Yonas Biru, PhD
Anybody who accuses PM Abiy Ahmed and President Shimelis Abdisa of the Oromo tribal land as the culprits of the crisis in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) is giving them more credit than they deserve.
There are runaway speculations that PM Abiy and President Shimelis instigated the current crisis in the EOC. Some link it to the growing alliance between Eritrea and Amhara extremists. Others think that having destroyed the TPLF, Abiy wants to weaken the Amhara by breaking the EOC asunder. Still others think the grand Oromummaa strategy requires weakening the EOC. The colorful conspiracy theorists point their fingers at the US and EU. I wish any one of the above were true. If that was the case the solution would be easier.
Abiy has no reason to create chaos at this juncture. He is working hard to regain credibility with the international community. One thing they repeat to him over and over is “the stability of the country.” The economy is hemorrhaging. He is in desperate need of international financial aid. The reason he is bending backward to work with the TPLF even after they refused to disarm and relinquish power as per the Pretoria agreement is because he cannot afford to go against them and face the wrath of the international community.
The PM’s recent actions and inactions show he is desperate rather than deliberate and calculated. Far from being able to control the crisis, his government is in a complete disarray. His Whodunit state of confusion is more like a boxer who got knocked out in the 12th round by a hook to the jaw that he did not see coming and wonder why the guy standing over him is counting to ten.
Two things are consistent with Oromo politics. It is random. And it is stunted. After 50 years of existence, it has not matured in any meaningful way. Four years ago, the Oromo Liberation Army (Oromo-Shene) had no more than 300 ragtag bandits. Its recent advance is a function of the most incompetent government in Ethiopia both at the federal and tribal homeland level.
The Abiy and Shimelis administrations cannot even stop their own military and militia personnel from willfully transferring armaments to Oromo-Shene. Shene in this sense is an Ethiopian force to the extent its armaments belong to the people of Ethiopia.
A social media friend who read the first draft of this article said that Abiy has ambitions of empire building as evidenced by his new massive palace building. He respects and admires HIM H/Selassie and has a sharp focus on building a national military. This is evident in his public statements to the Army generals and rank and files to drop the Zer/Biher card at the door and pledge allegiance to Ethiopia only!
The paradox is that he does not even control the Mojo-Hawassa Road and does not allow the military to put even 10 soldiers to protect a major artery. For me the paradox manifests an oceanic gap between desire and ability. The PM does not realize that he has become the proverbial emperor without cloth.
In September 2018, PM Abiy was fully in charge when he abolished the Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO) and created the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP). As Milkessa M. Gemechu, a former member of the Central Committee of the ODP, wrote, this involved purging “hardcore Oromo nationalists from any role in his government at federal, regional, and local government levels.”
In December 2019, when he transformed ODP to Prosperity Party (PP), Milkessa said he swung “dramatically toward the public dominance of Ethiopian nationalists who are organized around Amharic language and culture, the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church, and those who support a return to an overly centralized unitary government.”
Today, the PM is weakened and cannot dream of having the same power as he once had. He cannot even control the Oromo-PP.
Similarly, Jawar Mohamed was a cross between the Oromo Messiah and a self-anointed Co-Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Today, the Oromo people have exiled him into oblivion. The party he was associated with, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), was a powerful party. Today, half the people in Ethiopia in the political sphere do not know what OFC stands for. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is like the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP). It exists in spirit only to honor its ghost.
Oromo intellectuals has near zero influence in determining the outcome of Oromo politics. Instead, they flow with the wind. Three years ago, Shene-Oromo was a village nuisance that robs small village banks. Today, it is dominating the on-air, print, and social media bandwidth of the Oromo politics. Oromo intellectuals bow before Jaal Marroo, the leader of Shene Oromo, as the savior of the spirit of Greater Oromia.
No matter how you look at it, and in whatever fashion you slice and dice it, Oromo politics is a random game whose trajectory is determined by accident rather than by design. Whatever design the PM has exists in his fancy and has not influence in the current dynamic.
What led to the downfall of PM Abiy? He has grand vision for Ethiopia. But lacks the temperament, maturity, and trustworthiness to lead the nation. Further, he suffers from a Messiah syndrome and a narcissistic personality. His decisions are spontaneous and often authoritative rather than deliberative and exhaustive.
To top it off, his Cabinet consists of the who-is-who of who is not in the who-is-who list of the Ethiopian bureaucracy. Highly qualified bureaucrats who have decades of experience are passed over and people with absolutely no experience are elevated several levels beyond their grade to run critical ministries. President Shimelis is a quintessential example of this.
In the US, they say “The way New York goes, so does the country.” In today’s Ethiopia, we can say: “The way the Oromo tribal land goes, so does Ethiopia.” In the Oromo tribal land, no one knows what is going on. Where Jaal Marroo’s authority ends and where President Shimelis’ begins is anyone’s guess.
I do not think President Shimelis has a clue to what extent Jaal Marroo has penetrated the Oromo government, the Oromo Special Force, and/or the Oromo Militia. Some of the military personnel seemingly work double shifts – taking command from Shimelis during the day and serving as hitmen for Jaal Marroo at night.
Let us repeat the most important line. “The way the Oromo tribal land goes, so does Ethiopia.” Under Article II of the Constitution, the PM is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. That is easier said than done. Some of the Oromo senior military officials are aligned with Shene-Oromo. In the Oromo tribal land, nobody gives a hoot about the chain of command. The Oromo tribal land is in chaos.
One thing the PM knows is that the Amhara tribal land that represents the second largest tribe is politically impotent. This means there is no credible challenge to his administration outside of the Oromo tribal land. He has come to terms that anything goes in the Oromo tribal land and has accepted this as a reality.
The rebel Orthodox group took action knowing that neither Shimelis nor Abiy would dare to do anything against them in the land of Oromo-Shene. One thing that has come to light over the last five years is the PM is an opportunist rather than a man of principle and integrity.
The PM is in breach of his Constitutional duty to protect the EOC. Whether we like it or not, the only institution that he responds to is the international community. Forget African Solution for African Problem fiction that the #NoMore establishment touts. The peace agreement with the TPLF was signed at the threat of the US government. Ethiopia was economically broke and politically broken. The PM had no choice but to sign at the dotted line.
If Ethiopians want the PM to act, they must bring the international community into the equation. The PM will not act against the rebel Orthodox group and its murderous gangsters unless there is pressure from the international community.
The current crisis can result in far more crises than the war with the TPLF. We in the diaspora have a responsibility to educate the international community. We must start an international campaign to block international aid to the PM’s administration until he musters the courage and rein in the tribal mafia and kingpin culture that has taken over the Oromo tribal land.
The international community must stop funding the Abiy Administration.
Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com
To Publish Article On borkena, please send submission to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Telegram Channel : t.me/borkena
Join the conversation. Follow us on twitter @zborkena to get the latest Ethiopian news updates regularly. Like borkena on facebook as well. To share information or send a submission, use email@example.com