Behind the Ethiopia protests: A view from inside the government
An ex-cabinet minister in the Ethiopian government and former president of Oromia Regional State explains why the current turmoil has come as no surprise.
For over two decades, the Ethiopian government has been walking with its eyes shut towards the edge of the cliff. It is now tittering on the brink.
The protests and strikes that have been held across several towns and cities since last year and have intensified over the past couple of months may have come as a surprise to those who accepted the “Ethiopia rising” myth. But it has come as no surprise to those of us who have seen the political system unfurl from the inside.
[Ethiopia’s unprecedented nationwide Oromo protests: who, what, why?]
When a coalition of insurgent groups defeated the former military ruler Mengistu Hailemariam in 1991, most Ethiopians hoped the country would finally put aside its sad history of civil war and poverty and embark on a democratic and prosperous future.
This hope was not without reason. A transitional charter that got rid of the much despised centralised state structure culminated in a federal system that would give self-rule to the country’s 80-plus ethnic groups. Eritrea was allowed to hold a referendum to secede, which it did. Furthermore, given that the rising power-holders were former student radicals who had rebelled against military rule, many hoped the new leaders would be committed to democratic principles.
Yet within a year, this hope had begun to crumble. In 1992, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a key member of the transitional government, was pushed out and resumed armed insurgency. Then, in 1994, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which had represented the Somali ethnic group (the third largest in the country) in the negotiation of the Transitional Charter, also resumed armed struggle.
But despite such setbacks, many in the international community and in Ethiopia gave the new rulers the benefit of the doubt. In 1998, then US president Bill Clinton praised Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea and few others as the “new generation of democratic leaders” in Africa.
Domestically, some began to embrace the new rulers too, whether out of disappointment with the fractured opposition or because they were pleased with some positive changes in social and economic policy.
In 1998, war broke out with Eritrea. This conflict dashed hopes of peace in the region, but it brought about national cohesion within Ethiopia as the public rallied behind the government, led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Many hoped the ruling party would use this support to establish an inclusive and democratic political system in the post-war era a couple years later. But instead, the war brought friction within the ruling party, with the winning faction led by Meles Zenawi purging almost half the senior leadership.
Nevertheless, this move still strengthened hopes for reform. The perception was that the hardliners had lost in the purge, while the reformists had won. Meles had also aligned himself with non-Tigreans to help him overcome the leadership challenge within the TPLF, leading many to assume Tigrean dominance would be reduced. Furthermore, the prime minister put several reforms on the agenda for internal and public discussion.
However, as it turned out, Meles was only keeping up the prospect of reform until he re-consolidated power. And he soon began attacking ideas of political and economic reform as part of conspiracies by neoliberal Western forces.
The country responded to the now growing authoritarianism and Tigrean domination by severely punishing the ruling coalition in the 2005 elections, with some claiming the opposition was robbed of victory by electoral fraud. In the face of the mass protests that ensued, Meles resorted to extreme repression and a crackdown against the opposition, killing hundreds.
At this point, many Oromo military generals gave up on the hope of internal reform and defected to Eritrea to join the OLF rebels. Amhara generals were accused of plotting a coup d’etat and were thrown in jail. And thousands of high and mid-ranking Amhara and Oromo officers were purged.
Meanwhile, mistrust and paranoia within the TPLF leadership continued to increase. In order to cut off economic support for the dissent, businessmen of Oromo, Amhara and Gurage origin had their business activities taken over by Tigreans or were jailed.
Meles’ death, Hailemariam’s staged succession
Meles died in the summer of 2012 after 21 years in power. As he was the main actor blocking reform due to fears of losing personal power, many believed his departure could lead to a fresh start. Those of us within the regime clandestinely circulated this idea.
However, the reaction from the TPLF leadership was extremely negative. They perceived the idea of a new transition as a conspiracy to push them aside. They appointed a non-Tigrean – Hailemariam Desalegn – to be Meles’ replacement, but this gesture was totally disingenuous as they simultaneously took swift measures to cripple the new PM’s power.
To begin with, they appointed some 37 generals, almost all of them Tigreans, before the new prime minister took office in violation of the constitution which gives such power to the prime minister and president.
They reduced the prime minister’s control over ministries by increasing the number of deputy prime ministers from one to three, with each ministry having to report to these deputies rather than the PM himself.
