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Government of Ethiopia Needs to Learn to Listen to the Oromo People

One thing that government of Ethiopia has failed to do is listen. This is for the simple reason that Ethiopia is facing a more serious crisis than it appears to know or is willing to accept. The state cannot wish away what is facing it and I am sorry to say that there no military solution to the problems facing Ethiopia. The government has used the gun for decades and failed terribly so that the people uprising are no longer afraid of the gun. This helps to complicate the situation a little more.

Currently, Ethiopia is facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude, yet its government and Western enablers refuse to acknowledge and recognize the depth of the crisis. Refusal to accept the seriousness of the crisis is a major undoing and will have far reaching consequences for Ethiopia and the region. The Oromo people are the single largest ethnic group both in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa and the crisis beating the state and the Oromo community is starting to exhibit a clear evidence of a problem that is threatening to degenerate into a full-scale social explosion with a possible and dangerous regional/international dimension. The ongoing protests have been characterized by absolutely extraordinary display of defiance by the Oromo people and it is by far the most significant political developments in the country since the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the strongman who ruled the country for over two decades.

The Oromo have accused the security forces for using live bullets against peaceful protesters, killing over 400 people. The Oromo have witnessed numerous harassment from the state security agencies; their elite and political activists, human rights activists, journalists, religious and community leaders have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Their territories have been characterized by curfews and internet shut downs with currently the regime declaring a state of emergency. All these measures are just but a desperate state’s attempt to intimidate a section of its people who have a grievance. Unfortunately, these people have time and again demonstrated their determination and refusal to be cowed by the state.

What the Addis admiration seems not to accept is the simplest fact that ‘you cannot use a gun on someone who is too willing to die.’ State weapons are often used for outright intimidation as a form of deterrence. It means that whenever people cause chaos, the state can intimidate them through the show of power so that they back down for fear of being hurt. But such a strategy cannot work in situations where the people are ready to be hurt and to die for a  cause that they so believe in. Is it not interesting as it is annoying, that the Ethiopian government still clings to some false hope that the Oromo will eventually give up on their cause? I doubt they will; they have shown they won't. 

In order to understand this, we must pay some recourse to history. The Oromo people have a historical grievance which can be interpreted as genuine. They are a people who continue to see themselves as parts of no part; as a people who belong to the country but have no say in it; as a people who can speak but whose voices are heard as a noise, not a discourse. A strategy of divide and rule that has been experimented for the last 25 years by the current regime has continuously and spectacularly failed. This is a strategy beating the Oromos and Amharas, the two largest ethnic groups in the country which have been falsely presented as eternal adversaries. The Addis administration, in its quest to crash the Oromos, has equally build on yet another falsity that Oromos are a secessionist group to justify the continued monitoring, control, and policing of Oromo intellectuals, politicians, artists and activists. Oromos are protesting this kind of state censorship and they are determined to defy it at all costs, including footing ultimate costs.

The state is doing all these with total disregard of the fact that the Oromo make up well over a third of Ethiopia's 100 million people. Historically, Oromos have been pushed to the margin of the country's political and social life and rendered unworthy of respect and consideration. Oromo culture and language have been banned and their identity stigmatized, becoming invisible and unnoticeable within mainstream perspectives. And in pursuit of its divide and rule ideology, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front and Tigrayan elites have strived over time to present themselves as the only political movement, in the country, that could provide the stability and continuity sought by regional and global powers with vested interests in the region and to present Oromos as spoilers who needs to be contained.   

Blinded by some international allies, especially the US, which sees Ethiopia as strategic in the global war on terror, the Ethiopian government is in denial and making the same promises of restoring 'law and order' through further repression and crackdown. The US is not doing anything significant about the situation, neither are regional bodies and neighboring states. In fact, the US, has in numerous occasions, created and propagated fantasy stories which cast Ethiopia as 'democratic and its leaders as progressive' despite it being an open secret that Ethiopia is effectively a police state.

Amid these silences, government refusal to listen and inaction by allies, neighbors, regional bodies and the international community, it should be understood that the Oromo protests are microcosmic of more enduring and deeper crisis of political representation and systematic marginalization suffered by the Oromo people. Underpinning this is a genuine grievance that the Oromos are ready to pursue at all costs. The international community led by the US, continue to cajole the Addis administration, due to differentiated interests while the Oromo continue to suffer under the weight of a government that is outright dictatorial. Meanwhile Ethiopian government continues to experiment on the same old tactic; that of terrorizing the Oromos using the state hard power, a strategy that will for sure exacerbate the situation and throw the country into chaos in an already volatile region. It is time for Ethiopia to be told to try the untried - talk to the Oromo people; listen to the Oromo People.  

Government of Ethiopia Needs to Learn to Listen to the Oromo People Government of Ethiopia Needs to Learn to Listen to the Oromo People Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on October 11, 2016 Rating: 5

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