The Errant Politics Of Political Groups In Ethiopia

14 mins read

by Bakri Bazara

The dire security situation in Ethiopia has made the public increasingly anxious as incidences of terroristic acts arose. Random killings, arsons, bank robberies, and extortion of businesses have been on the rise leaving many people helplessly insecure. Mr. Abiye’s government says they are doing all they can to improve security but the public is not at all convinced by that. The public is aware that unless Mr. Abiye addresses the underlying causes of the lack of security unless he stops those groups who have vested interest in terrorizing the public and destabilizing the country, there will be no peace in the country.

Mr. Abiye seems in a quandary. The challenges facing him are monumental. Obstacles from the different competing forces vying to achieve their goals had made Mr. Abiye’s task of governing very hard. As a result, the reform policies he wanted to implement have been proceeding in fits and starts.

The main group annoying Mr.Abiye is TPLF. After being routed out of government more than a year ago by Mr. Abiye and his EPRDF party, the Tigrean leaders who ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for almost three decades had fled to Tigre and barricaded themselves from any attempt by Abiye to get them. From their fortified bunkers in Tigre, they have been waging massive campaigns to destabilize the country with the intent to regain power and the seat of government. Mr.Abiye, as of yet, has not made an attempt to force them out of their bunkers and make them face justice. So now we have an entire region of Tigre controlled by TPLF, making it a de facto independent state.
The other thorn in Mr. Abiye’s side is the Quero movement which has lately become extremely militant. Instigated by their leader, Mr. Jawar Mohamed, the Queros have been combative in getting full control of lands they claim belong to Oromos. Their need to repossess land that they think belongs to them have ended in forcing out non-Oromos who have been living on that land for ages.
These arbitrary forced evictions left many non-Oromos homeless and destitute. A significant number of non-Oromos, predominantly Amaras, were humiliatingly called ‘Neftegna’ or ‘Safari’, dragged out of their homes and sometimes shot dead. The rampage went on uncontrolled , homes and churches were torched and left to burn, and in some cases with people inside them. These horrific and demented acts were carried out in many regions in Oromia with no intervention from the law enforcement authorities to stop the destruction and mayhem. The victims, those who survived, were left to fend for themselves.
Mr Abiye’s government is also struggling to bring into his fold the various armed ethno-nationalist groups who have been operating in their territories freely and have not been amenable to central government.
OLF has been actively campaigning in Oromia state, especially in Harerge and Wollega, for recruits to affiliate with the armed group. It seems like OLF is pursuing a systematic tactic to win the support of the Oromo people and position itself to be their voice. In the process, it has been persecuting other minorities in Oromia state. The armed wing of its organization has been systematically identifying and evicting Non-Oromos, mainly Amaras, from their homes.
In Wollega, which has become the hot bed of insurgency, the local state adminstrators and its law enforcers, the local police, have been overwhelmed and over-powered by armed groups who have been roaming the town and staking out banks and businesses to rob. These crimes were committed in broad day-light within sight of the police, but no action was taken to stop and arrest the criminals. There were some instances where the police seemed to be in cahoots with the criminals, aiding and abating criminals in victimizing non-Oromo people.
In some Amara regions, armed groups have been organized with the purported purpose of defending Amara territory and interests. Some of these groups have been militant in targeting Tigre and Oromo people in their territories and forcing them to leave. The same brutality and callousness meted to Amaras in the Oromo regions have in turn been inflicted on both the Oromos and Tigres In Amara regions. This tit-for-tat has caused loss of innocent lives, destruction of property, and led many to displacement and destitution.
In other parts of the country, such as the Afar and Ogaden regions, insurgents had tried at various times to have control over and dominate their region. These clashes between the local Government and the insurgents exacerbated the problems arising from the lack of security that the local inhabitants routinely face.
Considering the instability in some regions of the country, and the difficulty the Federal government is having in securing and stabilizing those regions, Ethiopians are wondering whether they reached the inflection point at which the country disintegrates into bantustans. A lot of people think we are hopelessly heading in that direction.
So, what needs to be done to save Ethiopia from breaking up and spiraling into an internecine war? Obviously the first task of Mr. Abiye’s government should be to immediately curb the activities of brigands and bring the criminals to justice. The government should responsibly assert its coercive power to maintain law and order. Currently, the actions it had taken were not effective, it had not deterred lawlessness and citizens are becoming more vulnerable to random violent attacks.
