By Matebu Benti, Ph.D.
The political crisis in Ethiopia is getting various dimensions. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has divided the country along ethnic lines. With its infamous Article 39 of the constitution, TPLF has made secession of ethnic groups a constitutional right. In its 25 years of brutal rule, TPLF-led EPRDF has been inculcating toxic propaganda and hate into young Ethiopians to pit one ethnic group against the other. The cruel ruling of TPLF being with its divisive and hate-filled strategy has brought the country to the current state of political crisis. TPLF has been setting Ethiopia for destruction. The current most pressing problem in Ethiopia is the systemic and multidimensional human right abuse by the TPLF-led regime.
Such threat to the people of Ethiopia and the unity of the country can be averted when Ethiopians stand united, find a common ground and fight tyranny, brutality, and get rid of the TPLF dictatorial regime and the system it established. On the contrary, some self-proclaimed Oromo political leaders, who present themselves as academics, are repeating the very thing they claim to oppose and worsening the suffering of Ethiopians. They are echoing the TPLF strategies that are being used to divide and rule Ethiopia.
These individuals are harboring under their academic rank and engaging in fighting Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity through their noxious and hate-mongering propaganda that they disseminate on the Oromo Media Network (OMN). These individuals’ political platform is just hate to Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity. Among these bad actors are Dr. Tsegaye Ararsa, University of Melbourne; Dr. Abbas Haji Ganamo, Ryerson University; and Jawar Mohammed, OMN; and Etana Habte. These individuals are using OMN and targeting the young Ethiopians from Oromia region who are suffering under the oppressive and brutal power of TPLF.
While it is clear that thousands of Ethiopians are being heinously killed, tortured and imprisoned by the TPLF-led EPRDF, these OMN groups, are exploiting the current dire situations in Ethiopia, manipulating the psychology of the victims, waging a propaganda war on what they call Amhara, Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity. It would be a big mistake to let these individuals and OMN unabated and to let them continue their hate movement that could lead to ethnic strife in Ethiopia and destroy the country and the future of the young generation.
Should we give a free pass to these individuals who poison the whole political discourse in Ethiopia and who ethicize every grievance? Blind acceptance of this toxic propaganda or being aloof of this negative campaign is tantamount to contributing to their destructive agenda. It is akin to letting our house being destroyed by fire. We should not let the divisive fabrication thrive and our country lead into ethnic conflict. Ethiopians from different corners of the country should speak out when such individuals impose their evil views on the already suffering Ethiopians.
OMN and these individuals apply the following strategies to disseminate hate and mobilize people in Oromia areas towards their sinister goal, which is separation of the Oromigna-speaking Ethiopians from the rest of Ethiopia. It is not clear who is behind this hate movement, however, from their practice, we can see this hate group, and OMN uses the following strategies:
Creating a political movement on the basis of Islam and ethnic lines. Jawar Mohammed, the current Executive Director of OMN appealed to Muslims and tried to mobilize Oromos on the basis of Islam. In his words, this what he said: “እኔ ባለሁበት 99 በመቶ ሙስሊም ነው። ደፍሮ ቀና የሚል የለም አንገታቸውን ነው በሜንጫ የምንለው። …. ኦሮሞ በተነካ ቁጥር እስልምና ይነካል። እስልምና በተነካ ቁጥር ኦሮሞ ይነካል። የኦሮሞ ህዝብ መጠናከር የእስልምና መጠናከር ነው። አክሱም ላይ መስጊድ የምትሰሩት ኦሮሞ ሲጠናከር ነው።” This translated as, “Where I live[d] 99% is Muslim. No one can have the courage to stay upright. If they [referring to Christians or Amharas] have the courage to do so, we will hit their neck with sword. Whenever Oromo is affected, Islam is affected. The strength of the Oromo people is the strength of Islam. You can build mosque at Axum when Oromo get stronger.” This is an obvious campaign to create a political Islam, which is extremely dangerous move. Political movement around radical Islam is destroying a number of countries. Radicalizing the Muslim Oromos in Ethiopia will be catastrophe not only for Ethiopia where Christians and Muslims have peacefully lived together for centuries, but also for the entire geographic region.
