Behind the Ethiopia protests: A view from inside the government
Posted on September 16, 2016
by Juneydi Saaddo <http://africanarguments.org/author/juneydi-saaddo/>
*An ex-cabinet minister in the Ethiopian government and former president
of Oromia Regional State explains why the current turmoil has come as no
[image: Scenes from the recent protests. Credit: Jawar Mohammed.]
Scenes from the recent protests. Credit: Jawar Mohammed.
For over two decades, the Ethiopian government has been walking with its
eyes shut towards the edge of the cliff. It is now tittering on the brink.
The protests and strikes that have been held across several towns and
cities since last year and have intensified over the past couple of months
may have come as a surprise to those who accepted the “Ethiopia rising”
myth. But it has come as no surprise to those of us who have seen the
political system unfurl from the inside.
[*Ethiopia’s unprecedented nationwide Oromo protests: who, what, why?
When a coalition of insurgent groups defeated the former military ruler
Mengistu Hailemariam in 1991, most Ethiopians hoped the country would
finally put aside its sad history of civil war and poverty and embark on a
democratic and prosperous future.
This hope was not without reason. A transitional charter that got rid of
the much despised centralised state structure culminated in a federal
system that would give self-rule to the country’s 80-plus ethnic groups.
Eritrea was allowed to hold a referendum to secede, which it did.
Furthermore, given that the rising power-holders were former student
radicals who had rebelled against military rule, many hoped the new leaders
would be committed to democratic principles.
Yet within a year, this hope had begun to crumble. In 1992, the Oromo
Liberation Front (OLF), a key member of the transitional government, was pushed
and resumed armed insurgency. Then, in 1994, the Ogaden National Liberation
Front, which had represented the Somali ethnic group (the third largest in
the country) in the negotiation of the Transitional Charter
also resumed armed struggle.
But despite such setbacks, many in the international community and in
Ethiopia gave the new rulers the benefit of the doubt. In 1998, then US
president Bill Clinton praised
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea and few
others as the “new generation of democratic leaders” in Africa.
Domestically, some began to embrace the new rulers too, whether out of
disappointment with the fractured opposition or because they were pleased
with some positive changes in social and economic policy.
In 1998, war broke <http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/Ethiopia2.pdf>
out with Eritrea. This conflict dashed hopes of peace in the region, but it
brought about national cohesion within Ethiopia as the public rallied
behind the government, led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Many hoped the ruling party would use this support to establish an
inclusive and democratic political system in the post-war era a couple
years later. But instead, the war brought friction within the ruling party,
with the winning faction led by Meles Zenawi purging almost half the senior
Nevertheless, this move still strengthened hopes for reform. The perception
was that the hardliners had lost in the purge, while the reformists had
won. Meles had also aligned himself with non-Tigreans to help him overcome
the leadership challenge within the TPLF, leading many to assume Tigrean
dominance would be reduced. Furthermore, the prime minister put several
reforms on the agenda for internal and public discussion.
However, as it turned out, Meles was only keeping up the prospect of reform
until he re-consolidated power. And he soon began attacking ideas of
political and economic reform as part of conspiracies by neoliberal Western
The country responded to the now growing authoritarianism and Tigrean
domination by severely punishing the ruling coalition in the 2005 elections
with some claiming the opposition was robbed of victory by electoral fraud.
In the face of the mass protests that ensued, Meles resorted to extreme
repression and a crackdown against the opposition, killing hundreds
At this point, many Oromo military generals gave up on the hope of internal
reform and defected to Eritrea to join the OLF rebels. Amhara generals were
accused of plotting a coup d’etat and were thrown in jail. And thousands of
high and mid-ranking Amhara and Oromo officers were purged.
Meanwhile, mistrust and paranoia within the TPLF leadership continued to
increase. In order to cut off economic support for the dissent, businessmen
of Oromo, Amhara and Gurage origin had their business activities taken over
by Tigreans or were jailed.
*Meles’ death, Hailemariam’s **staged succession *
Meles died in the summer of 2012 after 21 years in power. As he was the
main actor blocking reform due to fears of losing personal power, many
believed his departure could lead to a fresh start. Those of us within the
regime clandestinely circulated this idea.
However, the reaction from the TPLF leadership was extremely negative. They
perceived the idea of a new transition as a conspiracy to push them aside.
They appointed a non-Tigrean – Hailemariam Desalegn – to be Meles’
replacement, but this gesture was totally disingenuous as they
simultaneously took swift measures to cripple the new PM’s power.
