The Norwegian Nobel Committee,
The Norwegian Nobel Institute Henrik Ibsens gate 51
0255 Oslo, Norway
RE: Nobel Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali and recent political development in Ethiopia
Dear Honorable members of The Norwegian Nobel Committee,
We,a group of Ethiopians and Norwegian nationals of Ethiopian origin residing in Norway, are gravely concerned about the current atrocities and destruction that befell on innocent civilians in Ethiopia that seem to be premeditated and masterminded by extreme ethnic based political groups and individuals. Our group is composed of academicians and professionals with PhD, serving in various Norwegian institutions for a great portion of our professional life. We do not represent a homogeneous interest and therefore stand independent from government, political faction, ideology, economic interest and religious beliefs. However, we are not impartial on Ethiopia’s disintegration and extreme radicalization of the political discourse.
We write this letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee to express our concern about the recent political developments in Ethiopia that have been misconstrued as fault lines of Prime Minister (PM) Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali and his government, while the reality is far from the unfounded accusations.
We unequivocally condemn the assassination of artist Hachalu Hundessa and leave the investigation to the police and judiciary system in Ethiopia. However, we also believe that the assassination was a well-orchestrated and planned action for a political gain. Since his assassination, the country has seen large-scale unrest, particularly in Shashemene, Agarfa, Arsi Negele, Dera, and Batu (Ziway) in the Oromia Regional State. Innocent people who struggle for their daily lives, who have neither the knowledge of the situation nor the association to any political party or group, have been intimidated, injured, slaughtered, and killed. Properties were burned and vandalized. Thousands were (and are being) displaced and left homeless. The killing of people and vandalizing of properties is aided by a list with the names of individuals and households labeled as “non-locals”. Just after the assassination of the artist, radical groups, individuals and their media outlets began to broadcast calling for unrest and hate speech. Many shreds of evidence of audios, videos, and texts calling for the killing of targeted societies are disseminated through social media. This led us to believe that the whole process of the assassination of the artist and the atrocities that followed are premeditated by radical ethnic based political groups and individuals.
It is not a secret that PM Dr. Abiy’s government came to office in 2018 with the popular uprising and the political rupture within the ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is an ethnic federalist political coalition. This avoided a looming civil war, averted turmoil in Africa’s second largest populated nation, with large ramifications to the already fragile Horn of Africa and kept the country to function.
As early as PM Dr. Abiy assumed office, he took bold decisions to release all political prisoners, opened up the political space, and invited all exiled opposition parties (including the most radical political parties and individuals) to the country in an unprecedented manner. His invitation of the previously imprisoned and exiled personalities like Bertukan Mideksa and Daniel Bekele to lead the most contentious Election Board and the Human Rights Commission has created an atmosphere of hope in that he showed his willingness to be scrutinized by outsiders. Equally reputable deed is the fact that he appointed women to half of his government's ministerial posts and the Federal Supreme Court is now led by an independent and high-profile female judge, Meaza Ashenafi, coming from the private sector. The peace with Eritrea and the mediation effort of PM Dr. Abiy in Sudan are vivid examples of what a peacemaker leader can achieve within a short time after assuming office. We believe that these good attributes have earned him the Nobel Prize Peace recognition from your office in 2019.
While institutional and political reforms are being undertaken, Ethiopia’s accumulated political problems have persisted in the last two years of PM Dr. Abiy’s administration which if not wisely controlled, can lead the situation into an unpredictable and fluid trajectory. The roots of the problems, which we are currently witnessing, are much more complex. It is well-known that Ethiopia is a mosaic of more than 80 ethnic groups. For the last 27 years, since the advent of the EPRDF, the Ethiopian political arena has been dominated by ethnocentric political discourses. The implemented federal system has had ethnic identity and language as its central criteria for self-administration. The way the federal system was exercised severed social fabrics, created intolerance, polarization, mistrust and rift between societies, and thus contributing to the current humanitarian crises and political unrest in the country. This is more so with the youth that are younger than the birth of the ethnocentric politics in the country and those who have been brainwashed by hate and mistrust, who have been the victims of narrow nationalism and myopic political views. In the last two years of Ethiopia’s post EPRDF society, the instability in the country has been characterized by intimidation, killings and destruction of the livelihoods of the minorities in each regional state, more so in Oromia regional state than others. Sadly enough, the loss of lives perpetrated by the hate mongers and the youth vigilantes seem to be the works of organized radical ethnic based political groups and individuals that preached unrest and instability until and unless their vague demands have been met.
Part of the political manipulations is sponsored by ethnocentric radical political parties and individuals whose views preach that the Oromo people -one of the largest ethnic groups in the country- have been dominated and exploited by the century old “neftegna” statehood and the viewpoint that undermines the Oromo personhood. While the struggle has brought the pre-2018 into fruition, by bringing PM Dr. Abiy into office who himself is an Oromo, the cause that the same Oromo people continue to be subjected to the same old institutional and policy discrimination is a farce and without any touch to reality.
The term “neftegna’’ was excavated out of the long-forgotten memories of past Ethiopian feudal system, minted and spread by the tribalist and division-monger of the previous regime, in its sinister political architecture to create mistrust, intolerance and hate between the two largest ethnic groups-the Amhara and the Oromo- so that its minority regime grips on power as long as it wishes. To some extent, the strategy has worked to prolong the life of the regime for 27 years, but it has also led to a vicious cycle of violence, never ending even after the previous regime is toppled down. Unfortunately, the term “neftegna’ resonates with the youth Oromo population and the radical Oromo politicians who want to incite violence and marginalization of the minorities in the Oromia regional state. The term is tagged on minorities who in fact are no different from the local people. What has evolved over time is the fact that the killings, intimidation and eviction of people in Oromia Regional State include all other ethnic groups who are labeled as “non-locals”. Indeed, one can observe PM Dr. Abiy’s challenges of striking the balance between answering this age-old ethnic question and leading a country of diverse ethnic groups. He is often heard saying that his belief is to ensure the equality of his Oromo ethnic group with the rest of ethnic groups in Ethiopia, and not dominance over others. However, he has been accused of being a sell-out, who cares less for the Oromo people and their cause.
We value the Norwegian Nobel Institute's decision to award PM Dr. Abiy based partially on his promising engagements and leadership role in building peace and democracy in Ethiopia and setting an analogous pace in the Horn of Africa and beyond. We, therefore, would like the Nobel Institute to understand that the accusations targeted at the PM Dr. Abiy are unfair and based on false narratives. In our opinion, PM Dr. Abiy is working tirelessly to strengthen the unity, peace and security of the country under difficult political circumstances. As stated above, the planning and execution of violence in the Oromia Regional State are premeditated and masterminded by the extreme tribalist political groups and individuals who have been making calls of violence in broad daylight. All the Prime Minister and his government did was to contain the wildfires of ethnic cleansing, which need to be understood within the context of the 27 years of exclusion, divide and rule and ethnic hegemony. The call by certain groups to revoke the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to PM Dr. Abiy is ludicrous by all accounts. We strongly believe that the two years of PM Dr. Abiy’s administration has been a tumultuous journey with so many inherited problems that need a national project of its own, for which the Prime Minister should be supported by the international community.
A group of academician and professional Ethiopians and Norwegian nationals of Ethiopian origin residing in Norway
Honorable Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Honorable Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development
Honorable members of the standing committee on foreign affairs and defense Norwegian
2019 Nobel Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali
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