The problem lies with the security system in place in some of those troubled federated states. In Oromia state, for example, local Oromos make up the police force and are usually poorly trained and inadequately equipped to execute their duties and responsibilities to the public. Moreover, the whole police force is poorly administered and is riddled with corruption. There were many incidences where non-Oromos sought the protection of the police but did not get it because the police collaborated with the criminals. Such negligence of duty shows how operationally disorganized the police force is and how it has been operating outside the purview of state and Federal laws. This lawlessness should not continue unchecked, Mr. Abiye’s government needs to maintain law and order and immediately remedy this chaotic security situation. With a general election scheduled for next spring, it is all the more important that the country is stabilized and secured.
One possible solution to improve security is to have the Federal police take over the job of security until the next election. The existing local law enforcement officers should be quarantined from the public. If it is necessary to retain them because of fear that unemployment may urge them to join criminal groups, then they should be sent to a training camp till after the election and get retrained in responsible and accountable policing. Hopefully, the bad security condition will improve when a fair and square election is held. When people exercise their voting rights and choose representatives from their communities who are competent, trustworthy, and incorruptible, then all problems associated with mis-governance and lawlessness would be eliminated.
Simultaneously, the government should make efforts to reach out to all political groups, the armed and unarmed, and have a sincere dialogue to break the current political impasse and come up with a political arrangement that satisfies the needs of all groups. It is clear that the only way to break out of this zero-sum political play so far engaged by the competing political groups is by coming up with a negotiated solution that fulfills the needs of all stakeholders. Short of that it would be difficult to bring about peace and stability.
Getting all the political groups to agree on a solution will be an arduous task with many pitfalls, but with good will and trust in each other it is possible to come up with a solution that is acceptable to all.
As a prelude to dialog, all the politically competing groups must immediately desist from inflammatory rehtoric and hold back their followers from committing senseless and emotion-driven violent acts. This is more true of the ‘Quero’ movement, whose leader, Mr. Jawar, has been consistently sending out demagogic messages to his followers through Facebook and other social media. It is in no body’s interest to agitate one’s political party or organization base and imbue it with hate for other groups. Pitting one community against another benefits no one, but some nefarious leaders such as Jawar seem to see that as an expediency. To think that by intimidation and violence one can achieve political ends is an egregious mistake. Moreover, trying to bulldoze one’s way to political power, just like what some Oromo leaders are trying to do, will only elicit detrimental backlashes from the other political groups. Such self-serving pursuit will only widen the gulf between the contending political groups and impede peaceful resolution of disputes. An important fact that must be reminded to all political groups is that the pursuit of a zero-sum politics, the narrow-minded approach of winner takes all, as has been practiced in Ethiopia, is not going to work anymore. Only through dialogue and participative decision-making can differences be reconciled and win-win solutions found.
The political crisis in Ethiopia can leave one grim about its prospect of keeping its territorial integrity and existing as a state. But there is a glimmer of hope that the voice of people who strive to protect it from disassembling will drown the voice of those clamoring to break it upThe formation of political parties such as EZEMA and the Prosperity Party is a good step in the right direction. Mr. Abiye’s Prosperity Party promotes diversity and a ‘shared vision’ and the party models itself as a liberal democracy. Dr.Birhanu Nega’s EZEMA party is also based on liberal democracy and puts a lot of efforts on grass-roots organization of communities. He thinks leadership should come from below and not imposed from above. Both parties are the antithesis of what the ethno-nationalists are espousing and aggressively pursuing. Those of us who are skeptical about ethnic-based politics should throw our lot behind either party. I personally think that we should rally behind Mr.Abiye and his party and fully support him to realize his vision for Ethiopia.
It is evident that Mr. Abiye is saddled with problems from several fronts. At the same time, the public expect from him an immediate resolution of the security problem and set the stage for the coming election next spring. How he will manage all those forces arrayed against him will be closely watched. So far, he has been very cautious in his dealings and only dangled the carrot to appease his antagonists. How long before he brandishes his stick is anybody’s guess.
Bakri Bazara


  1. Election will prove whether EPRDF just changed it’s name or not.

    It is about time, now all parties involved ODP , ADP , SEPDM and those that were stripped of their voting rights for so long such as ANDP , BDP , SDP , GPDM and HNL must call for Prosperity Party to hold inner election ASAP by exercising their rights to vote for Prosperity leadership.

    New party_new manifesto_new election!!!!

