TWO EPRP VETERANS INFILTRATE THE MENELIK PALACE: Can Oromo Struggle for Freedom be Reversed and Hijacked ?
Albasa Dagaga, August 18, 2019
The contemporary Oromo struggle to free Oromia primarily headed by the OLF is nearing half a century. Over these decades and through three regimes, quantifiable positive achievements have been registered and heavy sacrifices have also been paid along the way. Several opportunities have also been lost resulting in ignominious and detrimental failures due in large part to disunity and incompetence among the leadership over these decades.
In 2014, a phenomena now commonly known as the Oromo Qeerroo led protest movement started and by 2016, the movement had engulfed the entire country. By 2017, the EPRDF then controlled by TPLF was no more in control and Qeerroo and youth from other regions had transformed Oromia and Ethiopia giving a devastating blow to vicious deadly mafia type gang running the country—the TPLF. Qeerroo literally means youth and youth movements naturally are catalysts for change and NOT equipped for taking over leadership of a country. Since there was no strong, organized, and united Oromo political party to fill in vacuum that was created and to take power away from EPRDF at the time, a reshuffle within the ruling party was made and the power of running the country was transferred to the OPDO, branch within the ruling party representing the Oromia region.
The mastermind within the OPDO to side with the Qeerroo movement and the person who managed to shrewdly weaken TPLF was a charismatic leader who was then president of Oromia region, Lemma Magarsa. When the time came to nominate a candidate from OPDO, regrettably, the nomination and the Prime Minister ’s trophy went to a Machiavellian power-monger who was positioning himself for power alone within the OPDO—Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Almost no one outside his close circle suspected or knew that he was a Trojan-Horse. He campaigned very hard behind closed doors by organizing the thousands of OPDO members he recruited and those he believed harbor his political views. Once a candidate, Abiy was elected by EPRDF as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. His government was to play “transitional” role, preparing the country for free and fair elections.
What sanctioned Abiy Ahmed claim to the highest position is neither his Oromoness nor his contribution to Oromo struggle for freedom; just birthright. He was born in small town within Jimma, Oromia, to allegedly Oromo father and Habasha mother. As will be explored more later on, Abiy first joined the military and moved on to the OPDO party structure for the sole purpose of using that political organ as a step to climb to the top of political power that his fortune-teller mother once prophesized. Young Abiy loved and trusted his mom alone, thus his obsession was limited to climbing the ladder. In the military, he served as a spy against OLF activities in western Oromia and did other duties before leaving the military at a rank of colonel. He then moved on to Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) before joining the OPDO party leadership. When the tide turned against the TPLF leadership from Qeerroo led protest to bring down the regime, shrewd Abiy started to follow Lemma’s lead, always from behind and almost always saying absolutely nothing at meetings or rallies even when he sits next to Lemma.
For Oromo nationalists, Abiy Ahmed was a mysterious figure that no one knew about. Oromos didn’t knew his deep rooted anti-Oromo stand until he started to promote anti-Oromo elements within the OPDO both in Oromia region and at the federal level shrewdly and deviously. Once Abiy populated OPDO with his ideological twins, he then moved on to looking outside the OPDO for more experienced politicians whom he believed harbor same worldview.
The political neophyte Prime Minister who realized his fortune-teller mother’s prophecy was looking for image makers, policy experts, unitary Ethiopianist experts; particularly anti-Oromo nationalists. Within an hour following his inaugural, the new Prime Minister hailed the likes of Menelik and Haile Selassie, knowing quite well that this will not only offend Oromos but will also inspire Amhara unitarists—a code for invitation of his other half to join him. For the hundreds of thousands of defeated and demoralized aging Naftegna elites scattered across the globe, this was a sweet music they haven’t heard in a long time or expected to hear ever again.
For political novice like Berhanu Nega, great opportunity has just opened, and the manna rained from heaven considering the Prime Minister is young, inexperienced, and the type of naïve political neophyte they were praying for to prey on. The Amhara regional leaders that collaborated to defeat TPLF within the EPRDF by supporting Abiy also joined in struggle for more political power realizing the Prime Minister is Oromo in name only, but Amhara in blood, and most importantly his psychological makeup and family unit.
When the regime collapsed in 2017, Andargachew Tsige, the founder and first chairperson of Ginbot 7 was in jail hijacked from Yemen en-route to Asmara, and was on death row, and Berhanu Naga was in charge of the Front. Andargachew Tsige was one of the first to be released from prison by the new Premier, while over 40,000 Oromos were still in prison. Andargachew was invited to have tea with the Prime Minister at his palace to beam green light for and to alert his Ethio-unitarists that he is one of them. Few months later, Berhanu Nega and his army arrived in the country and soon after Finfinnee anarchists declared war on the current federal system arrangement, Afaan Oromo use in Finfinnee schools, and in financial institutions, labelling such practices as divisive and evil that TPLF manufactured and should be eliminated.
Not surprisingly, Abiy found the founding members of Ginbot 7 as potential partners. He believed working closely with two erudite and very experienced politicians was worth the risk. Berhanu and Andargachew are both veterans of the EPRP of the 1970’s who were waiting and lurking for just such an opportunity. The duo are two of the survivors of the EPRP and tried several other political activities and groups over the past 40 years. Berhanu-Andargachew & Co. have worked with EPRDF at some point; competed against EPRDF: Berhanu was one of the leaders of CUD in the May 2005 election, went to prison, and released; and both fought against EPRDF by forming armed struggle under Ginbot 7 banner based then in Asmara.
Berhanu Naga became celebrity and intellectual power-house and constant guest at the Menelik palace where the new young prince resides. Andagachew traveled to spend some time in England where he and his family are naturalized citizens. After recuperating and some medical checkups, globetrotters for a while and goes back to Ethiopia. Andargachew and Berhanu then start to size up and measure further who Abiy really is, and what it takes to mold him to their world view. It didn’t take them long to find out that the Prime Minister is unrefined, simple, and ingenuous for the most part, except he has basic sentimental attachment to the prominence of Ethiopiawinet, the greatness of past leaders who invented and preserved Ethiopia, and determination to save Ethiopia from those he believes are anti-Ethiopia, particularly his nemesis, the OLF.
Andargachew and Berhanu Nega are obviously thrilled to find out that their ideological twin, as shallow and neophyte he must be, resided in Menelik palace. The only debtera that Abiy had for politico-spiritual counsel to that point was Deacon Daniel Kibret. Unfortunately though, Deacon Daniel is not a sophisticated politician, but comes from the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church ideologues who are wise at telling horse stories and fabricated myths as divine revelations. All Berhanu and Andargachew have to do is to indoctrinate the Prime Minister step by step to achieve their ultimate goal.
As the good doctor narrates his reason for his comeback, Berhanu basically wanted to retire from Ethiopian politics after TPLF taught him a nasty lesson following the 2005 election that his CUD proclaimed to have won. TPLF did not only disagree with CUD leaders, and went further to teach them a leason–Prime Minister Meles Zenawi put the entire leadership of the CUD including Berhanu Nega in reformatory prison. Berhanu tells us in one interview that, the only reason he decided to go back to politics after he was pardoned by Meles through the hard work of Professor Ephraim Isaac was because of the story he heard from Oromo prisoners. While in prison, Berhanu talked to several prisoners from the thousands of Oromos that populated the Ethiopian prisons. He tells the story as follows: “Every Oromo I spoke with wants to see free and independent Oromia and they are willing to die to achieve that goal.” He says, “that terrified me because, if Oromia goes, so goes Ethiopia too. Therefore, I decided to rejoin politics if I am released from prison and will spend the rest of my life trying to save Ethiopia,” in this case, from Oromo. He must have told Abiy that heart-wrenching story many a times, for Berhanu narrates that the Prime Minister understands that problem well, and to counter that, the Prime Minister is working on several projects aimed in essence at teaching Oromo youth the glory of Menelik and other Habasha leaders and trying to indoctrinating them into worshiping the divine nature Ethiopia these leaders left behind.
Berhanu Nega and Andargachew didn’t waste time. When they found out that the Prime Minister didn’t have any road map to govern, Andargachew bragged to his Ethiopian audience in Atlanta that they kindly gave him their own road map, and even helped arrange Abiy’s meeting with Eritrean leader Isayas Afeworki, and as far as Andargachew is concerned, the Prime Minister is a good listener. Berhanu Nega and Andargachew also branded the number one enemy of Ethiopia as being Oromo nationalists and the Prime Minister should seek the support of Amharas and others who agree on this agenda of systematically defeating and eventually destroying such groups and individuals whatever the risk and the cost to human life to preserve Ethiopia. They also recommended to first clean the OPDO by liquidating the nationalists from within.
Although the Prime Minister had mostly cleansed OPDO from nationalists, as a good soldier, he believed there might be more work he could to clean those who have an ounce of sympathy to Oromoness, such as the person who is responsible for putting him in that high office. Several Oromos were pushed out of Oromia regional office, including Lemma Magarsa, to serve him at the federal level while others were demoted or fired. The Prime Minister populated the OPDO Central and Executive Committees with like-minded persons, who are mostly part-or-non-Oromo.
Going for the jugular. The most daring advice Andargachew and Berhanu gave to the Prime Minister must be this: systematically weaken, divide and defeat, and destroy OLF. OLF is the one organization that every non-Oromo who do not have the best interest of Oromo hate and had them scared shitless. This is because they understand that the OLF is the one organization that put Oromia on the map after half a century of bitter struggle. Few political organizations have as many enemies as the OLF, and Habashas in particular hate OLF more than anything else for they believe the OLF is the only organization that has the moral high ground, intellectual capacity, and ethical competence to free Oromia and deny them the free access to wealth and power they have enjoyed for over a century leaving Oromos in destitution on their own homeland. Abiy is now using all tactics and strategies designed by Andargachew and Berhanu Nega and Co. to try to destroy all OLF activities from Oromia. Disarming fighters who abided by the peace agreement, stationing Command Posts in OLA areas of operation such as Wallaga and Gujji, mass incarceration of Oromos suspected of being members of OLF and supporters (estimated at over 5 thousand so far this year), and harassing and closing offices of unarmed OLF members who signed to peacefully function in the country.
Source of Abiy Ahmed’s animosity to Wallaga: The history of Wallaga is intertwined with the founding of the OLF. Some of the prominent founding members of the OLF and the authors of the OLF political program were from that area. Although the initial field of operation started in Hararghe before the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, several prominent politicos of the 1974 revolution from Wallaga joined the OLF in large numbers including at leadership roles in the east and the western front starting in the mid-1970s. Diaspora Wallaga Oromo intellectuals massively supported OLF. When TPLF formed OPDO, these intellectuals condemned TPLF for sabotaging the Oromo struggle by forming a subservient group to serve TPLF interest in Oromia. As a result, OPDO was unable to recruit a learned Oromo of any caliber thus survived hiding under TPLF protection while serving TPLF best interest mostly as informants and figure heads.
Abiy Ahmed’s life long journey also starts in Wallaga where he joined the EPRDF military at a very young age of about 15. After joining and receiving some training, his first assignment was to spy on OLF activities in Wallaga. When Abiy tells about his personal knowledge of Wallaga for he had walked on foot the entire west coast, what he is not telling is the fact that he was hunting the OLF at the time. TPLF was very successful at hunting down OLA fighter at the time in Wallaga and history will reveal the effectiveness of Abiy’s spying role in the future. In terms of changing the hearts and minds of the Oromo of the area, Abiy and TPLF definitely failed miserably for OLA is more active today than at any time during EPRDF rule.
Notwithstanding, the group was able to do massive damage in the economic sphere to the area. During the 28 years of EPRDF rule, there was no significant investment in infrastructure. The roads are terrible; there is no clear water; schools are in worse shape today than in the 1970s; the health care system and few of the functioning hospitals do not have the necessary equipment and even medicines; there is no electricity in major towns. (Speaking of electricity, the first thing TPLF did upon controlling Finfinnee in 1991 was to spend incredible amount of resources to build power line from Fincha’aa dam in Wallaga to Mekele while all of the major towns of the area lived in darkness; some until this day.) Contrast these with the natural resources rubbed for 28 years, the amount paid in taxes during those years–estimated at trillions of dollars. History will record someday the accounting of the sacrifices paid in blood and treasure and the number of heroes and heroines that gave their precious lives so that future generation of Oromos live as free and those who took those precious lives.
When Abiy became Prime Minister , he continued his war against Wallaga under the same guise–hunting OLA—that he started as a young man. To make an already bad, unpleasant, or difficult situation even more so, and add fuel to the flame, he has put the entire Wallaga under Command Post turning the entire area into a military garrison. As I write this, Abiy is expanding the command post moving from north to Wallaga and Ambo. Thousands of his new arrivals will join aimed at turning the area into a killing field raping and killing civilians as usual. Those already there have distinguished themselves as undisciplined soldiers marauding the cities and the towns, and the country side pillaging towns and plundering of public or private property. Persons suspected of supporting OLF are summarily executed; people are forced to lead soldiers and spies to the whereabouts of OLA bases. Those who do not know the whereabouts of OLA base are accused as suspects of supporting the OLF.
The systematic spoliation of Wallaga has taken every sort of form, from terrorizing the people to the most cunningly camouflaged financial penetration that extends to every sort of property–-from shops to business enterprises, to cattle and other domestic animals of all sorts. Abiy’s Command Post is terrorizing what once was the most resource rich and productive regions of the country. Abiy’s Command Post is causing human anguish on a scale unseen in a generation. As it stands now, Wallaga is destined to starve come next season because no class of society including farmers are safe from Abiy’s command post reign-of-terror.
