mercoledì, Ottobre 20

Ethiopia on the brink. Civil war risk The ethnic revolt of the Oromos has extended to the Amaras, according to the disputed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country is at risk. The government accuses the main opposition leaders, Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, of an insurrectionary attempt


The Oromo ethnic revoltwhich broke out last Tuesday due to the murder of the singer and political activist Hachalu Hundessa, which took place on the evening of June 29, has also extended to the main ethnic group of the country, the Amhara, and may  turn into civil war on short time . This was stated by the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, in a message to the Nationbroadcast on 3 July on the country’s radio and TV.

According to the Premier, the ongoing protests and violence are provoked by actors (not identify by the P.M.) whose goal is to plunge Ethiopia into a civil war, preventing the path taken towards peace, democracy, economic development and prosperity. Abiy reassured the population that these “dark forces will not be able to win”.

The Prime Minister defended to the bitter endthe work of the Federal Police which would have shown “a high sense of duty in ensuring peace and security in the country”. By appealing to religious leaders, traditional leaders and village leaders to help to calm the people and to facilitate the return to peace, Abiy ensured that no past methods (such as violence, extrajudicial executions and torture) will be used, warning however that his government is firmly intent on regaining control of the country.

«We must show that nobody can be above the law, that nobody can use means that are not peaceful and democratic to express his discontent. We have to show that those who want war by unleashing urban violence have no chance of victory “. Then a message that sounds like a warning addressed him to the opposition and to Ethiopian diaspora abroad, accused of spreading false news and ethnic hatred via social media.


Like the first message to the Nation, released on Tuesday (which blamed the murder of singer Hachalu on internal provocateurs in league with foreign powers, referring to Egypt), the second message already appears to be a political flop and a provocation destined to worsen the situation. “Abiy appeals to peaceful and democratic methods, but he is the first who does not hesitate to stifle the right to demonstrate in blood. The assassination of Hachalu Hundessawas a real extrajudicial execution carried out by the death squads of the past regime, widely used by the so-called reformer and democrat Abiy. As well as the order given to the police to shoot live bullet on the demonstrators that contrasts with the Nobel Peace Prize received in 2019 “, says an Oromo activist in exile, protected by anonymity as, as in the past regimes of the DERG and of the tigrins, even Abiy would have all the means to strike opponents even abroad, at least according to these opposition voices.

“The main opposition leaders have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, while some independent media have been closed. The country is isolated from the rest of the world so that international public opinion does not know what is really going on in Ethiopia. Are these the peaceful and democratic means that the Prime Minister speaks about? In reality, this message to the nation is a message addressed to the millions of citizens who want true democracy. According to Abiy, they must abandon their dreams and accept his dictatorship. ”

The message to the Nation of the Prime Minister was preceded by a TV release from the Federal Police Attorney General, Zelalem Mengistse, published on 02 July, where the main opposition leaders, Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, are accused of insurrectionary attempt. Jawarand Djerba, along with 38 other leaders, were arbitrarily arrested at the beginning of the protest. «The unrest that is taking place has nothing to do with the death of Hachalu Hundessa. This is only a pretext to promote a premeditated insurrectional plan with precise funding and coordination, “says Mengiste.

Jawar Mohammed is also accused of being implicated in the murders of Governor AmbachewMekonnen and his assistant, which occurred on June 22, 2019 in the city of Bahir Dar, capital of the Amhara region, and of General Seare Mekonnen, killed in cold blood on the same day in Addis Ababa. The three murders occurred in the context of the coup attempt organized by Brigadier General Asaminew Tsege, former security officer of the Amhara region.

The official version of the coup highlighted far too many shortcomings. Various regional experts doubted it was a pre-packaged version given to international press agencies to conceal a subversive plan, perhaps devised within the government coalition against the opposition of the Amhara and to remove Prime Minister Abyi. General Asamnew Tsege, considered the perpetrator of the coup, was killed by the federal police a few days after the events. Many suspected an extrajudicial execution to prevent the coup from revealing inconvenient news for the government.

The accusation against Jowar is not supported by any valid evidence. On the contrary, in November 2019, during a press conference on the investigation of the failed coup in June, the Attorney General of Ethiopia, BerhanuTsegaye, stated that behind the failed coup there was a vast network of parallel security structures, equipped with huge funding, who saw the involvement of personalities from the federal and regional government. Despite this clear denunciation, the Prime Minister effectively hindered the investigation, preferring to strengthen his personal security and take control of the ruling coalition through his party Prosperity Party.

Zelalem Mengistse in his TV message suggests that behind the popular protests there is a network of conspirators and numerous militiamen trained in sabotage, psychological warfare, espionage, information gathering, and the organization of urban guerrilla warfare. Mengistealso informs that 8 Kalashnikovs, 5 pistols and 9 military communication radios were found in the opponent Jawar’s residence (where the arrest took place). Jawar did not deny the discovery of the arsenal, stating that it was in the hands of his bodyguards, hired in recent months after receiving various death threats, coming (according to his version) from the government.

The situation is deteriorating. Unconfirmed news of inter-ethnic violence between Oromo and Amhara arrives. According to some political activists of the Ethiopian diaspora, in Oromia, a militia of young Oromos, called Qerro, is destroying property and looting shops owned by Amhara. In some cases the Qerro allegedly attacked and committed atrocities against the Amhara.

