Yonas Biru, PhD
I. Executive Summary
In 2018, Ethiopia’s future was bright with both local and international stars aligned in her favor. Its citizens were beaming with hope and enthusiasm for peace, security, progress, and prosperity. The international community was opening its wallet wide to finance Prime Minister (PM) Abiy’s reforms with unprecedentedly generous loans and grants. Those days are gone, and the hope both Ethiopians and the international community had on the PM given way to despair and vexation.
Today, Ethiopia is at a crossroad. One road leads us to a stagnant economy with little hope to escape from poverty and the other points to a future of uncertainty with a conflict-triggered existentialcrisis looming heavy on the horizon. Ethiopia should take neither road. Instead, it must find it possible to forge a path back-to-the-future. This requires us to: (1) come to terms with what derailed us from the 2018 hope for change, and (2) identify and thwart the sources of the tribal inertia and momentum that are pushing the nation toward existential crisis.
The answer to the question “what derailed us from the path of a bright future” is unequivocal: It is PM Abiy. He pushed the nation into an inevitably predictable and totally avoidable crisis on many fronts. His four years in office should have given him ample humbling experience to reflect back and work on the areas where he needs improvement. Instead, with a sense of infallibility and certainly one of accountability to no one, he forges forward with his failed ways. Ironically, the speech he gave to high-brass military officers last week suggests he has given up on his democratic experiment. In his speech, he was flirting with the military for support.
Hope is the only hope Ethiopia has. The hope that, in 2018, made Ethiopians of all creed and greed forget past reproaches and hope for a bright future needs to be resuscitated. Courting the military establishment is a sign of regression not of progress.
The PM is a visionary leader. For the most part, his problems are management related and are fixable, but I have little confidence that he is amenable for change on his own volition. Ethiopians of all stripes must exertpressure to force a path correction. Time is running out.
Another troubling dynamic is a dangerous conflict brewing between Amhara and Oromo tribalists. Lurking beneath this conflict is a quantum energy gathering strength like the crackle of electricity before a lightning storm. Understanding this dynamic is critical to find an entry-point to defuse the two groups’ self-destructive energy.
Anyone who understands how tribal tensions can spiral down with an entropic inertia will understand the danger of an escalating conflict extremist forces. The question whether it is Amhara or Oromo extremists at fault is not as important as the dynamic that can spiral out of control as the two groups escalate their conflict, drawing energy from their hate to, and fear of, each other.
Politics that is based on hate and fear by nature leads to grievance and seeing every conflict large or small as an existential threat. Each group tries to portray itself as a victim of past and present atrocities and in danger of extinction. That is why tribal extremists portray their tribes as victims of genocide. Consequently, the national psychology is dominated by a deep sense of despair and addiction to anger, feeding the flames of discord, recrimination, and retribution.
This dynamic is best explained by the second law of thermodynamics (a natural tendency to degenerate into disorder) and entropy (the lack of predictability of the degenerative process). If we fail to short-circuit the transmission line that allows radical Amhara and Oromo forces to feed off of each other’s negative energy, Ethiopia will enter a zone of entropic disorder. Regardless of who is at fault, who did what to whom, when and why, the solution is not giving support to our tribe, but introducing new energy that will defuse the gathering entropic tornedo.
The two relevant parties in whose hands the future of Ethiopia primarily resides are the PM and the Amhara tribal land. It is only if the two fail to seize the moment that the crisis would be doomed to become an existential.
II. Back to the Future: Reflecting on Past Missed Opportunities
Someone, whose name I have long forgotten, said political assessments and clarion calls for action that do not conform to popular opinion go through three phases. First, they are ridiculed as crackpots, then they are opposed as misguided, and eventually they are accepted as being self-evident truths. All too often, however, it would be too late to respond to political assessments and clarion calls for change by the time they become accepted as self-evident truths.
History teaches us that Galileo was summoned to “the Holy Office” and put on trial for opining that the Earth revolves around the sun. Rome was not prepared to unlearn its national identity anchored in its religion that the Earth is the uncontestable center of the universe. Galileo was forced to plead guilty and condemned to house arrest where he languished for nearly a decade before his death in 1642. Today, what Galileo said in 1663 is a self-evident truth.
A closer look at Ethiopia’s perpetual socio-economic and political problems shows a similar phenomenon in the 21st century. As I have noted in my article titled “Ethiopia’s Political Problems Reside in Its Mythological National Identity”, our general outlook that is simmered in our mythological and theological national identity is the story behind our misery.
Our mythological identity leads us to see every local or geopolitical disagreement as a conspiracy to dismember our nation. Our nation, we are quick to note, is recognized in the Bible, the Quran, and Greek mythology. Our greatness, we believe, is affirmed by Adwa. Furthermore, our antiquated and backward-looking national identity explains our failure to resolve conflicts through a forward-looking dialogue. Oromo intellectuals are preoccupied with the obsession resurrect Geda and make it Oromo’s unifying culture. Tigrayan intellectuals go even further to the 4th century to exhume the Axumite empire from the grave to build their “Tigrayan exceptionalism” identity around it.
This explains how an Ethiopian can be a distinguished professor in matters of geopolitics and turn into a cross between a 19th century tribal warrior and a reclusive monk at the drop of a hat when it comes to Ethiopian politics. He seamlessly aligns himself with his village’s Qerros and Fannos and effortlessly draws his energy from the orthodoxy of his anachronistic belief system.
I have written political commentaries since 1992. Quite often my commentaries and predictions go contrary to popular opinion. Though time has proven them right in almost all cases, they are often seen as detached from Ethiopia’s reality, an affront to the Ethiopian culture or even treasonous. Ethio-360 had a special program on me, labeling me as “the most dangerous Ethiopian.” The most common characterization, however, is “a CIA agent,” for venturing out of the gridlines of our antiquated collective outlook.
I will provide five examples from my commentaries (One from 1998 and the rest from 2018 to 2022) and discuss them at length. This is necessary for three reasons. First, it is critical to understand our current crisis was inevitably predictable and totally avoidable. Second, it will show the problem is not only the PM’s failed governance, but also with the Ethiopian mindset that has chained the intellectual nomenklatura to anachronistic belief system from distant centuries. Third, it will help us to reflect on the past and chart our back-to-the-future endeavor.
II.1. Ethiopia’s Missed Opportunity to Side with EPLF and Defeat TPLF in 1998
Ethiopia is where it is today because of many missed opportunities. The most damning missedopportunity that allowed tribalism to take root in Ethiopia was our failure to side with Eritrea to defeat TPLF in the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean war. The popular opinion at the time was that Eritrea war working in cahoots with the US and TPLF to dismember Ethiopia.
