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August 10, 2013

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Ethiopiawinnet:  Council for the Defense of Citizen Rights




The ruling party in Ethiopia, the TPLF-led EPRDF, has shown a determination to control the historically autonomous organizations of the Ethiopian Muslim community for two years now.  This move has triggered an equally determined but non-violent popular resistance among wide sections of the Muslim Community.  The ruling party’s tendency to control virtually all civic and religious institutions has some parallels with the earlier capture of the Holy Synod and the administrative structure of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  This mode of governance of the totalitarian minority regime has been clear for some time now:  capture all governmental, economic, political, and religious institutions of national significance, and then undermine the resolve of the people for a united resistance by sowing constant discord along ethnic, sectarian, and regional lines.  Aside from the deep insecurity endured by citizens, this divide-and-rule strategy is now threatening to undermine the stability and the sovereignty of the anchor state of the Horn of Africa.

Unfortunately, the past twenty years have also coincided with an unprecedented level of politically-motivated inter-communal violence abroad and at home. As far as we can tell, Ethiopian mosques and zawiyas which traditionally have been run by various Sufi orders have faced orchestrated attempts by Salafist converts of the Wahhabi sect to take over the administration of the Islamic institutions of the country. Lately, a sect known as Al-Ahbash, variously described as a moderate mix of Sufism and liberal Islam, has also entered the fray.

At the same time, this turmoil and imported sectarianism has given rise to a growing sense of unease and insecurity among the Christian Community emanating from its appreciation of the longstanding policy of certain Arab governments to use religion to destabilize Ethiopia and to endanger the inter-faith harmony and understanding that has prevailed among the people. On the one hand, the past two decades have witnessed the burning of churches by extremist elements and other tale-tale signs of the presence of Al-Qaeda operatives determined to destabilize the state (The attempt on the life of ex-President Mubarak while on a state visit to Addis Abeba in 1996 and Al-Ithad’s violent activities in the Ogaden are unmistakable examples). On the other hand, the replacement of the leadership of the Supreme Islamic Council and the academic administration of Awolia College by government approved Al-Ahbashists is a clear violation of the fundamental principle of separation of state and religion ostensibly enshrined in the country’s constitution.

The Muslim Community has so far shown remarkable unity and perseverance in presenting its demands in the ongoing nationwide “let our voice be heard” campaigns.  To quell the peaceful protests which are increasingly joined by Ethiopians of all faiths, the government has launched ill-considered crackdowns arresting scores of Muslim protest leaders under the all-too-common charges of terrorism.  A disturbingly rising number of killings of protesters have also been reported in various localities in Arsi, Wollo, and Addis Abeba.

We join human rights organizations and political parties in categorically condemning these atrocities, and demand that those responsible be brought to account under the law. We urge Ethiopians of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds to stand together to turn this civic resistance into an all-embracing demand for democracy, equality, respect for the rule of law and the human rights of all regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation.

We also strongly encourage all Ethiopians of good will to carefully draw the sobering lessons from the latest turn in the struggle for human rights in Ethiopia.  First, we must no longer allow the divide-and-rule strategy of a minority regime to lull us into thinking in terms of “us versus them” since there is no “them” among Ethiopians.  Second, there should no longer be an illusion about the anti-Ethiopian, anti-democratic, and atheistic nature of the ruling party. Thirdly, we should not allow foreign interests or extremists amongst us to hijack the peaceful, struggle for religious, economic, or political freedom.   Finally, we must never forget that no individual Ethiopian or group can be free until everyone else is also free.  We all share an indissoluble political fate. As such, we must close ranks and rise up in unison to fight for the rights of all.

Ethiopiawinnet, therefore:

  • Strongly urges all Ethiopians to condemn the ongoing arrests and killings of peaceful protestors for religious freedom;
  • Calls upon all  Ethiopians to come together and act in unison against all attempts to divide the culturally diverse but fraternal people of Ethiopia; and to work together to bring about a robustly inclusive democratic order;
  • Calls upon International Humanitarian Organizations to expose the dangerously misguided state interference in the internal affairs Muslims and Christians, including the restrictions on the peaceful exercise of the civil rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution itself;
  • Strongly advises all compatriots to turn this opportunity as a common inspiration to fight for full respect of the universally recognized rights of all citizens.  We must do this not as Ethiopian Muslims or Ethiopian Christians, but as Muslim Ethiopians or Christian Ethiopians—in the bold recognition that we are all Ethiopians first and foremost; and
  • We wish our Muslim brothers and sisters a happy Eid al-Fitr.


Guard the Separation of Religion and the State!

Long Live Ethiopiawinnet!

May the God of Abraham Protect Ethiopia!


August 10, 2013.

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