Will negotiation end the ongoing war between the Ethiopian government and Tigray Liberation Force?

The international community is mounting pressure on the federal government of Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and Tigray Liberation Force (TPLF) to negotiate to bring an end to the ongoing war in Tigray. However, many wonder if negotiations can ever address major outstanding issues that led to the war in the first place.

Although the government doesn’t want to make public, peace talks sponsored by the African Union is under way. The United States Security Council expressed its support for the effort. The United Nations and the European Union are also pushing the warring parties to sit down for dialogue.

The reality on the ground created by the war is also necessitating seeking a peaceful means to an end of the conflict that’s taking the toll on civilians. An increasing number of Ethiopian refugees are crossing border to neighboring countries, particularly Sudan. Internally displaced people need food and shelter.

Casualties both from the government and TPLF side have started to be felt even in areas far away from the war zones. There are reports that hospitals in Bahirdar, Gondar, Dessie, and other cities and towns in Amhara region are filled with injured members of the federal defense force, Amhara region’s special force, and militias who participated in the war.

It’s believed TPLF’s loss of many areas including major cities and towns to the Ethiopian government forces provides more incentive for negotiation. The specter of a costly war to take control of Mekelle city, the capital of the Tigray region, and the heavy toll it will takes on civilians is another motivating factor for both the government and TPLF to sit down for negotiation.

More than three weeks into the war, both Abiy Ahmed and TPLF are not where they were. Abiy has overcome major inhibitors, both psychological and material, of going to a war against the “strongly armed” and the “indomitable” forces of TPLF. He managed to fix the military’s chain of command of the Northern Command and regroup his forces. He has been able to take control of towns and cities in Tigray and made it impossible for TPLF to undertake its daily administrative activities.

TPLF, on its part, managed to show the world what a small but well-organized group can do by taking on the mightier forces of the federal government. It did successful public relations in telling the international community that “hey we are in a civil war which is leading to humanitarian disaster.” It also sent a clear message to Ethiopians that fighting with Tigray is not “walk in the park.”

For Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, what he has achieved through military operations so far puts him in a better position to negotiate. Now he has both carrot and stick in his hands. But this will end if he tries to take control of Mekelle city by force.

The conquest of Mekelle, if successful, should not be something to celebrate. It will be costly and take its toll on the lives of hundreds or even thousands of civilians. The death of civilians in the city as the world watches spells the end of Abiy Ahmed’s advantage over TPLF. The fall of Mekelle under Abiy Ahmed’s forces will also force TPLF to start an insurgency war, the beginning of an endless war, which Ethiopia cannot afford to fight.

The dialogue which the international community is calling for may help to end the ongoing conflict, but it cannot help to address issues that led to the conflict in the first place. For example, mediators may convince either TPLF to cancel the elections it held months ago or persuade Abiy to accept it. Abiy may release all political prisoners of Tigray.

Dialogue may not help to address issues that led to, or exacerbated, the conflict. For example, it’s tough to address Amhara region’s territorial claims over lands which are currently under the jurisdiction of the Tigray regional state. It is hard to resolve TPLF’s concerns about Abiy Ahmed’s relations with Isayas Afework of Eritrea who is believed to have been involved in the war. It’s also difficult to address Ethiopians’ concerns about Abiy Ahmed’s real or perceived ambition to undo the existing multinational federation to replace it with a unitary government system.

A dialogue between the two warring parties may help to bring an end to the ongoing conflict temporarily, but it’s far from addressing long-standing issues that keep ruining the country.

Tigray fired rockets at Amhara cities causing damages

Despite the claim by the federal government that its war jets destroyed “all strategic” weapons in the hands of Tigray region’s special force, rounds of rockets were fired at Bahirdar and Condar cities in Amhara region.

Residents said they heard big explosions followed by heavy gunfire around areas called Mekod and Azezo in Bahirdar and the city of Gondar respectively. The rockets were fired from the Tigray region, hundreds of kilometers away.

Getachew Reda, a higher official of Tigray, confirmed the report saying his region’s “defense force” fired the rockets in retaliation of Abiy Ahmed forces’a air attacks. He said the targets were military bases in Bahirdar and Gondar. But reports from the Amhara region indicate the targets were civilian airports.

Few days ago, Debretsion (PhD), president of the Tigray region, claimed that his forces had weapons that can strike anywhere in the country. He threatened to bombard any targets in the country should the federal government continue its attack in Tigray.