I was the lone voice arguing against the paranoic outlook and advocating to side with Eritrea in an article titled “Sacred Sin: Beyond Political Razzle Dazzle.” The sin was siding with Eritrea to defeat our government. I saw it as a sacred sin because the ultimate objective was to save Ethiopia from the evils of TPLF. Just like today’s #NoMore diaspora, the diaspora forces of the time invaded the streets of Western nations wrapped up with green, yellow, and red, and jumping up and down, condemning the US and Eritrea. One can only imagine what the turn of events could have been had Ethiopians joined forces with Eritrea. Today, the wisdom to side with Eritrea is a self-evident truth.
II.2. A Nation Without a PR Complex
From the time the PM took office in 2018, the danger with his failure to build robust public relations (PR) and communication ecosystems was inevitably obvious. In the absence of a robust PR ecosystem, Tigray, Oromo, and Amhara tribal leaders monopolized the media with polarizing narratives and destabilized the nation. The Prime Minister held the view that all the lies and polarizing narratives will create አቧራ not አሻራ, following the time old Ethiopian idiom“እውነት እና ዉሃ እያደር ይጠራል.” TPLF turned the አቧራ into a tsunami that threw the PM around like a rag doll.
It is not farfetched to argue that a robust PR ecosystem could have changed the trajectory of the confrontation between the government and TPLF. For two years before the war, TPLF was preparing its region for war through a militaristic PR campaign, following Japan’s and Germany’s Pre-World War II psychological warfare. One can argue as I have that a robust PR could have altered TPLF’s war calculus. Short of that it could have mitigated the war’s damage.
In April 2019, I wrote an open letter to the PM, stating: “The highways of history are riddled with corpses of excellent government visions, reforms and policies that were killed by unanswered negative propaganda. The fate of your brilliant reform agenda depends on your success in having a robust communication ecosystem.” The overwhelming majority of Ethiopian diaspora organizations and political leaders refused to sign the petition. Some did not want to criticize the PM in public. Others were not interested in having the PM change course. They wanted him out.
TPLF with the help of hired lobbyists and media influencers knew it was hard to criticize the PM’s transformative reforms. Brilliantly, they went after him as a proxy to thwart his reforms. They rebranded him as anti-democratic and genocider. Their unanswered propaganda campaign took traction internationally. Their strategy was as obvious as a daylight. The PM was oblivious.
Today, the PM’s image is tarnished both at home and internationally, and his reform agenda is crippled and gasping for air. Even worse, Ethiopia is increasingly exposed to existential crisis. In 2022, the PM established a PR office with a head who holds a cabinet position. The PM’s recent ሙዝ በዳቦ ግመጡ statement and his Power Point assisted lecture to high-brass military officers show he remains oblivious to the concept of PR. Even worse, judging by the overheated international PR campaign against Ethiopia and the deafening silence from Ethiopia shows the new PR is stillborn. The electronic life support control and biometric monitoring for PR shows no sign of life.
II.3. A Geopolitically Blessed Nation Without a Geopolitical Strategy
For at least two years, I wrote about the damage Ethiopia will suffer because of the PM’s inexplicable refusal to hire lobbyists in the US. In March 2021, I reiterated my worries in a petition titled “It is a Matter of National Emergency.” TPLF lobbyists mopped the proverbial floor with our green, yellow, and red flag that the #NoShow PM and the #NoMore diaspora handed them. A manageable geopolitical issue that could have been addressed with geopolitical strategic tools was turned into a “David v. Goliad” street theatre with #NoMore ሆያ ሆየ. The US was branded as an enemy bent on dismembering Ethiopia. It was Déjà vu — a rerun of the 1998 street melodrama.
I also warned about the danger of flirting with Pan Africanism that ill-informed Ethiopian intellectuals both on the home front and the diaspora peddled as a panacea for our geopolitical problem. At one point the PM seemed all but the 21st Century version of Thomas Sankara – a Marxist military junta who at age 33 took power in Burkina Fasso by way of a coup d’état and tried to set up a revolutionary government inspired by Cuba’s Castro.
The lack of a national strategy and the utter incompetence in our foreign affairs team led Ethiopia to random walk down the geopolitical landscape guided by confusion and sense of betrayal. Professor Al Mariam, a barometer for Ethiopians’ sentiment towards outsiders, wrote series of articles with such titles as “Susan Rice’s Revenge and Last Hurrah: Jeffrey TPLFeltman (Hitman) Is Itching for a Fight in Ethiopia/Horn of Africa!”; and “Clashes of Civilizations: Ethiopia and the U.S.”
Ethiopia, the colorful Professor said, is the “cradle of humankind” and “the tip of the spear and steel shield in confronting white supremacy.”
Crowded out in the Professor’s “ዱብ ዱብ ይላል እንደ በረዶ በልጅነቱ በርሃ ለምዶ” narrative is a hard reality that Ethiopia depends on food aid, budget aid, development aid and God-knows-what aid from the very nations that he calls the cabals of white supremacy bent on destroying Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s extraordinary geopolitical spectacle is epitomized with a thick stick in one hand for the “ዱብ ዱብ ይላል” defiant dance and a hat in the other hand for panhandling.
It did not take long before the PM realized emotional reactions and saber-rattling for a duel with the US produce cacophony and heat not light. The deterioration of the nation’s economy and the crippling shortage of foreign exchange (both of which were totally predictable) left the PM no option but to change path. Late in the game, he agreed to hire a lobbyist. Even then he provided limited resources in a stop and go fashion – way too little, way too late, and too haphazard. The firm, Squire Patton Boggs, LLC, the PM hired for 6 months at $60,000 a month is second tier.
Powerhouse lobbying firms go for $200,000 a month. They are the ones with access to the movers and shakers of the US policy. In 2021, the PM hired a second-tier firm for three months at $50,000. It did not do well. So. Why go to another second-tier firm? The PM simply does not get it. You don’t hire a second-tier lobbyist when Egypt, TPLF and Sudan are represented with multiple powerhouse lobbying firms commanding $200,000 a month each.
On the positive side, the PM has toned down and even distanced himself from the Pan Africanism craze. With no other viable option, he submitted to the US and European demands for a peaceful resolution with an unequivocal phrase: “Effective Immediately!” The diaspora community who pushed the PM to confront the West, promising to help mitigate Ethiopia’s foreign exchange shortage, went into hibernation, hanging “#NoHear, #NoSee” sign on the door of their hibernating cave.
The PM threw a wet blanket on #NoMore. In this week’s speech before high-brass military officers, he compared the #NoMore movement with the student movement’s “Self-determination” and “land for the tiller” slogans. He said: movement’s like #NoMore have neither concept nor sober analysis behind them.