  2. Mr Bakri Bazara,
    Your impression about today’s Ethiopia is completely false. You might have been fed this information, as usual from the noo-neftegna groups. Your biased information on Oromo people is a clear evidence about this. Oromo people wants to have its rights respected in this Empire. Oromos want to regain its rights to self administration without forcing non-oromo to fee away from Oromia. Probably, some non-oromo, especially Amhara might have been affected due to their fear of what they have done on Oromos in the last 150 years of Abyssinian rule. I will be happy if you have any such forceful eviction of non-Oromo from Oromia. By the way most of the urban centers established in the hearts of Oromia including Addis (Finfinne) are non-Oromos. If at all forceful eviction existed, how did Amharas in these Oromia towns still peacefully live with their Oromo neighbors? Don’t fabricate false story for political consumption. Oromos and Amharas and others lived for decades without any problem. You wanted to convince others ignorant of this fact about the hospitality Oromo people and create bias against Oromo people.
    The other issue of sickness that I can mention as purely of Amhara political elites creation is blackmailing Qeerroo, the engine for the overthrow of the TPLF regime. The Amhara elites fear Oromo Qeerroos under the assumption that the Qeerroo will not accept the aspired dominance of the old Abyssinian rulers. To get rid of the Qeerroos, the Abyssinian political elites and their western allies are working day and night in defaming the Qeerroo. some times they call them terrorists and other times as jihadists when Qeerroos are coming from different religious groups of the Oromo community. How can a Christian qeerroo be considered as jihadist? All these allegations are based on false premises. Don’t ever try to take side and condemn one group of people without adequate evidence.

  3. W. Somerset Maugham would have put it the way he put it: “The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” We have seen it elsewhere in Europe as well as in the Americas. It’s always just that – a tragedy.

  4. Dulla Tessema

    PP EPRDF is full of ayn aweta criminals who need to be removed not only from power but
    they also need to be banned from ever again exercising their rights to vote in Ethiopian national elections.

  5. The division of Ethiopia into five regions(North, East, West, Center and South) which I saw on the title of this narrative tells to me the aspiration of EPP or EZEMA. I recommend that it is good to aspire what is possible than simply dreaming what cannot materialize. The dream is to categorize Amhara, Agaw, Qimant, Tigray, parts of Affar and northern Tulama Oromo as North, Benishangul Gumuz and western Oromia as west, Southern nations, nationalities and peoples and southern Oromia as South, Somali region, Eastern Oromia and part of Affar as East.

    Even seeing this map decorated in Minilik’s flag is maddening. No one accepts this division. You better stop such non sense.

  6. Mr Birhanu: I appreciate you reading the article I wrote and giving your comments. I would like to make some comments on the comments you made.
    I would like to start with the last sentence of your commentary: “Don’t ever try to take sides and condemn one group without evidence”. The”Don’t ever” part sounds like a threat. But anyways, I will stay civil and try to address some of the issues you raised in your comments.

    First of all I like to state that the information I presented in that article is based on verifiable sources. The assertions I made concerning non-Oromos, particularly Amaras getting evicted from some regions of Oromia is true and can easily be verified. There are a lot of videos on utube and many articles or news reports on-line on evictions of non-Oromos from some regions of Oromia. In particular, I suggest you refer to Amnesty International’s June 8th, 2018 report titled “Ethiopia: Government must protect victims of escalating ethnic attacks”. In it you’ll see the comment made by Joan Nyanuki, Amnesty International director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes, concerning evictions of Amaras from some areas of Wollega.

    You can also google ‘Burayu massacre’ and you will find in Wikipedia all the gory details of that massacre that happened last September. So the information on eviction of non-Oromos , mainly Amaras, from some regions of Oromia is a fact that you can verify by going to the sources I mentioned above. The other statement you made, I quote: “Your impression about today’s Ethiopia is completely false. You might have been fed this information as usual from the noo-neftegna groups”. I guess you meant neo-neftegna. Again, it’s strange that you use such derogatory labeling , such characterization may have been apt in the Ethiopia of 46 years ago, neftegna/ cheesegna of pre-revolution era. We are now in the year 2019, almost 2020, and unfortunately some of you Oromo brothers and sisters still harbor a victim mentality. You need to stop scapegoating current Amara generations for the economic, political, and social systems of their forbears that existed almost half a Century ago. Don’t forget that it was Ethiopians from different ethnic groups, predominantly Amaras, that conceived and carried out the revolution that entitled you ownership of your land and freed you from the exploitative neftegna/cheesegna system.

