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What is Next After the EOTC Rendered Tribal Politics a Fatal Blow?

Ethiopian Church _ EOTC _
Members of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church in Addis Ababa on the third day of fasting and prayer that ended last week (Photo : EOTC media /resized)

Yonas Biru, PhD

 
The current political crisis in Ethiopia is caused by a head-on collision between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC) and an Oromo tribalist renegade splinter group that breached the ecclesiastical dogma of the Church, following the verses and tenets of the nation’s tribal Constitution. For all practical purpose, the EOTC has won. Only the mechanical ticking of the clock is yet to run its course to provide a timeframe for an event that has already unfolded in every sense but in a mechanical way. Here are key issues that wave themselves profusely to get our attention:

  • Abiy has blinked. Praise be to thee – O Lord the Almighty, for granting the EOTC a mighty power.
  • The international society has quietly made its statement to the Prime Minister. No Stability, No Money.
  • The international faith community from the Pope to the Head of the international Orthodox Complexes have lent unequivocal support to the EOTC. Praise be to thee – O Lord the Almighty
  • The support from the Pope will open an extensive access to the international media. There are over 600 Catholic-based social media outlets and 118 Catholic newspapers in the US and Canada alone. 
  • With the Pope behind it, the EOTC can give Abiy more headache than TPLF has ever done in terms of imposing the EU sanction.
  • Abiy is in desperate need of international support. He understands that without massive inflow of international funds his power is as good as dead in the water.
  • Abiy’s meeting with officials of the tribal homelands did not go well. There was a near unanimous view that the government must stay out of the Church’s problem. The only exception was Shimelis Abdisa.
  • The renegade leaders of the “Orthodox Church of Oromo and Nation-Nationalities” have lost, including in the Oromo tribal land and in all Nation-Nationalities that they anointed themselves to serve as the Synod of.
  • The majority of Oromo Orthodox Christians are protecting their Churches from the renegade rebels.
  • Two members of the renegade group have sought pardon from the EOTC and have been received back into the Church’s fold with forgiveness.
  • Two more were apprehended by Oromo security forces to stop them from going to Addis Ababa to seek pardon from the EOTC.
  • If Abiy reneges on his promise to meet the EOTC’s demands, it will have two dire implications. He will face the wrath of the international community and the EOTC’s domestic support will increase – Praise be to thee – O Lord the Almighty.

For a time, there was an argument between those who saw Abiy as the architect of the crisis and those who saw him as one who was reluctantly drawn into it. The latter argued that he sided with the renegades because of his opportunist political calculation to stay in power.


This issue is irrelevant now. From a political analysis and strategy point of view, what matters is what governs his political calculus today, not what governed it yesterday. Politics is dynamic, as the dynamic changes, so does the political calculus of politicians. As shown in bullet points above, today, whatever tickles and governs Abiy’s political impetus resides outside of the Oromo extremist political sphere.


The EOTC has publicly announced Abiy has promised to meet their demands, including their most critical demand that there can only be one Synod of the Orthodox Church. This means he will no longer legitimize the Oromo tribal Synod that the renegade group has established. Abiy or his administration has neither refuted, nor taken issue with the EOTC’s public announcement of his promise. No matter how one slices and dices it, Abiy has blinked.

 
Moving forward, the EOTC’s uncompromising stand and unreachable power to protect its ecclesiastical domain from tribal forces, and the PM’s ability (or lack thereof) to control rabid Oromo tribal politics will define the future of Ethiopia.

 
Now that Abiy has blinked, the question is: What is its implication on Oromo tribal politics? Sadly, (rather very sadly), the political reality in the Amhara tribal land has no relevance because it has no political strategy framed around a coherent political agenda that resonates with the people of Amhara. What it has is cacophonous zealots who confuse the political heat their rhetorical firework generates to a shining light of political enlightenment.


The potentially strongest force to counterbalance Oromo forces is in a state of deep sleep, bordering on a comma in the Amhara tribal land. Sadly, nothing of substance and strategy will happen until Shene-Amhara and its diaspora surrogates such as Ethio-360, Vision Ethiopia and a plethora of Amhara organizations with fancy names and near dead brains are crowded out.

 
Given that the Amhara tribal land is in a self-induced comma-like status, Ethiopia’s future can be reduced to one line: “As the Oromo Tribal Land Goes, So Goes the Nation.” In this regard, the relevant question is: Which way will Shimelis Abdisa swing? Is he going to blink with Abiy or stand with tribalist elements who want to use the Church conflict as a fulcrum to empower Oromo tribalists? How will the Oromo kleptocratic establishment that is sucking Ethiopia dry, and its armed gangsters react?


Again, we must remember Abiy has regional, national, and international interests to juggle. For Shimelis it is primarily (not exclusively), tribal interest. I say not exclusively because ultimately, he wants to stay in power and a direct conflict with the Abiy administration is not in his best interest.


Political prediction is a risky undertaking. Only those who feel they are taking too much space unless they stand on the edge dare to venture where angels fear to trade. Let me dare to venture to the edge of Ethiopian politics and predict the future.

 
My prediction is that Abiy and Shimeles will try to find a way for an honorary exit, without addressing the root cause of the problem. Their first and most preferred path will be to rein in the renegade forces to reintegrate themselves back into the EOTC with a pretext that they have managed to get the Synod to pay attention to their demands with a promise to address the problems in an agreed timeframe. If this happens it would be a win-win outcome for all in the short term. But it will not address the essence of the problem. The Church will remain intact. The renegades will get a sort of an honorary exit to save themselves from total loss. Most importantly, a national crisis will be averted at least for now.

 
If the renegades stay firm with their position to establish an “Oromo and nations and nationalities Orthodox Church with its own Synod”, the second possible outcome is for Shimelis to side with Abiy and blink. He understands more than anyone that a conflict between Abiy and Shimelis can sharpen the latent conflict within the Oromo tribal.

 
Until now, this scenario was avoidable because there was no organized opposition to force them make a difficult choice. Given the increasing loss of his power base outside of the Oromo tribal land, Abiy did not have reason to take on Oromo tribalist forces. Similarly, with growing tribal forces inspired by the spirit of Shene-Oromo, Shimelis was not ready to ruffle up their feathers. That game has changed.

 
Past incidences have borne witness that when push came to shave, Abiy will drop his allies like a hot potato in a NY second. The Oromo flag and Oromo Anthem debacle in Addis Ababa is a telling example. He was quite until Addis Ababans revolted. That triggered him to berate Adanech Abebe and her team, claiming he was not aware that it was done outside of Oromo charter schools. Abiy is likely to do the same with the champions of Oromo tribal Orthodox. 

 
This is not to completely rule out an option of desperation that Abiy and Shimelis may consider. This involves building a broader Oromo coalition, including Oromo Shene, and inviting Jawar and Bekele Gerba to return home to build a strong Oromo coalition. This will be foolhardy on many levels.

 
First, the extremists will not trust Abiy. He has betrayed every coalition he has worked with. Lemma Megersa and Issayas Afeworki are two examples. Lemma was the person who facilitated his ascent to the PM position. Isayas was the one who saved him not once but twice in 2021 and 2022. When Abiy decided to pull out of Tigray in 2021, he did not tell Issayas to pull his forces out. He left them in danger. When he signed a peace agreement with TPLF, he did not consult Issayas. Today, the two are not even in talking terms.

 
Second. the Oromo tribal thirst for power is unquenchable. If Abiy manages to form a broader Oromo coalition that embraces Oromo-Shene, he will have to accept a diminished role, which he is very unlikely to do. If his desperation forces him to share power with Oromo extremist forces, he will be compelled to renege his promise to the EOTC. That will be the end of Oromo tribal kookoodom.

Abiy has learned the hard way that in terms of power, Addis Ababans who defeated the tribalization of Addis Ababa schools pale in comparison to the EOTC. No institution in the entire continent of Africa has the power to mobilize support in comparison to EOTC. Apart from the Church’s institutional architecture that commands over 60 million members, other social institutions from ጽዋ to እድር are associated with the Orthodox social enterprise. What makes this potent is that its DNA is spiritual and sacrifice for the Church is synonymous with sacrifice for God Almighty. Only a fool will take on such an institution.

For their own good, Abiy and Shimelis will have to deal with the increasingly emboldened Oromo tribal forces and their kleptocratic financiers or perish because of them. Abiy will not last another year if he fails to change course and force Shimeles to do the same in fundamental ways. Superficial actions, smooth-talking and/or externalizing the crisis will not work. ነገርየው “ጨው ለራስህ ስትል ጣፍጥ” ነው:: 

Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. As a man of and for peace I call upon all sides to stay calm and refrain from any inflammatory remarks. Religious upheaval and violence that comes with it is the last conflict that country needs. I just googled EOTC and discovered that it has between 36 and 50 million followers. This must be wisely handled. I call upon my brothers and sisters living overseas and in the old country to observe the utmost restraint and solve this issue peacefully. No violence, no violence, no violence!!!!

  2. Thank you Dr. Biru.

    “Given that the Amhara tribal land is in a self-induced comma-like status, Ethiopia’s future can be reduced to one line: “.
    “Missing in Action”
    It is very sad.

