Where is Abiy Ahmed going with his latest anti-Oromo campaign?
By Tamirat Biri, December 22, 2018
The recent escalations of hostilities between the Ethiopian army and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) army are dangerous development that could sink the promise of a democracy for the whole of Ethiopia. This reckless adventure on the part of the Abiy Ahmed has the potential to backfire on him as he is singling out an Oromo army. Oromo will soon realize that this war is more than just a war against the OLF, but also a war against all Oromo and against Oromo nationalism.
One of the reasons given for the war is that only the government has the right to be armed in a democracy. However, that argument is not always true. For example, in the United States, there is a constitutional guarantee that allows well-regulated militias to own and bear arms. And the express reason for this constitutional right is to protect the people from a possible tyranny of the government.
In Ethiopia where there have been countless instances of oppressive governments, the right to bear and own arms and form militias is even far more relevant than in the United States.
Be that as it may, if the reason for this war is that the OLF ought to be disarmed, then all other militias in the country including those in the Tigray state, the Amhara state, the Somali state, the Benishangul state, and Gimbot 7 should all be disarmed. In fact, in those places the people are arming themselves at an alarming rate.
So, the question becomes why is Abiy so obsessed with disarming the OLF only? Is this because it is an Oromo party? If so, why are there other Oromo parties that are operating freely in Ethiopia? I will try to answer these questions here.
Even though Oromo students and parties played pivotal roles in empowering the last three revolutions in Ethiopian history, when it comes realizing the aspirations of the Oromo people, reactionary forces always pushed back and stole the victory from the Oromo people. There are at least three reasons for that.
The first one is attributable to a pervasive anti Oromo sentiments that have their roots in the past when Oromo were considered essentially subhuman. To these people power is always a prerogative reserved only for Amhara.
The second one is the fear that Oromo would retaliate and destroy Ethiopia due to past mistreatment if they ever were allowed to put their hands on the wheels of power. This position not only acknowledges that Oromo have always been marginalized, but it is also an endorsement that they should always be treated likewise for the “sake” of the bigger country.
The third is due to the parasitic relationship that has always existed between Oromo and Ethiopia. Oromo land and resources have always been what the country depended on. And, if Oromo are powerful enough to protect their legitimate interest, they fear that they would not be able to plunder Oromia as they wish.
So, it is instructive to realize that these are the powerful incentives for the disempowerment of Oromo. All of Oromo problems arise from this tendency.
And the most unfortunate thing in all of these is that Oromo did participate in the denials of their own people’s rights to self-determination. The reasons are always the same and it effectively goes like this: an enslaved Oromo is better for Ethiopia than a free Oromo.
Abiy Ahmed, a half-Oromo is no exception either. Early on in his tenure as prime minister, he unequivocally declared his love for Atse Minilik raising many eye-brows in Oromo circles. He obsessed on unity of country rather solving problems in the parts and even hinted that the current federal states should be dissolved. He is also said to have wanted to contain Oromo Nationalism.
Ever since he came to power, he has systematically empowered others at the expense of Oromo. We should question why he is attracted to people with vile and racist views against Oromo like Daniel Kibret and Tamirat Negera. We should ask why he emboldened them to attack Qeerroo – the same group that brought him to power – and never defended them.
Abiy, through his inaction, enabled the attack against peaceful OLF supporters who had gathered in their capital city to receive Dawud Ibsa, the OLF leader, last September. Addis Ababa police stood by and watched as Oromo were pelted with stones and Oromo properties were damaged including cars, banks and schools. Forty-one Oromo lost their lives in that day alone and one of the victims included a woman who had been raped and killed.
At the end of the demonstration, Abiy did nothing as Gimbot 7 embarked on a campaign of terror that killed several people in Burayu, an Oromo city in the suburb of Addis Ababa. The political value of such terror was clear as day: it was to tarnish the image of a wildly popular Oromo party as the sheer size of the support struck fear into their hearts. It is to be remembered that prior to the massacre, Gimbot 7 had planned a demonstration in the city of the ethnic group they were going to terrorize having blamed it on the OLF.
Abiy has been tone-deaf to the question of Oromo’s constitutional rights to Addis Ababa; and he never acted to reverse the illegal Oromo land grab around Addis Ababa, infamously known as the Master Plan. Even while denouncing the corruption and human rights abuses committed by the previous regime against other Ethiopians, he remained tight-lipped about the genocidal crime perpetrated against Oromo in the name of development.
And the recent revelation about Oromo schools in Addis Ababa that are considering shutting down due to lack of funding, only highlights the extent of the shame he has caused all Oromo. To be clear, he doesn’t want Oromo culture and Oromo values to thrive in Addis Ababa.
Abi has been unable or unwilling to stop the killing of Oromo people in border areas. Always, their response is to go after the OLF rather than going after the forces perpetrating the massacre.
The September 15 killings in Addis Ababa and Burayu, the bombings of properties in the last few days as well as some of the border conflicts appear to all have common hallmarks of political expediency that point to Abiy’s favorite party – the Gimbot 7 – who may have acted in coordination with his own administration. Both Abiy and Gimbot 7 worry that if the OLF stands for election, their defeat will be certain. That is the goal of this war.
Make no mistake about it, this war was declared at the request of Gimbot 7. Abiy Ahmed and Lema Megerssa, who appear to be early recruits of Gimbot 7, work in close coordination with them through Abiy’s chief-of-staff Daniel Kibret. In first month of his tenure, Abiy famously demanded his party release Adargachew Tsige, the Gimbot 7 number two, and threatened to resign if that didn’t happen. This is remarkable because he did not put anyone else as a condition for his resignation.
In addition, the fact that Gimbot 7 has taken credit for the transition as well as the normalization of relations with Eritrea, contrary to our commonsense expectation that it was Abiy Ahmed, indicates that Abiy and Gimbot 7 go back a long way.
And the fact that Abiy is half Oromo makes him very dangerous. On the hand, he gets the full support from Oromo who think he sympathizes their cause, but on the other hand he sells out the trust and uses their support to rollback Qeerroo achievements. Oromo need to wise up and realize that Abiy Ahmed is a Trojan horse that, while looking like an Oromo leader, is behind the scenes working to bring back the Neftegna system.