Yonas Biru, PhD
My grandmother used to say, “God Protects Ethiopia and the Blind.” When we asked her “why then is Ethiopia the land of the Misérables,” she was quick to quip: “The Almighty works in mysterious ways.” She may be onto something credible. Apparently, God is showing his love for Ethiopia by destroying those who attempt to destroy her.
The cancerous Oromo and Tigrayan tribal tumor that has been eating Ethiopia away from the inside out has been devouring itself at a faster pace. This was manifested in the TPLF’s spectacular implosion. As my grandmother used to say in Oromኛ: Waaqni hundumaa danda’a (God is Almighty).
The sign that God protects Ethiopia is also epitomized by Oromummaa’s “me-too” manifestation of mimicking Tigrayan domination over Ethiopia that turned out to be a cross between a Shakespearean tragicomedy and Kafkaesque surreal humor of absurdity. Alas, Oromummaa is decomposing alive by the toxic mix of its political tenets that are anchored on ውሸት and ክህደት (lies and betrayals).
The self-implosion of TPLF and the organic decomposition of Oromummaa represent the second-best solution for Ethiopia. The first-best solution of enlightening tribalized (Oromo and Tigray) and hermitized (Amhara) intellectuals seems to be above God’s pay grade.
This article is triggered by Jawar’s metamorphosis from peddling Oromummaa to embracing Ethiopia as his beloved mama. This is an important development because his metamorphosis reflects the beginning of a seismic shift in the political calculus of Oromo elites. Before going to Jawar’s metamorphosis, it is important to address Oromummaa’s ኬኛ-ተረኛነት governance from which Jawar and other prominent Oromo politicians are running away.
The ኬኛ-ተረኛነት is a blend of Oromኛ and Amarኛ phrase that means “It is Oromo’s turn to rule” and “It is an Oromo government for Oromo interest.” The message is: We will reshape Ethiopia in our image, following the Oromummaa theology.
As Asafa Jalata, the Godfather of Oromummaa, makes clear, “The main foundations of Oromummaa are enshrined in Gadaa principles.” Gadda is a traditional community administration system that the people of Oromo used in the 16th century. In a futile attempt to go forward in a reverse gear, the Oromo tribal land President (Shimelis Abdissa) publicly announced “the Future of Ethiopia is Gadaa,” and the “Prosperity Party is built in such a way to advance the interests of Oromo.”
A detailed strategic plan of ኬኛ-ተረኛነት was also provided in a report titled “We Need Modern Version of the OLF With High Confidence Politics.” Here is how it is described: “The aim of an independent Gadaa Oromia is Oromo politics of the past… We surely will move to the level of high confidence in order to own the whole Ethiopia…”
In 2019, Jawar put flesh on the bones of ኬኛ-ተረኛነት, stating: “The nation’s fate is in our hands. This is our opportunity now. Yes, it is our time.” This is not a slip of the tongue. At bottom Jawar’s February 2023 manifesto was about making sure the government will not slip out of the hands of Oromo.
Those who were quick to remind us that it is Oromo’s turn to rule and we must get used to it are now fleeing from the Oromummaa theology of ኬኛ-ተረኛነት. Today, Shimelis is in hiding and his all too familiar Oromummaa and Gadaa ዲስኩርs are nowhere to be heard. Some of the high Confidence Oromummaa literatures removed from the internet. This is the consequence of the decomposition of Oromummaa. Waaqni hundumaa danda’a!
Understanding the decomposition of Oromummaa requires accepting the fact that the current political crisis is as much attributable to conflicts between the people as it is to conflicts between political elites. It is long past time the people of Ethiopia stop blaming everything on “political elites” as though they are alien to the nation’s body politics.
The elites may be the culprits who has set off the flares of the current tribal crisis. But the crisis has percolated into the people’s consciousness and political orientation. A comprehensive study at Addis Ababa University that took over a year and involved 5,300 incidents of conflicts confirms my long-held view. Be it by omission or commission or by passive association or active alliance, a significant part of the Oromo and Tigray people were part of the Oromummaa and Woyane tribal orgy.
The silver lining in the dark cloud hanging over the elite’s seduction of the populace is that the people and their elite seducers manifest different thresholds for atrocities and crisis. The people have a much lower thresholds than the political elites. The people saw the atrocities of the Oromummaa theology of ኬኛ-ተረኛነት too much and started to disassociate themselves from it.
Jawar’s Metamorphosis: From Oromummaa to Ethiopia Mama
Jawar was no doubt a very instrumental figure in the fall of the TPLF. He was a brilliant tactician, a phenomenal mobilizer, and a prodigious orator. He mesmerized the Oromo youth, enraging it with brilliant demagogy one minute and calming it down to wait for further instruction the next moment. There was a perception that if anything happened to him the entire nation will explode. He tactfully fed this perception and exuded an aura of power.