Reports coming from the Amhara region indicate that part of the Ginbot 20 International Airport in Bahirdar was hit. They also said damages were caused to Atse Tewodros International Airport found in the tourist city of Gondary.

Amhara activists are also reporting that a separate rockets attack hit a village in the North Gondar Zone of the Amhara region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed portrayed his government’s action as a measure to maintain law and order. However, officials in Tigray accuse him of trying to destroy the multi-national federal system of the country.

There is a growing concern among the international community that the conflict may morph into a full-scale war threatening regional stability. Thousands of refugees from the Western Tigray have already fled to Sudan.

The Ethiopian Somali Region: A land of hope for peace and stability in Ethiopia and beyond!

Recently, Adam Farah, a Somali Ethiopian, shook his fingers at the government of Tigray. He was threatening it with “legal measures” if it holds local elections defying the law passed by the Ethiopian parliament. Adem Farah made the statement not as private citizen, but in his capacity as a speaker of the House of Federation.

Although Somalis occupy the second largest geographic area, and are the third largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, they have never held a government position as high as the House of Federation. Now things are changing!

Ahmed Shide, another Somali, is the minister of the Ministry of Finance. Mrs. Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed leads the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth. Today, a number of other Somalis also represent Ethiopia as ambassadors in foreign countries.

However, the presence of officials at the federal government offices does not tell all about the Ethiopian Somali people. They are big in number and geography, but they are invisible to the eyes. They are on the land, but their histories do not exist in the archives of a country that boasts of thousands of years of recorded history.

Generally speaking, Ethiopia doesn’t know nations and nationalities, and more so the Somalis. More Ethiopian Somalis live in Nairobi and capital cities of many countries than in Addis Ababa. More Ethiopian Somalis live in Minnesota than in all regions of Ethiopia combined, perhaps except Oromia. There are no Somali restaurants, boutiques, and cafes in the capital city of their own country.

However, the political change in Ethiopia following the overthrow of the TPLF-led government has provided the Somali region with a unique opportunity. It has a chance not only to occupy TPLF’s place but also to change the Ethiopian politics which has been dominated by the cultural and religious values of north Ethiopia.

In the Ethiopian federal system, regions (states) have the right to both self-rule and shared rule. They have the autonomy to decide on their region’s affairs but also to participate in a shared rule of the country. This places the Somalis in a unique position to shape the Ethiopian politics which has been dominated mainly by elites from three ethnic groups: Oromo, Amhara, and Tigray.

The Somali region is a home to the largest Somali clan and shares borders with Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. It’s cultural and religious link with these countries is a big asset not only for the region but also for Ethiopia. It can be an anchor of peace and stability. It can also be a magnet for investors and tourists.

Somalis’s visibility in Ethiopian politics also has the potential to change the East African politics. Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed is probably the first Ethiopian leader to understand this. A year ago, he made a smart decision to delegate ambassador Mohamud Dirir to mediate a peace deal among different groups in Sudan. As expected, a multilingual and veteran diplomat has succeeded. Abiy has also sent Ahmed Shide and other Somali politicians to Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia to strengthen relations.

Generally, Somali region has a potential to be a peaceful and prosperous region to its people, an indispensable force to shape Ethiopian politics, and an anchor of peace and stability in East Africa. Are the politician ready?

Why has the United States halted its aid to Ethiopia? Is this only the beginning?

When Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the U.S. State Department, and Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed visited Sudan on the same day three days ago, many expected that they would hold a meeting. The expectation emanates from the historical Ethio-American relationship, the strong alliance that exists between the two countries, and the ongoing tripartite negotiations among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia which the U.S. mediated and wants to see completed.

Among those who expected the meeting between Mike Pompeo and Abiy Ahmed, there were some who questioned the protocol, a meeting between a prime minister (head of a government) and Secretary of State in a foreign country.

Now whether or not a meeting between the prime minister and Secretary of State occurred is unclear as there is no official statement or media report on the subject. This again led some to believe that there was no any meeting between the two leaders. However, others believe that there was indeed a meeting, but they argue that the leaders disagreed. For this, they point to a picture showing the prime minister looking embarrassed and in deep thought.

A day after the Sudan visit by Pompeo and Abiy, the Foreign Policy reported that the United States halted $130 millions in aid for Ethiopia. The reason, according to the FP report, is due to Ethiopia’s refusal to sign the GERD agreement.

