“I would rather die than give up power for the next 10 years,” says Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed

By Hiwot Abera

An audio clip of PM Abiy’s concluding remark at the end of his Party’s meeting, obtained and released by KELLO Media, has been circulating on the social media, news media, and Ethiopian government media.

The audio covers part of a speech by the PM at the close of his party’s Executive Committee meeting held May 27 -May 28.  The government challenged the authenticity of the audio. An easy way to refute the leaked audio was to release the full speech of the PM. However, the government has not released PM Abiy’s remark at the conclusion of the emergency meeting of the Prosperity Party’s Executive Committee.

Supporters of and the Ethiopian government argue that phrases and sentences from various speeches by the PM were stitched together to produce the audio. It is a known fact that politicians repeat carefully crafted phrases and sentences. We are being asked to dismiss the entire audio because the PM used some of the words before. What about the rest of the words spoken in the leaked video? 

An unspecified government official confirmed the audio to Mr. Kjetil Tronvoll.  Mr. Tronvoll writes in one of his tweets “As a high-ranking party member vouched to me it was authentic.” Abiy has always been hostile to oppositions and the rule of law. We should not miss this fact, whether perpetrated by government agents to distract attention away from the massacre in Tigray and the pressure by the international community or a genuine speech delivered at the said meeting, KELLO did the right thing to release it as it is of significant importance for the future of Nations and Nationalities in Ethiopia.

Abiy is a dictator who perfected political assassination and destruction to get his way. He is increasingly being shaped in the mold of Afeworki. Unless drastic measures are taken sooner than later, Ethiopia is turning into a despotic regime at best. At worst, Ethiopia will disintegrate chaotically. If Ethiopia is to survive in some form, Abiy must go. The cost of keeping Abiy in the office is too high for all peoples of Ethiopia. 

PM Abiy has proved himself to have no credibility both at home and abroad. He has been speaking with two mouths ever since he assumed power. In relation to the Tigray conflict, he infamously said in his address to the kangaroo parliament that “No single civilian was killed in Tigray.” He also denied that Eritrean troops were actively involved in the Tigray conflict, only to confirm it later.

Content of the Audio

In this audio, Abiy Ahmed declares that he assembled a squad to crush and frustrate the opposition is ready to commit “atrocities and bloodshed.” He states “We have won the elections” though such an election is yet to take place. He is heard declaring that “we won easily.”

The most revealing part of the audio is where he says: “For the next 10 years, no one can become a government.  I would rather die than give up power. Many Actions will be taken. A squad we have organized for this mission has started its work. As a result, there will be many atrocities and bloodshed.”

The audio is very brief, only lasting under two minutes. However, the speech is loaded. It clearly authenticates what the opposition has been lamenting over the last three years. It explains the politically motivated assassinations, extrajudicial killings, targeted mass killings, and systemic frustration of the political process. The speech also shows where the PM is taking the country.

“For the next 10 years, no one will be able to form a government. I would rather die than give up power. Many actions will be taken. A Squad we organized for this has already commenced its work. As a result, there will be many atrocities and bloodshed.”

The PM speech happened at the closing of a two-day Executive Committee meeting of his Prosperity Party.  The Executive Committee met due to the international community’s pressure on the civil war that is orchestrated by the Prime Minister. The United States has imposed visa restrictions on former and current Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara state leaders. The US has also curtailed a wide range of economic support to Ethiopia.

Reversing his public commitment to hand over his power if he lost elections, the PM says that “I would rather die than give up power.” 

After the release of the audio by the KELLO Media, the PM’s office released statements claiming it is a “Fake audio compilation which has been put together by drawing on different remarks made by the PM.”

This audio clarifies much of the decisions taken by PM Abiy since assuming the office of the premiership.  Each piece of the speech fits into his grand plan to eliminate opposition and hold onto power for as long as possible. He specifies a 10-year timeline in the speech. He did not state what would happen after his “assumed” 10-year power lapses.

Oromo Oppositions Parties

PM Abiy and his Prosperity Party consider the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Oromo Federalist Congruence (OFC) as a threat to their hold onto power from the day the leaders of OLF arrived in Finfinnee.  For this reason, Abiy has used every means available to him to weaken these two organizations. He had all or most of their offices closed and jailed all party leaders.  

