Appeal for Calm on the Alarming Developments in Eastern & Southern Ethiopia
Ethiopiawinnet Press Release
September 16, 2017
We in Ethiopiawinnet are alarmed by recent reports of “border” disputes between Oromo and Ethiopian-Somali regions that degenerated to internecine killings, forced mass displacements, imprisonment and expulsions, affecting thousands of peaceful citizens. In particular, the conflict has resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives on both sides and loss of public and private properties.
The root cause for this conflict is the experimental “ethnic” policy, religiously followed by the TPLF/EPDRF regime for more than a quarter of a century. Nine regions were created in a top-down approach, mostly based on the ethno-linguistic population make up criteria. Each region came up with a regional constitution that defined regional identity & rights to emanate from belonging to the main ethnic group of the region, not citizenship and residence in the region, as in other federal states around the world. Unlike any democracy in the world, the Ethiopian experiment created mine & yours mentalities, relegating residents into first & second class citizens, even triggering repeated expulsions, as was the case to Amaras in Arba Gugu, Bedeno, Water, and others, since 1991.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that border disputes arose between Oromo and Ethiopian Somali regions, as it happened in other parts of the country. A referendum was conducted in 420 Kebeles located in 12 different Woredas across five zones of the Somali Killil in Oct. 2004, to resolve contentions since establishment of Ethnic Federation. Close to 80% of the disputed areas were reported to have voted to be under the administration of the Oromia Killil. Yet ethnic conflicts persisted. More than 80,000 people have been displaced since 2004.
Such are the results of ethnic politics that could potentially affect all “ethnic” groups and can quickly reach its ugliest forms of ethnic cleansing. Politics based on ethnicity is toxic and that is why it is banned in all countries of the world, except in Ethiopia since 1991. Even the failed experiment in the Soviet Union hadn’t allowed ethno-linguistic federation, in spite of the rhetoric for the rights of nationalities.
Reports about the Liyu Police force triggering the conflict aren’t new. As reported by Addis Standard, a number of incursions were made by the force in Eastern Harerge, Bale and Moyale areas, displacing, raping, kidnapping, imprisoning, killing and plundering citizens in Chinhakson, Mieso, Deder, Gursum, Moyale, Liben, Gumii Edelo, Sewena, Meda-Wolabu, since March 2017. Peaceful attempts to resolve the conflict has been ongoing, spearheaded by traditional leaders on both sides. Regional representatives had been in Addis to appeal their case as well, but things got out of hand before central authorities acted.
Things have turned ugly particularly in the past three days, following the killing of Selama Mohammed, Gursum Woreda Administrator, and Tajudin Jamal, a Policeman from Harer, after their arrest in Jijiga, on Sept 11, and at least 12 Somali residents of Aweday on Sept. 12. Tens of Oromos were killed in Jijiga and thousands were forcedly expelled. It is reprehensible that many were killed in retaliatory attacks. Many of the murdered Ethiopians were life time residents in each region. Yet, that didn’t save them.
Ethiopians are world renowned for their culture of tolerance, mutual respect, positive outlook, and helpfulness. Triggering internecine conflict is now part of a political & security strategy by a section of the Ethiopian government to frustrate an emerging national consensus, to demand democratic reforms, by enticing inter-ethnic tensions among our people, on regional and national levels. National patterns are clearly visible: Oromo vs Somali, Amara vs Quemant, Amara vs Tigray, etc.
If not managed responsibly by peaceful means with utmost civility and national responsibility, there is no guarantee it won’t morph itself to mass ethnic cleansings. God forbid, it may even be encouraged for replication elsewhere in Ethiopia in the coming months and years. Ethiopiawinnet; Council for the Defense of Citizens’ Rights, appeals to all our citizens in general to our brothers and sisters from the Oromo and Somali communities in particular, to exercise restraint and resolve the problem by using traditional and time tested conflict resolution means. It is understandable to get angry over the state of affairs in our country and regions. More than ever, we need to tap the wisdom of our forefathers for mutual understanding & tolerance. We should continue to struggle for justice but not at the expense of the life & wellbeing of another Ethiopian. Hopefully incidents of the past few days remain isolated cases. Your heroic history of struggle for justice shouldn’t have any dent. We appeal to you to keep frustrating forces of division and focus only on the struggle for peace, justice and equality, even if it costs you in the short term.
Let us all strive for a united and democratic Ethiopia!