Ethiopia and Jawar Mohammed

Liya Tsegaye, Staff Writer

    Ethiopia has one of the most interesting and fascinating histories. From wars to protests to corrupt leaders, Ethiopia has been through a lot. These past few years, on the outside, seemed to have put Ethiopia in a better light. After an extremely corrupt government system was in place for 27 years, we got a new prime minister that was whose parents were Islam and Christian and they were from different “tribes” in Ethiopia. This was refreshing because of the ethnic tensions that were happening in the country. He was an advocate for co-existing of all the different cultures, traditions, and religions in the country. He worked to ease out tensions between Ethiopia and it’s neighboring country Eritrea that had been there for about 30 years. He has gone through steps to get that peace including opening-up the borders, ordering the release of thousands of prisoners and unblocked channels. For these efforts, he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. But while this is all great news, some darkness hid under the flashy outside of Ethiopia’s government.

 

   Jawar Mohammed is a political activist and a political analyst. He is Ethiopian-born but holds rallies and protests in the United States. He is also one of the founders of the Oromia Media Network and with that being said, he has a lot of followers and he is the spokesperson for a lot of people. Not long after he was bombarded in his house by security forces in an attempt to arrest him, he posted about it on his facebook page which has approximately 1 million followers, which caused there to be a protest against his arrest. This caused there to be riot and disruption in the Oromia and Amhara region in Ethiopia and caused about 17 deaths and many injured. He then posted a message asking people to stop the riots and to stop the blockades on the roads, which worked and the killings stopped instantly. Then on November 3, there was a meeting between BAiy and Jawar to stop and prevent any more ethnic violence like the ones mentioned previously. 

 

     While the two were at one point allies, things changed the minute Jawar and his followers accused the prime minister of hypocrisy. They say while he has lifted restrictions that once silenced government critics, released some political prisoners and removed some groups from terrorist lists, the prime minister is still engaged in oppressive tactics towards some ethnic groups, specifically his, the Oromos. Some have claimed that multiple offices of one political organization that was removed from a terrorist list (the Oromo Liberation Front) have been shut down and thousands of its supporters taken to detention centers in the past year and a half alone. 

 

    He then decided that he was going to run for office and overthrow the current prime minister. He claims that Abiy has done nothing to replace the old system of government. The critics against Abiy’s moves towards peace were challenged because of a conference that Abiy held with leaders in all tribes in Ethiopia to unify and bring peace. This meeting was held with officials from the ethnic parties such as the Oromo Democratic Party, the Amhara Democratic Party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement. This caused semi-successful results as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front didn’t seem to agree with the terms Abiy set. 

 

All of these ethnic tensions and political disagreements caused a lot of violence and deaths in the country. In the last few months, more than 30 Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches have been violently attacked and more than half were burned to the ground. About 45 deacons, priests and clergy were killed for defending their church and many members have been slaughtered and killed on the streets. The government has been neglecting this occurrence and there have been multiple protests in the country including diaspora in America. While some have been very angry at the government for ignoring this, some have been understanding of the Prime Minister. On ‘Christianity Today’, Meron Tekleberhan, a graduate of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, said “Abiy is just one man,” and “As much as he tries to wring change by the force of his personality, a lot of what is happening is longstanding. These ruptures have existed for generations.”. This showcases the patience that some people had with the government. 

 

   The church burnings were devastating secondarily because Ethiopia is one of the few countries where Christians and Muslims live together peacefully with mutual respect and proximity so having that co-existence shattered with the addition of loss of lives is heartbreaking. It is believed that the attacks may not be from religious extremists, but from others with political reasons in a country made up of several diverse ethnic groups. But the country is waiting to see what the government does about it. 

 

   These uprisings have been directly and indirectly linked to Jawar Mohamed and his followers by people in Ethiopia and on social media. There have been protests all around America and Canada such as Toronto, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Nashville and more towards his arrest and there has been a petition up on “Change.org” to get him extradited from the United States that has amassed 155,287 signatures as of December 13, 2019.

 

The future of the ethnic tensions, political climate, and religious harmony is all down to what the government is willing to do. If the government is willing to listen to the people both in America and in Ethiopia, then these tensions and strains can be easily solved. If they go about ignoring the situation like they are currently doing, nothing will change. These can also be fixed if the American government pitches in and listens to its citizens complain and beg for help. There are people here protesting so that the American, the most powerful, the government can help protect their families back home.