Getaneh K Yismaw
As we begin the new year and third decade of the 21st century, here are some musings on Ethiopia.
Watching government propaganda media such as ETV, FANA, Walta or other servile outlets and/or some motivational speakers who frequent the grounds of Menelik II Palace, or ESAT, one would think Ethiopia has, in fact, become utopia: on fast track transition to democracy (just don’t ask details) —where its current government is the best thing that happened to it, and that prosperity–powered by Prosperity Gospel (a strand of US Protestantism), is just around the corner—we just need to water it with a firehose, of course with Canon Camera crew in tow, you know.
Election is four months away and Prosperity Party, without holding a general meeting and electing its leaders, has been recognized and certified as legit—curtesy of Birtukan Mediqsa lead Election Board. Hooray!
The reputable and independent Crisis Group has put Ethiopia as one of top 3 countries in the world to watch for major conflict and instability—correctly so. Ethnic political inferno—just on about all issues—where hatred is medium of currency, is at its fever pitch, ready to unleash mayhem (already saw its dry in the form of #October2019Massacre as well as the Burrayyo massacre a year prior, both in Oromo region). Universities are nonfunctional, especially more so those in so called Oromo Region. Thousands of Amhara student have been forced to flee for their lives, dropping out of classes and headed to their families—after violence and warning from Qeerroo; several students have been murdered across several Universities. Classes have been suspended many times across many of them. Some Universities are closed altogether and it’s not even news anymore. Just in the last few days Wollega and Dire Dawa University have shutdown altogether (just in the last two days, 14 students died from a car crash in route to their families from Wollega Universtiy). Lawlessness, crimes and impunity have never been this high—ever.
Yet the Abiy government has decided to hold election. How in the world can one hold legitimate election in Oromo region (and elsewhere) where road blocks are just common events?
(Asymmetrical) Region of Special Privilege and Lawlessness
Oromo Region has been granted both de facto lawlessness and special privilege. Since PM Abiy came to power, this region has been increasing its military (camouflaged as Police or Special Force—but it’s just ethnic military force whose loyalty is not to enforce the law equally but to discriminate against non-Oromos. Given the false grievance narrative of Amhara hatred which is the currency of Oromo extremists, this growing armed force, at the hands of extremists like Shemelis Abdissa, may conduct ethnic cleansing and worse. Just in the last few days, the Oromo regional govt has graduated thousands of military forces—with North Korea style parade and pomp—increasing its ethnic para-military ranks to tens of thousands. While Amhara Region was not permitted to do the same (and the person who’s leading the training in Amhara region was immediately singled out for elimination long before the June incident that left the region with leadership void).
In Oromo region, we have seen all kinds of gruesome crimes and displacements are being carried out by organized and hierarchical Qeerroo—with impunity. Targeted assassinations have become common. Attacks on Orthodox Churches and its believers have become common. Amharas are openly persecuted. These crimes are met by deafening silence by PM Abiy and almost all Oromo politicians (contrast that with a torrent of condemnation if anything slightest thing happens in the so-called Amhara region).
Any Non-Oromo Political party cannot travel or hold a public meeting let alone to campaign for election. Even the docile EZEMA, whose leader gushes loyalty and admiration for PM Abiy and his government, is not permitted to hold meetings.
The Economy is seriously unbalanced with massive Forex shortage, high unemployment and high inflation and burdened with increasingly larger level of foreign debt that the country has difficulty servicing it. With IMF and WB new approved loans comes likely serious of preconditions: flexible exchange rate—which is inflationary without any of the benefits (the minuscule Ethiopian export sector doesn’t really respond to exchange rate fluctuations)—may likely add misery to those who are already struggling, among other conditions, like austerity in the form of price increase and service cuts, that we don’t know yet.
With all the hellish situations discussed above, one would think there should be an organized opposition to credibly articulate against the government of PM Abiy. But, no! At this point, there is no credivle and organized pan-Ethiopian opposition force to be had. EZEMA’s whole strategy is blind faith-based: believing Abiy its leader Dr Berhanu Nega just confirmed for the umpteenth time in recent days that his whole strategy is “believing Abiy”, despite his party is unofficially but practically banned to operate in PM Abiy’s home region.
EZEMA’s leader reminds me the veteran political fixture Vladimir Zhirinovsky of Russsia who runs for president only to defend, praise and support Putin’s re-elections. He has willingly suspended reality and has assumed out the real issue of the Region of Lawlessness and special privilege.
By misleading, at least a portion of the public, into believing some workable transition is in order, when the federal government even can’t maintain minimum law and order, EZEMA has become ancillary to Oromo Nationalists’ dystopian power projection and domination, instead of a check on them.
TPLF that lost power in Addis Ababa, has taken Tigray as de facto confederation state –out of the reach of the Federal government. TPLF is licking its wounds and, at times, contemplating to unleash war but afraid of an old dog to its north.
Assassinations, criminal hostage taking, and organized robberies are becoming daily occurrences—even in Addis Ababa, displacements are becoming common, Universities are either being closed or regular suspending their normal operations while scores of students are assassinated—all of which constitutes failed-state status—where PM Abiys government is unable to fulfill its primary responsibility to protect the people’s safety. How can a sane mind think credible election is possible in this atmosphere?
The Amhara Question
Despite ant-Amhara narrative has been government ideology for three decades and preached for two decades, the able and capable Amhara elite–save a handful few who are trying—and are clearly able to see through these façades, are keeping quiet, safe and on the sidelines. As the country faces existential threat and the lives of millions is at stake, apathy, indifference and inability to see beyond themselves by many capable people, is the most troubling. To some extent, these people are morally inadequate for abandoning their people.
The corollary to this apathy is that many who are trying to advocate for Amhara in politics and media are, at best, 3rd rate imbeciles and chopped livers who are being taken for cleaners by those whose existence is Amhara hatred. Some young social media activists who are trying to play as opinion makers in Diaspora based Satellite media are one who should take ESL classes and do some basic readings at community colleges but are audacious enough to present themselves as journalists. ADP (ANDM) is safely back to its former servile role and just comfortable playing secondary role.
The state of Amhara security, political and economic situation is worse than you can possibly imagine, even when you take account of the fact that it is worse than you imagine possible (to borrow a quip from a dismal scientist).
I hope this status is changed in the new year before the tipping point is crossed.