Friday, October 30, 2009

Ethiopia will be a Battleground for Sectarian Violence by 2025

Continuing on the theme of religion and politics from the last post, please consider the quote below from "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World", a November 2008 report by the US National Intelligence Council (NIC). Regarding religion-based identity politics and the intolerance that might result from it, the authors of the report note the following:
Although inherited and chosen layers of identity will be as "authentic" as conventional categories of citizenship and nationality, one category possibly will continue to stand out. Islam will remain a robust identity. Sectarian and other differences within Islam will be a source of tension or worse. The challenge of Islamic activism could produce a more intense backlash of Christian activism. Nigeria, Ethiopia, and other places in Africa will remain battlegrounds in this sectarian struggle.
Well, we are 15 years away from 2025, but Nigeria is already in the midst of a sectarian struggle since 1999 when Sharia was imposed in 12 northern states. There have been some instances of sectarian violence in Ethiopia since 2006 but, thankfully, none on a scale witnessed in Nigeria. Is it possible that Ethiopia can experience a large scale sectarian violence like Nigeria? Sure, it is possible.

What was intriguing to me about the NIC quote was that one of its authors, Johnnie Carson, would later become the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, a position that is largely responsible for most of the US policy towards sub-Saharan Africa. Ambassador Carson was the main Africa expert at NIC at the time the report was published.

I am inclined to think that this quote gives a clue as to how the US policy towards Ethiopia might evolve in the Obama Administration under Carson's guidance. The clue, I think, is this: the Obama Administration could conclude that the causes of the main political problems in Ethiopia are ethnic and sectarian related and, therefore, may determine that the US foregn policy making apparatus should not be used in sorting out "internal" issues.

If this comes to fruition, then I think that the Obama Administration will have made a serious error in judgment and would leave Ethiopian human rights and democracy advocates out in the cold just like its predecessors did.

Here below is Ambassador Carson being interviewed by VOA's Tizita Belachew in the Spring shortly after talking office. His lackluster answer to Tizita's pointed question about a revision of American policy towards Ethiopia is telling.


Unknown said...

Dear Fikru,

Selfish elites have been using Ethnic politics in Ethiopia as a short cut for power. We have witnessed these elites have no any considerations for the people they claim they represent. If we take EPLF for example, it was people from Eritrea province who were owning gas stations, transportation industries, factories and so many before they were forced to secede. Look what is going on in Eritrea now. Those elites after they brainwashed the youngsters, put them in more than 30 years long war and hundreds of thousands are perished, they declared that they are the source of freedom and demanded to rule the people for life. Therefore, it has been more than 17 years since they cling in power while the youths are losing their lives in Mediterranean and Red sea seeking refuge outside the country.

There are those who claim they have the mandate on the Oromo peoples’ future just by the virtue of being Oromo elite. These learned Oromo ethnic brothers, they claim that they are fighting against EPRDF rule and yet we don’t see them cooperating with other opposition groups to win the ruling group. This shows that they don’t care about the Oromo people. And if they can’t rule they prefer to be called secessionist so that they can collect “blood money” from donors.

I have been skeptical about ethnic politics from the very beginning, but knowing it is very sensitive and people can be easily misguided by ethnically charged rhetoric, have been seeking to bring deferent ethnic groups together as ethnic party member. In ethnically represented government, I strongly believe that there is no interest of one ethnic group can be fulfilled without affecting the other ethnic group or groups.

Therefore, the solution is one man one vote, respecting individual's right, banning ethnically and religion based political parties. Ethiopia is for all Ethiopians’, it is stupid idea which has been entertained by some ignorant elites that someone can take a portion of a country because one want to be a ruler of that part or that ethnic group. Our ancestors were fought for the whole Ethiopia, not only for the part they were born!. It needs our good will, let us work for unity. It is true, if we don’t do something, our children's futurity is dangerous. We can’t wait westerners to solve our problem, yes we can understand from ambassador Johnnie Crson's response to the Tizita Belachew's interview.

B. Amosie.

enset said...

Hi Berhanu,

I am not sure if there are any political parties that are based on religion in Ethiopia, but if there are, I agree with you that they should be banned. However, although I am not in favor of a political party based on ethnicity, I am of the opinion that banning them in post-1991 Ethiopia would cause more problems than learning to live with them and hopefully to teaching them that one's biological make up is only part of what gives an identity to a person. The genie is out of the bottle now, so to speak, and so I am skeptical about the practicality of banning ethnic-based parties.