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This discussion paper is prepared with inputs from many prominent individuals and groups in Ethiopia and abroad.

A preliminary survey in which 556 participants took part shows 67.6% support the proposed international campaign. This discussion document is shared with the public to foster discussion by all stakeholder at home and abroad. The purpose is not to form a new organization. It is to encourage existing ones to form an alliance and launch a well-coordinated campaign. There are encouraging signs.

“The people of Amaro are surrounded by Oromo on three directions. We are denied access to other regions. It is hard to explain our suffering in words. We are invaded and butchered, and our existence as an ethnic group is in peril.” Zemene A Zemene Hailu, 11th Regular Session of the Parliament, March 2023

“Some Oromo fools may not understand the strategy behind building Sheger City encircling Finfinnee. Our enemies understand our intentions.” Shimelis Abdissa, President Oromo Region, Speech for Oromo Youth, 2023

“Anti-government extremists who want to overthrow the federal government will see the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people overnight.” PM Abiy Ahmed, Televised Speech, 2021

“Extremists who want to instigate conflict to overthrow the government should know that the consequence will be many times bloodier than the red terror in the 1970s.” PM Abiy Ahmed, Televised Speech, 2023

“Today’s Ethiopia is at a juncture similar to that of Rwanda when it found itself at the dawn of genocide.” Addisu Arega, Head of PP International Relations, Facebook 2023

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

“What does Oromo-PP want?” The question is critical because the answer will take us to the  source of the spiraling crisis. In his 76-page recent manifesto, Jawar Mohammed, a prominent  Oromo activist, attributed the problem to Oromo-PP’s desire to impose the Oromo identity  and culture on other regions. 

Since its  formation, the Oromo Prosperity  Party  (Oromo-PP) has  gone  through  subtle  but  intense infighting between extremist and moderate factions. Over the last year-and-half, the  extremist faction that is driven by the Oromummaa doctrine has increasingly controlled the  levers of power and  the PM has progressively become a part of it. Oromummaa is in equal  measure part cult and part political dogma. Its adherents uphold it above religion and family.  Its leaders have publicly declared their Oromo identity takes precedence over their religion. 

Oromummaa’s  objective is more  than  creating  a  hegemonic  Oromo  rule  over  the  nation’s  economic and political spheres. It also involves creating a hegemonic cultural superiority. Its  implementation tool is Mogassa – an Oromo tradition of subjugation by brutal force. 

The President of the Oromo region, Shimelis Abdisa, did not mince words when announcing that Oromo-PP’s plan for “the Future of Ethiopia” is Gedaa – a 16th century traditional Oromo  governance system.  Shimelis asserted  that “The Prosperity Party is built in such a way  to  advance  the  interest  of  Oromo” and  that  his  government  is  “spending  billions  erecting  Oromummaa markers in Addis Ababa,” a city where only 19% of the population is Oromo. .”

In its blind pursuit of hegemonic Oromummaa, the government does not tolerate any protest – political or otherwise. On February 15, security forces killed six and injured more than 15  people in Gurage zone to crackdown protest against chronic lack of water. Gurage members  of  the  PP  and  peaceful  Gurage  opposition  leaders,  who  advocate  for  an  autonomous  administration, have become targets of government security forces. 

The Honorable Hassan Sheikh’s complaint at the Regular Session of the Parliament on March  28,  2023,  reflects  the  sentiment  felt  by  all  non-Oromo  ethic  groups  large  and  small. His  impassioned appeal expressed fear that the survival of his ethnic group (አማሮ) is in danger. 

“የአማሮ ህዝብ በሶስት በኩል በኦሮሞ የተከበበ በሞሆኑ ከሌሎች አጎራባች ብሄሮች ጋር እንዳይገናኝ መንገድ ተዘግቶበታል::  ለመግለጽ በሚያዳግት እና ይህ ነው በማይባል አፈና እና በመከራ ውስጥ ይገኛል:: ከመወረርና ከመጨፍጨፉም አልፎ እንደ አንድ ብሄር ህልውናው አደጋ ላይ ነው:: …”

[The  people  of Amaro are encircled  by Oromo  on  three  directions. We are denied access to other regions. It is hard to explain our suffering in words. We are invaded and butchered, and our existence as an ethnic group is in peril.]

Although  the  conflicts  are  more  escalated  in  some  regions  than  in  others,  the  crisis  is  nationwide. However, the PM and Oromo-PP are recklessly creating a dangerous narrative  to target the Amhara as a political distraction. It is an open secret that President Shimelis’  reference  to  “our enemies” is Amhara. The recent invitation and warm reception of TPLF  leaders by  President  Shimelis  and  his  high-level  officials is  a  reckless  red  flag to  use the  Amhara-Tigray border conflict as a carrot and stick bait in the Oromo PP’s political calculus.  It is hard to imagine this was done without the knowledge and approval of the PM.

As part of the new Oromo-Tigray flirting, the TPLF is gearing up to use the current crisis as  an opportune time to recapture the contested lands. The Oromo-PP and TPLF fondling will  lead  to  an  Amhara-Eritrea  alliance.  That  will  be  a  dangerous  development. The  Voice  of  America is right in noting “more civil war is spreading in the country.” 

It is important to remember that before the government-led genocide, Rwanda’s population  was less  than 8 million. Ethiopia’s population is more  than  the  four most recent genocide  countries combined (Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, and Myanmar).

The crisis is one spark away from plunging the nation and the Horn of Africa into catastrophe  of biblical proportions. The PM is upping the crisis by instructing Amhara special forces and  militia to disarm. Though the policy is supposed to be for all regions, the focus is on Amhara followed by Somali region.

According to the Pretoria agreement that was signed on November 3, 2022, the TPLF was  supposed to disarm. More than four months later, it has not complied with the agreement  and the federal government has not taken any action against it. In comparison, within a week  after  the  government  instructed  the  Amhara  to  disarm,  Federal  forces  are  surrounding Amhara garrisons to disarm them. Two members of the Amhara special forces were killed during a standoff.

The disarmament decision is necessary for lasting peace if it is planned and undertaken in a  transparent  manner  with  verification  and  trust  inspiring  process  in  place.  Amhara  has  legitimate reason to question its timing and purpose. During the Orthodox Church conflict,  the PM summoned elders to his office and told them the conflict was the work of extremist  Amhara  to  overthrow  his  government.  This is  the  same  PM who  threatened  to  slaughter  hundreds  of  people  overnight if  they  are  threats  to  his government.  The Amhara are  the  people the President of the Oromo region often refers as “NefeTegna” and “our enemies.” 

Amhara must reject the demand to disarm until its concerns are  fully addressed. Civilians  must peacefully protect  the special  forces garrisons with sit-in protest taking  turns. If  the  Oromo-PP led government declares war, the Amhara must protect itself. Protecting oneself  when one is in possession of arms is better than fighting after surrendering its arms.

The international community (IC) must weigh in with a sense of urgency and resolve. Apart  from the threat of human catastrophe of biblical proportions, the IC cannot be oblivious to  the impending danger to global trade and security. More than 10 percent of global trade and  40 %  of Asia’s  trade with  Europe pass  through  the Red Sea. Since  Ethiopia is  the anchor  nation for the region’s stability, as Ethiopia goes so goes the Horn of Africa region.

Our  national  and  international  campaign  follows  a  three-pronged  strategy.  The  first  and  most important task is building a broad coalition to avert the impending crisis. The analogy  we  use  is  safely  landing  the  proverbial  plane  with  a  malfunctioning  engine  that  is  flying  through turbulence air. We believe saving the plane from breaking up in midair and safely  landing the damaged plane must be our priority.

Second, we advocate for change and accountability within the constitutional order. Of recent,  we  have  witnessed  growing  dissatisfaction  within  the  PP.  A  significant  number  of  PP  members did not attend the PM’s recent briefings. When the Parliament met to remove the  terrorist designation on TPLF, the meeting barely met quorum, and over 60 of them voted  against the measure. Majority members of Gurage-PP who voted in  favor of autonomy  for  Gurage are not happy campers with the PM and Oromo-PP. The threat Oromo-PP poses that  the representative of Amaro zone articulated above is a threat felt by all ethnic groups.

The  campaign must  focus  on mobilizing  and  supporting members  of  PP  to  challenge  the  Oromo-PP. Lumping  all  regional  PPs with Oromo-PP is wrong.  For  example, many in  the  Amhara  region  are  anti  Amhara-PP  and call  for  their  abolishment.  This  is  not  only  self defeating, but also dangerous, when there is no other viable Amhara organization. A weak  Amhara organization is better than no Amhara organization.

What needs to be done is working with the rank-and-file members and creating pressure on  the leadership to push back against Oromo-PP. In the meantime, the population of Amhara  must  mobilize  a  campaign  to  recall  Amhara-PP  leaders  and  replace  them  with  representatives who will defend Amhara’s interest more aggressively. Similar effort must be  made  to  recall  complicit  PP  representatives  of Addis Ababa. The  situation is  favorable  to create a critical mass within PP to challenge the PM and Oromo-PP. This is the most viable  option in the short term without risking the disintegration of Ethiopia.

Third, a strategic international campaign is needed, with three specific action points.

  • Mobilizing international pressure against  Ethiopian military  and  police  leaders not to follow order from the PM to engage in any atrocity against the people.
  • Launching international investigations, expanding  the  mandate  of  the  UN  investigation to include atrocities committed in Oromia and Addis Ababa.
  • Imposing international sanctions with exemption  to  humanitarian  aid  and  programs such as AGOA that directly benefits the poor.

Concurrently, as part of the international sanction, the campaign will mobilize the diaspora  not to send remittance through official channels and avoid visiting Ethiopia except for family  emergency. Remittance is more  than what Ethiopia gets from  the IC, including  the World  Bank and IMF. The diaspora has the means to influence policy and it must act decisively.

