Ethiopia: Toxic Ethnic Politics and the Looming Crisis

By: Nahome M. Freda
oromoprotestsLately the TPLF-led government is lurching from one crisis to another, inflicting hardship, death and destruction to all sectors of the society. Most of it is self-inflicted and the result of a warped ethnic politics imposed forcefully on a diverse country and trumpeted for the last twenty plus years as a cause for celebration even in the face of deteriorating interethnic relations and threatening the countries cohesion. The wanton killings of peaceful Oromo student demonstrators, ethnically motivated displacement of citizens from various parts of the country, the suppression of Muslims’ legitimate demand for religious freedom, the arrest of bloggers, journalists, and opposition politicians and their supporters points to TPLF’s dismal failure in governing a multiethnic and multi-religious country.
TPLF’s ethnic politics has congenital defects that make it incapable of fostering healthy interethnic and interfaith relations. Its mode of governance is inherently bound to create division, cynicism, and suspicion among the various ethnic groups and religions. Even good government policies will be seen with suspicion that they favor this group over that group. Ethnic politics is toxic, creates ethnophobia, and saps positive energy for achieving common objectives. It dewless on what divides rather than unites us. It reduces citizenship to artificially confined ethnic enclaves. It stifles freedom and curtails opportunities for interaction and dialogue. It inhibits creativity and cross-fertilization and free flow of ideas and capital from one part to another. It is expensive as it is bound to create duplicate and parallel systems. It relegates meritocracy and invites nepotism, discrimination, and corruption. Other countries with similar challenges like Ethiopia eschew ethnic politics and address current or legacy issues through other governing modes because they recognize its inherent danger for maintaining peace, cohesion and nationhood. TPLF’s perfidy for ethnic politics and fanning of ethnic venom continues at an accelerated rate (especially after the botched 2007 elections), despite the fact that the destructive effects of its policies is nudging the country to the precipice.
TPLF’s incessant divisionary propaganda, sinister revision of history, and an attempt to blame and exact revenge for real or perceived  grievances that took more than a century ago is nothing but a colossal failure to govern and address the many challenges of today and the past in a civilized and contemporary manner. The party had many historical opportunities to change its destructive ethnic politics (including after the death of its architect-in-chief – Melese Zenawi) but it squandered them all due to its demonstrated lack of capacity to love and respect its own people, illusion of power and grandeur, and utter incompetence and contempt for the views of others. How else would you describe a party (and a leader) that shamelessly declares that its distractive policies are not open for dialogue and would be changed only on its death!? This kind of dark mentality shutters the ears for constructive dialogue and engagement and invites the inevitable confrontation and crisis looming over the horizon.
There is ample evidence to suggest interethnic relations are worse today than when TPLF assumed power more than 20 years ago, as, among other indicators, the growing number of evictions of Ethiopians from one part or another and ethnopobic pronouncements of party hacks demonstrate.  The increasing episodes of ethnically-motivated measures and the simmering discontent are harbingers of the looming crisis Ethiopians of all ethnicities face. The government has refused to heed these warnings and adopt a more conciliatory tone to defuse the tension. Let us not delude ourselves that economic progress will ameliorate cultivated ethnophobia. The fact on the ground points ethnic relations are deteriorating and any economic gains attained so far could evaporate quickly. The TPLF knows this fact as it has tight control over the country but is wedded to its myopic ideology because of its lust for power. It cares less about others, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence on the negative impacts of its policies on the mosaic fabric of the country. Opposition leaders, religious and traditional leaders, intellectuals, the media, and people of goodwill need to confront head on and address this looming crisis urgently.
The challenge is how you do this in a country that has effectively closed essential public space for dialogue (for example through civil society or free press) and freely tramples people’s rights to express themselves. The recent scattered awaking of the opposition and the populous’ growing confidence to stand up for its rights are promising signs. However, no one party or group has the magic solutions to address legitimate ethnic and religious demands and come-up with a viable alternative system acceptable to the majority. That is why all responsible people need to contribute the pieces to an acceptable solution. It will take years of hard work, tenacity, and quite honestly, lots of prayers to rectify the damages TPLF aggravated so irresponsibly. But the work has to start in earnest and now!
Opposition parties need to give priority in their political programs for addressing legitimate ethnic grievances and reversing the hatred purposely cultivated for years. They should demand that the government tone down its negative rhetoric and venomous propaganda and instead take confidence-building measures. They should incorporate talking points on the need for defusing conflicts and fostering reconciliation in their diplomatic engagements with donors and supporters of the government. They should seek assistance and learn from the experiences of others on conflict prevention and resolution strategies and on fostering interethnic dialogue and trust. Outside groups should lobby donor nations and organizations to put pressure on the government to revisit its destructive ethnic politics.
Religious leaders and elders should use their bully pulpits to preach the virtues of forgiveness and co-existence. They should employ lessons from their Ethio-Eritrea reconciliation efforts and assist political parties create a multi-ethnic platform for developing solutions. Intellectuals should actively pursue inquiry on the impacts of ethnic politics and alternatives. They need to develop the rational for reconciliation and craft homegrown governing models and strategies applicable to the Ethiopian context. Elders should use their influence and impress upon the young on the need to build bridges and reach out to compatriots across ethnic boundaries. Writers and artists should use their work to trumpet the virtues of forgiveness and the beauties of diversity and interethnic solidarity. The media should counter the TPLF’s propaganda by giving forum for alternative voices and through programs that foster interethnic and interfaith relations. It is time for people of goodwill from all walks of life to close ranks and reverse the looming crisis!
Long Live Freedom and Diversity!