The lesson to be learned from this is that the PM could have been the driver of the peace agenda, rather than being a reluctant partner who is dragged to the negotiation table under international pressure, as I advised in 2021. He had all the opportunity to leverage Ethiopia’s geopolitical location as an asset. He turned it into a liability, with the Ethiopian elite class cheering him on, only to go into hibernation when to rubber hit the road and push came to shove.
II.4. A Military Campaign without a Military Strategy
In November 2020, I argued that militarily advancing beyond Axum and Shire and entering Mekele would be a colossal mistake with enormous cost. I forewarned that the effort to capture a handful of TPLF criminals is not worth that cost and there was no discernible long-term political or military benefit. Going into Mekele was an exercise in futility to overkill a party that was all but dead. This, too, is a product of our culture of I cannot exist unless my enemy is completely eradicated mindset of paranoia. Capturing Mekele adversely affected the social psychology of the people of Tigray and changed the war dynamics. When logic fails to persuade, time will. Time did indeed.
In 2022, the wisdom to not enter Mekele the second time around was seen as a self-evident truth. The now-embraced self-evident truth about the wisdom of not chasing TPLF all the way to Mekele came at the cost of over 500,000 lives.
II.5. A Transformative Reform Without a Reformist Coalition
In April 2019, I wrote an open letter to the PM on his first anniversary in office. The purpose was to provide specific mid-course corrective actions to rekindle the public enthusiasm and energy for the PM’s support of the PM, which was showing signs of waning. More importantly, midcourse correction would have been critical to bring the silent majority on board the reform agenda. I proposed a two-pronged action plan – on political and administrative sides.
Here I will focus only on the political side that required a strategic issue of building a broad reformist coalition outside of the EPRDF architecture. Readers who are interested in the administrative side can read my above-noted 2019 open letter, and a more recent article titled: “A Candid Open Letter to PM Abiy: Ethiopia Needs a Statesman Not a Party Leader” (March 2022);
Where is the Abiy Coalition? This question is perhaps the most fundamental question in Ethiopian politics. Its significance will be best understood studying the “Reagan Coalition”and the “Obama Coalition” in the US. The two are the most transformative leaders in recent American memory. They could not have succeeded in their respective transformative agendas without gaining the support of a broad-based coalition that gave them two terms each.
Reagan formed a broad coalition for the Republican party to swing it to the right so he could be able to starve the government beast that was feeding the welfare economy. He brought fiscal conservatives and the so-called religious right into the Republican tent in droves. He also won the conservative wings of the Democratic party. They would later become known as “Reagan Democrats.”
Obama’s legacy setting goal was to provide a near-universal health insurance to all Americans in need. He needed to swing the Democratic coalition to the left. The Obama Coalition was made up of African Americans, Hispanics, women, independents, the LQBTQ community and the college educated. He achieved the next to impossible task of passing a law to overhaul the health insurance system. He succeeded where many presidents had failed, since Harry Truman (1945-1953).
Reagan and Obama achieved their goals changing their parties’ demographic texture while working within their respective party’s architecture. In 2018, the PM’s reform challenges were next to impossible. In the short term, he needed to rely on EPRDF’s political architecture and the tenets of the tribal Constitution in place.
Though the Constitution is a tumorous cancer that is eating up Ethiopia, like any cancer situation the first task was to stabilize the patient through different protocols before mid- to long-term treatment that may require surgery to cut the cancerous tumor out. It would be ill-advised and foolhardy to think that overhauling the Constitution by decree is a viable option. Similarly, anyone who thinks that the current parliament whose members were voted in to serve their constituencies will agree to a Constitutional overhaul does not understand how entrenched tribal dynamic is.
Where the PM failed is in building a broader coalition to prepare the nation for mid- to long-term strategic actions to reform the Constitution. This required throwing his reform-net wider and creating a platform to inspire and mobilize supporters of the reform outside of the EPRDF universe.
The PM’s misguided belief was that his focus needed to be on the extremist elements to bring them on his reform bandwagon. This proved to be a futile effort for two reasons. First, the conflicts between Tigray, Oromo, and Amhara tribalists within the EPRDF envelope were, and still are, inherently irreconcilable. Extremist elements within each of the three tribes have a vested interest in blocking the PM’s reform. Even Lemma Megerssa, the co-leader of the OroMara movement that toppled TPLF from within was not comfortable with the PM’s desire to shift the center of gravity of the nation’s political sentiment away from tribal politics.
Second, the Oromo tribalists’ ተረኛነት (“It’s our turn” sentiment) and ኬኛነት (“everything is ours”mantra) are more deeply rooted than the PM assumed. Evidently, the PM has managed to have moderate Oromos form a critical mass within PP-Oromo. Nonetheless, there seem to be two other groups, compromising his agenda. On one hand the likes of Shimeles seem to have one foot with the PM and the other with tribalists. There also are others who are with the PM only to collect the spoils of office. During the day, they are with him. During the night they hunt Amharas and members of PP-Oromo. This is the card that the PM has as a political base.
By ignoring the silent majority, the PM committed a critical mistake because a large section of the people who were not part of the EPRDF political universe were enthusiastic to support his reform. They helplessly watched as his errors piled on to a point where many started doubting his agenda. Gradually, his supporters became doubters. His doubters crossed over to join his critics and his critics jumped on the bandwagon of his avowed enemies.
Sadly, the PM’s መደመር philosophy died before it got a chance to crawl out of the pages of his book. He now tries to align himself with the army rater than correcting course and broadening his coalition.
III. PM Abiy: An Extraordinary Visionary and an Abysmal Manager
An unfortunate pilot who finds himself flying through a thunderstorm with a malfunctioning and unresponsive aircraft and 200 plus people on board has no room for error. Similarly, the PM has no room for error in managing the nearly unmanageable crisis in Ethiopia. But alas, his governing management is inherently error prone and he is adamantly reluctant to unlearn his failed governing principles and adopt a new one.
What is saddening is that he is a visionary. The world saw his vision in 2018 and 2019 and rightly praised him as a “visionary” and a “hope for Africa.” Some went as far as comparing him with such transformative world leaders as “Nelson Mandela, Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama and Mikhail Gorbachev.” The Nobel Foundation deservedly awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sadly, his poor management squandered an extraordinary political capital that he so brilliantly built. What is most bothersome is that he is oblivious to his failings. Read my articles titled “A Midcourse Correction is Needed in the Management of the Change Process”(April 2019); and “The PM’s Vision Is Like a Ferrari Driven by A Volkswagen Engine” (October 2019).
