This past weekend over 1,500 Oromo freedom fighters made a triumphant return to Addis Ababa from many decades of exile in Eritrea to a jubiulant rally of over 100,000 where a giant photo of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki graced the stage. That’s right, not the Oromo Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Ahmed Abi, no sir, Isaias picture was front and center at this victory celebration, for the Oromos, like the Amhara leadership two days earlier, know full well who made Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution possible.
Dr. Abiy so famously stated this at the Unity Music Concert in Addis on July 8 where he shared the stage with President Isaias as he spoke of the difficulties facing Ethiopia in the days to come, concluding that don’t worry “Isaias [Afwerki ] is leading us.”
For us here in Eritrea, the sight of Isaias ’ picture taking center stage at a rally by the Oromo heroes in the middle of Addis Ababa is pretty much a mind blower, for hundreds of thousands of Oromo conscripts bones lie in to many Eritrean fields to remember, cannon fodder in the 30-year independence war fought against Eritrea.
Of course the international media made sure most footage of this monumental photo of Isaias was removed from their broadcasts, though the Oromo satellite channels broadcast it over and over for all of us to see.
This is a tough one to swallow by those defenders of human rights in the West who have spent so many years vilifying the President of socialist Eritrea. I mean how is it that Isaias is a villain yet the heroes of the Ethiopian freedom struggle lionize the guy, even more than their own Oromo brother, PM Ahmed Abiy?
Isaias , the grizzled veteran of decades of guerilla war followed by decades of diplomatic and economic warfare, saw to it that Eritrea spent million$ growing the Ethiopia freedom fighters even when devastating drought left Eritreans hungry. For years all we heard from Isaias at his annual Independence Day speeches was visions of a future of peace and cooperation between fraternal neighbors, not the fratricidal invasions and no war no peace policy being endured by we Eritreans for decades.
Eritreans used to complain, we are suffering and all we get is pie in the sky one day from our president? People said we needed water, electricity and better salaries, not exhortations to stick it out a little longer, better times were coming by and by . . .
But damn, didn’t Isaias get it right, peace is upon us almost too fast to comprehend and the largest nationality in our traditional enemy Ethiopia hails our President Isaias as their foremost hero?
Not only that but the leadership of the Amhara freedom fighters made a pilgrimage to what is known here in Eritrea as “Camp David,” the site of the giant water reservoir outside of Asmara that Isaias personally oversaw construction of, where he has taken up daily residence. Amharas, some of the fiercest opponents of Eritrean independence, paying homage to the man that engineered their defeat on the field of battle, recognizing just what a giant of Ethiopian freedom Wedi Afom, Isaias Afwerki is in their people’s eyes?
This isn’t Eritrean “propaganda,” no, no, no, this is the leadership of the Oromo and Amhara peoples of Ethiopia making it crystal clear what their feelings are toward Eritrea and our President Isaias Afwerki . After decades of comradely care in exile in Eritrea these freedom fighters know all too well just what went into the successful peaceful overthrow of one of Africa’s if not the world’s most corrupt and brutal regime, the TPLF gangsters recently removed from power.
Even as the Oromo freedom fighters partied in Addis, violence flared up with ethnic massacres breaking out in Addis and further into the hinterland, many instigated by the remaining TPLF installed reactionaries still entrenched in much of the bureaucracy, bringing front and center just how much work remains to be done in the transformation of Ethiopia from a fascist, gangster dictatorship to a modern peoples democracy. But as Dr. Abiy told his people don’t worry “Isaias is leading us.” And no honest person can deny just what the Oromo freedom fighters think about Isaias, not if placing a giant picture of the man center stage at their victory rally is any indication.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook, thomascmountain on Twitter or contact him at thomascmountain at gmail dot com.