By Ahungena Alemayehu
Passover is a Jewish tradition celebrating the 10th plague, death of the Egyptian first-born, that forced the Biblical Pharaoh to release Israel from Bondage. The Jewish people were instructed by Moses to each paint their doorframe with lamb’s blood so the force of destruction will “pass over” them, sparing them the plague that punished Egypt.
The July 2020 Orthodox Christian Genocide in Oromia region of Ethiopia witnessed a different kind of Passover; A Muslim Passover. While thousands of properties (houses, vehicles, buildings, businesses, granaries and cattle) belonging to Orthodox Christians were burnt down and hundreds of people slaughtered, Muslim households were spared. In an attack that had all the appearance of premeditation, marauding machete and torch wielding Muslim Oromo mobs, descended on unsuspecting, unarmed Orthodox Christians. The prominent leader of these extremist Muslim Oromo mobs is Jawar Mohammed, hate spewing owner of Oromo Media Network, that had been used to fan ethnic hatred since its establishment.
Survivors of the genocidal attack were at a loss regarding how their family, homes and businesses were picked for selective destruction by the attackers. The majority, their family having lived there for generations, had no other place they called home. Eyewitnesses of the carnage reported that the attackers were roaming with a list of names of target households and businesses. The attackers would stop someone on the street and ask to see their ID. Ethiopian ID has been required, for the last three decades, to mention a specifc designation of one’s ethnic group. Another mark that singled-out a person for killing was the wearing of a Mateb, a cross on their necklace.
What was the manner and scope of the “Pass Over” destruction?
Close to three hundred, homes, businesses and multi-storied buildings were razed in one small Oromia town called Shahemene, sparing only property belonging to Muslims. Social media posts show images of accidental fire that spread to Muslim properties being desperately put out. The age of the Christian victims ranged from just newly born to 80 year old octogenarians. The killings were committed in the most grotesque and cruel manner. Government soldiers and local police either silently stood by, claiming having received no orders, or in some instances, collaborated by supplying weapons to the attackers.
Olympic Champion and Long-dstance legend Haile Gebreselassie’s hotel and resort that he built in his birthplace of Arsi, Oromia were singled out for destruction because of his Christian faith. Fortunately, he was somewhere else when the Islamic Oromo mob descended on his investements. Otherwise, he and his family could have met the fate of a family of five Christians who were found slaughtered in their home.
This latest genocide on Orthodox Christians and the Amhara ethnic group was well-coordinated. The timing of the riots has been very suspicious. It took place only a few days before the commencement of the scheduled filling of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaisance Dam over the Nile which has been stiffly opposed by Egypt. That same day, a music Album dedicated to the new Nile dam was due to be released by Ethiopia’s world renowned reggae singer, Teddy Afro. The fact that media and spy networks of the ousted TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front) were immediately and heavily involved in the seditious activities was another reason to suspect premeditation. More suspicion was created as the government shut down the Internet and preempted photographic and video documents of the Muslim Oromo atrocities from being posted on social media and reaching the international media. Involvement of government personnel was also implicated as, in addition to refusal to intercede to protect the innocent victims, ther have been reports of semi-automatic weapons distribution to the attackers.
How did the July 2020 riots and genocidal rampage against the Christians/ Amhara start?
The igniting spark for the Muslim Passover was a premeditated murder of a famous Oromo singer, Haachaalu, by Oromo extremists. Just days before his murder, Haachahalu was interviewed by the extremist media, OMN, inciting him into hate speech and setting him up so his death could be blamed on those he ‘attacked’ during the interview. Portions of Haachalu’s interview including his talks about repeated death threats from the armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front were censored out and not aired. Apparently, he had refused to support the OLF’s extremist stance, ignoring their call for him to produce songs lauding their ‘armed struggle’. In the interview, Haachaalu also condemned the collaboration of Jawar’s group with TPLF, “an arch-enemy of the Oromo that had never apologized for its atrocities against the Oromo”. Haachaalu, who was himslef an Orthodox Christian, was thus the perfect sacrificial lamb for the Oromo extremists. Thus, the death of an Orthodox Christian was used as the ignition spark for the genocide against other Orthodox Christians.
