Yonas Biru, PhD
Let us start with six recent developments and try to have a closer look behind the beyond and beneath the underneath of the politically driven peace process.
First, let us look at the bronze statue erected in memory of general Seare Mekonnen, former chief of staff of the Ethiopian army. One must question not only the decision to erect the statue but also the timing. The general, who is an Ethiopian of Tigryan origin, was assassinated on June 22, 2019, the same day the President of the Amhara region (Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen) was assassinated.
If the general was awarded for his contribution as the head of the military, the question arises what made him different from other heroic generals such as General Jagama Kello and General Aman Andom? General Jagama was a celebrated hero who killed 72 Italian soldiers and captured 500, during the Italian occupation and served his country during Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime.
General Aman had a glorious history of gallantry services to his nation. Some of the highlights of his accomplishments include commanding Ethiopian contingents in Korea and the Congo and defeating Somali invading forces. He was the recipient of the UN’s highest honor for his gallant leadership during the Korean war. His leadership during the Ethio-Somali earned him “The Desert Lion” nickname. On what ground was General Seare given precedence over Generals Jagama and Aman? If he was recognized because of his assassination, why was Dr. Ambachew not given the same honor?
The decision to honor General Seare was blatantly political as a peace token to the people of Tigray. Peace for the people of Ethiopia, including Ethiopians of Tigrayn origin, is signified by accountability not a token statue.
Second, in 2021, the Abiy administration declared TPLF as a terrorist organization and put a 10 million Birr bounty on its leaders’ heads. In 2023, after a peace agreement following a war that claimed over a million lives, the Abiy administration recognized and awarded the same TPLF leaders with the certificate of merit and plaque for peace. This was futile theatrics to show the government is extending an olive branch to push the peace process further. This was beneath contempt. It signifies lack of scruples and morals. Above all, it is futile theatrics to show the government is extending an olive branch to push the peace process further.
Third, the pledge by the Oromo region and Addis Ababa to contribute 1.5 billion Birr towards the reconstruction of Tigray. This is noble. But it flags concerns in other areas. According to the UN-OCHA, “Population displacements have reached a new high in Amhara, since January 2023 leaving 169,686 people displaced in four woredas of Oromia Special Zone (Wello) and 213,000 in five woredas of North Shewa Zone.” In January 2023, a UN spokesperson flagged: “humanitarian needs remain extremely high in parts of Afar and Amhara.” Considering these realities, the 1.5 billion pledge to help Tigray raises an important question. Why not extend similar support for Afara and Amhara?
Fourth, the Abiy administration agreed to a peace negotiation with Oromo-Shene in Tanzania without any precondition.
Fifth, while conducting a peace process with TPLF and Oromo-Shene, the government is launching war against Amhara Fanno and Militia.
Sixth, there is a coordinated digital campaign in Tigryan and Oromo extremist cyber communities to accuse the Amhara as the culprit for crime against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crime. It is to be noted that Amnesty International has accused the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Amhara forces of crime against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. The question is: why focus exclusively on Amhara forces.
What Explains the First Four Recent Developments Highlighted Above?
We are talking about the statue for General Seare, the peace plaque to president Getachew Reda, the Oromo and Addis Ababa pledge of 1.5 billion Birr to the reconstruction of Tigray, and the Tanzania flirting and seduction with Oromo-Shene?
The simple answer is: Debilitating exchange rate shortage that the Abiy administration is desperate to get from the international community (IC). The TPLF has been successful in inserting itself in the IC’s political calculus. Shene-Oromo has managed to cling on the coattails of TPLF’s international campaign with support from the Minnesota Oromo community. The Abiy administration has come to the realization that the IC will not write him a check unless he finds peace with Oromo-Shene and TPLF. The PM whose signature line was “never buckle under international pressure” is kneeling and bowing before thee. He is desperate to convince the West (read the US) that he is on track in the peace process. In the meantime, he is begging for foreign exchange. So much for “African solutions for African problems” that the PM was touting as a newly minted Pan-Africanist.
As one who has campaigned for a negotiated peaceful settlement, I am happy the international community is pushing the government towards peace both with Oromo-Shene and TPLF. I also hope that members of the IC will not be fooled by the PM’s amateurish and futile sophistry aimed at pulling the proverbial wool over their eyes. What Ethiopia needs is a genuine peace, not political theatrics.
What Explains the Last Two Recent Developments Highlighted Above?
Let us examine the purpose of launching war against Amhara Fanno while pursuing peace with Oromo-Shene and TPLF. Let us also examine the reason behind the Oromo-Tigray coordinated digital campaign to accuse the Amhara as the culprit for crime against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crime.
Both TPLF and the PM have reason to target Amhara. For TPLF there is historical animosity and contested lands. Blaming the Amhara is part of its international campaign to paint the Amhara as an aggressor and an obstacle for peace.
The PM has two reasons. First, he has successfully destroyed TPLF beyond repair. The President of Eritrea had it right to say: “Game Over.” Now the only standing tribal competition for power that the PM is worried about is Amhara. Second, focusing on the Amhara will shift the blame for the above-noted crimes from the PM and Commander in Chief to Amhara forces.
The futile aim of the PM is to change the international narrative that accuses him of “Tarnishing of the world’s most famous Nobel prize” (The Washington Post), degenerating “from Nobel Hero to Driver of War” (The New York Times), “wielding hunger as a weapon” (The Economist Magazine); “using starvation as a weapon of war” (The Telegraph, UK); and “deliberately starving Tigray to death” (WPR).
There is a very critical question that explains it all. Why has the IC failed to see the danger in the PM’s war against the Amhara? Put differently, why is the Amhara not in the IC’s calculus?
The international community wants peace and stability in Ethiopia (the anchor nation for the stability of the Horn of Africa). Unfortunately, the IC sees the Amhara as a destabilizing force based on the narrative TPLF and its foreign mercenaries have developed and curated.
The Amhara intellectual class has not helped itself. Rather than developing and curating its own narrative, it harbors a hermitized 19th century frame of mind accusing the west of being Ethiopia’s enemy. The philosophy behind the #NoMore campaign that left Amhara without sensible international narrative was the hermitized 19th century geopolitical outlook. The crisis will continue until the Amhara makes itself a relevant party in the nation’s geopolitical engagement. That is when the PM will kneel and bow for peace as it is doing with TPLF and Oromo Shene.
See my proposal for action: “Averting Civil War in Ethiopia: An Emergency Manifesto.”