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June 17, 2021
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A Year of Ruptures and Hope: Reckless Elites and the Balderas Stunt

by Mike Mamo

It is just over a year since the uprising of 2014 – 2018 help topple TPLF’s predatory state. The eventual transition of the uprising into a nationwide resistance and its ability to inspire a team of internal dissenters within the ruling EPRDF were the pivotal moments.
The dissenters skillfully and decisively demolished the brutal state and neutralized its security and military apparatus. Since then Ethiopia’s liberalization has proceeded at breakneck speed.

That a small band of aspirational leaders will so swiftly dismantle the fearsome Woyanne state in such a breathtaking speed was beyond anyone’s imagination.
Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and his team of collaborators pulled off a stunning reversal of the Ethiopian brutal state, stormed the iron gates to Ethiopia’s notorious prisons, and liberated the political landscape in a sweep unseen in the country’s long history.
During the same year perhaps unexpectedly, and while the liberalization of Ethiopia is still underway, the political climate started to sour, especially among Ethiopia’s traditional political class.

Their ecstasy on the demise of TPLF turned into revulsion and insanity.
A newly mutated brand of delusional mob leaders and reckless elites is gripping the national political landscape and the capital Addis Ababa in particular.
Since the purging of the Woyanne predators, the reception to the redeemers by the elites has plunged from initial euphoria (the mass celebrations at Masqel square –pictured above- and the tens of thousands of Ethiopian Diasporas who came to greet Abiy and Lemma in Washington and Minneapolis) to malice and ferocious campaigns against Dr. Abiy’s government.

The Ethiopian political class has now posed a serious political threat to the survival of Dr. Abiy’s government and most importantly to the survival of Ethiopia herself. It is a multi-pronged threat that is dangerously pushing the country to an outcome none of the reformers nor the gallant youth who paid the ultimate price have wished for.
We are witnessing alarming developments in the country’s private media networks, in particular in the growing camaraderie between ESAT and Tigrai Online, as well as in the various political circles that have begun to mushroom since the liberalization of the political space one year ago.

Among the most upsetting developments, we have also witnessed the birth of Addis Ababa’s first official warlords at the Balderas council. Exploiting the newfound freedom, they erected a parallel city administration; they instigate interethnic war by manufacturing a non-existent Oromo threat over the capital.

Social Media’s constant call to arms and the labeling of Abiy Ahmed as ‘Gragn Ahmed’, the constant condemnation of Dr. Abiy’s leadership and the call for his removal from office by the now brothers-in-arms at Tigrai Online and ESAT have added more uncertainty and tension to the political climate.

Who would have thought a mere one year ago that ESAT, a network established to hasten the demise of TPLF, and TPLF’s own mouthpiece will find themselves in solidarity and work towards the shared goal of removing Dr. Abiy from office? Many people may have to demand a full reimbursement of their gifts to ESAT in money, time, energy, and most importantly in their lives.

Dr. Abiy must have done things right. Two sworn enemies that vied for each other’s destruction suddenly find a common goal. Their mutual hostility in the past must have been just a farce.

