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Five Years of Hell is Enough in Ethiopia—urging change in U.S. government policy

 “Being in a city proclaimed as the Capital of Africa, where running water is available only once every week or two, what Ethiopians truly need at this moment is a “Survival Party,” and not the purported prosperity party.” A Kenyan Diplomat stationed in Addis Ababa

Five Years of Hell Ethiopia - Aklog
Aklog Birara

Aklog Birara (Dr)

Part 4 of 4

The Kenyan diplomat is right. Abiy Ahmed’s prosperity gospel paraded by his party is a dismal failure. Having failed to provide water and other essential services to more than six million citizens in Addis Ababa, champions of the Prosperity Party are establishing an alternate Sheger City adjacent to the Ethiopian capital at a cost of hundreds of billions of Birrs. 

Determined to leave a legacy of his own, Abiy Ahmed is constructing a massive new palace and resort center. The Chaka project is financed by private and public entities with foreign interests, notably, the United Arab Emirates, involved. So far, the social impact on and benefit of the project to ordinary Ethiopians is unclear.

Supporters of the project including journalist Seyoum Teshome report the project is a “remarkable smart city” that is being constructed through private and public partnership. The point is there are admirers of the project. Opposition to the project is more pronounced. 

Irrespective of support or opposition, no one really knows the cost of the project. But it is more than eight hundred billion Birrs. Le Monde calls the project “delusional” while supporters like Seyoum Teshome tell us that the Chaka project provides job opportunities to Ethiopians; and will serve as a domestic tourist destination for millions of Ethiopians. Imagine Ethiopians with nothing to eat today, looking forward to enjoying the Chaka project upon its completion tomorrow. 

In my judgment, the Chaka project is a luxury Ethiopia cannot afford at this time. 

Intractable hurdles

Ethiopian society is in more trouble today than it was six months ago when the war against Amhara began. Inflation rose to 60 percent. Drought induced famine looms. The number of Ethiopians suffering from hunger is more than twenty million.  In 2023, Ethiopia ranks 101st out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index, with a score of 26.2. 

Forbes reported “Over 1,400 people starved to death In Tigray since food aid suspension.” Food aid was suspended because of government and regional state thefts. Emergency food aid has since resumed. Youth unemployment is worsening. Abiy contracted to send 500,000 migrant workers, the majority Amhara girls, to Gulf Cooperative Council Countries (GCC), with Saudi Arabia as primary destination.  

The data indicates hunger is worsening under Abiy Ahmed. The major driver of hunger in Ethiopia is state and government led ethnic conflict and war.

Compounding Ethiopia’s troubles, Fitch rated Ethiopia to junk status. 

By all indicators, Ethiopia’s future is bleak. This is why changing the current system is in every Ethiopian’s interest. Neither Sheger nor the Chaka project will change Ethiopia’s gloomy scenario. 

It needs repeating that Fano’s insurgency is justified on multiple socioeconomic, political, psychological and spiritual grounds. Ethiopians cannot afford to live with a system that is crushing them to death. Ethiopia cannot survive with “brothers killing brothers.” 

Why is Fano fighting? And for whom is it fighting? 

Fano is fighting for human life, for the dignity of all Ethiopians, for freedom, for justice, for equitable treatment, for democracy, for the soul of Ethiopia and for Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. History will judge us whether we are playing our part in advancing peace, freedom, human security, justice, the rule of law and democracy or whether we are committed to the status quo by appeasing the system. 

In this connection, I want to record my appreciation to organizers of the worldwide protest “Stop Amhara genocide” that took place on Decimeter 17 and 18, 2023. These protests covered by media outlets such as the Zewdu Show raise awareness across the globe. They demonstrate deep concern about the ominous consequences of Amhara genocide among Ethiopians irrespective of ethnicity or faith. They broaden and deepen support for the Fano movement. 

Going forward, I urge organizers to lobby parliamentarians and decision-makers in Western countries to apply sanctions; persuade Ethiopians in the Diaspora not to send remittances through formal channels; urge the Ethiopian people to unite and refuse to pay taxes; advise Amhara within the country to refrain from blaming Fano for hyperinflation and scarcity ;created by the war economy and not by Fano; ask Ethiopian intellectuals, civil society organizations, opposition political parties and the like to come out of their shells and demand the formation of a transitional government of national unity; and call for Fano supporters in the Diaspora to stop bickering and quarreling among themselves and unify and coordinate their support strategically. 

Ethiopians are not able to demand accountability on the part of the international community including the government of the United States until and unless they become organized first. Based on spoken and unspoken pronouncements, the Biden administration is unlikely to acknowledge Amhara genocide in the same way they as their repeated verdicts concerning crimes of war, crimes against humanity, crimes of rape and genocide about Tigrayans. A fair and balanced policy would be to treat both the same. 

For this reason, Amhara must rely heavily on their own resources. Amhara supporters in the Diaspora have an obligation to unite, mobilize and avail the requisite material and financial resources to Fano groups who are operating together for the same vision, mission, and goals. Fano unity and capacity will generate international support. 

My own assessment is that only Ethiopians who believe in their commonalities as human beings and as Ethiopians can save Ethiopia from tearing itself apart and from “brothers killing brothers.” Only Ethiopians who believe in their shared humanity can stop the ongoing slaughter of innocent Amhara civilians by Abiy Ahmed’s army. Together they have an obligation to declare that the Fano cause is their cause too. 

This backdrop leads me to U.S. government policy towards Ethiopia in general and Amhara genocide in particular. 

American policy and decision-makers know that Abiy Ahmed Ali is incapable of leading Ethiopia and managing its economy in a transparent, responsible and accountable manner. Yet, no one except Fano is challenging Abiy Ahmed why he is squandering scarce foreign exchange to buy drones and other heavy weapons for the sole purpose of slaughtering Amhara. American policy and decision-makers know that slaughtering Amhara like chickens is the most destabilizing factor in Ethiopia today. 

Who is inflicting pain and suffering in Ethiopia today? 

The United States must understand, in contrast to the two-year catastrophic war with TPLF, it is the federal government of Ethiopia led by Abiy Ahmed that is waging an all-out war against the Amhara population, the very people he is supposed to protect from harm. The protector is now the victimizer in chief, the hunger creator in chief. Abiy Ahmed is also the destabilizer in chief. Ethiopia’s chief of staff of the armed forces is operating not only as cheer leader of the Oumuamua project but also as genocide in chief. Drones are “not decorations’ ‘ suggest that the regime will continue to use them against Amhara with unprecedented impunity. 

Shimelis Abdissa, president of Oromia and one of the most avid advocates of Oromo hegemony informed an audience that the Oromo dominated Prosperity Party, OPDO and OLF led state and government will do everything in their power to diminish Amhara. Reducing the number of Amhara, Shimelis believes, will allow Oromo to hegemonize Ethiopia. Oromo hegemony will apply to all non-Oromo ethnic groups. It is a matter of time, 

On November 30, 2023, the insightful Congressman James pinpointed the fact that the Abiy regime is not interested in mutual relations with the West, including the U.S.A. Instead, Abiy is more interested in receiving funds and “debt relief” from the West and not the pursuit of durable peace or democratizing Ethiopia. “The American people are tired of being used by the Ethiopian government,” he remarked. 

This suggests to me that U.S. policy and decision-makers know fully that Abiy Ahmed is untrustworthy and incapable to lead. They know Abiy is destabilizing and corrupting Ethiopia. The question in my mind is “Do they really care?”  

While the Honorable Mike Hammer expressed “deep concern” among American decision makers, acknowledging gross “human rights violations in the Amhara and Oromia regions,” he refrained from acknowledging Ethiopian state and government sponsored and implemented atrocities against the Amhara population. He made no specific reference to atrocities against Amhara let alone verbalize Amhara genocide. Is this omission deliberate? 

Unequal or uneven treatment of HR violations in U.S. Policy. 

If, as Mike Hammer noted in his remarks, defense of human rights is a “core priority of the U.S,” I fail to understand why atrocities against Amhara do not feature prominent? I question why the international community is dead silent. 

Why I lost hope in the international system. 

The Amhara tragedy reminds me of the “architecture of silence” that Anthropologist and Associate Professor Liisa Malkki of Stanford University elucidated in her well-researched book, Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Amhara are treated like refugees in their own homeland. Their movements are restricted.  Recurrent killings, demeaning, dispossession, displacement, and disempowerment of Amhara over the past 50 years, and more graphically over the past five years under the watch of Abiy Ahmed Ali attest to the fact that “genocidal massacre is one of the most extreme ways in which humanness and subjectivity can be denied to a social collectivity.” As a “collectivity” (Malkki’s term) liberation fronts deny Amhara of their humanity. The perception is that Amhara are disposable commodities, and that the world does not care about them. 

The international community kept silent and failed to prevent Tutsi genocide by the Hutu tribal group in 1994. The same is happening in Ethiopia.

 I do not buy the flawed argument that tribal fighting among Africans is normal. It is not. What is normalized is the deafening silence of the international system, including the United Nations, the African Union, human rights organizations and the like either by acquiescing or ignoring or dismissing atrocities in Black Africa that they treat differently from other parts of the world, especially similar ethnicity or faith-based occurrences in Europe and the Middle East.  

This is not for lack of evidence. Amhara faces multifaceted problems: a barrage of bullets each day, drought induced starvation, an outbreak of cholera, malaria infections affecting 400,000 people, internal displacement of more than one million, school closures and non-stop drone attacks killing innocent civilians. If this and recurrent killings of Amhara do not constitute genocide, then what does? 

I am convinced that, given political will, the United States has enormous leverage to influence government policy in Ethiopai regarding human rights and Amhara genocide. In the light of this belief however naïve it may be, I pose the following questions to U.S. decision-makers: 

• Why does the U.S. argue, legitimately, in favor of accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of rape and genocide regarding the Tigrean population; but is dead silent about Amhara slaughtered each day by Abiy Ahmed’s drones and other heavy weapons?

• Why is there silence concerning the rape of hundreds of Amhara girls and women over the past seven months? 

• Is this silence different from acquiescence and or tacit approval of the Abiy regime? 

• Is the U.S. government protecting Abiy Ahmed by not challenging him for engendering ethnic animosity, for creating and sustaining war and for destabilizing Ethiopia because of intense rivalry with China and Russia in the Horn and the Red Sea corridor? 

• How does the government of the U.S. reconcile its commitment to peace and stability in Ethiopia with that of ongoing state and government sponsored terrorism

This leads me to two other concerns. As an Ethiopian American, I support strong and durable relations between the USA and Ethiopia. This long-established relation is, however, affected adversely by mixed and contradictory signals from American officials. 

a) The new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Massinga generated outrage among millions of Ethiopians when he tweeted or posted the name “Finfine” instead of Ethiopia’s legal capital Addis Ababa. 

This unfortunate reference by the Ambassador legitimizes the movement towards Oromo hegemony I discussed above. It contributes to ethnic polarization and ethnicity-based atrocities that make Ethiopia ungovernable, insecure, fractured, and unstable. 

This reference by America’s Ambassador emboldens ethnic extremists like OLA/Shine, TPLF and other fronts to kill more Amhara and to balkanize Ethiopia in the same manner as the former Yugoslavia.

I therefore urge Ambassador Ervin Massinga to retract his statement and refrain from doing the same.

b) U.S. officials including the U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer continue to meet with regional presidents separately. This is understandable given ethnic federalism and the administrative structure that is based on ethnic and language affiliation. An even-handed approach is legitimate. 

The concern I would like to flag to American policy and decision-makers is this. Signaling and perpetuating the divide and rule model of ethnic federalism inherited from the colonial past and the legacy of the Ethiopian Marxist-Leninist and Stalinist left —Afar, Amhara, Gurage, Oromo, Somali etc. diminish commonalities among Ethiopians. Ethiopia is not one country. It is a group of countries. At the same time, there are millions of Ethiopians of mixed ethnicity but are unrepresented. There are also millions of Ethiopians representing ethnic groups who believe in one county and in citizenship as Ethiopians.

I shall release Part 5 of 5, which contains a set of recommendations and proposals for action within the next two days. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 


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