By Keffyalew Gebremedhin
Dear Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
By your admission, Prime Minister, eighty-six Ethiopians were killed in various ways up until the last week of October 2019, on account of activist Jawar Mohammed’s incitements—almost all of the killings savage and gruesome.
Troubling as it is, the word “protection”, as a duty of the state, is mentioned fifteen times in the Ethiopian constitution. Ethiopians—including some Ethiopian Oromos—as I am, are accusing you of not having carried out your responsibilities in the spirit of Ethiopian laws and international law, thereby rendering Ethiopia one of the unsafe places in the world today.
While the killings are now minimised in Ethiopia. It is not because the security forces you are the overall commander have opted to protect the helpless victims, but because:
(a) Most Ethiopians have expressed anger in defence of victims, irrespective of ethnicity;
(b) The target populations in Oromia have left their dwellings and are sheltered in nearest churches. How can this be explained?
Today, you are a very fortuitous person the world toasting you in admiration of your selection to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Foreign Policy describes your input as superficial. That notwithstanding, I too would underline your prize is important for our country to become a source of your encouragement to do more and better in future, instead of what you have done so far. There the Nobel Committee too has come with carefully worded statement to the effect: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”
This gives me the these that Ethiopians, supported by the international community, should aim to encourage you for what you could do better for peace, democracy and economic growth and development that benefits all Ethiopians, especially as a strategy of curbing the huge appetite of Oromo elites, whom their fellow Ethiopians now refer to as ተረኞች (successors, i.e., TPLF’s), to whom your inaction, or reluctance is interpreted as their justification to seize everything.
Nonetheless, as head of government of our country, as we have seen since October 23 you are not seen willing to lift a finger, on behalf of the slain citizens’ and their families, to stop Jawar Mohammed at the airport the day he returned to his adopted country and hold him accountable for those crimes committed within our borders into which he has a hand.
Ethiopia has had laws, even before you arrived as prime minister. What it does not have today is a leader who could protect its citizens, implementing its laws properly. Luckily, as one of the oldest nations, Ethiopia on the basis of its laws has effectively managed to treat law-breakers, both domestic and foreign. Such actions have enabled it to protect what is its own, as it also thwarted the ambitions of neighbours and far off provocateurs to get away with untoward actions against its national sovereignty.
The series of violent acts since October 23rd, admittedly are continuing to afflict the nation; its peace in both urban and rural areas, mostly in Oromia Region is disturbed. Most tragically, even our universities have not been spared of the carnage.
That is why citizens find it harder to suppress anything that reminds them of the nightmare, due to savagery of the crimes witnessed. All those Oromo activists that have been agitating Qeerroos, lawless elements and little educated Oromo youths, to enjoy their freedoms have committed grave injustice against Ethiopians. At the forefront agitating this destruction are Jawar, his preachers of hate and his foot soldiers—using his OMN media network. They have been at the forefront in inciting those youngsters ‘to seize their moment’ and that ‘power now is in Oromo hands’.
The sad part of this is it being executed by Qeerroo, in collaboration with the members of Oromia police. This lawlessness has forced helpless citizens across our country to despair about everyone’s safety.
One of such highly politicised incident, in which even the state has its hands, is the closure of a federal highway on October 12 and 13, 2019 from Amhara Region to Addis Abeba. This was done by the combined forces of Oromia Police and the stick-welding Qeerroos inside Oromia Region, as shown in the picture on the left.
The Oromia police denied any road was closed. That was false, as lies seem to pervade the nation’s police at all levels in the country, including the commanders. Because of this outlaw job, travellingc itizens were forced to spend a night or two on the roadside; some were availed hospitality by folks in the homes of ordinary citizens in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The point here is, the authority to close federal highway, supposedly rests with you, the prime minister. During this time, there was need to remind the regional leaders such road networks were neither under the control of the Amhara and Oromia regional states and that they should immediately be reopened.
Unfortunately, Mr. Prime Minister, you had turned off yourself to execute your authority.
After all, the question vital for the survival of our nation is both citizens and government respecting law and order. Tell me you agree with that: if so I would ask you why the Oromia police are not held accountable for such abuses of power, in collaboration with lawless youths and for closing federal highways or services? We have seen clearly the police force has relegated the vows they have accepted to defend the interests and wellbeing of citizens and the country.
Why has the region’s leadership failed to punish this breach of trust and law? Is this not an evidence pointing to it being part of the crime? On your part, Prime Minister, what is the problem in taking action against the law breaking security officials?
