By Ahungena. Alemayehu
The very first incident was a harbinger of doom. Less than a month into PM Abiy Ahmed’s tenure, a 13-year old Amhara/Orthodox Christian shepherd is attacked with a machete. His genitals are sliced away and his eyes are gouged out. His name is Abeter Werku.
Is genocide against the Amhara/Orthodox Christians being perpetrated under the watch of Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize winning prime minster of Ethiopia?
According to Kofi Anaan, Nobel Prize winning former UN secretary general,
“ A genocide begins with the killing of one man – not for what he has done, but because of who he is.” If that is the definition of genocide, what then is the magnitude of the crime we are talking about?
In October of last year, over one hundred innocent Amharas/Orthodox Christians were killed or wounded for who they are. The well-organized, premeditated massacre took place as Muslim Oromo extremist Jawar Mohammed raised the alarm that his government-supplied security detail was being removed. Hours before the incident, Jawar’s Qerro organization was placed on alert and was waiting for his signal. Eighty-seven people were savagely slaughtered and two dozen churches burnt in the Oromo Region. An Oromo government removes the security detail of an Oromo activist and Amhara/Orthodox Christians hundreds of kilometers away are slaughtered! We see that the genocide started with the killing of more than one man for who they are, and not for what they have done.
No one was brought to justice. Most government authorities made statements expressing solidarity with the Islamic Oromo extremist Jawar who was responsible for inciting the violence. Still, the worst was to yet to come — only seven months later.
During the most recent genocidal act, July 2020, over 200 Amharas/ Orthodox Christians*** were killed by machete wielding mobs in the most gruesome and savage manner. More than a thousand homes, vehicles, buildings, businesses and schools were looted, burnt down or destroyed. Neither breastfed children nor octogenarians were spared. Perpetrators were meticulous in their destruction and went about with a list of names of target households and businesses. Most of this destructive and genocidal rampage took place in the Oromo Region. Ethiopian Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed is the chairman of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (now Oromo Prosperity Party) that governs this region.
Federal Regional government military and police officers either stood by on the pretext of not having received orders, or in some cases, supplied the murderous mob with assault rifles and other weapons.
Had the government taken the appropriate action when Jawar’s mob, killed and hanged up an innocent Orthodox Christian truck driver, the subsequent carnages may have been prevented. That happened two years ago in Shashemene, now location of the worst destruction of the June 2020 Amhara/Orthodox Christian genocide.
Only a month after the lynching of the driver in Shashemene, in September of 2018, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, a community of Orthodox Christians were attacked with machete wielding extremist Oromo youth and slaughtered in the cruelest manner imaginable. Their homes and businesses were looted and destroyed. A media blackout was put in place to muffle the hideous crime. Abiy Ahmed’s police responded by rounding up innocent Amhara/Orthodox Christian youth in Addis Ababa and sending them to a concentration camp (military barracks). The government attacked those who offered humanitarian aid to the victims while the perpetrators of the gruesome Burayyu Massacre were not brought to justice. A peaceful demonstration condemning the violence ensued. Police arrested five unarmed Addis Ababa youth, shot and killed them execution style on the street. No one was brought to justice.
A month before that, in July, hundreds of Amharas/ Orthodox Christians were killed, hundreds of women raped, ten churches torched and several priests burnt alive as thousands were displaced from Jigjiga and other places of Ethiopia’s Somali Region. Author of this article has personally witnessed this mayhem.
Over a hundred innocent Amhara/ Orthodox Christian farmers have also been killed with hundreds of houses burnt in Metekel, Benshangul Gumuz during the same period.
In and around Addis Ababa, the homes of hundreds of innocent Amhara/ Orthodox Christians have been bulldozed and the residents chased away by police from the area. Most of these people had purchased their homes legally and had paid utility bills and taxes to the local government for years. This eviction continued intensified even during the so-called Covid-19 State of Emergency period.
Mass media have been allowed to make public hate speech that send both overt and codified hate messages against the Amhara/Orthodox Christians. Several key authority figures also participated in sending such codified hate message. A case in point is Oromiya Killil President, Shimelis Abdissa’s infamous “we broke the Neftegna and conquered the capital city” speech. This speech was made at the greatest Oromo cultural festivity ever as tens of millions watched the celebrations locally and internationally. Several media outlets that spew hate non-stop against the Amahara/Orhtodox Christians were left unchecked.
The government of Abiy Ahmed failed to heed warnings of international organizations, including ICG. For instance, ICG warned of the prospect of ethnic cleansing and violence against the Amhara/Orthodox during Sidama’s upheaval for Killil designation. The government took no action to protect the endangered group from the impending violence. In fact, Abiy chose to take a trip abroad as mobs descended on the unprotected Amhara/Orthodox civilians, killing them and burning their churches. Islamic Oromo extremist Jawar was openly calling for violence in Sidama at the time.
Even though genocide and ethnic cleansing crimes against the Amhara/Orthodox Christians did not commence with Abiy Ahmed’s tenure as Prime Minster, such acts have severely intensified in degree and greatly widened in scope. Genocide against the Amhara was inaugurated with TPLF’s rise to power in Ethiopia. TPLF’s then partners, the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) and IFLO (Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia), started a government sanctioned rampage of ethnic cleansing and genocide against innocent Amhara/Orthodox Christians in several areas that they jointly administered. That was in the 1990’s.
