Yonas Biru, PhD
In the last fifty some years, four governments have ruled Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie lasted in office for 44 years. Ultimately it was his failure to reform the throne and the land tenure system that led to his and his government’s demise. Consequently, Derg rose to power by accident and force.
Derg lasted in office for 17 years. Three factors contributed to its demise: Communism, Mengistu and the fall of the Soviet Union. The accidental heir to the throne was the TPLF-led EPRDF government.
The EPRDF lasted for 27 years. What brought it down was the decaying of an inherently flawed tribal constitution and its refusal to reform it. The Oromo-led government at whose apex Prime Minister Abiy sits was the accidental heir.
In five years, the Abiy government is decaying to a point of collapse not only because of a fundamentally unsustainable constitution, but also because of the vitriolic hate Oromo intellectuals harbor against Amhara.
Three systems – monarchist, communist, and tribalist – submitted to the impulses of accident and force. The pregnant question “WHAT IS NEXT” imposes itself on us and a host of questions bubble out of it. Who would be the next accidental heir? Why is Ethiopia doomed to be governed by accident and force rather than by reflection and choice? What prohibits political institutions and coalitions from forming to avoid the accidental rise to power of random and destructive forces? A quick glance of the various Ethiopian social media discussion forums shows that such questions do not get sufficient attention. The focus is on demonizing the government and seeking its removal from office. The question of who will come to power and how is left for accident and force.
For 50 years Oromo politicians used grotesquely falsified and hate-filled grievance propaganda to present themselves as victims. Consequently, they made themselves psychologically traumatized. What Ethiopians are witnessing is the Oromo political class rebelling against a government whose levers of power it controls. The damage they have caused to the nation is unprecedented in its scope, dimensions, and destructiveness. It could well be irreversible.
The priority of first order facing Ethiopians is managing the spiraling crisis before seeking a solution. In pursuing these tasks, Ethiopians need to keep in mind that Oromo tribal extremists exist in a country they hate with passion, and hellbent to reinvent it in their image or destroy it trying. Ethiopians at large have a country they love and are duty-bound to save. Much as Ethiopians wish to get rid of the Prime Minister, they need to navigate this turbulent time with care.
Growing up in Ethiopia, I remember my mother repeating an Oromo proverb “ኢትዮጵያ ፊ በላ ዋቃቱ ኤጋ” (God protects Ethiopia and the Blind). Americans say: “God works in mysterious ways.” Both the Oromo and American proverbs inspire confidence that there is always hope even when hope seems hopelessly hopeless. When all appears lost, God used the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod as a vessel of resolve and revelation of deliverance for a new trajectory.
A Vessel of Resolve and Revelation of Deliverance for a New Trajectory.
The crisis that befell the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) and the government’s inexplicable attacks against peaceful civilians at the Adwa celebration have revealed six disturbing phenomena. Together, they lay bare the nation’s political fault lines and throw light on the contours of hope for change. The revelations are:
First, an out-of-control Oromo extremist group is increasingly turning the country into an epicenter of crisis and chaos. The government has gone from missing in action to supporting the extremist cabals as was the case with the EOTC crisis. Even worse, the government is taking it up on itself to start deadly conflicts. This was manifested in its willful disturbance of the peaceful celebration of Adwa. The line between the federal government, the Oromo tribal government and Oromo-Shene is increasingly blurring to a point of convergence.
Second, the Prime Minister has become reckless and autocratic. This was demonstrated in his ominous and unprecedented threat against the EOTC and its faithful followers that he would clamp down any protest with “means that the public has never seen before.”
Third, the Prime Minister has no clothes. This was evidenced in his capitulation when confronted with the EOTC’s overwhelming pushback to defend and uphold its integrity and sovereignty.
Fourth, the federal government is disarray, and the ensuing impunity has led to a breakdown in law and order. What Ethiopians see is not an organized and systemic implementation of the Oromummaa project to create an Oromo hegemonic state but a growing vacuum that is filled by rogue extremists.
Fifth, when faced with well-organized pressure and strategic challenges, the Prime Minister’s survival instinct and lust for staying in power leads him to respond positively.
Sixth, the international community plays a positive role for the peace and stability of Ethiopia. Whereas the Ethiopian political class showed lack of geopolitical savviness (as demonstrated in its #NoMore campaign) the EOTC showed sophistication and skill in seeking and harnessing international leverage. The French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville calls this the art of “harmonizing earth with heaven.”
These revelations and their consequences should be seen in the context of the state of the nation’s political, economic, security and law and order ecosystems. According to an independent international report, over 38 million people need international food aid, accounting for 31 percent of the population. Of which 11.2 million are under severe humanitarian situations. Furthermore, 4.3 million people are forcefully displaced.
In addition, the Prime Minister’s report card shows the loss of over a million lives to war and hunger. Extrajudicial killings have become ubiquitous in the Oromo tribal land where Oromo-Shene is reigning with impunity. Naked corruption has been normalized and institutionalized, allowing high-level Oromo officials to ransack the nation’s natural resources and international aid.
A total breakdown of law and order has become the hallmark of the Abiy administration. The Prime Minister’s narcissistic and psychopathic traits make him a continuing danger with no concern or remorse for human suffering.
Taken in sum, these developments suggest any discussion about Ethiopia must start with the possibility of a total collapse of the federal government that entails a calamitous, and potentially irreversible, crisis not only in Ethiopia, but also in the entire Horn of Africa region. Ethiopians from all corners of the country are duty bound to save their country. In the meantime, the possibility of regional instability burdens the international community with security concerns to intervene. At this critical junction, the two most urgent tasks in the order of priority are:
- A robust international campaign for sanction and international investigation needs to be launched as a priority of first order. The results of the sanction will be immediate and impactful. The demand for international investigation for crime against humanity will put a break on the prevailing culture of impunity.
- A national coalition to mobilize the silent majority from every corner of the nation. This is critical to arrest the spiraling crisis and facilitate a paradigm shift away from the hate-driven and Oromummaa-drugged extremism.
This requires a sober diagnosis of the nation’s political fault lines from which the crises spring, a prognosis with clear steps to prevent unforeseen developments from causing irreversible harm, and a robust strategy to put the nation on the road to recovery.
This article is divided into four chapters. Chapter one provides an in-depth presentation of the state of the nation’s political crises and their underlying causes and immediate and long-term consequences.
Chapter two sheds light on how and why Ethiopians fail to force the Prime Minister to correct course and or leave office. The chapter addresses the failure of the Ethiopian political class to build credible and powerful institutions and mount effective opposition. It also addresses the opposition’s malfeasance and misfeasance. Demonizing Oromo intellectuals and Oromo-Shene without addressing hermitized Amhara intellectuals and Amhara-Shene would limit the utility and credibility of any discussion.
Chapter three discusses the overarching principles underlining the success of the EOTC in defusing the tribalist forces’ assault against its unity in trinity. The chapter sheds light on two fundamental questions: “What made the silent majority rise up in support of the EOTC?” and “Why is it still silent on political issues as Ethiopia is tittering at the brink of disintegration?” The second question is critical because there is no EOTC without Ethiopia and the KEY to a peaceful resolution is with the silent majority not politicians.