Remember  that  external  pressure  was  one  of  the  factors  that  forced  TPLF  to  peacefully  relinquish power in 2018. Once TPLF lost its ability to keep the country stable, the IC turned  against it. Today, the IC has come to the realization that the PM is a destabilizing leader and  dangerous for the Horn of Africa. The campaign will capitalize on this.

In sum, our campaign is peaceful and all-inclusive. Its aim is to avert the spiraling crisis that  is tearing the country apart. Our win-win strategy is focused on pressuring the government  to change course. In this regard, we demand critical steps of accountability that the PM must  take. Should he refuse to do so,  there is a  trigger point  that will escalate  the campaign  to  peacefully remove him from office, following the constitutional process.

I. SPIRILING POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CRISES 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Oromo-PP party came to power in 2018 on the heels of a  national upheaval that was borne out of political and economic crises. Once again, in 2023,  Ethiopia is confronted with similar circumstances  that can potentially lead  the nation  to a  national upheaval with far more calamitous consequences of a civil war.

We must ask: Why did Jawar Mohammed, in his 76-page recent manifesto say: “All Oromo’s  must  be  ashamed  of  Oromo-PP’s  leadership.”  What  made  him  lament  that  people  are  “wondering if Oromo can govern the country?” His statements are driven by the state of the  nation’s security, economic and political rapid deterioration. 

Numbers  do  not  lie.  And  this  is  what  they  are  showing.  In  2018,  there  were  1.6  million  internally displaced people. In 2021, “Ethiopia set a world record for displacements in a single  year: 5.1 million. In 2023, there are 4.6 million Ethiopians displaced. 

In 2018, there were 30,000 political prisoners. Today, the number is much higher. Further,  under Prime Minister Abiy, Ethiopia has become “one of the worst jailers of journalists in sub Saharan  Africa.”  Journalists  and  activists  are  routinely  abducted  in  a  broad  daylight,  blindfolded, taken to the Oromo region, and tortured in private prisons. There are also cases  of arbitrary arrests of journalists and prominent activists. 

To top it off, opposition parties are prevented from holding annual meetings as required by  the laws of the National Election Board (NEB). Rogue Oromo officials routinely threaten hotel  owners  not  to  rent meeting  halls  to  opposition  parties. On March  15,  2023,  the  Ethiopian  National  Election Board issued a  press  release,  noting  “illegal  detention, intimidation, and  harassment  of  members  and  leaders  of  political  parties.” The  Board  further  expressed  concern that opposition parties are denied the right to hold general meetings. 

The situation is equally grim on the economic front. In 2018, Ethiopia’s inflation rate was 13.8  percent. At the time, the average inflation for Sub Saharan African countries was 4.1 percent.  Under  Prime  Minister  Abiy,  in  2021,  inflation  in  Ethiopia  skyrocketed  to  26.4 percent.  In  January  2022, Ethiopia’s inflation  was  amongst  the  worst  10 inflationary  countries in  the  world. For 2023, IMF’s projection for Ethiopia is 28.6 percent. The corresponding figure for  African countries is between 3 and 6 percent.

The  IMF  attributes  Ethiopia’s  high  inflation  to  “loose  fiscal  policy.” This  means  the  government is borrowing and spending beyond its means. Over the last six months alone the Government borrowed 100 billion Birr from the national Bank of Ethiopia. Other attributable  factors  include  the  war,  the  government’s  exchange  rate  deflation  policy  and  Oromo-PP  imposed restrictions on movements of people, goods, and services across state lines.

Since Prime Minister Abiy and his Oromo-PP party  took office, Ethiopia’s cereal and other  food imports have increased from 1.16 billion dollars in 2018/2019 to 3.61 billion dollars in  2021/2022, representing a 312% jump. During the same period, Ethiopia’s international food  aid has skyrocketed from $142.5 million to $1.17 billion, registering 821% jump. 

In 2018, there were 7.88 million Ethiopians in need of international food assistance. Under  Prime  Minister  Abiy,  20.4  million  people  need  international  food  assistance.  In  2023,  the  Prime Minister chose to export wheat, deepening the nation’s food crisis. The consequence is  a very high food inflation rate of 33.6% that is 17% higher than the general inflation rate. 

The latest economic news (April 8, 2023) is “Ethiopian coffee exporters have defaulted on  394 coffee export contracts since October 2022.” The Reporter noted: “The exporters say they  have no choice but to breech their contract because the international coffee price has dropped  below the local price in Ethiopia, slashing the profit margin they had anticipated.” One of the  consequences of a sky-high inflation is losing competitive edge in export markets.

Yet another bad headline reads: “The Ethiopian Meat Producers and Exporters Association  stopped  exporting  meat  as  of  06  April  2023.” The  Association  attributed  the  problem  to  foreign  currency  embezzlement.  Registered  meat  producers  and  exporters  are  sidelined,  while fly-by-night illegal Oromo slaughterhouses are given access to foreign exchange. 

