The prospect of an end of a year of war in Ethiopia which saw insufferable loss may be upon us yet there will be no time to celebrate. I pray a bloody conflict in vain is avoided. Attempts to turn back time to the Zemene Mesafint solution of the past has failed. Jesus said war will always be with us recognizing the fallibility of man to solve his problems reasonably.
As Winston Churchill said about the Battle of Britain when the Royal Air Force though outnumbered managed to defeat the Luftwaffe by superior tactics it was not the end but the end of the beginning so it is for Ethiopia.
The Federal government under Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party now on the final step of defeat by Tigray and Oromo forces still has managed to destroy the economy in its last gasp. Means of manufacturing in not only Tigray but also Amhara have been destroyed by carpet bombing, artillery barrage, and intended ransacking. This has resulted in default of repayment of billions of dollars in loans made by Ethiopian banks to build these factories and businesses.
Discussions with knowledgeable sources in Addis Ababa reveals that government coiffeurs are now empty with almost no payment to government employees. The Ethiopian federal government is broke.
The airport for now remains open but thousands are fleeing the country. Inflation will hit 50% up and the birr will hit 50% down in value. Millions are displaced and without employment. Food stocks and crops are sparse. Hope for the future is fragile at best.
Victory will bring a new challenge for the whole country but will only be the end of the beginning of new era which will take time. Addis Ababa will be named Finfinne as it should have been all along. Tigray more then another region has been devastated and will have to rebuild its infrastructure, health system and economy from scratch. The Oromo region, the most fertile land of Ethiopia, and her people deserve to finally have their say and I hope they will be heard. Their concept of gadaa, that is learning from the past about the right use of resources for the community as a whole in consultation with elders, should be respected.
Once again the area we call Ethiopia will have to persevere to find a way to live together in mutual benefit and peace.
How Abiy Ahmed fooled the world and caused it to do nothing in the face of genocide.
Abiy Ahmed was just an ordinary politician with nothing outstanding in his background or education. He was not the first choice for an Oromo Prime Minister but because he was a member of Parliament where others with more seniority and experience were not and could not legally be Prime Minister Abiy was chosen as a compromise. His flamboyant speeches about equality and modernization of Ethiopia caught world attention but not examination. They sounded good so the Western democracies accepted them as authentic.
Little notice was made of his turn from being “Oromo” to “Amhara” after his United States tour. He started the tour with Jawar Mohammed the American Oromo diaspora whose Qeerroo movement created the civil unrest that brought government change which facilitated Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power. Yet sometime during the tour and continuing after Abiy Ahmed decided to dump his Oromo identity and throw his lot in with Amhara expansionists. Where once he denied his mother’s heritage it then become a a badge he wore proudly. It would be soon after the tour that Jawar Mohammed would go to jail as a terrorist.
Soon after his appointment Abiy Ahmed began to spend more and more time in private and in public with extremist Christian groups both Protestant and Ethiopian Orthodox. Much of the Orthodox influence was from unauthorized diaspora Synods in the West while those in Ethiopia including the head of the church faced house arrest . They planted the concept that Ethiopia was once again in the Era of Princes, Zemene Mesafint, when the country was foundering without a strong king in the 18th century. The switch from Tigray kings to Amhara kings happened at the end of this period. Under the Amhara monarchy the greatest expansion of Ethiopia began in the last 2 centuries. Abyssinia changed to Ethiopia capturing land and enslaving Oromos, Somali, Afar, and the Southern Nations to Amhara rule.
Abiy and his conspirators dreamed up that God had ordained him to be the next Amharic king to rule Ethiopia. They wanted to reverse this trend of confederation to return to Amharic domination. This clerico-fascism interestingly mimicked the conditions in Italy that produced the Mussolini lead invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s.
The world wanted to believe that Africa finally had a democratic leader that would lead reform intent on creating a Western style democracy in Africa. Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for making “peace” with Eritrea which the world failed to realize was really a defense pact to carry out genocide. It was all a part of great of great diplomatic con game to convince the world a better Africa was coming to fruition. Instead the gullible Abiy made Ethiopia the pawn to the crafty tyrant of Eritrea, Isaias Afeworki.
Even as it become clear that the Ethiopian Tigray conflict was not a “law enforcement operation” but a carefully well planned military operation of civilian slaughter, rape, deprivation, theft, and destruction with the goal of wiping the Tigray from existence the United Nations and western democracies made only weak statements of disapproval but did nothing.
The Tigray Defense Force has not carried out a perfect war. Such a thing does not exist. At its own expense, however, it has shown sympathy for civilians and combatant prisoners in how it administers conquered areas. The towns of Woldia, Alamat, Sekota, Dessie, and Kombalcha were taken with very little artillery barrage. Compare this with Ethiopia’s carpet barrages of many Tigray cities including Mekelle and more recently bombing of Amhara towns where more civilians were killed then Tigray fighters. Today many Amharic supporters in the name of religion are calling for Ethiopian civilians to sacrifice themselves for Abiy Ahmed.