Chapter 4 proposes specific courses of action to engage the silent majority and mobilize international pressure to hold the Prime Minister accountable and combat Oromo extremism. This section is aimed to initiate discussion to further develop the campaign’s substantive content, organizational structure, and execution modality right.
The Anatomy of Abiy Ahmed’s Crisis: Understanding Its Causes and Consequences
This chapter presents the evolving power dynamics in Ethiopia and the shrinking down of a once towering Prime Minister. It addresses key questions, including
- How did Oromo-Shene Grew so fast?
- Why is the Government Acting Like Oromo-Shene?
- Is the problem an organized and systemic Oromummaa enterprise or a chaotic crisis caused by Oromo extremists sleepwalking and breaking everything in their path?
- What is the story behind the story of the Adwa day military parade and the Prime Minister’s attempt to play the TPLF card?
It would not be a hyperbole to say Prime Minister Abiy’s remarkable ascension to fame and fast fall to disgrace is unprecedented in Ethiopian history. His 2018 rapid rise to become the nation’s inspiration for hope and a Nobel Laureate for Peace was short lived. His fall that is attributable to his narcissistic and untrustworthy characteristics is self-inflicted and deserved.
Considering his rapid loss of control, the state of the dilapidated Tigray and the fact that the Amhara tribal land lacks strategy and organized opposition, one reality describes the state of politics in Ethiopia. As Oromo goes, so goes the nation. How goes Oromo is the question. To answer this, we need to explore how the Prime Minister’s power dynamics has evolved overtime.
Up until the war with the TPLF, the Prime Minister had the upper hand over competing Oromo power centers. This was evident from his uncontested power when he transformed the Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO) to the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) and purged extremist elements, in 2018. He consolidated his power further in 2019 when he dissolved ODP and established the Oromo Prosperity Party (Oromo-PP). By mid 2020, he had all but completely defeated tribalist Oromo forces, including Team Jawar and the party he was associated with – the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
After the war, his utterly incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy, his lack of modesty to seek advice and guidance from subject matter experts, and his failure to provide security to victims of Oromo extremists turned him from the nation’s hope to its despair. In the meantime, the war with the TPLF turned him from a poster image of hope for peace and prosperity to an epitome of an international pariah.
The more his national and international support base eroded, the more he cozied up to (or avoided confrontation with) extremist Oromo tribalist forces. This led to two narratives of his political propensity. On the one hand, even his former ardent supporters started suspecting or believing that he has shelved or altogether orphaned his Pan Ethiopianist reform and embraced the Oromummaa agenda. On the other hand, those who maintain the view that he was all along a part of the Oromummaa project bask in “we told you so” exaltation.
The story is more complex than the simplistic and gratuitous outlooks of the two groups. One important thing that we have learned from the averted EOTC crisis is that the Prime Minister’s actions are driven by political expediency rather than by tribal kinship. He was as quick to embrace Oromo tribalists as he was to go against them.
The Metamorphosis of the Prime Minister
The problem in Ethiopian politics is that everything is viewed either through an enemy lens (as a betrayer, sellout, traitor, and even an evil) or through a friend lens (trust, reverence, and honor). Politics is the art of perfecting the middle ground and working out compromises. In Ethiopian politics there is no middle ground. Amhara extremists lump Oromo-Shene and Amhara moderates in the same baskets. Similarly, Oromo extremists see the Prime Minister and Pan Ethiopianists, and Oromo moderates as one.
People who five years ago saw the Prime Minister with reverence and were part of the Abiy-mania phenomena are now accusing him of being the evil architect and executive mastermind of the Oromummaa enterprise. Missing in the political narrative is the Prime Minister’s lust for power that is signified by his tendency to turn on a dime. He is as quick to embrace the Oromummaa culture as he is to champion a pan Ethiopianist movement.
This is crucial to understand the Oromo political dynamics and develop a counter strategy. Abiy’s track record from 2018 to 2021 shows his pan Ethiopianist streak. His decision to publicly praise Emperors Menilik and Haile Selassie as modernizers of Ethiopia and erect their statutes prominently in the Addis Ababa palace cannot be overlooked.
In a critical essay in Foreign Policy, Milkessa M. Gemechu, a former member of the Central Committee of the Oromo Democratic Party made this clear, stating: “Not even one year into his premiership, he was openly regarded as a traitor in Oromia.” Milkessa accused the PM of: (1) purging “hardcore Oromo nationalists from any role in his government at federal, regional, and local government levels”; (2) demonizing the Qeerroo as an “ungovernable pestilence that must be dealt with”; and (3) shifting the Oromo Democratic Party “dramatically toward the public dominance of Ethiopian nationalists who are organized around Amharic language and culture…”
Hardliner Oromos still see the Prime Minister as an enemy. Deciphering the influence of different Oromo factions is important to understand the Prime Minister’s metamorphosis. This is a difficult undertaking because Oromo political factions display a symbiotic relationship despite having largely irreconcilable interests. There are three important Oromo factions whose struggles for dominance are shaping Ethiopian politics.
- Shene-Oromo that dreams of giving birth to an independent Greater Oromia by force or referendum.
- Ethiopianist Oromos led by the Prime Minister. This comes with a caveat taking the Prime Minister’s flipping and flapping between a nationalist and tribalist agenda. For all practical reasons this agenda is either shelved or aborted, but extremist Oromos still see the Prime Minister as a champion of it. They believe if he gets the chance he will pick it up again.
- A shadow government within Oromo-PP that wants to recreate an Ethiopia under an Oromo hegemonic rule. This groups tolerates and even supports Shene-Oromo as an insurance policy to thwart the Prime Minister’s pan Ethiopianist reform agenda. In the meantime, it tries to ensure Oromo-Shene will not be strong enough to topple Oromo-PP.
An interesting question that shades light on the current crisis is: “How did Oromo-Shene Grew so Fast?” In 2018 and 2019, Jawar was asking the government to use force to disarm the Shene colony. Even OLF was against it. Oromo-Shene grew fast aided by the collapse of TPLF. How so?
Oromo federalist groups were counting on TPLF as a hope of last resort to force the Prime Minister for national dialogue with all federalist forces. TPLF was supposed to either dethrone the Prime Minister and organize such a dialogue or weaken him militarily and compel him to accept the federalist forces’ demand for national dialogue to agree on the form and content of any economic, political, and constitutional reform. They demand an interim government to decide on all matters of significance.
For obvious reasons, TPLF supported Oromo-Shene directly and indirectly with help from Egypt. After TPLF was weakened and saw its dream of enforcing its will on Ethiopia fade, Oromo federalist forces threw their weight behind Oromo-Shene. Shene inherited TPLF’s role as the hope of last resort to inherit TPLF’s place as a potent force against the Abiy administration.