Fighting Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. This is a recent one being pushed by Dr. Tsegaye Ararsa. This is what Tsegaye Ararsa put on his Facebook: “ If Alithad or its third generation offspring (Alshabab) was a political Islam in Somalia, Ethiopian orthodox church would be the exact opposite of that, i.e., a political ..but even older than the former by thousands of years. Why should the world fight only political Islamists while sparing their dumpiest counter part in the horn of Africa or elsewhere??” By attacking Ethiopian Orthodox Church, this group attempts to attack the long-standing history and the unity of the country
Attacking Ethiopian unity, Ethiopian history, and everything that symbolizes Ethiopia. Tsegaye Ararsa, who was a teacher at the TPLF cadres’ college (Civil Service University) and who is the Dr. Joseph Goebbels of this movement, repeatedly stated, “Ethiopians do not have national identity.” He further tried to elaborate his point saying that Ethiopian identity is for Amhara and Tigre only. Dr. Tsegay Ararsa also wrote, “Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia did deny his being black. This is to smear the name of one of the greatest black African leader. Emperor Menelik II led the Battle of Adwa, defeated the fascist Italian invaders, and inspired black Africans in their struggle for independence. Emperor Menelik II symbolizes Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity. By discrediting his immense contribution that the world witnessed, the hate groups are attacking Ethiopia. Attacking Emperor Menelik II has become the day-to-day activity of OMN. This is done by design to fabricate hate-ridden story and to disintegrate Ethiopia.
Using pseudo-academic discourse and misinforming and misleading the regular people- One of the deliberate deception constantly broadcast by OMN, Aljazeera, Asafa Jalata and Dr. Abbas Haji Ganamo, is that “between 1868 and 1900, half of all Oromo were killed, around 5 million people.” A rational person first asks whether there were 10 million Oromos during that period. This is a white lie by the so-called Professor Abbas Haji Ganamo and Asafa Jalata. An academic should always be skeptic and should question its sources and verify its accuracy. One needs not to be a genius to refute their claim. In 1950, the population of Ethiopia was 18 million. In the last sixty-five years, the Ethiopian population has grown on average by about 2.7% every year. Given this population trend, in 1887, the total Ethiopian population was estimated to be between three to four million. Abbas Haji Ganamo and Asafa Jaleta have been deliberately echoing this poisonous lie to create havoc in Ethiopia. This is a shameful and unethical act in the academic world.
Recently, Dr. Abbas Haji Ganamo, Etana Habte and had Dr. Ezekiel Gabissa apeared on OMN. This discussion clearly shows the severity of hate campaign that this group is propagating. The discussion was very irresponsible, very graphic, and violence inciting in its presentation. May almighty God save Ethiopia. These individuals are setting stage for ethnic war in Ethiopia. These are some of the things what Professor Abbas Haji Ganamo said: “Someone in Bale told me that his father had told him that he had seen when the Minelik’s army had brought a piece of cloth immersed with disease and killed all the members of some of the tribes except one person.“ Professor Ganamo also said that, “the blood of the Oromos killed flew like a flood and joined a river.” Why does a university professor irresponsibly say this on the media without even trying to check the reliability of the information? Was Emperor Menelik’s army of the 1880s so sophisticated to create and handle biological weapons? How could a professor teaching in civilized world believe this and speak on a media? How could a person, with his bare eyes, see and identify a disease-carrying cloth? How many people should be killed at one place for the blood to flow like a flood and join a river? Ethiopians should not let such dangerous white lie unchallenged. The discussion on OMN is reminiscent of the hate propaganda that led to the Arbagugu and Bedeno genocide of the Amharas, whoever was the perpetrator.
Opposing any movement that leads to unity among Ethiopians of various backgrounds: Using seemingly academic discourse, the OMN group ethicizes everything. Any organization that is not organized on the basis of ethnicity or religion is opposed by these hate mongering individuals. They even call those Ethiopians who are not organized on ethnic lines as “homeless politicians”. For this hate group, Ethiopian identity is a hoax. They even went even further and encouraged others to be organized based on ethnicity to destroy the values that glued Ethiopians together irrespective of ethnic differences. This is one of their approaches to dismantle Ethiopian unity.
The most important question here is, why attacking Ethiopia and Ethiopian unity and broadcasting of hate become the top priority of this OMN group while Ethiopians are suffering under the ruthless TPLF. Since November 2015, about 1000 Ethiopians were killed by TPLF-EPRDF. Thousands are imprisoned and being tortured. Thousands are fleeing the country and dying in ocean. The political leaders like Bekele Gerba, Dr. Merara Gudina, Andualem Arage; and journalists like Eskinder Nega and Temesgen Desalign are languishing in the TPLF dungeon. Defenseless Ethiopians are crying for help. Those who committed the crime are walking freely and making the victims laughingstock. Those who killed the young man and forced his mother to sit on her son’s dead body did not face justice. Instead of emancipating Ethiopians who are under the yoke of the brutal TPLF, the OMN group is giving a propaganda opportunity to TPLF and pushing Ethiopia into a civil war. This is a period for the current generation; and this is the foundation for the coming generation. We cannot stay trapped in our past mishaps. We all have a moral obligation to do soul-searching and work together to bring positive changes Ethiopia. By disseminating hate, no one will benefit. When we have differences, we should disagree constructively not to destroy one another. Hate can never ever be a solution.
By Matebu Benti, Ph.D.