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Know the Enemy and Know Yourself

Ethiopia _ Abiy _ Amhara
Abiy Ahmed (file)


BY Tesfa ZeMichael

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p.32 (1910) 

Abiy Ahmed: From Addis Ababa 2018 to Nekemte 2024

The route that Abiy Ahmed took from his pro-democratic April 2, 2018 speech on the occasion of his appointment as the PM of Ethiopia to his May 8, 2024 anti-Amhara genocidal speech in Nekemte was often camouflaged with pro-democratic pronouncements. Nevertheless, there were already ominous signs in limine that Abiy, despite his pro-democracy pretenses, was harbouring anti-Amhara sentiments even in 2018. Abiy, who usually rushes to express his condolences to foreign leaders for the tragedies that befall their countries, did not utter a word of sympathy when Oromo nationalists massacred Amharas and others in Burayu in September 2018. 

Moreover, despite his rhetoric about  democracy, he appointed  anti-Amhara Oromo extremists as mayors of Addis Abeba, a federal capital and a multicultural city whose lingua franca is Amharic. He named  Takele Uma Benti (17/07/ 2018 – 18/9/2020) as the mayor, though he was not an elected member of the Addis Ababa City Council. He replaced him with Adanech Abebe (28/10/2021– present), a radical Oromo nationalist who is fast becoming the Ladislas Ntaganzwa (the Hutu genocide mayor) of Ethiopia. Under the direction of Abiy, she prohibited Amharas from entering Addis Abeba, instituted schemes such as “exams” to fire Amharas from municipal jobs, adopted administrative measures that stifled Amhara businessmen and home ownership, engineered the throttle hold of Oromo nationalists on lucrative businesses and activities, and ensured the Oromo Prosperity Party’s (OPP) political and economic domination of Addis. 

Thus, right from 2018 on we see Abiy developing a fascist-like stranglehold over the Ethiopian state  eerily similar to the Nazis’ practice of Gleichschaltung or total control. Using his war against Tigray as a subterfuge, he has successfully established a totalitarian control of all aspects of the Ethiopian state. He has reduced the legislature to a rubber-stamp parliament that approves whatever he fancies as a law. He has molded the  security and defence forces into official and unofficial Tonton Macoutes, the official Tonton Macoutes being made up of the Defense and security forces equipped with modern ground and air weapons, and the unofficial ones organized as death squads such as the Koree Nageenyaa. Under Gedion Timotheos, the Minister of Justice and Abiy’s Agnes Ntamabyariro (the genocidal Hutu Minister of Justice), the judiciary has been reduced to an institution committed to persecuting and sending to prison all those whom Abiy considers obstacles to his totalitarian ambitions. Not surprisingly, Abiy has made the print and electronic media choirs that soothingly comfort his words and deeds.

Having successfully concentrated political, economic, military, and media powers in his hands, Abiy was confident enough to  publicly show his true face, which he did on May 8, 2024 at Nekemte where he delivered a genocide-oozing speech at a grand meeting of OPP rank and file members. He claimed:  “Oromo people were denied its identity over one century, were made to not use its language, were denied ownership of the country and considered as a second class citizen. Now the ‘Oromo is liberated’ with a sacrifice that was paid. The people need to understand this…. Let us end being deceived by the enemy and being divided on the enemy’s agenda.” In the language of Oromo extremists, the terms “denial of identity, language and country,” and the term “enemy” refer to the Amhara. Taye Dendea, who used to be Abiy’s  Minister for  Peace, described him as “a ruthless individual who plays with the blood of innocent people.”  On May 8, 2024, Abiy publicly disclosed fascism to be his personal belief and the official ideology of his OPP. He thus showed himself for who he is: the Jean Kambanda (the genocidal Hutu Prime Minister) of Ethiopia

OPP’s Doctrine of Fascism 

History repeats itself: the TPLF paraded itself as the EPRDF, and now the Oromo Prosperity Party parades itself as the Prosperity Party. In practice, the Oromo Prosperity Party is the  puppeteer of all the kilil “Prosperity Parties” as the TPLF was of the parties in the EPRDF. The Oromo Prosperity Party has all the hallmarks of a fascist party. I will indicate below its main tenants in light of studies on fascism.  

First, the OPP practices ethnic classification based on the idea of a qualitative hierarchy. It sees the Oromo as a pure ethnicity and, Oromummaa oblige, it places it at the apex of the Ethiopian population, followed by Tigreans, and other ethnicities, in a descending order. The current OPP and TPLF alliance is one that brings two anti-Amhara fascist organizations both of whom believe in the marginalization  of Amharas. In words and actions, Abiy and Oromo extremists consider the Amhara Untermensch  or subhuman beings who could be treated without any moral compunction. The numerous anti-Amhara pronouncements of Shimelis Abdissa, Ethiopia’s Mathieu Ngirumpatse (the genocidal Hutu high official), attest to this.

Second, the OPP, true to its fascist nature, has invented two constitutive myths, namely, an exclusionary, populist nationalism centered on the charismatisation of what it calls the “Oromo nation,” and a cult of a redemptive, “pure” Oromo ethnicity. It uses these myths for denying  Ethiopia’s historical existence as a nation and for fabricating the fictions of colonization, victimization, and humiliation that the Amhara would have inflicted on the Oromos. 