However, the claim that the U.S. halted its foreign aid due to the GERD issue alone doesn’t hold water. Rather, the U.S. action has to do with the instability in Ethiopia which it fears may threaten its national interest in the region. To understand this, it’s important to look at the following context:

A few weeks ago, 20 U.S. lawmakers wrote a letter to Mike Pompeo asking him to assess the political situation and the human rights violations in Ethiopia and report back to them. A few days ago, two Minnesota congressional delegates wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department voicing their concerns about what’s going on in Ethiopia in general and the condition of two Minnesotans, Jawar Mohammed and Misha Chiri, who are detained by the regime in particular. The expected meetings between Mike Pompeo and Abiy Ahmed in Sudan “didn’t happen.” Yesterday, the U.S. halted its support for Ethiopia. Months ago, President Donald Trump claimed that the Nobel Peace Prize Abiy received should have been given to him.

Having this context in mind, now we can answer the question, why the United States halted its aid to Ethiopia? In order to answer this question, it’s important to answer another question: Why does the United States support counties like Ethiopia in the first place?

The United States support countries like Ethiopia for its own NATIONAL INTEREST! To this end, it follows three approaches:

  1. It supports countries which help achieve its national interest.
  2. It withdraws its support from counties that don’t support its national interest.
  3. It punishes countries that work against its national interest.

How does the United States support its allies?

The United States support its allies in three major ways: economically, diplomatically, and politically. Economic support includes granting foreign aids (loans, humanitarian aids); allowing tariff-free export to U.S.A; facilitating loans by multinational financial organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, etc; encouraging its businesses to invest in those countries; providing security aid (e.g., providing weapons and training to military forces, etc.).

Diplomatic Support includes supporting countries in international arena such as letting them into membership of a coalition; mediating conflicts, e.g., GERD, border disputes; mediating major international issues (e.g., Isreal and United Arab Emirates).

Political support includes supporting a ruling party of a friendly country. The United States gave political support to TPLF, Abiy Ahmed, and King Haile Selassie. But it did not give political support to the Dergue regime.

What are the United States national interest in the international area? They are many but the major ones are economic (trade, investment), diplomatic, security (e.g., war on terrorism, drug trafficking), and geopolitics (competition among major countries such as Rissia and China). The United States needs Ethiopia for two of the above mentioned reasons: security and geopolitics.

The United States DOES NOT LIKE A DICTATOR WHO CANNOT STABILIZE HIS OWN COUNTRY. For the United States, a country has to be stable to help in its national interest. Ethiopia is failing in this regard! How?

Abiy failed to understand what the whole world knows! That is, the key to stability in Ethiopia is Oromia and Oromo politics. The PROBLEM with Abiy is that he not only tried to SIDELINE the Oromo people who brought him to power, he followed ANTI-OROMO POLICIES and worked to reincarnate old feudal system. This put him into a direct collision with the Oromo people. Things are falling apart!

Ethiopia’s role as anchor of peace and stability in the region is also diminishing. The government of Abiy Ahmed has weakened IGAD. Due to GERD and border issues, Ethiopia’s relations with Sudan is an all-time low. Its relations with Kenya has also become tense because of a competition for influence in Somalia. Djibouti cannot be Ethiopia’s powerful reliable partner, and Eritrea is not perceived to play a positive role in the region.

Ethiopia is not helping the United States in its geopolitical competition with China as well. Despite the United States’ push to rethink about its relations with China, Ethiopia continue to rely on China on many things. China is enticing it with different support with regards the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese support for other African countries in this area also opened a new market for the Ethiopian Airlines, which is now the only major source of its foreign currency.

In addition to the above reasons, the United States does not like a country that detaines its citizens especially if it causes noises back home. Now, we are hearing those noises on the streets of the United States. Abiy doesn’t seem to understand all these problems.

The United States will continue to pressure Abiy Ahmed to release political prisoners and bring stability to country. If he doesn’t listen and continue to crackdown on politicians and put the region’s stability at risk, it will turn its back on him like it did to TPLF two years ago! It will sure look for an alternative to him!

Killing of Muslim imams by government security forces is causing anger in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Muslims are boiling with rage at a series of killings of religious leaders across Oromia. The involvement of government security forces in the killing has left many to wonder the motives behind targeting innocent civilians.