  1. Mainly Ethnic AMHARAS are the victims of Tigre led regime and OLF hate campaign based on false fabricated stories created by Mad OLF historians to incite Oromos against Amharas for the planned Genocide against Amharas
    TPLF on its part already started the Genocide on Amharas twenty years ago, today AMHARA women are given injection to sterile them so that the population of Amharas reducing in Millions drastically than any other Ethiopian
    The silence and patience of AMHARA people is being considered as a weakness by stupid TPLF andOLF cadres and their disciples, these groups failed to realize the silence and patience of Amharas will be over one day and the consequence of a civil war between two ethnics which has over 20 million population would be catastrophic not only for the two people but also for the entire region
    So far Oromo elites failed to do anything to avert this dangerous looming crisis rather they are adding fuel and one day they will regret and people like Jawar Mohammed, OLF leaders and Tesfaye Gebre Ebab will be held accountable for their hate campaign, write and speach against Amharas
    We have seen the silence of Amharas in the face of killings, displacement and harassment could not stop OLFites and TPLFites and AMHARA people are fade up and saying ENOUGH and they are already buying their Fire Arms selling their cows and oxes to raise their strong Hands against their Historical and deadly enemies bent on eliminating Amharas
    OLF and Tigray elites better come to their sense and stop the attack against Amharas before it is too late

    • Oromo eyaberere endetelemedew lekehen yasgebalehal. ENde amara ye ethiopia telat, leba, guregna, atalay, senf, lemagn yelem. Kefelek malet new, yehe merz afeh what is causing real problem that will lead to destruction. please instead of making hatred speech- ask yourself what cause this? Instead of bragging empty and false, a true brind focuses on solutions. Dedeb kezenam

  2. Good and well written article. The irony is Ethiopian politics is even those who denounce and rejects TPLF’s antics, do the same thing is reverse cycle.
    Instead of encourging never ending protests, why don’t we start a cross party discussions including TPLF. Let us invite them and let them explain why they do what they do, hurling insult is not going to solve the problem but discussion certainly will lead to something worthwhile.
    Thanks again

  3. Tigre people liberation front is a satanic organisation hell bent on destruction. The woyane are hateful racists/ethnicist , destructive, divisive, violent and anti-Ethiopia.

  4. No force can remove EPRDF from its position. If you look at the opposition parties, THere is no strong party which have wide support. All ethinical based parties could not get enough support from outside of their regieon. Also the intemidation of the ruling party will not let them to move forward as they need.. Therfore, as I think, all parties must reach to an agreement by ignoring OR Leaving their difference aside. Otherwitse, their simpely exsitance only benefit their opposition party.

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