Aklog Birara (Dr)
Part 1 of 2
Ethiopia suffered hugely and successively under the Socialist Military Dictatorship (1974-1991) and the Tigray people’s Liberation Front (TPF) dominated Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) 1991-2018. These regimes left an indelible and blood-stained marks on Ethiopian society. Each of them accentuated irreconcilable ethnic divisions, degraded the commonalities Ethiopians share. Each of them advanced ethnic identity and separatism (secession) over the imperative of citizenship as Ethiopians and the evolution of a united, strong, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ethiopia.
Leaders of the TPLF and its strategic partner the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) advanced, strengthened and institutionalized ethno-nationalism, sectarianism, a divisive political culture of “Us and Them,” the proclivity of party, state and government capture as well as state and government sanctioned theft, bribery, lawlessness፣ corruption and terrorism through a constitutional and administrative arrangement of ethnic federalism.
It is against this grim and corrosive trend that Abiy Ahmed Ali emerged as Ethiopia’s premier in 2018. Gullible and trusting the spoken word, millions of Ethiopians, joined and welcomed what the Economist called “Abymania.” Like others, I too believed Abiy would fulfil what he promised. This proved to be a mirage.
The “mania” that turned venomous and cancerous.
The leading reason for “Abymania” is because Abiy Ahmed promised and vowed publicly miracles through rapid and sustained political and macroeconomic policy reform. He gained public trust when he released tens of thousands of political prisoners; invited all opposition groups, including those in exile, and empowered them to engage in the political process; vowed to fight corruption, bribery and nepotism.
Abiy promised press freedom, freedom of expression, association, political formation and competition. He projected a statesman like image and persona committed to human rights and the rule of law, inclusion, political pluralism, multiparty democracy and rapid economic development.
I do not blame Ethiopia’s millions including those of us in the Diaspora for hoping against hope and for trusting that Ethiopia’s “messiah” will walk the talk. Little did we figure out that Abiy Ahmed Ali was, from inception, committed to and would use party, state and government capture and accelerate complete Oromo-elite hegemony of Ethiopia. Unfolding events illustrate this intentional and well-planned deconstruction of Ethiopai.
I acknowledge Abiy’s “innovative and Machiavellian” approach in advancing the ethnic cause for which he stands. For example, the “messiah” craftily engineered the new and enticing term Prosperity Party while keeping its EPRDF ethnic roots intact. Who would argue against the prospect of an Ethiopia without poverty the prosperity gospel implied? It is a marketable name. This is a well-planned strategy to deflect attention; to convince the public that the Abiy regime stands for the betterment of the Ethiopian people.
The Prosperity Party, it turns out, identifies with and advances directly the Oromuma agenda to which the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and its different entities are committed and which they wish to achieve at any cost. In other words, the two names are a flip of the same coin.
This backdrop leads me to my core point. Following his accession to power five years ago, Abiy Ahmed Ali has deconstructed and eviscerated Ethiopian society. He does not have qualms for engineering state and government capture by the OLF to which he has been committed since childhood. He shows no misgiving that, through his actions, he is abandoning the commitment he made to the Ethiopian people to abide by the rule of law and respect human rights. Atrocities against innocent civilians, imprisonment of tens of thousands, displacement and starvation of millions, most notably, Amhara are core components of Oromo hegemony.
Incidentally, this plot to eject, subdue, marginalize, kill, maim, displace, demean etc. Amhara by accessing power and capturing the Ethiopian state and government has been at play for more than half a century. The Ethiopian left intelligentsia and the Socialist Derg gave the fodder and pioneered the national question without rigorous research and an appreciation of how nations evolve. They legitimized the formation of national liberation fronts for which Ethiopia is paying a price.
The current degradation and onslaught of Ethiopian society is part of the game. It is a form of revenge and redress of the past. Abiy’s mentors and core advisors who are committed to revenge and redress belong to the same ethnic group and the same political party.
So, under the watch of Abiy Ahmed, the notion and façade of Ethiopia as a multiethnic and multifaith country are no more. The long-standing belief among millions of people of identity as human beings and as Ethiopians is severely diminished.
I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to learn that her Excellency Sahlework Zewdie, President of Ethiopia, challenged the Abiy regime for the implosion of Ethiopia. She did this at the 18th celebration of Nations and Nationalities in Jijiga, Somali regional state on December 9, 2023. I shall extract and highlight four critical views she mentioned that I also share:
- The system allows or induces “brothers to kill brothers,”
- Ethiopians and the entire world have witnessed “the ugly face of war” in Ethiopia; not once but at least three times, including the current war against Amhara. She mentioned the “slaughter of innocent civilians and farm animals.” This, by any definition, is a low point under Abiy Ahmed.
- Ethiopian society is witnessing an explosive and unbound level of “narrow ethno-nationalism and ethnic extremism” that do not bode well for the continuity of the country and the wellbeing of its 126 million people.
- Today, the core ideology of “tribal or ethnic loyalty” is embraced and advanced over loyalty to country.” Commitment of rights to citizenship and Ethiopia are set aside and diminished.
Sahlework Zewdie, who reportedly returned to Ethiopia after an appeal from Abiy Ahmed, vocalized a clear and timely message that, under the current regime, Ethiopia is heading towards a dangerous road of implosion from which there may not be possible return. With her credible and well-established credentials and real-world experience that the rest of the Abiy crowd of cheerleaders do not have, her Excellency expressed these sharp statements without naming names.
The bottom-line message is clear. Abiy Ahmed has failed Ethiopia. He and his Oromuma agency have taken the country to an unchartered territory of open and narrow Oromo ethno-nationalist extremism. They, and no one else, are accountable for this man-made Ethiopian tragedy.
