Ethiopia’s Blunder Of The Century: War And Human Atrocities Must Stop – OpEd
Dr. Aklog BiraraApril 20, 2023
“I am worried that the system may fail, and if the country fails, it will be a shame for all blacks” so said Lencho Leta, Founding member of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and trusted advisor of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
I agree with Mr. Leta. Tragically for the people of Oromia and the rest of Ethiopians, the projected collapse of the Ethiopian state and government on which I have written a great deal has a lot to do with the Oromuma project to which he, his party, and the Oromo Prosperity Party have contributed. Ethiopia may collapse under the watch of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed unless corrective measures are taken urgently.
The Oromo national question, the demand to become an equitable player in Ethiopian governance, is no longer a valid argument. The Oromo Prosperity Party dominates party, state, and government. It exercises absolute power and influence over key Ethiopian institutions: Banks, foreign exchange and federal budget, huge infrastructural projects such as the GERD, jobs, lands, national defense, tanks and bullets, air force jets, diplomatic missions, and the like.
Over the past twelve months alone, champions of the Oromuma project that bar fair play and inclusivity have done serious damages to Ethiopia’s national unity. For example, it desecrated the Ethiopian national symbols including substituting the OLF regional flag for the national flag, pushing for recognition of the Oromuma anthem while discouraging the Ethiopian national anthem in Addis Ababa, the seat of government, the hub of the African Union and home to more than 5 million Ethiopians. When you undermine inclusive diversity, you degrade Ethiopia itself.
The Abiy government also plotted and divided the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) that Prime Minister Abiy had at one time depicted as country; degraded the internationally recognized and annually celebrated Adwa victory that occurs close to the statue of brilliant leader Emperor Menelik II, tried to an alternative narrative to elevate the Prime Minister, deployed Oromo Special Forces, security, and police agents to subjugate and harass; flogged innocent civilians and killed one person and jailed several; defiled EOTC prayers and event celebrations.
Specific individuals and families have been targeted based on ethnicity and thousands of homes in the city of Addis Ababa were bulldozed with the sole intention of making the city “irrelevant” while constructing a parallel Oromo populated city called Sheger–costly for the country.
The Amhara people’s freedom of movement into Addis Ababa has been restricted allegedly because they are against change and prefer to dwell on their “the past,” theypurportedly shaped.
This exclusionary and discriminatory policy under PM Abiy aggravates mistrust, uneasiness; emboldens Oromo extremists to commit genocide in Amhara and contributes to inevitable state and government collapse if not addressed boldly and forthrightly. Blaming victims is unwise.
Compounding these corrosive and reckless acts, Ethiopia’s Parliament just lifted the designation of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as terrorist on March 22, 2023. I will not be surprised if it does not remove OLF/Oromo Liberation Army (OLA-Shane from the list, too. I presume this happened following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ethiopia and the conditions he may have imposed on the government of Ethiopia in general and on Abiy in particular.
I was stunned and also pleased to witness when Ethiopia’s armed forces Chief of Staff, Field
Marshall Berhanu Jula met and shook hands with Commander-in-chief of Tigray Defense Forces
(TDF) General Tadesse Worede in Nairobi, Kenya as former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta applauded during the signing ceremony of the permanent cessation of hostilities agreement between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF, in Nairobi, November 12, 2022. “The dawn of a new day,” someone remarked.
I believe behind Getachew Reda’s appointment and the ability of TPLF forces to maintain their military hardware almost intact are a sequence of two important variables: American pressure and influence and Abiy Ahmed’s decision that Amhara must surrender Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya to Tigray. This explains the withdrawal of Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) from the region and the decision to disarm Amhara forces which leaves Afar and Amhara vulnerable.
Ethiopia’s current domestic policy appear to be driven by the United Stares in favor of the TPLF, OLA/OLF-Shane, the Oromo Prosperity Party, Egypt, Sudan, and the US national security machine. The losers are Ethiopia as a county, the Afar, Amhara regions as well as Eritrea.
I am certain that members of Ethiopia’s Parliament discussed the pros and cons of their decision, However, in my view, Parliament failed to critically assess US intentions in Ethiopia, which may lead to more sectarianism, extremism, even genocide, collapse of the government. Parliament appears to have failed to consider possible adverse consequence of its decision on the geopolitics and national security implications for Ethiopia, including the completion and sustainability of the GERD, if TPLF re-takes the contested region of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt.
Furthermore, Parliament failed to evaluate the far-reaching implications of the US led and UN facilitated deliberations on accountability for crimes of war, crimes against humanity and others in which top leaders of the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF are implicated.
Parliament did not apply an even-handed approach when it ignored the Amhara population, which was wronged by the TPLF, and the Oromo led Prosperity Party Government and has the legal and moral right to defend and preserve its land and identity in a similar way as other ethnic groups.
Succumbing to pressure from the USA, Ethiopian’s top federal officials, and Parliament, have raised the risk of an even more devastating civil war in Ethiopia than the last three. Parliament’s acquiescence to the USA subordinates and undermines Ethiopia’s sovereignty and national security. Equally important, it absolves those who have committed war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and economic crimes.
Due to the many concerns discussed above, I agree with Lencho Leta that the entire current Ethiopian governmental “system may fall” and with it, Ethiopia, if no corrective measures are taken urgently to arrest the consequence of what might live in history as Ethiopia’s blunder of the century.
The most sensible and prudent option going forward is for all stakeholders in Ethiopia, as well as many other African countries with similar contradictions, to set aside non-strategic differences and honestly dialogue to find common grounds. National as well as continental leaders can and must play their parts by representing all citizens and mitigate the risks of driving the continent into a permanent state of instability, which will deprive people of essential services such as the provision of water, roads, education, justice, health, etc.
Dr. Aklog Birara, former senior advisor at the World Bank.