The Chief of Staff of the armed forces, the chiefs of intelligence, and foreign affairs remained in the hand of the TPLF. Several senior advisors were appointed to Hailemariam, almost all of them Tigreans. And while most of the hardline TPLF members who were pushed out in 2001 began to work covertly with the system again, those in government opposed to the increasing one-party monopoly were either demoted or, as in my case, purged.
The country did not only lose a chance to reform with Meles’ death, but entered a new and dangerous era. As the TPLF could not find a direct replacement for Meles, leadership rivalries emerged and fractured the TPLF. Meanwhile, several non-Tigreans in government finally gave up on internal reform and started actively colluding with opposition parties and activists.
For those of us who have seen the genesis of the current crisis from the inside, the current turn of events is therefore not surprising.
The eruption of mass protests in the two largest regions of Oromia and Amhara was inevitable as these communities have been deliberately and systematically marginalised.
The resilience of these protests is also not unexpected, given not just the depth of the people’s grievances but the complete lack of will to reform from the government. The brutal response of the regime is also in keeping with its paranoia about the rise of either the Oromo or Amhara against Tigrayan domination or of the alliance between the two.
The government seems to think it can kill and jail its way out of this unprecedented crisis, but no government could ever kill or jail such a vast percentage of its population.
The ruling party has shown that it can no longer reform itself and the state apparatus. It is therefore in the best interest of the country and the region that the regime steps aside to allow an inclusive transitional arrangement.
Juneydi Saaddo is the former President of Oromia Regional State, the largest region in Ethiopia. He served as Ethiopia’s Minister for Transport & Communication, Minister for Science and Technology, and Civil Service Minister until 2012.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Juneydi. Just one point though – I’m sure you’ll agree there’s a significant difference between ‘TPLF domination’ and ‘Tigrayan domination’ – yet a couple of times in the article you conflate these two things. I’m sure you’ll agree that labelling a whole ethnic group in this way is dangerous and wrong – when in fact you are talking about the actions of a political party.
Definitely, this is the fact, everybody must have to know struggle and support the resistance. Moreover, they have to know that Almighty God is with us, so we will win.
Juneydi saaddoo has no any moral ground to argue the issue of Oromo after all . He was one of the Tool that used by the TPL elite to torture, jail and kill the Oromo people when he was the president. I my self was a one of the victims of torture under Jundeydin administration.
Mr. Junedyni please you have no any ethical, emotional moral to talk about the Oromo people after all.
For Junedydin it is wise if he apologize the Oromo people and other publicly instead of yet pretending like nothing happened during his administration.
This is a sober and realistic assessment of the present predicament. One obstacle is US’s consistent stand against democratization. Another obstacle to achieving a level of human freedoms is Britain. Out of the European Union Britain will stand behind tyrannical regimes for economic gains. A lesson should be learned from US and British involvement in Libya, Egypt and Syria.
Sorry Mr. Juneydin. They say, “If we dont learn from history, history will repeat itself.” This shouldn’t be the time you talk about Oromo, while in your comfort zone residing in America or wherever you are now. There is one truth none of Oromo nation will never forget: The turmoil you are talking about did not start today. Even during your reign,in the early times of presidency, what nobody (especially my generation) never forget was what you have done to young Oromo students, farmers, teachers, religious leaders and others. It is a very recent scar that you have left to Oromo students from elementary school to University level that you ordered the so called agazi solders and killed thousands of them and thousands of them still are disappeared and their where about is unknown? How did you forget the interview you have made with the National TV during the massacre of our intellectuals and you ordered the dismissal of university students who did not support your ideas? For instance, we can recall that particularly students from Addis Ababa University that you poured them in to jail for doing nothing nothing wrong, who many of them are still suffering in the so called Maikelawi, some burned alive in Kilinto? Or are you out of mind speaking the fake blaming on TPLF and other Oromo Political Organizations prejudicing unforgettable the current turmoil while pain you have left to Ormo Mothers is never ending? Now what guarantee do the Oromo people have to trust you with what you are talking about? How do we know if you are still doing that merciless evil activities with under ground tactics with TPLF? Yes you dont even have any moral to talk about anything the suffering Oromo people are going though and for your surprise, keep in mind that you are one of the major cause of all this to happen… We trusted you, hoped you as Oromo intellectual to be the solution when you became president and everybody saluted you though no body knew that you were TPLF’s primary instruments, next Abba Dulla, to hit Oromo with. Just sit and eat till you die or watch the fruit of your unforgettable barbarism in the early moment of your presidency. Speaking the truth about the past will never make you free of the guilt you have committed.
