Implications of anti-Islam film for Ethiopia

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 20th, 2012
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Ethiopian Muslims

By Robele Ababya
The ongoing outrage in the Islamic world against the anti-Islamic film was originated by little known individuals in the United States, where freedom of expression is sacrosanct under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. The outrage compelled President Obama to go so far as to state that Egypt is no longer an ally. This sudden development will surely hugely affect Ethiopia not only because of the significant proportion of her Muslim citizens that lived in harmony with their Christian community for centuries but also because of the sensitive strategic location of the country once regarded by scholars as an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam.

Anti-American protest is spreading throughout the Middle East in particular and in the entire Islamic world in general. The underlining reason is not so much as defaming the Prophet as it is a pretext to seize the occasion to denounce the US’s one sided policy fully biased towards Israel over the legitimate Palestinian issue particularly by the Republican Presidential Candidate, Mr. Mitt Romney, and to a lesser degree by the Obama Administration. As to extremists in the Islamic world, they have never found an opportune moment like the present to advance their agenda of obliterating Western civilization. At this point in time when the US election is at a critical stage, the event is no doubt a headache for President Obama running for his second term; it is also a moment of anxiety for his allies in non-Arab countries, including the repressive Ethiopian regime, fighting Al Qaeda.

The main purpose of writing this piece is to initiate debate so that all stakeholders vying for change in Ethiopia will consider the implications of the ongoing outrage in the Islamic world on their plan of action; it is as well meant to inform the younger generation how the strategic location of our Motherland Ethiopia is intertwined with the national interests and ambitions of Islamic countries and the Western powers in particular.

The Oslo Accord on Palestinian Question

I was to a considerable extent familiar with the involvement of Ethiopia in this complex issue both during the times of the Imperial and the Derg regimes. Emperor Haile Selassie was torn between His pro-Israeli stance for historical reasons and His position as an architect of the defunct Organization of African Unity in his role as a revered Statesman of the continent. With mounting pressure from the Arab world and promise for economic aid including oil, most African States severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973 and the Imperial regime saw it prudent to follow suit. I recall that the same day that diplomatic relation was severed, Israeli friends working as experts in the institution of which I was chief lost no time in saying good-bye; that was a shock for me in my capacity as a non-politician to discern how cruel politics can be.

The Arabs reneged on their promise of providing aid and oil; members of the defunct OAU that broke diplomatic relations with Israel en masse were embarrassed and soon had to scramble to reverse their stand. Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed the 1978 peace accord with Israel brokered by President Jimmy Carter. The Imperial regime had to face the sudden outbreak of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution that put an end to Monarchy with the dethronement of the 235th Monarch in the Solomon’s dynasty.
The Derg after deposing the Imperial regime began flirtation with what it considered progressive Arab states such as Iraq and Syria. The PLO enjoyed open door favoritism in order to appease the defunct USSR that was a staunch supporter of Yasser Arafat.

The thorny issue of relations between Israel and PLO continued until a bright ray of hope crystalized in the signing of historic agreement was witnessed by the world as vividly and concisely put in the following paragraph:-
“Oslo Accords, officially known as “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements”, is a document signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and representatives of the State of Israel in September 1993. The agreement which was signed in a ceremony held in Washington by U.S. President Bill Clinton marked a breakthrough in decades-old conflicts between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. Yitzhak Rabin, the then Israeli Prime Minister and Yasser Arafat, the president of PLO, brought an end to their sworn enmity in a historic handshake in an event which went on to become one of the most momentous in the history of Middle East. The entire geo-political map of the region was redrawn in that one thoughtful move.” Source: Google

This agreement, which was the result of the Madrid Conference in 1991, contained a set of general principles pertaining to a five year interim self-rule period allowed to Palestine, mutually agreed upon by the both parties. The issue of “permanent status” was to be initiated in the third year so that the negotiations would lead to the implementations that were to take effect at the end of this interim period.”

