Statement of World Oromo Congress (WOC)
on the Establishment of a “New Government” in Ethiopia
In the Ethiopian capital, the Prosperity Party is in the midst of excitement surrounding the formation of a “new government.” Apart from the excitement, the glitter, glow, and the unnecessary fuss around the palace alone, the rest of Ethiopia is still in the grip of multidimensional crises that has torn Ethiopian society asunder and is threatening to fracture the polity. The same party that has managed to plunge Ethiopia into a genocidal civil war, run the economy into the ground, and transformed the country into an international pariah, now claims to have formed a “new government” through elections that were fraudulent. There is nothing new about the government, same personnel, same party, same policies and the same dictator at the helm of the state.
Abiy Ahmed became prime minister because the parliament appointed a member of parliament representing a single electoral district to serve as the head of the cabinet and leader of the ministers serving in the government. The fanfare of the inauguration, usual as it is, serves as a window on the incumbent’s aspiration to be a national leader with unchecked power. The inaugural speech exudes a pretense of a national leader with a unanimous electoral mandate. A plurality of the country’s electorate did not vote because the country is engulfed by civil wars raging in nearly all regions. The election did not see the participation of credible political parties. Major opposition party leaders are languishing in prisons. Abiy Ahmed is touting his “victory” as an affirmation of his extraordinary commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of the people. The world knows that, during his tenure, a record number of people are extra judicially killed, maimed, imprisoned, dispossessed and dislocated during his tenure. He flaunts a record number of extra-ordinary achievements in building democracy, genuine federalism, equality, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. In reality, the country is in the middle of many civil wars that he, Mr. Abiy, started and is being accused of war crimes amounting to genocide and ethnic cleansing. The specter of disintegration is looming high. This is not the opposition lobbing dirt at the regime. Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, has said, “Ethiopia’s crisis could make Syria look like child’s play”.
We at the WOC share the Special Envoy’s concerns that in an event of collapse of authority in Ethiopia, while ubiquitous civil wars are escalating throughout the country, would cause unimaginable human suffering, including unprecedented level of bloodshed, internal displacement of people and flow of refugees that the neighboring countries cannot contain. Refugees will begin trekking out of the country and will eventually try to reach Europe. Others will likely join armed groups already in the region with the power vacuum.
In addition to proliferating civil wars, the security forces’ treatment of political prisoners is beyond any human imagination. Tens of thousands of Oromo and other Ethiopians are currently languishing in prisons, some in known locations and others held incommunicado. Charges against the detainees include “courageously seeking freedom, equality and justice for the Oromo and for all peoples of Ethiopia”. Most prisoners are accused with bogus and politically motivated charges while others are simply detained for being an Oromo or for having empathy for prisoners of conscience. Despite the unconscionable brutality, one thing that has become abundantly clear is that the Oromo people’s determination to end their marginalization is on the rise, millions are joining to demand their legitimate rights. No amount of violent suppression will any longer cow the Oromo into submission.
Returning Ethiopia to the status quo of the unitarist system that existed nearly half a century ago is no longer tenable. All attempts by the ruling party to gain control of the volatile situation with security measures, imprisonment, torture, extrajudicial killings, and fabricated starvation have failed. Short of concrete actions towards political liberalization, Ethiopia’s disintegration is imminent. With Tigray region as a separate entity now and if the regime continues to marginalize the Oromo, Ethiopia is destined to follow the former Yugoslavian fate, which is acceptable to many given the circumstances.
The international community has recognized Abiy’s inability to lead, but more needs to be done before it is too late. The international community must recognize that the political crisis in Ethiopia today is not just an ideological one; it is neither a preference between democracy and dictatorship, nor a choice between poverty and development. Ethiopia’s ills run deeper. At its core is the way successive rulers have treated the peoples in Ethiopia as only subjects with obligations to the state, instead of citizens with rights. The specter of armed struggle, repression, and political conflict will not end until, and unless, this lack of legitimacy of state power in Ethiopia, not only the aspirations of the oppressed nationalities but also the desire to maintain the country’s unity, is addressed.
Abiy’s illegal and illegitimate regime has clearly reached a point where he can no longer rule the country. His promises of reform ring hollow and worse, the country is disintegrating. He lacks the political will necessary to steer the country away from the abyss. He has failed and yet again, is trying to legitimize himself with a mandate that he does not have.
Therefore, the WOC calls on the international community to intervene to:
- use all means necessary to end hostilities by agreeing to a negotiated ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed from occurring;
- demand the withdrawal of foreign forces that are operating in Ethiopia;
- bring to account all those in power who participated in planning and executing the genocidal wars, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity the Ethiopian regime has unleashed against its citizens;
- pressure the regime to allow release of all political prisoners without preconditions.
- convene an all-inclusive conference that will negotiate a roadmap for the future of the country;
- pave the way to a peaceful transition to a democratic order in which all nations, nationalities and peoples exercise their right to self-determination.
Democratic governance, legal protections for the rights of citizens, and equitable opportunities for people to live a life of dignity is the only solution. The World Oromo Congress believes there cannot be a unilateral solution and dialogue is the only way out of the current crisis. Vengeance invites vengeance, and the cycle will continue without end. To break the vicious cycle of violence that had consumed Ethiopia for many years, only a negotiated settlement is the way forward to bring about a peaceful resolution to Ethiopia’s century old problems.
Finally, we call upon Abiy Ahmed himself to stop self-deception that he can impose his will by force and single-handedly solve Ethiopia’s multifaceted problems and challenges. We also call upon those within his circles to realize that Ethiopia’s yesteryears now belong to a bygone era, gone never to return.
The Executive Council of the World Oromo Congress