To begin with, they appointed some 37 generals, almost all of them
Tigreans, before the new prime minister took office in violation of the
constitution which gives such power to the prime minister and president.
They reduced the prime minister’s control over ministries by increasing the
number of deputy prime ministers from one to three, with each ministry
having to report to these deputies rather than the PM himself.
The Chief of Staff of the armed forces, the chiefs of intelligence, and
foreign affairs remained in the hand of the TPLF. Several senior advisors
were appointed to Hailemariam, almost all of them Tigreans. And while most
of the hardline TPLF members who were pushed out in 2001 began to work
covertly with the system again, those in government opposed to the
increasing one-party monopoly were either demoted or, as in my case, purged.
The country did not only lose a chance to reform with Meles’ death, but
entered a new and dangerous era. As the TPLF could not find a direct
replacement for Meles, leadership rivalries emerged and fractured the TPLF.
Meanwhile, several non-Tigreans in government finally gave up on internal
reform and started actively colluding with opposition parties and activists.
For those of us who have seen the genesis of the current crisis from the
inside, the current turn of events is therefore not surprising.
The eruption of mass <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-36940906>
protests in the two largest regions of Oromia and Amhara was inevitable as
these communities have been deliberately and systematically marginalised.
The resilience of these protests is also not unexpected, given not just the
depth of the people’s grievances but the complete lack of will to reform
from the government. The brutal response
<http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-violence-idUSKCN10J0Z8> of the
regime is also in keeping with its paranoia about the rise of either the
Oromo or Amhara against Tigrayan domination or of the alliance between the
The government seems to think it can kill and jail its way out of this
unprecedented crisis, but no government could ever kill or jail such a vast
percentage of its population.
The ruling party has shown that it can no longer reform itself and the
state apparatus. It is therefore in the best interest of the country and
the region that the regime steps aside to allow an inclusive transitional
*Juneydi Saaddo is the former President of Oromia Regional State, the
largest region in Ethiopia. He served as Ethiopia’s Minister for Transport
& Communication, Minister for Science and Technology, and Civil Service
Minister until 2012.*
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27 thoughts on “Behind the Ethiopia protests: A view from inside the
1. Rafael says:
September 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm
Thanks for sharing your insights, Juneydi. Just one point though – I’m
sure you’ll agree there’s a significant difference between ‘TPLF
domination’ and ‘Tigrayan domination’ – yet a couple of times in the
article you conflate these two things. I’m sure you’ll agree that labelling
a whole ethnic group in this way is dangerous and wrong – when in fact you
are talking about the actions of a political party.
2. Birhanu W/Michel <http://www.self.com> says:
September 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm
Definitely, this is the fact, everybody must have to know struggle and
support the resistance. Moreover, they have to know that Almighty God is
with us, so we will win.
3. Guddataa says:
September 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm
Juneydi saaddoo has no any moral ground to argue the issue of Oromo
after all . He was one of the Tool that used by the TPL elite to torture,
jail and kill the Oromo people when he was the president. I my self was a
one of the victims of torture under Jundeydin administration.
Mr. Junedyni please you have no any ethical, emotional moral to talk
about the Oromo people after all.
For Junedydin it is wise if he apologize the Oromo people and other
publicly instead of yet pretending like nothing happened during his
4. Alem says:
September 16, 2016 at 1:42 pm
This is a sober and realistic assessment of the present predicament. One
obstacle is US’s consistent stand against democratization. Another obstacle
to achieving a level of human freedoms is Britain. Out of the European
Union Britain will stand behind tyrannical regimes for economic gains. A
lesson should be learned from US and British involvement in Libya, Egypt
5. Addisu says:
September 16, 2016 at 1:50 pm
Sorry Mr. Juneydin. They say, “If we dont learn from history, history
will repeat itself.” This shouldn’t be the time you talk about Oromo, while
in your comfort zone residing in America or wherever you are now. There is
one truth none of Oromo nation will never forget: The turmoil you are
talking about did not start today. Even during your reign,in the early
times of presidency, what nobody (especially my generation) never forget
was what you have done to young Oromo students, farmers, teachers,
religious leaders and others. It is a very recent scar that you have left
to Oromo students from elementary school to University level that you
ordered the so called agazi solders and killed thousands of them and
thousands of them still are disappeared and their where about is unknown?
