The prospects of a lasting peace in Ethiopia following the peace deal struck last week between the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in which they agreed to permanently stop the hostilities which have devastated northern Ethiopia for the two years have been dashed due to the uptick in violence perpetrated in the Oromia region by OLF-Shene or the self-described Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and clashes between it and government security forces. Hundreds of civilians were killed, injured and abducted in various zones of the region over the past one month, with both sides accusing each other of committing atrocities. In one of their brazen acts to date, fighters of the terrorist designated OLF-Shene shot their way into Nekemte city, the capital of East Wollega zone located some 317 km west of Addis Ababa, killing and abducting several civilians as well as breaking free over 100 fellow fighters from a prison. The latest bout of violence is a continuation of similar incidents over the past four years that have led to the death and displacement of ordinary citizens and the destruction of their property. Sickened to their stomach by the unending massacre of innocent civilians, Ethiopians are increasingly asking when the carnage in Oromia and elsewhere will come to an end.
Ever since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) ascended to power in April 2018, Ethiopia has been racked by hundreds of intercommunal conflicts and targeted attacks in the majority of its regions. During this period thousands of defenseless civilians including children, women and the elderly have been butchered heinous attacks in the Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella, Amhara, Afar, Somalia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional states. Millions more have been uprooted from their homes and emotionally scarred. The public outcry in the wake of these attacks, however, has not spurred the required response aimed at giving the affected communities a respite and ultimately stamping out the problem once and for all. The failure of the federal government and the administrations of the regions where brutalities have been rife to end the senseless violence racking the nation have made a mockery of their repeated pledge to stop its recurrence.
The pervasive sense of insecurity the unending cycle of violence has engendered constitutes a grave threat to Ethiopia’s national. Protecting the safety and security of the public is one if not the most basic obligation of a government. Naturally, it cannot discharge this duty effectively if all stakeholders, who have a collective responsibility to protect the security of fellow Ethiopians, are not enabled to contribute their share. This said the government is duty-bound to see to it that all the structures under its control carry out the tasks entrusted to them within the confines of their mandate. The public has the right to know why the regional as well as local administrative and security apparatus in the areas suffering from frequent violence have been unable to afford protection to the vulnerable citizens they are obligated to. Unless the steps necessary to restore peace and stability are taken with alacrity, the future will not bode for the country and its people.
The slew of questions that the public asked whenever similar episodes of violence occurred in the past is being raised again. As usual no satisfactory explanation has been offered as to why the campaign of terror the likes of OLF-Shene are waging cannot be stopped and how long the people living in the areas where the insurgents are active have to live in fear. It’s entirely unclear why the Oromia and other regional governments are loath to purge elements within their ranks they, by their own admission, are collaborating with the insurgents. So is why they and the federal government have been unable to rout the insurgents or failing that to containing them after frequent assertions that they had been dealt a devastating blow. The longer OLF-Shene and its ilk are able to operate with impunity, the more doubt is cast on the federal and regional governments’ commitment to guarantee the safety of citizens.
Ethiopians are sick to death of the egregious crimes that are being perpetrated against their brethren. Admittedly, a nation undergoing a political sea change like Ethiopia is bound to be confronted with a myriad of complex challenges. Nevertheless, none of them are beyond Ethiopians if we put our minds to them. True, the primary obligation of ending unspeakable atrocities rests with the federal and regional governments. No matter how dedicated or desirous they are to defeating the perpetrators of terrorist acts, the desired outcome cannot be attained if the public is not empowered to play the decisive role it should. It’s not adequate to vow to eliminate groups responsible for terrorizing the populace. From embarking on a process which helps secure a political solution to starving insurgents of the popular backing they need to thrive to holding the entities and individuals behind unspeakable acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law, it’s imperative to undertake a host of short- and long-term measures intended to uphold law and order. These steps should be augmented by efforts geared towards consolidating the age-long tie that has bound Ethiopians together. It’s only then that the cycle of violence that has taken a heavy humanitarian and economic toll on Ethiopia can be broken and the difficult task of ensuring durable peace and stability may bear fruit. Let’s allow the winds of peace blowing in northern Ethiopia drift southward.