If the ESAT-Tigrai Online pact is unpredictable, it is impossible to fathom the absurdity and the recklessness in branding Abiy’s Ethiopia as a failed state by none other than the masters of genocide from the Derg era.
The henchmen of the Derg, roaming through the newly freed Ethiopia, are sharing with us their ‘acumen’ on how to save Ethiopia from the hands of Dr. Abiy.
It must be one of the cruelest ironies of our time.
People who have successfully steered Ethiopia into perpetual civil war and death are now rising as our nation’s saviors.
Drawing on their own ‘wisdom’ at government, they call for the abolition of the constitution, dissolution of parliament, and bypassing parliamentary scrutiny and rule by decree. They demand the resignation of Dr. Abiy and insist on a transitional administration under the auspices of the AU.
Their moral and historical blindness to the atrocities of their own past is simply stunning.
The Ethiopia of today does not answer dissent by carpet-bombing rebellion. The state police has no standing orders to shoot and kill. There are no state executioners; there are no torture chambers in Dr. Abiy’s Ethiopia. The Gestapos of Ethiopia, Derg’s Dehininet and the Woyanne secret police, are no longer in positon of power to terrorize, pre-empt, and destroy dissent.
Ethiopia no longer suppresses voices and ideas; the good, the evil, or sheer idiocy are brought to the table.
The spectacular degeneration of the elitist support to Dr. Abiy is easy to explain.
To begin with, the two key leaders of the transition Abiy and Lemma were themselves members of the same ruling regime that they actually toppled. That two relatively junior members of the ruling EPRDF were indeed sincere enough to tear down the government that they themselves helped sustain is by itself an improbable accomplishment.
Once it was clear that Abiy and Lemma meant business, the elites realized late in the game that Abiy and Lemma are not quite among their own pedigree.
When the issue at hand is the resuscitation of the Ethiopiawinet project, emasculated by 27 years of Woyanne rule, Abiy and Lemma’s ethnic roots and their motives inevitably come into play.
The elites have accused Abiy and Lemma of supplanting the Woyanne rule by their own vision of greater Oromia. When it is clear that Abiy and Lemma have no such ulterior motive, the Ethiopian political class invented one for them.
The suspicion and toxic resistance against Dr. Abiy’s leadership is nowhere more visible than in the anger and juvenile madness involving the Addis Ababa question. A century-old ethnocentrism and bellicose patriotism underlie the anger and table pounding at the Balderas, ESAT, and NaMA forums.
By erecting a parallel city government, the Balderas warlords and their allies have staged an illegal seizure of power; by choosing to faceoff with the people of Oromo over the future of Addis Ababa, they insinuated an interethnic war.
The tables seem to have turned on our bellicose nationalists who historically used to deploy their state power to squash secessionism. They now find themselves with the bigoted job of barricading Addis Ababa with the intent to secede the city from the surrounding Oromos, whose historic and geographic attachment to the city no one should dispute.
Our flag-waving nationalists are now peddling the parochial idea of blockading Addis Ababa from its historic and natural neighbors. It is dishonorable in one sense; it automatically depicts the Oromos as invaders rather than as the most significant pillars of the Ethiopian identity.
Historically, the Ethiopian elites have never fully embraced the role of the Oromo in matters Ethiopian. Prominent Ethiopian historians depicted the Oromos as the antithesis to the Ethiopia identity. This depiction of the Oromo as antagonistic to Ethiopiawinet, if slanderous, also describes the mindset of the Ethiopian political class today.
Over the past half century, popular movements in Eritrea, Tigray, and more recently in Oromo and Somali territories have led to a diminished hope for resurrecting the pan Ethiopian concept. Pan Ethiopianism is seriously impaired, if not fatally, by 27 years of the Woyanne counter movement.
That the reincarnation of the Ethiopia project from its ruins would fall in the hands of two Oromo trailblazers is an unpalatable proposition in the body politic of the Ethiopian political class.
Dr. Abiy is orchestrating one of history’s boldest experiments at democratizing a country with a difficult, bloody past. Determined to install a multiethnic democracy in the unlikeliest of places, he is navigating a dangerously polarized political landscape decisively and methodically.
Extraordinary in its scope, Dr. Abiy’s liberalization has galvanized the quest for equality, democracy, and justice. Consequently, the unprecedented freedom is taking its toll.
Ethiopia’s freedom came with an unavoidable price in human life, erosion of peaceful coexistence, and loss of treasure. Ethiopia finds itself in the middle of interethnic and societal crisis.
Within just one turbulent year, the Ethiopian social and political fabric ruptured.
Regrettably, among the fallouts of the newly liberated political space is the rise of belligerent nationalists and political daredevils who continue to ravage the country with zero accountability.
Until the arrival to the scene of Dr. Abiy, grievances and demands for justice were dealt with violence. The arrival of Dr. Abiy’s brand of futurist leaders ushered in a new era, an era that released centuries of grievances and political discontent to the open.
What the country needs today is not a return to the repressive state. Ethiopia needs a national consensus aimed at balancing autonomy and self government with strong federalism.
The country is blessed at the moment with an astute, charismatic leader but it is also in dire need of strong federal political institutions. It is encouraging to see that the consensus among moderate Ethiopians seems to be advancing in that direction.
The reckless elites are petitioning for complete stripping of the existing federal structure and banning the constitution. Foolish answers such as these came with a heavier price, as our history sternly warns us.
The last time the country forcefully dissolved a federal structure was in 1962, with the dissolution of the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. That dissolution and the subsequent replacement of the official Eritrean languages precipitated one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s history.
Mike Mamo can be reached at mikesmamo@gmail.com

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