How did you forget the interview you have made with the National TV during
the massacre of our intellectuals and you ordered the dismissal of
university students who did not support your ideas? For instance, we can
recall that particularly students from Addis Ababa University that you
poured them in to jail for doing nothing nothing wrong, who many of them
are still suffering in the so called Maikelawi, some burned alive in
Kilinto? Or are you out of mind speaking the fake blaming on TPLF and other
Oromo Political Organizations prejudicing unforgettable the current turmoil
while pain you have left to Ormo Mothers is never ending? Now what
guarantee do the Oromo people have to trust you with what you are talking
about? How do we know if you are still doing that merciless evil activities
with under ground tactics with TPLF? Yes you dont even have any moral to
talk about anything the suffering Oromo people are going though and for
your surprise, keep in mind that you are one of the major cause of all this
to happen… We trusted you, hoped you as Oromo intellectual to be the
solution when you became president and everybody saluted you though no body
knew that you were TPLF’s primary instruments, next Abba Dulla, to hit
Oromo with. Just sit and eat till you die or watch the fruit of your
unforgettable barbarism in the early moment of your presidency. Speaking
the truth about the past will never make you free of the guilt you have
6. Ras Mitat says:
September 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm
Amazing, Google the author “Juneydi Saaddo,” he was fired and fled after
his wife Hamid Mohammad was caught red-handed with a suitcase full of $$$
leaving Saudi Embassy in order to spread radical Wahhabism in
Ethiopia…”Oromo” cover for Salafism, not ethnicity.
WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy cables, Nov 2008 on the ‘growing Wahabi influence
in Oromo Ethiopia’
7. Yartuun Hadhabamtu says:
September 16, 2016 at 2:01 pm
you were one of their apparatus to kill innocent oromo
students,remember?we know you could have been killing with tyrants yet,if
you were in their good hands! what I can say for sure is you were drumming
with them and now they dumb you like a trash for you own case, mark my word
NOT for the interest of Oromo ppl,so you don’t have any moral to speak
8. adugna says:
September 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm
Those of you condemning Juneydin, are committing the fallacy of personal
attack. The truth value of a claim is independent of the person making the
claim. After all, no matter how repugnant an individual might be, he or she
can still make true claims. So look for another forum to attack the guy.
Here you just need to appreciate the truth told here. It is always
preferable to have an insider talking about what is going on. Though it is
not fair to compare, even Snowden was working with government violating the
right to privacy before he decided to come forward. In any case, the
current atrocities in Ethiopia need to be told. We should encourage anyone
willing to come forward to tell the stories of what is happening. Even
after the fall of the government, transitional societies give immunities to
all willing to come and tell the truth. After all the truth is what matters
so that we could not repeat the same mistake. Thank you for sharing this
information, I encourage all Ethiopians to come forward as well.
9. Oromo says:
September 16, 2016 at 5:59 pm
Juneydin Sado said on national TV that Oromo students deserved the
torture, killing and dismissal en mass (more than 350 from a single
university) of Oromo students from Addis Ababa university in 2003. His
government removed toe nails and dry shaved Oromo students during the same
time for demanding Oromo rights. Now he speaks as if he feels the pain of
Maybe the inside story helps the outside world understand the nature of
Ethiopian government but we knew back then what you are telling us today.
Juneydin needs to apologize appearing on Oromo media before taking about
Oromo rights. He doesn’t have a moral to talk about it.
10. Haimanot says:
September 16, 2016 at 6:21 pm
Junedein was the longest serving minister under TPLF -EPRDF. He is said
to be hydrologist by trade.But,picked the wrong career -politics and fell
from grace after the death of his prime minister .Junedein’s take on the
journy of TPLF over the past 25 years is very important in terms of
understanding the inner face and the crisis with which TPLF is finding
itself as it stands now.One thing which I can draw conclusion from his
assessment of TPLF is that the system has already crumbled down and huge
wave of defection of officials and diplomats will follow soon.
11. Abichu says:
September 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm
This guy has no moral ground to talk about oromo and Ethiopian people.he
has oromo students blood in his hand.he used as a mercenary to kill his own
people, he was responsible for 300 university students to be terminated
from their school,by implementing forceful villagization he was responsible
for the death of hundreds oromo mothers and childminders in chewaka,he was
responsible for the systematical harassment, detention and arbitrary
killings in oromia due to the political belief and their opposition of land
grabbing and transfer of capital of oromia to Adama,he acted more than the
Tigrean fighters to kill oromo students,he was the front line cadre to
He is power monger and egoistic and can be best described as chameleon.