Sheik Omar Suleyman was a 70 years old man. He provides for his large family of 17 members. He was an imam of a mosque in Asassa, a small town in West Arsi Zone of the Oromia region.

Sheik Omar and his wife were killed at their home by government security forces. Their three-months old infant who sustained an injury at the time also died the next day.

Sheik Qassim Rashad is another religious leader in Asassa. He was also shot in front of his mosque, and now is receiving medical treatment at Asella Hospital. A young man who tried to help Sheik Rashad was killed by government forces.

Similar attacks against Muslims have been reported in different parts of Ethiopia. In recent days alone, there were attacks on Muslims and their mosques in towns such as Badessa, Asassa, Adaba, Shashemene, and Kofale.

The Ethiopian Muslims have been complaining about political, economic, and social marginalization under all past regimes. Although they comprise more than 40% of the country’s population, their participation in the government has been limited. Muslim scholars say Ethiopia, which has been introducing itself to the world as an “Island of Christian,” has never had a place for them.

Many Muslims have been grateful to Abiy Ahmed for taking some bold steps to address some of their centuries-old demands. They were thankful to the prime minister for allowing them to open the first Islamic Bank in the country. They also praised the Ethiopian parliament for passing a law that grants Majlis, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs General Council, a legal recognition, a privilege enjoyed by the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church for centuries.

However, the ongoing attacks on mosques and imams have left many Muslims wondering the motives behind the unexplainable attacks. What is beyond comprehension is the reports that the killings are conducted by government security forces who were supposed to protect them.

Some politicians say the attacks on Muslim leaders and their places of worship have to do with the government tactics of divid-and-rule in the face of a growing protests in Oromia and South Nations and Nationalities Region, especially Wolaytta zone. According to them, security agents incite religious and ethnic-based conflicts to weaken the protests. For this, they point to how government-owned media framed the killings in Shashemene almost two months ago following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa. They accuse the media of falsely characterizing the killings as a “massacre” that targeted Christians and ethnic Amharas.

Some Muslims also believe that Abiy Ahmed is trying to repeat what Meles Zenawi did to them. The late Ethiopian prime minister is remembered as a leader who falsely linked Ethiopian Muslims to terrorist groups in Somalia in order to get financial and diplomatic support from the United States and other western countries.

The Ethiopian Muslims who accused successive Ethiopian governments of following hostile policies against them hoped for a better treatment under the government of Abiy Ahmed. But for many, it seems those hopes are fading now!

Health condition of arrested politician prompted protests across the Oromia region of Ethiopia.

Sources say Jawar Mohammed, a prominent Ethiopian politician, has been denied a medical treatment he badly needs. The news has sparked protests in many parts of Oromia, the largest and most populous region in the country.

Arfase Gemeda, Jawar’s wife who lives in the United States, tweeted that her husband “is critically ill. His face is swollen and he [is] unable to stand on his own.” In her tweets, she also expressed her concern saying the court turned down Jawar’s request to see his doctor.

Many people believe that Jawar Mohammed played the biggest role during the 2015-2018 Oromo protests that brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power. Jawar, who resided in the United States at the time, used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to organize protesters back home.

After he returned to Ethiopia, Jawar continued to criticize the prime minister for ignoring the Oromo people’s demands, and instead, trying to reincarnate the feudal system of the past Ethiopian regimes. This line of criticism resonated with many Oromos who expected much more from the man whom they thought better understands their grievances.

Oromos, Tigrayans, and other ethnic groups in the south of the country consider the Amhara-dominated regimes of King Menelik, King Haile Selassie, and Mengistu Hailemariam the “neftegna” system. They accuse the system of imposing the language, culture, and values of the Amhara people on them.

In Amharic, “neft” means a gun, and “Neftegna” refers to rulers of the north, mainly the Amharas, who “occupied” and ruled the Southern Ethiopia from the late 19th century to 1991.

Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, and other Oromo political leaders were detained on June 29th following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist. The government accuse Jawar Mohammed of forcing the body of Hachalu Hundessa, which was on its way to Ambo for burial, to return to Addis Ababa. Jawar denies the charge saying his arrest was politically motivated aimed at excluding him from the next election.

The news of Jawar Mohammed’s health condition has sparked anger in Oromia. Videos circulating on social media show young people chanting anti-government slogans. Some protesters were seen calling on the prime minster to step down.