The root cause of the problem is partly his use of religion as a tool of politics. This is evident in his speech at the Diaspora. Religion and prayers are not the problem in and of themselves. The problem is smuggling religion in the governance architecture of the nation’s political affairs. There are three issues with this. First, the nation’s constitution is secular. Second, it is difficult to correct a path once we associate a government policy with guidance from God. If the PM believes he listens not only to advisers but also to God for guidance, it is hard to change a policy if the PM believes he was guided by God.
Third, prayers are not the answer for our political problems. Ethiopia has been praying since Psalms 68 revealed “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.” A 2017 Pew Research Center Report found “The majority of Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia say they attend church weekly (78%).” It is not hard to imagine Ethiopian Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants are just as committed to their respective religions. According to Statista, only 22 percent of Americans attend church weekly. Even worse, religion is a foreign concept in China. If prayers and religious beliefs were determinant factors, Ethiopia would have been the sole global superpower.
IV. The Path to Hell: Intractable Challenges of Tribalism
Historically, the evolution of human society progressed from families to clans, tribes, kingdoms, empires, and nation-states. Social evolution by its very nature moves societies to a progressively more advanced and civilized system of governance. In Ethiopia, we reversed the evolutionary process. Rather than reforming and perfecting the imperfect nation-state that we had, we regressed backward past empires and kingdoms and constitutionalized a tribal system of governance.
IV.1. Tribal Politics is Primitive and Degenerative by Nature
Our recent history shows that tribalism is primitive in its outlook and prone to impulse-driven behaviors and animal instinct. This should not be surprising when we humans relapse from being fallen angels to bestial remnants of our heritage as risen apes. Consequently, we have borne witness to an unimaginable barbarism take hold of our nation from Oromo to Amhara and from Tigray to Benishangul. What is happening is not an unintended consequence of tribalism. Savagery is par for the course for tribalist societies tattooed and laced in their social construct.
IV.2. The Cursed Intellectual Generation
From a society point of view, the worst outcome of our current politics is the tribalization of the intellectual class. The intellectual class has become indistinguishable from that of its ethnic brethren constituting young street activist genre. The knowledge gap between the two has collapsed, as the intellectual clan’s thought process gave way to a belief system that is rooted in blind faith and hate-inspired grudge against competing tribes.
The street activists carry sticks, knives and machetes and the intellectuals use pens or keyboards as their tool of political engagement. But they both speak the language of hate with equal fluency and intensity against those they see as their tribal enemies. This required not only the dumbing down and the stupidification of the intellectual class but also the diminution of its ethical standards and the collective abrogation of its moral duty.
The consequence is consequential. Tigrayan and Amhara intellectuals decry genocide and atrocities of rape and mass murder their respective tribe allegedly suffered in the hands of the other. But neither says a thing about the alleged genocide and atrocities of rape and mass murder their tribe is alleged to have inflicted on the other. Oromo intellectuals complain about atrocities they allege their forefathers suffered over a century ago, while they play blind, deaf and mute to unimaginable crimes committed by Oromo Qeerroos in the 21st century.
V. It is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Stupid
The mechanical degenerative process of tribal politics can be approximated by entropy of the second law of thermodynamics. The law signifies a natural tendency to degenerate into a self-destructive state of chaos. The degree of disorder and its randomness is called entropy. Entropy increases when a substance is broken up into multiple parts. In politics, this happens as a systemic social order splinters into chaotic components and spins out of control in a random fashion. Assume a unified Ethiopia breaking into smaller tribal components. Each splintering tribal component spins out of control as the entropy or randomness of its disorder progressively increases unless a counter energy is continually introduced to change the dynamic of the system and keep it in order.
VI. Tigrayan Exceptionalism Mugged by Harsh reality
An important development since 2018 is the 2020/2021 war that knocked TPLF out of the national political game in a rather spectacular fashion. The fictional Tigrayan military exceptionalism proved to be using a human wave military tactic from bygone centuries (practiced in the American Civil War (1865-1865) and World War I (1914-1918)). Today, TPLF is a ghost of its past political and military posture — nothing but a shell filled with a grandiose ego bolstered with delusion.
In many ways, TPLF was a victim of amateurish geopolitics, despite spending millions of dollars on lobbyists. Soon after the war broke, I posted a blog on Koki Adesolome’s Facebook page, revealing a discussion I had with close conservative American friend who was connected to the Trump administration. He told me: “If there is one country in Africa that Trump will send Marines to protect from disintegration, it would be Ethiopia.” He said:“Ethiopia is a far more strategically important country than Ethiopians think.”
In 2021, the US told TPLF not to push past Debre Sina. The US threatened to send its troops to Ethiopia to avoid the disintegration of Ethiopia. TPLF rejected it and tried to push forward. Suddenly, Turkey and UAE gave Ethiopia lethal drones. Only a greenhorn analyst would think Turkey and UAE did not get a node from the US to give Ethiopia drones. It was widely known thatthe two nations were pressured by the US to stop supplying drones to Ethiopia in mid 2021.
Sadly, TPLF and the Abiy administration mistook US’s myopic TPLF biased intervention (that was influenced by powerhouse TPLF lobbyists) as a reflection of America’s geopolitical interest. Both TPLF and Ethiopia paid dearly for their misreading of the strategic interests of the US. See my articles titled “What Explains Biden’s Counterintuitive Policy on TPLF’s War on Ethiopia?” and “Why the US needs to reset its approach to the conflict in Ethiopia.”
TPLF started the war with the confidence to reaffirm its hegemonic position that it believed is concomitant with Tigrayan exceptionalism. TPLF leaders believed the PM will face total defeat or he would capitulate to TPLF’s demands, including establishing a provisional government and allowing a referendum on the PM’s reforms.
It must be noted that the PM’s reforms are the purview of the PM as the head of the executive branch. The only way it can be challenged is through the legislative branch. TPLF wanted to assert itself outside of the constitutional order, believing it Tigrayan military exceptionalism. Mugged in the face by harsh reality, currently TPLF is counting on the international community to “pressure PM Abiy to end the siege on Tigray.”
VII. Doomed to Fail: The Synthetic Social Fabric of Greater Oromia
The Oromo people had legitimate political and historical grievances. Sadly, they were unable to organize a political party that could articulate their grievances and formulate a clear vision with a winning strategy. The OLF was led by individuals who were busy fabricating false narratives and marrying it with a self-defeating juvenile politics. The OPDO was under the clutches of TPLF.
The worsening grievance under TPLF, the absence of an effective Oromo political organization, and the growing unemployed youth population created the perfect storm for an Oromo demagogue. Jawar Mohammed seized the moment. He was a brilliant demagogue, a superb technician, and a magnificent organizer. But he was a stillborn strategist.
