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Ethiopia protests at a point of no return

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(OPride) — At least 104 people were killed last weekend as anti-government protests flared across Oromia and Amhara regions. Nearly a week after the bloody carnage in which hundreds of thousands protested the Tigrayan domination in Ethiopia, the regime in Addis Ababa remains tight-lipped.

Ethiopia’s bombastic communications minister Getachew Reda has blamed the diaspora and social media activists for hijacking the protests. Addis Ababa also rebuked a plea for an independent investigation into the killings of protesters by the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights. Reda on Thursday told Al Jazeera English that international observers are not welcome in Ethiopia.

Funerals are taking place across the country. Locals report a heavy military presence in every town in Oromia and all major towns in the Amhara region. Arrests and disappearances have become daily occurrences. Despite the ongoing crackdown, the protests are expected to return to the streets with more vigor.

We asked a well-placed Addis Ababa-based analyst to get an accurate reading on the latest developments on the ground. Here’s an excerpt of that exchange:

  • The prevailing situation is similar to the last days before the 1974 revolution which saw the demise of emperor Haile Selassie. How? The regime is busy with self-destruction by focusing excessively on internal bickering and clueless about the storm gathering on the outside;
  • Expressions of solidarity between the Amhara and Oromo has become the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’s greatest anxiety. A dangerous social division is emerging. There have emerged two Ethiopias: one intoxicated by the Ethiopia rising narrative, the new Tigrean elite, and the other resentful of Tigrean excesses. The former has no clue as to why people are protesting and the later is wondering and waiting for the time when the whole country will be rising up to remove the humiliation.
  •  The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is in total disarray. TPLF has become incoherent. The Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) — supposedly the two most influential members of the four-party EPRDF coalition after TPLF — are embittered by their Inability to contribute to resolve the crisis due to TPLF intransigence;
  • The rank and file of ANDM is bitter against its old guard. They see them as instruments of Tigrean dominance. The lower level Amhara leaders are angry about being continually presented as oppressors when TPLF has been oppressing for 25 years;
  • The overwhelming view in the country is this: EPRDF is not an organization that is capable of reforming itself and thus headed to its demise.
  • On the question of why TPLF failed to tackle corruption and bad governance, a high-ranking official responded “how can thieves police themselves?” While the problems are structural in nature, remedies proposed by EPRDF are of administrative and technical nature. A case in point is their flagging of what they call rent-seeking, which is a catch-all category which is as open to different interpretation as vacuous.
  • Amhara solidarity with Oromo protests is growing and is serious. They are impressed with the discipline and peacefulness of Oromo protests. While the diaspora-based Amhara elite are still mistrustful of #OromoProtests, those at home are at peace with the Oromo desire for self-governance and equitable representation;
  • The general feeling in the country is that the protests have reached a point of no return. Many had appealed to the Tigrean oligarchy to prevent such a development and they are not coherent to steer country off the cliff;
  • There is a great deal of fear of further chaos. TPLF will not stop killing. People’s restraint is being exhausted. Disagreement within the army and police, along ethnic lines, is potentially the greatest source of chaos;
  • Protests in Addis Ababa are increasingly likely. People’s sense of justice has grown steadily strong. People’s hearts are ailing from the abuses Oromo protesters are subjected to and the youth appear ready to resist at all cost.

In short, Ethiopia is at a dangerous crossroads. We have a regime that will not stop killing and not ready for the kind of dialogue that the volatile situation demands. Besides, the EPRDF regime has become increasingly incoherent and unable to come to an approach that will pull the country away from the cliff.

On the other hand are highly enraged and mobilized populations whose patience and restraint against regime violence is fast running out. This is a deadly combination. Ethiopia’s allies can no longer deceive themselves, as they have in the past, that EPRDF-led Ethiopia is a force for regional stability. A destabilized Ethiopia is a nightmarish scenario with regional and continental repercussions. And the instability within Ethiopia’s ruling party and its intransigence to steer away from violent means of dealing with the gathering storm of society-wide dissent and resentment is driving the country toward chaos.

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