He started believing in the false perception that he concocted. He started confronting the PM. He went as far as issuing an ultimatum: Do as I say, or I will hand you “Ethiopia with an expiration date.” He publicly threatened the PM and the Oromo Democratic Party not to tinker with the idea of using constitutional reform as part of their election campaign. In now-deleted video message he broadcasted:
“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 ODP 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 confrontation turned into a head-on collision. Unfortunate to Jawar, the clash laid bare a fault line in his kingdom of Qeerroo. It revealed his support primarily came from areas with predominantly Muslim population. Areas with predominantly Christian population showed him little to no support. The people of Oromo who were shocked by the religion divide in his camp and were horrorstruck by the atrocities that his Qeerroo unleashed in Ethiopia abandoned his camp in droves.
Qeerroo (the bedrock and armor) of Jawar’s kingdom dissipated into a thin air. Simultaneously, the Oromo Media Network (OMN) that was the epicenter of his propaganda outlet met the same fate. Before the head-on collision with Team Abiy, every newsclip that the OMN shared on social media got 300,000 to 700,000 views. Jawar was able to marshal the people’s support at the snap of the fingers. His followers were ready to die or kill at his beacon. He made a fatal mistake of overplaying his cards. He crossed the people’s crisis and atrocity threshold, leading them to hang him out to dry.
Today, OMN averages 5,000 views. In a good day, it reaches 25,000. God protects Ethiopia and the blind. Waaqni hundumaa danda’a! Praise be to thee.
The Anatomy and Histology of Jawar’s Transformation
In May 2013, Jawar popularized “Ethiopia Out of Oromia” and “Oromia shall be free” slogans. Part of his political strategy was inciting conflict and pouring gasoline on it. The strategy was to build Greater Oromia on the ashes of Ethiopia. Nothing was sacred for him in his quest for political conquest. He politicized and radicalized everything.
He was not content with tribal clashes only. He felt the need to weaponize tribal conflicts with religious animosity. His most dangerous political poison was revealed in a 2013 speech he gave to a gathering of Ethiopian Muslims from different tribal lands. He stated in his signature rhetoric: “My village is 99% Muslim. If someone speaks against us, we cut his throat with a machete.”
He preached to his audience: “It is only when you put political power in your hands that you will ensure your economic and social rights.” He wanted to create an Islamic power not only in the Oromo tribal land but also in all other tribal lands. His message got traction in the Oromo tribal land. Part of the Qeerroo he tribalized became Islamized.
His message became deadly as it percolated down to the restless Qeerroo. They would later use machetes and gasoline to hack and burn not only Amhara Christians, but also Oromo Christians and Oromo churches. When the Guardian raised the issue, Jawar claimed the “clip was doctored.” He lied. Here is the video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMLLmAMWdG8.
History was another area he weaponized. In March 2017, he wrote: Adwa is an epitome of Ethiopia’s history that demeans the Oromo. He added: “This Adwa thing should come around every month because it is kind of win-win for both sides. The other side gets high reliving the fictional glorious past rubbing salt on our wound and helping us further unify and mobilize our base.”
In 2019, when the government accused him and his OMN of instigating conflicts and bloodshed, his written response was:
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.
In March 2019, in a two-part interview with Tsion of the Voice of America (VOA), he reveled that the Qeerroo establishment that he controlled was well organized with proper chains of command all the way down to every nook and cranny of the Oromo tribal land.
During the interview, Tsion mentioned specific cases in which he incited tribal conflicts and asked him why he thought he should not be held accountable. His response was: “I know the lay of the legal landscape and where the red lines are. I will go to the edge but never cross the line.”
He also knew his followers were not as cognizant as he was of the laws of the land. Consumed by his conflict-inciting propaganda they killed countless many. As a strict legal matter, it was difficult to hold him accountable. As I wrote at the time, legally he was on a safe ground. But he was morally and ethically corrupt.
In 2019, he was publicly advocating that it is Oromo’s turn to rule, and Oromos should not pay attention to others complaining and making noise. He stated with passion and conviction that “the nation’s fate is in our hands. This is our opportunity now. Yes, it is our time. We must move forward without any worry about our own people’s or other people’s complaints and concerns. Otherwise, the Oromo alternative will be undermined.” Here is his speech verbatim in Amarኛ with some Englizኛ.
“የሃገሪቷ እጣ ፈንታ በኛ እጅ ነው ያለው this is our opportunity now. Yes, it is our time. እከሌ ተንጫጫ እከሌ ተቆጣ ብለን የምንሸማቀቅ ሳይሆን በኛም ወገን ይንጫጩ በሌላም ወገን ይንጫጩ ጫጫታ ሰምተን ወደኋላ የምንሸማቀቅበት ሳይሆን በሙሉ አቅም በስትራተጂ ተመርተን ወደፊት መግፋት አለብን ምክንያቱም እኛ ከተሸማቀቅን የኦሮሞ alternative ሊበላሽ ነው”
A New Jawar: Fake or Real?
In 2023, Jawar changed the tone and tenor of his politics. Three months ago, he gave a public speech stressing the path we followed over the last four years has pushed Ethiopia into an existential crisis. He emphasized that all Ethiopians need course correction. He reprimanded and pleaded with current peddlers of conflict to stop. Here is his statement in Amarኛ as he stated it.
ባለፉት አራት አመት የተሄደበት ሂደት ኢትዮጵያን ያፈራረሰ ያደከመ በህዝቦህ መሃከል ያለውን ቅራኔ ወደ ጠላትነት እንዲገፋ ያደረገ እና ሃገር በከፍተኛ አደጋ ላይ የጣለ ነው። ካለንበት ችግር ውስጥ ለመውጣት ከዚህ በፊት በሄድንበት መንገድ መሄድ እንደማያዋጣ መገንዘብና ወደህዋላ መመለስ ነው። እየነደደ ባለ እሳት ላይ ቤንዚን ማርከፈክ መቆም አለበት
He is a changed man, consistently criticizing the PM’s failure to address the complaints and concerns of the Amhara in a quest to “rebuild our country.” Once again, his transformation needs to be encouraged. Nonetheless, I would be remiss not to say his transformation 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 followed by genuine contrition and public apology could have served him well in advancing his newfangled peace and justice agenda.
The cynic in me sees him as an opportunistic hypocrite and as a man who lost his tools of violence (Qeerroo). Therefore, he is preaching peace. But the rational in me accords him the benefit of the doubt. I have argued in the past that giving Getachew Reda a second chance was the right thing to do. I believe it is not only the right thing but also politically prudent to accord Jawar a second chance.
We must take note that Jawar is not alone in running away from the decomposing Oromummaa. Ezekiel Gabissa – the firebrand and ultra-radical Oromo tribalist – has also changed flags. His transformation is as abrupt as it is transparent. Today, he is publicly reminiscing with a gleeful smile the good old days under Amhara- and Tigray-led governments, lamenting the Oromo-led government as a savage, incompetent and corrupt. ‘
In a recent interview with Moges Zewdu Teshome on (Buffet of Ideas), he said, “I have lived through three governments, but I have never seen such a failed government.” He went on to say, “if this is indeed an Oromo government, give us back the Amhara and Tigray led governments.”
Jawar’s and Ezekiel’s transformations are not happening in a vacuum. They reflect the increasingly souring political sentiment against Oromo-PP and the stench of Oromummaa’s decomposed body politics. With the Oromummaa political currency falling faster than the purchasing power of the Ethiopian Birr, peddling tribal conflict became a profitless trade (አክሳሪ ንግድ). The people’s demand for the Oromummaa brand fell. The rational thing to do is to change the brand. This is exactly what Jawar, Ezekiel and many other Oromo politicians are doing.
Brilliant Political Image Rebranding
Jawar’s yesterday interview with Dereje Haile of Arts Tv World was an exercise of brilliance and diligence in political rebranding. He presented himself with a statesman’s demeanor. He was measured in his speech and mild in his manner.
The former King of Qeerroo who popularized “Ethiopia Out of Oromia and Oromia to Oromos” slogans is now talking about building our country (“ሀግራችንን የመገንባት ስራ ውስጥ መግባት አለብን”). The country in reference is Ethiopia, not Oromia.
In Part One of the interview that was nearly an hour-and-half, he used the term Oromia once or twice. His past obsession with Oromia seems to have given way to Ethiopia “ሀገራችን”. He also seems to have abandoned his old narrative of Ethiopia as a colonizer and a 120-year-old country. His new narrative is: “Ethiopia is an old state with a historically rooted long state formation lineage, like Egypt and Iran.”
In the above noted interview, he attributed his past radical tribal politics to “the exuberance of youth, resentment and longing to get even.” He credited his current more sober and mature position to a long and deep introspection during his stay in prison. I am not sure if it is his time in prison or the decomposition Oromummaa or a combination of the two, one thing is clear. Something has chipped and chiseled away his brashness and know-it-all attitude and wised him up.
The change in his political view is a welcomed development, despite it being driven by a change of impetus in his political calculus. The concept of methodological individualism provides us a framework to show how a paradigm shift in social phenomena can influence and is, in turn, influenced by individual actions.
Simply put, after the onset of the decomposition of Oromummaa, there was no impetus for Jawar to ride a dead horse. Changing horse was a necessity dictated by hard reality. The time-old adage “ጨው ለራስህ ስትል ጣፍጥ” is a powerful guiding principle in political calculus. So is “Timing is Everything.”
