As the world struggles with racism, many African countries are silently harbouring tribalism. Tribalism is the belief in the superiority of one's tribe, and today Ethiopia is at the brink of experiencing genocide because of tribalism.
Tribalism in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, just like many African nations, comprises of many ethnicities and tribes. Ethiopia is made up of approximately ninety ethnicities. The major ones include; the Oromo, Amhara, Somali, and Tigrayan, who make up more than three-quarters of the population. Over the past couple of years, Ethiopia has been governed by the system of ethnic federalism. Ethnic federalism is a mode of political organization where a country is divided into states or units based on ethnicity. The 1994 Constitution of Ethiopia introduced by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi transformed Ethiopia into a federation of nine regional ethnic states and two federally administered city-states. Rights to land and government jobs in Ethiopia are not based on Ethiopian citizenship but rather on being a citizen of one of the ethnic states. Ethnic federalism is one of the leading causes of tribalism because each of the nine states has tribal minorities who are considered inferior to the main tribe in that particular state.
The Possibility of Genocide
According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide can be defined as acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. The recent violence in Ethiopia shows signs of ethnic cleansing; hence can be referred to as genocide. The current ethnic cleansing started in 2019 after the return of an Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed following Prime Minister Abiy’s reforms that allowed Ethiopians in exile to return to the country. In October 2019, Jawar instigated a massacre after receiving life-threatening messages. The activist shared a post on Facebook, where he said certain armed men tried to remove his security detail in the night. Jawar and his followers interpreted this as a threat to the Oromo people's existence as well as a threat to the Oromo politicians in power. Hence he took to the streets of Addis Ababa with a youth group he formed known as the Qeero and killed several non-Oromos. The massacres continued into 2020 and were accelerated by the murder of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa. Hachalu's songs were focussed on demanding for the rights and wellbeing of the Oromo people in Ethiopia. The death of Hachalu sent a threatening message to the Oromo people who currently have one of their tribesmen, Abiy as the ruling prime minister. They started protesting, and these protests have now turned into an ethnic cleansing spree. Non -Oromos, especially Amharas and Gurages, are being burned alive and slaughtered by machetes. These killings based on ethnicity surely fit the definition of genocide.
Abiy’s Reforms to End Ethnic Federalism
Since his appointment, 42-year-old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has put up several political reforms in Ethiopia, such as press freedom, ending the border war with Eritrea, and reforms against ethnic federalism. In regard to ethnic federalism, Abiy has put up reforms to encourage more participation of underprivileged groups and minorities in politics. Under normal circumstances, this could be seen as a good move to promote diversity, but the major ethnic factions in Ethiopia see it as a threat to their political domination. According to Addisu Gebregziabher, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, nearly a million Ethiopians have been displaced from their homes due to ethnic violence since Abiy’s appointment.
What is being done about the killings?
Ethiopia's ruling government cannot do much about the genocide because Oromos are the instigators of the massacres in the country, and most politicians in power belong to the Oromo ethnic faction. Newspapers, radios, and other news outlets are also covering up this growing genocide for fear of their lives. However, on a more positive note, certain Ethiopian communities are coming together to make the matter known to the international community. Movements are being created to educate the general public and government officials about the possibility of a massive genocide in Ethiopia. Some of the movements created include; the Society against Genocide in Ethiopia (SAGE) and the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE). With the help of such organisations, there is still hope that a grand genocide can be prevented. But, there is also a chance, just like in Rwanda in 1994, warning signs of a large blood bath will be ignored in the name of tribalism.