The  economy  is  under  stress  on  many  fronts.  According  to  the  Heritage  Foundation,  “Ethiopia’s economic freedom score is 48.3, making its economy the 155th freest in the 2023  Index. Its score is 1.3 points lower than last year.”

Similarly, the Hong Kong-based Fitch Rating has consistently downgraded Ethiopia’s credit ratings on its ability to meet its financial obligations. Ethiopia rating history shows: November  2018  (B+) October  2019  (B),  June  2020  (CCC),  February  2021  (CCC)  and December  2022  (CCC-).

According  to  International  Transparency  (the  world’s  authoritative  body  on  corruption  index), in  2022, Ethiopia  scored  worse  than  the  previous  year. The  report  noted  that  the  country’s long-term trend was an improvement. In other words, Oromo-PP led government  is worse than TPLF when it comes to corruption. Even worse, corruption in 2022 was worse  than in  2021. The  2023  corruption index is  not available,  but all indications are it will  be  worse than 2022. Everything is going down.

II. THE PRIME MINISTER’S AND OROMO-PP’S FAILURE TO  GOVERN ETHIOPIA

There are at least two reasons why the Oromo-led government has utterly failed in just  five short years compared to the Tigrayan-led government that lasted for 27-years. The  first reason, which is also raised in Jawar Mohamed’s recent 67-page recent manifesto, is  that most of the Cabinet members and government officials are not appointed on merit:  knowledge, skills, experiences, and integrity. By and large,  the nation is led by political  cadres whose primary qualifications are complete loyalty and unconditional service to the  Prime Minister. 

The second reason is an extremist Oromo narrow nationalism that demands allegiance to  Oromummaa (an Oromo cult) above everything else. We have heard Jawar Mohammed,  Shimelis Abdissa, and many other Oromo leaders stating that they are first Oromo before  they are Christians or Muslims. We have seen them take pride in their belief that they are  first Oromo, and second Ethiopian if and only if Ethiopia submits to their whims. 

We  have  witnessed  one  of  the most  prominent  Oromo  political leaders,  Bekele  Gerba,  proposing  “not  to  do  business  with  anyone  who  does  not  speak  Afaan  Oromo”  and  attributing the decline of the Oromo language to interethnic marriage. We have also heard  Oromo activists calling for a mass divorce to free Oromos from their Amhara wives and  husbands. 

In  many  ways,  members  of  the  extremist  Oromo  political  class  including  those  in  leadership positions operate as though they are Oromo before they are human. They see  everything from the tenets of religion to the sanctity of family relations through an ethnic  lens. 

The political crisis and the unprecedented cruelty including stoning religious leaders to  death, hanging a defenseless person alive upside down and killing innocent children and  elders with machetes are results of the Oromummaa phenomenon.

III. THE INVASION OF OROMUMMAA & THE BREAKDOWN OF  LAW AND ORDER

Where ethnicity  supersedes  humanity  as the  basis  for  social  order,  cruelty  becomes  the  norm.  This  is  what  we  are  seeing  in  current  Ethiopia.  Pregnant  and  nursing  woman  are  evicted with their children and their elderly and sick parents. The Ethiopian Human Rights  Commission’s report on home “demolitions and forced evictions” by the Oromo government,  reads in part:

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has witnessed government forces,  including  police,  special  forces  and  militia  demolish  and  forcefully  evict  people. Also present at the scene were stick wielding civilians.

We  had  expected  the  PP  executive  committee  would  consider  the  dire  situations  of  the  country and address it genuinely. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a repeat of the TPLF’s  playbook from 2017. 

The  five-point  announcement  issued  by  the  PP  executive  committee  fell  far  short  of  acknowledging the nature of the crisis, let alone taking accountability. Unfortunately, the  executive committee resorted to blaming the opposition and the media. This was a pretext  to target the opposition and the media. Indeed, as has become clear since the press release,  the media and prominent opposition figures have been targeted.

The blind pursuit of Oromummaa is at the center of the nation’s crisis. This is particularly  true  in  at  least  five  areas:  (1)  Oromo  extremists’  schoolyard  whining  writ  large;  (2)  Usurpation  and  Oromoization  of  national  history;  (3)  Attempt  to  split  the  Ethiopian  Orthodox  Church;  (4)  Violation  of  human  and  citizenship  rights;  and  (5)  Violation  of property and economic rights.

IV.1. Oromo Extremists’ Unending Schoolyard Whining Writ Large

The  Oromo  extremists’  never-ceasing  grievance  politics  that  presents the  Oromo  as the  primary victim of “an Amhara forced assimilation” is the staple of their political narrative.  But  they  say  nothing  about Oromo-forced  assimilations  of  others including  the  Amhara.  Historically  “the  Oromo  has  assimilated  more  than  they  were  assimilated  by  others”

through the Mogassa tradition. This is documented in Professor Mohammed Hassen’s (an  Oromo historian) widely referred book that is published by the Oxford University Press. The  book  thoroughly  documented  the  Oromo  forcefully  absorbed “Cushitic  and  Semitic speaking tribes as clients or serfs (gabbaro) into their tribal structure.”

