Ethiopian Democracy Off Track: What’s at stake

By Seenaa Jimimo, July 28, 2020

Democracy
(Diplomatic Courier) — Hacaaluu Hundessa’s only weapon was his music. His sentence for singing was death. One of Ethiopia’s most popular musicians, Hacaaluu sang of the plight of the Oromo—Ethiopia’s largest but most repressed ethnic community. His June murder sparked protests around the country and, tragically, confirmed the very repression he sought to end. What’s more, his killing exposed the autocratic DNA of Ethiopia’s government, a regime that benefits from nearly a billion dollars of U.S. aid every year while staying cozy with China and crushing Ethiopia’s most pro-American constituency—the Oromo.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed used the protests following Hacaaluu’s murder as a pretext to jail his political opponents and shut off the country’s internet access, a blackout that has lasted for three weeks. Fearing a democratic electoral repudiation, Abiy also indefinitely postponed Ethiopia’s elections. Those chillingly anti-democratic actions are just the latest chapter of Abiy’s illiberal regime. Amnesty International reported in May that during Abiy’s rule up to 10,000 people were unjustly arrested and that at least 39 people—including a 16-year-old boy—were killed in extrajudicial executions in Oromo-majority regions of Ethiopia.

Paradoxically, Abiy himself is an Oromo. But his refusal to protect the human rights of his own people combined with his democratic backsliding is a problem for Washington. As the largest country in East Africa, Ethiopia has been a vital partner in Washington’s Global War on Terror and could yet provide a bulwark to China’s expansion in Africa. But Ethiopia cannot reliably advance U.S. interests in East Africa if the government in Addis Ababa invites instability by repressing Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. Ending this repression and cementing strong bilateral ties with the United States, as authoritarian countries like China seek inroads to our continent, is the goal of the Oromo community.

It’s a goal that can most swiftly be met with pressure from Washington. Lawmakers, diplomats, and military officials in the U.S. responsible for providing security assistance and funding to Ethiopia should call on Abiy to immediately and unconditionally release the political prisoners he rounded up both before and after Hacaaluu’s murder. As a member of the Oromo diaspora in America, I treasure my protected right of free speech. But I am too frequently reminded that today in Ethiopia I could be jailed along with peaceful Oromo protesters—like human rights activist Jawar Mohammed—just for voicing my opinions.

Fortunately, the U.S. Congress agrees that this goal should be achieved. In April of 2018, The House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Ethiopian government to, “release all activists, journalists, and opposition figures who have been imprisoned for exercising their constitutional rights.

I would ask that Congress go one step further by holding to account anyone in the Ethiopian government who is responsible for human rights violations under the Magnitsky Accountability Act. The Oromo community has been heartened to see the bipartisan application of the Magnitsky Act across two presidential administrations to use America’s considerable might to extend a hand to voiceless minorities that would otherwise be forgotten, or even vanquished.

The same congressional act that called for the release of Ethiopian activists also called on the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to “engage in a cooperative effort to advance democracy.” That clause has never been more needed. Afraid of being voted out of power, Abiy, citing the coronavirus, indefinitely postponed Ethiopia’s elections, which were originally scheduled to take place in May. Ethiopia would face a constitutional crisis should Abiy rule beyond October. And while the virus is, undoubtedly, a serious concern, the United Nations has said that Ethiopia can safely hold elections as soon as August.

A vital part of any robust democracy is a free, independent press. This includes opinion journalism, and outlets dedicated to specific groups like the Oromo. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian government has shut down all independent newspapers published in the Oromo language along with those that report on issues important to the Oromo people. Diaspora blogs have sought to illuminate Oromo issues, but those outlets cannot replace shoe leather reporting in Ethiopia. With the government able to shut down the internet at will, the Oromo seeking news in their own language may soon be forced to rely on carrier pigeons.

Finally, it is my hope that an independent commission will be allowed to investigate Hacaaluu’s assassination. The government clearly has a conflict of interest in the outcome of this investigation and has actively created disinformation about his killing. So far, the government has blamed Hacaaluu’s killing on the Egyptians, and two separate Ethiopian ethnic groups while opting against conducting an official autopsy. As the highest profile victim of anti-Oromo violence, if Hacaaluu cannot receive justice, can any other Oromo expect it?

Hacaaluu’s assassination laid bare Ethiopia’s underlying fragility, which stems from the Ethiopian peoples’ anxiety about losing their democratic and human rights for good. Ethiopia has long been a stable U.S. partner in beating back terrorism and is well-positioned to face burgeoning security challenges. But continuing any meaningful security or economic partnership requires stability. For the U.S., promoting the rights of the Oromo and other oppressed groups in Ethiopia is a national security issue. Congress has already laid out a blueprint that would help return stability to Ethiopia. For the sake of both our countries, it is time to act on it.


About Seenaa Jimimo

Seenaa Jimimo is an Oromo-American born in and raised in Ethiopia. She is the Executive Director of the Oromo Legacy, Leadership and Advocacy Association, a U.S.-based association of grassroots chapters of the Ethiopian Oromo diaspora, advocating for human rights and democracy in Ethiopia.

The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Comments

  1. Great observation! Thanks Seenaa.

    It is high time that anyone, who cares about where Ethiopia is heading, understands the real crises, which have been persistently accumulated since Ethiopia was founded through brutal force, and extend genuine help so as to avert the creation of another “Libya”, “Syria”, or “Yemen” in the Horn of Africa. Abiy Ahmed has already proved himself, beyond doubt, to have the ambitions of the nineteenth century Ethiopian subjugator king, Menilik II. Moreover, he has exhibited that he possesses the traits of the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, and the fascist leader Benito Mussolini in his journey towards becoming populist neo-naftagna leader. What, particularly, the international community must understand is that Abiy Ahmed is controlled by the naftagna remnants who have constituted the exclusive naftagna government system, and used successive régimes of Ethiopia to subjugate the Ethiopian peoples (nations). Sadly, at the heart of the Ethiopian polity has always been hellbent anti-Oromo rhetoric and agenda to destroy, primarily, the Oromo as a nation and subjugate the Ethiopian nation nationalities. In continuing their repressions the Ethiopian successive régimes have employed untold systematic repression and cruel treatments, including assassination, disappearing, mass incarcerating, extra judicial killings and defamation and disinformation propagandas.

    Nevertheless, the onus is on the great Oromo people to work hard in unison and regain their holistic freedom and ascertain their peaceful and dignified existence as a great nation. The Ethiopian nation nationalities also must join hands with their Oromo brothers and sisters to defeat the repressive neo-naftagna regime spearheaded by Abiy Ahmed and bring justice and peace to the region. Oromo, nation nationalities of Ethiopia: Get real; the neo-naftagna regime is the worst enemy and existential threat to all of you. Go beyond the highly coordinated anti-Oromo propagandas, disseminated by the Ethiopian neo-naftagna regime and the naftagna media, and act in unison to achieve inclusive freedoms to the Ethiopian peoples. The Ethiopian neo-naftagna regime is extremely deceptive!

    Moreover, the international community must carefully assess “what is at stake” and take side with the truth and just causes of the Oromo people and nation nationalities of Ethiopia. Countries and international organizations must understand that damping taxpayers’ money in Ethiopia to support tyranny will never achieve intended short-term as well as long-term interests of the international community, apart from helping the Ethiopian government to carry out its repressive acts with impunity. It is time to take bold action!

