Are radical ethnic Oromo forces bringing their fight right to Addis Ababa, the center of Ethiopia, as most of the cleansing in Oromia region seem to be in the final stage?
It has been nearly five years now since Abiy Ahmed took power as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. What has been consistent throughout the five years period is an intensification of ethnic-based attacks, mostly targeting ethnic Amhara, in the Oromo and Benishangul Gumuz region of Ethiopia.
Some members of his government and he himself attempted to portray the massacres in the first two years of the administration as a sort of “normal incidents” that are parts of what they described as “political change.” Of course, what is described as “change” is the transition from the EPRDF coalition where the TPLF was a dominant force to a supposedly “single party” under the umbrella of the Prosperity Party where the actors are predominantly from the defunct EPRDF coalition. Another exception is that the TPLF did not take a ride in the new party where its former junior partner, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), emerged as a dominant political actor.
Some strongly tended to depict the security crisis in the early years as an inevitable mishap given the complexity of the political problems that Prime Minister Abiy inherited.
Five years after the “change” , security has become a major problem in the country, specifically in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, where a radical militant group, which the Ethiopian government calls as OLF-Shane – has been engaged in what appears like ethnic cleansing in the Oromo region.
Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the past five years when the Oromia regional government has been bluffing that it has weakened the capability of the group to pose a security threat. In reality, the massacre is not far from over and indeed it has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.
The armed group has been enjoying extensive administrative, political and even military support from authorities within the Oromia and Federal levels of government. And that is what has complicated the matter. Although no statistical data is available at this point, there are views that the ethnic composition of many of the major cities in the Oromo region has been altered in a way that favors total domination of the Oromos. Other ethnic groups in many parts of the Oromia region are said to have been threatened to the point that they feel unsafe to continue to live in the region.
Now, the radical group that is functioning within the government structure brought the Oromization campaign to the heart of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. In fact, in the first two years of the “change” , what used to be the Oromo Democratic Party, whose leader was Abiy Ahmed, made an open claim that Addis Ababa exclusively belongs to ethnic Oromos.
In the past few weeks, the Oromo radical group within the government is facing resistance as it attempted to make Oromia region flag and anthem practices in schools across Addis Ababa. The strategy to suppress the resistance is manifesting itself in a combination of outright repression and a propaganda stunt to make the rightful demands of residents of Addis Ababa appear as “irrational.”
Addis Ababa police have announced, last week, that it has arrested 97 students and teachers who were opposing the use of Oromia region flags and anthem in schools in Addis Ababa. However, the victims of the repression were painted as having links to forces who intend to make Addis Ababa a center of violence.
Adanech Abibie, the Mayor, has been writing updates about having “fruitful” meetings with residents of Addis Ababa. When it is presented in the media, it is portrayed as if there is an opposition for the use of Oromo language in schools which is not the case. The government also seems to be exploiting individuals from faith groups, primarily from Protestant group, to divert attention at a time when Ethiopians across the country are expressing concern about Addis Ababa. The latest provocative remark from a pastor who is close to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (he is himself a protestant) against the Orthodox Church seems to be an exercise into employing that strategy.
The Ethiopian Ombudsman’s early this week released a statement and it clearly said that the city administration is at fault that it should not impose flag and anthem from the Oromia region on schools in Addis Ababa. The organization made it clear that there is no legal or moral ground to do so. At least two major opposition parties in the country have issued a statement on the matter and they both condemned what the city administration did and demanded an immediate release of arrested students and teachers.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration is not remarking about it at all. And it may be an indication that the radical ethnic Oromo nationalist group within the Federal structure and the regional government structure are too powerful for him or he is just a part of it. As the Ombudsman said, there is no legal or moral ground to impose a flag and anthem from Oromia on schools in Addis Ababa. For that matter, the introduction of Oromo language itself in schools should have been implemented by following all the legal and administrative procedures, not by bypassing them.
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