(BRANA PRESS) The unity and continuation of Ethiopia has been threatened by different actors for several years. Those who want Ethiopia to be divided have been using language and ethnic background as a means so far. Now religion is an additional and the latest tool to shake the country, Mohammed Girma, a researcher at Pretoria University explains.
“The prime minister himself became a subject of contention rather than solving the problem,” Girma told Deutsche Welle (DW).
“The Prime Minister himself is Oromo, and as such has seen his own person turned into a battlefield for competing interests. Oromo hardliners see him as part of the establishment. The Tigrayans also feel they are pushed by the PM out of the power they have contained for the last 27 years. But Abiy is also viewed with suspicion by those who want to preserve the union, all of which forces him to tread carefully.
Last year, the Prime Minister played a historical role in conciliating factions within the the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The church split in 1991 over the naming of a new patriarch after EPDRF toppled the Derg military junta from power. The former patriarch went into exile in the United States, splitting the church.
“The prime minister did an amazing job when he mediated between the church factions,” Girma said. But now, Abiy “needs to come out and do something in relation to what is happening at the moment.”
That is because there is a real risk that a rift in the church will turn into an open ethnic dispute. “The political entrepreneurs and activists and politicians have used every tool you can imagine to divide Ethiopia. Religion is the latest tool,” the researcher says. And while he sees no real political will at present to solve the situation, he places he hopes on the citizens of his country: “They failed to mobilize society for a conflict at the scale that some of the politicians wanted. Ordinary people are looking for unity, harmony and peace,” Girma concluded.