Political as the reason for the highway closure was, i.e., as the Qeerroos put it, they sought to stop citizens from Amhara Region from coming to Addis Abeba to participate in the protest rally called for by Eskinder Nega of the Chair of the Balderas Group in Addis Abeba for October 13.
Who in government, other than you has said this is an illegal act? None!
As you could see from the foregoing, Dear Prime Minister, when you are expected to act with the authority of the Government of Ethiopia, in accordance with the nation’s laws and in full respect of the fundamental human rights of citizens, you have not been seen shouldering those responsibilities.
Luckily, the chairman of the Balderas Group had the intuition and called off the protest rally in time to avoid bloodshed. How is it that the Ethiopian leadership has become actor in such a brinkmanship?
Of course, it is understood that the police officers command operate in concert with your political interests—unlawful as it may be. For instance, they took their clues from you on March 2019, which drained and left them without an iota of hesitancy in going after the Balderas members. Some leading members of the group were imprisoned for months without charges; some were accused suspicion in the Addis Abeba-Bahir Dar killings of officials last June.
Let me remind you Prime Minister your indirect orders to the police and Qeerroo to target the Balderas Group have proved effective against innocent citizens exercising their rights. The police ought, instead to follow leads and stamp out crimes.
This happened as you were hosting invited guests in the nation’s palace on March 29, 2019. That evening you ‘roared’ as if you had experienced some kind of sudden attack in front of the invited guests.
You shouted before the invited guests, loudly asserting, if Eskinder tries to seize power in the next election— through ‘shenanigans’—there would be a war between you and him. That ever since has become a prompt for the Addis Abeba Police as well as Federal Police, the security forces and Qeerroo to challenge anyone you have pointed fingers at. This by itself is a violation of Ethiopian laws, and I am given to understand what you did is simply an abuse of your authority.
I cannot ascribe motive for your inaction when it comes to Jawar Mohammed and his activists, sowing enmity among citizens in our country. At the same time, citizens recall with bitterness, you have allowed Ethiopians to witness Jawar Mohammed canceling the Addis Abeba City Water Supply Project II.
Why pretend you are surprised, if everyone wondered who the government in Ethiopia is after all that Jawar being seen exercising more authority? You were nowhere to defend your government’s projects. Nor could the Addis Abeba City acting mayor, your handpicked novice and a yes man who happens to be at your mercy. He is nobody, without you on his side or the activist supporting his continuing in office.
The more such things happen, the more the functioning of the nation’s institutions are seen to be benefiting those renouncing your name. This helped Jawar Mohammed to pretend being more relevant to the Oromo cause—whatever that may be in this Ethiopia today. There is also the condominiums issue, wherein those who paid their savings for its construction since 2005 were deprived of their payments and the condominiums were in secret transferred to allegedly ‘displaced Oromo’ farmers, reportedly up to three generations.
How could rewarding those farmers, with monies paid by other people toward the construction of the condominiums, ensure citizens’ satisfaction, without coming into conflict with those payors whose rights are violated?
In the circumstances, I worry, Prime Minister, how the next election in May 2020 could be open, free and fair, when all that the institutions of state do is follow your signals or clues who to cower? Don’t you agree this would simply undermine early on competitiveness of the election?
Inefficient government not in tune with the nation’s laws and citizens’ sentiments
About two centuries ago in the United States, as they were working on deepening the reach of the American Constitution (the Amendments), according to the Federalist Papers No. 70 (1788), Alexander Hamilton in an address to the people of New York on March 15, 1788 observed,:
“There can be no need, however, to multiply arguments or examples on this head. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.”
That is a voice today from within Ethiopia too. Our citizens are being killed, banks repeatedly robbed, populations displaced and our churches and mosques torched. We have not heard of the police, the army never endeavored to stop the culprits; nor have the courts passed sentences on the law breakers.
Therefore, through this Open Letter, which I will disseminate as far and wide as I can, I expect you Mr. Prime Minister to react to the benefit of our nation. As a Nobel Laureate—selected to set example to others—I would like you to address in earnest the following questions before the international community with a view to taking a stand and resolving what confronts Ethiopia today:
(a) Why is ethnicity now a factor in the displacement of Ethiopians and/or them savagely being killed, while you in your office have noticeably been absent, or in your remarks more ambivalent than ever before? Is it lack of authority over those that are supposed to obey you? Are you caught between hardliner Jawar Mohammed’s activism and the security forces that have failed to serve citizens?