News media outlets are reporting that the standoffs between angry crowds and government security forces has already led to deaths and injuries of unspecified number of people.

As many suspect, Abiy Ahmed might have arrested Jawar for political reasons, but whether in prison or not, the formidable politician will continue to pose a big challenge to his government.

Arrest of a powerful politician hasn’t stopped Ethiopians’ protests against government

Jawar Mohammed, the then activist, and now politician and media mogul, led the 2015-2018 Oromo protests that finally brought down the regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). But he has been put behind bars by the government, which, he, along with millions of Oromos, brought to power, on charges of instigating conflicts following the assassination of Hachalu Hindessa, an Oromo singer and activist.

A well-versed, charismatic, and eloquent activist, Jawar organized “Qeerroos,” a word for young people in Oromo language, to protest the Addis Ababa Master Plan, a government project that would have expanded the capital city’s territories into the surrounding Oromia region. To this end, he effectively used social media particularly Facebook, Twitter, and mainstream news media such as Oromia Media Network to disseminate information about the protests to millions of Oromo Ethiopians both at home and abroad.

In August 2018, Jawar moved back to Ethiopia after Abiy Ahmed took power. Prime Minster Abiy and Lema Megersa, the then president of the Oromia region, and now minister of the Ministry of Defense, asked Jawar to help them with transitioning the country into democracy. Multiples sources indicate they even offered to give him a ministerial position if he agrees to be a member of their political party, but he declined the offer saying he would rather help them from outside.

Jawar Mohammed’s home coming was celebrated with a big ceremony attended by high government officials including President Lemma Megersa and Takele Uma, mayor of Addis Ababa City, at the Millennium Hall. He was received into the auditorium by tens of thousands of his cheering supporters. Some were seen wiping tears rolling down their face out of happiness and disbelief.

In his speech punctuated with rounds of applauses almost every minute, Jawar announced that he came back home to help the country to transition to democracy. He caught thousands in the hall and millions watching him live on TV by surprise at the end of his speech when he awarded Lema Megersa a laptop computer he said he was using to organize the protests.

Jawar Mohamed changed his political course last year when the government allegedly attempted to remove his security details. The news of the incident prompted protests which led to the death of at least 86 people across Oromia. Jawar accused the government of exposing his life to risk. A few months later, he announced his decision to join the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), one of the strongest political parties in Ethiopia.

Once he joined OFC, Jawar intensified his criticism of Abiy Ahmed’s policies. Particularly, he accused the prime minister of trying to restore the old feudal system, a nightmare for the Oromo people and other nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. He also criticized the government for postponing the national elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said political solution which should come out of discussion among all stakeholders was the only option. However, the government opted for what is called, the “constitutional amendment.”

The Abiy Ahmed’s government arrested Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba and other political leaders on June 29 following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, an Oromo singer and activist. It accused them of using force to return the body of Hachalu Hundessa, which was on its way to Ambo, back to Addis Ababa. Jawar Mohammed and other leaders deny the charge.

Many people are wondering the real reason behind Jawar Mohammed’s arrest. Some say it was part of the government’s plan to get rid of strong politicians who pose a challenge to its power. Others say it’s part of the scheme particularly by Abiy Ahmed to retaliate against a politician who bitterly criticize him nonstop. Yet, others suspect that the arrest has to do with the fear that he may lead protests across the country to overthrow the government following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa.

However, the arrest of Jawar Mohammed hasn’t stopped the ongoing protest across Oromia. It just became another reason to continue their oppositions to the government. “Free Jawar and all Oromo political leaders” has made to the list of slogans protestors hold during rallies and post on their Facebook walls.

The protesters have now shifted to market and transportation boycott. Many fear that this will make the life tough for businesses and city dwellers. In the long term, it may even put the already weak economy of the country at risk.

There is no doubt that Jawar Mohammed is capable of posing a big challenge to the government. As astute politician with deep understanding of theories of social movements and someone who gained practical experiences over the years, he will sure shape the future of the Ethiopian politics. He is a change agent and a real hero for millions of his supporters.

Abiy Ahmed, whom many Ethiopians have hoped to transform the country into democracy, has suddenly found himself fighting with his own constituency in Oromia, the largest federal state in the country. Many political commentators are warning that the country may collapse unless the prime minister starts a serious dialogue with all political parties with the aim to address a century-old systemic problems.

