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Hachalu Hundessa’s death exposed an unlikely anti-Abiy alliance | Ethiopia



Ethiopia has returned to normal after weeks of ethnic violence and unrest triggered by the June 29 murder of the revered Oromo singer, Hachalu Hundessa.

On July 10, Ethiopian authorities said they arrested two suspects over the killing. Both the capital, Addis Ababa, and the surrounding Oromia region – the Oromo homeland which became an epicentre of violence following the tragic murder – have returned to calm. Internet services that were shut off on the day of the killing to prevent further escalation of violence have also been reinstated.

The country’s return to normalcy is welcome news, but the devastating episode of violence that claimed more than 200 lives left permanent marks on Ethiopia’s national psyche and clearly demonstrated that the nation’s ethnic faultlines have not been fully mended.

During the violence, scores of innocent Ethiopians were murdered for the sole “crime” of belonging to a certain ethnic group, mostly Amhara. Homes, businesses and vehicles belonging to Ethiopians from various ethnic and religious backgrounds were destroyed. In Shashemene, a diverse and beautiful town located at the heart of the Oromia region, even school buildings were burned to the ground.

The question now facing Ethiopia is whether this most recent recurrence of ethnic violence is going to hinder the country’s long-awaited transition to democratic governance.

Since his rise to power in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sought to promote reconciliation, national unity, solidarity and social justice in Ethiopia. He achieved some success in easing the tensions between Ethiopia’s many  ethnic groups. He introduced new schemes to elevate the economy and ambitious plans to overcome environmental challenges. The prime minister also created several governmental commissions to work on national reconciliation and promotion of good governance.

All this helped most Ethiopians get behind Abiy’s plans for achieving sustainable national unity, but there are still many more challenges to be conquered for the country to be able to smoothly transition to democracy.

Abiy’s ethno-nationalist detractors

The violence that followed Hachalu’s tragic murder drew renewed attention to the ethno-nationalist detractors of Abiy’s government.

More importantly, it exposed the dangerous alliance The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – the political representative of the Tigray minority which dominated a coalition government for years before Abiy took office – and some radical Oromo political organisations formed to undermine the reforms that are being enacted by Ethiopia’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to end the country’s ethnic divisions.

After Hachalu’s murder, rather than allowing the relevant authorities to investigate the crime and punish the perpetrators, the TPLF and ethno-nationalist Oromo groups embarked on a blame game and intentionally raised tensions across the country.

By framing the heinous killing in ethno-nationalist terms and blaming entire communities as well as the federal government for the death of the young singer, these groups paved the way for a new episode of violence.

The anti-Abiy alliance between radical Oromo groups and the TPLF was in the making long before Hachalu’s killing.

After Abiy’s rise to power, several Oromo leaders, including the now-jailed leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, openly embraced the TPLF, ignoring the group’s long history of oppressing Oromo rights and freedoms.

During TPLF’s decades-long rule, Oromos were silenced, tortured and arrested en masse, to the point that the Oromo language was dubbed “the language of prisons”.

But this painful history was all but forgotten by many Oromo leaders when Abiy emerged as a unifying leader eager to create a new political system in which no ethnic group has dominance over others. Oromo leaders who expected Abiy, himself an ethnic Oromo, to fight solely to expand Oromo influence over the federal government were disappointed by his policies aimed at achieving national reconciliation.

While the TPLF took a stance against the new prime minister to avoid losing all of its past powers and privileges, Oromo groups that are more interested in securing power for themselves than unifying the nation also positioned themselves against Abiy. Their shared desire to undermine the new prime minister led these two erstwhile enemies to join forces.

Hachalu himself had acknowledged and criticised this new-found alliance before his death. In his last interview with the now-banned Oromia Media Network, Hachalu implicitly criticised links between opposition Oromo leaders and the TPLF, stating “one thing I know for certain is that the Oromo people have defeated TPLF and brought our current leaders to power”. He had also asserted that any Oromo political group’s collaboration with the TPLF should be viewed as a betrayal of the Oromo struggle for equality and political freedoms.

The actions of the Oromo-Tigrayan alliance against Abiy’s government had raised concerns about renewed ethnic violence in Ethiopia for the first time in May when the parliament announced its decision to postpone the general elections that were scheduled to take place in August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The TPLF officials criticised the federal government’s decision and announced their intention to hold an election in the Tigray region in a clear attempt to undermine Abiy’s authority. Abiy’s Oromo opponents also strongly criticised the decision to postpone the election. Oromo political activist and Oromia Federalist Congress member Jawar Mohammed, for example, asserted in an op-ed in Addis Standard that Ethiopia will not have a legitimate government after September 30 – the day that should have marked the end of the current government’s tenure.

Jawar Mohammed has a lot of influence over Oromo youth. His vocal opposition to the government’s decision to postpone the election, coupled with the TPLF’s apparent refusal to follow the federal government’s guidance on the matter, raised concerns that the anti-Abiy stance of the two groups may eventually lead to renewed ethnic strife in the country.

The violence that followed Hachalu’s murder clearly demonstrated the threat this new-found Oromo-Tigrayan alliance poses to Ethiopia’s democratic prospects. If Abiy fails to successfully counter the incendiary rhetoric utilised by these groups, there is indeed a chance that Ethiopia may experience more bloodshed as the date of the postponed election nears.

All is not lost

The TPLF and some Oromo political groups’ opposition to Abiy’s democratic reform agenda is undoubtedly a concern, but the young prime minister has not yet lost the battle to create a political system in which all Ethiopians are equally represented and heard.

Abiy came to power on the back of widespread Amhara and Oromo protests triggered by the TPLF’s decades-long marginalisation of the two ethnic groups. Once Abiy took over the country’s leadership with a promise to bring all Ethiopians together, however, the country’s other marginalised ethnic groups, such as the Somalis, also joined in the efforts for democratisation and supported the new government.

Therefore, although Oromo and Amhara protests are often credited for paving the way for much-needed political, democratic and economic reforms that Abiy enacted in his first two years in power, almost all Ethiopian ethnic groups played a role in getting the country on the road to democratisation.

Acknowledging this fact and understanding that reforms should serve not any single group but all Ethiopians, Abiy refused to give in to the ethno-nationalist demands of his detractors and continued on the path to democratisation.

This does not mean Ethiopia’s prime minister did not encounter any challenges, or experience any failures, during his first term in power. Back in April 2019, I myself expressed concerns over Abiy’s failure to address rising ethnic tensions and violence in Ethiopia. Fortunately, in the year that followed, the prime minister managed to make significant gains against armed groups active in the country and made Ethiopia a safer place for all Ethiopians.

The devastating events of the past month, however, revitalised concerns over the Abiy administration’s ability to ensure the safety of Ethiopians and the stability of the nation.

Nevertheless, Abiy can still deliver on his promises of democratisation and reconciliation as long as he stands strong against the ethno-nationalist demands of both the TPLF and his Oromo opponents. By engaging citizens to address the issues between different communities through dialogue rather than violence, and utilising transitional justice mechanisms to heal wounds and offer meaningful reconciliation, Abiy can ensure his detractors are not successful in deepening ethnic divides, and he can pave the way for all communities to peacefully co-exist in a united Ethiopia.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye



The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.



Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the is the full statement:


By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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