Let me first explain the title of this text. I write “Shimelis-Abiy” rather than “Abiy-Shimelis,” because it is now clear that Shimelis Abdissa, the President of Oromia, is the person who calls the shots in Ethiopia. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, has been reduced to play the role of the PM of Ethiopia in a political drama composed and directed by Shimelis Abdissa.
Shimelis served as Chief of Staff of the PM from 2018-19 and became the President of Oromia in 2019. It is during his time as Chief of Staff that he established his ascendency over PM Abiy. Since then, he has been playing Abiy as a fiddle. Thus was born the Shimelis-Abiy duo, with Shimelis at the helm.
The Shimelis-Abiy duo are engaged in a political project whose goal is the establishment of an independent Oromia. To reach their goal, the Shimelis-Abiy duo are using various approaches. These relate to the following factors: territory, demography, language, education, information, religion, political space, economics, and isolating and destabilizing Amhara. The responses to save Ethiopia from the demolition work of the duo must take into account all these factors. Let me briefly unpack each of them.
Territory: The Shimelis-Abiy duo are using informal methods—armed groups such as Oneg-Shene—and official institutions such as the Oromo Special Forces to expand the territory of Oromia and seize, to cite an Oromo nationalist, “every piece of land where an Oromo has set foot.” Thus, the duo are conducting overt and covert campaigns to grab territory from Amhara, Afar, Somali, Sidama, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, and other areas.
Demography: The Shimelis-Abiy duo are engaged in the ethnic-cleansing of Amhara and other non-Oromos from Oromia and the areas that they want to annex. The ethnic-cleansing has two forms: ethnic killing, and forced displacement through various means such as the destruction of dwellings, farms, and property. The Shimelis-Abiy duo have displaced more than 3 million Ethiopians. For the duo, the crown jewel of this ethnic cleansing is the purging of Addis Ababa of Amharas and non-Oromos and its transformation into Finfinne. Note that since the Shimelis-Abiy duo came to power (2018) Addis Ababa had two non-elected, Oromo Prosperity Party (PP) members, as mayors: Takele Uma Benti and Adanech Abeibei. Both were hand-picked by the Shimelis-Abiy duo and are known for their schemes to “cleanse” Addis Ababa of Amharas.
Language: The Shimelis-Abiy duo have the firm intention of “killing Amharic,” dixit Shimelis, in all of Oromia, including Addis Ababa. The effort to impose the Oromo anthem and flag in Addis Ababa schools, instigated by the Shimelis-Abiy duo and implemented by the anti-Amhara mayor, Adanech Abeibei, was to test the waters. Though it has stalled, the idea has not been shelved. In all other urban centers of Oromia, where for historical reasons Amharic is the lingua franca, the duo are introducing measures to asphyxiate and “kill” Amharic in all official and unofficial public transactions.
Education. Unlike Mandela who criticized undereducation—”Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education”—the Shimelis-Abiy duo cultivate the miseducation and undereducation of Ethiopian youth as a tool to demolish the country. They believe they could easily intoxicate the undereducated youth with ethnic hatred and brainwash the Oromia youth into believing that independent Oromia is a political-economic heaven, and that achieving it requires the elimination of the Amhara from Oromia. Only 3% of Ethiopian Students scored above 50% on the National Exit Exam in 2023, and the failure rate is higher in Oromia. This is music to the ears of the duo, for there is no better audience for their gospel of Ethiopia demolition than a miseducated and undereducated youth.
Information:The Shimelis-Abiy duo know that a non-informed population is more pliant than an informed one. Since 2015, the duo has closed access to the internet 11 times. Ethiopia is now the number one African country that censors social media. Censorship enables the duo to disintegrate the national information space, thus creating informational apartheid that facilitates the malleability of the public and the disintegration of Ethiopia. Government information outlets (TV, radio, etc.) never publish news and ideas that counter the government views, propaganda, and actions. They pass in complete silence important events such as the massive opposition to the ethnic fragmentation of the Tewahido Church, and the popular resistance to the government in Guji. Independent journalists are arrested and detained illegally for expressing critical opinions or for having exposed the illegal activities, the power abuses, and corruption of PP members and government officials.
Religion: The two historical religions in Ethiopia are Tewahido Christianity and Islam. Their importance to Ethiopians is not only other-worldly but also this-worldly. The two religions are historical institutions that embody the unity and longevity of Ethiopia. After having meddled in the affairs of The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Shimelis-Abiy duo interfered in the internal affairs of the Tewahido Church and successfully engineered the creation of an Oromia Synod, setting up a secessionist religious wing supportive of an independent Oromia. The duo concocted a fake reconciliation between the official Tewahido Synod and the renegade Bishops to enable the latter to continue taking over Tewahido churches and their properties in Oromia, which they are doing with the help of the Oromia police. The latter still continue detaining and physically abusing active members of the Tewahido Church.
Political space: The Shimelis-Abiy duo has been whittling away the political space. The duo has transformed parliament into a zombie institution. Government policies are developed outside parliament. Parliament has been reduced to a lecture hall where the PM Abiy perorates on matters that Shimelis has already decided upon. Pro-Ethiopian parties are subjected to pressures and subterfuge that prevent them from holding meetings or recruiting members. Pro-Ethiopian unity politicians and activists, human rights investigators, critiques of government policies, those who expose the corruption of officials and PP members are harassed and arrested. Remember how the duo killed the Bandera Party through police harassment, intimidation, and the detention of its leaders. The duo have put the police above the law and institutionalized police lawlessness for pursuing their agenda of Ethiopia demolition.
Economics: It appears that the Shimelis-Abiy duo believe that the Renaissance Dam will fall into their laps like a ripe plum with their armed takeover of the areas of Gumuz they consider Oromo-land. The duo believe that the Renaissance Dam will not only be an engine for Oromia development but a political tool for imposing the will of an independent Oromia on the other ethnic states of former Ethiopia by making access to hydroelectric power conditional on accepting Oromia’s political and economic preconditions. The duo also plan to expand the Oromia International Bank (OBI) to give Oromia an independent presence in international banking and finance. It seems also that the duo have started a creeping campaign against Amhara-owned businesses. The harassment of some businesses in Addis Ababa such as the recent interdiction of Bajaj transport vehicles could be traced to the fact that most of these businesses are Amhara-owned. The idea seems to force the exit of Amhara from economic activities and from Addis so that Oromo independentists could take over the economy and the city.
Isolating and destabilizing Amhara: The Shimelis-Abiy duo believe that the success of an independent Oromia depends on keeping the Amhara bottled up in their kilil and in a state of destabilization. The duo have elaborated two strategies to achieve this. First, they are allowing the political and military resurrection of the TPLF. The aim is to use the TPLF as a tool to put constant pressure on Amhara from the East and create a war zone in Walkait so that Amhara defense forces will be tied down. Oromia’s armed forces will keep a constant pressure on Amhara from the South. Thus, the Amhara kilil will be caught in a pincer movement and will be under the constant threat of losing territory to the TPLF and Oromia. Second, the duo plan to destabilize Amhara by sending there more and more displaced Amharas and non-Oromos, thus creating a constant state of impoverishment and social unrest in the kilil.
To reiterate, since all of the above factors are intertwined, the responses to save Ethiopia from the demolition work of the Shimelis-Abiy duo must consider all of them.
One is forced to ask what motivates the two most powerful leaders of the country to destroy Ethiopia, the country of their birth, and the symbol of dignity, honor, and freedom for all Black People on Earth? Is it because Ethiopia was a feudal state that “oppressed the Oromo,” as one Oromo intellectual put it?
But all Ethiopians, including the Amhara, have lived under feudal oppression for centuries. All Ethiopians, with the exception of the elites, among whom numbered Oromo elites, were oppressed and exploited. A Swahili aphorism says: Mkono wenye uchafu husafishwa, haukatwi / “A dirty hand is cleaned, not cut.” Amputating Ethiopia by creating an independent Oromia is not the answer to past oppression. Amputating Ethiopia because there was oppression in the past is as irrational as amputating a hand because it is dirty.
The rational response to the oppression that affects all Ethiopian, irrespective of ethnicity, is to bring about systemic changes that emancipate all Ethiopians. Amputating Ethiopia is not a systemic change; it is not an emancipatory act. The proof: every one of us could name a region that has seceded from its motherland but whose people now live under conditions even more oppressive than before the secession.
So could anyone explain why the Shimelis-Abiy duo hate Ethiopia so much that they stop at absolutely nothing to destroy it?
In his 1963 poem, Ethiopia shall rise, Nkrumah extols Ethiopia as “Africa’s bright gem…land of the wise… fertile school of our African culture,,, Ethiopia, the wise / Shall rise…” Let us hope that “Ethiopia the wise”—the one that made possible the Victory of Adwa—”shall rise” again and rescue herself from the political insanity of the Shimelis-Abiy duo as she did from the Italian invaders of 1896.