The Jawar Phenomenon

By Major Dawit Woldegiorgis

PM Ably seems to have taken a calculated decision to play the ethnic card to perhaps appease the radicals within his party. For certain, his ethnic base is fired up and their expectations are high. His colleague Jawar Mohamed, another fiery demagogue who preaches ethnic and religious extremism has been invited from the USA, Minnesota State, where he was based to operate legally in Ethiopia. Oromo Media Network (OMN) has millions of followers. Despite requests by millions of Ethiopians for the closure of this media out let the PM has never criticized the station let alone order its closure.

Abiy has allowed Jawar Mohamed, the CEO, OMN legally registered in Ethiopia to spread ethnic and religiously motivated hate speech. PM Abiy’s tolerance of Jawar is perplexing. Giving unchecked political power to extremists like Jawar can only further exacerbate the already tense political environment. Some political observers suspect that there is either an explicit or implicit understanding between the PM and Jawar. If that is the case, PM Abiy is allowing Jawar’s extreme voice to influence the youth, particularly in the Oromo region. In any other country Jawar would have ended up in prison and prosecuted for crimes of incitements and possibly for terrorism.

As I wrote in an earlier article, OMN reminds me of Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), the hate radio that was instrumental in the Rwandan Genocide. “It’s stated aim was “to create harmonious development in Rwandese society” but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was set up and financed by Hutu extremists to prepare the people of Rwanda for genocide by demonizing the Tutsi and encouraging hate and violence. Recognized the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcast. But it was impossible to persuade Western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke” General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, said: “Simply jamming [the] broadcasts and replacing them with messages of peace and reconciliation would have had a significant impact on the course of events.” His advice was ignored and the UN and the international community regrets with great humility and embarrassment that, had it acted earlier the genocide would probably have not taken place. There is a red line between freedom of expression and hate speech, oratory and incitement. It is well established in the international legal instruments.

Jawar has been caught on tape telling his crowd threatening Christians. Like the ‘interhamway’of Rwanda, Jawar has recruited young Oromo’s who call themselves “Querros’ to do the dirty work of killing, plundering and creating an atmosphere of fear in the nation. One Ethiopian Mekuria writes on ECDF website:

“The image of Querro youngsters brandishing machetes and other homemade weapons at was a pitiful sight to see. It was reminiscent more of the notorious Boko Haram than the peaceful youngsters with their arms crossed over their heads in protest. That Ethiopians had come to love and appreciate. Querro youngsters are Ethiopian who desire better than being reduced to doing the dirty work of others and getting tarnished in the process. They have camp Jawar to thank for it “

Thousands of Ethiopians have signed a petition to the Minnesota attorney General and US attorney general to ‘ban OMN media for inciting ethnic violence in Ethiopia and hold its director Jawar Mohamed responsible”

Ethiopians are noticeably weary of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government for failing to control widespread anarchism which seem to emanate from dual power exercised in the country since he became the prime minister of Ethiopia. The ‘Querro’ movement led by Jawar Mohammed is asserting de facto power and disrupting government power in different parts of Ethiopia at will.

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