I knew those people whom he grant them oromo land can say a lot of good
things about him but oromos will not for get what he did on us.
12. Love says:
September 16, 2016 at 8:13 pm
I call the current action of the sitting government the beginning of the
end! We, the people, will make them to pay the price of their action to the
13. Barii says:
September 16, 2016 at 8:23 pm
It goes without saying that TPLF thugs are their own worst enemies. It’s
the arrogance, ignorance and unparalleled cruelty of the TPLF gangsters
that are eating the regime from inside out. The TPLF-led regime is also
losing diplomatic footing due to its own barbarity and uncivilized
murderous actions against innocent people. The more people oppose the
TPLF-led regime, the deeper TPLF thugs dig their own graves. TPLF thugs
cannot & won’t save themselves.
Equally, it’s the traitors like Juneydi that empowered TPLF thugs to
unleash its unprecedented crimes against the innocent people in Ethiopia.
It’s high time Junedyi likes advice their non-TPLF friends that the era of
TPLF supremacy is ending faster than they imagine. They should side with
the people to save themselves and their families’ future. TPLF has no
future. Don’t destroy yourself with the dying regime.
14. Mehari says:
September 16, 2016 at 8:40 pm
Neither Ethiopia nor its oppressed people benefits by attacking any
individual who at anytime realizes the general truth and comes forward to
share the realities from within. How can we win the trust and confidence of
those who are still working with TPLF but look for the better alternatives
for Ethiopia its people and their own security.
15. Gabe says:
September 16, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Why is that always a good and rational thinking is always in the mind
set of the oppressed people? Junedin Sado was one of them for so many years
and didn’t think rationally about the future of his country or people. All
of a sudden after his demotion, he start thinking like all of us? It
doesn’t need to have a mind of a rocket sientist to know everything he is
telling us now. The ordinary people have been sayin all these for the past
25 years and Mr Sado just woke up in to it? This is trying to hoodwink the
public at the 11th hour.
16. SOLOMON FISSHA <http://United%20States> says:
September 16, 2016 at 10:29 pm
Mr. Sado was the key official and authority of EPRDF. If there is any
crime or mistake that is commited by the government, he is equally
responsible. He didn’t write anything new.
17. AG Medhin says:
September 16, 2016 at 10:47 pm
He has a personal vendetta against the current government, because he
was jailed for his illegal activities dealing with Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia
along with his wife. It is unfortunate that he neglected to tell us, in
this article, his former role in the government and why he was removed and
put in jail and released later.
It is also unfortunate, Junnedin mentions none of the obvious
achievements gained by the Oriomia region, that were none existent during
previous governments- such as having its own region, using its own
language, having millions of students enrolled in schools and all the other
infrastructures that are in existence because of the hard work of the
Junnedin, in his dishonest article above has reduced all the sacrifices
paid to achieve all the developmental activities all over Ethiopia, and
especially in Oromia, to a personal power hunger of the late former prime
minister, Melese Zenawi- a man known to his friends and enemies as the most
dedicated and hard working person to eradicate poverty and introduce
democracy to Ethiopia.
18. Dafa Michael says:
September 16, 2016 at 11:09 pm
Junedin: say sorry in public. We, Ethiopians, will forgive you. Then you
can contribute openly to the struggle against the criminal organization
(TPLF) that hijacked Ethiopia an Ethiopians.
19. Heershaa says:
September 17, 2016 at 1:24 am
Juneydi’s assessment of the regime’s internal dynamics and how it
arrived at the present day scenario is very helpful. We need to welcome
those who (one way or another) have dealt with the system and are now
wiling to shed a light on the regime’s power play and its internal makeup.
Let’s not discourage anyone willing to speak, but welcome everyone who
wants to abandon the regime with the hope of joining the people’s struggle.
Given the mechanisms of power arrangement in the country, it is no
secret to see that OPDOs have no real power in terms of making decisions
that are not sanctioned by the ruling elite (TPLF). OPDOs are relegated to
non-sensitive portfolios in the government that are only meant to be used
as smoke-screen to showcase that there is diversity of power distribution
in the country while there is real absence of meaningful power. The real
evidence is, amidst daily carnages of the Oromo people by the regime’s
Agazi forces, no single senior OPDO member could utter a real voice of
resistance against the regime.
