It has been more than two months since Jawar Mohammed and several other leading members of the Oromo opposition were detained based on bogus accusations. More than two months after the high profile arrests, the govt is yet to bring formal charges against them bc it as no case that serves the gov’t political agenda while also meeting the requirements of criminal law. The three people formally charged thus far – Dajanee Xaafaa, Mastawardii Tamam, and Mishaa Cirrii – were charged for a crime unrelated to the events used as a justification for the arrests.
Weaponising the justice system to pursue political adversaries is is politically counter-productive and economically ruinous. Over the last two months, there have been anti-Abiy rallies in major cities across Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia. In Oromia, we have witnessed a groundswell of protests, particularly by Oromo women. These are extremely damaging to the image of the country and a PM that won the Nobel Peace Prize only a year ago. These protests are also economically ruinous both in the short and the long term.
Detaining political opponents in a country that is tearing itself apart can only complicate its structural uncertainties and deepens its explosive national and subnational faultlines. Put simply, it would make eventual political settlement impossible.
I believe the PM understands that the political and economic risks (costs) of pursuing political opponents through the courts are far greater than its benefits. No reasonable person can believe that the government can lock these individuals behind bars and ensure peace and stability while millions of Oromos are saying: “No Peace without Justice”. The anger that we see on the streets both in Ethiopia and abroad would only grow in scale and magnitude if the government persists with these trials and its anti-democratic move to impose a unilateral political settlement for the country.
Abiy Ahmed can and must release all political prisoners and return to dialogue. It is the only way to save Ethiopia from the abyss.