Third, the OPP, like all fascist organizations, has created a scapegoat, the Amhara which it calls “näftäña.” The scapegoat is demonized and dehumanized and is presented as a mortal enemy that must be eliminated. As one could see in the speeches of Abiy, Shimelis, Adanech, Oromo nationalists and OPP officials, the word näftäña has the same genocide-triggering function as the Hutu word inyenzi, a dehumanizing term that Jean Kambanda, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Agnes Ntamabyariro, and the Interahamwe used to refer to the Tutsi. Similarly, Abiy, OPP officials, and Oromo nationalists use the word näftäña and Amhara interchangeably to demonize and dehumanize Amharas and subject them to ethnic cleansing and arbitrary killings. In the speeches and writings of OPP officials and Oromo nationalists, the term näftäña carries the same genocide-triggering intention as the term inyenzi.

Fourth, like all fascist organizations, the OPP espouses a “replacement theory” and waves the scarecrow of Oromos being dispossessed of their lands and replaced by näftäña. Thus writes an Oromummaa ideologue: “millions of Oromos lost their identities and became attached to other peoples. Consequently, the number of Amharas…has increased at the cost of the Oromo population. The Oromo self was attacked and distorted by Ethiopian colonial institutions.” A perusal of Oromo nationalist writings discloses that the Amhara are vilified and brutalized as  colonizers, oppressors, corrupters and polluters of Oromo souls and culture.  They are depicted as an existential threat to the Oromo. To forestall this threat that the paranoid Oromo nationalists fantasize about, the OPP, led by Abiy, follows a policy chillingly similar to the Nazis’ policy of Volksgemeinschaft” and uses violence to eliminate Amharas. Hence the unimaginable cruelty of Abiy and the OPP in their treatment of Amharas. 

Fifth, like all fascist parties, loyalty to the leader is paramount and often more important than competence. All governmental appointments are based on loyalty to Abiy. Persons perceived as threats to or critical of him, be they members of parliament, journalists, professors, students, lawyers, workers, members of opposition parties, clergymen, bureaucrats, farmers, women, businessmen, writers, doctors, lawyers, media members, and artists are intimidated, arrested, imprisoned, disappeared, and more often than not sent to the tropical gulag named Awash Arba, a site of unparalleled suffering and summary executions of prisoners.  

Sixth, like all fascist parties, the OPP has instituted a strict control of mass media. Ideas that question Abiy’s totalitarian power, his continuous fabrication of fictional facts, and the ideology of the OPP are erased by all means.  Abiy has imprisoned or forced into exile independent journalists and made the print and electronic media the megaphones of his policies and troubadours that sing his propaganda.

Seventh, like all fascist leaders, Abiy has made militarism  his political catechism. He considers political issues to be military problems and therefore subject to military solutions. Those who question his totalitarian ambitions are subjected to drone bombings, strikes by heavy weaponry, and massacres and rape by his infantry. His militarism is also directed at Ethiopia’s neighbours. He is threatening to invade Eritrea. His lieutenant, Shimelis Abdissa aka  Mathieu Ngirumpatse, articulated Abiy’s militarism when he bellowed at the 2023 Irreecha festival to enthusiastic OPP followers, “Not only at the lakes of Bishoftu and Addis Ababa, we are going to celebrate Irreechaa at the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

Abiy Ahmed and the OPP do not represent the interests of the Oromo

The greatest and unforgivable mistake we could make is to conflate the OPP and the Oromo. The Oromo have suffered as much as the Amhara at the hands of Abiy, Shimelis, and the OPP. Oromos opposed to Abiy’s policies are eliminated by Abiy’s official and unofficial Tonton Macoutes. Hunger is stalking millions of Oromos; the education system in Oromia is in shambles; millions of Oromos are deprived of basic health services. In the meantime, Abiy, Shimelis, Adanech, their cronies, and OPP officials are becoming obscenely rich though immeasurable corruption and the embezzlement of Ethiopia’s resources.

Amharas and Oromos are in the same burning house, torched by Abiy and the OPP. That is why Oromos and Amharas must join hands to extinguish the fire and bring to justice the genocidal pyromaniacs—Abiy and his OPP—who are destroying the possibilities of a democratic future and the creation of a just and free Ethiopia where people will be judged, to paraphrase  Martin Luther King,  by the content of their character and not by their ethnicity.

Conclusion: The darker the night, the more shining the stars 

Would the right application of the 1994 Constitution be the solution for avoiding the fascism that Abiy is inflicting on Ethiopia, as some believe? No. On paper, the Soviet Union had one of the most democratic Constitutions of the world. Hitler became Chancellor through constitutional means, and the democratic Weimar Constitution remained in effect until Germany’s defeat. 

There is ample evidence that indicates that the 1994 Constitution itself is the womb that gave birth to fascism in that it recognizes the sovereignty of ethnic groups instead of the sovereignty of the Ethiopian people. “Woe to the country in which each tribe claims to be a nation,” wrote the poet Gibran. As things stand, Ethiopians cannot count on the 1994 Constitution or on elections organized under its aegis for instituting democracy in Ethiopia. 

In addition, to expect help, as some do, from the USA and the West, who have hardly raised a finger to stop the televised genocide in Gaza, is to be either naïve or a prisoner of the Eurocentric idea that only the West could solve our problems. Only when Ethiopians start defeating Abiy’s fascism will the USA and the West extend substantive support for democracy in Ethiopia. Ethiopians have first to do their own work to make a democratic Ethiopia possible. 

To be successful in this work, Ethiopians must know, to paraphrase Sun Tzu, not only their enemy but also themselves. Unfortunately, the latter seems constrained by the tendency of many Ethiopian elites to put on Western eyeglasses to see Ethiopia, which gave us three fascist dictators: Mengestu, Meles, and Abiy. 

After 50 years of fascism, Ethiopia is now in complete darkness, and Fano fighters are the shining stars in the dark firmament that fascism has thrown over Ethiopia. They point the way to a new dawn for Ethiopia: an Ethiopia wherein every Ethiopian will feel at home anytime and  anywhere in Ethiopia.     

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

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