Dear Prime minister Abiy,
How are you? I hope you are well. I am one of millions of Ethiopians that are part of the silent majority who have been rooting and praying for the success of your administration. We are those who are out demonstrating against foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs or contributing for citizens who are internally displaced due to the ongoing conflict. Most of us believed that you were a breath of fresh air in the long saga of Ethiopian politics and could turn things around for the better. Your flowery speeches filled us with hope for the country. We all know that the Ethiopian people have endured enormous suffering under successive regimes who took away their civil and economic freedoms. Today, Ethiopia still remains one of the poorest countries in all economic indicators even among comparable neighboring countries for whom Ethiopia fought for independence from colonialism.
We had high hopes that you will be true to the promises you made to the Ethiopian people: freedom from fear and hunger, end of ethnic politics, unity, justice, rule of law and economic prosperity. However, over the past few years, we see that you have reversed course and taken measures that worsened the country’s situation. We wonder who is your constituency at this time since it cannot be the people who came out in droves to vote for you during the national elections.
Your response to the political, economic and religious challenges facing the country has been grossly inadequate and far below our expectations. As we watched your press conferences and address to the ineffective parliamentary body, our hearts sank. More bad news bombarded the social media. We expected better from you. This is a time to pray for our country because there is a sense of betrayal that most people feel at this time. I hear people say: “ Is this why so many people sacrificed their lives?”, “What happened to the prime minister?”, “Where are we going?”, “The future is beginning to be more terrifying than the past”, “The prime minister has made a U -turn and become another ethnic politician” and so on.
Let me state some of the reasons why the silent majority is disappointed and unhappy with your administration and want you to change course as soon as possible. We believe it is not too late.
- The orthodox church was faced with an unprecedented crisis in its 3000-year history that almost divided the country. Your public response was not to interfere and you even instructed the cabinet not to intervene in any way. However, your security forces were seen slapping priests, beating up and putting people in jail for demonstrating in favor of a united Ethiopian church. Meanwhile, state security forces were providing security detail for the renegade priests who were working to split the church and who were taking over churches in some regions. This is a violation of the country’s constitution that clearly separates church and state. As head of government, people expect you to support a united Orthodox church (not an ethnically-inspired renegade church that flies in the face of the country’s history and tradition) in words and deeds.
- Your latest response to the situation in Tigray is quite alarming.
Most people feel that the absence of a clear political and military goal prolonged the war. Territories that were taken from insurgents were abandoned leading to a re-occurrence of a deadly violence that stretched out the duration of the conflict. Many consider the ceasefire strategies to be unwise and this allowed TPLF to recruit and mobilize to resume their attacks. It did result in more deaths and casualties on both sides.
TPLF was finally defeated and under the Pretoria Agreement, it agreed to turn in its weapons and submit to a new transitional government (to which it will be a party) that will prepare the province for new elections. The agreement has not been fully implemented because you decided to make a side deal with TPLF in which they will not be required to either surrender their weapons or put combatants in a separate camp to prevent a potential recurrence of conflict. It also appears that secret deals are made between the government and TPLF to sideline Tigray opposition groups and allow the latter to take over the government against the wishes of the people of Tigray and the rest of the Ethiopian population. TPLF violated the constitution and attacked federal troops and this led to the war that resulted in thousands of deaths and casualties. We strongly believe that it is wrong to allow the same people who have caused so much death and destruction to rule over Tigray again. It shows you really don’t care for how people feel even though it is the people who brought about this victory by paying immense sacrifice in blood and treasure. Most Ethiopians believe that TPLF should be held accountable for its deeds and not be rewarded with the leadership of a transitional government. Moreover, all this is taking place while the TPLF is still designated as a terrorist organization. It is lack of respect for people who have sacrificed their lives to achieve this victory.
- We see that thousands of people are being evicted from their homes. Bulldozers and excavators are demolishing homesteads with women and children inside them without a court order. Ethnic mobs are evicting minorities from their farms and settlements in the Oromiya region leading to thousands of internally displaced people in the country. Some are sleeping in makeshift camps with their parents and children with no food. Ethiopia has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people in the world. It is a violation of domestic and international law to evict people without due process. It shows that there is no rule of law in the country. Many of these persecutions are ethnically motivated and this situation has worsened under your regime. People feel that there is no difference between what the TPLF did over the past 27 years and what your government is doing now except that yours is happening at an accelerated pace. We see that people now require a special pass to enter and do business in certain parts of Oromiya. Is it just lawlessness or a dry run for confederation?
- A few days ago, the country celebrated the 127thanniversary of the battle of Adwa that was won under the strategic leadership of Menelik II. Menelik II contributed to Ethiopia’s modernization (compulsory education, telephone, telegraph) and maintained the country’s independence in the face of foreign threats. His victory against the Italians and Ethiopia’s independence made him a powerful symbol for black and colonized peoples all over the world.
The celebrations were not held in Menelik square to please ethnic nationalists who believe that he had oppressed ethnic minorities during his reign. It is revisionist history that attempts to judge 19th century politics with 21st century morality and political standards. Moreover, the victory over Italian colonizers must be celebrated in its own right and his action on other issues can be left to historians. As the country’s prime minister, you could have put your foot down and prevented ethnic nationalists from hijacking the ceremony. To make it worse, people who opposed these ethnic stunts to muddy the ceremony were arrested and those that wore MenelikII t-shirts were arrested and some released on bail. This is a time for a courageous leadership and you failed this test. Are you siding with politicians who are fueling ethnic tensions and causing so much suffering in the country? Do you stand up to protect ethnic minorities who are being evicted and killed from areas where they have lived for generations?
It is important to realize that this is all happening under your watch. Without people’s support, you cannot achieve your goals. It is my prayer that you will redeem yourself. You have been given a great privilege to make an impact and a difference in the lives of millions of citizens. Many people are now quite disappointed in you and the trust they placed on you has largely eroded. They are hurting and their suffering does not seem to concern you. They would like to see their leaders in places where there is so much pain and suffering such as Borena, that has lost over 4 million heads of cattle or other places where people are being displaced by ethnic tensions. You cannot be successful if you lose the hearts and minds of people who have supported you over the last few years. It is not too late to turn things around. My hope is to finish your term with success and turn away from fraternizing with ethnic politicians who drive a wedge between you and the people who elected you to serve them. We expected a lot from you. Many fear that your recent actions over the TPLF, the Orthodox church and Adwa pose a threat to the country’s unity and stability.
What is the role of parliament and loyal opposition in this? They are all missing in action. Parliament has failed to use its powers under the constitution to challenge the prime minister when he takes decisions that are out of step with the wishes of the people. The parliamentary leadership met TPLF leaders when the latter is still designated as a terrorist organization. You can deny funding appropriations and recall the prime minister and cabinet or table a vote of confidence motion (that could remove the political leadership). In a parliamentary system, the prime minister stays at the pleasure of the party and elected members of parliament. Also, there is no strong opposition party that challenges the actions of government. Some have been co-opted and others seem to be disenchanted and given up hope.