Yonas Biru, PhD
Let me start by saluting Jawar for his recent clarion call for a peaceful dialogue. I also share his suggestion that “as a society, we must take responsibility.” We cannot point a finger at the government and its opposition when we are part of the problem. We must confront a thorny issue: Where does the responsibility of the elite political class end, and our responsibility as members of society begin?
I have many reasons to say Jawar’s current commendable position and call for a peaceful dialogue is undermined by his failure to take his share of responsibility in instigating the swirling crisis our nation is immersed in. A small dose of sincerity and self-awareness could have served him well in advancing his newfangled democratic agenda. Let me provide five concrete examples.
First, Jawar rightly advised the diaspora to stop pouring gas on the raging political fire that is killing the people of Ethiopia. If there is one person who is the master of throwing gas on the nation’s political fire, Jawar would be second to none. I wish he summoned the courage to show some self-awareness, regret, and contrition. The lack of sincere penitence or remorse in his this week’s speech denied him the moral high ground from whence he wanted to lecture others about democratic principles.
Allow me to share a quote from his past statement on his official Facebook page. In 2019, the government accused him and the Oromo Media Network (OMN) of instigating conflicts and bloodshed. In response, on March 18, 2019, he wrote:
“Activists are doing what they are supposed to do, advocate for the particular cause or community they choose to stand for. The media is also doing its job…report events and spinning them. Activism and the media are not causing fire, their advocacy and reporting is just fueling a fire lit up by the action and inaction of the political parties and their leaders.”
Second, his suggestion this week that the government must respond to the concerns and demands of the people is commendable. But in 2020, he was publicly advocating it is Oromo’s turn to rule and Oromo should not pay attention to others complaining and making noise. At the time, he stated with passion and conviction that Oromo must move forward without any concern about its opposition’s complaints and concerns. Otherwise, he said, the Oromo alternative will be undermined. Here is the video.
Third, his recommendation to honor the rules of democratic tenets is commendable, but it lacked regret and contrition for the role he played in eroding democratic norms. Please allow me to provide you with one example.
- In 2018, PM Abiy talked about the need to look at the constitution as a source of the nation’s protracted and entrenched tribal conflicts. Jawar’s response was not establishing a democratic process to examine the constitution. His position as posted on his twitter handle (July 28, 2018) was: “Multinational federalism engrained in the current constitution is here to stay. It’s not up for discussion, let alone negotiation. Anyone caught in some FANTASY should wake up from their hallucination.”
This contradicts his current sermon about the need to resolve political differences through dialogue. Let us look at another example.
Fourth, in September 2019, the PM was preparing to declare his new Prosperity Party that was perceived to be a pan-Ethiopianist party. On September 13, 2019, Jawar issued a bold ultimatum, to send the PM Ethiopia’s expiration date if he went ahead with his plan to announce his party. Jawar gave a public speech in front of cheering and applauding Oromo activists, stating the PM’s party should not dare to tinker with the idea of using constitutional reform as part of its election campaign. He stated with a tone of authority:
“We will not allow competition within Oromo parties… We must build a consensus and have a united front behind the current ethnic federalist system… We cannot allow the PM’s party behave like a ship that has lost its compass… They cannot tell us this is their party, and they can do what they choose to do. We will not allow that.”
The video has since been removed. Here is the evidence.
Fifth, in 2019, Jawar declared there were two governments in Ethiopia: One led by Abiy and another one led by Qerro. Further, he asserted that the real power resided with his Qeerroo movement and that Qerro was able to take over Addis Ababa within 24 to 48 hours. Yet in another interview he stated, he preferred peace but:
“if war (“ግብግብ”) is needed, that is easier for me because all I need to do is incite Qeerroo and tell them let us finish the job we have started.”
I understand, as human beings, our political views evolve through time as we accumulate knowledge and experience. We also know that some of us are more influential than others. Jawar was one of the most influential politicians during the first four years of PM Abiy’s administration. At some point, he had over two million followers on social media. If we assume each follower has five people in his circle of influence, Jawar’s reach of influence
would be in the order of 10 million people – give or take a million or two. He also had OMN, which was the number one tv, social media and print outlet in the nation in terms of population penetration.
Jawar’s hand and footprint are everywhere in the current bloodshed. His change of views and perspectives are welcomed developments. The problem is that he is delivering a sermon-like lecture from 4000 meters above the blood- and gore-soaked political landscape that he himself created.
He still has an enormous opportunity to make a difference if he summoned the courage to start with humility, contrition, repentance, and an earnest resolution not to use conflict as a political currency again. He will surely receive the forgiveness of Allah and win the support and confidence of most Ethiopians.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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