The bright hope dimmed with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a Jewish extremist named Yigal Amir. “The assassination of Rabin was a shock to the Israeli public. Rallies and memorials took place near Kings of Israel Square—later renamed Rabin Square in his honor—as well as near Rabin’s home, the Knesset building, and the home of the assassin. Many other streets and public buildings around the country were named for Rabin as well.” Source Google
President Clinton invited Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel (who replaced the assassinated predecessor Yitzhak Shamir) and Arafat on 5 July 2000 to come to Camp David to continue their negotiations on the Middle East peace process for which there was also a promising precedent due to the peace agreement between Anwar Sadat of Egypt and the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin brokered by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

The interim process put in place under Oslo had fulfilled neither Israeli nor Palestinian expectations, and Arafat argued that the summit was premature. The Summit began on 11 July 2000 and ended in failure on 25 July 2000.
And in my opinion Ethiopia should reconstruct her policy within the framework of the Oslo Accords of 1993 and play a constructive role in the face of the looming explosive situation where the present Palestinian leaders are threatening to annul peace agreement with Israel.

Somalia

According to AP, “Somalia’s new leader was inaugurated Sunday 16 September 2012 amid tight security in the capital, Mogadishu, four days after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud survived an assassination attempt.” I wish him well and plead that his Excellency should not forget that Ethiopia was at the forefront in the struggle for the liberation and independence of Somalia during the Imperial regime under the able advocacy of our irreplaceable Prime Minister, the late Aklilu Haptewold. However, succeeding Somali political leaders including Siade Barre did not reciprocate; they insisted stubbornly to affix five-star emblem to their as a symbol of Greater Somalia claiming territories from neighboring countries including Ethiopia and Kenya in breach of the OAU Charter. I sincerely hope the new Somalia leaders will not fall into that same trap of shifting the present boundary in their favor.

I note that “The inauguration ceremony was attended by some regional leaders, including the prime minister of Ethiopia and the president of Djibouti” which is bizarre in that Presidents of Kenya and Uganda were represented at the level of Ministers.

Implications of anti-Islam film for Ethiopia

There is no doubt that the USA will be forced to review its policy with Arab world. President Obama has already gone public that Egypt is no longer an ally – neither a friend nor enemy; Secretary Clinton has said that support to end the tyranny of one man was not meant to usher in tyranny by a group. The message is clear to the Moslem Brotherhood Party ruling Egypt. For us too Ethiopians our expectation for improved relation with democratic Egypt for the sake of regional stability and prosperity is most likely to be jeopardized.

Given the hostile environment it is facing in the Arab and Islamic world, the USA will most likely stick with its support for the TPLF regime that has been a staunch ally in the fight against the Al Shabab linked to Al Qaeda. The USA has invested hugely in the security and defense establishments of Ethiopia; it goes without saying that it would protect that investment by all means.

The 1978 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is likely to lose its effectiveness; Palestinian leaders are threatening abrogation of the peace processes with Israel. Given her strategic location and her historic relations with both, I put the question how is Ethiopia going to handle this draconian situation?
In view of the above, the need for truth, peace and reconciliation has never been so obvious and urgent for internal harmony and strength. God has done His part to show us the way and we must do the rest in earnest.

My take on the EPRDF/TPLF

The ruling TPLF party has vowed that the horrendous legacy of the late tyrant Meles Zenawi will continue in tact without any amendment or regard to the calls of opposition forces and civic organizations for all inclusive national dialogue. That means all pillars of democracy shall remain under the monopoly and tight control of the repressive regime – unfortunately instigating violence that would inevitably lead to severe civil unrest resulting in bloodshed. The question is why the party that had claimed 99.6% ‘victory’ in election 2010 is so scared to allow freedom of expression and expansion of the political space. The answer is that it stole the 2010 election just like it did in the election 2005 and for that matter all the elections held during the last 22 years!

Consequently, the new Prime Minister designate has been and is now a beneficiary of stolen votes and rigged elections; he is an accomplice to crimes in the aftermath of those elections committed by the security forces of the brutal regime in which he held lucrative positions of power. He needs to show remorse by acquiescing to the demand for peaceful change starting with: releasing all political prisoners including Muslim leaders immediately without pre-conditions; allowing freedom of expression; stopping interference with Christian Orthodox Tewahdo and Muslim religious affairs; cancelling the repressive ruling regime’s monopoly on all pillars of democracy; completely relaxing the political space immediately; withdrawing the infamous so-called Anti-terrorism law and the NGO laws.

The new Prime Minister designate should call for immediate dialogue with the Ethiopian people and all opposition forces in his acceptance speech following confirmation by the Parliament.

LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!
Release all political prisoners including Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu et al
rababya@gmail.com

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