    At times I wonder, if the discussion was about situations in some other, far away land, due to the astonishingly total silence (“total absence” of “leadership”(s)) from Amhara region.
    What happened in the last 50 years there??? (“መኻን ትተኛ”) ‚ ሇነ።

    Since Abiy took office, most other regions had one president, except Amhara region, that had more than 3 (if I am not mistaken). They quietly come (like a pirate, fill their pockets) and quietly go away (like a manikin in a store, they say very little, if at all ) ; what is going on?
    Shimelis still there, watching them come and go in Amhara region; could it be by design? to weaken the region??

    I think, this is just another “bump-on-the-road”, this too shall pass; better & brighter days are ahead!!!

    If leadership lacks Quality, quantity means nothing, rather help it decay.

    As for the church, I think the leadership understands that “times are changing” and the “scrutiny” will keep growing, unless they make the “traditional” inner-working-of-church as “transparent” as possible for the publics/followers to understand in all regains & cultures; specially to the “newer” (21st century) members.

    Thanks again for your insight , Dr.

    Be well!

  3. ማፊያው ማህበረ ቅዱሳን(ማህበረሰይጣን)መንግሥት ይህን ማፍያ ቡድን ማፈራረስ አለበት፥፥ ማፊያው ማህበረ ቅዱሳን(ማህበረሰይጣን)መንግሥት ይህን ማፍያ ቡድን ማፈራረስ አለበት፥፥

    ከፋኖ ጋር በሥውር ለመንግሥት ግልበጣ አመፅ ሽብር ለማስነሳት እና የኦሮሞንእና ብሔር ብሔረሰቦች መብት ለማፈን ሲሰሩ የነበሩ የማፊያው ማህበረ ቅዱሳን(ማህበረሰይጣን)አባላት መፈታት የለባቸውም፥፥መንግሥት ይህን ማፍያ ቡድን ማፈራረስ አለበት፥፥ማፊያው ማህበረ ቅዱሳን(ማህበረሰይጣን)አባላት የኦሮሚያ ና ብሔርብሔረሰቦች አባቶችን ለማገት የአፈና ቡድን አደራጅቶ ሲያፍን ሲያስፈራራ እና ሲያስር ቆይቷል፤፤ይህ በሃይማኖት ሽፋን የሚንቀሳቀሰው ማህበረ ቅዱሳን(ማህበረሰይጣን)ድርጅት የጦር መሣሪያ በድብቅ እንደሚያስቀምጥ ተነግሯል፤፤በየወሩ ከቤተክርስቲያኗ እና በቤተክርስቲያኗ ስም በሚሊዮኖች የሚቆጠር ብር በተለያዩ ባለሙያዎች ታግዞ ይሰርቃል፤፤የስለላ ስራዎቹ የሚታወቀው ይህ የፖለቲካ ድርጅት በፋኖ ተደግፎ ሌላ ዕልቂት ሳያስከትል በቁጥር ስር ሊውል ይገባል፤፤
    Ethiopian ruling party have to dissolve and take control over mahibreseytan, calling itself mahibrekidusan,before it is too late. The state don’t have to release its members and leaders.Mahibreseytan is working with fano and financed fanos .Mahibrekidusan members are father confessors of fanos and kinjit.

  4. Feb 8th: Abiy Ahmed and Shimelis Abdisa Can Not Be Behind the EOC Crisis
    Feb 14th: Abiy caved and reigned in the renegade group.

    Shouldn’t this article begin with an acknowledgement that Abiy and Shimeles indeed have a strong hand in the crisis?
    Second point. The author asserts that Shimeles and Abiy are somewhat at odds. This is purely his theory. There is no evidence to support it. But it’s been an effective trope to suggest that Abiy has good intentions for Ethiopia were it not for this crazy tribalist sitting on his right. What we have seen so far is that both are one and the same.

  5. I tell you this young PM has proven many of us wrong and in some cases including myself. In this dangerous case that almost brought the country to another senseless calamity, he and those elders that include our two eternal heroes Major Haile and Colonel Derartu have managed to reconcile the factions in the church. Now you can hear a pin drop at the places of worship in all regions. We have to learn how to be fair and give credit where it is due. I am not saying he is perfect and should never be criticized. In fact politicians should be kept on their toes but not discarded at will. We should learn how to grow up. My problem is finding anyone among the opposition who is up to the job. Who? Kermit the Frog? The elites scavenging at missionary canteens still fantasizing to carve out a territory as their fiefdom? That didn’t and ain’t gonna happen, baby!!! Pie way up in the sky!!!