At the moment it is difficult to understand if the accusations of ethnic cleansing in the Oromia region correspond to reality or if they are instead a misinformation maneuver to crack the political alliance between Amhara and Oromo, which arose from the popular protests of 2015 against the Federal Government.

However, protests against the murder of singer Hachalu Hundessa are taking on a dangerous ethnic connotation. On social media Oromo talk about #OromoRevolution and #FreeOromia. Various demonstrations (with clear ethnic characteristics) in defense of the Oromos took place in London and the United States. During these events these slogan circulates: “We are Oromo. We are not Ethiopians”. Oromos accuse the government of carrying out extrajudicial executions, violence and mass arrests in Oromia (as this video would demonstrate).

Oromo political movement has made a number of claims to the federal government. Immediate resignation of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. End of extrajudicial executions of Ethiopian citizens. Release of political prisoners. Restoration of the internet and telephone communications. Respect for the electoral calendar of October 2020 guaranteeing free and democratic elections. The Oromos say they will continue the fight if the requests are not met and ask the international community to impose economic sanctions on Ethiopia if the Federal Government proves to be unavailable for dialogue.

Independent sources give a worrying picture of the situation. In less than a week 200 Oromo would have been killed by the Federal Police. Over 1,400 arrests. The extent of the violent repression is such that the Ethiopian authorities are forced toprovide a scaled down but still impressive information over the causalities. According to the Deputy Commissioner of the Oromia Police, Girma Gelam, the total death toll would be 166 people: 145 civilians and 11 federal policemen. Another 167 civilians were reportedly seriously injured and hospitalized in confidential prognosis while 1,084 people were arrested. Having isolated the country, it is difficult to establish exactly the extent of the drama.

In quelling the uprising, Abyi’s government is applying all the repressive methods of the previous Tigrinean government, including the tactic of preventing foreign journalists from reporting the clashes. Kenya’s independent journalist Yassin Juma, a former reporter for the ‘NTV’ television station, was allegedly arrested while filming law enforcement violence against civilians in the Oromia region. News confirmed by the Kenyan newspaper ‘Business Today’, stating that the arrest was due to the well-known friendship between the journalist and political activist Jawar Mohammed, arrested on 02 July. Yassin Juma is not a stranger in Ethiopia. In 2009, the Addis Ababa government declared him an unwelcome person, preventing him from entering the country because of his ‘NTV’ services on the border tensions between Kenya and Ethiopia and because of services in favor of the armed group Oromo Liberation Front. A year later the government had ‘forgiven’ him and granted him a residence permit. Juma has been living in Addis Ababa for ten years, intent on supporting media opposition leader Jawar Mohamed.

News also arrives that Tuesday’s peaceful demonstrations would become violent. After the first massacres of the Federal Police, firearms would appear among the demonstrators. Gangs of youths from the phantom Qerro militia, flanked by alleged Oromo Liberation Front guerrillas, are reportedly engaging law enforcement in urban battles in the capital Addis Ababa and other cities of Oromia. The international airport is protected by the Army which does not even allow the evacuation of foreign citizens.

The funeral ceremony of Hachalu Hundessa took place on Thursday 02 June at his hometown, Ambo, about 107 km west of the capital. Speaking at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on state TV, his father, Hundessa Bonssa, claimed that his son was wrongfully killed, asking the Ethiopian people to pray to God for the family and the nation. A family member who spoke during the ceremony criticized Oromo activists’ attempts to bury him in Addis Ababa. “His father, mother and family wanted him to rest in Ambo. Blaming this government is incorrect. This is equivalent to burying the truth of Hachalu” explains the relative. Shimelis Abdissa, President of the Oromia region, announced through regional and state TV that a commemorative statue of the artist will be built in Addis Ababa.

Hachalu’s funeral was not spared by the violence either. Federal Police opened fire on the crowd awaiting the funeral after the crowd attempted to attack law enforcement. The funeral ceremony ended with 2 dead and 7 injured. The country continues to be isolated from the rest of the world and the acts of urban guerrilla warfare are continuing, although law enforcement agencies seem to gradually regaincontrol of Addis Ababa and other cities.

The elections postponement, scheduled for next October, Hachalu death, the protests, the violent repression of the Federal Police and the armed resistance of part of the demonstrators, the rise of a strong independence movement in Tigray, are worrying preconditions for a possible imminent civil war, confirmed by the Prime Minister himself. Added to this is the risk of a regional war against Egypt and Sudan over the Nile waters. Abiy is on a minefield.

The Italian Government, on June 02, reporting the demonstrations in Addis Ababa and Oromia, recommended to its citizens the utmost prudence and to limit travel to the bare minimum, offering the emergency number of the Embassy of Italy in Addis: + 251- 911 247 515. Even if there are no precise statistics, about 800 Italians would reside among employees of the Embassy, private companies, NGOs and religious in Ethiopia compared to the 7,515 Ethiopians living in Italy. We are contacting the Italian Embassy in Addis Ababa to find out about their safety and a general view of the coast is happening in the country and the possible consequences for Italy.

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Docente della Universitat de Vic, Departament d'Economia i Empresa

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