    Two points that some Oromos like to harp on are historical oppression and exploitation and the fact that they outnumber all the other ethnic groups. I concede that fact, yes Oromos were oppressed and exploited by the then ruling-class and so as other peoples of Ethiopia, though the degree of oppression may have differed from area to area. I also concede that there are more Oromos than other ethnicities even though, as of yet, there is no precise population census. Because of the history of oppression and the fact of large population, Oromos tend to think they are entitled to autonomy(self-rule), rule the whole country, or if both fail, separation and formation of sovereign Oromia. For decades armed Oromo groups such as OLF has been promising its people a sovereign state but because of the Dergue regime and the Woyane regime that did not come to pass.

    The Woyane regime did give the Oromos a semblance of self-rule but tightly reined in by the central government. It is with the demise of the Woyane and the coming of Mr. Abiye’s relatively open government that Oromos became emboldened to think of taking over the state, which I think is farfetched. Separation too is I think farfetched. The only political arrangement that would be acceptable by peace-loving Ethiopians , albeit reluctantly by some, is autonomy for Oromos within a genuine Federal system. There are a significant number of Ethiopians, not only Amaras as some of you Oromos are inclined to think, but also some Oromos, who would rather not have an ethnically-based political system. They would rather see a genuine democratic Ethiopia that extends rights to all individuals regardless of their ethnicity, religion, region, class, and gender.

    You mentioned that Amaras and other non-Oromos in Addis have been living in harmony with Oromos and that there were no conflicts that led to evictions. I guess you wanted to use this fact as proof that there were no evictions of non-Oromos in Oromia. I find this utterly preposterous. Eighty per cent, possibly more, of the inhabitants in Addis are non-oromos. I doubt an Oromo or any other individual of whatever ethnicity would dare to unlawfully evict any resident of the city. So that argument is moot.

    The other counter-argument I like to make is on the point you made concerning the Quero movement. You said that the “Abyssinian elites and their western allies are working day and night in defaming the Qeerroo. Some times they call them terrorists and other times as Jihadists when Qeerroos are coming from different religious groups of the Oromo community”. First, I like to make it clear that in my article there is no reference to Queros as being Jihadists. I used the word terrorism as a general term to explain acts of violence such as killings and destructions of property. As for your point that the “Abyssinian elites” always try to find ways to demonize the Queros is untrue. There may be some who see some Queros as Jihadists, which could be true. Oromos, just like everyone else, have different political orientations and political beliefs, it is possible that some Queros are affiliates of ‘Islamic Front For The Liberation Of Oromia’. This possibility is higher in Harerge where ILFO has been intermittently active for decades.

    Furthermore, the Quero movement, in its initial days, had a lot of support from Amaras and other non-Oromos . The struggle against the Woyane was a collaborative effort that involved all kinds of people. When Bekele Garba was thrown in jail, Amaras and other non-Oromos vehemently protested Woyane’s unjust sentence.

    Again, I appreciate your comments on the article and I hope my comments on the issues you raised are helpful. I believe in the power of dialog — talking to each other, understanding each other’s need, and finding acceptable solutions. Dialog will make us see eye to eye and will erase the false perceptions and beliefs we may have of each other. Cheers.
    Bakri Bazara.

  7. Bakri Bazara;
    Your article and the reply to Mr Birhanu are still flawed. You admitted that your sources are Youtube and Wikipedia, where “gory details were published”. But you took it at face value and associated it with Qeerro without verification of official investigations (although official reports too are often politically motivated) as to who really committed the crimes and on whose behalf. Most of the conflicts and resulting loss of lives are due to the machination of secret agents of the ruling party and in part that of Amhara ultra-nationalist movement. The killings were not properly investigated nor the findings were made public because of the entanglement of the regime in the crimes. However, private and state media alike (both dominated by Amhara ultra-nationalists aka neo-Neftegnas) use this lack of clarity to criminalize the Qeerro and defame the Oromo in general. Both the neo-Neftegna and the old cronies in Abiy’s government have colluded to reinstate the ancien regime of Amhara supremacy and thus have a vested interest to stamp the Oromo struggle for justice and equality as “terrorism”, “secessionism”, etc.
    Your lack of sensitivity and skewed view is exemplified by your statement that in Wollega “armed groups have been roaming the town and staking out banks and businesses to rob”, although a government’s security high official has publicly stated that the robbing of banks was done by government agents with orders from the top. It is expected of a true journalist to question even official statements. When you are presented with reports like “The rampage went on uncontrolled, homes and churches were torched and left to burn, and in some cases with people inside them”, you must have asked where, when, by whom, etc., instead of making them your own words! You are being deluded by fabrications of one interest group. Investigative journalism has nothing to do with copy-pasteing Youtube demagogy.

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