Political changes in Ethiopia in 2018 created conditions to unseat, arrest and put on trial the former President of the Somali region of Ethiopia, Abdi Mohamud (Abdi Iley). Abdi’s political fortunes were tied to TPLF, the armed organisation that ended 17 years of Derg rule in 1991 but agreed to a peaceful transfer of power in 2018 following demonstrations against the EPRDF government.
he closure of Jail Ogaden by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government paved the way for the opening of the ” infamous Maekalawi Police Station” to the public. Last year the Ethiopian government took a bold decision to unban groups that were once considered terrorist organisations — OLF, Ginbot 7 and ONLF. Those reforms were partly premised on an alliance that came to be known as Oromara — an alliance of Oromo and Amhara activists seeking to effect a political change in Ethiopia. The alliance has now disappeared from the current Ethiopian political discourse.
Amhara opinion leaders, who welcomed the ascendancy of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, now sternly criticise him for not returning Ethiopia to pre-1991 centralisation era to undo decisions taken by triumphant TPLF. In a article published nearly six months ago, Dawit Wolde Giorgis, former Governor of Eritrea under the Derg, had painted a bleak picture of Ethiopia.
Their criticism of the Ethiopian government comes in different forms: op-ed articles, interviews and reports. The split within the Oromara alliance has had another dimension. A group of Amhara political activists has failed to persuade Abiy Ahmed to demolish Annolee Monument built in memory of Menelik’s Neftagna campaigns against the Arsi tribe of Oromos. As Professor Asmerom Legesse, an expert on the Gaadaa system said, Menelik conquered Arsi territory after Europeans had given him modern weapons.
One of the latest audio reports released by opposition journalists against Abiy Ahmed aims to describe changes in the Somali region of Ethiopia as one facilitated by Qatar to install extremist leaders. Presented a young Amhara journalist, Fanuwel Kiflu, the report, according to the political analyst, Faisal Roble, argues that changes in the Somali Region are a threat to the unity of Ethiopia.
Kiflu’s unsubstantiated allegations are aimed to subtly accuse Abiy Ahmed of authorising a take-over of the Somali region by extremists who want to rule the region by Sharia. This disinformation agenda has the sinister but unstated goal to liken Dr Abiy Ahmed to Lij Iyasu, the Ethiopian ruler of whom leaders of Tewahedo Church accused embracing Islam. The report by Kiflu jeopardises coexistence of Ethiopian communities while at the same time turns attention away from plight of Amhara people suffering at the hands of fractious groups dreaming of returning Ethiopia to unitary, centralised state conceived by Menelik II.
Within Amhara region two factions are contesting for the federal representation ticket. One faction places its cards on political violence that culminated in the assassination of an Ethiopian General a few months ago. The other faction realises the irreversibility of gains made by other Ethiopian nationalities since 1991. Political extremism in the Amhara region is the most potent threat to the Ethiopian unity. One way to lessen the impact of intra-Amhara political disorientation and discredit changes under Abiy Ahmed is to concoct religious hostilities in Ethiopia. Kiflu’s report shows the true character of extremist Amhara propagandists. By focusing on the Somali region they had chosen to make themselves known to millions of patriotic and peace-loving Ethiopians.
By Tilahun Hassen
Merkato , Addis Ababa