-Please postpone the 42nd Ordinary Session of AU Executive Council, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia –
Aklog Birara (Dr)
I am writing this open appeal to members of the African Union and the leadership of the African Commission because I am concerned by the worsening human rights issues in Ethiopia, the venue of AU’s Executive Council meeting mid-February, 2023.
More specifically, the purpose of this open letter is to express genuine concern about the politicization of religion that in turn aggravates Ethiopia’s already deep rooted, conflict-prone, corruption-ridden, poor and debilitating governance.
Undue Ethiopian state and government led interference in the affairs of the autonomous Ethiopian Orthodox Church contributes to human suffering.
Ethiopia, a founding member of the OAU, the AU and the UN system suffers from ethnicity and faith based hurdles. The latest I have in mind is the deliberate fracturing of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, an icon of Ethiopian society with a membership of 70 million Ethiopians spanning all ethnic groups and its synod into two antagonistic and irreconcilable functions. This unfortunate development fuels an already inflammable situation.
The latest testimony to this erosion is the unexpected appointment of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian leaders based on ethnic identity. This unprecedented policy move elevates Ethiopia’s dangerous ethnic polarization to the faith and spiritual sphere.
In this connection, I was heartbroken when I listened to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s discourse on January 31, 2023 putting the splinter group at par with the leadership and institution of the Orthodox Church and Synod. This is hardly statesmanship in the social science of bridge building.
His unfortunate and ill-timed diagnosis of the issue based on language and ethnicity has in fact made matters worse and emboldened the culprits.
At the time of TPLF onslaught and war-mongering, I argued with passion and zeal that the EU and US governments must refrain from placing the rebel TPLF at par with the legitimate Government of Ethiopia.
I now ask the Ethiopian Prime Minister why he fails to apply the same standard or criteria concerning the rebellious group that self-appointed its own leaders thereby undermining the Orthodox Church’s legitimate, core and principal leadership and delegitimizing the Church itself as one entity and its Synod as core governance?
I understand fully that the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU 42nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council 15-19 February 2023 is vital for Africa and its 1.3 billion people.
At the same time, I am deeply concerned that the venue for the event poses a moral and ethical hazard for the leadership of the African Union and the African Commission.
It poses moral and ethical hazard for the AU because Ethiopian Orthodox Church spiritual leaders and members are being assaulted, harassed, persecuted, and marginalized at the same time that Ethiopia is hosting executives of the AU.
At minimum, I urge the AU and its Commission to use their esteemed status on the world stage and express deep concern about the human rights situation in Ethiopia and demand that the Federal Government of Ethiopia demonstrate a modicum of accountability for the safety and security of the Ethiopian people including the leaders and members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Finally, I appeal to the international community to pay closer attention to ongoing ethnicity and faith based atrocities in Ethiopia.
February 1, 2023