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Is Abiy Ahmed Ali an Asset or a Liability?

February 15, 2023

Aklog Birara (Dr)

Part I

Abiy Ahmed Ali
Abiy Ahmed Ali

“When a leader is able to remain clear-headed and composed under stressful, emergency circumstances, that leader is demonstrating emotional intelligence…enabling a sense of objectivity, emotional balance and resilience, self-regulation, and an ability to consider others, in part by staying humble and service minded.”

Evelyn Orr and Signe Spencer, Leadership in a Crisis (2020)

The acid test of government or business leadership in times of crisis is to “demonstrate emotional intelligence”—a sense of personal integrity, fairness, balance and wisdom, capability to govern or regulate ones emotions, attitudes and behaviors, readiness and willingness to show empathy for the needs,  pains and anguish of ordinary people, aptitude to acknowledge and correct mistakes regardless of potential political costs, capacity to consider different inputs from others, a sense of humility, and always dedication to serve the greater and common good.

Of these personal attributes in political leadership, fairness, equitable treatment of people, inclusivity,  empathy, justice and wisdom are at the top in my assessments.

At this present, Ethiopian society is in desperate need of such government leadership at all levels—whether local, regional or federal.  Nothing in Ethiopia is more dangerous than the tribalization of religion. Conflict based on religion puts asunder the fabric of Ethiopian society.

The sole purpose of this commentary is to remind the international community, especially the UN, AU, the government of the United States as well as 115 embassies and diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa to express alarm and immediate cessation of  Ethiopian state and government sponsored  large-scale persecutions, maiming, killings,  incarcerations targeting EOTC leaders, members and youth.

An associated intent is to urge Prime Minister Aby to go back to what he promised tens of millions at the start of his premiership.

In this regard, I commend the Syrian Orthodox Church and its principled support to the EOTC and Synod. I also appreciate the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is currently hosting a delegation from the EOTC.

In particular, I urge the government of the United States that has been vocal on human atrocities in Tigray to join millions of Ethiopians in Ethiopia, Australia, Europe, the USA and other parts of the globe and call on the government of Ethiopia to stop its state of siege, refrain from gross interference in the affairs of the EOTC, release those arrested immediately and unconditionally, stop persecution and harassments and persecutions and respect the rule of law.

Genesis of the problem

After more than three decades of TPLF/OLF and Oromo Prosperity Party dominated ethnic cleansing, genocide, and massive displacement of Amhara–now more than one million–two years of catastrophic war that cost the lives of an estimated 600,000 to one million innocent Ethiopian lives and the destructions of billions of dollars of investments, the deliberate tribalization (ethnicization) of Ethiopian society has now morphed into religion.

It distresses me that Prime Minister Abiy has not yet told the international community whether or not there will be accountability for crimes of war, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. Savagery on the EOTTC compounds the lack of accountability in governance.

It baffles me that Ethiopia continues to move from one crisis to another under the watch of Prime Minister Abiy. The current potentially explosive crisis emanates from the decision by extremist tribalist and ethno-nationalist forces to split the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and its Synod (EOTC). This august and iconic institution now faces an existential threat.

Why is PM Abiy consistently inconsistent?

I recall vividly when Prime Minister Abiy on his visit to the US reminded members of the EOTC in exile to recognize the imperative that the EOTC represents Ethiopia as a distinct Country. Church leaders listened attentively to this call of one EOTC and one Synod and returned to their Motherland and their Church.

Abiy’s Messianic-like leadership for the reunification of the EOTC left an indelible landmark that motivated me and millions of others to trust that he was genuinely committed to one EOTC, indivisible Ethiopia, and equally important, to the prospect of identity as individual human beings and citizens as Ethiopians.

On a personal note, I was raised and guided by Orthodox Christians who had fond memories of ancestral Christendom that go back thousands of years. Enamored by the multiplicity of its practices including celebrations and fasting, I did not grow up obsessed with religion but identifies with it to this day.  I admired the Church because it taught me to read and write. I appreciated its unparalleled services as a museum of cultures, history, knowledge, ethics, annual celebrations, institutions etc. Ethiopia’s identity is interwoven with the EOTC.

