Ethiopia ponders Oromo lipstick on tyranny (Teshome Borago -Satenaw Columnist)

By Teshome Borago | Satenaw Columnist

In response to pressure from tribal protests, the TPLF dictatorship in Ethiopia is contemplating to replace its ethnic Welayta prime minister with an Oromo one. But for most Ethiopians, this old band-aid tactic is like putting lipstick on a pig; on a tyranny sustained by policies of systematic corruption, apartheid-federalism, nepotism and state-terrorism for 27 years.

Two leading candidates to become Ethiopian Prime Minister are Lemma Megersa and Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), an Oromo branch of the ruling party. Other than being Oromos, nobody can provide an experience or merit-based case for both candidates. Lemma was infamous for his controversial decision in 2017, banning ethnic Somali students from schools inside Oromia. Meanwhile, Abiy Ahmed helped spread TPLF’s spy program and he is a chronic self-promoter, who is famous for allegedly interviewing himself and editing his own Wikipedia page. One of the excuses thrown around for appointing Lemma or Abiy as PM has been to “finally” have an Oromo leader for the first time ever, as falsely claimed by foreign reporters who are not aware of Ethiopian history. Unfortunately, thanks to recent vile ethnic politics, many outside journalists do not know that both Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II (Oromo mother) and Emperor Haile Selassie were mixed-Oromos.

Lemma and Abiy’s vocal supporters also claim that both leaders are responsible for transforming OPDO into an independent Oromo organization that overcame the supremacy of TPLF. First of all, it is dehumanizing and disrespectful to Oromo people that the only hope Oromos now have is a “Made in Mekelle” organization that is created by TPLF using Oromo POWs. Secondly, there is no tangible proof that OPDO under Lemma is free from TPLF control. Other than a couple of speeches by Lemma & Abiy promising police accountability, nobody has seen a single TPLF police charged or imprisoned for the massacre of hundreds of innocent Oromos over the last two years.

Another “achievement” hailed by their supporters is the alleged respect for human rights of protestors and citizens displayed by local Oromia cops. But again, this ignores the reality that other minorities (like Somalis,Amaras, mixed and others) have faced death and displacement under the new OPDO leadership the last two years. After more Somali mass killings in Oromia recently, Lemma’s spokesman Mr. Addisu Arega Kitessa even made a disturbing comparison of the human rights of Ethiopian Somalis inside Oromia to that of a foreigner claiming rights in Mombasa. To this day, Lemma and Abiy have never apologized or condemned the humanitarian crisis for non-Oromos under their leadership, as exemplified by the rise of refugee camps all over eastern Oromia & Somali region.

According to media reports, most analysts still expect the TPLF to give thumbs up for an “Oromo prime minister” as a face saving measure. Considering past TPLF strategy of tribal chess games, this move will not be a big surprise. For instance, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn served as a valuable puppet for the ethnic Tigrayan TPLF ruling party. Some naive western analysts and journalists initially thought Desalegn’s rise 5 years ago symbolized a “smooth transition of power” from the late TPLF dictator Meles Zenawi. It took a while for foreign observers to finally realize that real power never changed hands. In reality, it was just a reshuffling of positions to portray a false image that Tigrayans do not control the government. Indeed, Tigrayans inside the TPLF still control the government, judiciary, economy and the military.

Historically, before 2012, the title “President of Ethiopia” was the laughingstock of the country, as a powerless ceremonial post usually reserved for OPDO Oromos to save the face of the TPLF power-brokers. But after 2012, the “Prime Minister” title became the new object of ridicule. When Meles Zenawi died in 2012, the power and the mandate of a Prime Minister died with him. Even the diaspora activist Jawar Mohammed admitted that prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn was himself a “political prisoner” of the TPLF and was essentially liberated from captivity by “resigning” last week.

Consequently, the TPLF will not mind awarding the worthless premiership post to an OPDO Oromo, since there is no real power attached to the title anymore.

Yet, there are still some Oromos who are hopeful and optimistic about changes under an Oromo leadership on paper. They say: What if an Oromo prime minister goes rogue and orders complete removal of all TPLF figures from government & military? Could this happen and change the course of history in Ethiopia? It is very unlikely. Even if it happens, replacing a small minority rule (Tigrayan) with a big minority rule (Oromo) does not guarantee democracy, nor equal rights. Nonetheless, if any future PM or leadership, whether Oromo or not, seek legitimacy, they must:

  1. End the one-party, one-tribe monopoly of economic and political power in Ethiopia
  2. Establish independent institutions and hold free multiparty election.
  3. Allow non-tribal real opposition parties like UDJ/Andinet, Blue Party and the Ginbot 7.
  4. End the disastrous ethnic based apartheid federalism.
  5. Establish genuine & micro federalism at the local level, including self-rule for the urban and self-rule for the rural (both ethnic & cultural communities.)
  6. Promote individual rights and free market economy.
  7. Organize a new Census that permits mixed-Ethiopians to be categorized under “ethnic Ethiopian” identity instead of being assigned or forced to pick one side.
  8. Allow independent and private media in every region, including Tigray.
  9. Allow independent and international observers to oversee the transition to democracy nationwide.
  10. Transform the one-tribe military’s top leadership toward a national inclusive merit-based military.


  1. As a reporter think of free from any ethnic group and don’t speak for specific ethnic group. In some extent this report is good and it describes the reality of Ethiopian government and how it is acting currently.
    You are just opposing not only government but also ethinic groups like oromo, tigre…..
    As international reporter Your report should based on fuct, truth and equality of all nations and religious groups.

  2. I wonder how people like you who shamelessly commit themselves to deceiving just for few coins live with themselves. How can you sleep? Of course you can since you have lost morals and your conscience is already seared.
    You’re telling us the two leading candidates to become Ethiopian Prime Minister are Lemma Megersa and Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), an Oromo branch of the ruling party. And you say Other than being Oromos, nobody can provide an experience or merit-based case for both candidates. So what you are saying is the public fell in love with these young men just because they are Oromos and nothing more. You see your reasoning is very self defeating. Then how come you are not in love with them or are you not an Ethiopian (oh ya you are a diaspora you are an ethiopian when it is convenient…with due respect to the majority). The truth is you exactly understand how experienced and unstoppable they have become but you are jealous and dismayed just because they are Oromos. You cant think beyond your stomach and the sight of visionaries like Lemma and Abiy makes you uncomfortable. You are ethnocentric and uncivilized. You are too blind and too consumed by ethnocentrism that you cant see the struggle of the people can no longer be deterred by people like you when there are people like Lemma and Abiy who give them Leadership, hope and focus. The two (public and team Lemma) need one another.

    “ weeks have gone by since Prime Minister Hailemriam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned from his postion as party chairman and prime minister of the country. No question that the Prime Minister’s resignation was a cumulative result of persistent ant-government protests by Ethiopians over the last three years. Ethiopia’s grassroots uprising has transformed into a broad and deep popular resistance that cannot be reversed by empty gestures or repressive means. As much as the resistance seemed fractured and without a common national theme, it is rooted in EPRDF’s suppression of basic rights and economic exclusion and exploitation. The humiliation of living as a second-class citizen in one’s own country under a repressive system and the collective anguish it inflicts on all is feeding the resistance and driving the desire for change. The ethnic divide foisted and exploited by the ruling party for so long has been bridged by this shared anguish and the realization that standing together benefits all. Make no mistake that the young people of Ethiopia have internalized their resistance against the regime the same way their ancestors did against the Italian occupation of the 1930s. Nothing short of a genuine and fundamental change that addresses their yearning for freedom, justice, opportunity and equality will extinguish this internalized fervor for freedom.
    The opposition bloc has a historic duty to usher in this change by building broad consensus on the modalities and mechanisms of a transition to a democratic future. The TPLF/EPRDF must realize that its divide-and-concur policy has largely been defeated, the people of Ethiopia have internalized their resistance against its divisive rule, global and internal politics are not on its side, and the economy is too sick to continue business as usual. It should negotiate in good faith and quickly.
    Leadership matters
    As EPRDF embarks on the search for the next leader, it is important to recognize that enlightened leaders are emerging from its own bosom and extending olive branches across ethnic lines. Oromia’s Regional President Lemma Magerssa and his vice Dr. Abiy Ahmed come to mind. Who thought such leaders capable of giving and accepting compromises (at least going by their rhetoric so far) would emerge within a fleeting period since the death of the former prime minister Meles Zenawi, the purveyor of the opposite. By the force of their positive vision and reconciliatory tone, people from all ethnic backgrounds are beginning to perceive the two men as a core part of their future national leaders.
    These leaders and their partners must now quickly deploy systemic and decisive actions to bring needed change. To do so, they will need our collective encouragement and support. As much as we admire the two and many other unsung heroes like them, let’s not forget that Ethiopia’s movement for equality and justice attained this height because of the countless sacrifice past and present generations have paid and are paying. Think of the thousands that have been killed and the thousands of who are still languishing in prisons for simply exercising their basic and democratic rights. Like Lemma and his team, any one who claims to be a reformer should acknowledge that the confidence to articulate and champion a positive vision without fear was attained because of the enabling environment made possible by the sacrifice of many across the country.
    Most importantly, it is essential to remember that the time now is for thoughtful and determined action that will bring the country back from the brink. Unless the reformers act quickly, this golden window of opportunity could shutter and the country could descend into chaos. As a matter of priority, regional governments, including Lemma’s Oromia, should exercise their constitutional authority and introduce meaningful institutional reforms within their own jurisdictions. In the case of Oromia for example, the leadership should give priority to reforming the judiciary, the police, and local government; release all remaining political prisoners; start an independent and transparent inquiry into the atrocities that took place in Ethiopia’s Somalia region; instruct their representatives in the federal parliament to work across regional party lines and enact a consultative process to find a negotiated solution to the national crisis. Embark on a political dialogue with the true opposition within their own region and beyond (inside and outside of the country) with the aim of developing regional and national consensus.”

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