By Oromsis Adula*
Adaba is located 345km from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Adaba is in the western Arsi zone of Oromia region according to the current administrative partitioning. On May 6th, the town was hit with a bomb blast that left two dead and scores wounded. Owning to the restricted flow of information in Ethiopia, most of the reports coming from the area is either conflicting or opinionated.
Opride.com reporter, who also happens to be from the same town, summarized the incident as follows based on eye witness accounts from the area.
It was supposed to be the perfect occasion for high level scheduled state visit by Oromia Regional Government officials. Abadula Gemeda, the string-puppet President of the Oromo region was scheduled to a nearby town of Dodola to cut a ribbon for a newly built hospital. The delegation was then scheduled to stop over at Adaba, 7km southeast, for a campaign rally in support of the ruling party affiliate, Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO). Raising some serious questions from skeptics, Abadula cancelled his scheduled visit at the last minute and Abdulaziz Mohammed, the Deputy President of the regional administration was filling-in for OPDO’s top man. The bomb blast shook the tightly packed stadium ground as the Deputy was wrapping up his rally in Dodola.
According to eye witnesses who were at the site of the malicious incident; an unidentified individual of a different ethnic origin was preparing to detonate the explosive bomb when he was spotted by one of those killed in the incident. As the deceased run to the suspect in an effort to curtail his evil doing; the bomb went off leaving the Good Samaritan, a father of six kids and one other civilian dead, and scores severely wounded.
In this complicated scheme of events; so far, three “suspects” including one that was caught red-handed by the public while preparing to denote a ticking bomb are said to have been apprehended. As clouds of fear and confusion hang over the town, all fingers are pointing to the minority Amhara ethnic group who are suspected of orchestrating the attack. Others are finding it fit to give a religious explanation to what otherwise seems a well staged theatre. The religious explanation comes amid a rumored plan of demonstration by the Christians in town to protest against the loud Azan (a call to prayer) coming from the town’s four mosques.
But Really, Who Are the True Culprits of the Deadly Incident?
Adaba is a small yet diverse town both in terms of religion and ethnicity. According to the 2005 Ethiopian government’s own statistics; out of some 17,875 urban dwellers, more than 7% reported an ethnic background other than Oromo, and over 20% professed Christianity. Considering the remoteness of the town that is fairly diverse. For many years, the town’s residents led a harmonious and peaceful coexistence.
In recent years, as is almost in other parts of the country, the town’s residents have witnessed an increased religious dogmatism on both ends of the spectrum. Back in mid-90s, Protestantism was new to the area and those who chose that belief were wrongly targeted. Then when the ruling party took a grip of power, religion was employed among other things as the prime strategy for its vicious divide and rule policy to saw discord among the people and create mistrust. Reportedly, religious leaders are armed to carry out the government’s mission often praising the ruling party at mosques, churches and religious holidays. For example, in a carefully thought-out strategy to prevent people from gathering, religious leaders decry extended mourning of the dead as un-Islamic besides encouraging religious weddings in lieu of the traditional practices common in the area.
The events surrounding the May 6th, 2010 bomb blast in Adaba during this runner up for the May 23 parliamentary election throws some roadblocks to the government version of events reported by the Voice of America and other international news organizations. Considering the recent killing frenzy and continual trading of murder charges by the opposition and ruling party, the bombing plot seems yet another malicious government theatre aimed at painting Medrek – the main opposition in the country, as the Neftegna devil with an Oromo mask. This was clearly evident in all investigation accounts collected for this report. For instance, in what seems identical with the government’s talking points, all my acquaintances from Adaba whom I spoke with shared their conviction that “the bomb plot was an act of aggression by the minority Amhara towards the Oromo” and that the Amhara opposition [Medrek] is undoubtedly behind the incident.
Here is why this reporter feels otherwise;
First, why was Abadula’s scheduled meeting cancelled? And why did he arrive the next morning unannounced to “help the victims of the deadly blast and mourn the dead?” I find that highly implausible and odd to believe because rarely do we hear the regional government entourage making such a high profile visit to a funeral service. For instance, since the campaign for election began, similar events were reported in other parts of Oromia including a murder of opposition candidates. No government official went to pay tribute or “help the families of the victims”. As such, this is clearly meant to draw more attention to the incident in an effort to turn the Oromo people against and away from voting for the opposition.
OPDO and their TPLF Boss’s know too well that, one such widely publicized event can have a huge backlash for a weak opposition whose campaign message is already obscured by the lack of permission to hold rallies and the absence of free press. People whom I have thought are apolitical told me that the Oromo parties in Medrek are “Amhara mercenaries with no chance of winning a single seat in Oromia under the coalition’s banner.” This could be an overstated assessment of the current ethnic politics of the country, yet truly revealing of the ruling party’s well received scare tactics.
Second, what is the conspirators’ likely motive if the Amhara groups as alleged were aiming to kill Oromo civilians? The government spokesman alleges that the bomb was an assassination plot aimed at killing the Deputy President of the regional administration. The truth of the matter is that the Deputy was in different town when the attacker attempted to hurl the grenade at the gathering. Immediately some in the local police started spreading a rumor that the blast came before the arrival of OPDO leaders because the attacker was allegedly drunk thereby making the case for an opposition coordinated assassination plot. Medrek or any of the weaker opposition running in Adaba or other places in Oromia has much less to gain from such acts. Most of the town’s residents are Oromo and they determine who can carry the seats to regional and federal parliament. The least likely scenario for any party running in such a remote town where information is inexistent is to turn the town’s people against itself.
It is imperative to put the current killing frenzy and the ongoing crackdown on opposition in perspective. At Addis Ababa University in what the police downplayed as a minor incident over a stolen phone, numerous Oromo students are incarcerated and the whereabouts of many is still unknown. In Moyale, southern Oromia, the Oromo People’s Congress rally was disbanded by heavily armed government militia and Dr Merera Gudina the chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress’s car was reportedly broken into by a mob. Then there was four other similar shooting and stabbing of opposition candidates in West and North Showa zone. It is clear that the battle ground has shifted from Tigray to Oromia as Medrek’s campaign got a new focus.