By Guest Writer
September 29, 2018 – Over the last few years, ethnic based violence and attacks have hit different parts of Ethiopia one after another. The latest occurred this month in Burayu town of Oromia regional state and its environs, as well as on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital.
Ethnic and religion-motivated deadly bloodsheds have claimed the lives of hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands of others in many parts of the country, including in Somali state, Mizan Tepi of Oromia State, Hawassa city of Southern Ethiopia state, the capital of Benishangul Gumuz state, and very recently in Burayu town and its environs.
Ethiopia is now home to the largest number of internally displaced people in the world.
The violence has eroded Ethiopian public trust and confidence in its current government and its ability and willingness to control the bloodshed.
From the beginning, there has been speculations, mainly by supporters of the current government in Ethiopia, that members and supporters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who lost grip on power, were sponsoring the violence.
The TPLF and its supporters have been accused of using ethnic and ideology differences as tools to instigate the violence and attacks.
According to this line of thought, members of the TPLF and its supporters are believed to have collaborated with thousands of sacked members from other organizations such as the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO, now ODP) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) to prevent change.
Supporters of Abiy Ahmed’s government claim that by perpetrating the violence and ethnic conflict among different groups, the TPLF and its supporters are trying to gain public support by showing that Abiy Ahmed’s government is unable to maintain law and order in the country, unlike previous leadership whose security institutions were controlled largely by the TPLF.
According to this theory, the political maneuver is expected to continue until these groups regain power within the transitional government through perhaps military takeover of power or coup against the Abiy Ahmed’s government under fabricated rationale that the latter is weak and unable to safeguard peace and security in the country.
According to Abiy's government supporters, the other reason that the TPLF and its supporters are engaged in promoting conflict is that they want to avoid accountability for wrong deeds, corruption and embezzlement they might have committed while in position of power.
Many believe that members of TPLF and their supporters see the recent political marriage between Oromo and Amhara political parties as threat to their economic and political power.
Accordingly, the TPLF is believed to be seeking support from the Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM), which is one of the four component parties forming the ruling party, EPRDF, as well as the Somali Democratic Party and others, to counter the pressure coming from the ODP and ANDM.
As claimed by supporters of Abiy’s government, the series of violence that occurred in Southern Nations and Nationalities and People State (SNNPR) were instigated by TPLF and their supporters in a bid to create hatred by people in SNNPR towards the Abiy Ahmed government.
They also cite recent attacks against the Gamos in Burayu town and its environs as a case in point which, according to them, was orchestrated to create mistrust and hostility between the new government of Abiy Ahmed and the SNNPR which lost over 50 of its people and had hundreds wounded.
However, so far, neither the new government nor its supporters, or any other party for that matter, has provided any evidence to support these claims.
A lot of the evidence gathered so far actually shows the contrary. In the few investigations conducted by government security so far, and public perceptions by those directly affected by the violence, there has not been any evidence showing the involvement of the TPLF or its supporters in these conflicts, just other parties and groups, that are more local.
The TPLF has been accused of perpetrating attempted assassination of Prime Minister of Abiy Ahmed at a rally at Meskel Square organized in support of his achievement since he came to power in April this year.
However, the outcome of police investigation that was released on Friday shows that members and/or supporters of the OLF - not the TPLF - had carried out the attack, one that claimed the lives of two people and wounding 160 others. According to the police report, supporters of the OLF believed that Abiy Ahmed does not stand for Oromo cause enough and they wanted him killed.
In this case, supporters of the government, including the Prime Minister himself, were proved wrong for implicitly or explicitly assuming that the assassination attempt was sponsored by members and/or supporters of the TPLF.
Following attacks committed against innocent civilians in Burayu and the surrounding areas, where many were brutally killed using knives and hatchets and many got wounded, thousands of angry protesters from SNNPR, the Southern Ethiopia regional state, blamed the Oromo youth otherwise known as Qeerroo for committing the attack against their people. They also condemned the government for turning blind eye to perpetrators while lives perished in broad daylight.
Residents of Burayu town themselves took to the streets to denounce the attacks and blamed the attacks on Qeerroo, although the town's police commissioner denied that the attacks were committed by the Qeerroo. In a statement, the federal police said, without evidence, they have reached the conclusion that there are people who were financed to deliberately disrupt the peace of the society and trying to give it the semblance of inter-ethnic clashes.
However, those arrested in connection with these Burayu attacks are Oromos and other locals, and nothing has been shown of their links with the TPLF or any other group.
Supporters of Abiy’s government also claimed that the TPLF and their supporters were behind the recent clashes between dwellers of Addis Ababa city and supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which resulted in the deaths of 28 people.
Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democracy is assumed to have greater public support in Addis Ababa based on its higher profile in the 2005 elections and based on the reception it was accorded in Addis Ababa earlier this month. Tens of thousands of residents of Addis Ababa and people from towns surrounding the capital rallied in support of the previously outlawed Ginbot 7, raising the now common Green, Yellow and Red flag along the streets of Addis Ababa.
As members and supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front were preparing to welcome their leaders a few days after the reception of Ginbot 7, the TPLF and its supporters were supposed to have financed thugs to create conflict between the two groups based on whose flag should be raised on the streets of Addis Ababa.
The government supporters believed that the conflict between supporters of OLF and Ginbot 7 had the purpose of cultivating conflict between the two major ethnic groups. However, so far, no credible link has been established between the clashing groups and the TPLF. Rather, what we have seen is the clash between supporters of the OLF and Ginbot 7 over flag, turf and territory issues, which will likely recur if politicians continue to exploit differences rather than our unity.
What is disturbing is that the federal police in their report also disclosed that it has seized thousands of forged Ethiopian Birr notes held by a significant number of suspects who were arrested after the attacks and the series of violence. Beyond the safety and security of Ethiopian citizens, this is an indication that the economic well-being of the country is also coming under attack by what appears to be increasingly more organized groups.
Supporters of the new Prime Minister also implicitly claimed that, Simegnew Bekele, the late project manager of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was gunned down by TPLF members. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed himself alluded to potential murder scenario in his speeches at home and abroad. However, the police investigation released recently revealed that Simegnew Bekele committed suicide, once again proving that Abiy Ahmed’s supporters were wrong. It is true that Simegnew Bekele could have been under a lot of stress due to, in part, to his links and dealings with various groups and delayed projects. But, according to government report, he killed himself, not murdered.
At this moment, Ethiopia needs a strong and decisive government, one that is capable of tracking down and bringing to justice those who are trying to operate outside the law and terrorize our people. Intended or not, scapgoating one group or another without any evidence will not take us anywhere, and it will not solve the problem. The primary responsibility of any government is to maintain law and order and guarantee the safety of its citizens. All Ethiopians should be able to live and conduct business anywhere and everywhere inside Ethiopia in full freedom and with the protection they deserve. The vast majority of Ethiopians are peace loving and considerate, including Oromo youth which is being tarnished by some outlaws. It is time that the government take a decisive action against tugs and criminals roaming many areas, who represent no one but themselves, and maintain law and order in the country immediately.
Preaching love, respect and "medemer" is great, but we got to be serious at some point. Higher ideals not backed by respect for rule of law and the government mean nothing. They will neither bring people from the dead, nor undo the damages done to victims of rape and torture.