Aigaforum (pro-Woyane website) | November 11, 2012
I read the accusation by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) against Ethiopia in great astonishment. The Commission named by President Barack Obama accused Ethiopia’s government of abusing religious freedom on different scores. The accusation identifies the ‘Ethiopia’s Muslim Community’ as victim of government suppressive interference in religious matters.
Before we go to details, let us once recapitulate the general picture of events in Ethiopia with direct reference to the subject of the above accusation. It is true that there were Muslim arousals since last year specifically in Addis Ababa and some other urban parts of Ethiopia. It is also true that the arousal led to what the Ethiopian government officials said a ‘sudden attempt at disrupting peace and stability’ in various illegal ways, which reached its peak while the Annual Conference of the African Union was underway in Addis Ababa, May 2012. The government said the police measure against what it called the vanguard leaders of the disturbance was ‘extremely careful and wise’ that it heldand put them under custody procedurally and very peacefully.
It is also a recent development that Ethiopian Muslims as a community went to polling stations on 30s September 2012. They voted for their representatives for the Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council(EIASC). The entire Ethiopia was at peace during and after the election except some violent encounters in officially named towns of Amahra Region, South Wollo Zone. In the incident, four people died, one Policeman among them. The Ethiopian state television showed the post-conflict situation while the deputy president of the Region was paying an official visit exchanging ideas with a large mass of Muslim communities.
In the mean time, the state media transmitted consecutive documentary programs generally directed at criticizing allfanatic tendencies of every religion but emphasizing at Islamic Extremism.’ The program showed incidents of Muslimsgatherings at which some speakers were openly urging what they said a ‘half share of political and military offices inEthiopia’. On the opposite side of the counter, there were series of demonstrations in most parts of Ethiopia by Muslimcommunities against what they called ‘Elements of Islamic Fanaticism’. Prime Minister Hailemariam Deslaegn alsowarned that such arousals are never to be tolerated by the government as they are what he calls ‘unconstitutional.’
Occasional media news informed their audience that a list of attempted havoc leaders with Islamist extremisttendencies were charged with the said alleged crime and stood before court. Among the crimes reported done bydiffering groups of the suspects include attempts at inciting public disorder, conspiring to declare Jihad and institute anIslamic State by destroying the Constitutional Order and others.
As a citizen believing in impartiality, this is my knowledge about the development despite too general and brief. Theissue is my personal concern also as it could affect my life someway against the existing unprecedented internal peaceand stability of my country. I have also Muslim friends and even relatives whose security and the right to freedom ofreligion equally concern me. Let us see how the said American commission approached this sectional irregularity inEthiopia and produced an accusation against the government as follows.
2.. A Commission of Hasty and Narrow Insights
I am not surprised that the above accusation shared identical wordings and tones with those of the variant version offull time generals of the value war against Ethiopia in the name of civil society. I actually suspect that one fed the reportto the other as a matter of the standard practice among them regarding darkening the name of Ethiopia as a common tradition. One can be sure of this argument at carefully studying this accusation, which sounds also equally hasty,generalist, arrogant and hypocritical. Let us see the issue by raising critical questions:
A. Is it ‘the Ethiopian Muslim community, 1/3rd of the total population’ that accused the government,according to the Commission’s statement below?
…arresting peaceful Muslim protesters, noting that 29 of them had been charged last month with what the authorities said was “planning to commit terrorist acts… USCIRF has found that repressing religious communities in the name of countering extremism leads to more extremism, greater instability, and possibly violence,” she said.
Look how the commission made a calculated political move to apparently urge a civil war in Ethiopia by depicting the problem as a national structural crises by bringing Ethiopian Muslims as a whole versus the Ethiopian government as an exclusive Christian Rule.’ In other words, the commission hastily rushes to varnish the problem with the disfigured color of an ‘approaching inter community war’ between Christians and Muslims as culturally antagonized categories of people. One should not necessarily be a conflict scholar to learn about the grim need by a responsible public organ to support its accusations by strong evidences. Nonetheless, the evidence of the commission to label the problem as an inter-community conflict was that ’29 peaceful Muslim protestors’ were arrested by police and charged.
This argument is fundamentally invalid at the proportion of a presidential Commission for three major limitations:
Firstly, nobody, even us citizens in Ethiopia, could certainly say whether the 29 Muslim Ethiopians were on peaceful protest or not. It is officially announced by police that these citizens were arrested and taken to court, and never secretly. As a public official of a civilized state by the level of the United States, the chairwoman of the commission had to give chances for the court to make and communicate its final decisions;
Secondly, the chairwoman and her commission made a gross intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state by equating a day to day police task and chore with a total security crisis that involved the national defense forces. This isby all standards an irresponsible act of hypocritical intervention by acting as a self-appointed guardian of Ethiopian citizens, as more concerned than the constitution and their own government;
Thirdly, any of the members including the chairwoman of the commission had no any legal or moral right to try to highjack formal and regular intergovernmental chains of international relations and replace them with unwarranted commission communiqué that could have had serious political consequences. Politically speaking, it is nothing but an arrogant partisanship and sympathy to a group of Ethiopian citizens against the constitutional order amounting to physically arming them for staging war.