In the same venue, Taye Dendea, Minister of State in charge of peace chastised and called on Abiy Ahmed and his party to shoulder the burden of responsibility and accountability for the country’s instability, human insecurity, killings, and the destitution of tens of millions of Ethiopians. He implied the government of Ethiopia is accountable for human atrocities; as well as the primary obstacle to peaceful resolution of conflict, citing the unsuccessful negotiation in Tanzania between the Oromo Liberation Front/Shine and the Abiy regime. It is widely reported that Taye Dendea has an established record of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front Army (OLA) and its extremist wing, Shine.
Taye Dendea, an Oromo national and a core supporter of Oromo rights, took a huge risk when he accused, in a public setting, Abiy Ahmed and his Oromuma project of killing innocent civilians, fueling constant friction and fermenting animosity among ethnic groups, inventing conflict and alienating Oromo from other ethnic groups. This is all true.
Abiy Ahmed and his cohort including Shimelis Abdisa have created a huge gulf between Oromo on the one hand and non-Oromo on the other hand. This gulf is widening each day.
The severity of Taye Dendea’s accusation is this. It exposes and portrays Abiy Ahmed as both tribal and tyrannical to the international community and to the Ethiopian people. For this reason, I was predictable then, Abiy, a person who does not tolerate dissent and criticism from anyone, would take measures against may expel Taye Dendea. He did. It is reported that Taye is in jail; and his home was searched.
Breach of code of conduct
In my assessment, Taye Dendea broke the confidential code of conduct among Oromo political and social leaders to refrain from undermining the Oromuma agenda and the “do no harm to Oromo and Oromo do not kill other Oromo” edict.
This leads me to the deafening silence of the international community concerning Amhara genocide. The international community and the African Union have thus far either failed or refuse to acknowledge and critique the danger and destabilizing effects of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Ethiopia, the Horn and Eastern Africa perpetrated by the proponents of the Oromuma phenomenon.
Oromuma, an invention of the Oromo intellectual class, the OLF and affiliate parties is a mortal threat not only to Amhara, but also to other non-Oromo ethnic groups.
State and government capture of the Ethiopian state and government by TPLF, OLF and affiliates that excluded pro-Ethiopia groups in 1991 enabled ethnic entrepreneurs to use political power as a tool of extracting immense wealth. TPLF pioneered the institutionalization of this dual benefit: firm grip of political power and monopoly over the key sources of financial asset accumulation. The Prosperity Party and OLF have perfected both to an art form.
Monopoly of power and sources of wealth
Today, the Prosperity Party and the OLF exceed financial entrepreneurship because they dominate the party, the state and government. They control and command the army, federal police, security, regional institutions, telecommunications, power, transport, treasury, foreign aid, and the like. They have captured political power and used this power to build enormous wealth and assets at the exclusion of competitors.
This leads me to the Biden Administration and its policy towards Ethiopia in general and Abiy’s Ahmed Ali in particular. Mike Hammer, Special U.S. Envoy to the Horn of Africa is once again in Ethiopia.
The U.S. knows that the current Ethiopian ethnic and language based federal constitution and the Apartheid-like administrative structure in Ethiopia are anathema to human security, peace, stability and Ethiopia’s continuity as a country.
Ethiopian state and government terrorism
In this context, I define terrorism as follows:
- Categorizing, targeting, demeaning, killing, arresting and jailing a specific group of people.
- Deconstructing, demolishing and eviscerating the culture, history, contributions, assets, inheritances, faiths and language of a specific group of people.
- Presenting false and misleading narratives of a specific group of people.
- Creating horrendous conditions to prevent access to education, health, food, telecommunications, power and other essentials targeting a specific group of people.
Human rights experts agree that “Terrorism can be conducted by governments, non-state actors and undercover personnel on behalf of their respective governments.”
Actions on the ground in Ethiopia demonstrate the fact that Ethiopian state and government leaders have used their power to inflict government led terrorism on the Ethiopian people, most notably Amhara.
State and government-led terrorism has worsened under the watch of Abiy Ahmed and the Prosperity Party and OLF. They control massive military and budgetary power that they deploy with a level of unprecedented impunity. This unrestrained power to kill, maim, jail, impoverish, starve, disempower and displace contributes hugely to Ethiopia’s instability and potential implosion.
Why the U.S. must reject tribalism and tribal politics in Ethiopia
The frequency of Hammer’s trips to the Horn tells me that the U.S. is deeply worried about the explosive situation in Ethiopia. If Ethiopia implodes (it is in fact imploding now), the implosion will have a ripple effect throughout the Horn, Eastern Africa and the Red Sea corridor.
This American government’s concern has little to do with the slaughter of innocent Amhara civilians by Abiy’s army. It has more to do with the fierce competition among foreign powers—China, GCC countries, Turkey, Iran and Russia. The Horn of Africa and the Red Sea corridor are vital for the national security and economic well being of the Unted States as well as Western Europe.
America’s preoccupation is therefore its own national security interest. For this reason, the only forces that can save Ethiopia from catastrophe are pro-Ethiopia social and political forces.
Leading the charge against ethnic genocide and potential implosion of Ethiopia is the Amhara Fano movement. Those who fail to understand that the Oromuma agenda discussed earlier will swallow other non-Oromo ethnic groups must prepare themselves for a rude awakening. They will not be spared. It is a matter of time.
At the same time, the Biden Administration may be well advised to recognize the debilitating and corrosive effects of state and government-led genocide, disempowerment and marginalization of Amhara by Abiy Ahmed’s regime.
Part 2 will follow shortly.
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