As soon as the death of the singer was heard, in a matter of few hours, millions of Oromo youth were called upon to descend upon the Amhara/ Christians and converge on the capital city, Addis Ababa. The extremists intended to have an extended funeral in Addis Ababa for the singer, despite the wishes of his immediate family to bury him in his birth place, about sixty miles away. Jawar and collaborators were prepared to carry this out by force and thus they “hijacked” his body. They even bombed the singer’s residence in his hometown, killing his very uncle, in a last ditch effort to get hold of the body. As the road was forcefully blocked by armed youth that answer to the Oromo extremists, the government had to airlift the body to guarantee Haachalu’s burial in his hometown of Ambo. That foiled the plan of the extremists to flood Addis Ababa with angry and misguided millions of Oromo youth. Addis Ababa narrowly escaped a Shashemene-like destruction, where over a thousand households and businesses were burnt down.
What is the Irony of the Muslim Passover?
The irony of the Mulsim Passover is twisted. The Pharaoh is Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo. The Moses of the Muslim extremists is Jawar Mohammed, a half-Yemeni born amongst the Oromo. Furthermore, instead of asking to be freed from the land, the Muslim Oromo extremists want the other people to leave the land. There is still more irony in this. Historically, the Oromo were the last people to move into the geographical region of present day Ethiopia and they are also the last Ethiopian ethnic group to accept Islam. However, a segment of the Muslim Oromo, is rapidly being radicalized and used to perpetrate acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Amhara and Orthodox Christians of other ethnicity (including Orthodox Christian Oromos).
What is the status of Orthodox/Amhara Genocide since the 2018 Reform?
The scope of genocidal activities against the Orthodox Christians in general, and the Amhara ethnic group in particular have escalated since the coming to power of Abiy Ahmed. Unprecedented number of churches have been burned, people have been evicted from their land, college girls have been kidnapped, and thousands of peaceful citizens have been slaughtered – and are being slaughtered at this very moment. This rise in anti-Christian atrocity is attributed to several factors:
- The seditious activities of the ousted TPLF (and external actors)
- Lack of sympathy on the part of Abiy’s ruling party for the cause of the victims
- Failure to enforce the rule of law against those committing the crime
- Failure to take protective steps in instances known to incite ethnic and religious violence against the Amhara / Orthodox Christians
- Abiy’s heavy handedness towards individuals and groups attempting or professing to protect the rights of the oppressed Amhara/ Orthodox Christians in Oromia Region and Addis Ababa
- The advent of extremist media, OMN, and the creation of several others that copy its style of provocation
Although the government has so far refused to initiate an independent investigation of the genocide against the Orthodox Christians, it has recently taken some positive steps towards arresting those involved in the killing of Haachaalu Hundessa and in the shooting of Oromia police officers. Thousands of people suspected of involvement in the ensuing violence have also been arrested. Still, there are valid complaints that innocent people who tried to protect themselves, their family or their church from the attackers as well as others with no connection to the atrocities have been arrested in a political vendetta.
What could be the aim of the Muslim Passover?
Ethiopia is a country where the various religious communities have historically lived in great harmony. The only exception occurred during a brief period five centuries ago when a Muslim leader caused a near complete destruction of churches and Christianity in Ethiopia. Even that tragic event was externally instigated and supported (by Ottoman Turks and foreign Muslim clerics). Islam in Ethiopia, in general, is not characterized by violence, extremism or radicalism. Thus, as it does not seem to have support from the wider Muslim community in Ethiopia, the aim of the Muslim Passover remains unclear. The only known fact is that Jawar’s group is intent on carving out an Islamic State.
Towards this end, the proponents of an Islamic State of Oromia have achieved several concrete results. We will mention only three of them here.
- They have adopted the colors of radical Islam as the flag of Oromia Region.
- They have “transplanted” millions of Muslim Oromos into the predominantly Christian areas. The first pretext for such a colossal demographic engineering was drought and the second one ethnic conflict. Unsuspecting Christian Oromo leaders were active collaborators in these projects.
- They have marked Christian Oromos as “the other”, a non-Oromo marked for ethnic cleansing and genocide. This has been accomplished through cadre training, the teaching of a fabricated history in the schools as well as media indoctrination of the masses. This ‘phenomenal’ success has been made possible by the capture of the state apparatus as well as various Oromo political organizations.
What is to be done?
Three decades ago, the fate of Ethiopia was placed in the hands of three secessionist movements that decided on its political trajectory. Sadly, the dire predictions made by many intellectuals upon the imposition of the Ethno-linguistic federal political system on the nation, has come to be true. The highly divisive and competitive centrifugal forces unleashed have torn the society asunder and poised it for mutual annihilation. While such a result may satisfy those external powers that nurtured the secessionist forces and their political experiment, it will be a human catastrophe of colossal magnitude. Hopefully, the new generation will move away from this destructive political path, now that a Rwanda-like situation has been very narrowly averted.