Abiy Ahmed threatens opponents with annihilation

Ethiopian PM, Abiy Ahmed, attacks his political adversaries with a racist vocabulary.

Abiy Ahmed at a conference in Sochi, Russia: Ethiopia’s prime minister is under pressure. Photo: Mikhail Metzel / Sputnik.


Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy threatens opponents with annihilation

“Extracting weeds, cultivating wheat”: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attacks his political adversaries with a racist vocabulary. The Nobel Peace Prize winner stands with his back to the wall.

November 08, 2019 (Spiegel Online) – In fact, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is considered a symbol of peace and progress. He was named a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2019 a few weeks ago, mainly because he settled the conflict with Ethiopia’s archenemy Eritrea. For this achievement, the most friendly smiling Prime Minister is now world famous.

In his own country, however, the political situation threatens to slip away. For the numerous ethnic conflicts with up to 2.4 million internally displaced persons now comes one who plays in Abyy’s own camp.

The Premier belongs to the ethnic group of the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country. And angry Oromo were the ones who brought Abiy into office after years of lossy protests in April 2018. Exactly this house power threatens to Abiy just to lose.

Until Abiy came, the Oromo in the multi-ethnic state of Ethiopia had little to say. Tigrayer, a small ethnic group from the north, dominated. By contrast, angry Oromo and Amharer continued to protest even as the dictatorship chased, arrested, and killed them.

To reduce pressure, Abiy was appointed Premier by the four-party dictatorship EPRDF in early April 2018. As a last resort, the power clique makes him an Oromo boss for the first time.

Abiyy’s miracle brought the rise of the radicals

What came next seemed to many Ethiopians wonderful. Abiy dismissed the heads of the military and intelligence, who had been responsible for the state terror. He released political prisoners, allowed criticism of the state and even brought home former enemies of the state. Among them: activist Jawar Mohammed, leader radical Oromo, the so-called Qeerroo.

Jawar Mohammed: Using Social Media Campaigns to Overwhelm the State. Photo: Mulugeta Ayene / AP


Since 2005, Jawar had directed protests out of US exile and criticized the brutality of the rulers. Jawar said to the Guardian: “We used social media and traditional media so effectively that the state was completely overwhelmed.”

In the summer of 2018, Jawar returned to Ethiopia – amnestized by Abiy. The Qeerroo were crazy. With Abiy and Jawar, they hoped to get more power, more opportunities – and finally land and jobs that hardly existed outside the city limits of Addis. But they misjudged them: Abiy was first of all Ethiopian. The unity of the country is his ultimate goal.

It soon became clear: Jawar does not want what Abiy wants. Jawar did not speak out against the separatism demands of the most radical Oromo – a hardly feasible idea, because Oromia lies in the middle of the Ethiopian heartland and encloses Addis Ababa. Jawar was still left with his call for more rights for the Oromo. Rather, he ranted against other ethnic groups.

The Agitator demonstrated in mid-October how easily the situation can escalate. He had called the Qeerroo to protest in front of his house – allegedly because the police had surrounded it and wanted to arrest him. The rumor was enough – and quickly formed an angry Mob. There were bloody riots.

“Down, down with Abiy”: When Jawar Mohammed calls, the Qeerroo come. Photo credit: Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS


Within a few days, at least 86 people were killed in riots in Oromia and in the capital – i.e. in the center of Abyy’s power. “Down, down with Abiy,” chanted the Qeerroo and fought street battles with security forces and Amharas, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Then, suddenly, Jawar placated his troops: “It’s not time to kill each other.” A skillful demonstration of power.

Would Mandela have called humans weeds?

In this tense situation, Prime Minister Abiy made a statement with a questionable choice of words: “We will continue to tear out the weeds and cultivate the wheat, and we will not give up the wheat in favor of the weed.” That’s how Abiy’s press office sent it out after the violence – but only in Amharic language.

Would Nelson Mandela have called people weeds? Or the Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Laureate of 2018? Hardly imaginable. It is a racially based rhetoric that does not fit in with a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The statement also mentions criminals who endangered Ethiopia’s unity. Criminals would burn down churches, devastate businesses and drive other Ethiopians off their land. After all: The criminals would get “due process”, according to Abiy, so that “the rule of law is preserved”.

Jawar, so it seems, drove Abiy with his back against the wall. The radical is apparently already looking ahead to the elections in May 2020. Abiy has repeatedly promised that elections should be fair, which would be a novelty in Ethiopia. If Jawar were to compete, Abiy’s chances of victory would dwindle.

But the Oromo power struggle isn’t Abiy’s only concern: there are other groups that are not satisfied with the new freedom. They want to break away from Ethiopia and expel other ethnic groups by force. Since mid-2018, armed separatists have forced millions into flight and killed hundreds. Abiy sent the army against them, and even more people died.

Abiy’s dilemma: There should not be state violence against his own people. If he did apply them in the periphery, it was mostly local human rights organisations who noticed it. But Addis Ababa is the centre of this fragile country.

In the capital the tourists land, here the African Union sits, here beats the heart of the actually promising, large national economy. There and in the surrounding area, the prime minister’s hands are tied twice. And that’s what Jawar Mohammed knows above all.

By Christoph Titz

Description of source: Online edition of the weekly German magazine Der Spiegel covering general news and politics, and focusing on economic topics. Country of origin: Germany
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