VII.1. The Rise and Fall of Jawar Mohammed
The question whether Oromo tribalists have historical and social material to convert the Greater Oromia myth to reality was answered by Jawar’s success in creating a minimum unifying agenda for all aspirants of creating Greater Oromia. His success lasted no longer than a New York second, on the time scale of history.
Jawar’s unifying agenda was good for politicians, but there were stronger organic social differences that could not be tied together by a synthetic social fiber. For example, the effort to force Geda and Irrecha as unifying social and cultural identities of Greater Oromia was a futile exercise. For Muslims and Christians alike Irrecha contradicts with the tenets of their religions. Further, Geda and Irrecha are historically and socially foreign to the overwhelming majority of Oromo people. Most importantly, for Shewa Oromos the myth of Greater Oromia clashed with the providence of sovereign Ethiopia.
In October 2019, tribal entropy reared its head. Jawar’s broad-based coalition showed fissure along religious lines, after his Muslim followers attacked Oromo Christians and burned their churches. Soon enough, the fissure took regional dimension. OLF Shene, the outcome of the Wellega genre of tribal extremism, became at war with the rest of Oromo. Shewa Oromos, who are considered closet Amhara, became a target of Oromo extremists.
The interests of the Oromo in Jima (Abiy’s birthplace) became orthogonal to the interests of Oromo in Arsi (Jawar’s home base). In the meantime, latent ideological differences on Oromo liberation theology emerged. Some in the Oromo liberation theology circle started questioning positions held by hardliners. The late famous singer Hachalu Hundessa became the voice of moderation in direct challenge to political positions held by Oromo hardliners. He publicly criticized Bekele Gerba and company for cozying up to TPLF. He embraced Adwa as a victory for all Ethiopians, rejecting Jawar’s characterization of Adwa as the history of Oromo oppressors. The synthetically unified and closed Oromo system burst into spiraling components.
In four short years, Jawar’s universe and influence shrunk like plastic in the oven. The days he anointed himself as the Co-Prime Minister of Ethiopia are long gone. His bravado that his Qerro could take over Addis in 24 hours has faded from his followers’ memory chips. His sphere of influence withered as he went from leader of a unified Oromo to the VP a party in decline.
Jawar’s empire is on the defensive. Headlines on his Oromo Media Network (OMN) and other outlets decry: “የኢትዮጵያ መንግስት በኦሮሚአያ ላይ ጦርነት ለማኪያሄድ በዝግጂት ላይ መሆኑን አንድ ለOMN የደረሰሰነድ አጋለጠ”; “3ኛው ዘመቻ ሚኒሊክ”; “How Abiy Ahmed Betrayed Oromia”; “Mass execution of Oromos”; “Genocide is Brewing Against Oromia”; and “Oromo Ask the US to Stop Funding Genocide by Ethiopia regime”.
The population of Oromo has seen Oromo tribalism in the face and did not like what they saw. The OMN that used to get an average of 200,000 to 300,000 viewers every time it posts a video is now getting 20,000 to 30,000 in a good day. The Oromo people are against extremists. That is exactly why “Guji Abba Gada leaders designate Shene-Oromo of Wellega as enemy of the Oromo people.” It is for the same reason “የጨፌ ኦሮሚያ ምክርቤት በሸኔ ላይ እርምጃ ይወሰድ” ያሉት and “Members of Karrayyu Gadaa leadership were killed” by extremist forces after they called for action against extremists.
With OLF, OFC and OLF-Shene significantly rejected by the Oromo population, Jawar knows the only path for his resurgence is the expansion and strength of tribalism in the Amhara tribal land. In that case he can package, sign, and deliver Amhara extremism as an existential threat for Oromo. If that path is closed on him, his threat would be mitigated, if not outright eradicated.
VII.2. Shimeles Abdissa’s “Convince and Confuse” Strategy
Shimeles’s polarizing statements such as: (1) PP-Oromo’s “convince and confuse strategy”, (2) his Irrecha speech that bashed the Amhara while Jawar was sitting by his side, and (3) his claim that Oromia is the third important home of international organizations in the world are troublesome. Similarly, the frequency and scale of Taye Dandea’s polarizing snubs against the Amhara, make it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt.
There are two possible explanations for the two high-level officials of PP-Oromo to spew controversial anti-Amhara statements. The most accommodating line of interpretation is that they need to make such statements to deny extremist Oromo tribalists space to stand on to accuse them of betraying the Oromo agenda. In other words, they are pushing the PM’s agenda, while giving a lip service to Oromo extremists. This is a lame interpretation because there are other options to deal with extremist forces.
The alternative explanation lends itself to a two-pronged interpretation. They are OLF-Sheneinfiltrators, and their polarizing statements are aimed at throwing sand in the PM’s reform engine because is not in full alignment with the Oromo tribalist constitutional ተረኛነት and ኬኛነት sentiments. Or they are blazing evidence that PP-Oromo’s agenda led by the PM is the same as OLF-Shene’s agenda and their conflict with OLF-Shene is all about power.
In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter which interpretation is correct. The damage to the nation’s stability is the same because they serve as gasoline-soaked fodder to tribal conflicts.
VIII. Amhara Tribalist’s Failure to Unlearn Failure
The Amhara tribal land was disenfranchised politically, economically, and historically during TPLF’s 27 years reign of terror. More recently, the Amhara has been given reasonably free access to organize and advance its interests. It begs the question, therefore, how it failed to build a strategic political force? How did Amhara tribalists inherit OLF’s grievance politics?
VIII.1. The Rise of Amhara ጎጠኝነት in 2019 and Its Consequences
Let me start with some excerpts from an email message I sent to the leadership of the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA/አብን) on October 8, 2019. I ask for your indulgence to read through the long quote because the issues are as relevant today as they were in 2019. At the time NAMA was a full blown tribalist organization. Here is what Christian Tadele, NAMA director of PR wrote on his Facebook: “የአማራ የሆነን ሁሉ መጠቀም (ከአማራ ያልሆኑ ነገሮችን አማራጭ ካልጠፋና የግድ ካልሆነበስተቀር አለመጠቀም).” In addition, Desalegn Chanie wrote to Tamagn Beyene not to talk About Ethiopia, because Amhara’s primary concern is not Ethiopia.
One person who was happy with NAMA was Jawar, who wrote: ““Amharaizing the Amhara has been the most useful accomplishment of this change. The Ethiopian mask used by Amhara elites to camouflage their ethnocentric interest has been [a] barrier to dialogue. Now the mask has been removed, real negotiation and discussion is possible.”
