Ethiopia justification of human rights denigration mirrors the Nazi Party appeal of 1930s

Abiy Ahmed drew large diaspora crowds during a visit to the United States in 2018. Most of these immigrants were either pro-monarchists or supporters of the Derg regime in the 1990s who immigrated to the USA when the TPLF came to power. So called Abiymania was often misinterpreted initially by many foreign diplomats. It was not about seeking new democracy but wanting to return to strong Amharic leadership of a previous age which fulfilled a “prophecy” of expatriot Ethiopian Orthodox synods. Photo Source CNN 

The costly delay in accepting the reality of the deadly intentions of an authoritarian regime will cost the lives of potentially millions. While those familiar with Ethiopian history understand the true repercussions of Abiy Ahmed’s leadership others in the leadership of the international community continue to misread him as a potential democratic reformer who is just taking time to right his course. This is similar to how Europe and the United States initially judged Adolph Hitler as a positive influence to develop Europe. 

The high recruitment of Amhara and other Ethiopian professionals to the Prosperity Party which supports the obliteration of human rights to build a strong unified state hauntingly mimics the similar attraction occurring with the Nazi party in the 1930s. Historians and social scientists have studied the German phenomenon finding vulnerabilities, motives, and rationalizations that may have predisposed German physicians to Nazi membership. A similar situation exists in Ethiopia where one would not initially expect a religious nation not unlike Germany to have jettisoned its morals to seek glory.

Both the German intellectuals and Amhara intellectuals perceived unfair treatment following major wars (WWI and the revolt against the Derg respectively). They saw a charismatic leader who promised a new age of reform dedicated to building a “super state” dependent upon total allegiance to that cause. An inherent obedience to authority and wish to remove “contaminations” of minority views which threatened to prevent an idealized empire of the past. An especially telling moment occurred this week when Abiy Ahmed nominated himself as President of the Prosperity Party in unprecedented demonstration of unchallenged power.

For the Amhara especially they saw the condition of Ethiopia in 2018 just before Abiy Ahmed ascending to Prime Minister as being similar to the Zemene Mesafint “time of the princes” where Ethiopia lacked a strong centralized leader before Menelik II came to power. Seeing the reality of what Abiy Ahmed leadership was really going to bring, one time supporter of Abiy Ahmed, the Oromo Jawar Mohammed, predicted Abiy Ahmed’s moral downfall from his jail cell. Under Abiy Ahmed the old Amharic strategy of barbarous treatment of Tigrayans and Oromos as well as domination of the Southern and Muslim regions is once again a manifest destiny ordained by God for the greater purpose of building a nation. Medemer is not a blending but instead a pounding into submission.

Like Adolph Hitler’s belief that German’s where endowed by God to be superior natural leaders of Europe this justified the use of barbaric force to achieve this end. Similarly proponents of Amharic expansionism echoed a similar philosophy justifying genocide of the Tigrayans and Oromo who stand in their way. New world synods of Ethiopian Orthodox Church formed by immigrants arriving during the 1990s prophesized the return of an Amharic guided leader. Non-Amhara who have been educated in the Amharic dominated culture have adopted this vision as well fulfilling their sense of inclusion.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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