Amazing, Google the author “Juneydi Saaddo,” he was fired and fled after his wife Hamid Mohammad was caught red-handed with a suitcase full of $$$ leaving Saudi Embassy in order to spread radical Wahhabism in Ethiopia…”Oromo” cover for Salafism, not ethnicity.
WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy cables, Nov 2008 on the ‘growing Wahabi influence in Oromo Ethiopia’
you were one of their apparatus to kill innocent oromo students,remember?we know you could have been killing with tyrants yet,if you were in their good hands! what I can say for sure is you were drumming with them and now they dumb you like a trash for you own case, mark my word NOT for the interest of Oromo ppl,so you don’t have any moral to speak about now!
Those of you condemning Juneydin, are committing the fallacy of personal attack. The truth value of a claim is independent of the person making the claim. After all, no matter how repugnant an individual might be, he or she can still make true claims. So look for another forum to attack the guy. Here you just need to appreciate the truth told here. It is always preferable to have an insider talking about what is going on. Though it is not fair to compare, even Snowden was working with government violating the right to privacy before he decided to come forward. In any case, the current atrocities in Ethiopia need to be told. We should encourage anyone willing to come forward to tell the stories of what is happening. Even after the fall of the government, transitional societies give immunities to all willing to come and tell the truth. After all the truth is what matters so that we could not repeat the same mistake. Thank you for sharing this information, I encourage all Ethiopians to come forward as well.
Juneydin Sado said on national TV that Oromo students deserved the torture, killing and dismissal en mass (more than 350 from a single university) of Oromo students from Addis Ababa university in 2003. His government removed toe nails and dry shaved Oromo students during the same time for demanding Oromo rights. Now he speaks as if he feels the pain of our people.
Maybe the inside story helps the outside world understand the nature of Ethiopian government but we knew back then what you are telling us today.
Juneydin needs to apologize appearing on Oromo media before taking about Oromo rights. He doesn’t have a moral to talk about it.
Junedein was the longest serving minister under TPLF -EPRDF. He is said to be hydrologist by trade.But,picked the wrong career -politics and fell from grace after the death of his prime minister .Junedein’s take on the journy of TPLF over the past 25 years is very important in terms of understanding the inner face and the crisis with which TPLF is finding itself as it stands now.One thing which I can draw conclusion from his assessment of TPLF is that the system has already crumbled down and huge wave of defection of officials and diplomats will follow soon.
This guy has no moral ground to talk about oromo and Ethiopian people.he has oromo students blood in his hand.he used as a mercenary to kill his own people, he was responsible for 300 university students to be terminated from their school,by implementing forceful villagization he was responsible for the death of hundreds oromo mothers and childminders in chewaka,he was responsible for the systematical harassment, detention and arbitrary killings in oromia due to the political belief and their opposition of land grabbing and transfer of capital of oromia to Adama,he acted more than the Tigrean fighters to kill oromo students,he was the front line cadre to implement Ahbash.
He is power monger and egoistic and can be best described as chameleon.
I knew those people whom he grant them oromo land can say a lot of good things about him but oromos will not for get what he did on us.
I call the current action of the sitting government the beginning of the end! We, the people, will make them to pay the price of their action to the penny.
It goes without saying that TPLF thugs are their own worst enemies. It’s the arrogance, ignorance and unparalleled cruelty of the TPLF gangsters that are eating the regime from inside out. The TPLF-led regime is also losing diplomatic footing due to its own barbarity and uncivilized murderous actions against innocent people. The more people oppose the TPLF-led regime, the deeper TPLF thugs dig their own graves. TPLF thugs cannot & won’t save themselves.
Equally, it’s the traitors like Juneydi that empowered TPLF thugs to unleash its unprecedented crimes against the innocent people in Ethiopia. It’s high time Junedyi likes advice their non-TPLF friends that the era of TPLF supremacy is ending faster than they imagine. They should side with the people to save themselves and their families’ future. TPLF has no future. Don’t destroy yourself with the dying regime.
Neither Ethiopia nor its oppressed people benefits by attacking any individual who at anytime realizes the general truth and comes forward to share the realities from within. How can we win the trust and confidence of those who are still working with TPLF but look for the better alternatives for Ethiopia its people and their own security.
Why is that always a good and rational thinking is always in the mind set of the oppressed people? Junedin Sado was one of them for so many years and didn’t think rationally about the future of his country or people. All of a sudden after his demotion, he start thinking like all of us? It doesn’t need to have a mind of a rocket sientist to know everything he is telling us now. The ordinary people have been sayin all these for the past 25 years and Mr Sado just woke up in to it? This is trying to hoodwink the public at the 11th hour.
