By Tadesse Walle (PhD), UK
The above phrase is a legal maxim, principle, used by various thinkers, scholars for a considerable period including by William Pen, Martin Luther King and has been mentioned by Magna Carta (charter of rights) bibles and related scripts. It has been used to highlight the significance of resolving matters, disputes in time, failing of which would mean no redress at all and in legal terms delaying justice could be as bad as injustice. Magna Carta, the well celebrated legal source of the 13th century used the phrase to explain,” To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice”. This axiom has now become a rallying cry for the civic society in challenging governments and courts that justice delayed is justice denied which I believe is timely in the current Ethiopian context, where the rule of law is at times at loggerheads with the actual practice on the ground, where by justice is denied.
In August 2018, a young man was mercilessly beaten, hanged upside-down to death in our current 21st century by groups who decided to welcome their leader Jawar Mohammed by scarifying an innocent Ethiopian (ethnic origin is irrelevant!) from SHASHEMENE. This horrific, barbaric and irrational action has no parallel in our recent past. The allegation that the man, the scarified individual had an explosive device with him was proved to be malicious and flawed. In hindsight, one would question whether the label/ tag, given at the time of the carnage, – “mob killing”, was indeed a mob killing? Or a sinister motive to declare, pronounce, the beginning of the end? And was the end intended? Considering what has happened on the ground since then – inter ethnic conflict prompted by hate speech and disinformation, compulsive ethnic irredentism, ethnic xenophobia, one would, conclude that the latter is the case. Let me substantiate this:
Without any shred of doubt, Prime Minister Abiy and his inner-circle, stakeholders of change deserve the highest credit (in my view) in dismantling TPLF (core of EPRDF), the most heinous political group and unleashing political “reform” with its own particular doctrine and vision, which is now known as MEDEMER, a political paradigm with its own merits but with lots of ifs… and buts, some have even questioned if it was necessary or that if it was redundant to have this social experiment? Be it as it is, it’s now the manifesto for change: prosperity in anybody’s interest. Inviting opposition parties to come up with credible options, better constructs, political paradigms, heralding the ultimate commitment to democracy and civilized values, the first of its kind in the Ethiopian political landscape. Give credit where credit is due. This has persistently demanded Abiy’s life, his survival meant another success and continued challenge.
Since PM, Abiy has been sworn in office, his reform appears to have brought considerable changes including, removing few TPLF corrupt and embezzled individuals, opening pollical space, heralding multi-party system, addressing gender inequality, reassuring democratic values, releasing political prisoners, providing legitimacy to political organisations unlawfully branded as terrorists by his own previous regime, paving the way for Ethiopian unity and integrity as opposed to those who conspire to extricate the old nation sate and replace it with mini, quasi states that don’t afford to feed its own people nor defend themselves from any adversary.
The reform includes making peace with Eritrea and with others strategically meaningful states for the good of Ethiopia, credit to the PM, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
In spite of the good intent, practical steps of the PM and his regime in transforming Ethiopia by way of “reform”- socio- economic change, the most part of his enduring tenure is marred with violent inter – ethnic and religious extremism beyond and above the usual bumps of social change. The vibrant changes , admired by the international community and by the Ethiopian community at large, have been tarnished by events such as the BURAYU carnage , the LEGETAFO displacement and others , bank robbery by OLF associates ( 18-20 times?), the unlawful claim of Addis Ababa as opposed to its unique and mixed identity, excessive tolerance of the TPLF thugs caved in Tigray and the awkward precedent this had left, mystery of the notorious demographic change – social engineering ( by Lemma Megersa) manifested in one or in different forms , rejecting the ethos of BALDERAS and Eskinder Nega – the icon of truth and social justice , hate speech and prejudice unleashed by ethno-centrists , genealogically motivated killings including at university sites, burning of churches , staggering corruption, excessive illegal weapons circulation and failure to observe the dynamic link between democracy and accountability,… you name it. The reader would note, Ethiopia is now leading the world on internally, ethnic driven displaced people, roughly three million, facing humanitarian crisis. DefendDefenders claim,” About three million people have been displaced by ethnic clashes, since Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy came to power in April 2018” (24/10/2019)
Most importantly, the recent, October 2019, reckless call made by Mr Jawar Mohammed to his affiliates known as Qeerroo, alleging that his life was at risk, when it was not! This was not only misleading and destructive but rings an alarm bell of his actual and future intent. The message he posted on social media and speeches he made clearly and manifestly informed us of his deep-seated malicious intent:
“This became painfully evident on Oct.23 when the Oromia region was shaken by a deadly wave of violence following a series of Facebook posts from Jawar. The activist, who also heads a TV channel called Oromia Media Network, announced that the police were about to detain him, an allegation that was later denied by the government” (November 2019)
and on another piece…
“On October 23, Jawar Mohammed …. accused Ethiopia’s security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him, a claim police official later denied “15 November 2019.
