By Daniel T. Dibaba, PhD
I am writing this response to Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis’s article to inform the international community about the organized misinformation by extremist Amhara elites on the ongoing political situation and historical facts in Ethiopia.
Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis is a former high official of the dictatorial Marxist Leninist Derg regime in Ethiopia and currently a visiting fellow at Boston University, Africa Studies Center (https://www.zehabesha.com/state-terrorism-in-ethiopia/.) Mr. W. Giorgis was a member of both the Haile Selassie and Derg (Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987) regimes. Mr. W. Giogies served as a senior member of the Derg regime that committed globally acknowledged state terror between 1976 and 1978. As a very senior officer in the Army and a senior member of the two regimes, Mr. W. Giogies personally participated in the planning and execution of the Red Terror campaign in Ethiopia and Operation Red Star Terror in Eritrea that the Marxist Junta regime committed.
The Ethiopian Red Terror, which was devised based on the Russian Civil War called Red Terror resulted in the mass murders of close to half a million Ethiopian population . During those times, Mr. W. Giorgis was military personnel with a rank of major general in the Derg regime, a high government figure in the administration, a close friend of Mengistu Haile Mariam, and was part of the government that brutalized Ethiopians.
Once the reign of terror ended, Mr. W. Giorgis became the head of national relief and rehabilitation commission responsible for national famine response where he allegedly engaged in personal profiteering and corruption, reportedly siphoning to the tune of $300,000 in aid fund and fled the country to the US in 1986.
While serving as the head of the national relief and rehabilitation commission coordinating massive national food aid programs and resources in one of the poorest countries on earth during the worst famine in the country’s history, Mr. W. Giorgis reportedly procured two personal homes overseas, one in California and another in London. This is at a time when hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians died of famine that dominated headline news all over the world. Thousands of lives could have been saved with the aid money he had smuggled out for personal benefits .
After he left the country and settled in the United States, Mr. W Giorgis started writing books and articles describing the terror with the aim of exonerating himself and diverting the blame to other members of his government. Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis is, in effect a former perpetrator of terrorism, with little or no moral compass to give a lecture on state terrorism in a way that suits him and the like-minded people. Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis is currently engaged in a propaganda campaign to support his hidden agenda of reincarnating the failed and rejected Unitary imperial rule. He falsely accuses, without a shred of evidence, the current multinational federal structure of Ethiopia as the main reason for the persistent failure of the Ethiopian empire to democratize. He then goes on calling for the replacement of multinational federal structure with the already tested and rejected unitary system, that was presided over by the previous government in which Mr. Dawit and his colleagues served as senior officials and ruled the Empire as their personal enterprise.
While the current Ethiopian prime minister had confessed that his government, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was a terrorist and promised to usher democratic reforms, his promises did not last long and his current Prosperity Party became one of the worst terrorist governments in history. Thus, we may agree with Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis up to this point. However, it would be overstretching to try to link the state terrorism in Ethiopia to external non-governmental actors such as the terrorist groups operating in Somalia and elsewhere. The state terrorism in Ethiopia stems from the desire to continuously monopolize state power and resources, the desire to evade accountability for the crimes the ruling team committing, to eliminate potential contenders, and to create a submissive unitary society that they can easily control.
The state terrorism in Ethiopia is mainly directed at Oromia, the Oromo political parties, and the Oromo political leaders. Most of the repressive activities of the government such as imprisonment, ongoing graphic murders, military executions, displacements, and military rule are actually directed at the Oromo people, resulting in the incarceration of over 50,000 Oromos in overcrowded jails, more than 20,000 of these imprisonments occurring after the current regime came to power – 2019 to 2020  . In addition to the actions of the federal government, Oromo students and Oromo residing in Oromia zones in the Amhara regional state are frequently attacked by the Amhara regional special force and the police resulting in the brutal murders of over 11 Oromo university students and murders of hundreds of Wallo Oromos from 2019 to 2020 . In addition to these, the Amhara regional government coordinates an ongoing attack against the Qimant and Agaw community in the Amhara region and conducts attacks against the Beneshangul Gumuz people in neighboring Beneshangul Gumuz region.