Jawar seems to realize Abiy is a broken good with no salvage value, just like the Oromummaa theology is. He also knows Shimelis Abdissa, Adanech Abébé and Berhanu Julla, the three most powerful Oromo officials, are not leadership material. Not by a long shot.
He sees an opportunity for political comeback and ascension. Distancing himself from Oromummaa is what he has done tactfully. During the harsh winters of Oromummaa’s decomposition, he was out of sight, hibernating in a distant land. The timing of his comeback is brilliant. In the first 18 hours, his interview was viewed by over 700,000
Burying Oromummaa Under Menilik’s Legacy
It seems to me Abiy, too, is trying to transform himself. In 2023, he is facing what Jawar faced in 2020. The people of Oromo have come to the realization that he has deteriorated the political security, economic welfare, judicial-justice, and social capital of the Oromo tribal land and of the nation at large. Furthermore, they are increasingly finding the atrocities and the crisis that have become the hallmarks of the Abiy administration intolerable.
They are tired of seeing the Oromo tribal land becoming the land of blood and gore. They are tired of his lies and his inflation in equal measures. Above all they are tired of seeing their children ding in Abiy’s never-ending wars.
The souring change in the Oromo public opinion is fermenting and voices of discontent are emerging from the growing political undercurrent. The fact that early signs of a pregnant political tsunami is approaching his political shores is not lost on Abiy.
His effort to turn the tide using the “Ethiopian Grand Narrative” has not bear fruit. No one can trust him on any topic. To top it off, he has no loyalty to anyone or anything. The political interpretation that one can draw from his Ethiopian Grand Narrative is his desperation.
Similarly, his attempt to seek salvation from Menilik’s legacy has not met success. The Field Marshal’s announcement “ዐጼ ምኒልክ የጦር ሚኒስቴር ያቋቋሙበት ቀን የሃገር መከላከያ ሰራዊት ቀን ሆኖ እምዲከበር ተደርጓል” was part comical and part pitiful. It also shows the quantum conundrum that the Oromo intellectual class is buried under.
The question that imposes itself on Team Abiy-Shimelis-Abébé-Julla is: Can Oromo-PP accuse Menilik of committing genocidal crime against 5 million Oromos, while celebrating the day Menilik established Ethiopia’s Modern army? We remember people with t-Shirt sporting Menilik’s image were beaten up and arrested, during the 126th anniversary of the Victory of Adwa commemoration.
One thing is clear. A hard lesson the Oromummaa establishment has learned over the last five years is that Menilik is too big and too iconic to mess around with. At the writing of this article Abiy is pressuring the Chinese Construction company that is building the “Adwa Zero Kilometer Museum” to speed up its inauguration date. Have I mentioned Menilik’s statue is central to the Museum?
According to Fana Broadcasting (a state-owned mass media corporation), the museum is regarded as “a memorial center of the African Victory”. The Zero-Kilometer reference signifies the museum is at the core and center of Addis Ababa from where distances to any part of the country or the world will be measured. The legacy of Menilik is Ethiopia’s point of origin – the starting and ending point. Oromummaa decomposed. Menilik rose again for the umpteenth time. Waaqni hundumaa danda’a!
God’s Next Challenge is Handling Amhara-Shene
There are three brands of Oromummaa: The standard vanilla Oromummaa, Oromummaa on steroid and Oromummaa lite. The standard vanilla Oromummaa is what the duo Abiy-Shimelis clan has been toying around with. Oromummaa on steroid is what Shene-Oromo and the idiotic Team Asafa Jalata are salivating over. At best, what jawar can hope to achieve is Oromummaa light – Ethiopia with a faint Oromo flavor. The more likely outcome is the completion of the life cycle of Oromummaa’s decomposition.
The Oromummaa community may not be ready to admit this in public, but they know their fancy for Greater Oromia is in an advanced stage of decomposition.
The question is: Is the rest of Ethiopia (particularly the Amhara) capable of understanding this evolving dynamic and rise to seize the moment?
This takes us back to God. The second-best solution of destroying Ethiopia’s enemies is not enough. We need help silencing her idiotic self-anointed defenders. Their idiocy is as destructive as that of her enemies.
Ethiopia needs first-best solution. If we must continue to shout aloud Waaqni hundumaa danda’a, God must decompose Amhara-Shene and the hermitized Amhara intellectuals both at home and in the diaspora.
Our Father in Heaven, we kneel before Thee and pray to do to the hermitized Amhara intellectuals and the Shaleka-Eskinder-Ethio360 clan what you have done to Oromummaa and the Abiy-Shimelis-Abébé-Julla colony: DECOMPOSE. Are you listening?