A Growing Risk of War Between the Government of Abiy Ahmed and Tigray Region over Elections

Some of Abiy Ahmed’s political decisions and practical measures in the early days, weeks, and months of his time in office as prime minister inspired millions of Ethiopians to hope for their country’s future. His decision to release thousands of people who were jailed for political reasons and allow tens of thousands who fled their country due to politically motivated persecution to return home earned him big respect. Many thought the right political atmosphere to exercise their freedom of speech and do business peacefully was created.

But the hopes did not mean that there have been no problems from the get go. In parallel with the hopes, there has been also a fear that the country may go back to where it was decades ago.

Under Abiy Ahmed’s watch, millions have been displaced and hundreds have been killed due to ethnic-based conflicts in Amhara, Oromia, and the Nations and Nationalities’ regions. High military officers and government officials were killed in Addis Ababa and Bahirdar respectively. Simegnew Bekele, a man who was in charge of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, was murdered. Lately, the country is being churned by the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist.

The biggest challenge to stability in Ethiopia and beyond may come from the ongoing conflict between the federal government and Tigray, a small but strong federal state. Among other things, the issue of national elections is a bone of contention between Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF) which is the ruling party of Tigray. TPLF had a major role both in overthrowing the Dergue regime of Mengistu Hailemariam and ruling the country thereafter for 27 years.

Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party had said it would hold elections per the schedule outlined by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). It changed its mind following NEBE’s announcement which said it will not be able to hold elections while the country is under the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many political observers believe that the Prosperity Party had wanted to postpone the elections, although it kept saying otherwise, regardless of NEBE’s announcement as it did not have confidence of winning the elections in many parts of the country especially Oromia, the largest regional state in the country.

TPLF and almost all opposition political parties were open to the idea of postponing the election but differed with the government on how to do so without violating the constitutional provision that rigidly limits government’s term of office to five years. They sought to find a way to work around the Constitution and reach agreement by engaging in honest negotiations among all stakeholders.

However, the government was adamant saying the Constitution allows for amendment to postpone the election. Against all the opposition, it sent a draft resolution to the parliament. And as expected, the lawmakers ratified it to extend the power of the incumbent government indefinitely with an overwhelming majority.

Despite the decision by the parliament, Tigray regional government insisted on its plan to hold the elections in a month. It formed regional election commission which overseas the elections. A few days ago, the Election Commission announced that it started registering political parties and private candidates who want to run for office.

Tigray government’s insistence on conducting the elections become a headache for Abiy Ahmed. On the one hand, allowing TPLF to conduct the elections by defying a decision by the country’s parliament will make him appear a weak leader who cannot uphold the law. On the other hand, trying to stop them by using force will risk an all out war that may destabilize the whole region of the Horn of Africa.

There have been salvos of threats thrown against TPLF from government officials and some opposition parties particularly the National Movement of Amhara and Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice. Some private media are also asking the government to put economic sanctions on Tigray if it goes ahead with the plan.

Abiy Ahmed himself used many of his public speeches to discourage TPLF from holding elections with an implicit threat to take actions. The House of Federation also wrote an official letter to the government of Tigray Region asking it to stop holding the elections or face “legal” consequences.

Tigray is now the first region in Ethiopia which is not ruled by a party that leads the federal government in the modern history of the country. This gave TPLF the chance to strengthen its power to challenge the central government. Sources indicate that it’s using many retired military officers who had experience in fighting both conventional and gorilla wars and former intelligence people to recruit and train militias and special police force comparable to Ethiopian military.

Now the question is: Will Abiy allow Tigray to hold elections and take the risk of appearing a weak leader, or will he use force to stop it but risk an all out war that he may not control how it ends?

Ethiopians Joined the International Community in Dismantling Statues of Leaders Who “Symbolize” Racism, Injustices, and Inequality

June 29, on the night Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Ethiopian Oromo singer and activist, was assassinated, “Qeerroos” (young people) from the Oromo ethnic group headed straight to Emperor Menelik’s statue which is found at the center of Addis Ababa. They started throwing stones at the statue of the 19th century emperor.

The night was very tense in Addis Ababa and many parts of Oromia region. Reports indicate the death of more than 167 people from different ethnic groups and the destruction of businesses in several cities and towns.

