The Statement of the Office of the Prime Minister on the Recent Unrest in Oromia: Few Points of Concern
Jabessa Gurmessa, Finfinne, Oromiya, 27, 10, 2019
The fact that the Prime Minister kept quiet despite the gravity of the problem was a puzzle to many. Why did it take all these days to issue such a vague statement? Is there anything that one can infer from such a delay? What is it that is discussed behind the curtain? There is nothing we are certain about the reasons for the delay in issuing a statement concerning the unrest and hence, there is a cloud of suspicion regarding the intention of our politicians.
Above all, the fact that Abiy’s remark in the statement raises more questions than it answers is worrisome. Particularly, the use of the words ‘wheat’ and ‘weed’ has raised questions among the general public. Many of us are perplexed as to who the term ‘weed’ is referring to.
The most amusing thing about the statement is that it does not explicitly and unequivocally point to the cause of the problem and as well it does not hint a solution and a concrete measure that has to be taken. The statement vows to ensure the prevalence of the rule of law and to bring the criminals to justice. This is mere rhetoric. The problem cannot be addressed by incarcerating or eradicating the ‘weeds’; it has its root in unmet demands of the Oromo Protest. And, the solution requires taking concrete measures to address the demands of the Oromo people.
The statement labels a certain group as an enemy, and hence, it is divisive; this is disgusting. It creates a climate of panic particularly among those who may associate the word ‘weed’ to themselves. The use of such words has the potential to exacerbate the problems in the country by creating hostility and the mutual distrust among different ethnic groups; it polarizes society. Remember that this is not the first time Abiy is labeling his opponents; we all remember ‘ye ken jiboch’, ‘wuski Techi Yihadegoch’, and now ‘arem’. This is the usual strategy that would-be autocrats always employ. Initially, they make sure that the general shares their view and use this to justify the actions they take against their opponents. Therefore, it is in the interst of all of us to stop Abiy from using such divisive strategy before it is too late.
The other worrisome point about the statement is that it implies the potential for measures in violation of the rule of law. Abiy, in his remark, vowed to remove/eradicate the enemy whom he labeled as ‘weeds’. However, there is no indication of what this eradication of ‘weeds’ connotes. Does it mean a cleansing of a certain section of the society? Does it mean arbitrary and extra-judicial killing and/or other illegal measures against opponents? If these are the intention of the premier, then they would be in contravention with the laws of the land. In my view, any statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister has to employ the language of law in the statement. But what we have seen and read is contrary to this. It appears to be a typical poetry writing authored by someone from North Ethiopia.
Moreover, the statement once again made clear Abiy’s stance concerning the FDRE Constitution. The use of the word ‘izboche’ in the statement is an indication of this. This is contrary to the letters and spirit of the constitution which uses the phrase ‘Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ when referring to Ethiopians; Abiy is not willing to use this phrase. One can take this as an implication of the fact this narcissist and psychopath may soon kill the constitution and the multi-national federation.
We also need to be aware of the fact that the threatening words used in the statement and any actions that may ensue can have a boomerang effect. The targeted group, the ‘weeds’, may abandon restraint and decide to fight back, weaken and remove the government via extreme measures; they may feel that they have to defend themselves and their interests at any cost. On the other hand, Abiy Ahmed, the demagogic norm-breaking leader, may in turn consider any attempt at fighting back by the ‘weeds’ as a serious threat and become more hostile. Abiy will most probably interpret this not only as a personal threat but a threat to the continuity of the Ethiopian polity. We need to be mindful of the fact that his initiatives are facing challenges has already angered him. And, he seems frustrated.
In nutshell, Abiy’s remarks, expressed in the statement issued through his office, are indicative of what is to come, and it may negatively contribute to the problem that the polity is grappling with.