Amnesty International reported a graphic attack by the Amhara regional special forces, the police, and extremist Amhara vigilante groups against the Qimant and Agaw community in 2019 . However, the extremist Amhara elites are engaged in a misinformation campaign to criminalize Oromos as if Oromos attack other ethnic groups. At this moment, the only evil force, that attacks the Oromo and other oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, based on their ethnic identity is the extremist Amhara elites, proponents of the old, brutal neftegna system. To the contrary, all oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, including the Oromo nation are struggling for justice, freedom, peace, and democracy; a struggle that is widely accepted and supported by over 80 different ethnic groups in the country, as well as friends of the oppressed nations and nationalities in the intentional community.
Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis and other extremist Amhara elites like him, need to do some soul-searching, come to their senses, and respect the Ethiopian peoples’ demand for the right to self-rule and autonomy as enshrined in the country’s constitution. Otherwise, they will hasten the disintegration of the Ethiopian empire, just like the Serbs did to Yugoslavia. Article 39 (1) of the Ethiopian constitution states, “Every nation, nationality, and people has an unconditional right to self-determination including the right to secession” . This constitution was not put in place as a free will of the successive Ethiopian regimes, but was hard-earned by the unparalleled sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of citizens of the oppressed nations and nationalities in the empire. This right is also enshrined in the United Nations universal declaration of human rights . Thus, I would like to herald to Mr. W. Giorgis that no power of an evil force can ever reverse what the people have collectively achieved. The peoples in the Ethiopian empire desire and demand more freedom and independence, not the imposition of any form of Amhara dominance or assimilation.
Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis describes as genuine the recent allegedly leaked speech of the Oromia region’s president Shimalis Abdissa, in which the latter described the Prosperity Party as a party that was created to promote the culture of the Oromo people and to redress the grievances of the Oromo people. However, the Oromos never had a say in establishing the so-called Oromo party of Mr. Shimeles Abdissa, nor have the Oromo electorate voted for the members, including Mr. Shimeles Abdissa, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, or the rest of his party members. The TPLF established the initial party, Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO), and hired the members; the same crew that is still ruling the country. Mr. Shimeles Abdissa is appointed to his current position by Abiy Ahmed to serve his wills and execute brutal orders. All leaders of the OPDO, including Mr. Abdissa, have been hands in gloves in the Ethiopian government that brutalized the Oromo people for over 29 years and equally blamed for every crime committed on the Oromos in the past and present.
Even though the leaders of the OPDO and the current Prosperity Party have made several false promises to appease the Oromo mass at different times, all the false promises were meant to deceive the public, garner support, buy time and stay in power. Mr. Abdissa also said that he created Qeerroo, but this is very far from the truth. Qeerroo which refers to the Oromo youth movement was first mobilized by the Oromo Liberation Front in 2005. In the recent past, the Qeerroo movement spearheads the non-violent struggle of the Oromo people. OPDO leaders, including all the so so-called presidents of Oromia, had always been against the Oromo youth movement, endorsing and executing the mass dismissal of Oromo students and deploying the army to brutalize the Qeerroo.
It was under the criminal rule and the orders of the OPDO officials that more than 5,000 Oromo youth were murdered between 2014 and 2018, including 700 murders on a single day at Irrecha 2016 and tens of thousands imprisoned or maimed. During all these years, the highly disciplined Qeerroo protected the lives and properties of all non-Oromo residents of Oromia. The well-coordinated peaceful struggle of Oromo youth has forced the fascist, brutal rule of Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), out of the federal government, and as a result, all Ethiopians who were kept in prisons for several years, including those on death sentences were freed by the Qeerroo movement. Thousands of Amhara extremists, including Mr. Eskinder Nega and Mr. Andargachew Tsige, were freed as a result of the sacrifices of thousands of Oromo Youth, the Qeerroo. Contrary to Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis’s claim that the Qeerroo are radicalized to burn churches and kill Christians and Amharas, most of the Qeerroo are Christian themselves. Hence there is no religious attack against Christians, nor religious extremism in Oromia.
Following the assassination of Haacaalu Hundeessaa, by the coordination of extremist Amhara elements in the current neo-neftegna government of Ethiopia, Oromians all over the world, in Oromia and around the globe, have staged peaceful protests in search of justice for the brutally murdered, the beloved Oromo artist, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. The people protested against all the brutalities, the continuous of killings, imprisonments, rapes, tortures, political assassinations, eviction of Oromo people from their land, the burning down of their houses, the looting of their properties and exploitation of Oromia under the current neo-neftegna regime, led and spear-headed by Abiy Ahmed. In response to the popular peaceful protests by the Oromo mass, the neo-neftegna government of Abiy Ahmed, which is controlled and supported by none other than extremists Amhara elements, has ordered the Ethiopian army and its security forces to kill the peaceful Oromo protesters all over Oromia. In doing so, the Ethiopian government and its neftegna supporters have killed hundreds of peaceful Oromo protesters, injured and imprisoned thousands of them. Offices of independent Oromo political organizations and Media outlets are closed. Thousands of their leaders, members and supporters are illegally arrested and are suffering in jails. Oromian schools are into prisons. The whereabouts of many Oromo prisoners are not yet unknown. In addition to utilizing all organs and institutions of governance to kill and commit genocide against the Oromo nation, the neo-neftegna government of Abiy Ahmed is using COVID-19 as a tool of prolonging its brutal rule indefinitely, nullifying the elections, and weaponizing the pandemic to eliminate all strong opposition parties in Oromia.
Despite all these facts, Mr. W. Giorgis tries to paint the Qeerroo and the Oromo people as savages, equating them and their peaceful Oromo struggle to the genocide in Rwanda. He alleges that the Oromo killed all those who were opposed to multinational federalism and lists Gurages and Walayita among the people affected. This is an absolute lie that cannot be backed by any piece of evidence. The Walayita people as well as the Gurage people have been requesting a referendum to establish their regional state, to rule themselves. Like the Oromo people and other oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, the Walayita people are brutalized by the joint repressive instruments of the Ethiopian federal government and the government of Southern Nations and Nationalities People Region. Facing the same brutal forces of the Ethiopian government, the Walayita youth expressed their support for the Qeerroo struggle as seen in a poster that reads the Oromo’s blood is our blood referring to the case of over 500 Oromos murdered by the government security forces since July 2020 . These facts and tangible evidences of solidarity among Oromo Youth (Qeerroo) and Walayita Youth go against the defamatory claims of Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis and renders his baseless falsehoods and exposes his deceptions very clearly, to the international community.
Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis openly promotes the assimilationist ideology of his former governments and blames the current neo-neftegna government of Abiy Ahmed for not doing enough to realize Mr. Giorgis’s aspirations to take the country back by 3 decades at a moment when all oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia are demanding more autonomy, self-rule and national self-determination from time to time. Since Abiy Ahmed came to power, the Sidama people requested legal recognition of their autonomous state by referendum as stipulated by the country’s constitution. The electoral board of the country, which is staffed by people with similar ideology as Mr. Giorgis, supported by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have denied the constitutional rights of the Sidama nation, taking more than a year before allowing a referendum, in the process killing more than 53 Sidama people.
The determined Sidama people never gave up and finally forced the neo-neftegna government to allow the referendum in which a resounding 98% voted for the formation of the Sidama State . The Tigray region and the Somali region are already autonomous states and would never want a unitary government in Ethiopia. The Qimant people in the Amhara region  and the Walayita people in the South are also currently demanding their autonomous states . In Southern Ethiopian Nations and Nationalities region alone, over 10 oppressed nations and nationalities are demanding to hold a referendum and establish self-administrative regional states of their own. There is nothing wrong with these demands of all oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. In fact, it is their constitutional right to demand self-rule; a national right that was supposed to be protected and supported by Ethiopia’s Federal and Regional governments.