Mr. Sado was the key official and authority of EPRDF. If there is any crime or mistake that is commited by the government, he is equally responsible. He didn’t write anything new.
He has a personal vendetta against the current government, because he was jailed for his illegal activities dealing with Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia along with his wife. It is unfortunate that he neglected to tell us, in this article, his former role in the government and why he was removed and put in jail and released later.
It is also unfortunate, Junnedin mentions none of the obvious achievements gained by the Oriomia region, that were none existent during previous governments- such as having its own region, using its own language, having millions of students enrolled in schools and all the other infrastructures that are in existence because of the hard work of the current government.
Junnedin, in his dishonest article above has reduced all the sacrifices paid to achieve all the developmental activities all over Ethiopia, and especially in Oromia, to a personal power hunger of the late former prime minister, Melese Zenawi- a man known to his friends and enemies as the most dedicated and hard working person to eradicate poverty and introduce democracy to Ethiopia.
Junedin: say sorry in public. We, Ethiopians, will forgive you. Then you can contribute openly to the struggle against the criminal organization (TPLF) that hijacked Ethiopia an Ethiopians.
Juneydi’s assessment of the regime’s internal dynamics and how it arrived at the present day scenario is very helpful. We need to welcome those who (one way or another) have dealt with the system and are now wiling to shed a light on the regime’s power play and its internal makeup. Let’s not discourage anyone willing to speak, but welcome everyone who wants to abandon the regime with the hope of joining the people’s struggle.
Given the mechanisms of power arrangement in the country, it is no secret to see that OPDOs have no real power in terms of making decisions that are not sanctioned by the ruling elite (TPLF). OPDOs are relegated to non-sensitive portfolios in the government that are only meant to be used as smoke-screen to showcase that there is diversity of power distribution in the country while there is real absence of meaningful power. The real evidence is, amidst daily carnages of the Oromo people by the regime’s Agazi forces, no single senior OPDO member could utter a real voice of resistance against the regime.
Juneydi’s actions while in government should be weighed carefully based on real and tangible evidence, not based on hearsay and biased media campaign. Let’s leave this matter to those who care to investigate further to document what has transpired under his leadership.
Having said that, his experience and knowledge about the internal makeup of the regime may be what we need to defeat this regime. We must not alienate those who are willing to come forward.
When I read and see what is going on in Ethiopia it breaks my heart. I am fortunate to be safe and live in the US for over 30 years and haven’t experienced the horror of any regime, but the pain watching my people being beaten by their own people is horrific. I don’t know why people act like monsters when they get in the position of power. I pray change will come in a peaceful way and we can all contribute to better our country. One love… One Ethiopia. ❤️
Well, Juneydi has to tell us how he and all his Oromo and fake-Oromo leaders have grabbed land in the Oromiya region, their corrupt practices, and — above all — how tgey all sent their children either to international schools or private ones in their localities where Amharic is the medium of instruction or, further, brought them to Addis for schooling while they preached Oromifaa to the rest of the herd! Now, those exucated in Oromifaa have no place in the local industry or dmployment markets and these are the ones that initiated the fight. The Addis Ababa master plan — alleged to swallow surrounding Oromiya towns — is simply a cover up to the misdeeds committed on the Oromo youth by its “Oromo” leaders.
They killed the future of Oromo kids by placing them outside the national working language of the Country contrary to what the Southern People, Benshangul, Tigrai and, of course, Amhara Regions have adapted.
The youth – aged 22 to 25 years — are the once who created the termoil and these are the victimes of Oromifaa education — not the Addis Ababa master plan “stealing” land from the Oromiya Region.
I am not a facebook star and don’t like publicity as such, but you are the trigger to say something today for the first time. Oh my lord, people are thinking Obbo Junaddi is a politician and has been an insider and, by doing so he is exposing TPLF’s state machine. by assuming so you are fooling yourself–He never been a consummate politician nor an Oromo nationalist, rather, he was self-centered star looter. I know closely.
Meles used him to try to abandon OLF organisation based in Asmara which Meles himself realized that abandoning OLF is impossible. Oromo know what happened in OLF camp then.
Personally, I feel sorry for him. I don’t want him get hurt, but my sincere advise is to stay away from Oromo struggle because you are such a disgrace for Oromo now. thank you!
Don’t you think he needs to come out clean before he earns credibility? I need to know what crime he was involved in, if any, against his own people.
