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Ethiopia makes many promises to Africa. Likely you are curious about what is happening there, or perhaps you are only cautious. Whichever way, Ethiopia will continue to remain dear to the continent. Why? The country is correctly designated to be the headquarter of African Union. It is also where many Africa’s governmental and non-governmental organizations are situated. The total number of people who live there is the second largest in Africa. This means that it has more human resources than any other African country, excluding Nigeria. It sprang from a powerful kingdom, that grew to the point of resisting European forces, especially those of colonial masters. It remains the only country in Africa that does not have any European language as lingua franca. Some black nations of the world look up to Ethiopia as the last home of the black race. Some people, such as the rastafarians, refer to Ethiopia as promised land of the blacks. You see? Ethiopia is a strategic country that needs our attention, in spite of the civil unrest experienced there over the years.

Ethiopia’s influential Orthodox Church is facing a crisis that has sparked weeks of unrest. It began after rebel bishops formed their own assembly in Oromio region, saying they face discrimination under the church’s current system. They said that their culture and language have been consistently ignored by the religious hierarchy. These accusations have long been denied by the church leaders.  The government was swift to restrict social media and bann protests. But is that enough?

First thing first. Let us get a background check of the church because the devil is in the details. Ethiopia’s Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the largest and oldest in Africa and even in the world. With nearly 40 million followers, the Orthodox Church has been around for centuries with vast religious, cultural and political influence. Ethiopia Tewahedo Orthodox Church is almost Catholic, except for the fact that it believes that Jesus Christ has a singular nature as opposed to the binary stance of the Roman Catholic Church. Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia in the 4th century, that is, shortly before they arrived in England. The church also represent about half of Ethiopia’s population, but many young Christians have become Protestants and joined denominations they feel is more accommodating to Ethiopia’s diverse culture.  However, its split within its ranks some weeks ago led to weeks of unrest, divisions, and restrictions for social media users. And the fallout could still have ramifications for the church itself, the country and even Africa as a whole. In other words, this catastrophe, if not checked, will spill out from the Orthodox Church and become a full fledged war. The orthodox church is not just a religious body but also an institution that forms the bond and bedrock of unity amongst the people. To add insult to injury, it is a public secret that the local authorities in Oromio region are actually helping the breakaway bishops. Violent protests followed by the supporters on both sides and security forces. The church said that at least 30 people have been killed in a week and access to social media has been widely restricted. If there is no overt agenda, why are the federal and the Oromia regional governments moving with full force to impede the internal mechanism of resolving such a crisis? In a broadcast, the Prime Minister mentioned that there are two truths, thereby inferring that the rebel bishops could be morally right, or by extension, backing their decision.

Ethiopia is a home to tens of ethnic groups. But people of Oromo are making it seem they are the most superior, by arguing that church services are not conducted in their mother tongue. Many analysts have argued this position , stating that there is no such thing as church services being conducted in foreign tongue, that the basic tenet of Ethiopia Tewahedo Orthodox Church is the encouragement of the use of one’s mother tongue in worship. Thus, the Oromo bishops are using this narrative as a fake flag to stoke embers of discord and pursue their evil intent, in close alliance with the powers that be. These bishops are used by politicians as instrument to divide the Church, since the Church’s liturgical language is Greek, just as Catholic liturgical language is Latin. But services are exclusively done in the local languages, including Sunday school.

The church hierarchy has accused the rebel bishops of transgressing the very basic and important aspects of the church’s canon and sacrament, which is the sacrament of priesthood. It is further alleged that the rebel bishops have set a negative precedent of disintegrating the church into regional states. The Patriarch of the church, who is as important as the Pope in Vatican, His Holiness Abune Mathias I, initial response was to call an emergency meeting. It was a move to help the renegade individuals to reconsider their wrongs. After four days, and it was established that the breakaway bishops are not ready to return to the fold, they were officially excommunicated.

Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has asked his ministers to stay out of the dispute. The government issued a ban on church-led demonstrations meant to oppose the breakaway movement. But religious leaders have described that move as a decoration to destroy the church. For now tension has now de-escalated, but the divisions may fuel more conflicts that may threaten to extend well beyond the church. The Prime Minister has also been accused of arbitrary detention of followers of Ethiopia Tewahedo Orthodox Church. It is notable to mention that since his administration, non-Oromons are treated with contempt and sometimes dehumanized or even outrightly killed

It is imperative to mention this few facts about Ethiopia. It will be of great help when assessing the political terrain in the country.  In its capital, Addis Ababa, only about 29% of the people living there have water closets. This will tell you how poor and miserable the people are. If 29% of city dwellers use water closets, just imagine what is happening to people living in rural areas. Water closet is deliberately used here because it is one of the best yardstick for measuring a country’s level of development. With the use of water closet, a community can be assured of proper hygiene and low occurrence of infectious diseases.

Like Emperor Haile Selassie, the democratically elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who hails from Oromia region of Ethiopia is trying to use people’s desire for worship to gather political strength for himself. It is left for the people of Ethiopia to see beyond the surface and refuse to be used used as a power pawns. This is the problem with almost all African nations. The allowed identity politics to color their overall judgement, and this has always been a fly in the continent’s ointment.

Prime Minister Ahmed has never been a member of Ethiopia Tewahedo Orthodox Church. The 46-year-old politician has always been one of these few Ethiopians who are woke enough to desert the church of their land and embrace one of the mushroom churches that preaches prosperity and attitudinal freedom. No wonder he named his new political party, Prosperity Party. Abiy Ahmed is accused of what most Africans leaders are fond of: saints abroad but devils at home. He spoke so extensively against the conflict and hate that existed between his country, Ethiopia and Eritrea that it made him a Nobel laureate overnight. But this is the same man who is quick to violate human rights in his country before one says Jack Robinson.

Abiy Ahmed should have been in the best position to understand that religion is nothing without the behaviors of its practitioners. Or maybe he is aware but decides to use the ignorance of the multitudes for his self-serving ambition. Why is this the opinion of the writer of this article? It is because Abiy Ahmed’s father kept his Islam faith, but went ahead to marry a Christian woman. It shows how liberal his parents were. Of course, it takes some level of open-mindedness for a Muslim man to date and marry someone from an opposing faith and vice versa. It is not like Abiy’s father was a rich, handsome entrepreneur. Instead he was a poor, old farmer who had married three wives before Abiy’s mother.

Therefore, Abiy Ahmed must have watched the atmosphere of the religious difference between his parents and that is what he is employing to rattle the hitherto strongest religious body in Africa. It is not erroneous to say that he is a crafty politician. It is obvious that this whole drama is a politically motivated action to advance the Oromo project in Ethiopia. And what is the Oromo project? Ethiopia has up to eighty tribes, but Oromo is the most populous. It is suspected that Abiy Ahmed and his goons are trying to Oromiorize Ethiopia or establish the Oromia Republic.

Some are calling on the parliament to rise up to the occasion by removing prime Minister from Office and establishing a transitional government.

We hope things get better for this East African country.

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