Instead of coming to the major Oromo cultural event of the year, Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and of Oromo ancestry, decided instead to send armed soldiers and pickup trucks mounted with high caliber machine guns. Witnesses from the scene report that unarmed Oromos began to protest the jailing of Jawar Mohammed and others while shouting “down with Abiy!”. In response the large crowd was sprayed with bullets killing many. Doctor contacts at Paulos Hospital in Addis Ababa report many causalities, at least more then 10, some in serious condition have so far been received.
This week the Oromo people of Ethiopia who make up the largest ethnic group of over 30% celebrate a special holiday called Irrecha. It signifies the end of the rainy cold season. The event usually occurs near a large body of water to honor the nature deity, Waaqa, and give thanks for the blessings of the past year. It is more than a religious holiday as Oromia of all faiths Christian and Muslim also celebrate the holiday as a day of unity and cultural recognition.
Abiy Ahmed’s father was Oromo and in his Parliamentary position, Abiy Ahmed was a representative of the Oromo area just north of Addis. His rise to power was fueled by Oromo leader, Jawar Mohammed, and his Qeero (bachelor) movement. However since taking power, the PM switched allegiance to Amhara expansionists who have a long history of enslaving and denying rights to the Oromo. He has jailed on charges of terrorism many of his previous Oromo supporters and mentors including Mohammed. An armed resistance, the Oromo Liberation Army, is growing by the day in hopes to depose the Prime Minister who they see as a traitor to the Oromo cause.
Tomorrow a major celebration is planned at a sacred lake in Bishoftu a short distance from Addis Ababa. However, now security forces are blocking the highway connecting from Addis Ababa trying to stop the gathering. Apparently Abiy Ahmed fears that more protests against the government will occur embarrassing the PM that his own people are against him while this week he is in the midst of the upcoming presentation of his new Prosperity Party government this week. Many Oromia and others feel these elections in their regional state were unfair to opposition parties.
The Faustian bargain struck by Abiy Ahmed has cost the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives, the economy, and the political unity of Ethiopia. The last of which is likely gone forever. Famine, displacement, isolation, economic disaster, hostility with neighboring countries, and almost comprehensive strife between many factions and ethnicities is the reality of Abiy Ahmed’s leadership of Ethiopia. The human tragedy of Dr. Faustus told in the Elizabethan play by Christopher Marlowe seems to have become reality in Abiy Ahmed.
As a young man Abiy Ahmed joined the Ethiopian Army and eventually became an intelligence officer. This field fascinated him as he was a protégé of the Tigrayan leader, Getachew Assefa. Eventually Abiy would help form the INSA(Information Network Security Agency), the national intelligence service that was at first quite secretive about its existence.
Intelligence officers play key roles in military functioning but often do not end up as leading commanders because they develop false senses of security about the value of their knowledge which is often prejudiced by wanting to prove previously held beliefs about a potential adversary. Developing command capability in the military requires experiences much more than being an intelligence officer alone.
As a member of the Ethiopian Parliament Abiy Ahmed developed a reputation of being an intelligent and devote protector of the rights of the Oromo people who he was thought to represent with zeal. The Addis Ababa housing authority was giving housing to Amhara, who worked for the capital city, houses in the Oromo region. This was seen as a part of the expansion of the mostly Amhara city which had been built by the Amharic emperor to colonize the Oromo region a century before into the Oromo Regional State. Abiy Ahmed championed that housing in the Oromo region should go to Oromos.
There is no denying that Abiy Ahmed had great talents as orator and potential to be a great leader perhaps. His talk of medemer where he would build a unity of Ethiopia’s many different Ethnic groups into a blended national unity appealed to many Ethiopians. At that time he denied rumors that his mother was unlike his Oromo father an Amhara.
After being thrust forward to the rank of Prime Minister by his confidant Lemma Megersa (leader of the Oromos) and Jawar Mohammed (leader of Qeero movement) he seemed destined for greatness, being a part of the most numerous ethnic group making up more than 30% of the Ethiopian population.
Yet somehow this gift of power and prestige was not enough. Like the tragedy of Dr. Faustus in the famous play by Christopher Marlowe at some point following his being named Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed decided he needed more power. The promotors of Amhara dominance and expansionism who had been somewhat silent for years on the domestic political front but active in the diaspora began to whisper in Abiy Ahmed’s ear. They became the “Mephastophilis” who promised greater power and immortality if Abiy Ahmed just let go of reasonable logic and would trust the power of evil.
A joint alliance of “religious leaders” promised that God would allow Abiy Ahmed to break all rules of Christian morality in the name of creating a “Christian” Ethiopian state under Amharic dominance. It did not matter that no where in Scripture is such a thing promised. What these leaders were saying was the equivalent of saying during Jesus walk in the desert, described in Matthew 4:1-11, when he was tempted by the Devil to accept him over God to rule the world Jesus should have accepted the Devil. That this was necessary because Ethiopia was in another Zemene Mesafint, a time of many princes but no king, which would doom Ethiopia.
Abiy Ahmed has forgotten his Oromo heritage while many of his own ethnic group rebel in growing numbers against him. He has imprisoned Jawar Mohammed and severely sanctioned Lemma Megersa. In fact almost anyone who was a previous mentor has become an enemy.
At this moment the war in Ethiopia rages on in destruction. The Tigray and their allies are advancing but they have offered to negotiate but tragically Abiy Ahmed and his collaborators under the Mephastophilian influence refuse logic. Will Abiy Ahmed be like Dr. Faustus who in the end of the play realizes his sin and need for repentance or he will see Ethiopia to it’s end?
What happened to injured Tigray POWs and injured Oromia soldiers fighting in Tigray before the reoccupation of Tigray by the TDF(Tigray Defense Force)?
You hear a lot of news and see many videos of captured ENDF(Ethiopian National Defense Force) and Amhara fighters now in TDF custody but what happened to Tigray fighters captured by the ENDF and Eritreans?
I was at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital through the beginning of the war continuing to the beginning of January 2021 and I have been trying to investigate where this prisoners are located. We know that the Ethiopian and Eritrean government had planned a major assault on Tigray from some time before the events of November 4th 2020. The government had lined up casualty treatment hospitals with volunteer doctors mostly from Addis Ababa University to be based at Woldia during the major assault on Tigray and ending in Mekelle.
During the first two weeks of the war we treated civilians, Tigray Defense Forces soldiers, Ethiopian National Defense Soldiers, and Eritreans at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital. A short time after the occupation of the city of Mekelle, the military commander of the the Ethiopian occupying forces decided to move injured ENDF and Eritrean fighters to a new military hospital that had just been constructed recently. This went on for a few weeks. The Red Cross showed up soon upon the start of the conflict and we wanted them to collect information on all injured persons but they were turned away by the Ethiopian authorities.
Medical supplies to Ayder Hospital and the military hospital essentially ceased and the Ethiopian military decided to treat their casualties in an open air hospital constructed in the newly built football stadium near the Martyrs Museum which was serving as the commanding generals headquarters.
After this the story of what happened gets difficult to follow. Many Amhara patients were transferred out of Tigray to Amhara hospitals including Woldia but not everyone.
There is a rising story that preferential treatment was given to Amhara FANO fighters and Ethiopian National Defense Forces while Oromo soldiers who were thought to be “poor candidates to survive” received less care and where often allowed to die.
Additionally most to the Tigray Defense fighters as well as many civilians including rape victims of the invading forces were removed from Ayder Hospital as I and other witnessed and never to be seen or heard from again. At this time there are no reports of any Tigray POWs in any hospital anywhere. Most of the photos given to the Ethiopian press labeled as Tigray POW have not been fighters but college students detained, Tigray residents from Addis Ababa, and refugees returning from Saudi Arabi.
It has recently been reported by several sources that some detainees of this group were summarily executed without any legal proceeding.
The question remains where are Tigray POWS? Where are the Oromia fighters injured that were fighting in Tigray?
Dictators like Abiy Ahmed become most dangerous to their own people when they realize they are going to lose power. There is a saying among hunters that a wounded animal becomes dangerous in its last moments.
There have been numerous academic studies by political and social scientists on the mechanisms used by dictators to gain power and how it often backfires. If you compare their findings with the recent history of Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, you see he must have read the textbook on how to be a dictator.
Abiy Ahmed has created strawmen as threats to his supporters well-being namely the TPLF and the foreign influences. Feigning that following his cause is the righteous one, the one true path to Ethiopian autonomy and greatness. That Western democracies intent is to see Ethiopia broken into pieces as a nation while Abiy promises a mighty state rivaling the global superpowers. This call for action against a falsehood facilitated his drawing together a coalition into the Prosperity Party as a test of loyalty.
For dictators to come to power they need kingmakers. They do not have to be a majority of the ruled population but kingmakers have to be activists and committed. By supporting the dictator they will gain influence but at the same time the dictator must mistrust them and find means to control them. They have to remind the kingmakers that they can easily at the dictators wish be removed from the inner circle.
There are different theories about how dictators use power. The “romantic theory” says if dictators obtain absolute power they are just free to do whatever is necessary. Another more pragmatic view is that the key to their power is controlling those who control necessary functions or resources such as the military, press, etc.
In true democracies civilian interest groups can organize through voting to replace leaders. However in a dictatorship one of the problems for dictators is that the very people they put in position to control functions or resources can turn against them. The majority of dictators who are overturned are not replaced by elections but by coups of the power groups they helped create. Although some dictatorships last decades the average dictatorship in modern times has been 3 1/2 years.
It is interesting that Abiy Ahmed has now reached that time where most dictators are dethroned. Although for there are still many buying into his straw men delusions the reality of the weakness that has come to the Ethiopian state rather then the strength he proclaims is beginning to be undeniable. He now finds himself daily reversing his previous declarations such as the Ethiopian and allied forces completely vanquished the Tigray leadership and military to just “flour in the wind“, that Mekelle was just a poor village not capable of any significant military threat, that record prosperity for all Ethiopians was just around the corner, that freedom of the press would become law not a memory, and that political opposition would be given a “seat at the table” not a cell in the jail. Instead he has reigned on all these promises. Like previous dictators now he is in a delusional state wantonly punishing those who are “not with him in supporting the state” encouraging starvation, genocide, even killing of his own armed forces for withdrawing from battle. I pray to God that the many Tigrayans, Oromians, and others in custody through out Ethiopia are not killed out of a crazy man’s spite.
Nationwide food shortage, inflation, and lack of regional autonomy in all of Ethiopia are driving a new coalition from many regions to act against the rule of Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party. Although the Tigray conflict gets the most attention armed resistance is now active in Oromia, Amhara, Afar, Somali, and Gambella regions of Ethiopia. These other actions are clearly becoming more aggressive given the recent advances of the Tigray Defense Force.
Since 2018 the government of Abiy Ahmed and the Prosperity Party has focused on city improvement in Addis Ababa to make it a “true capital city of Africa” Meanwhile food production and agricultural improvement projects throughout Ethiopia have been put on a low priority. Many local government leaders were pushed aside or forced to join the Prosperity Party which obligated them to this Addis Ababa first policy and abandoning local concerns.
The World Food Program forecast for food security extending to January 2022 of Ethiopia sees famine to crisis level conditions continuing in not only Tigray but also the whole south regions of Ethiopia. Somali region will have below levels of food supply. The worst area remains southeastern Tigray.
Recurring drought over the past decade without real attention to improving overall production has added to the need for necessary food imports to have remained at least 15% and may grow. Higher prices for seeds and agricultural materials like fertilizer along with inflation (now at 45% this year -the birr trading near 50 per US dollar) means it will harder for farmers to be ready to plant their crops or at least do so in lesser volume. Lesser rains limit the amount of pasture grazing available to raise livestock such as goats, sheep, and beef. Sheep are the most demanding and its availability is now sharply curtailed.
Ethiopia has major growing season and minor growing season extremely dependent on rain patterns. Belg is the shorter season from February to April, and meher is the main season from May to September (they have different names in different regions). These patterns have become increasingly unpredictable. Total annual grain production (including mainly corn, wheat, sorghum, barley, and teff) greatly depends on rainfall patterns during the belg season.
Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and head of his self created Prosperity Party, to many rather than bringing a new vision which encourages development of a universally accepted national unity has instead re-aggravated old flames. His inability to escape internal colonialism, a recurring theme in Ethiopian politics, may be the straw that broke the camel’s back in breaking up the Ethiopian empire.
The rise of Abiy Ahmed was propelled first by the strong calls for inclusivity of the Oromia who make up at least 30% of the Ethiopian population in government. However the initial enthusiasm in cooperation was tempered when a division of the goals developed between many Oromia leaders and the Prime Minister was created. The Prime Minister switched allegiances to the Amhara elites who argued for a more traditional Amhara led model of government giving more power to the central government and less to the regional states. Even though currently the Tigray “rebellion” gets the most national attention there now opposition groups many of which are carrying out armed insurrection in most of the regional states of Ethiopia.