Juneydi’s actions while in government should be weighed carefully based
on real and tangible evidence, not based on hearsay and biased media
campaign. Let’s leave this matter to those who care to investigate further
to document what has transpired under his leadership.
Having said that, his experience and knowledge about the internal makeup
of the regime may be what we need to defeat this regime. We must not
alienate those who are willing to come forward.
20. Zene says:
September 17, 2016 at 1:44 am
When I read and see what is going on in Ethiopia it breaks my heart. I
am fortunate to be safe and live in the US for over 30 years and haven’t
experienced the horror of any regime, but the pain watching my people being
beaten by their own people is horrific. I don’t know why people act like
monsters when they get in the position of power. I pray change will come in
a peaceful way and we can all contribute to better our country. One love…
One Ethiopia. [image: ❤️]
21. Kessuma says:
September 17, 2016 at 3:23 am
Well, Juneydi has to tell us how he and all his Oromo and fake-Oromo
leaders have grabbed land in the Oromiya region, their corrupt practices,
and — above all — how tgey all sent their children either to international
schools or private ones in their localities where Amharic is the medium of
instruction or, further, brought them to Addis for schooling while they
preached Oromifaa to the rest of the herd! Now, those exucated in Oromifaa
have no place in the local industry or dmployment markets and these are the
ones that initiated the fight. The Addis Ababa master plan — alleged to
swallow surrounding Oromiya towns — is simply a cover up to the misdeeds
committed on the Oromo youth by its “Oromo” leaders.
They killed the future of Oromo kids by placing them outside the
national working language of the Country contrary to what the Southern
People, Benshangul, Tigrai and, of course, Amhara Regions have adapted.
The youth – aged 22 to 25 years — are the once who created the termoil
and these are the victimes of Oromifaa education — not the Addis Ababa
master plan “stealing” land from the Oromiya Region.
22. Gumi Gayo says:
September 17, 2016 at 5:15 am
I am not a facebook star and don’t like publicity as such, but you are
the trigger to say something today for the first time. Oh my lord, people
are thinking Obbo Junaddi is a politician and has been an insider and, by
doing so he is exposing TPLF’s state machine. by assuming so you are
fooling yourself–He never been a consummate politician nor an Oromo
nationalist, rather, he was self-centered star looter. I know closely.
Meles used him to try to abandon OLF organisation based in Asmara which
Meles himself realized that abandoning OLF is impossible. Oromo know what
happened in OLF camp then.
Personally, I feel sorry for him. I don’t want him get hurt, but my
sincere advise is to stay away from Oromo struggle because you are such a
disgrace for Oromo now. thank you!
23. ak says:
September 17, 2016 at 6:25 am
Don’t you think he needs to come out clean before he earns credibility?
I need to know what crime he was involved in, if any, against his own
24. Eyerusalem Haila says:
September 17, 2016 at 8:37 am
YOU WELCOME BUT WE NEED MORE INFORMATION FROM YOU ABOUT WOYANIE BECAUSE
YOU KNOW THEM WELL
25. Morkataa Roorroo says:
September 17, 2016 at 9:32 am
First, thanks to Juneeydii Saaddoo for his effort to enlighten us about
what has been going on within the so called ethiopian government (I would
rather call them colonial power).
Second, to those of you who trying to ridicule Juneeydii, (specially
these of you whom might be Oromoo) shame on you! You are worthless!
Juneeydii might said or even did some wrongs, but none of these you would
call your leaders had ever benefited Oromoo people and Oromiyaa as much as
Juneeydii, thanks again for sharing this information, and I hope you
will work to benefit Oromoo people in the future too!
26. Gemechis says:
September 17, 2016 at 10:29 am
Junidin was one of TPLF trainee tortury experty during his presidency.
So it is not surprising if he talks what he did on innocent Oromo people
27. Caracas Xiroo says:
September 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm
Mr Junedi. I know every one do what you did it on your people never ever
forgatabile. the same thing Abbadula,muktar and other who serve that rejime
.at least when you are in power under groundily you can do a lot of things
for oromo people rather than support the rejime idolgy to stay you on
power. you make big damage to you. the enemy’s all ways enamies .now you
are alive and you live in safe country. you have to come on any meadia
first you have to apologize what you did to the innocent people after that
you can debit on political arena .Especially the oromo people those who you
have been kill with the regime and those are the people who in takere of
you now .look how the oromo people they have wide abdomen and broad minded
people……so when I say this let them the other TPLF servant must learn form
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