Before the EOTC crisis, the relationship between the Oromo-PP and Shene Oromo was a topic of raging dispute. Some see Prime Minister Abiy and President Shimelis behind Shene-Oromo as a deceitful good-cop and bad-cop political strategy. In this scenario, Oromo-Shene can serve the Prime Minister as a strategic fallback position to keep the Oromo tribal land as a sanctuary if the national Prosperity Party and the Prime Minister’s pan Ethiopianist agenda falls apart.
Others see that Shimeles and/or other high-level Oromo-PP officials are running a shadow government to slow down the Prime Minister’s pan-Ethiopianist agenda. Therefore, the Shadow government has vested interest to use Oromo-Shene as an insurance policy to keep the Prime Minister on his toes to hang on to power rather than pushing his pan Ethiopianist reform agenda.
The good-cop and bad-cop perspective and the shadow government narrative have one thing in common. Both lead to the conclusion that the Oromo political balance hangs on the assumption that the Prime Minister and Shimeles are tolerating or supporting Oromo-Shene for political reasons.
The outcome of the EOTC crisis has made this debate irrelevant by fundamentally breaching the Oromo political status quo that depended on avoiding head-on collision with Oromo-Shene.
The Breakdown of the Political Status Quo
The timing of the assault against the EOTC came at the time of the Prime Minister’s weakness. Oromo extremists saw him allowing the TPLF to breach the core elements of the Pretoria agreement without any consequence. Another factor that encouraged them was the albatross the international community has around the Prime Minister’s neck to avoid any action that would lead to conflict or instability.
The well-planned strike against the EOTC assumed that the Prime Minister will not risk exacerbating a plethora of conflicts in the Oromo tribal land by acting against them. They also understood, considering the political impotence of the Ethiopianist and Amhara forces, the Prime Minister will not pay heed to their concerns and protests. Their strategy was to force the Prime Minister to accept and defend their extremist agenda.
Initially, he behaved exactly as they expected. He accepted their narrative of the problem as a language issue and defended the renegade Orthodox Group, including having a parallel Oromo Orthodox Synod, violating the Synod’s “One Church, One Synod, One Patriarch” principle. Within days, he was forced to reverse his position and go against the renegade group.
Had the renegade group’s succeeded, Oromo tribalists could have registered a strategic victory. Instead, the EOTC’s swift and strategic victory not only handed them a watershed defeat but also perturbed the Oromo political status quo. This is not a political hiccup, but a game changing development. The status quo that tolerated Oromo extremists or avoided actions against them has been breached. The question people ask is: why then is the government acting like Oromo Shene?
The Government is Acting Like TPLF, Not Like Oromo-Shene
After TPLF left Addis Ababa and hankered in Mekele, the bustling Tigrayan economy that was supported with looted resources from the rest of the country started to cool off and eventually came to a halt. TPLF had to channel the energy and anger of the people (particularly the youth) by instilling a sense of Tigrayan nationalism.
The people were preoccupied with Tigrayan exceptionalism, exalting their culture, heroism, and virtues above all other tribes. They were made to believe they are the alpha tribe, the Israel of Africa. War, they were convinced, is their pastime. Their red flag with yellow emblem became part of their wardrobe, from their hats to their socks and everything in between.
They even started painting their cows, horses, and pets red and yellow. They used photoshoped smart city designs of Mekele with high-rises. They went as far as announcing fundraising to establish “Tigryan Airlines”, using photoshoped picture of a plane with Tigrayan flags and logo. Mekele was touted to become the largest and most modern city in Ethiopia with its own international airline.
The people’s empty stomachs were desensitized by their adrenalin filled brains. Their decimated careers and businesses were compensated by their overhyped nationalist social psychology. Sadly, their dreams and hopes were crushed by the weight of hard reality. Today, Tigrayans are praying for food, work, access for electricity, and banking. They are yearning to become part of Ethiopia once again so they can work and earn a living elsewhere in Ethiopia.
The President of the Oromo tribal land is copying TPLF’s failed project. Unemployed and unemployable youths are restive and politically charged. The Oromo economy cannot accommodate them. At best, Oromo college graduates speak rudimentary Amharic and what sounds like broken English if you pay attention. The government’s strategy is to preoccupy them with Oromo nationalism. The Addis Ababa school flag and anthem debacle was part of this shenanigan, which the Oromo government broadcasted on its media ad nauseam.
The Oromo President’s recent announcement about making the Oromo Sheger City the largest city in Ethiopia is another example. The designated areas to become Sheger city are still in ጋሪ and ኩራዝ era. Their chance of being the largest city in Ethiopia is lower than their ጋሪ flying over the skies of Ethiopia and their ኩራዝ serving as WIFI for the horn of Africa. Oromo Sheger city is the equivalent of Tigray’s photoshoped smart cities, technology hub for Africa, and Tigray International Airline.
When seen from this perspective, the conflict surrounding Adwa and all the effort to appropriate Ethiopian history as an Oromo history proves to be more a desperate attempt to give the Oromo youth a sense of superior national identity. It has less to do with a systemic implementation of the Oromummaa project.
The narrative that Prime Minister Abiy is part of the Oromummaa project makes no sense. But let us assume for the sake of clarification that he is an integral part of it. In this case one would assume he would have a well-planned Oromummaa implementation priority and sequence.
The successful implementation of such a plan requires full control against internal chaos. The Prime Minister would need to assure his international donors that “all is well and under control” while he systematically advances his Oromummaa agenda. He would also make sure his chance of success is higher than the probability of his failure.
In the last three months, he has lost in two prize fights: The Addis Ababa schools flag and anthem shenanigan and the EOTC crisis. Considering this, who in his right mind would think that he would order firing teargas inside a church?
It would have been better if there was a coordinated Oromummaa implementation project. It will be easier to combat. And its consequences will be less catastrophic. What is happening is far from an orderly and effective implementation plan. Every Tollossa, Megersa, Regassa, Biftu and Ayantu is doing what tickles his/her fancy. The government is in total disarray and the nation has become an asylum for the absurdly demented souls with a 16th century tribal mindset. The situation is spiraling down, and the Prime Minister has lost control.
The Prime Minister’s Futile Effort to Project Power and Play the TPLF Card
The meeting the Prime Minister hastily organized with the TPLF leaders in a remote area of the Southern People tribal land was to project an image of control and peace to the international community. It was also aimed to send an underhanded and unscrupulous message to the Amhara tribal land that he would not hesitate to form a coalition with the TPLF. When seen from this perspective, his tolerance of the TPLF can be at least partially explained by a desire to keep them as an insurance policy against the Amhara tribal land.
The international community did not fall for his shenanigan because it was fully cognizant that the conflict in Tigray pales in comparison with the EOTC crisis. The international community may wish to see peace with TPLF even if it meant allowing TPLF breaching the Pretoria agreement. But they do not want to gain peace in one area to come at the expense and risk of war in another area.
The PM’s poorly choreographed and widely disseminated meeting pictures flabbergasted the international community rather than calming it down. His hunkering down in a remote area talking about something of a secondary importance as the nation was simmering to boil into a religious war showed a man of reckless hubris and unbridled delusion.
Despite the Prime Minister’s effort to curate an image of being in charge and in control, one thing is clear. He has lost the respect and trust not only of the citizenry but also of the military as well. Multiple reliable sources privy to high brass military leaders are of the opinion that the military will not allow him to use Welkait as a bait for his political gambit. There is no reason to believe the Oromo in the military is different from the Orthodox Christians and the Oromo population at large. They are Ethiopians first and foremost as Oromo Orthodox Christians have proven.
The Prime Minister’s wish to use TPLF as an insurance policy reaffirms his desperation. For the foreseeable future, the TPLF’s agenda and preoccupation will be political survival, with no viable path for military dominance. The fact that they agreed to meet with the Prime Minister at the snap of a finger without a prior notice shows their state of despair.
For the next three to five years, TPLF’s focus will be salvaging its economy from utter ruins, stitching the debilitated social fabric, and uplifting the impaired psychology of its destitute people. This is the best-case scenario if it survives the growing opposition within proper Tigray. General Tsadkan’s recent article that pushed back against TPLF’s effort to hang on to power is a harbinger of things to come in the TPLF direction.
The military parade the Prime Minister showed at the Adwa celebration is another futile theatrics. It was a poor man’s imitation of Kim Jong Un’s regime. By no stretch of the imagination is it a show of force to keep foreign enemies at bay. Nothing was paraded that will keep Egyptian or Sudanese military leaders up at night. If anything, they may have felt pity for him. The parade was to show off his success in rebuilding the Ethiopian military and a futile attempt at projecting power and authority over his domestic oppositions.
The question that demands attention is: How in the world can a government this incompetent and this weak still hang on to power? It is to this topic we turn to in chapter two.
Contemporary Ethiopia: Where Opinion Leaders and Nation Builders are Extinct
In its rich history Ethiopia has produced iconic leaders who have earned global respect. Why has its educated generation of the past half a century failed to produce opinion leaders and nation builders? Contrary to popular opinion it has nothing to do with modern (read Western) education. Japan, Korea, China, India, and many other nations have transformed their nations to stellar progress after they adopted western education and modernized their culture. Yes, after they modernized their cultures.
Let us hear it from Deng Xiaoping, who is widely praised as the architect of modern China. Speaking of the poverty of traditional China, he acknowledged that at the root of China’s failure “was not merely a loss of faith in communism but a loss of faith in Chinese culture and tradition as well.” He added: “As we look back, we find that all of those countries that were with the United States have been rich, whereas all of those against the US have remained poor. We shall be with the US.”
Deng’s opinion was shaped by the experience of Japan during the early years of the Meiji Restoration era when its leaders abandoned their culture and adopted western culture all but lock, stock, and barrel. The King ordered his cabinet to wear European cloth and sport European hairdo. For more discussion on this see my article titled “Cultural Enigma in Development Dynamics: Ethiopia & Iran Vs. China & Japan.”
The most important factor that explains Ethiopia’s failure to produce an opinion leader is its mythologized national identity that contains elements that are inherently development resistant. Tribalized and hermitized intellectuals who are stuck with the mindsets of centuries past are dominating the political market.
The Curses of Tribalized and Hermitized Intellectuals
This section liberally borrows from my earlier articles: “The Unmaking of Ethiopia’s Thinking Class and the Dumbing Down of a Nation,” “Ethiopia’s Political Problems Reside in Its Mythological National Identity,” and “Ethiopia in an Existential Crisis Without a Leader, But This, Too, Shall Pass.”
The tribalized intellectual class does not require discussion. A few names suffice: Ezekiel Gabissa Bekele Gerba; and Shimelis Abdissa. When the world adopts modern culture, tribalized Oromo intellectuals insist on reintroducing a 16th century Gedaa system. Professor Ezekiel was arguing on a televised interview that the first man God created was Oromo. Tribalism is degenerative and primitive. To hear these souls defending their position is akin to time traveling to centuries past.
Oromo has been on tribal drugs the longest. What has its people gained? Why would one be surprised by the 2 percent passing rate on the standardized national exams for university entrance? Why would one be surprised by the savagery of Oromo Shene? Aren’t tribal societies barbaric, historically?
Let us move on to the curses of hermitized intellectuals that the Amhara tribal land is suffering from. Ethiopia’s national identity that is inspired by mythological stories and weaved from spiritual articles of faith is the origin of her indomitable spirit to protect her from enemies foreign and domestic. But this comes with detrimental consequences.
The Hermitized intellectual’s thought process is driven neither from an enlightenment of thought, nor guided by the light of reason. Instead, its mindset is built by extrapolating its mythological narratives in perpetuity, making spirituality and mythology constant features of its identity. Such an identity is not prone to adopting new ideas and reconciling emerging differences in views.
Ask why Oromo and Amhara intellectuals fight about Adwa and Gedaa than about what economic model the country needs to follow. Intellectual clans whose mindsets are stuck in centuries past are not fit to lead a country in the 21st century. Almost every misguided and self-destructive issue in Ethiopian politics is sourced by this cabal class. Its most damaging outcome are giving birth to the two Shenes and to the #NoMore movement thereby screwing up both the local and geopolitical politics.
The Curse of Amhara-Shene
There is no need to go into details about Oromo-Shene. A few images showing people hanged upside down alive and beaten to death, innocent people stoned to death, defenseless children and elderly men and women hatcheted alive serve both as the lingua franca and hallmarks of its political manifesto.
Unlike Oromo Shane that is well organized and armed with weapons, Amhara-Shene is more of an off-grid and high-bandwidth network of activists tooled with polarizing rhetoric. Its aim is to dial back the time when the Amhara played a dominant role in state politics. The network’s ideological doctrine coalesces around Amhara nationalism at its nucleus from whence a unitary mindset radiates outward and expresses itself as a national identity. The network has neither a written manifesto nor an organizational platform. Instead, it pushes a passive-aggressive strategy to take the Ethiopian political center stage, using grievance politics both as the power cylinder and transmission belt of its political machinery.
Its grievance politics has undercut the Amhara historical political wisdom that relies on the art of diplomatic flexibility to transcend differences and build consensus. Gone are the days of Amhara subtle and strategic powerplay and coalition forming. The problem with Amhara-Shene stems from three sources. First, they are stuck in a zero-sum-game mindset. Second, they lack strategy. Third, they have a growing list of enemies, but no friends.
Ask them what would be their strategic response if Oromo tribalists joined the TPLF and go after the Amhara tribal land? Ask them what they would do if the Prime Minister as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces ordered federal forces to disarm the Amhara special forces and militia? Ask them in what way have they helped to mitigate the sufferings of their people in the Oromo tribal land? Ask them what coalition they have helped to build both inside and outside of the Amhara tribal land. They have no answer.
