In the wake of an orchestrated assassination of Artist Hachalu Hundesa and ensuing genocide of fellow Ethiopians and large scale destruction of properties by myopic extremist herd across the country, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Government has reported that it has jailed thousands of suspected perpetrators of violence, of whom Eskinder Nega and Jawar Mohammed are notable among those.
As most Ethiopians would agree the arrest of Jawar Mohammed and his entourage has been long overdue for their hate politics and propaganda that resulted in the massacre of large numbers of innocent civilians and destruction of property across the country. In October 2019 alone, nearly 100 fellow Ethiopians were brutally massacred in the outskirts of Addis Ababa following Jawar’s “SOS” posting on his social media. No justice has been served to those citizens to date.
On many occasions before and after his return to Ethiopia, Jawar arrogantly disseminated his extremist and poisonous ethnic politics on mainstream and social media that aimed at disintegrating our country. He bragged about beheading with machetes of non-muslims who dare to even stare at his muslim neighbors and he did so in front of a camera! When the construction of a condominium, that Addis Ababans through decades of savings from their meager income financed was completed and their distribution to them was talked about, he stood at the project site along with his unquestioning brutal herd and vowed on camera that the property belonged to his followers and said distribution to those who financed the project could only happen on their dead body!
On another occasion during a television interview, he bragged about his violence toolbox that he claimed is able to use any time he needed in accomplishing his extremist agenda, through election or by force. He bragged, “Elections have consequences and we are prepared for that; if the use of force is needed, it is even much easier for me; I would just instruct Kerro to finish the job…”. He also boasted about his ability to encircle Addis Ababa within 24 hours and take control of the city. At another event, Jawar made an extremely bizarre chant “Ethiopia out of Oromia!” in front of his gullible followers. One wonders about his sanity when he makes such an outlandish statement, or whether he does it under the influence of some drug. Still at another event in Sidama, he advocated their self-rule by any means including violence. Jawar made such outrageous statements numerous times while sitting in the capital city and in the bosoms of the current government with impunity until his arrest recently. Arrogance, violence, false invincibility, immaturity, myopia, and stupidity are all the hallmarks of Jawar Mohammed!
The arrest of Eskinder Nega on the other hand as a suspected perpetrator of violence has shocked many Ethiopians and foreigners alike. The charges made against him as being responsible for the death of 14 people and destruction of property worth millions of birr in Addis Ababa, and further claim that his team worked in concert with others determined to destabilize our country is a de ja vu, a theatrical drama that Abiy Ahmed’s government has inherited from the TPLF lords.
Eskinder Nega has been known in Ethiopian politics as a journalist and activist for decades in the struggle to free our country and people from the yoke of dictatorship. During the TPLF regime, Eskinder along with his wife Serk Alem Fasil were thrown in jail and their only son Nafkot Eskinder was born in jail. Eskinder was subjected to enormous harassments by TPLF security forces and his only crime was criticizing the government through his writings. He was jailed about nine times on made up charges. The TPLF mafia, who had absolute control over the court system and directed it at whim, convicted him of treason in 2005 and of terrorism in 2012. Eskinder followed peaceful struggle to bring about freedom
and democracy for our people and the only tools at his disposal have always been his pen and paper. Although he became a subject of harassments, beatings, humiliations and a number of incarcerations in our country (“A prophet hath no honour in his own country” John 4:44), he received a number of distinguished awards for his sacrifice and writings from international organizations such as the International Press Institute World Press Freedom and other similar institutions.
Eskinder was freed from his years of incarceration soon after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ascended to power. Freedom loving Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia in the international community who stood by him during his many incarcerations were delighted at his release from prison; however, such delight was short lived as he once again became the subject of harassment by Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Upon release from jail, Eskinder affirmed his commitment to a non-violent movement to attain freedom and democracy. His signature slogan was “Victory to Democracy!” Eskinder and his comrades formed a grassroot movement called Balderas, recently transformed to a political party, that aimed at standing for the rights of Addis Ababa residents against the bizarre claim by the Prime Minister’s ethnic party, Oromo Democratic Party and their allies for a “special benefit” over Addis Ababa, the country’s capital and melting pot of millions of Ethiopians, as well as a seat for the Africa Union, Economic Commission for Africa, and many other international organizations and the diplomatic corps. Since then Eskinder became a target not only of the City Administration but the Prime Minister himself! We all recall when Abiy Ahmed lost his pastor’s veil and threatened Eskinder and his team that he “would wage an open war” against them for forming the Balderas Council!
Eskinder Nega is a freedom fighter who has never flinched at the threats of dictators, both in the previous and current regimes. He has always preached non-violent peaceful struggle in his writings and public statements, be it in town hall meetings and during interviews with various media outlets and walked the talk. He stood firm for what he believed is right, but never advocated violence as means to achieve his goal. We have all seen in the media that when the current government/city administration evicted Addis Ababa residents in different parts of the city, Eskinder was there for them. He spoke with the victims, tried to reassure them but vowed that he and his comrades would continue their struggle to ensure that their citizen rights are guaranteed through a BALLOT BOX! Not only did he not advocate violence, but he despised it! Period!
Eskinder has always showed his humility in his mannerisms and day-to-day life. He is down-to-earth, polite, respectful, but firm in speaking and writing what he believes in, what he believes is good for the people of Ethiopia. He never flinches in speaking truth to power! These are the hallmarks of Eskinder Nega.
As I believe most would agree, Eskinder Nega reminds us of Mahatma Ghandi for he follows peaceful, non-violent struggle to attain his political objectives, which encompass freedom, justice, and equality for all Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
On the contrary, Jawar Mohammed reminds us of Bin Laden as he uses violence as a means to attain his political objectives, which is the dismemberment of our beloved Ethiopia and create a day-dream “Oromoia State” at the expense of genocide of our people (Amharas, Guraghes, moderate Oromos, Gamos, Wolaitas, etc.).
Abiy Ahmed must learn from the blunders of his predecessors. Throwing into jail those well-meaning Ethiopians merely because they criticize his government will cost him dearly at the end of the day. What we have been observing is a trajectory of dictatorship. We all have been living witnesses of the fates of dictators in different parts of Africa and the Middle East in recent past. The ground that feels rock solid today can easily change to a quicksand! Abiy Ahmed must stop the TPLF style drama and hold Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Ezkiel Gabissa, Tsegaye Ararsa, Berhane Meskal Abebe, etc. to account and bring them to justice and free Eskinder Nega and all other political prisoners without any precondition immediately!
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .