The Rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota: Was It a Support for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Reform, and Democracy or a Denunciation of the Amhara Nationalism and Bala Adara Council?
By Barroo Goobee, Friday 19, 2019
The diaspora Oromo community in Minnesota in conjunction with few Ogaden Somali, Afar, and Gambela communities held a mass rally on July 11, 2019 in Saint Paul, MN. The rally was purported to be in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the reform, and democracy. However, judging by the flags, photos, banners, and slogans, and by the ultra-patriotism displayed, the rally was a bizarre and exposes the occasion as has nothing to do with the support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the reform, and democracy. Rather, the Minnesota mass rally has everything to do with denunciation of the groups, particularly the groups that the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) perceives as a threat -the Amhara Nationalism and the Bala Adara council.
The first conspicuous thing I noticed about the rally was the display of Ethiopian flags, a horizontal tricolor of green, yellow, and red with the national emblem superimposed at the center. This phenomenon by itself is an anomaly because the groups that staged the rally were not normally known for their Ethiopian patriotism or the love for the Ethiopian flag. In fact, whenever these groups staged a rally or a demonstration in the past, they hitherto gave allegiance to Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) by displayed the OLF and the Abbaa Gadaa flags. So, the question one might ask is that what purpose did the participants of the rally wanted to achieve by draping themselves in controversial Ethiopian flags and display of sanctimonious patriotism.
The answer is simple. The rally was organized to undermine the Amhara nationalism akin to the Queeros, wrapping themselves with similar flags, attempted to disrupt the Bala Adara press conference a couple weeks ago. This point will be clearer if one pays a close attention to the similarities of the two events. The Qeeros were insisting that the Ethiopian flag with the emblem at the center was the true Ethiopian flag, a clear objection to the plain red, white and green flag preferred by Eskinder Nega and other Amhara nationalists.
Similarly, by wrapping themselves with Ethiopian flags that have emblem in the center, the participants of the rally wanted to undermine what is perceived as the emerging Amhara nationalism by rejecting the traditional flag. Since the flag with the emblem is accepted by EPDRF as the symbol of the ethnic federalism and stands to represent both the diversity and unity of the country and since the Amhara nationalism is antithetical to the current federal arrangement, the main objective of the rally was to send a clear message, to those who are against the ethnic federal system, that the current federal arrangement is here to stay. Another objective of the rally was a tit for tat to the Amhara nationalist rally, in opposition to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a few weeks earlier in Saint Paul, MN and to respond to disparaging remarks made against the Oromos in that rally.
Yet another salient point that gives credence to the rally’s main objective of encountering the Amhara nationalism is the display of Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen’s and Gen. Saere Mekonnen’s photos at the rally. Even though Dr. Abiy’s photo was used to give the rally some semblance of supporting the prime minister, the use of Dr. Ambatches Makonnen and General Saere Mokennen were noticeably used for political expediency to counter once again what the groups and ODP view as the rise of Amhara nationalism.
Currently, there is a widely held belief by ODP and TPLF members that the assassinations of Dr. Ambachew and General Mokonen were the corollary of the rise of Amhara nationalism. Furthermore, there is a narrative by these groups including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to spin what transpired in Bahir Dar last month as an attempt of coup d’état. Therefore, the use of these photos at the rally as buttressed by the press release statement at the conclusion of the rally was to drive these points home. To be frank, such use of the fallen hero’s photos is self-serving and repugnant.
Lastly, The use of Tekele Uma’s, a deputy mayor of Addis Ababa’s, photo was clearly intended to attack Eskinder Nega and the Baladara Council. Among the slogans used to attack Eskinder Nega and the Bala Adara Council are as follows:
- Tekele Uma is our mayor!
- Finfinnee cannot not be ruled by vagabonds!
- The Bala Dara council is a criminal entity and must close its office and leave the city at once. If not, the council and the council only is responsible for what might ensue!
- The Queeros blood was not spilled for The Bala Adara Council!
It is hard to believe how such visceral pronouncements can be construed as support to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad, the reform and democracy. It is also hard to fathom why the rally denounce Eskinder and the Bala Adara council when the participant of the rally themselves were herd saying the same thing regarding the ownership of Addis Ababa. They were chanting that Ethiopia belongs to the more than 84 nations and nationalities. Likewise, they were saying that Finfinnee or Addis Ababa is the capital city belonging to the nations and nationalities in Ethiopia.
For these reasons, I found that the attacks on the Bala Adara were unwarranted and antithetical to the democratic rights of a citizen to the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government to redress of grievances. As far I am concerned, Eskinder Nega and the Bala Adara council are within the bound of their democratic rights when they advocate the Mayor and city administrators of Addis Ababa should be elected by the residents of the city and not appointed by the federal Government.
In summary, notwithstanding the professed support for Abiy Ahmed, reform, and democracy, the rally seemed odd considering the display of ultra-patriotism with affectation of denouncing the Amhara nationalism and the Bala Adara council. Attacking citizens for expressing their political views and exercising their democratic rights is undemocratic and contravenes the current reform process and the efforts of the Prime Minister Ahmed. Also, failure to raise the issues central to the reform and democracy undermines the rally as authentic and independently organized by the diaspora community. Given Addisu Arega’s, Head of ODP secretariat, recent attack against Eskinde Nega and the Bala Adara council, one can surmise the nexus between the Minnesota rally and OPD’s role in organizing the rally. My guess is that ODP representatives in the Ethiopian General Consulate office in Minnesota are the culprit behind organizing the rally with the help of Oromo community leaders benefitted from land grab and long suspected to be the agents of OPDO/ODP.