August 25, 2020.
By Tibebe Birihan
The euphoric acceptance by the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians when PM Abiy Ahmed came to power back in the fall of 2018 was a testament that the Ethiopian herd was in search of a good and trusted shepherd. The mesmerizing speech and the relative positive tone the new PM delivered at the time seemed to herald the dawn of a new epoch of hope and optimism for the vast majority.
At the back drop of our collective optimism, there lie collective psyches of a country which is wounded by the brute ethnic politics of TPLF that hold the country hostage to its very narrow ethnic interests. The common theme by the larger section of the society was to get rid of the parasitic ethnic hegemonic entity ruling the country that it openly hated and, hope that any new comer would not be any worse.
Despite wrapping itself up with rigid ethnic mackintosh and its ruthless corruption, TPLF was able to restore law and order and protected citizens from daylight murders once it controlled the country. This however, does not exonerate the party for the crimes it sponsors and exacerbates by paving the ground for such atrocities to continuously ravage the country once it was ousted from the helm. This has been proven by the constant ranting of the party leaders of such intentions when their power grip was threatened, and their overt and covert incitement of violence all over the country after they became has been. Wherever there is targeted violence, there seem to be the large foot prints of TPLF and its cronies.
It has now been almost two and half years since TPLF retreated to Planet Hotel but the kind of politics it introduced in the country is becoming very fatalistic for the survival and continuity of the Ethiopian state. The politicization of identity is turning to be deadly and causing internecine bloodletting in the multi-ethnic country of ours. The race to replace the ousted ethnic hegemony by the newly emerging ethnocratic regime is driving at full speed crashing all those who are perceived to be standing on its way.
Prosperity Party: The Shield and the Leash
The conversion of EPRDF to Prosperity Party less TPLF is considered by many as the beginning of the end to the discriminatory policies of TPLF led EPRDF. Prosperity brought all the peripheral parties which were dubbed as “agars” to its fold supposedly to correct the exclusionist mistakes of EPRDF. This move also removed the relative independence of the Regional parties and subjected them for the whims of whoever controls the newly formed prosperity party.
The power struggle among the Oromo parties and the individuals within each party is eternal problem which these entities never seem to untangle themselves from. It has been witnessed time and again that such wrangling lurk in the shadows of any move those politicians make one way or another to the determent of their political aspirations. The chase is checked at every bend when trying to make a meaningful maneuver resulting in a seemingly rigid aimless self-defeating political discourse.
Therefore, in order to shield oneself from such unforgiving cutthroat Oromo politics and burgeon a new political approach aiming at avoiding the griddle, it was imperative to dissolve the relative independence of the regional parties wherein no one regional party chapter has the power to unseat party leaders without wide consensus among the central committee members of the wider prosperity party.
The bitter and irreconcilable difference between Obo Lemma Megerssa and PM Abiy Ahmed should be seen in light of the virtue of their positions in the party structure and country politics. Lemma is instrumental in the making of what the PM is today and the PM has amply demonstrated his indebtedness to his endearing friend. However, political ambitions are not something always to be subdued by cordial relationships and loyalty to friendship. It is widely believed that Obo Lemma has the relative trust and acceptance by significant portion of the Oromo politicians while PM Abiy is painted with the wider “neftegna” brush by same group aiming at discrediting his Oromoness. This has made it harder for the latter to muster meaningful support from the ODP cadres and the radical ethnic elites.
One should only question why Obo Lemma is against the formation of Prosperity party whose end game practically is ensuring the domination of Oromo in Ethiopia and the reinvention of the country in the Orommuma image as attested by the recently leaked audio recordings of Mr Abdissa. By contriving Prosperity party, PM Abiy Ahmed outmaneuvered obo Lemma and shielded himself from the constant threat hanging around his neck as leader of ODP. This move effectively neutralized the larger than life size of Lemma’s political influence from the arena of ODP politics paving the way for the PM to focus on his wider vision.
On the same theatrics, the ADP bull is leashed by the horn as it diluted its competing standing against ODP and forwent the sole representation of its constituency when merged with Prosperity Party. The first step taken by the PM is to appoint Ato Temesgen Truneh, the very trusted friend, as the president of the Amhara region. Truneh is now serving as that magic wand which is waved remotely from Arat Killo to turn every political overture in favor of the prime minister. The PM now can apply the carrot or the stick against any rival party leader who tries to come up with a political view that doesn’t subscribe to the wills of the prime minister.