B. Why did the Commission make contradictory statements on the correct cause of the conflict as thefollowing statements show?
Thousands of Muslims have staged weekly mosque sit-ins and street protests in Addis Ababa over the past year. The arrests, terrorism charges and takeover of EIASC signify a troubling escalation in the government’s attempts to control Ethiopia’s Muslim community and provide further evidence of a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia.
The Commission backed the protesters’ complaints that the government had been trying since last year toimpose the apolitical Al Ahbash sect on Ethiopian Muslims.
Ethiopian Muslims, who make up about a third of the population in the majority Christian country, accuse thegovernment of interfering in the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council(EIASC).
I am really confused with what the commission wanted to say. In the first statement, the conflict started as a meregroup-police dispute over divergent moves in pronouncing a sectarian opposition to what they call ‘governmentsattempts to control Ethiopia’s Muslim community’. If this is the case, what the commission argues is that Ethiopiashould not have a police or citizens should not respect legal procedures in expressing their grievances or whateverthey want. Otherwise, the commission is arguing that it will be considered as government intervention in matters ofreligion if Ethiopia’s police try to insure peaceful intra-religious dialogues as both groups are equally citizens. AnEthiopian Muslims may disagree with another Muslim over their own religious matters. At reaching emotional stages,let us say, one of them attempts to physically attack the other. When this occurs, according to the commission, shouldEthiopia’s police stand simply as onlooker?
Soon, the commission sneaks into searching the cause of the conflict from what it calls ‘government’s trials to imposethe apolitical Al Alhabsh sect on Ethiopian Muslims’. By this, chairwoman and members of the Obama commissionmade the gravest mistake by thinking for granted that the Ethiopian government is in conflict with Muslim Ethiopians fordoctrinaire divergences. The contemptuous belief at the background of the commission is without doubt that Ethiopiangovernment leaders do not know the difference between religion and politics.
I, as a citizen, perfectly know that some Muslim Ethiopians, confidently speaking, who are confined to Addis Ababa andoutside, with elitist role and occasionally expressed interests of changing the constitution for the benefit of Islam delveinto doctrinaire conflicts with their Muslims compatriots. At this point again, the commission makes a U-turn back tolocate the spot of the origins of the conflict at government’s interference with the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council(EIASC). This is a disparate and naïve attempt to confuse doctrinaire issues with a constitutional task of providing aninstitutional protection by a modern government so far as a legal personality is dubbed by law no matter what everpurpose it has. This applies not only to religious institutions but also even deadly opposite political parties as it is a civicconcern than doctrinaire or sectarian interest.
On this point, I suspect that the chairman of the commission and her colleagues serious lack insights into how to dealwith sectarian conflicts by a secular government in Ethiopia’s context. When a Muslim from the Al Alhabsh sect iselected for chairing the national Council, other sects, more often than not, complain over that. the common accusationis that this was so because the elected Muslim got government support. And, when the opposite happens, the rumorgets changed. This is, according to conflict scholars, a sectarian dispute. It comes to government attentions only whenestablished secular rules of the game are threatened by either side, only as citizens.
This is not again a new experience in politics among heterogeneous societies. The same was being said amongfanatic orthodox Christians at the first years of the 1990s when Protestant Ethiopians got government protectionagainst violent treatments by the former. This is absolutely different from what, for example, the Derg regime didagainst a Muslim sect in the 1970s. Ethiopian Muslims very well remember that more than 4,000 Muslims lost theirlives and properties by Derg officials due to alleged membership to what they called a ‘Whabis’ sect based in SaudiArabia. This was done covertly and wholly by the secret police in the worst brutal way. Derg was equally merciless toProtestant Ethiopians who were killed and tortured like any suspect of opposition politics.
In similar vein, a certain Islamic sect reactively grows to assume extremist positions by advancing the idea of plottingfor constitutional change. Conflict scholars argue that extremist reactions are, as a rule, sectarian, vibrant, value-basedand elitist. Ethiopian Muslims within this category are no exception. Their first cause to come into conflict has alwaysbeen, as any extremist, horizontal and doctrinaire. Their direction changes when the conflict leads to physical threat.
What does it mean when the commission accuses a constitutionally and practically secular government of multi-religious and multiethnic Ethiopia of picking one sect and imposing it over another but immediately saying Christiangovernment leaders go into conflict with the Muslim community as a whole?
The Obama commission and the charwoman, if they were truly concerned and civilized public officials, they shouldhave worried rather about the fairness and relevance of a demand for constitutional change by a tiny religious sect dohave for a religiously mosaic society of Ethiopia.
