A MISTAKE OR INTENTIONAL? EITHER WAY, OROMO REGIONAL PRESIDENT’S STATEMENTS RAISE SERIOUS QUESTIONS

Obang Metho

Remarks by Mr. Obang Metho on Shimelis Abdissa’s speech at the Ireecha Festival

October 7, 2019

In a speech given at the 2019 Ireecha Festival, Mr. Shimelis Abdissa, the Deputy President of Oromia Regional State, who also is the top official of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP/EPRDF), the political party currently in power in Ethiopia and also the former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, made a number of highly controversial statements that have incited anger and rocketed suspicions to new heights among countless Ethiopians.

Whether it was a mistake or intentional; either way, Deputy President Shimelis Abdissa’s comments raise serious questions that require some explanation. In our present ethnic-dominated, political climate, such comments are loaded with innuendos of what people are now saying is “a takeover turn.” It builds the case of those who are suspicious of the motivation behind the players leading the current reforms. Are they genuine? If this was an unfortunate overstatement by Shimelis, the public needs answers to their questions before it creates a bigger divide between an already divided society.

I also have questions. The language he used was similar to what we have heard over the past 27 years from the TPLF-controlled EPRDF who used the dehumanization and labeling of others to separate, alienate and isolate Ethiopians from working together or standing together. It resulted in erasing an important bond, hat of our shared humanity and common national identity that previously had kept Ethiopia together a proud nation. It served as an attempt to divide and conquer “the people” outside their own “ethnic box.”

I could not ignore it in the past fifteen years of my effort to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of all Ethiopian and to help bring reconciliation, peace and respect to the people of Ethiopia and I cannot ignore it now. In fact, in the past years when this kind of language was used against fellow Ethiopians, including my own ethnic group as well as Oromo, Amhara, Somalian, Muslim and others, I condemned it. This is why it is so shocking to hear this now coming from the president of this region. I thought we were done with the abusive languages of division and dehumanization. So, when I heard him speak to thousands of Ireecha celebrants at Meskel Square in the center of Addis Ababa, I was greatly disturbed to hear him talk about defeating.

He said, :“This is where the Oromo people broken. This is where the humiliation began. This is where his conscious is broken. This is where Tufa Muna and other fighters of that time broken by the Neftegna system. Today we have broken and rooted out who broken us. Oromo honored in its humiliation place. You won Oromo”!

He also stated that the Oromo had been denied the opportunity to celebrate the Ireecha Festival for the last 150 years. It is true that Ethiopia has a mixed history like most of the countries in the world; some of which we can be proud of and some that we are not. Opinions also may vary from group to group about what is good and bad; however, the speech was disheartening and many Ethiopians are now reacting to it. His labeling did not make the break from our flawed past, but seemed to repeat some aspects of it once again. It was not something we would have expected from the president of one of the largest, most populous regions of the country and the party that is in charge of leading Ethiopia. Mr. Shimelis’s speech is not only opposite to the Medemer Philosophy but it erased the Medemer Philosophy that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) uses as a fundamental concept to convince and unity the people of Ethiopia.

What we all, Ethiopians need to “Break and Root Out” is not an ethnic group or religious group or any other group but they are multiple, namely: tyranny, persecution, injustice, ethnic hatred and violence, human rights abuses, false imprisonments, denial of freedoms of expression, assembly or movement, the lack of free and fair elections, a weak rule of law, insecurity, and inequality of opportunity, poverty, health care, lack of education, housing, road, infrastructure and sustainable development. Most of all, it is ethnic-based politics and ethnic federalism that is most likely to tear Ethiopia apart if it is not handled swiftly and wisely, with justice and wisdom.

When this current change of Team Lemma or Oro-Amhara began in May 2018, I came out right away and embraced it. I supported the prime minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed; not because of his ethnicity or political party, but because he articulated  a vision for a country where the best interests of the people—not a region or a group—would be made the priority, giving us hope for a country where we can all live together and be valued as citizens. This is what I stand for and is what will bring peace among us, regardless of differences.

These are ways to measure genuine victory but we are not there yet. We may have won some battles as result of the Team Lemma or Oro-Amhara coalition, but we the people are still far away from the total victory. To gain that Common Good Victory for all, we have to reclaim our individual dignity and respect the dignity of othersfor no one will be free until all are free. This means restoring the value of each of us— putting humanity over ethnicity or any other differences. These are the foundational principles for any healthy, harmonious and prosperous society.

This Ireecha celebration could have been used as an umbrella to bring everyone together for peace building. It could have been utilized to reconcile Ethiopian people who for many years have been intentionally divided by their ethnicities and any other differences as a means to maintain power over them by few elites.

One of the biggest mistakes done at this Ireecha celebration was the glaring absence of any Ethiopian flag, even the current flag of the EPRDF. Instead, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political flag was there and the security officials did not take it away. In Ethiopian society, flags have been repeatedly used as strong identity symbols of alliance or rebellion of opposing groups. The missing Ethiopian national flag during the Ireecha Festival was a strong statement that was all the more shocking after the historical Ethiopian flag was outlawed during the annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches commemoration of the discover of the True Cross just over a week ago.

The EPRDF flag with the star in the middle was allowed. Some among the Orthodox defied the restrictions. It resulted in the arrest of some 55 people who carried or displayed the historic flag of green, yellow and red that many Ethiopians regard as highly symbolic of the sacrifice of those who fought for the country in the past.