Jawar’s, ethno-centric call to his Qeerroo affiliates ( but not to all Qeerroo – Oromo youth) was following the speech of the PM, that ‘media owners shouldn’t be fomenting unrest’ undermine the peace and existence of Ethiopia, which I believe would be shared by any reasoned person or groups. However, Jawar Mohammed addressed his audience with his widespread social media network that his life was at risk, and mockingly said, “እኛም አውቀናል ጉድጎድ ምሰናል”. This manifestly and undoubtedly shows that he was well prepared in advance and exposed his all-time intent and purposes…. which then led his groups, the Queeroo, to unleash barbaric carnage, which brought shame and humiliation to our country.
Jawar ‘s speech of “እኛም አውቀናል ጉድጎድ ምሰናል “said it all and he meant it. But what exactly was the plot? what was the depth of his clandestine conspiracy? The Guardian, on one of its articles, dated 13 March 2018, claimed, “As the Oromo movement has grown in confidence …so the role of the Qeerroo in orchestrating unrest …”. This being the case, and whilst the unknown is still mysterious, a prudent policing, security system would have investigated this and informed the outcome to the Ethiopian public. As matters stand now, the lives of 86 innocent Ethiopians and those of the an unaccounted for appears , sadly , left in vain. Jawar Mohammed have been left unrestrained, allowed to continue his malice act with impunity. This is not only a mockery of justice but the precedent this leaves for his fellow ethnic and naïve war lords is enormous; heart breaking for those wo believe justice would prevail.
Against of all odds, the hub of the culprit, the cause of the tragic end ( we don’t have to do causal analysis – the facts speak for themselves) Mr Jawar Mohammed an ethno- centric ideologist was seen having a meeting with PM Abiy and other officials on 3 November 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussing on how to stop the violence, erupted on 24 October 2019, knowing the violence was called by Jawar Mohammed himself. This was alarming and shocking, one would have thought, Jawar must have appeared in a court of law to face justice, not with the PM to discuss these matters. Further, one would have thought, that the PM, would have left this at the hands of trial lawyers, police and not to comment on the episode including the ethnic identity of the victims, as his unwarranted comment, could potentially jeopardise any present or future investigation. As due process of law was not observed, the suspect – until proven guilty, appeared as a victor after the talks and the talks appeared to have backed him, rather than the victims or the dead and the displaced. The actions and the inactions of the government surrounding this episode was worrying at all levels.
And most surprisingly, after the talks, Johar Mohammed with no remorse at all, appeared to have flexed his muscles, fled to the USA and reassured his followers that he would now take his case to the ballot box, knowing what he did on this occasion was unlawful and that it was a matter of time before he appeared in a court of law to defend the indefensible.
One would be troubled to comprehend as to why concerned government officials failed to take legal action against him. It is troubling to comprehend the application of the rule of law, though this legal phrase has become the mantra, widely spoken word for the government particularly since Abiy came to power. The chain of actions to date, raises questions than answers, particularly, when such appalling offenses are not investigated, and the suspect is left unconstrained to continue his activities as normal, ignoring the life of 86 citizens. On one hand, it is not one of minor traffic offences, it is life and life means life. On the other hand, the suspect is not dissuaded and discouraged from taking similar actions. The in actions of the government undoubtedly would signal for him that he could take actions with impunity! As matters stand now justice has not been served to the victim, vulnerable and their families. It appears that they are rather served with blatant negligence!