Contrary to Mr. W. Giorgis’s claims, Abiy Ahmed wrote a political manifesto known as Mademer (literally meaning Addition) in which he openly promotes the brutal Ethiopian emperors and their unitarist and assimilationist system to the extent of purging his former boss, the ex-president of Oromia region, ex-defense minister Lama Magarsa, and the former deputy president of Oromia, Xayiba Hassan, and Dr. Milkessa Midhaga Oromia government’s head of land use and administration from his government. However, Mr. W. Giorgis and his likes found that unsatisfactory until Abiy sacrifices Oromia and the Oromo people, commits further genocide on the Oromo and repeal the constitution and reverse the empire back to the Amhara dominated unitary system of the Haile Sillasse and Derge regimes – the two former governments Mr. W. Giorgis served.
In Ethiopia, the constitution recognizes Finfinnee/Addis Ababa as the capital of Oromia and stipulates that Oromia has special interests in the city, given historical facts and its geographic location at the heart of Oromia. The city relies entirely on Oromia, even for the most basic supplies, such as drinking water, electricity, and food, etc. Historically, Finfinnee was inhabited by the Tuulama Oromos until they were depopulated and evicted to make space for the settlement of Amhara riflemen (neftegna), which is the best example of demographic engineering. The current demographic composition of the city is nothing but, the reflection of the past crimes committed against the Oromo people, which is continued to this day in different forms. Armed Amhara settlers (neftegnas) were/are brought from Amhara state by Amhara ruling elites, settled in Finfinnee through brutal force, built illegal huts and houses for the settlers in and around the capital city, by uprooting the original inhabitants (Oromos).
This practice of uprooting the Oromo from Finfinnee and its surrounding and resettling of the neftegna has been carried on for over hundred years, continues to this day, in an effort to implement an unfinished scheme of changing the demography of the capital to Amhara. Over the last 30 years, the Ethiopian government and its lawmakers have intentionally avoided conducting a meaningful discussion on the relationship between Oromia and Finfinnee, in order to not materialize the constitutionally recognized rights of Oromia over Fifinnee. As a result, the Oromo people are considered and treated as aliens in their own home, in Finfinnee; in the city which is surrounded by 100% Oromo people, little or nothing is done to promote the Oromo language, culture, and way of life.
The Oromo Revolution that brought the change in power in 2018 was stoked in reaction to the “Addis Ababa Master Plan” an expansionist city plan that would have evicted millions of Oromo families making space for state-sponsored resettlement of people from northern Ethiopia – another failed hard and soft demographic engineering by successive Ethiopian governments. Just like all previous governments, the Oromo demand to re-instate Finfinnee/Addis Ababa under the jurisdiction of Oromia is intentionally brushed aside by Abiy Ahmed’s government. Instead, Abiy Ahmed’s government aspires to bring back the legacy of neftegna system under the Amhara domination. This raised continuous conversation among the Oromos of all walks of life, including a beloved Oromo singer and songwriter, Haacaalu Hundeessaa, who was interviewed by Oromo Media Network (OMN) concerning the statue of Minilik II. In the interview, Mr. Hundeessaa assertively and clearly explained to the audience, when the statues of former slave traders are being brought down elsewhere globally, it was a shame that the statue of Minilik II a former slave trader stands in Finfinnee, the capital city of the people Minilik II brutalized. Immediately after the interview, extremist Amhara elites in Ethiopia and abroad called for the assassination of an Oromo human rights defender, artist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. And within a week of their media campaign to kill Haacaaluu and an open campaign/ war against the presence and residence of Oromos in Finfinnee, Haacaaluu was assassinated.
Of course, Abiy Ahmed’s government considers Haacaaluu’s view as opposition to its policy glorifying Abyssinian brutal kings and hence was complicit with the assassins. Moreover, Abiy Ahmed’s government continued using the tragedy for political purposes; arresting Oromo political leaders, killing innocent, peaceful civilians who are protesting against political assassinations, immediately after Haacaaluu’s death. Neither the arrest of Oromo political leaders nor the killings of peaceful protesters did stop the Oromo people’s reaction to Haacaaluu’s assassination and the rejection of Abiy Ahmed’s brutality; it rather further fueled the public anger. The government reacted heavy-handedly killing several hundred Oromos changing the situation into violence. The Oromos are the single largest nation in Ethiopia, constituting more than 40% of the Ethiopian population and contributing more than 60% to the economy of the country. However, they are denied any meaningful right to self-rule and representation within the government. The Oromos demand their rightful place in the world and the region, promoting peaceful, neighborly coexistence among all the peoples of the region and beyond. If anyone has to face justice for all the crimes committed against the innocent, unarmed civilians in Ethiopia, Mr. Dawit W.Giorgis, a former official of the red-terror, has to immediately face justice at the international criminal court (ICC), for killing, imprisoning, and torturing innocent children of the Oromo people and other oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia.
While Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis’s description of Abiy Ahmed is to the point, he is mixing truth with lies to hoodwink people to believe that the genocide that happened in Oromia following Haacaaluu Hundeessaa’s assassination was committed on specific ethnic and religious groups, the Amharas, Gurghes and Christians. According to the recent report by Ethiopian government itself, the majority of the victims (more than 90%) were Oromos, opposite to the false claims, allegations and accusations promoted by Mr. W. Giorgis and his extremist Amhara vigilante groups.
Mr. W. Giorgis should not have bothered to take us far away to the former Soviet Union to explain the nature and characteristics of the current regime of Ethiopia, while he has very vivid experiences of his former government in which he was an active participant. The Ethiopian government is engaged in well-coordinated repression against the Oromo, imprisoning hundreds of the top leaders of Oromo Liberation Front and Oromo Federalist Congress, the two legally registered Oromo National opposition parties without any crime and fair trial. However, for Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis and his likes, that is not enough. They desire to indefinitely keep all Oromo political prisoners in jail without fair trial while they demand the immediate release of those who have the same political agenda as theirs such as Eskinder Nega without trial.
Currently, the government of Abiy is the main promoter of the extremist neftegna ideology, Amhara dominance, and finances the likes of Mr. Eskider Nega, allowing them to create a parallel de facto care-taker government named Balderas in the capital, to vilify and wage all-out media/propaganda war on the Oromo nation. The suspect of Haacaaluu’s murder who confessed to having committed the murder was a close friend to Mr. Nega and other Amhara political elites such as Mr. Andargachew Tsige. Both Mr. Nega and Mr. Tsige organized vigilante groups in the Capital Finfinnee following Haacaaluu’s death destroying Oromo properties, injuring, and killing Oromo citizens. In the previous years, Mr. Nega traveled to Bahir Dar the capital of the Amhara region, to advance his vitriolic and extremist political ideology in the region. Many people suspect that Mr. Nega has some connections with the assassination of the president of the Amhara region and the attorney general of the region, who were/are considered to be matured politicians with balanced views.
In summary, Mr. Dawit W. Giorgis was a member of two successive terrorist Ethiopian regimes and believes that the solution to the human rights abuses and the quest for more freedom in Ethiopia is to return to the Haile Selassie and Derg era, a unitary system with Amhara cultural dominance. This is a highly flawed nostalgic desire, which is meant to pressure the current regime to erode the little gains in human rights in Ethiopia, but the reality indicates it will not succeed. The Oromo struggle for self-determination is a just cause granted by the constitution of the country and the UN declaration of human rights and is never directed against any ethnic group(s). The Qeerroo movement is a highly disciplined, a non-violent, resistance movement of the Oromo youth, who advance the Oromo’s right to self-determination. No amount of fabricated lies and character assassinations by the extremist neftegna lovers can stop the Oromo and other oppressed nations and nationalities in Ethiopia from perusing freedom, justice, peace, democracy, and restoration of human dignity to their respective nations.
The characterization of the Ethiopian government as a state terrorist is correct, but the Oromo struggle for self-determination should not be used as a spice to misinform the international community. It should be clear to all; the foes and friends of the Oromo people, that the Oromo nation will not negotiate on:
- Oromia’s right to self-determination, including independence
- The use of Afaan Oromo as the official language and medium of instruction in schools, courts, churches, mosques, and all other institutions of the government and public services
- The recognition, the re-institution of Finfinnee, not only as of the land and capital city of Oromia, but also to be governed under the jurisdiction of Oromia, promoting the Oromo culture, identity, and economy
- The protection of all minority rights: the rights of all minorities in Oromia shall always be protected regardless of their national origin.