Amhara-Shene may not be responsible for the emergence of Oromo-Shene. But it serves as its sparring partner with no discernible benefit to it or to Ethiopia. Amhara Shene’s damage to Ethiopia is no less in terms of perpetuating tribal conflict and creating apathy in the Amhara silent majority.
The silent majority wants tolerance, peace, and reconciliation. If politicians want to win the support of the silent majority, they need to understand its nature and reframe their political strategy and narrative. What happened in the 2021 elections in the Amhara tribal land is an eye-opener. Only 44 percent of eligible voters casted their votes. The rest remained home. The people were not happy with Amhara-PP. In the meantime, they saw the extremist cabals as polarizing and dangerous.
The 44 percent eligible voters who took part in the elections, overwhelmingly voted for Amhara-PP. Out of 138 seats, extremist candidates won only 5 or 6 seats in a small part of Gojam’s bible belt. Extremist candidates won a total of zero seats in Gonder, Wello and Shewa. The people of Amhara have rejected Amhara-Shene. It is only the hermitized intellectuals who perform the እከደከድየ dance with Amhara-Shene.
Turning the #NoMore to #YesMore
Ethiopia is a resource poor country, barring water. This is not an opinion, but a fact documented in all international publications. The IMF categorizes Ethiopia as one of the 11 resource poor nations. But do not tell this to the hermitized intellectual who is baptized with አሳድጋናለች በማር በወተት ትርክት.
Never mind the recurring famine. Let us look at the World Bank data on prevalence of stunting, height for age (% of children under 5) for Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Ethiopia is the worst case at 36.8%. The corresponding figure for Kenya is 28.9% and Uganda has the lowest at 25.4%. Ethiopia’s hope to combat poverty and restore the dignity of its people depends on two factors. Good economic policy and international funding both in terms of international aid and foreign direct investment.
It is mind boggling to see one of the most sought-after geopolitical countries adopts the #NoMore street diplomacy rather than leveraging its geopolitical importance to its advantage. Once again, the problem is its hermitized intellectual class that historically sees foreign nations near and far as enemies. My problem is not criticizing the west’s misguided intervention during the TPLF war. I have written at least five articles on it.
What makes the #NoMore movement different is that it was not about informing and influencing the international community’s policy on Ethiopia. It is a movement that aims to stop international intervention altogether in favor of the zero-calorie “African solution for African Problem” doctrine.
First, Africa needs to feed itself before it touts “African solution for African Problem” እከደከድየ. The world has seen the President of Ghana lecturing the President of France in 2017, stating “We have to get away from this mindset of dependency. Our concern should be what do we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from being cap in hand and begging for aid, for charity, for handouts. In 2023, he had a cap for aid saying: “We pray that this will be the last (support needed)…”
Second, in an increasingly interwoven global economy and global security interdependence, no country can say do not intervene in my affair. What happens in Ethiopia affects not only its neighbors in the Horn of Africa, but also the global economy and security at large. Ethiopia is intervening in Somalia’s affair because what happens in Somalia affects Ethiopia.
Why would the international community care about Ethiopia?
The geopolitical arena is going through a dizzying transformation. The war in Ukraine and the growing tension in the South China Sea are staples of the international media as sources of global insecurity.
In terms of geopolitical significance, Ethiopia may not rise to the level of Ukraine and countries bordering South China Sea to draw the international media’s attention as a news staple. But as the internationally recognized anchor nation for the stability of the Horn of Africa, it is a high priority country in geopolitical power corridors.
The Red Sea is an important pass way for global trade. About 20,000 ships go through it, accounting for 10 percent of the world trade and nearly 9 percent of oil. According to UNCTAD, global trade for 2021 was estimated at $28.5 trillion. This means nearly $3 trillion worth of goods pass through the Red Sea.
Geopolitical powers understand, a civil war between Amhara and Oromo will lead to a catastrophic crisis of biblical proportions. The TPLF may see war between Amhara and Oromo as an opportune time to recapture Welkait and get tempted to trigger another civil war. Consider the population size of Amhara and Oromo, the militarization of both people, the number of Amhara people living in the Oromo tribal land (estimated to be more than the population of Tigray), and the size of the Oromo population in the Amhara tribal land. Add to this a civil war between Amhara and Tigray. The result can be tens of millions of people flooding neighboring countries, risking the stability of the entire Horn region.
Ethiopians of all tribes, hues, and creeds have a duty to save their country. The international community’s interest in maintaining regional stability is also a critical factor in mobilizing support. Let us turn to chapter three for inspiration and lessons from the EOTC.
Lessons from the EOTC Experience
Two overarching principles underline the success of the EOTC in defusing the assault against its unity in trinity. First, the Holy Synod’s strategy was part preemptive and part deliberative. The preemptive part took the Prime Minister out of his comfort zone by refusing to engage him on his terms.
The renegade groups framed the conflict as the Amhara domination of the Holy Synod. The Prime Minister’s first reaction was to blame Amhara extremism and presenting the EOTC either as a victim of or a party to it. The Holy Synod rejected the bait and took the lead with a differently framed narrative. The deliberative part of their engagement showed the Prime Minister a way out of the mess he has created for himself.
The EOTC framed the crisis as a conflict between right and wrong, deliberately avoiding labeling its adversaries as enemies of the Church. Its strategy was to reunify the Church, not to score a win or demonize its adversaries. Every statement was carefully crafted to show strength and broad support for peace without seeking a zero-sum outcome. The Holy Synod’s demands were reasonable and practical, avoiding the risk of entangling itself with resistance breeding and animosity enhancing zero-sum battle.
It is not surprising Ethiopians came out in droves to defend the EOTC. The “Orthodox Church of Oromo and Nations-Nationalities” was rejected by all Ethiopians, first and foremost by the people of Oromo who refused to accept the renegade group. I would argue that the silent majority’s love and honor for its country is no less than it is for the EOTC. After all, there is no EOTC if there is no Ethiopia.
The question then is: “Why is the silent majority silent on political issues as Ethiopia is tittering at the brink of disintegration?” The answer is a lack of strategic leadership that rises to the demands of the time. What Ethiopian politicians need is leadership that matches the breadth and depth of the Synod and seasoned experts who counseled it.
The Synod manifested moral courage, religious virtues, and not least political genius. Its moral courage allowed it to be humble to acknowledge its own shortcomings and promise to address the concerns of the splintered group. Its religious virtues guided its prudence, temperance, fortitude, sense of justice and above all forgiveness. Its political genius helped it to rise above divisions and avoid feeding oxygen to the blaze that tribal extremists lit and stock.
Such was the leadership that brought the people out of their homes onto the street. What is notable is that the people crossed over religion, tribal lineages, and generational divide. This tells us as much about the character, prudence, temperance, and fortitude of the silent majority as it does about the leadership of the synod.
The Invincible Power Behind the Invincible Power
The day that renegade archbishops triggered a crisis in the EOTC, I expressed a view on a Facebook blog post, stressing: “It is the best thing that happened for Ethiopia.” My assessment was that the EOTC was predisposed to win and the outcome would have significant implications in perturbing the Oromo tribal power dynamics and sparking a glimmer of hope for a change in the nation’s political trajectory. My view was influenced by three factors.
