That is a civil dialogue”, after all.

      Cheers,
      MJ

  8. Mr. your analysis based on your wishful thinking does not reflect the whole political cause and conflict which are economic, social and historical complex . I agree national dialogue among elite is paramount intellectuals from various sector can be instrumental as well as business group

  9. It makes me always sad, that readers very often prefer to be personal and insult the writer. It would have been more productiv to put an arguement forward, which proves the writer is wrong and in which points, if so wished. Many of the critics accuse authorities or any opinion maker as such to disrespect freedom of opinion but by insulting a writer who just puts his opinion, they just do the same thing and become undemocratic. The writer may be wrong in his thinking or not but a calm and factual arguement is more fruitful.

  10. The PP party if the PM indeed is controlling the country is by itself and himself the problem. The government is accepting millitary form friendly, countries that has the same faith white the the PP is attacking the same faith from whom it is getting support nation. Instead he is polarizing the society with his Western evangelical fath in a country that has Orthdox and Sufi Muslim. Therefore while the government is getting support from nations that are from East but doing the work of West that is killing and maiming the population that are not Protestant or Wahabi. So the government is doing the work of colonialists and communistst that are today from West . So the fact that once again Tplf is attacking other Ethiopians is exactly the government wants it by allowing for Tplf commit crimes against Tigrayans and the rest of the people.

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