My October 2019 email to NAMA read in part:
Currently, Ethiopia is at a crossroads. The conflict within the Oromo political parties seems to favor Abiy, i.e., pro-Ethiopian forces. Oromo hardliners such as Bekele Gerba, Ezekiel Gabissa and Tsegaye Arrarsa have lost all credibility and clout in the Oromo tribal land. This means the Oromo liberation theology has lost its spiritual muster. What happens next is determined by how the Amhara politics is shaped.
In the current tribal system, there are two potential anchors that can hold the center for Ethiopia: (1) The group that is being led by Abiy, and (2) the Amhara. A window of opportunity has been opened for the Amhara tribal homeland.
The strategic question should be: How can the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) and NAMA be strengthened? Your political diet should not come from cannibalizing on each other. A strong ADP is critical for NAMA. The reverse is also true. A strong NAMA is critical for ADP. The Amhara tribal land is big enough to accommodate both of you.
You need to keep that in mind and be cognizant that Digital Weyane is out in full force (using Amhara names), attacking ADP as the number one enemy of Amhara. They understand if ADP is weakened and discredited, it will be irrelevant. Furthermore, if Amhara ጎጠኝነት takes roots and grows, Oromo ጎጠኝነት will get oxygen. TPLF’s hope is that such developments will force Abiy to retreat to his Oromo roots. If this happens, the center weakens, and tribalism rejuvenate. TPLF and OLF will win.
For ADP to play a strong and meaningful role in PP, NAMA must be strategic and strong. A strong NAMA will push ADP to have a backbone in its dealing within PP. A strong ADP will help create a strong force to hold the center. A weak and politically disenfranchised ADP cannot go out on a limb and challenge PP to take actions that will strengthen the center. A weak ADP translates into a weak PP. That will leave Ethiopia without a strong coalition to hold the center.
My strong recommendation to you is to steer clear from any kind of conspiracy theory that accuses Abiy or his Oromo party of being አማራ ጠል or that he or his party has strategic interest to weaken the Amhara or to undermine Ethiopia. That is a mighty stupid allegation of super idiocy. Abiy needs support from the Amhara tribal land to govern Ethiopia. He already has a formidable enemy in TPLF and the last thing he would want is to create an enemy out of the Amhara.
Several things have happened since 2019. First, to its credit, NAMA took the note into consideration, but its efforts were undermined to a large degree by hardliners within its ranks. Before Belete Molla (Chair), Yusuf Ibrahim (Vice Chair) and Gashaw Mersha (Head of Political Affair) took the helm, NAMA was flirting with Jawar to a point where Jawar felt assured to add NAMA in the federalist column when, in September 2019, he estimated that his coalition would win a large majority of 350 seats in the national elections.
Extremists in NAMA such as Christian Tadele and Desalegn Chanie saw ADP as the number one enemy of Amhara, as did General Asaminew Tsegie. They believed Jawar’s coalition will win the election and saw it as a shortcut to remove ADP from office and take over the levers of power in the Amhara tribal. Ato Lidetu Ayalew tried to play a cross between a midwife to deliver the Amhara as Jawar’s ጉዲፈቻ, and a surrogate mother to carry TPLF’s pregnancy to term. He failed.
Belete, Yusuf and Gashaw may have saved NAMA from extremist elements. But it was too late to develop a consensus Amhara agenda, propagate it widely and win the hearts and minds of the people before the 2021 election. Belete and company faced two obstacles. First, some of the extremist members of the organization were still in the executive committee of NAMA. Second, NAMA had a baggage that was not easy to move past its pain.
It was not easy for the Amhara people to forget the role that NAMA extremists played in the murder of Ambachew Mekonnen (Chair of ADP and President of the Amhara tribal land). At the very least they were culpable for poisoning the political environment with toxic propaganda, including accusing leaders of ADP as enemies of Amhara.
The consequence was political apathy. Only 7.1 million Amhara registered to vote and 6.7 million (44 percent of the eligible voters) voted. Those who did not want to vote for PP-Amhara stayed home for lack of a viable alternative to NAMA. NAMA won a meager total of 5 seats in its own tribal homeland out of the possible 119 in areas where elections were held.
To put the lack of Amhara voting enthusiasm in perspective, 15.3 million Oromos registered to vote, and 14.7 million voters (76 percent of the eligible voters) voted, despite a call to boycott the elections by the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). In the 2020 US elections, 66 percent of the eligible voters voted. This was high by historical standards.
The point here is not to suggest the election in the Oromo region was without problem. There were Ezema candidates who were denied the right to campaign freely. Some were even murdered. The point I am making is that the Oromo people had the opportunity to join OFC and OLF and sit out of the elections, but they chose ignore OFC and OLF and went to the voting stations in droves.
VIII.2. Coalition of Clowns: Eskinder the Great and Mamushet the Dragon King
The very week, Eskinder Nega took the Addis political market by storm, I raised a red flag, stating he is a “Random-Walking and Noise-Making Clown.” My worry was not his decision to air his political view. It was rather the support his political antics got from Addis residents. For me there were blinking neon colors underneath the Ethiopian flag he wrapped himself with showing that he was an Amhara extremist. This became clear after his party formed a coalition with Mamushet’s Party.
On March 7, 2020, Eskinder and Mamushet signed the agreement to form a coalition in a public fanfare. At the time, Eskinder was billing himself as the vanguard of Ethiopia’s unity and leader of the abolish the tribal constitution movement. Mamushet who publicly claimed that “the only two people in the world who have written language are Amhara and British” is unabashed Amhara extremist. In the March 2020 issue of Ghion Magazine, he stated he was “against outlawing tribal politics.” He also believed “the concern for Amhara was PP not TPLF.”
The Amhara tribal homeland has become a political market where clowns trade every day and twice on Sundays. It is small wonder that Eskinder’s and Mamushet’s parties won a total of zero votes, as 56 percent of eligible voters who did not want to cast their vote to PP-Amhara stayed home. One would have thought the shellacking and trashing they suffered would encourage extremist Amharas to change course. Sadly, they are resurging with vengeance.
VIII.3. The Resurgence of Amhara ጎጠኝነት in 2022 and its Potential Consequences
No matter how one slices and dices it, the people of Ethiopia across the nation have rejected tribalist forces. As though they are coordinating their strategies, Oromo tribalist forces present Amhara tribalist groups as more powerful than they are and vise-versa. This is because they need a polarizing opposite whom they can portray as an existential threat to their tribe.