The conquered tribes were forced to abandon, their names, languages, and traditions. They  were politically and militarily baptized to become Oromo in every facet of their existence.  To top it off, Mohammed’s book acknowledges that new fictitious Oromo genealogies were  created  for  the  forcefully  assimilated  tribes  so  they  can  count  “their  ancestors  several  generations back” to a “hypothetical” Oromo lineage. 

Oromo extremists lament, for example, that Oromo cities such as Adama and Bishoftu were  given  Amhara  names – Nazriet  and  Debre  Ziet,  respectively. But  they  say  nothing  about  hundreds of originally non-Oromo cities large and small that have been changed to Oromo  names during the era of Oromo expansion. What is today Kemisse and its surrounding in  Wello was called Gegn (ገኝ). Western Wello including Worehimenu, Woreillu, and Borena  used to be Bete Amhara (ቤተ አማራ). 

There  is  no  doubt  that  the  primary  danger  for  Ethiopia’s  survival  is  Oromo  extremism  whose demands cannot be met because it will never cease until the entire precept of the  nation-state  system  submits  to  their  unending  schoolyard whining writ large.  Sadly, the  problem with Oromo  extremists  does  not  end with whining.  They  act  on  their  desire  to  Oromize Ethiopia through Mogassa 2.0.

IV.2. Usurpation and Oromoization of National History

One thing Ethiopians are known for is their shared pride in Ethiopian history – Adwa being  the crown jewel and symbol of Ethiopian unity. There is no ethnic group that has not paid in blood and lives to make Adwa the pride of all Ethiopians. Sadly, the Oromo-PP ethnicized  the national commemoration day of Adwa and rebranded it as an exclusively Oromo legacy.  In 2023, modern-day Oromo politicians are doing what their 15th and 16th century ancestors  did during Mogassa. 

The  first  critical  step  in  the  Oromoization  of  Adwa  was  erasing  the  legacy  of  Emperor  Menilik. Historically, the official Adwa celebration was held at Menilik Square. The Oromo PP moved  the event  to a new venue at Meskel Square  to disassociate  the event  from  the  Emperor. 

Adding insult  to injury,  the celebration at Meskel Square was by “invitation only.” Those  who invited themselves to the national and public commemoration of Adwa and sported t shirts with Menilik’s picture were forcefully disbursed, beaten and arrested. They were also  denied the right to peacefully celebrate the day at Menilik square. Those who showed up at  Menilik Square with Menilik’s banners and t-shirts faced brutal beating and arrest. These  are not people from one ethnic group but from all ethnicities in Ethiopia. 

The  second  step involving  the Oromoization  of Adwa was putting Oromos as  the  face  of  Adwa  on  all  official  Adwa  celebration  flyers  and  banners.  All  flyers  and logos  that were  produced by narrow nationalist Oromo officials shows two Oromos as the face of Adwa.  

Some people suggest  the objective is  to shift  the glory of Adwa  from North (Amhara and  Tigray) to South. This is not true. Otherwise, iconic non-Oromo Adwa heroes who came from  Gurage, Hadiya, Wolaita, Somali, etc. would have been recognized. 

IV.3. The Attempt to split the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Apart  from  Adwa,  the  Ethiopian  Orthodox  Tewahedo  Church  (EOTC)  and  the  Ethiopian  Islamic community are seen as the nation’s unifying forces. Not only have the two religions  survived in peace and harmony, but  they have also  taught  their  followers  to respect and  honor  each  other’s  religions.  Extremist  Oromo  politicians  see  the  EOTC  as  a  northern  institution (Amhara and Tigray) and sought to break it apart.

In  February  2023,  the  Prime  Minister  and  Oromo-PP  instigated  a  national  crisis  by  supporting  renegade  Orthodox  Bishops  who  violated  the  Ethiopian  Orthodox  Church’s  guiding principle and went on to establish an Oromo Orthodox branch. The Oromo-PP not  only provided political support to the splinter group but also sent its special police force to  detain  bishops,  arrest  church  administrators,  and  Orthodox  church  believers in  Oromia.  This existential  crisis was averted  only  because  the Orthodox  Church was  careful  not  to  escalate the crisis.

IV.4. Violation of Human and Citizenship Rights 

Ethiopians  traveling  from  the  Amhara  region  are  routinely  barred  from  entering  Addis  Ababa. This was done by the Oromia regional government in tandem with the Addis Ababa  mayor’s office. Moreover, the city administration routinely evicts non-Oromo people from  their  homes,  often  bulldozing  their  residences and  business  facilities – especially  on  the  city’s outskirts. 

IV.5. Violations of Property and Economic Rights

Incessant corruption by Oromo-PP officials and Oromo oligarchs run the gamut from land  grabs to monopolistic control over channels of wholesale and retail distribution of factory  produce and food supply chains. If there is one group benefiting from the high food inflation,  it is the Oromo-PP protected oligarchs. They use their government contacts to block entry  of food products into Addis Ababa and see food price rocket to reap hefty profits.