First, I believed the church is not only a sanctuary of unbreakable spirit but also of an indomitable powerbase. Its 60 million strong following is integrated into a robust system of institutional architecture and a chain of authority that runs from the Holy Synod to churches large and small in every nook and cranny of the country. Above all, the people’s unity in the Holy Trinity and solidarity in faith instills in them a sense of righteous duty and collective purpose.
Second, I assessed that Oromo extremists made a fatal miscalculation, believing that Ethiopians of Oromo heritage have stronger allegiance to the Oromo liberation theology than to the Orthodox Church. The people of Oromo defended the EOTC and inflicted a significant defeat on the renegade group and its cabal of tribal allies. Dioceses from Arsi, Wellega, Shoa, Bale, Jimma, Hararghe, Illubabor and Borena regions issued press releases reaffirming their allegiance to the Holy Synod.
Third, I expected the offense against the EOTC would trigger the silent majority to rise and break down the monopolistic grip that tribal extremist forces have on the nation’s political power balance.
The Prime Minister’s threat to forcefully put down any protest proved to be a futile bluff. It took him but two days to blink and promise to meet all the demands of the EOTC. This was a major blow to the rabid Oromo tribal excesses. The EOTC that is one of the last sanctuaries of where people of all tribes congregate to worship their creator in unison proved indestructible. The splinter “Orthodox Church of Oromo and Nation-Nationalities” was dead before it was christened.
The renegades returned to the Church, not with contrite hearts and repentance, but with begrudging acceptance of defeat. Nonetheless, the Synod embraced them back into its providence with forgiving hearts. In so doing, it brought to life a new template impregnated with the seeds of hope for a positive change towards peace in unity. It is from this experience that this article draws inspiration and guidance.
Rational, Objectives and Methods of Campaign for Peace, Justice and Democracy
Whether one uses forced displacement, war related deaths and economic destruction, or mass murder of innocent civilians to quantify national misery, Ethiopia has consistently deteriorated over the last 50 years. The communist system that replaced the emperor proved worse. In turn, it was replaced by a tribal system that proved superlatively more gruesome.
The degenerative process can be approximated by entropy of the second law of thermodynamics. The law signifies a natural tendency to degenerate into a self-destructive state of chaos. The degree of disorder and its randomness is called entropy.
Physicists remind us that mitigating or neutralizing such a chaotic disorder requires introducing outside energy that is more powerful than the destructive energy in place. A powerful counter energy can be generated from the silent majority and the international community. The OETC’s template to marshal the silent majority has come at a time the silent majority’s ears are perked up and the international community’s tolerance to the reckless Prime Minister is all but depleted.
Preconditions for a Successful National and International Campaign
Before we discuss the necessary steps to create a peaceful, and stable political environment, we need to pay heed to the following critical issues.
First, Ethiopia is in an existential crisis. Ethiopians need to manage the problem before they can solve it. Managing it requires stabilizing it. Doctors do not perform surgery to remove a cancerous tumor before stabilizing the patient. The stabilization protocol involves two factors: priority and effectiveness.
Second, the demands of the campaign must be acceptable to the silent majority (including in the Oromo tribal land) and the international community. This is the first and most important lesson Ethiopian politicians must draw from the EOTC experience.
Third, any campaign against the Prime Minister and Oromo-PP must start with an acknowledgment that the people of Oromo have stood with their brethren from other tribal homelands. Any effort for peace and security must include the Oromo silent majority in a nationwide protest coalition. Most importantly, the campaign must stress that the people of Oromo are victims of the primitive Oromummaa enterprise that is taking them backward to the 16th century.
Fourth, whatever action we propose, it must be measured and judicious to avoid unforeseeable and potentially irreversible crises that can disintegrate the nation. This is also where the EOTC experience serves as a template.
Fifth, the campaign must avoid any consideration for an interim government because it is not likely to produce positive results. Over the last 50 years, many efforts to form coalitions of opposition forces have failed. The longest lasting coalition was the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (ቅንጅት ለአንድነት እና ዴሞክራሲ) that lasted from 2004 to 2007. Some of the coalitions ended in (what a cynic may say) no longer than a New York second – as was the case with the TPLF-led coalition that was established in Washington. The repeatedly failed 50-year-old demand for “interim government” epitomizes the failure of the intellectual political class to build functional institutions and honorable systems.
Objectives and Methods of the Campaign
The priority of first importance is breaking the entropic downward spiral of the crisis and avoid yet another change that is determined by accident and force. Currently, the Prime Minister is where the TPLF led government was in 2016. The TPLF leaders tried to hang on to power using a mixture of coercive actions and rhetorical promises of change. They squandered the opportunity for a genuine reform while they were still on the driver’s seat, controlling the levers of power. Today, many of them are dead. The rest are in a state of destitute and wretchedness.
The ideal solution for the current crisis is for the Prime Minister to address the crisis within the constitutional order and avoid the fate that had befallen TPLF. Sadly, his narcissist and deceptive characteristic flaws may not allow him to accept failure and change course. Short of government-led crisis management, the option of second resort is exerting domestic and international pressure for change in key areas that cumulatively bring about significant changes and set the system up for more systemic transformation.
As a matter of strategy, the immediate short-term focus needs to be: (1) making the Prime Minister’s tolerance to (and flirting with) Oromo extremism politically perilous for his desire to stay in office; (2) ending the Prime Minister’s authoritative leadership; (2) breaking the political culture of impunity in the Oromo political landscape; (4) ending the institutional corruption that finances rogue Oromo forces; and (5) setting the stage for an orderly and sustainable change.
The cumulative impact of these steps is a second-best solution. The first best solution of removing the Prime Minister comes at a steep risk of disintegrating the country. That is what managing an existential problem means. That is what we saw when EOTC embraced the renegades back into their Synod after they betrayed the Church not once but twice.
Five Priority Areas of the Campaign
First, the campaign must demand full accountability to atrocities committed on the Prime Minister’s watch, including providing unfettered access to international investigators. This is what the international community has been demanding regarding the war with TPLF. We need to expand the scope to include atrocities in the Oromo tribal land.
Second, unmitigated accountability regarding the Oromo government’s involvement in the EOTC crisis including killings, beatings, illegal arrests and forced entry into EOTC properties. This is very important for international support particularly in Europe where the Pope (who supports the EOTC) has enormous influence. The EOTC has an outstanding demand on this. It is critical to give the EOTC strategic support. Given the EOTC’s outstanding demand, this must be top on the list.
Third, transparent investigations of high-profile corruption cases that are feeding rogue Oromo forces. Four priority cases include: (1) the 40 million Birr that was deposited in Mayor Adanech’s private account, (2) the source of the money the first lady is using to build schools and bakery shops, (3) the 59 percent drop in gold export, and (4) the Addis Ababa city bus procurement. The investigation must be fully transparent and timebound. It is important to realize not all atrocities in the Oromo tribal land are perpetrated by Oromo-Shene. Anti-corruption drive will starve the new oligarchic class of Oromo businessmen who are financing a plethora group of tribal gangsters.