Today, under his reign, farmers can’t farm, people are not safe to harvest their crops. But the object is always the same – to seize everything of value that can be put to the aggressors’ profit and then to bring the whole population of the area under abject poverty and destitution. Abiy’s Modus Operandi is similar to what the US military commander believed must be done during the Vietnam War when he said: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” As luck shall have it that did not work well for the US. For now, Abiy is intoxicated with power and is determined to harm and humiliate and degrade Wallaga. He has actually gotten intense pleasure from the pain and suffering he is causing. It’s not going to work for Abiy too in the long run, rather, it will backfire leading to his fall from grace.
Other players. It should be noted here that Andargachew and Berhanu Nega are not the only players when it comes to helping Abiy Amhed’s war against Oromo nationalists in general and OLF in particular to preserving Ethiopia. The list of political groups is actually long. For many, empowering Oromo is looked as detrimental to their way of life for so many enriched themselves and their families and extended families from Oromia natural resources. That includes the so called international investors that robbed Oromia naked and shard none. Case in point, sheik Al Amoudi’s gold mine in Gujji. Even among some disgruntled smaller Oromo political groups, such as founding members of ODF, Abiy gets some support. (Some current leaders of ODF were purged from the membership after they tried to change the original political program of the OLF.) Nevertheless, ODP/OPDO still suspects any Oromo organizations, no matter how much support they receive. For example, as much as ODF wanted to merge with ODF, so far, Abiy and his advisors still couldn’t trust the group enough to allow them to merge.
The main purpose of this commentary is looking at specific issue of major concern to Oromo in particular and to the country in general regarding the current political direction of the country. Specifically, how two veterans of EPRP — Dr. Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige–hijacked the direction of Ethiopian political roadmap by controlling Abiy Ahmed. Under such conditions Oromos must ask themselves the following questions before deciding to support or oppose Abiy’s government.
The most important questions Oromo have to ask themselves include: Has this government addressed important Oromo questions since coming to power? Does this government include Oromo veteran politicians and intellectuals to contribute towards policy formation for Oromia as well as for the country? Is Oromia better off economically today than when Abiy became Prime Minister ? Is Oromia more secure today? Are Oromo business persons safe to do businesses? Are farmers safe to farm? Do people feel safe to do their daily activities anywhere in the country? Are Oromo political organizations free and safe to perform their activities in Oromia including call meetings anywhere inside and outside of Oromia; open offices without security interference; campaign and recruit membership without government interference? Do Oromo organizations have full access to tax payer financed government media?
To answer any of the above questions, the data is very clear. However, to address each question in detail is beyond the scope of this short commentary. The gist of what the piece will be was summarized by no other than Lemma Magarsa just two days back in a press interview held with Uganda officials. To paraphrase, Lemma was partially correct when he said: “We did not answer any of the questions Oromos asked of us, we did not even touch on let alone answer our people’s demand.” I think Lemma was a little modest in his answer, after all he is part of the government.
In my judgment, Abiy could be heading in a dangerous direction. He is arrogantly trying to undo and reverse the fruits and direction of Oromo struggle born from so much sacrifice, so much death and ruin, and extraordinary heroism over the past half century. To Oromos who fought for their people, and died, it is because they believe, as did Abraham Lincoln when he said in his Gettysburg Address, ” these dead shall not die in vain-that this nation-shall have a new birth of freedom.”
To call Abiy’s government, an Oromo government, is being equally culpable for the crimes of Abiy’s actions in Oromia today and can be held ethically and morally responsible for such action. Abiy’s government is anti-Oromo and the danger looming over Oromia will be detrimental unless all Oromo political, social, and civic organizations come and work together in unity agreeing on a minimum program and resist Abiy’s malicious machination. As was discussed above, today, our people living in Wallaga and Gujii are under Abiy’s military occupation, and for the most part, the rest of Oromia is dead silent, some actually standing behind Abiy’s policies. There is no more ignorance and callousness than this. I agree with MLK when he said “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.
There is no more better time, crucial time, and more meaningful time to resist Abiy’s direction than now. If Oromos keep divided and Abiy and his advisors got their way, it might take another generation or more to reverse what is left of Oromoness. For Abiy has been a major liability for Oromia and is bound to do more atrocious damage if Oromos continue to watch silently. He is reveling in the chaos and the destruction he is causing. Similar with all world dangerous dictators, Abiy suffers from sadism, the most dangerous form of mental illness that you can find in a leader. Abraham Lincoln once said “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” And so are we. Eternal Glory to Our Martyrs!
About the Author: Albasa Dagaga is a researcher and resides in Washington DC Metro area. He can be reached through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org