The TPLF led government, that installed an apartheid like Ethno-linguistic federal system, openly identified the Amhara/Orothodox Christians as public enemy and curbed their political and legal rights in almost all of the regions. Genocide is defined as “The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, religious, political, or ethnic group” and, as such, genocide has been committed against the Amhara/Orthodox Christians by the TPLF.
When Abiy Ahmed came to power, the persecuted Amhara/Orthodox were among the people who wholeheartedly supported him and saw him as a beacon of hope. It did not matter to them that he was chairman of the OPDO (Oromo People’s Democratic Oganization), an organization responsible for the displacement of tens of thousands of Amharas (subsequent to the expulsion of the OLF and IFLO). They believed Abiy Ahmed’s message of unity and reconciliation and welcomed him with open arms.
What followed, however, has been unprecedented waves of genocidal violence. Like we saw earlier, all of this violence against the innocent Amahara/Othodox farmers, residents and business people is triggered by incidents in which they have no involvement at all.
Take the latest genocidal rampage of Muslim Oromo mobs against the Amhara/Orthodox for example. The prompting incident was the assassination of a famous Oromo singer by Oromo gunmen, who according to the government, were operating under the auspices of the military wing of the OLF. An Oromo gets killed by fellow Oromo and thousands of properties belonging to Amhara/Orthodox get razed. Hundreds of Amhara/Orthodox Christians get slaughtered by machete wielding Oromo youth chanting, “Allahu Akbar!”.
Yes. Genocide against the Amhara/Orthodox Christians of Ethiopia is unfolding with all the characteristic features of world-renowned genocides, complete with governmental participation and obfuscation as well as non-governmental apologetics.
In summary, although the genocide against the Amhara has commenced three decades ago with the rise of TPLF to power, Amhara/Orthodox hunting has entered an intensified open-season stage during the tenure of Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed. The magnitude of the massacre, the involvement of government personnel and the widening of the scope has reached more than alarming levels. The injury and memory of one genocidal riot is being eclipsed by yet a more horrific and massive subsequent genocidal destruction. With these successive acts of genocide, the Amhara/Orthodox have been pushed to the very edge of the precipice. Any attempt to push them any further could only result in a mutual decent to oblivion. Quoting from Kofi Anaan again, “What begins with the failure to uphold the dignity of one life, all too often ends with a calamity for entire nations.”
Abiy Ahmed can stop this genocide in its tracks and be on the right side of history, or continue the vision of his predecessors and be thrown in the dust bin of history alongside Zenawi, Hitler and Mussolini.
*it is not the intent of this article to denigrate Abiy Ahmed. Nobody can deny that the coming to power and the inaugural speech of PM Abiy Ahmed has veered the country from the verge of doom. He has allowed unprecedented freedom of the press. He has freed political prisoners and welcomed exiled political parties. True, most of these political parties could only peacefully operate in their hotels or offices, as the climate of government-sanctioned ethnic violence and strife restricts their movement severely.
Author also understands that Abiy Ahmed is leading a reform and not a revolution. As thus, Abiy has inherited millions of TPLF trained cadres and military personnel, whose recruitment and advancement were based on submissive incompetence, Amhara/Orhodox Christian hate and thirst for personal enrichment. On top of that, Abiy has faced internal competition form power-hungry extremist Oromo groups of both the Islamic Oromo and OLF variety.
Even though PM Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize, he has miserably failed, so far, to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia. Emerging from decades of civil-war and ethnic strife, the foremost need of Ethiopian politics was reconciliation. It is not to say that it would have been an easy task, given the communist background of many of the contenders. It is to state the fact that Abiy has not taken any genuine or concrete steps towards internal peace making. Any plans for prosperity and development will only be derailed by unreconciled conflicts bent on vengeance, as the Shashemene and Ziway destructions clearly demonstrate. Lastly, Abiy Ahmed’s government had failed to uphold law and order as its legal arm made innocent people suffer while criminals roamed free. The recent steps taken against criminals that incited genocidal violence is encouraging, while the arrest of innocent non-violent advocates of citizen’s rights and government critics (Yilikal, Lidetu, Iskindir etc.) is disheartening. Arrests should be made on genuine criminal grounds and not on trumped-up charges just because a person posed a challenge to Abiy Ahmed’s power.
** **A person could be attacked as an Amhara for having ancestral roots in the current Amhara region of Ethiopia, or for being an Amharc language speaker, an ethnic Amhara or an orthodox Christian of any ethnicity.
*** Figures quoted here are all from those supplied by government agencies. Numbers for the dead, injured or displaced people / destroyed property quoted by non-governmental sources are much higher.
- Ethnic cleansing in Oromia
- Ethiopia’s week of unrest sees 239 dead, 3,500 arrested, Washington Post, July 8, 2020
- “Ethiopia: Thousands protest after deadly ethnic violence”. Al Jazeera English. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- “Hunted for their ethnicity, displaced Ethiopians ask: why us?”. news24. AFP. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- “Radicalized Oromo Ethno-nationalists allegedly massacred at least 60 Ethiopians near Addis Ababa”. Borkena. 16 September 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2019.