Furth, stopping the Prime Minister’s projects including the new city that is being built outside of the overview authority of the Parliament and is estimated to cost over $10 billion. The issue has already attracted international concern that such white elephant projects serve as open sources for embezzlement. To give more energy to the already gathering storm against the project, it must be stressed that the Prime Minister is raising funds from unknown international sources with unknown terms and conditions. There is nothing to stop him from mortgaging the nation’s strategic assets to get a loan from China. This campaign is critical to break his one-man dictatorship.
Fifth, creating pressure to appoint a team of capable cabinet. The Prime Minister’s duplicitous and narcissistic characteristic and his policy of surrounding himself with “yes men” rather than capable professionals and subject matter experts is part of the reason for the ongoing chaos. In the past, he was the head of the nation’s intelligence complex. Yet, under his watch, TPLF was allowed to attack the nation’s defense forces in their sleep. The Prime Minister was focused on supervising the construction of Entoto Park and a parking lot at the Mesqel Square. He is running the second most populated and third largest economy in Africa as if he is a project manager of a park and a parking lot. No level of political reform will save Ethiopia until Ethiopia is saved from the utterly incompetent administration.
Leveraging International Financial, Moral and Legal Pressures
In the immediate short-term, international financial sanction is the most potent instrument to bring the Prime Minister to his knees. Admittedly, international sanctions will harm the nation. But, if left unchecked, the damage the reckless Prime Minister and the Oromo tribal cabals cause will be far more existential. We have seen how fast the nation has deteriorated over the last two years. The momentum is accelerating, not decelerating. The foreign exchange crunch may be painful, but it is the only medicine that can save the nation from an irreversible crisis. The international campaign must be put on steroid and started with a sense of extreme urgency.
In addition to international financial sanction, diaspora members of the EOTC must mobilize moral pressure from religious institutions. The world has witnessed religious fathers being slapped, and EOTC archbishops declared persona non grata in the Oromo tribal land and deported. The world has seen firsthand from a priest who was forced to drop their pants and threatened with rape.
The world has read the human rights violation reports of extrajudicial killings of Orthodox Christians religious leaders and needlessly beating, tear-gassing, and shooting at peaceful elders and children. Even worse, the world has seen with horror the government throwing teargas inside an Orthodox church while the congregation was praying and singing hymns of praise to God. No one has been held accountable because it was done with the full knowledge, if not authorization, of the Oromo tribal government and officials of Oromo-PP.
Diaspora members of the EOTC must mobilize support from international religious institutions. The campaign must continue until those responsible for the murder, cruel beating, and deportations of religious fathers and those who were involved in rape threat are held accountable.
A third area of pressure is international investigation. As the Reuter reported, the government is “courting support” from African governments to “end U.N.-ordered probe into Tigray war abuses.” The TPLF is likely to join the government either to avoid investigation for its own atrocities or in exchange for further concessions from the Prime Minister. Ethiopians of all persuasion must object to the involvement of African governments to stop international investigations of crime against humanity. Diaspora members of the EOTC must lead this effort with help from the diaspora writ large.
Building National Coalition and Mobilizing the Silent Majority
The international campaign will not bring a transformative change, unless coordinated with domestic campaigns. The focus must be to bring the silent majority out. And this must start from the Amhara tribal land. By its sheer population size the Amhara is potentially the most viable force to counter the rabid clans of Oromummaa.
In just two weeks after the EOTC crisis, we have seen a spark and sparkle of life in Amhara-PP, not in one but two press releases, taking a starkly different position from Oromo-PP. What makes this development significant is that the pushback is coming from Amhara-PP rank and file. The focus must be in the immediate short term to leverage current developments. A two-prong action is necessary to kick this off: (1) mobilizing the rank-and-file Amhara PP and NaMA members to support the campaign; and (2) organizing domestic and diaspora support groups to Amhara-PP and NaMA.
They have well-structured institutional architectures. In the short term, they are the most viable institutions to defend the Amhara interest with support and pressure from the Amhara people.
Keep in mind two critical factors. First, remember that the actions of Amhara-PP are driven by their assessment of the power balance vis-à-vis Oromo-PP. They have seen the Prime Minister’s power shrink. They have seen him capitulate in two days when faced with the compelling force of EOTC. Organized credible support from them at home and abroad will further empower and embolden them.
Second, remember that a powerbase that can confront Oromo tribalism is a critical first step. Then and only then will the international community start to take the Amhara seriously. Ability to challenge Oromo-PP is seen as the ability to destabilize Ethiopia. Sadly, that is the only way the international community will start pressing Oromo-PP.
Crowding Out Amhara-Shene
This is critical for three reasons. First, they are stuck in a zero-sum-game mindset. Second, they lack strategy. Third, they have a growing list of enemies, but no friends.
Ask them what would be their strategic response if Oromo tribalists joined force with TPLF and go after the Amhara tribal land? Ask them what they would do if the Prime Minister ordered federal forces to disarm the Amhara special forces and militia? Ask them in what way have they helped to mitigate the sufferings of their people in the Oromo tribal land? Ask them what coalition they have helped to build both inside and outside of the Amhara tribal land. They have no answer.
Crowding Out Amhara-Shene Has Important Purposes.
First, it will open room for Amhara-PP and NaMA to grow without relentless attacks from Amhara-Shene. The Amhara-Shene is part of the reason why Amhara-PP has lost support. Some of the venomous critics include such stamens as: “በቅድሚያ ብአዴንን ማጥፋት አላማው የማያደርግ የአማራ ተጋድሎ የውሸት ትግል ነው” and “ፒፒ አማራ በአሽከርነቱ ተጠናክሮ ህዝባችንን በማሳረዱ…”
Second, crowding out Amhara-Shene will short-circuit the Amhara-Shene and Oromo-Shene conflict transmission line and change the political calculus of Oromo political forces by shifting the center of gravity away from Oromo-Shene. Amhara Shene may not be seen as a threat by the Amhara. One needs to follow Oromo social media how much attention Amhara Shene gets because it is used as a fuel to keep the Oromo Shene blaze alive.
The Role of Tribal Homelands Outside of Amhara and Oromo
The story that the Constitution honors and protects nations and nationalities is fiction. In a country where tribal rights serve as proxy through which individual rights are conferred on citizens, the overwhelming number of tribes are not even mentioned in the constitution. They are locked in a paradox between Ethiopia’s legally and politically ungovernable hinterlands. Many in the Oromo tribal land live in terror between tribal human hunters and temporary shelters.
In the Constitution, small tribes are represented in the Council of Federation, but not in the People’s House of Representatives. The Council of Federation has no constitutional right to approve or block laws. Small tribes have no constitutional protection from majority tyranny. Gurage has far more population than Afar, Gambella, and Benishangul. The Constitution grants the three smaller tribes, full autonomy. Gurage is denied the same right and its lawful request is met with brute force.