Trust me, this is a worrying development in Ethiopia, the country turning lawless—by the actions of rowdy groups seeking to exercise authority or making first claim over resources that are not theirs.
(b) Why have you enthroned on Ethiopians the power-hungry anti-Ethiopian Jawar Mohammed, whose loose tongue, supported by huge media network and swift mind to avail himself to sharing state power and financial resources not belonging to him?
(c) One thing that has never been clear is why you have chosen to retreat from the current plight of Ethiopians, who were and are being attacked by those Jawar Mohammed-installed killers he has assigned for action. They still take their cues from OMN—Oromia Media Network.
(d) With your Ethiopian Prosperity Party’s establishment, its stand on ethnicity is confusing. It is not there, but it is there too! Officially effort is being exerted to weaken ethnicity as the basis for party membership. To date, it has been the holy cow of Ethiopian politics, subsequent to TPLF utilising it to consolidate its power for almost three decades. On this, I would ask you if it no longer is a requirement for recruitment into government services, especially in senior level posts, if they are not from the ‘right ethnic group’— to mean the party in power! Is this true? T
o date, Ethiopia has lost countless meritorious Ethiopians that left the country to where the pastures have been greener.
On reflection, i.e., about Ethiopia at this very moment, several scores of our citizens have been killed since October 23, 2019, the night the Qeerroo organiser Jawar Mohammed’s announcement to his followers his life was in danger. An Ethiopian page on October 24 headlined this treachery as the Security crisis unabated as radical qeerroo unleash terror in Oromo region of Ethiopia
This terror Jawar has falsely aroused has continued to trouble the soul of our land. Sadly, this is happening so gruesomely and savagely in Oromia Region, in its universities, where young women are beaten and raped, and their human dignity humiliated, allegedly in the presence of some elements of the security forces and Ethiopia’s Defence Force members within the locality. The security forces lack of reaction is shattering anyone’s humanity, ignoring their allegiance to defend and protect citizens.
Due to raw emotions, this madness spread near and far, with no one to restrain it. The desire of killers to kill and avengers to avenge prevailed, Oromia as its vortex. During this time, the federal government you lead was absent to protect citizens and restrain the violent.
In fact, Ethiopians heard from you for the first time just toward the end of October, when you embarked on a nearly week-long ‘peace-making mission’ along with Defence Minister Lemma Megersa, pleading with Oromo communities throughout the country. Unfortunately, you did not even bother to comfort the helpless victims’ families– who by your own count—had lost 86 members of families by then.
Rightly or wrongly, the interpretation that has reverberated across the country is you were considered more sympathetic to the evildoers.
Since then, you have been preoccupied with the launch of your Prosperity Party. The nation heard you saying, as its name indicates, the party aims to lead citizens to realise the nation’s prosperity dream. Sadening for our nation is also your congratulation to the nation’s youth organized as Qeerroo, Fano and Zerma, etc., to be overjoyed by the party’s emergence, which has come for them. You also have promised these youth groups about plan to erect monuments for the youth groups’ sacrifices.
Prime Minister on this occasion you were still silent about the misdeeds of some of the youth groups, especially some lawless Qeerroo members in Oromia.
Why these deaths and humiliations? It’s because those who were encouraged by the fanatic Jawar Mohammed and Oromia acting president Shimelis Abdisa have, especially the latter on Ireecha Day 2019 arousing the youth about the dawn of a New Day for Oromos and continue to crash ‘Neftengas’—i.e., Amharas.
He urged gullible youths to seize their chance to avenge Menelik’s nation building, misrepresented as ‘historical crimes’, by Oromo activists inflicted on Oromos. The historical distortion notwithstanding, the Oromos no less have a huge role in the building of modern Ethiopia.
Cowards as liberators, or even human beings?
It would be in order to also mention to you here that, with great caution, the Oromo Chief Aba Geda Beyene Sembeto on Oromia Media Network (OMN) on 30 October 2019 described “those that stoned to death and slit their fellow country people as cowards.” With profound revulsion at their actions, he pointed out this is not what our fathers had taught us. At best, those who do such things are not even human beings!”
In the face of such vigilantism by those masquerading as Qeerroo, what equally haunted the nation is its prime minister’s choice of silence, a person the international community has just honoured as Nobel Laureate. He may have possibly done this not to face Oromo rebuke and ostracisation, for criticising one of their own.