  6. If one connects all the dots, one cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the master mind, the manipulator, and the behind the curtains string puller in the EOTC crisis is none other than the neophyte in office and his pp cadres. The reason abiy “blinked” is owing to the fact in this matter of faith, he could not play his political sleight of hand. He got exposed.

    አሳ እንደላሰው እንደ ወንዝ ድንጋይ ሙልጭልጭ እያለ አቋሙ: ስውር ተልዕኮው : ለመላው ኢትዮጵያን ለአምስት አመታት ያህል: ለመያዝ ለመጨበጥ ያዳገተው: የፖለቲካ ቁማርተኛ: እስቲ ሙች: እስቲ ሙት : በማህተቤ በሚለው ምስኪን ህዝብ: አያገባው ገብቶ: ሲዘላብድ: እጅ ከፍንጅ ተጋለጠ:: የተሸሸገው:ማንነቱ: በማይልቅ ወሬውና ትረካው የተደበቀው እሱነቱ ልክ እንደ ጥርት ባለ ሰማይ ላይ ቦግ : ድምቅ ብላ እንደምትታይ ጨረቃ: ለኢትዮጵያውያን ገሃድ ታየ::

    Both at the domestic and global arenas, this incident is a total eye opener. The pm can no longer pretend belonging to the Ethiopian universal camp or the tribalistic, self cannibalizing ethno-fanatic camp. Either he will choose and demonstrate in action, and concrete, measurable outcomes to be a statesman and pm for all Ethiopians or unabashedly take his mask, his facade off and declare his membership in the militant oromo camp.

    “The international society has quietly made its statement to the Prime Minister. No Stability, No Money.”

    Great!!!!!!!! Neither the USA nor the European Union owes abiy anything. American and European tax payers money, not a dime, should be allocated to a wanna be dictator running a tribal banana republic in the 21 century. A leader who openly violates the freedom of religion of tens of millions, who imprisons the faithful, who condones the murder and summary executions by armed thugs of the faithful at church compounds has no business asking the West in particular and for that matter any decent and responsible governments and nations for financial help.
    The No More movement is also now moot.

    ጠቅላይ ሚኒስትሩ : እርሳቸው ባደነቋቸው ሰባኪያን( በካራቴ ጋኔን አወጣን የሚሉ : በሞባይል: እየሱስን አገኘን የሚሉ: ለዚያውም በኢትዮ ቴሌኮም ኔትወርክ:- የደወሉላቸው ደምበኛ ከአገልግሎት ውጭ ናቸው: የደወሉላቸው ደምበኛ መስመር ስለተያዘ እባክዎን ትንሽ ይጠብቁ በሚያበዛው) የእምነቱን ተከታዮች ሲዘለፉ: ንፁሃን የእምነት ተከታዮች ሲታሰሩ: ሲደበደቡ: ካህናት በአደባባይ በጥፊ ሲመቱ: ቤተክርስቲያን: ስትሰበር: : ስትዘረፍ: ከዚያም አልፎ በቅጥር ቤተክርስቲያን ደጅ ምዕመናኗ: በጥይት ያለፍርድ ሲረሸኑ: አንዲትም ቃል : ያልተነፈሱ: የህግን የበላይነት ያላስመሰከሩ: በህዝብ የተጣለባቸውን አደራ ያልተወጡ በመሆናቸው: ታሪካቸው: የጎደፈ: የቆሸሸ ከመሆኑም በላይ ክህግ ተጠያቂነትም አያድናቸውም:: እንዲያውም ለአለም ማቀፉ ማህበረሰብ: እንካችሁ: ልታንቁኝ : የምትችሉት በዚህ ገመድ ነው እንዲያውም ገመዱን ይሄው አንገቴ ውስጥ አሁንን እኔ ራሴ አጥልቄ እሰጣችህዋለው ብለው እንካችሁ ብለው በገዛራሳቸው ፈቃድ አስረክበዋል::

    Well what can one say? Well, he had such potential, all the political capital many politicians would die for, but, alas, tribal politics: garbage in, garbage out. Rest in pieces 2018-2023.

  7. A partisan demagogue, who without any compunction, an iota of moral and ethical responsibility for the safety, freedom and liberty of hundred of millions defenseless elderly, men, women, boys, girls, children, infants and to be born lives should never ever be given a platform, a venue and any material support , including any financing from the coffers of taxpayers in USA and Europe or for that matter any other nations. Evil should not be propped up, supported or contained. It must be confronted, called out and destroyed unequivocally for good to triumph.

    The world has no stomach to tolerate another wanna be hitler or stalin in the 21st century. Only an ideologue driven by political insanity, radicalized to the core and infected with militant tribalism condones the murder of parishioners at church compounds- an outrage, a morally disgusting and appalling stance for anybody.

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