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We cannot pretend as if nothing happened

Who in Ethiopia is happy today? The Afars, the Amharas, the Oromos, the Tigrays’. Who? As a matter of fact our history hardly finds moments where people enjoyed happiness, liberty, or even wild abandon. Ours is a history of ethnic violence, nationalities, battle, blood and territory.
Ethiopia in the era of Jawar and Bekele (now in detention) appears to be re-inventing a new religion of ethnicity. In accordance with our culture’s declining intellectual prowess, our new creed in the year 2020 is a very simple faith, with one Oromo-and-Amhara dogma: Oromos are great, Amhara’s are dull. Everything else follows inevitably. For example, Amharas are wrongdoers and must be disciplined, while Oromos are saints and must be pampered.
Last weeks’ destruction in Oromia region is what interests us today.
The rampant destruction directed towards Amharas in few Oromia towns following the murder of Hachalu Hundessa is what jolted Ethiopia in early July. All day the so called ‘Keros’ intimidated and attacked Amharas and non-Oromos causing massive devastation to towns, the like of which has never been seen in Ethiopia’s recent history. As one Shashemene resident supposedly said “All the people could do was pray.” These gangsters were organized, incited, and committed by extreme political party operatives. For reasons that are obscure, the state security forces acted like they were either on the side of or afraid of the destroyers. [Notice, not one top official from the regional or the federal government was terminated, no one resigned, and no one took responsibility for failing to prevent or stop these crimes against humanity … No one!… Yes, some mid level bureaucrats and officials suspected to have ties with the attackers seem to have been arrested. But nothing else!]
We only bring these issues because we hear a lot of words, but we don’t see much happening
For background… killings, looting, or taking of goods by force and causing destruction to businesses owned by Amharas have been increasing in Oromia since the latter years of Hailemariam’s administration. In most, if not all instances these incidents have been tolerated. While this reality left many citizens bone-weary with the shock and frustration that no decisive action is taken, and that political leaders calling for “hate the man or woman who’s not Oromo” persist, the country will remain in danger of lapsing into a state of civil unrest. These extremists always ignore or belittle the enormous success of millions of Oromo people over the generations in enriching economic, political, intellectual, social, and cultural life in Ethiopia. They want their followers to riot, set fires, and attack and even kill innocent people. For what? To grab power and prosper while everyone else struggles, suffers, and dies.
In the wider context of the political transformation of Ethiopia, a more fundamental debate should have taken place following the rise of Prime Minister Abye Ahmed to power. In particular, discussions on inequality, justice, failure of institutions, predation of wealth, should have been contemplated… there was none. Instead, the same old politics continued. The state, this time again, became nothing more than a vehicle for Oromo polity domination.
Today, maintaining political balance and diffusing ethnic tensions is the only way the country can survive. If the Federal government fails to maintain these essential functions, the destruction and mindless mayhem can turn the still controllable risk into uncontrollable. Add to it Covid-19 in a country where poverty, growing inequality and disregard for human life are thriving, and in which legal and economic policies are increasingly designed to create and sustain wealth for the powerful, but not end poverty, any fool can see that we’re all heading for disaster.
Interestingly enough, the past weeks’ destructions provoked the first embryonic unity of citizens in Addis Ababa. Most of the city residents stood firm and prevented an actual fight and the possibility of general damage that could easily have brought havoc to the city. This time over AA residents did not let the thugs take over. Still, plenty of damage has been done to businesses, personal lives, undefended buildings, and the public interest.
I think and I hope, more and more citizens of AA, with increasing understanding and courage, will develop a much greater and more systematic level of organizational control in defending their city from hooligans. Even better, why not organize to seek political representation in kebele or zone-level decision-making conversations about how to best strengthen communities and increase shared economic prosperity? Organized communities act as stewards by building community wealth, empowering community voice, increasing resident participation and enhancing community conditions through neighborhood organizing. More specifically, many such communities galvanize residents and together push for transformative neighborhood changes including security, job creation, housing unit production and small business support.
Dear readers, thuggery never brings prosperity to a nation, but benefits only a few shameless opportunists, while to the country as a whole it heralds countless deaths, widespread impoverishment, and, in the gravest cases, a long-lasting degeneration of the people. It’s therefore critical for this government to face reality and launch a deeper political, social and economic transformation to restore normalcy, rebuild the unity of Ethiopia and put in place an economy designed to serve the people.


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