The government is aware that, there is no yet sufficient culpability, accountability of past atrocities, horrendous crimes, human rights abuse carried out under the eyes of the EPRDF, including, the ANNUAK genocide,…many more , which the world is aware off… and to let Jawar Mohammed go un investigated this time, where there are compelling and corroborative evidence is inconsistent and contradictory to the state’s commitment to the rule of law , supremacy of the law and that nobody is above and beyond the law. The demand for retribution cannot and must not be shelved for any reason.
Mr Johar Mohammed is not new to such appalling activities, whilst pretending as a man for democracy and a devout person for the cause of the Oromo people, he has been using ethnicity and religious mayhem to unleash his misguided objectives.
He once, said, “my village is 99% Muslim. If anyone speaks against us, we will cut their throat with Machete”. This is beheading Christians. Is this distinct from extreme Islam?
One would wonder whether this has been driven by political motive or deep-seated hate for Christianity or acting as the last scum. Either ways, such hate speeches are an unwarranted, unlawful and costly in any civilised society. Knowing that there is no historical or empirical hostility between Islam and Christianity in Ethiopia, the speech was draconian and inflammatory. If Johar had taken his lesson from the recent attack and burning of churches, it was Islam that took the fight to the culprits and saved churches from burning and the vice versa.
One would wonder, why his followers have been using Machete, to pursue their goals, kill or eliminate other ethnic groups from their enclaves? The logic is simple and plain: they got the message from their leader, who intended to use Machete to kill Christians. Here you go, this is the problem of leaving a precedent, if unchecked, the culprits are highly likely to continue their mischiefs /actions rampantly than not!
Mr Johar Mohammed is not only confined to allegedly righting the causes of the Oromo people but transcends his own ethnic group to purse his own agenda, but in a vailed fashion. In a recent campaign in Awasa, he had advised, agitated fellow ethno- centrists, the Ajetos, to use force to purse their goal. Many had lost their lives, but Johar Mohammed was not accountable for his actions/ unwarranted speeches. Here is the danger, this leaves Johar Mohammed and his followers to continue their violent and vicious actions out of impunity. How is it fair, an activist whose security and well – being taken care off by the government, paid by the poorest taxpayers in society, have yet to pay him life.
Further , on various television interviews, Jowar had spoken and vowed not only to use force in order to pursue his objectives, but had seen himself and his affiliates – the Qeerroo, forming a parallel government , he said “… that the country effectively now have two governments, one led by Abiy and the other led by Qeerroo” What does this mean, it was crystal clear then and now. This probably would mean a lot to his supporters, fuelling their hunger for all sorts of evil as has been manifested in one or in different forms. The bad precedent spread in that social environment has no parallel but was left unchecked. We have now begin to see not only one Johar Mohammed but many more to come unless the ethnic dimension of the state is essentially altered. Ethno-centric dogma remains the antithesis of the unity and integrity of Ethiopia and the entire democratic, pragmatic life our civic society.
Certainly, PM, Abiy’s discourse and the claim of national unity, reconciliation, forgiveness, and tolerance with the spirit of Medemer is the best one could ever have but excessive and disproportionate tolerance of rogue individuals and groups would put the country’s unity and integrity and the safety of its citizens at risk , despite the PM’s reassuring word that the “country’s territorial integrity is non – negotiable”.
It is time, in fact late, but not too late to investigate and crackdown those bent with hate speeches, xenophobic views, those who pose threat to democracy, liberal and civic values, including those who unlawfully claim of a de – facto state, a state within a state.
It is time that victims are reassured, citizens are not threatened because of who they are, their identity or linguistic features. Machete and ethnic warlords are halted, deterrence, prevention is put in place. It is submitted that continuing with the status quo is unjust, unfair and unlawful. As “Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” Lord Hewart.
Theme: common sense demands, Jowar Mohammed should face justice not to do so would be a travesty of justice.
It’s plain, the author of this piece, is not alleging that Johar Mohammed is a convict, but must face justice, be investigated. And the legal maxim, the presumption of innocence applies until proven guilty (the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11).
Tadesse Walle (PhD), UK