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.
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:
- End the one-party, one-tribe monopoly of economic and political power in Ethiopia
- Establish independent institutions and hold free multiparty election.
- Allow non-tribal real opposition parties like UDJ/Andinet, Blue Party and the Ginbot 7.
- End the disastrous ethnic based apartheid federalism.
- Establish genuine & micro federalism at the local level, including self-rule for the urban and self-rule for the rural (both ethnic & cultural communities.)
- Promote individual rights and free market economy.
- 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.
- Allow independent and private media in every region, including Tigray.
- Allow independent and international observers to oversee the transition to democracy nationwide.
- Transform the one-tribe military’s top leadership toward a national inclusive merit-based military.