Internal colonialism is a reoccurring theme in the struggle for control of the Ethiopian federal state. We often hear the term colonialism and see it most commonly applied as an external phenomena referring to the history of European powers attempts to colonize and control African states over the past two centuries but internal colonialism especially in the case of the Ethiopia, a country which claims it has never been colonized by an outside nation, is one of the dominant forces against sustainment of peace in a empire of many nations.
In 1925 Adolph Hitler described the concept that Germany as an integral part of Europe, had the right to acquire adjacent lands that were poorly utilized and under populated as a result of the unfair treaties ending World War I in 1925. He saw his ethnic group as a part of greater Europe who by right of superiority which was inherent in their nationality had not only the right but the obligation to take control of his neighbors. A description of this type of justification for political action would wait until many years later.
Although first used briefly to describe the situation in South African apartheid in 1957 this concept becomes well defined by the Mexican sociologist, Pablo González Casanova, in his 1965 book, Democracy in Mexico where he defined internal colonialism as a result of the structure of social relations and exploitation between heterogeneous cultural groups. Although the term is named “internal” he notes the effect of outside powers global and regional does have an effect on this interaction. Traditional social struggle theory as one between classes such as in Europe and the United States is not the only relevant or maybe even predominant factor. Patrimony and oligarchy tend to develop in the push to create strong capitalist systems to engender economic viability of the state. Paulo Henrique Martins , French scholar has described that there is a relationship between social, political, and intellectual imagery that develops and helps steer political action by the dominate group over the lesser ones.
A well known phenomena commonly seen in developing countries as noted by the World Bank is that their capital cities tend to develop much faster then the rest of the country. I have written about how the Addis Ababa identity differs significantly than that of the rest of the Ethiopia. Peter Calvert has described how this accelerated growth of cities and its effects on the surrounding area becomes the center of power, identity, and social action. It should be noted that Ethiopia is most rural country in world (90%) such that Addis Ababa with a population of 4 million in a country with 110 million represents barely 0.4% of the population. As I have previously written the growth of other cities and universities is beginning in other regional states but they have little political impact.
Ethiopia was ruled by Amharic royal for centuries until attempted coups began in 1960 ultimately leading to a socialist communist takeover in 1974 called the “Derg” or worker’s party which was heavily supported by the Soviet Union. It was quite repressive although ideally not specifically linked to any particular ethnic group. Then a popular uprising revolted against the Derg leading to new leadership lead by the Tigray Liberation Peoples Front in cooperation with other ethnic fighter groups. Following the death of Melez Zenawi in 2012 uprisings in the Oromia and Amhara regions eventually lead to the placement of Abiy Ahmed, a half Oromia, half Amhara as the Prime Minister in 2018.
Although initially promising free speech, welcoming of opposition groups, political prisoner release, free press, and creating a new political party based upon a unifying national identity all was short lived. He went on to imprison Oromia allies who helped bring him to power, made dissent illegal by person or press, outlawed the leaders of the Tigray regional state calling them terrorists and finally invaded Tigray with the help of an old enemy Eritrea.
When you look at Ethiopia it is a tough region in which to thrive. There is very little water for agriculture and very little land which is really productive for food. The term internal colonialism was used by Oromia opposition groups against the TPLF during their dominance as they felt the federal government was interfering too much in land use and distribution decisions. Similarly the area of Western Tigray which is also very fertile has increasingly been claimed by Amhara elites.
As I previously discussed there has never been a strong claim of a national unity except by the Amhara peoples. Many other groups continue to claim national ethnic identity that trumps their Ethiopian identity. Those who are more educated and/or spent significant time living or being in university in Addis Ababa are more likely to see their Ethiopian identity over their regional one.
Meles Zenawi the late leader of the TPLF developed the concept of the democratic developmental state. This was based in large part in how South Korea recovered following World War II and the Korean conflict where at first their was a military oligarchy that had a first priority to create an infrastructure and lead business initially but then over time would allow more economic Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). freedom of private interests but with significant government input. Although there was a vision of a coalition of nations in forming the government via Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Meles realized that there was in fact a danger of internal colonialism taking root. The argument of one nation versus a confederation of nations was continued by opposition groups which magnified upon his death in 2015.