For Oromo tribalists, Amhara tribalists are useful to weaponize them against the PM and PP-Oromo. In like manner Amhara extremists use Oromo extremists as a weapon to undermine PP-Amhara and other moderate forces. They routinely use OLF-Shene whose crime is primarily limited in parts of Wellega and other isolated places as the overseer of a systemic annihilation of the Amhara tribe all over Ethiopia.
After painting OLF-Shene as an existential threat to Amhara, the next step is to link the Prime Minister as a complicit partner to, or an indifferent observer of, OLF-Shene’s crime. They use Shimeles and Taye as exhibits one and two. Once this narrative takes traction, Amhara Media Center and other extremist outlets accuse PP-Amhara of serving the Prime Minister with such narrative as “ብልጽግና አማራ ላይ ያሴረውን ሴራ ያጋለጠው ሰነድ”; “አማራን በመውጋት ኢትዮጵያን የማፍረስ ሴራ”; and “የአማራ ልዩ ሀይልን ለመበተን የታቀደው ሴራ አፈተለከ“.
Of late, a cottage industry of Amhara YouTube media enterprises has mushroomed both in Ethiopia and in the diaspora with a unified goal of targeting NAMA leaders as squires of PP-Amhara and, therefore, as enemies of Amhara. Such myopic political play is dangerous for the Amhara because of its natural tendency to spiral down. The same forces of entropy that broke Jawar’s political universe into spiraling components will consume Amhara tribalists. This is already manifesting itself in the open. Each Shene-Amhara faction is jockeying for a dominant role by portraying itself as the most uncompromising, most thunderous, and harshest defender of the Amhara. Today’s Amhara extremists may be limited to polarizing demagogy. Tomorrow they will become killers.
IX. Moving Forward:
There are two critical paths to move forward. First, we must find it possible to save PM Abiy from himself to save Ethiopia from him. This requires change both in form and substance from rebranding his image to overhauling his governance exercise. Second, we must resurrect the long-dead Amhara politics from the tombs of its ancestorsto save Amhara tribalists from themselves and Ethiopia from them.
IX.1. The Challenge to Save PM Abiy From Himself
As the PM of the country, the onus of taking urgent steps to stabilize the nation rests with him. The four most urgent steps are: (1) getting the nation’s PR right with utmost urgency; (2) building a broad coalition to reduce his dependence on tribalist forces; (3) marrying his vision with strategic and coherent policy priorities; and (4) fixing his administration’s management shortcomings.
Remember the lesson from the second law of thermodynamics is that mitigating or neutralizing entropy requires introducing outside energy that is more powerful than the degenerative entropic energy in place.
The first task of reviving the PM’s reform must be cleaning the geopolitical mess the PM’s administration created. This is critical because one of the most important sources of energy to counter the negative energy in the political sphere is creating economic hope. In the short- to medium-term (at least three decades), Ethiopia cannot speed up or scale up its development without international aid. This comes primarily from the West. Secession of hostility toward the West is not enough in and of itself.
Ethiopia is one of the most important geopolitical lands on this side of planet Mars. This is not a permanent position. It will change as geopolitical realities change. While we have the geopolitical leverage, we should position our strategic development framework at the nexus of the emerging global geopolitics and the ensuing international development policy.
Cleaning up the geopolitical mess requires fixing the PR problem with a sense of urgency. Candor obliges me to state it bluntly the government needs help on this front. There is no sign of competence in the current administration. Equally importantly, budget must not be an issue at all. Get the job right and ask the price tag later. There is no reason why Ethiopia with a PPP GDP of $279 billion, cannot spend $10 million to $20 million to fix the geopolitical mess. The only thing that is stopping us is the PM.
When it comes to bridging his vison with strategic policies, the PM can learn from Korea and China. There is one common element that helped China and Korea to grow faster than most other countries. They both relied on their think tanks, independent intellectuals, and subject matter experts of international repute to translate their leaders’ broad visions into strategic priorities, and to weave the nation’s strategic priorities with coherent policies.
Initially, Korean President Park’s economic development policies leaned heavily towards economic nationalism, focusing on achieving economic autonomy for his country. Korean think tanks and economists believed economic nationalism would limit the nation’s growth potential. They put their weight on attracting foreign investment. To his nation’s benefit, the President listened to them and opened Korea’s economy. This is one of the reasons why Korea is one of the top 15 economies in the world.
In China, to its credit, the Chinese Communist Party paid heed to the concept of “epistemic community”, referring to a plethora of networks of professionals with recognized subject matter expertise. The Communist Party relied heavily on the epistemic community particularly in economic and geopolitical domains. The debate between government officials and members of the epistemic community is often lively and free in closed door meetings. The government often listened with open mind. No decision is made at the whim of their leaders.
On the administration of the change process, the Prime Minister has only one option. That is to upgrade his management skill sets and bring them up to scale to support his high vision and strategic policy priorities. The Prime Minister can learn a thing or two from Steve Job, the late founder, and CEO of Apple.
Steve was a visionary and a creative genius who knew vision without good management is like a computer without central processing unit (CPU). He spent exorbitant amount of time recruiting top level managers and technical experts, who he referred to as A+ Players. He compared the challenge of recruiting A+ Players to finding a needle in a haystack. He added:
“I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream…. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
To address his administrative problems, the PM needs to be brutally honest with himself with the following questions: Who amongst my cabinet members and senior advisors can pass for an A+ Player? This question is particularly important in four areas: economics, finance, geopolitics, and PR. Answering the question with brutal honesty is critical because a nation with immense problems cannot be governed with team of B- players. In some case even a B- is a stretch.
The utter incipience of the administration signals the lack of a functioning three branches of government. It is hard to imagine a truly independent and competent legislative body would endorse some of the ministers the PM appointed in the past. Read my article titled “Open Letter to the Ethiopian Parliamentarians: የጠቅላይ ሚኒስቴሩ እንደ ስላሴዎች አንድምሶስተም እየሆኑ የመምጣት አደጋዎች.”
In the absence of an independent legislative body, outside constructive pressure is essential to force the PM change path. I think of three sources. First, opposition parties, civil society organizations, and religious institutions must speak up in unison. Second, Ethiopian higher learning instructions and, professional association, trade unions, the chamber of commerce, and the business community must add their voice to the chorus of call for change. And finally, the diaspora support groups must stop cheerleading the PM and demand corrective action.
IX.2. The Amhara Must Resurrect Itself from the Tombs of Its Ancestors
Ethiopia’s future depends on our ability (or lack thereof) to defuse and ultimately end the feud between Amhara and Oromo tribalists. What is the best strategy to achieve this? Whatever the best strategy may be, it is not grievance politics that has become common in the Amhara tribal land or a cannibalistic fight between Amhara parties. Nor is it the ascendance of Amhara extremism.