Multiple evidences clearly point to the PM as the figure heard, without whose endorsement, the aggressive implementation of the Orommuma agenda never would have gotten traction. This has been amply evidenced by the packing of important federal positions by his ethnic kin, the ethnic based land grab in the Capital, and the repeated sluggish efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of ethnic based attacks. The none-Oromo political elites still are in the deep slumber to see the facts on the ground and instead keep making the case to defend the PM and his shrouded agenda. This reckless and blank endorsement of the PM and the cover up by symbiotic ‘independent” media will ultimately cost the country dearly in the very near future.
The recurring ethnic cleansing and the cover up: race to the bottom
The Jawarian led Qerro murdered Southerners, specifically Gamos in Burayou and, went on again to target those perceived as “neftegnas” in cities and towns in Oromia with impunity back in October 2019.The unabated persecution and “othering” of none Oromo citizens in Oromia region by the radicals and the turning of blind eyes by those in power further injected steroids to the impetuous killings. The ethnic cleansing came to manifest itself once again in much rigor last July to have ravaged Cities and towns with so many lives lost to the sharp blades of the rowdy Qerros. In all of these, the security establishment and the political functionaries’ were either enablers of the crime or bystanders abrogating their sworn duties and responsibilities.
The great length the PM went to assign ethnic identity to the corpse in every ethnically motivated killing has now become anecdotes that aimed at deflecting the blame and exonerating the perpetrators. Once again the PM emphasized the identity of those murdered by the usual statistical designation in his passing by remarks ascribing the number of people killed from his ethnic group as three times larger than any others. However, he never did dare to mention who the perpetrators were and the motive behind the mass murder.
This misnaming and misattributing of the occasional ethnic cleansing in the Oromia Region is further fueling the already agitated youth to assume victimization in the reverse and come out for more ravaging and targeted killings of those they consider others in their own country. Instead of bringing those who are directly responsible for the mayhem, the law enforcement officials were busy using the opportunity to herd those who they accused organizing the city dwellers for self-defense. They also extended the drama to use as an excuse to apprehend ASRAT Media Journalists, who were out of work a week before the July massacre. What is more perplexing is, the media personnel who were directly responsible in streaming live the agitations for ethnic cleansing are now roaming free in the streets of Addis and doing what they know most for another round of ravenous murders.
Where are we transitioning to?
The very naked fact that pushed the TPLF led government out of the palace is the backlash against its blind hegemonic ambitions and the length it went to employ brute and oppressive mechanism to perpetuate the system. By controlling the political economy and the security apparatus, TPLF lasted for almost three decades pillaging the country and ethnically dividing the populous. This finally catalyzed a much needed change that unceremoniously chased TPLF out to be confined in Axum Hotel.
Once the table is turned against the former oligarchs, the Abiy administration needed to do nothing but subscribe to the TPLF’s constitutional mechanisms to cut the group to its size. TPLF did never implement its sanctimonious constitution as written in spirit as well as in purpose, for to do so would have unwound its power grip and empower those ethnic groups with larger population sizes. When the new administration goes to operate ‘constitutionally”, the attempt didn’t sit well with the pretentious “constitutional” adherents and set the stage for the tumorous transition that we as a country find ourselves in now.
The daily crowing of ethnic radicals for constitutional order and the habitual intransigence to spirits of the supreme law by the same groups seems surreal for those who are naïve about what lies as the intent behind. It is none other than the prima facie case of dominating others by few ethnic elites and the scramble to impound what the country’s meager coffer can offer.
The PM, once when asked to present a road map where the transition is heading to, he sarcastically replied “I will be transitioning you”. The question that still remained unanswered is transitioning us to where? The pointed and unambiguously dangerous predisposition by Obo Shimelis Abdissa and, the adulated response from the crowed as heard in the leaked audio recordings, is a watershed moment to most of us who preferred to turn the other way when all indications are that what is brewing behind the curtain is very detrimental for the very existence of the country.
Should we not have a predefined destination where the transition wagon is heading to? Or are we resigned to accept the replacement of the TPLF barons with the complete Oromo novices as all indications are pointing to?
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org