These are the kinds of loaded sensitive issues that can become major mistakes, with serious consequences, for any country that is truly seeking peace. It can be especially dangerous in a country like Ethiopia where ethno-nationalism and conflict is on the rise. Look at our unhealthy obsession with ethnicity, starting with the Preamble of the Ethiopian Constitution that addresses the people of the country as “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. Add to that ethnic federalism, ethnic-based political parties, regional states, banks, ID cards with ethnicity, sports clubs and so on—all geared to an ethnic group. We should be cautious.

As someone who cares a great deal about the welfare of all Ethiopian regardless of ethnicity, I hope this kind of mistake will not be done again; or if it was intentional, that the whole agenda behind this be re-evaluated in a transparent manner. It is very dangerous and a threat to the existence of all of us. The concern for the basic rights of our citizens should not be greater simply because someone comes from a preferred group or region.

I call on all Ethiopians to abandon the politics of ethnic hatred, isolation, deception and pretension. It is time to embrace the politics of ideas and principles that advance justice, rights and equality for all. It is too early to celebrate a true victory! Let us hold off our celebrations until we see meaningful reforms, especially constitutional and institutional reform, restorative justice and genuine reconciliation provide a foundation for a healthier, righteous, more caring, and more peaceful society. 

Let us then pass this kind of blessing to future generations of Ethiopians as well as to those beyond our borders. The choice is ours! Let us, strive to make it become the “Genuine turn of all the people not only few” for all the citizens of the country.

May God bless Ethiopia and long live Ethiopia!

6 COMMENTS

  1. All Ethiopians should know who is benefiting and spreading the ethnic based hatred trying to turn Ethiopia into Syria it is the Addis Ababa sefari people who are weak that mostly work for foreigners against Ethiopian interests.
    Addis Ababa sefari foreign militants are working to turn Ethiopian into Syria.
    The man that walked into the military camp in Ataye , NORTH SHEWA on 10/2019 is most likely one of those diaspora foreign governments hired baladera Addis Ababa people targeting around North Shewa hat had been tirelessly working to create friction between Qimant , Tigeay , Afar , Amara and Oromo peoples for the past year year or more including very recently in Gondar and North Shewa . Ethiopians especially diasporas are aware of the foreign government financed Addis Ababa sefari people’s traitors intentions.. You Addis Ababa sefari people are tested known you got no heroes among you. The only thing you Addis Ababa people do is like you have done always for the past 20+ years being an obstacle to the business development of Ethiopia. You tried with kinijit to start friction among people and nationalities of Ethiopia, that’s when the hero Samora Yunus put you down like the barking dogs get put down, now the whole country is aware that you sefaris are trying to turn Ethiopia into Syria , so surrender to us orelse you will each be dealt with again right there at your Addis Ababa sefari protests once again. Samora Yunus will get a monument of his own in Addis Ababa for the punishment of these traitor Banda sefaris in Addis Ababa.

  2. This official must say what he said during the festival. An election is coming and he must say anything for public consumption. Please remember these current officials no matter how they try very to reinvent themselves(which is not a bad thing) they were part of the clique that was habitual rigger of elections and opposition killer/jailer. That is what they are. They feel so empowered that they lack that polished discipline during such major events. They feel so powerful now that they may have gone so arrogant and complacent not knowing the fact that power is so temporary and they are like a furry dog and can drop dead in a single nationwide mass protest. In their mind, they are it! They are like no other of their predecessors. They think they are so different that there is no question in their mind they will ‘rule’ a thousand years. That could be one of the motivators for them to be seen fatter by the day. Just look at some of them. Every time I see their latest photos they are seen bursting at the waist and growing double/triple chins. What have they been eating? The have been swallowing whole chicken with skin on?

    Excellent article by this unrepentant man of God patriot!!!!

  3. Dear Obong,
    Keep watching the country is moving slowly from complex to uncertainty because of the undefined Medemer Philosophy scenarios, where things will be out of hands for controlling. you see a senior party member delivered public speech as Guerrilla leader.
    Regards,
    Lul

  4. Obang Metho is politically infant and mentally slave who grew up and shaped with the self denial behaviors. Anti-unity and toxic are those like him and his mentors. My advice for this guy is to take a basic political science courses before he open again his filthy mouth. His poor discourse has nothing to do with the reality at hands in Ethiopia today.

    Here is my short massage for Obang Metho:

    You are not speaking your mind. You are only promoting the political ideologies of the anti-unity organizations in order to get their financial and moral support. They act deliberately as anti-unity practically in latent ways. But their lip service is always about fake unity.  They don’t want to accept unity in diversity. By the way, how do you dare to teach us about Ethiopianism? Do you think you have better knowledge as most of us? It is ridiculous!

    Please don’t commercialize the human rights your own  people for the sake of financial and moral support which you get from anti-unity individuals and organizations. All what you says and writes here and there are a nonsense philosophy of others, in particular those who claim unity without diverseness. 

    Do you stand for the rights of the Gambella people in general and for the rights of the Agnuaks’ in particular? Then articulate that problems precisely instead of writing a philosophy without substantial information in order to fulfill the interest of your financial supporters.

    Please reshape yourself as a man of principles and integrity, speak only the truth and do only the right things.

  5. Obo Endalkachew:
    A “principle” is a firm adherence to a code of conduct – across the board. You accused Ato Obang of not being “principled.” As an integrous and principled man, he should rather speak out for the rights of everyone (in fact, for all humanity) and not just for his ethnic group, Agnuaks, as you have scribbled. You reminded me of a story of one wrongly accused man in the court of law. The prosecutor had conspired with the judge to get the innocent man to go to prison. The judge said, here is a criminal at the end of my pen, pointing his pen to the defendant. The defendant quickly answered back, at which end, sir?

  6. Mr. Obang Metho is real man, appreciate so much !!! you are always searching truth and rational mind all n everyday.

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