The current assault targeting the EOTC is a continuation of a deep and cancerous ailment in Ethiopian tribal politics. Unabetted ethnic cleansing, episodes of genocide, displacements of millions of innocent civilians and disempowerment based on ethnic and now fait affiliation are normalized. There is incontestable evidence that Amhara in Oromia are singled out for extermination.

On February 3, 2023, The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention wrote a factual analysis under the title “Oromia Special Forces and Oromia Liberation Army (OLA) are the Genocide Machines in Oromia and other Regions of Ethiopia.” It confirmed what some of us have been documenting for years, but the federal government, the international media and the West had ignored. The focus was singularly on Tigray.

The Western media continues to ignore these killings.  “The massacres are ongoing even as the country begins implementation of the 2 November 2022 Agreement for Lasting Peace through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities signed between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF, an agreement that aims to bring an end to a horrific two-year war in the Tigray region of the country. The ongoing violence in the Oromia region threatens to ignite a new civil war in the country.”

Here is the crux of the issue. ‘’In the beginning of the conflict, the Oromia Special Forces (OSF) under the command of the Oromia regional government merely stood aside while the Oromo Liberation Army’s (OLA) military actions against Amhara people. Recently the two factions have created a formal strategic alliance in order, it appears, to forcibly displace all Amhara from the Oromia region through massacres, the burning of their homes, the commission of sexualized violence, and other well-known forms of terrorization associated with genocide. According to organizations closely monitoring the killings and other human rights abuses against the Amhara, at least 1,566 Amhara people were killed and 239 were injured in the Oromia region in 2022.”

The terrorization and continuous slaughter of Amhara in Oromia, Beni Shangul Gumuz, Addis Ababa and environs is being carried out deliberately, systematically, and collaboratively among Oromo armed and political groups, including the Oromo Prosperity Party, partners in crime, TPLF, as well as members of the FDRE headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This is the reason why Prime Minister Abiy refuses to condemn terrorist acts against Amhara.

This is also the lead reason why Abiy treats the Oromo led rebel and splinter Orthodox group at par with the EOTC. Why did the Prime Minister ignore or neglect to I recall what he had said only four years ago, namely, the EOTC is an Ethiopian icon synonymous with “country,” meaning Ethiopia. You need to ask the question of Who changed? Is it the EOTC or Abiy? Why? What is Abiy’s ultimate agenda?

I contend that Ethiopia faces a gaping hole in nurturing and strengthening Ethiopian national institutions. This leads me to my conclusions. Ethiopia is in dire need of Ethiopian national institutions that might mitigate it total collapse of this ancient country with promise.

When I ask myself what core national institutions feature prominently and serve Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people as a whole today, the answer is arguably only three: a) EOTC b) Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and c) Ethiopian Airlines (EAL).

Why do I feel that Prime Minister Abiy is now a liability?

  1. Splitting and ethicizing the EOTC deprives Ethiopia and 60 million EOTC members a core national institution or an icon that serves as a social glue or a unifier of diverse peoples.

 

  1. Unaddressed quickly, boldly, and constructively by Ethiopian government leaders, especially the Prime Minister, the dismantling and tribalizing of the EOTC will most likely have a ripple effect on the ENDF.

 

  1. The democratic West led by the United States that is preoccupied with the Russia-Ukraine war and emerging China must heed to the voices and pleas of millions of Ethiopians who demand for the immediate cessation of Ethiopian government interference in the affairs of the EOTC, demand the release of prisoners and an end of religious persecution, maiming, killing and large scale incarceration of EOTC leaders and members, urge for the restoration of the rule of law and accountability for crimes.

 

  1. The African Union and Commission cannot afford to keep numb concerning the urgent plight of millions of Ethiopians, the state of siege and command post in and around Addis Ababa as Ethiopia hosts the AU summit this week. At minimum, member delegations have a moral obligation to express their concerns directly to Prime Minister Abiy.

 

  1. The international community, especially the Biden Administration has an obligation to express its disapproval of curtailment by the Abiy Ahmed government of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and closure of social media.

 

  1. I commend Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen for his principled and firm stand in support of the EOTC. I urge other members of the cabinet to speak up and stand firmly with the EOTC.

 

  1. I urge the Amhara Prosperity Party to differentiate and distance itself from the Oromo Prosperity Party led by Shimelis Abdissa and Company.

Long Live the EOTC!!

One Church and One Synod!!

Long Live Indivisible Ethiopia!!

February 14, 2023

 

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