On Sept. 15, 2018, more than six million Oromo, by many accounts, came from all corners of Oromia to welcome the leaders of the Organization.  Abiy and his party did not take this lightly. Abiy took the popular support for the OLF as a clear indication that his support among the Oromo was tenuous. 

He abandoned widening the political space for Oromo oppositions, intensified hostility toward the Oromo people and their organizations, shut down independent Oromo media, and established military command posts in many parts of Oromia. This was in direct contradiction to the 2015-18 popular Oromo Qeerroo peaceful resistance. By doing that he lost support from the majority of the Oromo people. In contrast, he intensified coercing national institutions to do his bidding. He appointed loyalists to control the legal system and the courts. Using the legal system, he intimidates and silences political leaders, chief among them the Oromo political leaders.

The National Elections Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) disenfranchises Oromo political parties. The federal police, national defense forces, and security apparatus intimidate and silence the Oromo people. Oromo leaders and activists are incarcerated on trump-up charges. The PM had assassinated some of his opponents. He has effectively shut off neutral and independent media houses. 

After three years of Abiy’s rule, the Oromo are left without a strong voice to protect their interests, and representation in the election that the PM already won. After their offices were closed, their party leaders were jailed, and the two parties announced that the Abiy government “pushed” them out of the election. 

TPLF and the Tigray Genocidal War

The Ethiopian government and supporters of the PM said the war in Tigray commenced due to TPLF’s attack on the Northern Military command on 4th November 2020.  According to this narrative, the Ethiopian government was forced to take “Law Enforcement Measures.” The PM denied that Eritrean Troops were involved. Only after he is confronted with evidence, the PM said they are only on the Eritrean-Ethiopian border. Again, he is confronted with evidence and admitted their presence everywhere. 

Ethiopian forces, Eritrean troops, and Amhara militia/special forces are implicated with war crimes including ethnic cleansing, genocide, sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, mass murder, and forceful evictions. Eritrean troops looted hospitals, factories, colleges, and even utensils, and clothing and destroyed what was left. Ethiopia is said to be using starvation as a weapon of mass killing. To that effect, burning farms, destroying produce and fruit plants is employed. The forces are accused of firing heavy artillery on civilian areas. Mass murders have taken place including historic religious places. 

The reality is the PM told his parliament how he has been preparing for war for a long time. To this end, he had Tigray service members dismissed from service. He had the then Chief of Staff, General Se’are Makonnen, a loyalist from Tigray, assassinated. Abiy bragged about drones and the strength of his military in an appearance before the parliament.

The war on Tigray commenced on the 4th of November 2020. However, the preparation was going on for several months if not for more than a year. The rehearsal started in 2018 in Oromia, in 2019 in Sidama, and in 2020 in Wolaita.  As the PM publicly declared, the war in Tigray is a continuation of the war that started in Oromia.  The so-called peace deal with Eritrea was actually a coming together of autocratic lunatics joining forces to eliminate potential obstacles—Tigray and Oromo opposition.  Once these are removed out of the way, installing a despotic regime in Ethiopia in the mold of an Eritrean tyrant will be easier. 

Isaias and Abiy planned the war in their exchanges of visits to not only Asmara and Addis Ababa but also to SAWA terrorist training camp and Bishoftu air force ground.

Abiy and Isaias War against Oromia

Since Abiy came to power, he identified Isaias as his ally. He relied on him for advice and military support including his own personal protection. Isaias on his part has a long-standing economic interest in Ethiopia. He also had a longstanding ambition to be the kingmaker in the Horn of Africa.  After creating havoc, he wants to appear to the west as the only reliable stabilizer. That is an indication that he wants to inherit the role Meles Zenawi played for so long.  

Isaias considers the Oromo as a roadblock to his economic interest in Ethiopia. He also sees the TPLF as a hindrance to his ambition in the Horn. Thus, he wants to downgrade Oromo opposition and eliminate the TPLF. Abiy also sees TPLF as a roadblock to his dictatorship ambition. In their fear of and hate for the Oromo, Abiy’s and Isaias’ interests’ merge. The so-called peace deal, therefore, gave the cover to join their forces to battle against Oromia and the Tigray. They plotted a scheme to weaken Oromo opposition through intimidations, arrests, and assassinations.  Tigray posed a difficult challenge because of its organization, homogeneity, military installations, and cohesive government. Thus, Abiy and Isaias planned a coordinated and well-orchestrated war against Tigray.

