“We have two governments in Ethiopia: Abiy’s government and Qeerroo government,” claimed Jawar, the outspoken leader of Qeerroo, an Oromo youth movement.
The interview illustrated the sudden transformation of one of the most iconic Oromo grassroots organizer into an Ethiopian leader; as he repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to his version of Ethiopian unity and state-building.
During the interview, Jawar suggested that most Oromo leaders and Oromo people have no interest to separate from Ethiopia. “If we wanted to secede, we could have easily done it four months ago,” he claimed.
“But secession has no benefits for Oromo or anyone. We need not only keep Ethiopian unity but also seek regional economic integration” in the Horn of Africa, he added.
As the shocking pictures of Oromo mobs in Shashemena town “lynching” and “hanging” a man spread around social media, Jawar condemned civilians who take justice into their own hands. “In the past, It was police brutality, now we see some mob justice, it should be stopped,” he warned.
Jawar also praised the ongoing unity between Oromo and Amhara groups in Ethiopia during his interview. “I give Qeerroo credit for our grassroots effort. We worked really hard to unite the two peoples. Oromo and Amhara are the two stems of this country. If we are united, the rest will follow.”
However, he seemed unhappy when Nahoo TV confronted him about a new “Greater Oromia” map, that annexed Somali areas and even includes Wollo, Afar and southern tip of Tigray. Jawar explained that the controversial map was randomly given to him by Oromo nationalists and it is insignificant.
Jawar appeared irritated that some critics focused on symbolic issues like maps & OLF flags used in Minnesota and parts of Oromia where Qeerroo supporters and Oromos congregated.
At one point, Jawar sounded like Meles Zenawi in 1991, who claimed that Ethiopia would “disintegrate” if it was not for him and for his TPLF’s newfound patriotism.
Referring to his Qeerroo movement, Jawar asked: “We saved Ethiopia, why nobody appreciates us?”
“Ethiopian nationalists should bow down and praise us,” Jawar declared.
One of Jawar’s most controversial statements during the interview was his claim that there is no connection and “no cultural exchange” between Oromos and Amharas.
“Oromo and Amhara do not really know each other,” Jawar said.
While Jawar explained it in a different context, his inaccurate statement is not new divisive rhetoric from Oromo elites. It has long been the political strategy of ethnic nationalists to belittle the historic integration among ethnic and linguistic communities inside Ethiopia.
In reality, the country is famous for breaking ethnic barriers to unite and defeat foreign invaders and build one of the biggest nations in Africa. In fact, tens of millions of Ethiopians are born from multiethnic marriages around the country, (most notably from Oromo and Amhara parents) including new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and reportedly Jawar himself. Despite the Oromo language being adopted and remaining dominant in the south over the centuries, many historians also agree that the majority of the Oromo population itself is an ancestral fusion of various ancient tribes.
Jawar’s interview displayed a glimpse into the future political conflict between ethnic nationalists and Ethiopian nationalist groups like Ginbot 7 and Semayawi Party. Other than pacifying conflicts and resolving the tension with TPLF leaders in Tigray, many analysts see the biggest obstacle for Jawar’s group will be the urban population and Ethiopian nationalists who have a completely different world view.
In 2016, Ethiopian Professor Messay Kebede accused Jawar of promoting “Amhara nationalism” to weaken Ethiopianism.
Professor Messay explained that the ideology of Jawar and Meles Zenawi is similar. “In the eyes of Jawar, Amhara and Oromo have the same foe, Ethiopianism. What is more, there is a reward for dropping Ethiopianism: it will save Ethiopian unity. Jawar wants us to have faith in this extreme paradox: you get to save Ethiopia when you are no longer Ethiopian, that is when you see Ethiopia as a collection of disparate nations.”