The intention of the Qeerroos in Addis Ababa was to dismantle the statue of the emperor, but they couldn’t because they were dispersed by security forces who arrived immediately. However, young Oromos who live in London dismantled the bust of King Haile Selassie while those in the city of Harar in East Ethiopia destroyed the statue of Ras Mekonnen.

One may wonder what explains the motives behind the destruction of statues in Ethiopia. But the answer could be found by looking at what’s happening recently around the world, especially after the murder of George Floyd in the United States.

Generally, people link the widespread racism, injustices, and inequalities of today to the past. The past becomes an enemy if it has negative impact on the politics and justice system of the present. So, past leaders who instituted such a system are blamed.

Many Ethiopians believe that Hachalu was assassinated due to the remarks he made in his interview with Oromia Media Network just a few weeks earlier. In the interview, Hachalu suggested that Emperor Menelik’s statue should be removed saying he was responsible for more than a century-long subjugation of the Oromo people and other nations and nationalities in Ethiopia.

Public memories have always been subjects of controversies which arise mainly from differences in understanding of what they represent and the values they stand for. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, monuments, statues, and artifacts which symbolize Communism were removed in many countries including Ethiopia. In 2015, ISIS destroyed the historical city of Palmyra in Syria. The death of George Floyd in the United States months ago has led to a renewed campaign to dismantle statues of confederate leaders and past slave owners.

In Ethiopia, too, the war on statues is not the war on statues themselves; it is a war on the idea they represent and the values they symbolize.

Emperor Menelik II, was the father of modern Ethiopia and considered by some, especially the Amhara ethnic group, as a “unifier” of the country. However, this claim is rejected mainly by the Oromos and other nations and nationalities in South Ethiopia. For these group, the emperor was an invader who conquered independent nations which had their own governing system. They blame him for instituting a system that favored the Amharas and Christians but marginalized all other religious and ethnic groups.

Now, the war on statues is becoming an international movement. With ubiquitous influence of social media, it’s a matter of time before people in every country question the values monuments in their public space represent and if they deserve to be there!

Abiy Ahmed: A Leader Who Dashed Ethiopians’ Hopes for Democracy

Two years ago, Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minster, was not where he is today. In a country that has been divided along ethnic, political, and religious fault-lines, he miraculously received the support of overwhelming majority of Ethiopians.

The world leaders didn’t take time to heep praises on Abiy. They gave him the money he badly needed to pay salaries. Some cancelled foreign debts the country owes, and others postponed them.

The reason behind the unconditional support for Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed was the hope that he would transform the country that has known nothing in history but dictatorship, civil war, and poverty into democracy. The hope, in Ethiopia and around the world alike, was that he would turn around the country that was on the verge of collapse and write a new chapter. The expectation was too high.

However, the hopes the world placed on Abiy two years ago do not exist today. Arbitrary arrests, killings, and disappearances of political leaders and journalists are common practices. Government’s unconstitutional postponement of the national elections under the pretext of COVID-19 pandemic dashed the hopes of Ethiopians who expected a real change.

Opposition parties and even many in his own political party suspect Abiy of trying to reincarnate the old feudal system that defines Ethiopian history, the system that prompted the student movement of the 1960s and rebel movements thereafter which succeeded in overthrowing the governments of King Hailesillasie and Mengistu Hailemariam respectively.

Abiy Ahmed’s biggest sin is not only that he admires past kings who embody all kinds of injustices. To many people’s surprise, he erected statues for them at the National Palace. Abiy Ahmed’s opponents also accuse him of promoting anti-multinational federal narratives in his speeches. More than once, he openly condemned the very nationalism that brought him to power.

Abiy is now facing the fiercest opposition in Oromia, the biggest federal state in the country. The protests that has erupted in Oromia and Addis Ababa following the assassination of Haacaaluu Hindeessaa, a singer and activist, has widened the crack between his government and the people. The protesters are pointing their fingers at the government for the killing of the singer who inspired millions of people in Ethiopia.

The protests are weakening the already weak economy. The prices of food items in Addis Ababa and other major cities have more than doubled following the “stay-home” and “market boycott” campaigns by the Qeerroos, the young people in Oromia. Fuel depots and storages are critically low.

Abiy has tried all his best to control the ever growing protests against his government. The country is already under state of emergency due to COVID-19. He deployed all security apparatuses including the military, federal and local police, and militias. But all these don’t seem to control the situation!