The Biden administration should tell Abiy Ahmed to leave power without any delay!

The war that started eight months ago in Ethiopia has cost the lives of tens of thousands, displaced millions, and left millions more without food and shelter. Human rights abuses have been committed. Women and girls as young as 8 years old were exposed to sexual violence.

The federal government’s announcement of the “unilateral ceasefire” hasn’t stopped the war. It just changed the battlefield from central Tigray to western and southern Tigray. Now we are getting daily reports of more deaths and displacement in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara as well.

Abiy Ahmed took the wrong direction from the get go. He undermined the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Ethiopian people and promoted the unitary system. In contravention to the Constitution, he gave tacit support for Amhara elites’ ownership claim to areas that have been under the jurisdiction of the Tigray region for the last 30 years.

Abiy Ahmed also backtracked on his promise to bring the long-sought reforms to the country. Instead, he jailed prominent political party leaders including Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, and leaders of the Oromo Libration Front. He put journalists behind the bar for exercising their rights. He tried to fool the international community by holding a fake election in which he claimed he won more than 94%.

While the world is paying attention to the war in the north, insurgencies are growing in Oromia, the most populous region in Ethiopia. Many of the young people who brought Abiy Ahmed to power are now joining rebels in the West and South of the country. The hopes of Ethiopians to see a democratic country jas been dashed.

The United States supported Abiy Ahmed’s ascendence to power in the hopes that he would bring stability to the country of more than 110 million people. Since the war started in the north, it has been calling for a negotiated ceasefire and all-inclusive national dialogue to resolve political issues. But it fell on deaf ears.

Now Ethiopia is in deeper crisis than it was when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power three years ago. It slipped into a civil war endangering the stability of the Horn of Africa and beyond. Worse, the leaders don’t seem to understand the gravity of the problem.

Now the United States must act. It has to stop asking Abiy Ahmed to resolve the problems his government created. He can’t. Instead, the Biden administration has to tell him to leave power.


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.

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.

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!