By Gemechu Aba Biya
If there were an Oscar for the most delusional politicians, Jawar Mohammed of Ethiopia would win by a large margin. He believes he is the greatest political scientist who ever lived because he has a BA degree in political science from Stanford University. If having a BA degree from a university in political science makes someone a political scientist, then there would be millions of political scientists in the world and tens of thousands political scientists in Ethiopia.
At a conference held in Addis Ababa two years ago, he announced that he was the political adviser to the governments of Malaysia and Singapore while attending high school in the two countries. If attending a high school in a country qualifies someone as a political adviser, then there would be thousands of Ethiopians who would be eligible political advisors to the American government. Talk about delusions of grandeur.
Asked on television about the Prime Minister’s concept of meddemer, broadly interpreted to mean unity of purpose, he responded that since he invented the calculator, there is no need for him to unite with anybody else. During the same interview, he stated that he was leading the alternative government in Ethiopia and that he has as much power, responsibility, and duty as the Prime Minister. He added, with seriousness worthy of a head of state, “opposing is easy, governing difficult”.
Two years ago, he announced that if he wanted to, he could destroy Ethiopia in 24 hours, as if Ethiopia were a fragile piece of glass. He told the New York Times that he would run against the Prime Minister in the next election, adding “And I will defeat him, there is no question about it.” With these types of delusional beliefs, Jawar has proven to be one of the most unhinged Ethiopian politicians.
His delusional views have now produced the drama around his “hunger strike”. He has announced that he has been on a “hunger strike” since January 27 until all “political prisoners” are released from prison in Ethiopia. There may be political prisoners in Ethiopia, but he is certainly not one of them. He is in prison because he has been charged with terrorism.
A hunger strike is a nonviolent method of resistance against a government, but Jawar, the leader of the violent insurrection in Oromia over the last two years, lacks the moral integrity to conduct a nonviolent struggle against the government.
Why a hunger strike?
Activists resort to a hunger strike to advance a just cause, but what is Jawar’s just cause? Is it the destruction of Ethiopia? Is it the ethnic cleansing of Amharas and other non-Oromos in Oromia? Is it the destruction of property in Oromia? Is it the murder of Orthodox Christians and the burning of their churches? Jawar’s only cause is the pursuit of political power at the cost of other people’s lives. His demand for the release of all “political prisoners” is nothing but a demand for his own release from prison.
Activists go on a hunger strike to make people in power feel guilty about an unjust policy or action. Would the Ethiopian government officials feel guilty about bringing Jawar to justice? I doubt it very much. In fact, many in the government rejoice his incarceration. It would have been a dereliction of duty if the government had not laid charges against him for his terrorist activities. The majority of Ethiopians, angry that it took the government too long to charge him, are at last content that he is in prison.
Social advocates resort to a hunger strike to mobilize public opinion. There is no doubt that some of Jawar’s followers would be incensed by his “hunger strike”, but the vast majority of the Ethiopian people care less about him, given the crimes that he has committed against the Ethiopian people over the last three years. He is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Oromo youths, the killings of Amharas and other non-Oromos, and the destruction of property worth millions of dollars.
It is doubtful if that Jawar is fasting. His egotistical personality is incompatible with the decision to go on a hunger strike. When he was outside prison, he had a megaphone, the OMN and other media outlets, that he used extensively to influence the government by advancing his egotistical desires, wishes, and ambitions. Now, he wants to do the same through a “hunger strike” to obtain his release from prison.
Convinced that the government currently faces a political problem in its campaign to subdue the TPLF, he probably believes the time is right to pressure the government to release him. It is possible that his announcement to go on a “hunger strike” may have been coordinated with the TPLF for maximum pressure on the government. There was a recent article on Aiga Forum demanding that he be released. The TPLF, through its members and its western surrogates, has been lobbying NGOs, western governments, and multilateral organizations to pressure the Ethiopian government to stop its military campaign against the TPLF.
This delusional individual believes that his “hunger strike” will rouse his supporters to rise up in Oromia and to galvanize international public opinion against the Ethiopian government. Internal insurrection and outside interference, he fantasizes, would achieve two goals: his release from prison and the return to power of his political ally, the TPLF, at least in Tigray.