People in the Southern People region are victims of Oromo tribalism. In the meantime, they see no call from the Amhara to form a coalition. Crowding out Amhara Shene and supporting Amhara-PP will create a conducive environment to broaden the pro-democracy coalition. This is the time for such a coalition.
Professional Associations and Civil Society Organizations
No part of the Ethiopian society is immune from the growing and worsening crisis that has befallen the nation under Prime Minister Abiy. Teachers, physicians, businessmen, farmers, public employees, the military, the police, street venders, taxi drivers and everybody in between are suffering from the out-of-control inflation.
The Prime Minister lectures public servants (including teachers and physicians) they cannot request for salary increases and make do with their salaries. He then turns around and prints money in billions to finance his vanity projects. This increases the inflation rate and deteriorates the purchasing power of all income groups, most particularly the purchasing power of low-income households.
The IMF projects the consumer price index for this year at 28.6 percent. The corresponding figures for Ethiopia’s neighboring countries are: Djibouti (1.9), Somalia (3.9), Kenya (5.1), Tanzania (5.3), and Uganda (6.4). If the Prime Minister continues to print money the way he has done in the past, the 28.6 percent projection can easily surpass 50 percent.
All indications are that he plans to continue printing money to finance his vanity projects. Economists say that “printing money is stealing from the poor.” This will resonate with Oromo farmers who are forced to sell their wheat produce below the market price to make the Prime Minister’s “wheat export” sham a reality.
The people of Borena are perishing while the Prime Minister exports the wheat that his administration forcefully collected from farmers without paying full market price. His policy is like Mao Zedong’s “The Great Leap Forward” (1958-1962) program that involved extracting agricultural produce from farmers by government decree for export. The program distorted the farmer’s economic incentives, leading to a drastic drop in agricultural production. As noted in the South China Morning Post, “at least 45 million people died unnecessary deaths.”
Ethiopians must ignore economic reports by the Prime Minister and his “Yes men” cabinet members. They are outright lying to the people to hide the Prime Minister’s failure. Two months ago, the Prime Minister told Ethiopians about the IMF projection of 13.5 percent real growth for Ethiopia. The IMF official projection stands at 5.3 percent. I will go on the record saying even that is unrealistic. Expect a downward revision. Now is the time to challenge the Prime Minister, not after an economic collapse that can disintegrate the nation.
The military has suffered more than any part of society under the current Prime Minister. An entire special force was decimated trying to capture TPLF leaders who were hiding in the most fortified terrain in Tigray. The military has paid a steep cost in life and limb because of the failure of the Prime Minister who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Military. Their families are suffering from the deteriorating economy and soaring inflation. Those who were wounded during the war are begging on the streets, with no government assistant. The narcissist Prime Minister is focused on vanity projects that feed his ego.
Military leaders must also be reminded that Orthodox Christians constitute the majority in the nation’s military forces. The cascading rise of defenders of the EOTC who were ready to sacrifice themselves was instantaneous, reflexive, and overwhelming. If the Prime Minister succeeds in using the military against the EOTC or racheting up the conflict with it, he can trigger a religious war. The military has a sworn obligation to defend the nation, including from the reckless Prime Minister.
Organizational Structure and Governance Modality of the Campaign
The first and most critical step is to create a National Steering Committee, consisting of no more than 10 recognized elders and professionals. Members of the Steering Committee must not be politically affiliated with any political entity. Nor should they have a track record in political activism. Their nonpartisanship, professional reputation, personal integrity, and demonstrated commitment for the wellbeing of Ethiopia are crucial for the success of the campaign. The Committee’s primary tasks will include but not be limited to:
- Convening a broad Coalition to launch national and international campaigns for accountability, justice, unity, and democracy in Ethiopia.
- Ensuring all the demands of the Coalition are met. If the Prime Minister refuses to meet the specific demands of the Coalition for accountability, justice, unity, and democracy and remains belligerent, the Committee shall ratchet up the campaign to remove him from office on grounds of crime against humanity and scale up the campaign to mobilize additional international support through sanctions and political pressure.
- Mobilizing funds through a Go-Fund-Me campaign to hire lobbyists and media influencers.
- Organizing effective social media experts to maximize the campaigns outreach and bandwidth. The #NoMore group can be effective if they buy into the #YesMore (or equivalent) campaign to mobilize international support. As I have noted many a time, the problem with the #NoMore campaign was not the method of the campaign but the underlying anti international involvement and its zero-calorie “African Solution for African Problem” narrative.
- Developing guidelines and rules for the Coalition. Once the Campaign Coalition is formed, work toward developing bylaws should begin in consultation with and inputs from members of the Coalition. It is crucial that members of the coalition are fully involved in establishing the objectives, content, and modality of the campaign.
- Ensuring the campaign remains within agreed upon topics and methods of protest.
- Issuing press releases and serving as spokes persons of Campaign.
The Coalition that covers both the home front and the diaspora must include, among others:
- Representatives of different professional and trade associations
- Religious Organizations
- Political parties committed to the method and goal of the campaign.
- Youth groups and young professional associations
- Political Organizations
- Human Rights Organization
- Civil society organizations
Members of the coalition must abide by the guidelines and rules of the Coalition as dictated by the Steering Committee.
ኢትዮጵያ ፊ በላ ዋቃቱ ኤጋ
Growing up in Ethiopia, I remember my mother repeating an Oromo proverb “ኢትዮጵያ ፊ በላ ዋቃቱ ኤጋ” (God protects Ethiopia and the Blind). Americans say: “God works in mysterious ways.” Both the Oromo and American proverbs inspire confidence that there is always hope even when hope seems hopelessly hopeless. When all appears lost, God used the Holy Synod as a vessel to reveal to Ethiopians their deliverance from the stronghold of Oromo tribalists.
Indeed, “God works in mysterious way.” The EOTC’s template to craft a win-win domestic strategy, marshal the silent majority, and harness support from the international community came at a time the silent majority’s ears are perked up and the Prime Minister is at his weakest.
The Ethiopian political class needs to understand the temperament and predisposition of the silent majority toward a peaceful resolution and appreciate the driving interests of geopolitical forces for regional stability. Only then can it be able to develop a robust strategy that will limit the down-side risks and maximize the upside opportunities of a win-win strategy.
A win-win strategy must give priority to arresting the spiraling crisis. This requires breaking the Amhara-Oromo thug-of-war and bringing national and international issues across to the table. This is the preemptive strategy the EOTC successfully employed. Another equally important priority is a good-faith deliberative process. This requires giving priority to roundtable discussions than confrontation.
Despite the Prime Minister’s futile attempt to display a show of force, he is well aware that he is where TPLF was in 2016. He can be dragged to the table for a peaceful resolution with strategic pressure from domestic and international forces. By all cost Ethiopia must avoid the risk of unforeseeable and potentially irreversible crises that can disintegrate the nation. This is a God-sent lesson Ethiopia must draw from EOTC’s experience.
Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com
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