YOU WELCOME BUT WE NEED MORE INFORMATION FROM YOU ABOUT WOYANIE BECAUSE YOU KNOW THEM WELL
First, thanks to Juneeydii Saaddoo for his effort to enlighten us about what has been going on within the so called ethiopian government (I would rather call them colonial power).
Second, to those of you who trying to ridicule Juneeydii, (specially these of you whom might be Oromoo) shame on you! You are worthless! Juneeydii might said or even did some wrongs, but none of these you would call your leaders had ever benefited Oromoo people and Oromiyaa as much as Juneeydii did.
Juneeydii, thanks again for sharing this information, and I hope you will work to benefit Oromoo people in the future too!
Junidin was one of TPLF trainee tortury experty during his presidency. So it is not surprising if he talks what he did on innocent Oromo people
Mr Junedi. I know every one do what you did it on your people never ever forgatabile. the same thing Abbadula,muktar and other who serve that rejime .at least when you are in power under groundily you can do a lot of things for oromo people rather than support the rejime idolgy to stay you on power. you make big damage to you. the enemy’s all ways enamies .now you are alive and you live in safe country. you have to come on any meadia first you have to apologize what you did to the innocent people after that you can debit on political arena .Especially the oromo people those who you have been kill with the regime and those are the people who in takere of you now .look how the oromo people they have wide abdomen and broad minded people……so when I say this let them the other TPLF servant must learn form you .!
In my view I appreciate Mr. Junedi attempt to come out and give us some sort of framework about this notorious regime. He is an insider and I presume he has a lot of information about this mafia group (TPLF) . So, let us encourage Mr. Junedi and people like him to come out and give some critical information. This information I believe is quite pivotal to disarm TPLF. Let us not expect people like Mr. Junedi to be angels or something and judge them from moral ground. Because at least they are confessing while we are having a regime in Addis still in a mood of massacring.
Too late to speak! I am one of your victims
Above all juneydi is inherently a liar and untrustworthy. if you try to compare him with others he even worst than any OPDO on earth, you can better equate him with Abay Tsehaye and Getachew Reda.
I heared Getachew Reda is from Raya(oromo) and Juneydi sado is also from oromo .they have two things in common ie oromo blood and extreme hate to oromo nationalism. you can refer what Getachew said about qero and juneydi said about Mecha Tulema.
I am one of the young generations who join OPDO and become a foot fire for TPLF.
Starting From the exodus Juneidn sado , I am looking to hear his voice not because of his good doing but due to his information even though I am one of the people who critically harmed by the direct order of his regime and thrown me to jail for the time being for nothing but because of asking my right of living as one of ordinary person. He labeled me as OLF for only being I am Oromo and I speak about my people and I am asked to join the system and I did it for survival. I couldn’t able to finish his evil doing. I have to stop and come to point. As I have said, this man is working with TPLF from the very beginning and he knows all the surreptitious of His Boss (TPLF). His information will help us not in mobilizing oromos but also all the Ethiopian People. So, It is a good opportunity to strongly challenge the autocratic regime of TPLF. On top of that, there are a number of young generations who join OPDO and become a head ache for TPLF. Because, young members of OPDO strongly become to challenge the old OPDO member who made by TPLF and work for them as a robot; the reaction again become another head ache for them TPLF. So, I strongly believe that there will be an old robot that would be thrown by TPLF as they couldn’t function as before. The death of TPLF Regime would be more accelerated than before. So, let us open our mind and listen what he spoke out and use that to show the truth for the nations.
There is no point to conclude that Tigrean Domination in the Ethiopian political sphere , Economic position as most Tigreans feel marginalization in all political sphere and economic benefits in this country. Of course, more than 60,000 Tigreans died and again 100,000 became disabled during the armed struggle for equality and democracy. But more surprisingly elites of Oromo and Amhara systematically disarmed Tigreans and systematically have been slowing down investment and other development activities within Tigary. Almost all Tigreans aware of the wrong perception and attempts of marginalizing Tigreans. Nevertheless, the people of Tigray has been tolerated such evil perceptions and wrong doings because Tigreans regarded them-self having a feeling of pure Ethiopian citizens – they are the makers of almost all Ethiopian intangible and tangible history – Those all we talk about are found within Tigray – whether you believe or not Ethiopia without Tigray will be soulless. So good to think very well before you destroy your own country if you believe that you are Ethiopian. God will support Ethiopia in withstanding its Historical enemies and those misguided Ethiopians