At this moment there is no doubt that except for the exceptional heroism and perseverance of the Tigray and Oromo resistance, Abiy Ahmed would have secured himself in perpetual barbarism. As has been the case since its inception, the United Nations failed to take any meaningful action to stop genocide. Current statements from the UN and other western democracies for the Tigray to stop their advance to self-determination which is guaranteed in the UN charter which also bars genocide are an insult to humanity.
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?
Like ancient Israel Ethiopia will fall without cohesion of a strong pious leader endorsed by righteous religious authority. This long and widely held political religious viewpoint has been directly assimilated into support for Abiy Ahmed by his supporters. They prophesize his fall from power will bring an unholy chaos and downfall of the state.
The origin of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) traces it history first to Hebrew traditions historically brought to Ethiopia by the Queen of Sheba and her son Menelik I who was fathered by the Hebrew King Solomon. Subsequently Judaism as the state religion gave way to Christianity in the third century AD under King Ezana. The EOC retained many Jewish features such as the kosher diet in part because of the nine Syrian Jewish Christians who came to Ethiopia and brought Scripture in the Geez language. Tewahedo, the concept of Jesus being of one mixed substance indivisible one from the other, separates it from Western and Eastern European Christology. Many Ethiopians see the parallels in the story of the struggle of the Jewish state and that of Ethiopia. They see this struggle as being dependent on the pious observance of the Ethiopian people.
Early on the EOC differentiated itself from the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantium Church in the this concept of Tweahedo but also by accepting Donatism. In simple terms this meant that priest had to be absolutely holy and without corruption otherwise they are incapable of performing priestly duties including especially rituals of forgiveness and the eucharist. It also gave them a higher status in many ways to even the monarchy or political leaders. This lent and continues to lend authority to the words of clergy to the population.
They did however look to Emperor Constantine as a model of imperial orthodoxy. Similar to what happened in Europe during the middle ages a partnership developed between the EOC and the monarchy. The holy nature of the clergy gave them authority to proclaim Ethiopian monarchy as being chosen by divine will.
Strength through unity expands the empire and protects it
Initially the Ethiopian empire was born out of the Axumite Empire bordering the Red Sea and even some territory in Yemen consisting of the Semitic speaking peoples we know today as the Tigray and Amhara. Over the centuries holdings in Yemen were lost but the new Solomonic dynasty began to spread south and west. The Cushitic peoples of western, southern, and eastern Ethiopia were overcome and became subjects of the empire. However fierce rivalries grew within the empire leading to many episodes of betrayal, assassination, and wars. Additionally there were times when Muslims who make up at least a third and maybe 40% of the population fought the empire. Ethiopian Christians believe their “God derived” unity and tolerance towards Muslims who accepted subjugation preserved the Christian state.
This intertwining of destiny, religion, and the need to keep power created even academic misrepresentations of Ethiopian history propagated by the ruling Amhara monarchy. For example that the Oromo people were immigrants to the Ethiopia and that Muslims were meant to be graciously accepted as refugees from the pagan Saudi kingdom but not part of the Ethiopian manifest destiny. Cushitics were inferior and meant to be ruled by Amhara.
The prophetic chaos of the time of princes (without a king)
Fear of the danger of collapse of the empire from disunity happened during the period referred to as Zemene Mesafint in 1769 through 1865AD which is an analogy to the collapse of the 12 tribes of Israel in Jewish history which rendered them susceptible to invaders. Additionally the analogy goes further that this collapse was due to following away from God. Even though the Emperor Tewodros II lost to the British in war and committed suicide he is glorified as an example of strength in this unity.
Divisions develop in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Over the past century the EOC has developed significant divisions in its ranks. Over a half century beginning in the Caribbean Islands critics of the leadership of the Ethiopian Church began to develop. This was in part driven by the concept that Cushitic peoples of Ethiopia especially in the western and southern regions did not have the same citizenship status or rights as Northern Ethiopians. Amharic royalty had become the holders of power leading to the allowance of slavery and land acquisition of Cushitic’s. Many Oromos were characterized also as pagans for not joining the EOC. This facilitated their increased conversion to Islam and opened the way for the introduction of evangelical protestants to flourish.
Large numbers of diaspora came to the United States and Europe during the Derg regime Tigray Peoples Liberation Front conflict which followed the end of the monarchy. Opposition groups distrusted the appointments of the Patriarchs leading the EOC in Ethiopia as being too aligned with the Derg and subsequently the TPLF. Three groups of EOC churches developed, the unrecognized Holy Synod in exile, the neutral, and those loyal to the Patriarch over the past two decades.
Additionally, many Protestant converts, both in the diaspora and native Ethiopian population have now joined up with those in the Holy Synod in Exile fearing that a repeat Zemene Mesafintwill happen. Currently under order of the the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abune Mathias, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has accused the government of wanting to destroy Tigray and been placed under house arrest.
Many Ethiopian Protestant converts and exiled EOC members as well as Amharic factions in Ethiopia see Abiy Ahmed as the continuation of the partnership of political religious alliance that has been the prophecy of success for Ethiopia. While others see this as just a pretense for the continuation of expansionist Amharic elitism camouflaged by religion.