    Truth and justice shall prevail!
    OA

  2. ኢትዮጵያን ወዴት እያመራች እንደሆነች የሚያሳስባት ማንኛውም ሰው በአሰቃቂ ኃይል ከተመሠረተች ጀምሮ ያለማቋረጥ የተከማቸችውን ትክክለኛውን ቀውስ የሚረዳ እና የሌላ “ሊቢያ” መፈጠርን ለማቆም እውነተኛ እርዳታን የሚጨምርበት ጊዜ ነው ፡፡ ሶሪያ ”ወይም“ በአፍሪካ ቀንድ ”ውስጥ“ ሶሪያ ”፡፡ ዶ / ር ዐቢይ አህመድ በአስራ ዘጠነኛው ክፍለዘመን የኢትዮጵያ ንዑስ ንጉስ ዳግማዊ ምኒሊክ ምኞት እንዳላቸው ቀድሞውንም እራሱን አረጋግ hasል ፡፡ በተጨማሪም ፣ የናዚ መሪ ፣ አዶልፍ ሂትለር እና የፋሺስት መሪው ቤኒቶ ሙሶሊኒ የፕሬዚዳንት ኒዎ-ናፍፋና መሪ ለመሆን ባደረጉት ጉዞ እንዳሳዩት አሳይተዋል ፡፡ በተለይ ዓለም አቀፉ ማህበረሰብ ሊገነዘበው የሚገባው አቢይ አህመድ ብቸኛውን naftagna የመንግስት ስርዓት በሚመሰርቱ ናፊጋና ቀሪዎች ተቆጣጥሮ የኢትዮጵያን ህዝብ (ብሔረሰቦች) ለማዋረድ በተከታታይ የኢትዮጵያን ህዝብ በመጠቀም ነው ፡፡ በሚያሳዝን ሁኔታ ፣ በኢትዮጵያዊነት ልብ ውስጥ ሁልጊዜ በዋነኝነት ኦሮሞን እንደ ብሔር በመገንጠል የኢትዮጵያን ብሄረሰቦች በማዋረድ የኢ-ፍትሃዊነት እና ፀረ-ኦሮሚካዊ አነጋገር እና አጀንዳ ነው ፡፡ የኢትዮጵያዊነት ተከታታይ የወንጀል ድርጊቶች ቅጣታቸውን ሲቀጥሉ ግድያን ፣ የጠፉትን ፣ የጅምላ ጭፍጨፋዎችን ፣ ተጨማሪ የፍትህ ግድያዎችን እና ስም የማጥፋት እና የማሰራጨት ፕሮፓጋንዳዎችን ጨምሮ በማያውቁ ስርዓቶች ላይ ጭካኔ የተሞላበት ጭቆና እና ጭካኔ የተሞላባቸው ህክምናዎችን ሲጠቀሙ ቆይተዋል ፡፡

    የሆነ ሆኖ ታላቁ የኦሮሞ ህዝብ በአንድ ላይ ጠንክሮ ለመስራት እና ሁሉን አቀፍ ነፃነታቸውን መልሶ ለማግኘት እና እንደ ታላቅ ህዝብ ሰላማዊ እና የተከበረ ህልውናን ለማረጋገጥ በትግሉ ላይ ነው። በአብይ አህመድ የተመራውን ጨቋኝ የኒውዮ ናፍፋna ስርዓት ለማሸነፍ እና ፍትህ እና ሰላምን ወደ አከባቢ ለማምጣት የኢትዮጵያ ብሄሮች ብሄረሰብ ከኦሮሞ ወንድሞቻቸውና እህቶቻቸው ጋር በመሆን አንድነታቸውን ማጎልበት አለባቸው ፡፡ ኦሮሞ ፣ የኢትዮጵያ ብሔሮች: እውነታውን ያግኙ ፡፡ የ “ኒዎ-ናፍፋና” ስርዓት ለሁላችሁም እጅግ የከፋ ጠላት እና ሊኖር የሚችል ስጋት ነው ፡፡ በኢትዮጵያ ኒኦ-ናፍፋጋና ገዥ አካል እና naftagna ሚዲያ ከሚያሰራጨው በጣም ከተቀናጀ ፀረ-ኦሮጋን ፕሮፓጋንዶች ያልፉ እና ለኢትዮጵያ ህዝቦች ሁሉን አቀፍ ነፃነት ለማግኘት በአንድነት እርምጃ ይውሰዱ ፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ ኒዮ-ናፍፋና አገዛዝ እጅግ በጣም አታላይ ነው!

    በተጨማሪም ዓለም አቀፉ ማህበረሰብ “አደጋ ላይ ያለውን” በጥንቃቄ በመገምገም እና የኦሮሞ ህዝብ እና የኢትዮጵያ ብሄሮች ብሄረሰቦች ትክክለኛ እና ትክክለኛ ምክንያቶች ከእውነት ጎን መቆም አለባቸው ፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት ጨቋኝ ድርጊቶችን ለመደገፍ በኢትዮጵያ የግብር ከፋዮችን ገንዘብ ማደናቀፍ የኢትዮጵያን መንግስት ጨካኝ ድርጊቶችን እንዲፈጽም ከመርዳት ባለፈ የአጭር ጊዜ እና የአለም አቀፍ ማህበረሰብ በረጅም ጊዜ ጥቅም ላይ እንደማይውል መገንዘብ አለባቸው ፡፡ ደፋር እርምጃ ለመውሰድ ጊዜው አሁን ነው!

    እውነት እና ፍትህ ያሸንፋሉ!

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