Businesses predominantly owned by non-Oromos face disruptions for days on end without  legal proceedings as was the case with Bajaj taxis in Addis. Nearly 10,000 Bajaj owners who  were legally operating with government issued licenses were left without work and income  until the government determined the necessity of Bajaj transport. The Bajaj restriction was  ultimately lifted after  public  uproar exposed  the  decision was aimed at  targeting  people  from  Amhara  and  Southern  Peoples  regions  who  constitute  the  majority  of  the  Bajaj  business. 

The most damage to the economy is attributable to restrictions on free movement of goods  and services to Addis Ababa. Though the Amhara are the targets of the policy, other tribes  have become collateral victims as Addis Ababa is transit city connecting different regions.  For example, a businessman  from Southern People region who  travels  to Amhara region  through Addis Ababa to sell his merchandise faces restrictions to return to his home base  through Addis Ababa. 

Similarly, Amhara businessmen are finding it increasingly difficult to take their produce to  Addis Ababa and to other regions through Addis Ababa. The consequences to the nation’s  economy are incalculable. As noted above, part of  the high  food inflation is due partly  to  criminal restrictions on free movements of goods and services. Unfortunately, the architects  of  the  policy  are  ignorant  to  understand  the  broader  implications  of  on  the  nation’s  economy.

IV. THE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTIES OF CONSCIENTIOUS MEMBERS OF PP

Conscientious members  of  the  PP have  constitutional  and  moral  obligations  to  stop  the  culture  of  impunity  that  has  become  the  hallmark  of  extremist  elements  in  Oromo-PP.  Ethiopians from all walks of life at home and abroad are encouraged by the recent pushbacks  from the Amhara-PP. Even more encouraging is the fact that the pushback is triggered by the  rank-and-file members of the party.  We have also witnessed resistance to other land grab  efforts by Oromo forces in adjacent Somali, Gambella, and Sidama regions. 

Ethiopians at home and in the Diaspora are not simply observing these developments. They  are prepared and ready to join the resistance and provide support to the peace-loving and  democracy thirsting people of Ethiopia. The people of Ethiopia want to see a change of course  and accountability to thwart the spiraling crisis. This must start with accountability in the  following specific areas. 

  • Identifying and bringing to justice those who are running private prisons and terrorizing the people of Addis Ababa.
  • Investigating high-profile corruption cases, including (1) The Purchase of 200 Chinese buses,  (2)  the  40  million  Birr  that  was  deposited  in  the  private  account of the Addis Ababa mayor, (3) the 59 percent drop in gold export, and  (4) recent criminal land transfers. 
  • Freezing land leasing  in  Addis  Ababa and  all  major  cities,  until  a  full  investigation  of  criminal  land  distribution  practices  is  undertaken,  and  a  system of check and balance is established for the future. A case in point is  the recent takeover of the Bole sub city; woreda 17 & 23 community centers.  The  demolished  community  centers  must  be  rebuilt  and  returned  to  the  community.  
  • Freezing demolition and evictions. Establish an independent commission to review the  demolition  and  eviction  process  and fully  redress  victims who  were wrongly and unjustly evicted. 
  • Delaying the disarmament of regional special forces and militias until trust between the Federal government and regional governments is built. In due course, a joint committee consisting of all regional special forces and militia  leaders need to be established to develop and oversee a fully transparent and  verifiable implementation program. 
  • Demanding full disclosure  of  the  Prime  Minister’s  and  the  First  Lady’s  financing sources  for their  flagship projects and ensuring that in the  future  they will be fully transparent and comply with the law of the land. 
  • Reining in the Prime Minister monocratic governance to make sure that his decisions are made in the best interest of the nation.

These are confidence-building steps that the PM must take to demonstrate his intent of averting  the  spiraling  crisis  from  reaching  a  point  of  no  return.  If  he  chose  to  continue his  current  destructive  path,  Ethiopians  at  home  and  abroad  have  no  choice  but to  organize  a  peaceful  resistance movement to remove him from office through the constitutional process.

V. A PEACEFUL AND ALL-INCLUSIVE MOVEMENT 

Our  campaign  is  peaceful,  inclusive,  and  focused  on  a  win-win  strategy.  We  believe  full  heartedly that there will be no peace in Ethiopia that does not actively seek the participation  of the people of Oromo. 

We see the people of Oromo as victims of Oromo extremism. The number of Oromos in prison  and the number killed (including Aba Gadaas) both by Oromo-PP and Oromo-Shene do not  get  the attention  they deserve.  Jawar’s claim in his manifesto  that  “the number of Oromo  casualty  under  Oromo-PP  in  five  years  is more  than  the  number  under  Emperor  Haile  Selassie, Derg and TPLF combined” may be exaggerated but it is not too far from the truth. 

The recent results of the national secondary school leaving exams in which Oromo students  performed far worse than other regions including Amhara and Southern People regions is  an even more detrimental consequence for the future of the people of Oromo. It should also  be noted that Oromo farmers were the primary victims of the Oromo-PP’s policy that forced  wheat farmers to sell their produce at a price that is far below the market value. No one is  immune from the PM’s and Oromo-PP’s failed leadership.