But this is unlikely to happen, even if he were on a real hunger strike. The Ethiopian government will never allow the TPLF to come to power again. No government will embrace a political party that is committed to violently overthrowing it and has publicly stated that it will kill the current Prime Minister, “to cut off his head”, as Getachew Reda put it recently.
Hunger strike or not, he will serve his time in jail. It is most unlikely that, even if Jawar were on a real hunger strike, the Ethiopian government would release him from prison before he is convicted, sentenced, and served his time. The Ethiopian public would be opposed to his early release. A lot is at stake. The criminal deserves to be punished.
The Egotistical Jawar
Jawar thrives in crises. He needs crises to recruit followers just like a pig needs mud to protect its skin. Without a political crisis, Jawar becomes irrelevant in Ethiopian politics. If he were released before serving time, he would manufacture crises, promote terrorist activities, and undermine peace and stability. Had he not been in prison, he could have extensively exploited the conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government, exasperating the political situation.
His internment has brought some peace in Ethiopia. He belongs in prison, and the longer he stays there, the better it is for Ethiopia. The court must convict him and put him away for a long time so that Ethiopia can have the peace it deserves for its economic transformation and the Oromo youth can have the opportunity to be employed in productive activities, free from Jawar’s political agitation.
His claim about being on a hunger strike is doubtful. Such a course of action is inconsistent with his personality. Selfish individuals pursue their selfish motives by using others, while avoiding personal inconveniences let alone making personal sacrifices. Jawar, the consummate egotistical individual, would never take any action that would jeopardize his life. He sees himself as being too important, too hallowed, too divine to endanger his own life, even in his pursuit of political power.
The fiction about his “hunger strike” is just political drama, imagined, written, and directed by Jawar; with Jawar as the leading actor; the supporting cast, composed of his groupies, his lawyers, his doctors, and his former employees at OMN. It is entertaining to watch the drama unfold. It is theatrics at its best.
We have been told that he has been without food since January 27, for close to a month. Apparently, an individual can live for many days, even months, without food as long as he or she is drinking water but would lose weight. If indeed he had been without food, he would have lost a lot of weight by now. Had he lost weight, the ever publicity-seeking Jawar would have posted images of his emaciated self on one of the social media outlets. Since he has not released a recent picture of himself, it is clear he is not on a hunger strike.
Omar as the Cheerleader
The story about the “hunger strike” has been partially hatched to convince the American government to pressure the Ethiopian government to release Jawar. The strategy seems to have paid off to some extent. A group of state senators in Minnesota have requested that the US State Department intervene for his release.
Similarly, Ilhan Omar, the Somali-American politician, has stated that “I am deeply alarmed by the situation of the Oromo political prisoners, including Bekele Gerba and other leaders who are on hunger strike”. Ms. Oman should save herself from being “alarmed” about Ethiopia by staying out of Ethiopian politics. She should concentrate on what she was elected to do for her constituents in MN 5th district.
If she needs a foreign country to be alarmed about, she doesn’t need to look too far; she can start worrying about her native country Somalia that is experiencing serious existential problems. She should be alarmed about Somalia. Omar’s “alarm” and self-serving concerns about Ethiopia notwithstanding, the Biden Administration would not interfere on behalf of the “hunger strikers” for a number of reasons.
First, the charges against Jawar are serious: inciting and participating in terrorist activities Second, to participate in Ethiopian politics, he had to renounce his American citizenship. The American government has no legal or moral obligation to interfere on behalf of a non-American. Third, even if he had retained his American citizenship, being an American does not protect him from the law for a crime he has committed in another country. Even if the American government intervenes on his behalf, the Ethiopian government should just ignore it.
The hunger strike drama is a desperate attempt by a desperate individual to get himself released from prison by inciting insurrection and by pressuring the Ethiopian government. It is most unlikely that either of these events will happen. When reality sinks in, he will announce that the “hunger strike” has ended because he has been “convinced” by his devout followers, his religious leaders, his political allies, the Gada elders, and members of his family to stop it.
We will be told that he was “persuaded” to end the fasting for the common good of the Oromo people. That will be the culmination of the drama, until he invents another spectacle using a politically opportune moment in the future. Stay tuned.