BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Gebremariam (not his real name) is a former journalist and my old friend now working for a NGO. When I met him on Thursday morning at a meeting his office organized in Addis Ababa around Bole where he arrived late, I can see from his eyes that he didn’t get enough sleep.
“I didn’t sleep we (the residents of Jemmo Condominium I Addis Ababa) had to carry sticks and protect ourselves from the followers of Jawar who vowed during the day time to come back and burn us sleeping,” he said.
Following the death of dozens of people in different parts of Oromia Region of Ethiopia this week, the national army has intervened to calm the situation, according to the state broadcaster – ETV.
Incited by the Oromia activist Jawar Mohamed facebook post on Thursday about the federal police taking trying to arrest him by taking away his bodyguards, Jawar’s supporters in different parts of Oromia towns killed civilians and burned properties.
Jawar’s post has followed the warning of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed against non-Ethiopian passport holders who are engaged in inciting conflicts in Ethiopia using the media outlets they own.
Jawar Mohamed, who was living I the United States of America holding U.S. passport has played key role in mobilizing the youth of Oromo known as Qeerroo, using social media and his TV channel to end the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated regime.
Meanwhile Jawar becomes a very controversial figure after the Oromo party (Oromo Democratic Party – ODP), which is one of the four members of the ruling coalition and led by Abiy Ahmed took power in April 2018. His statements have been inciting conflicts in different parts of the country from Addis Ababa to Sidama zones and different parts of Oromia region of Ethiopia.
One of the first controversial statements he made after returning home was the fact he declared presence of two governments in Ethiopia – the Qeero government he leads ad the federal government led by Team Lemma, which includes Prime Minister Abiy.
In recent months the activist along with Oromo extremists’, who call for Independence of Oromia as nation, has also been opposing the ODP led regime using his media.
On the contrary, in one of the interviews with BBC Amharic after this week deadly incidents, he stated that he has been peaceful with the ODP and assisting them to save the reform launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from failure.
Calling for the opening of roads blocked across the country by supporters of Jawar this week, the federal Police Commissioner Endeshaw Tasew indicated that Jawar’s facebook post was wrong.
In his statement in the following morning, Meanwhile Commissioner Edeshaw didn’t clearly indicate that his office has decided to end duty of the bodyguards of Jawar that evening.
But he stated that the police have been assigning bodyguards for activists and ending such protections based on the improvement of the security of the country.
Following the death of dozens this week, Oromia region deputy president, who is serving as Pr3eseidet of Oromia Region ad member of ODP, Shimelis came on national and indicated the need for the investigation how the police tried to remove security guards of Jawar Mohamed in the middle of the night.
The statement of Shimelis is followed by the police chief of Oromia region, who described Jawar as the eye of the Oromo people and commitment to protect him, which is also taken as dangerous by many non-Oromo people living in Oromia region of Ethiopia.
They argue that the Oromia Police Commissioner’s statement suggests that Oromia Region Police is not going to intervene whenever the followers of Jawar burn churches, mosques and kill non-Oromo Ethiopian living in Oromia region like witnessed this week.
Reports show that in the past few weeks in Oromia region roads have been blocked by unidentified gangs, who also engaged in stopping cars and removing stickers with the former Ethiopian flag – green, yellow and red (without the emblem in the center).
Eye witnesses and social media posts also show the gangs trying to remove anything written in Amharic alphabet on the cars and public transports passing through Oromia region.
This action has come weeks after the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which mostly uses the old flag, opposed the police when it has forbidden and collected the flag during the Meskel holiday (the discovery of the True Cross) celebrated in the Addis Ababa.
Addis Ababa is also claimed by the Oromia region, as the capital especially after the ruling coalition lost the 2005 general election in the capital. Disappointed by losing the 2005 election in the capital, the late Prime Minister came on camera and said Addis Ababa is the capital of Oromia Region (Finfine).
During the annual thanks giving of the Oromo people, Irrecha, celebration in Addis Ababa for the first time, Shimelis statement on the occasion has also disappointed many people from the Amhara ethnic group, whose party in the ruling coalition joined hands to end the dominance of the TPLF in the ruling coalition.
In his address to the gathering he declared victory of the Oromo people against what he termed ‘the Neftegna” after 150 years of oppression.
The Amhara people mainly disappointed by his statement because the word ‘Neftegna’ (meaning the armed) is associated with the Amhara people (Amharic language speaking people) and he shouldn’t have talked about the past at the time of unity (MEDEMER) preached by the reformist prime Minister Abiy.
While many believe that these recent events could lead to mistrust among the Amhara and Oromo politicians within the ruling coalition and to ethnic division within the military and the federal police, which so far managed its independence and loyalty to the federal government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Not yet independently confirmed leaked email spreading on social media also suggests that Jawar has been working with the TPLF, which has also been opposing the reform of Prime Minister Abiy and reportedly sponsoring conflicts.
Jawar’s facebook post, which caused deaths of dozes of civilians last week, was part of the plan to destabilize the country at a time Prime Minister Abiy goes to Russia.
This week incidents have happened after Prime Minister Abiy left for Russia for Africa-Russia meeting. PM Abiy has so far didn’t comment on the issue publicly.
On the contrary, Jawar and several Oromo figures have vowed to continue what they call -the struggle, which is risking the safety of non-Oromo people living in Oromia region and in some places targeting the Christians as happening in Easter Harer, Arsi and Bale areas. That is now followed by a social media campaign to sign petition demanding for the United States of America to extradite Jawar Mohammed.
Following this week’s killings instigated by Jawar followers, “Be human first. Being Human comes first. Being human comes before religion. Being human comes before ethnicity,” said Ethiopia’s Islamic Affairs Supreme Council President Mufti Haji Umar Ibrahim.
Now the question is, “what kind of lasting solution the regime of Prime Minister Abiy can come up with other than just sending troops to conflict areas after the incidents witnessed this week?”.
But most of all the biggest question is, “Can Ethiopia’s PM Abiy save Ethiopia from turning into the biggest failed state in east Africa?” Or we continue to scarify our sleep like Gebremariam, and lives of dozens of civilians just because the government officials to whom we are paying salaries failed to protect us or work favorite certain groups of the society?