C. What did the commission and its chairwoman mean by the following statement?
Given Ethiopia’s strategic importance in the Horn of Africa … it is vital that the Ethiopian government end itsreligious freedom abuses and allow Muslims to practice peacefully their faith as they see fit. Otherwise thegovernment’s current policies and practices will lead to greater destabilization of an already volatile region.Over the past six years Ethiopia has twice sent troops into Somalia to battle Islamist rebels, including alShaabab militants and officials say some of the protesters are bankrolled by Islamist groups in the MiddleEast.
I am not foolish to admit that these commission members do know the meaning of what they said was all out of ethicalboundaries of modern diplomacy. I could also reasonably imagine that these Americans know that Ethiopia is neverAmerica on the issue of Muslim-Christian relations. We Ethiopians say Islam was introduced into Ethiopia in the 7thcentury as much as we say Christianity was introduced in the 4th century. We, the present generation of Ethiopia,never say like America’s white elites: Muslims are guests on our soil.
Look at the religious composition of our government structures. Religious composition has been constructed not as aconstitutional duty but as a reflection of our advanced values about modern citizenship! There are prominent andfamous Muslim generals and commanders; we have a good number of Muslim Ethiopians within the Council ofMinisters; we have a lot of Muslim representatives in the Parliament; look at the list of our Muslim judges, regionalpresidents and deputy presidents, the police and the defense forces and so on. You can also look at the religiousprofile of our universities and schools. They have separate restaurants and enjoy all constitutionally protected facilities.
I strongly believe that the Ethiopian government and Ethiopians boldly elevated the agenda of ethno-nationaldifferences up to be the table of public agenda. At the first years, many of us were extremely confused about how tolive up to these changed conditions. At present, we have realized that our country is, proudly speaking, as peacefuland stable as America because our former ethno-linguistic contradictions were adequately met. We have nowappreciated that our current double digit growth has never been an American blessing; it is the result of our exercisingthe inner partialities, which were kept mute formerly. It is also my conviction that we never wait for the advice of agroup of foreign bureaucrats from afar to courageously face our internal problems of any nature.
I have the confidence when I tell the commission that our soldiers are in Somalia first and foremost for the securitybenefits of their country. This has never been done, unlike many innocent observers think, to please the United Statesor any foreign power. Before the commission spoke out its concern, I believe, at least, the chairwoman should havestudied current psycho-cultural and economic changes among Ethiopians including the vast majority of our Muslimbrothers and sisters living not only in Addis Ababa but throughout the entire rural Ethiopia.
Having said this, let me ask the commission now some questions: out of among the 2.1 million American Muslims, howmany Muslim Heads of State Departments, generals, regional governors, diplomats, etc, you have ever had in youhistory?
In a country of religiously heterogeneous Ethiopia with a 39.9 % of Muslim population, only less than 10% of the totalprisoners are Muslim.
Turn your eyes to your own statistics. By 2011 only, did not you hear that you have had 186 Muslim defendants out ofthe total 224 for charges of terrorism? Why did American courts penalize Shafal Mosed, Yahya Goba, Sahim Alwan,Mukhtar Al-Bakri, Yasein Taher, Elbaneh Jaber, Iyman Faris, amhed Omar Abu ali, Ali al-Tamimi and many thousandsof others since 2003 for involvements in supporting terrorists? Is that me who should tell you that your country keptmore than 8% of the total American Muslims in prison? While your governments did this, it was a usual legalundertaking or it is a legitimate war against terrorism; What about when Ethiopia’s police do so? It is a proven evidencefor a break out of an intercommunity civil war. Here lies your arrogance and hypocrisy.
I respectfully ask the Chairwoman and the members of her commission again to realize with sober mind that weEthiopians have our own divergent interests as any society including those of America may have. However, we equallyknow that any solution for any conflict among us is subject to be addressed only and only by ourselves. We are not,unlike you usually think, people with a past or present history and tradition of worshiping a powerful state as therepository of any of our destinies as a society. We duly appreciate and gratefully view all American support for ourdevelopment efforts. I am, as an ordinary citizen, optimistic that President Barack Obama does not let suchbureaucrats speak ill of Ethiopia and its peoples on his country’s behalf.
It was a good opportunity to exchange knowledge for us if the American commission on religious freedom abuses in Ethiopia did first everything possible before it considered us as moron, barbarian and too weak to solicit the guidance of other states. The commission rushed to make this blunder because of its failure to compare and contrast its hidden values at the background and what we Ethiopians think about our internal conflicts. The commission proves also a failure to teach us because its accusations have been based on a false dichotomy of interests and demands. Its investigative work is shallow and hasty to have inclined as part of the western illness to understand Muslims in power as enemies of Christians and vice versa. Finally, the commission catches no flesh out of its work but a horn like a hasty hyena that arrogantly believes the prey is always weak and choice less.