VI.1.  Crowding Out Extremist Forces

The state of our country is brittle. As much as people need to protest, precaution is needed  to avoid escalating the crisis. Ethiopians of all political persuasion and belief must resist the  temptation  for a zero-sum-game mindset and push  back against all extremist  forces. One  needs to follow Oromo social media how much attention extremist Ethiopianist forces get  from Oromo extremists because they are used as a fuel to keep the polarizing blaze alive.

VI.2.  The Role of Small Ethnic Groups 

The story that the Constitution honors and protects nations and nationalities is fiction. In a  country where ethnic rights serve as proxy through which individual rights are conferred on  citizens,  the  overwhelming  number  of  ethnic  groups  are  not  even  mentioned  in  the  constitution. 

Those who are mentioned in the Constitution, are represented in the Council of Federation,  but  not  in  the  People’s  House  of  Representatives.  The  Council  of  Federation  has  no  constitutional  right  to approve  or  block laws. This is an area  that  opposition  forces must  focus on to bring all marginalized ethnic groups from Tigray to Amaro together.

VI.3. Professional Associations and Civil Society Organizations

No part of the Ethiopian society is immune from the growing and worsening crisis that has  befallen the nation under Prime Minister Abiy. Teachers, physicians, businessmen, farmers,  public  employees,  the  military,  the  police,  street  venders,  taxi  drivers  and  everybody  in  between are suffering from the out-of-control inflation. 

The Prime Minister lectures public servants (including teachers and physicians) they cannot  request for salary increases. He then turns around and prints money in hundreds of billions  to finance his vanity projects, including his new mega palace. This increases the inflation rate  and  deteriorates  the  purchasing  power  of  all  income  groups,  most  particularly  the  purchasing power of low-income households. 

All indications are that he plans to continue printing money to finance his vanity projects.  Economists  say  that  “printing  money  is  stealing  from  the  poor.”  This  will  resonate  with  Oromo farmers who are forced to sell their wheat produce below the market price to make  the  Prime  Minister’s  “wheat  export”  sham  a  reality. One  of  this  campaign’s focus  will  be  mobilizing professional associations and civic society organizations. 

VI.4. Military Leaders and Officers

The military has suffered more than any part of society under the current Prime Minister. An  entire special force was decimated trying to capture TPLF leaders who were hiding in the  most fortified terrain in Tigray.  Over 10,000 members of the EDF were captured by TPLF  with their weapons, including tanks and heavy armors. 

The  military  has  paid  a  steep  cost  in  life  and  limb. Their  families  are  suffering  from  the  deteriorating economy and soaring inflation. Those who were wounded during the war are  begging on the streets. The PM is focused on vanity projects to fan his fancy and feed his ego rather than addressing the needs of veterans and their families. 

Military leader must refuse  to be involved in  the PM’s war against  the people. They have  sworn  obligations to defend  the nation, including  from  the PM and Oromo-PP when  they  undermine the integrity and sovereignty of the nation. Any campaign for a lasting peace must focus on public relations work to sensitize and raise the awareness of the military.

VI. SEVEN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE POINTS TO AVERT THE CRISIS 

Over the last five years, we have learned two things about the PM. First, he has no principled  position. We  have  seen  him  support  the Oromo Orthodox  renegade Bishops  only  to  drop  them after he faced an overwhelming opposition from the EOTC. We have seen him vacillate  between Pan-Ethiopianist and Oromo nationalist positions at the drop of a hat. 

Second,  he  has  been  weakened  by  the  TPLF  and  Oromo-Shene  wars.  He  epitomizes  the  proverbial Emperor with no cloth. We have seen him threatening the EOTC and its supporter  “with tools of violence that [they] have never seen before,” only to blink when they called his  bluff. He promised Ethiopians that he would give his neck before he submits to international  demands and sanctions, only to submit to the IC’s every whim. 

We  believe  change  can  come  only  if  conscientious  member  of  the  PP  and  the  people  of  Ethiopia work together to reign in the Prime Minister and his Oromo-PP. In this regard, we  believe  there are Seven pressure points that will  force  the Prime Minister  to change his political  power  calculus  and  avert  the  spiraling  crisis.  This  involves  a  well-coordinated  national and international campaign. The international campaign represents not a choice of  convenience, but an option of last resort borne out of necessity.

VII.1. Four Coordinated Domestic Campaigns

The first and most potent campaign is mobilizing the silent majority. We have seen the power  of the silent majority from the EOTC experience.  The key to getting the silent majority to rise  is forging a win-win strategy that avoids extremist positions and find a peaceful approach. 