We are human and liable to failures in our judgement. However, on this you cannot ask Ethiopians to accept your version of events, when you have failed to attribute the blame at the door of Jawar Mohammed, i.e., for disturbing our nation’s peace, the lives of citizens lost and the visitation of madness he has brought upon our land, the fires of which are still burning.
It is possible, even when the Oromia president behaves like a domestic to Jawar’s and joins campaign of falsification of Ethiopian history, you may possibly have felt there was no one you could trust. You may have also felt in danger for your person and power, the security apparatus, especially some responsible police officials and members joining the criminals, and the institutions of state also possibly not obeying you.
Trust me, such lack of domestic support for a legitimate government of Ethiopia, a founding member of the United Nations, the international community seriously take it as a matter of grave concern.
As you may be aware, after the end of the Cold War, there was need for fresh approach in the management of the post-Cold War world. Thus, this was prepared with counsel of 16 Eminent Persons of renown, and presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 4, 2004 (A/59/565).
Its purpose is to render the United Nations a body “that tackles new and old threats and addresses the security concerns of all States — rich and poor, weak and strong”, i.e., availing it a mechanism to intervene to protect affected populations, for instance, as happened in Ethiopian since October 23, 2019. The Security Council is obliged to do so under the December 2004 consensus of Member States, which, among others, states:
“Whatever perceptions may have prevailed when the Westphalian system first gave rise to the notion of State sovereignty, today it clearly carries with it the obligation of a State to protect the welfare of its own peoples and meet its obligations to the wider international community. But history teaches us all too clearly that it cannot be assumed that every State will always be able, or willing, to meet its responsibilities to protect its own people and avoid harming its neighbours. And in those circumstances, the principles of collective security mean that some portion of those responsibilities should be taken up by the international community“…acting in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to help build the necessary capacity or supply the necessary protection, as the case may be.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed I plead with you to be upfront with the Ethiopian people, among others, please work harder to ensure the equality of all citizens; endeavour for the equality of opportunities, governed by the rule of law.
I should return once again to the earlier Dag Hammarskjold quotation. It shows he was not intimidated by the massive problems the new international organisation encountered in the 1950s; nor of his own inadequacy. Rather he saw the problems as real, but more to the things he could do innovating and solving them. This he did by surrounding himself with intelligent people. He respected education and smart people, without colour differences of the time, which was still raw in those days not holding him back.
We see from Hammarskjold’s public vow, which sounded to me like ‘regrets’ for coming out with problems, because of which he inwardly hopped onto: “We have still to prove our case.” This moved him from success to successes, until he died over the Congo on September 18, 1962.
As a Hammarskjold student of the Organization, I say, how lucky the international community of his time must have been, as the Cold War had started the United Nations under the leadership of a person who cherished his independence from the Big Powers. He started the international civil servant system of administration, peacekeeping operations he started in 1956 and the peace-making ideals that uniquely are his innovation, tha the United Nations is making use of today.
Prime Minister I urge you to consider this as your new beginning. Work for the people of Ethiopia—kind and gentle people. Show them respect and decency, diminish your criticism of people. Poverty and ignorance are never people’s choice. Show them you are working for them, and that you are honest and you do not tolerate laziness.
In so doing, never allow your words to trip you. Never allow complicated cases to be decided by you alone. Allow respected and knowledgeable individuals from within the society to help you in the investigation—example: Eng. Simegn’s killing; Addis Bahr Dar killings of officials, etc.
These last two have stained your reputation; the recent statement by your attorney-general has only added insult to the nation’s injury, further exacerbating the distrust of your government.
Prime Minister, citizens are increasingly afraid of your security establishment. They are reportedly taking liberty to shoot citizens at will, seemingly as a recourse by you and the members of your government to cower citizens into submission. Ethiopia may be a country of poor and little educated majority population. However, trust me, as citizens of an old nation, where government secrecy is complicating politics, people have a clear sense of what is happening inside government.
Without proper institutions, Ethiopia cannot expect to build a functioning democracy. I urge you to ensure the rule of law and accountability of officials. It should be brought to your attention that citizens hear of conditions dictated by political interests that are debilitating the country’s even already weak institutions.
You would be most respected, if you work harder, prioritising and wisely endeavouring to ensure governance improvements fostering proper institutions. If you prove successful in correcting this, you will have made your peace with the people of Ethiopia!
Thank you so very much for this opportunity to speak to power as best as I could and from a distance to draw your attention to the distressing problems our Motherland finds itself in today.