They told their plan of eliminating the TPLF and then turned their destruction to Oromia, the OLF and OFC.  After perfecting their war theatre in Tigray, Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have now moved into Oromia. Besides engaging against the Oromo Liberation Army, they are also looting, arresting, and killing innocent civilians in Oromia. 

The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE)

The National Election Board of Ethiopia has been accused of favoring PM Abiy’s party and of playing a significant role to weaken opposition parties. It is hard to argue against this sentiment or accusation when the PM says, repeatedly on multiple occasions, that he and his party will rule the country for the next ten years. At times, he even argues against having any election, just like his senior partner and mentor Isaias Afewerki. Eritrea has no working constitution, and no election has been conducted for the last thirty years of Afeworki’s iron-fist rule. 

In the absence of a fair and free election in Ethiopia, where the outcome is predetermined, many argue that there is no need for an Election Board. There is no need to go through the expensive project of printing ballots, large scale, and expensive election process. If the NEBE has integrity, they either enforce the election laws or resign in protest. Wasting the so scarce public resources on an election whose outcome is predetermined is reckless. 

The Justice (Injustice) System

Ethiopia is plagued with the absence of strong and independent institutions. As is true for any other Ethiopian institution, therefore, the Ethiopian justice system has never been independent of whoever is in power. In fact, the Ethiopian justice system is a travesty, a mockery of justice. 

The justice system is the ruling party’s tool to silence opposition leaders by jailing them with bogus charges. Most Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) leaders are in jail. The chairman of OLF, Mr. Dawud Ibsa has been under heavy surveillance since he arrived in Finfinnee on September 15, 2018. Moreover, he has been under house arrest for almost a year now. 

Government forces and agents break into his office and residence at will, often at the dark hours of the night. Most recently, his residence was broken into by security forces. On the 5th of May 2021, Federal Police broke into his residence. He has been kept incommunicado since then. He has not been seen in public or heard from.  

Other opposition politicians, journalists, and activists are jailed. Parties’ registrations are revoked, and party leaders are told not to run. All this was done to pave the way for PM Abiy to win an election—a sham election without representation and without fair and free competition. 

Political Assassinations

Abiy’s administration is notorious for political assassinations. Chief of Staff General Se’are Makonnen (a Tigrayan) and Haacaaluu Hundeessa, a popular Oromo artist and activist, are among the people assassinated by Abiy Ahmed. 

Today, young Oromos are extrajudicially executed in public squares in all of Oromia. Prisoners are dragged out of jail and their corpses are thrown in the bushes for wild beasts. As a result, they have taken up arms to fight for their survival by joining the Oromo Liberation Army. Senator Chris Coon of Delaware highlighted this fact at the recent Senate hearing on the Ethiopian Crisis.

The US Cannot Afford Ethiopia to Become Another Syria.  

Abiy has dug in to fight tooth and nail, just to hold onto power. As he states in the leaked audio, he had declared before “if a million people have to die, so be it”. At the present, he does not have full control of the country. Most of Oromia, especially the West, South, and Central Oromia, are under the control of the Oromo Liberation Army. Most of Tigray is not under his control except for larger cities and towns. The PM is exacerbating the conflicts from his stronghold, Addis Ababa, just to hang onto power. There is no doubt that he is willing to turn Ethiopia into Syria if he does not get his way.

In the opinion of this author, the US, EU, UN, and the wider international community must stand firm to avoid the catastrophic crises in the Horn of Africa and beyond.  All peace-loving nations and communities should advance the following vital demands:

  1. An immediate and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, Oromia, and Benishangul-Gumuz regions.
  2. The unconditional release of all political prisoners in the country.
  3. The immediate postponement of the sham election scheduled for this month.
  4. The immediate and verifiable ceasefire by all warring parties, and unhindered access for humanitarian and life-saving medical assistance. 
  5. An all-inclusive political dialogue to facilitate a healing process, arrange fair and free elections, and democratic self-determination process for the nations, nationalities, and peoples of Ethiopia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *