15 days after the murder of singer Hachalu Hundessa, which provoked the popular uprising in the capital Addis Ababa and in the state of Oromia, the country remains isolated from the rest of the world. The internet connection and telephone communications have been restored but the strange interference during communications and delays in receiving WhatApp messages suggest a heavy government control.
The clashes seem to have stopped in the capital, under the full control of the police but continue in Oromia even if to a much lesser extent than in recent weeks. The total death toll would rise to around 300 while 5,000 Oromo protesters were arrested.
Prime Minister Abjy Ahmed, poised between the risk of a civil war, secession of the Tigray, the risk of a continental war for the waters of the Nile and a likely post-pandemic economic crisis, has taken another misstep, destined to increase the already serious social tensions.
Attorney General Adanech Abebe announced in a press conference broadcast on national TV and Radio that the two suspects arrested immediately after the murder of the singer Oromo would confess that they had acted on behalf of the Oromo Liberation Front, with the aim of provoking an ethnic revolt and to dismiss the government. In revealing this, the Attorney General did not provide any evidence while the OLF did not respond to the accusation.
In a brief press release, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmned said that the instigators of Hundessa murder had the intention of provoking a civil war and blocking Ethiopian socio-economic progress. Addressing to the population, Abiy asked for their support in order to arrest a third suspect who is still on the run.
The astute move to blame the OLF for the murder of singer and political activist Oromo Hachalu Hundessa seems to be in continuity with the political tactics defined by The Economist as “the secret war against the Oromos” which led to the failure of the peace talks in December 2018. A second attempt to reactivate peace talks failed at the end of 2019 when it was now clear that there was no room for reaching an agreement. The federal police and the army had for months been acting as occupation troops in the regions of Wollega and Guji, imposing curfew servers and states of emergency that damaged the local economy. In the early months of 2020, fighting between the army and OLF rebels was resumed forcing 80,000 civilians to flee their homes to become miserable refugees.
The attempt by Prime Minister Abji Ahmed and Attorney General Adanech Abebe to lay the blame for the murder of singer Hachalu Hundessa, in addition to throwing gasoline on the fire, seems a clear signal that the central government is willing to militarily resolve the issue of independence proposed by the OLF in the absence of peace agreements. An intention that seems strengthened to avoid the risk of having to fight two independents movements simultaneously: the Oromia in the south and the Tigray in the north. The canceled elections scheduled for October are the casus bellis between the central government and the TPLF which came out of the government coalition in January. The TPLF has clearly announced that elections will be held in Tigray in October. An open challenge to the central government that containssecession risks.
The tension strategy (denounced by the Ethiopian opposition) that Prime Minister Abji allegedly adopted increased concerns with the United Nations and the African Union. The UN Human Rights Office has officially expressedthese concerns, while the African Union has launched an appeal to all Ethiopian contenders to resume political dialogue and end the dangerous cycle of violence
The political opportunism of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is also evident in the fate of the Oromo Democratic Party, the party created to erode popular support for the Oromo Liberation Front. In November 2019, the ODP was brought into the party founded by Abiy: the Prosperity Party together with other parties of the EPRDF government colalition. A move to remove government control from the Tigrinya and to ensure that the newly born party has control of the Government, Ministries and Parliament without subjecting it to the voters’ ballot. The recent move to postpone the elections due to the Covid19 pandemic is aimed at gaining time so that the Prosperity Party can manage to create a solid popular base in order to face the administrative elections in the best conditions and maintain power.
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