The second domestic campaign is holding the Prime Minister accountable. This is where work  needs to be done to involve disgruntled members of the PP in the Parliament. In many places,  the  Constitution  affirms  the  people’s  representatives  “shall  have  the  duty”  to  honor  and  protect  the  people’s  constitutional  rights. Article  12  outlines  the  “Functions  and  Accountability  of  Government”  and  affirms  “Any  public  official  or  elected  representative shall  be  made  accountable  for  breach  of  his  official  duties.”  This  includes  honoring  and  protecting the constitutional order and holding those who violate it accountable.

Article 35 empowers the People’s representatives to “call the Prime Minister and Ministers  for questioning and inspect the activities of the executive branch.” It stipulates further that  the House of Representatives can “deliberate on any item within the powers of the executive  where one third of the members of the Council so request. The Council shall have the power to deliberate and take any measure it deems appropriate.” This includes removing him from  his position as the Prime Minister and Chair of PP.

The  third  domestic  campaign must focus  on  recalling  members  of  the  Peoples  Representatives who fail to uphold their oath. In accordance with the Constitution, a national  campaign  will  mobilize  a  recall  campaign  to  remove  members  of  the  House  of  Representatives  from  office and  replace  them with people who will honor  their  oath and  perform their  constitutional  duties. This applies with equal  force  to Addis Ababa  Council  members who are governed by similar sets of duties and accountabilities. 

The fourth domestic campaign is supporting grass root movements, involving both regional  PPs and opposition parties who are committed to a peaceful campaign that is focused on a  win-win outcome. Our aim of this campaign is to provide the necessary support to grassroot  movements, including mobilizing  financial support, and echoing their concerns,  fears, and  demands to the international community. 

VII.2. International Investigations and Sanctions Including Drying Up Remittance

The first critical campaign is international investigations of crime against humanity not only  in Tigray, Amhara and Afar, but also in Oromia and Addis Ababa regions. We acknowledge the  apprehension  Ethiopians  feel  about  international  investigations as  it  infringes  on  the  nation’s sovereignty. An international investigation is not a desired choice but a choice of  absolute necessity. Unfortunately, the PM and the Oromo-PP are pushing the nation to the  brink of total disintegration. There will be no sovereignty if there is no Ethiopia. Our first and  foremost task is saving Ethiopia from such a reckless government. 

There are compelling reasons why Ethiopians must push for international investigation. On  March 20, 2023,  the US concluded: “After  careful  review  of  the law and  the  facts”  that  “members  of  the Ethiopian National Defense  Forces, Eritrean Defense  Forces, Tigray  People’s Liberation Front forces and Amhara forces committed war crimes during the  conflict in northern Ethiopia.” 

The US pressured the PM to accept the UN mandated international investigation. As a  result,  Ethiopia  dropped  its  motion  to  block  the  UN  investigation but  insisted  the  mandate should not be extended. This is to protect Oromo-PP from investigation and  accountability.

The  diaspora  must  work  toward  expanding  the  mandate  of  the  international  investigation  team  to  include  allegations  of  crime  against  humanity  and  ethnic  cleansing  in  the  Oromo  region  and  economic  and  human  rights  violations  in  Addis Ababa.  Several  international  human  rights  groups  have  already  issued  preliminary  reports  about  Tigray.  Blocking  further  international  investigations will  only  deny  victims of Oromo-PP and Oromo-Shene in the Oromo region and Addis Ababa.

The second part of our international campaign is international sanction. This will have two  components. First is to mobilize international pressure against Ethiopian military and police  leaders not to carry out any atrocity. Military and police forces need to be reminded in most  cases it is military leaders who face genocide charges in international courts. Recent cases in  Guatemala, Myanmar, and Serbia provide red flags of warning. 

The other aspect of international sanction is economic sanction. We are cognizant that there are economic costs on the poor in the short term, but a targeted sanction is justified by three  factors. 

  • The Prime Minister’s  submission  to  allow  international  investigations shows  the  power of sanction.  
  • The economic cost  associated  with  Oromo-PP  restrictions  on  free  movements  of  people,  good  and  services  and  the  unprecedented  armed  looting  by  Oromo-PP  kleptocrats and Oromo oligarchs is far more than any economic cost associated with  international sanctions.
  • Any damage that international sanctions cause can be mitigated using targeted and smart sanction.  Targeted  sanctions will  not  affect  humanitarian  aid  and  programs  such as AGOA that helps the poor. Its focus will be on starving the Oromo-PP beast by  denying it foreign funds that it is using to fortify an Oromo hegemonic rule. 

The third part of  international campaign is  the Diaspora’s  financial contribution. Diaspora  remittance accounts for the lion’s share of the nation’s foreign exchange. The Diaspora must  stop sending remittance through the Banking system. We need to limit remittance strictly to  support family members through informal channels. We also need to stop visiting Ethiopia  unless it is family emergency.

It is worth mentioning  that the US  Secretary Antony Blinken’s  visit  that was intended  to  amend  relations  with  Ethiopia  did  not  materialize  because  of  the  PM’s  lack  of  concrete  commitment to avert human rights violations and establish a system of accountability. The  timing is right to create national and international pressure to establish accountability. 

Source: Yonas Biru, PhD

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