When it comes to Amhara extremists, we know one thing for sure. The Amhara tribal land is not fertile for tribal extremists. There is no reason to believe Amhara extremists will do better in 2025 elections than in the 2020 elections when they received unmerciful shellacking and thrashing. The only thing that the ascendance of Amhara extremists will achieve is the weakening the Amhara. Even worse, the invasion of the Amhara tribal land by tribal extremists will weaken PP-Amhara without whom the center that holds Ethiopia will weaken or may even crumble. The 5 million or so Amhara living in the Oromo tribal land will fall under the mercy of Oromo extremists.
At bottom, Amhara tribalists are no good for themselves, no good for Amhara living under the mercy of Oromo tribalists and no good for Ethiopia.
Once again, the only solution is injection of outside energy that is more powerful than the entropic energy the extremist tribalists carry. There are two scenarios to get out of the entropic አዙሪት. The first scenario is that they will fight against each other and weaken themselves to a point of total exhaustion or self-annihilation. In this case, an outside military force can come and crush them.
The second and preferred scenario is for the Amhara silent majority to rise and defend their country and their tribal land from destructive forces of tribal extremists. People of Amhara heritage who care for their country must ask the following: What happened to Amhara politics? Amhara politics used to be known for its stealth strategy. It used to be described by an iconic phrase: አማራ ሲጥለህ እንጂ ሲመታህ አታየውም. Today, it is led by random-walking and noise-making clowns and invaded by Shene-Amhara organizations and deafened by extremist media outlets such as Ethio-360.
Amhara needs political organizations led by the strategic visions of seasoned politicians rather than by the impulsive passion of tribal extremists. The most important outcome of such a scenario is that the Amhara political landscape will attract more moderate people and fringe elements will be expunged. Only then will the center start to hold. This will, in turn deny Oromo tribalists oxygen, thereby creating a more tolerant political system that denies tribal parties both in Amhara and Oromo political spaces critical source of energy fueled by hate and/or fear of each other.
IX.3. Avoid war at all costs, but Keep Eritrea as an Insurance Policy
In 1998, “Sacred Sin: Beyond Political Razzle Dazzle” piece, I wrote: TPLF is a potent force with an ability to destroy Ethiopia. Its ethnic policy has already started to erode the very fabric that holds Ethiopians together. The longer TPLF remains in power the more damage it inflicts. Whether we like it or not, in TPLF’s political equation EPLF remains to be the only check. In many ways, EPLF has in the past served as a balancing force against TPLF. In the absence of a potent Ethiopian opposition force, if we help TPLF defeat EPLF, we will learn the hard way that we have fortified our own worst enemy. Ethiopia has never seen a more potent, and dangerously reckless enemy than TPLF. This was in 1998.
The same logic applies today. Eritrea will be a prohibitive force that will put TPLF in check. If TPLF feels it has 10 percent chance of winning a war, it will not hesitate to sacrifice 500,000 children as canon fodders. Eritrea serves as depressant of TPLF’s appetite for war. Ethiopia has every right to sign a bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with any country. In 2015 alone, nearly 100 DCAs were signed between countries . This is one area Ethiopia should stand firm in any negotiation.
A person from Mars who does not know anything about Ethiopian politics can paint three different pictures of PM Abiy, depending on whom she befriends when she lands on earth. If she meets Professor Al Mariam, her conclusion would be people on earth have genius leaders that Martians can learn from. If she meets Professor Meskerem Aberra or any one of the Professors leading Vision Ethiopia, she would conclude people on earth are led by genociders. If by any chance she meets me, her impression of the PM would be a visionary and remarkable strategist with abhorring management skills. There are enough “supporting” materials in the cyber space to paint any one of the three images.
The same can be said of Amhara politicians. They can be portrayed as instigators of conflict or even genociders, victims of genocide, or as people who are busy cannibalizing each other while their adversaries are organizing themselves to annihilate them. Once again, there is enough “supporting” materials in the cyber space to paint any one of the three images.
Such an environment represents a societal Petri dish for entropic chaos, as different groups breakdown into conflicting factions. The only way out is producing counter energy to change the dynamic of the conflicting factions. As the leader of the government, the onus is on the PM.Let me conclude with two quotes from my 1995 and 2022 articles. The 1995 article read in part:
“Whenever I think of PM Meles, I think of a man suffering from what author Antony Robert calls the Niagara Syndrome. Think of a man swimming in a raging Niagara River closer to the falls. Imagine a swimmer who passes every rock that stands in his way and confidently focuses on the next rock to show yet another dazzling maneuver, but not seeing far enough ahead of himself to avoid the falls.”
In many ways, PM Abiy reminds me of PM Meles, as I have explained in my recent article, titled “Ethiopia Needs a Statesman, not a Party Leader.” The article read in Part:
Your focus seems to be on building the Prosperity Party (PP). You should remember that TPLF did not crumble for lack of card-carrying members. It crumbled because its leaders ignored the concerns and desires of the people. TPLF leaders felt they had the right answer to every challenge. When the day of reckoning came, they had no chance to weather the storm.
You seem to be oblivious to the signs of an impending national disaster. Your failure to address the genuine concerns of moderate Amhara forces and your inability to rein in extremists in PP-Oromo is fattening extremist Amhara forces like steroids.
Ethiopia came close to the brink of collapse during the war. It was saved by the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of people. You owe them to change course. You owe yourself and your legacy to change course. የኢትዮጵያ አንጀቷም፤ ድርና ማጓም፤ የስሪት እሴቷም ሳስቷል. The next political crisis may break her.
But we the people cannot leave the destiny of our nation in the hands of a PM whose focus is maneuvering party matters, not seeing far enough to avoid the falls. We the people need to fight a two-pronged war. The first prong is to force the PM to accept he is not king, but human who was put in office by the sovereign man, not by the sovereign God. He is fallible. Therefore, he must be amenable for change.
The second is to rein in Amhara tribalists. The current dynamic is such that they are the eye of the tornedo that is gathering energy. We cannot eradicate Oromo tribal extremists, while Amhara extremists are gathering energy. One is the oxygen for the other.
If we fail to diffuse the growing Amhara extremism before it is too late, we would inevitably be sucked into the swirling eye of the tornedo. We need to remember any effort to help strengthen Amhara extremists will speed up and heighten our own demise and lead to the disintegration of Ethiopia.
The views expressed in this article are solely the author’s; and do not reflect East Africanist’s editorial stances. East Africanist encourages Ethiopian and Non-Ethiopian public scholars to use the site for civil exchange of opinions to the benefit of all Ethiopians and peoples of the Horn.