AT MASSIVE GOVERNMENT PRO-WAR RALLY IN ADDIS, ONE LONE VOICE FOR PEACE

T. Gankisi
T. Gankisi

At a large pro-war rally held recently in Meskel Square in the heart of the capital city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, surrounded by thousands of his supporters, made clear that the battle against Tigrayan rebel fighters would continue unabated, despite mounting fatalities and famine.

Residents of the capital were told to arm themselves to repel the rebel forces if they managed to reach the city. To some analysts, this suggested that Abiy’s own Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) was not up to the challenge of defending the capital.

The government has declared a six-month state of emergency while federal armed forces have appealed to retired soldiers and veterans to rejoin the military, setting a Nov. 24 deadline to register.

On a similar track, Tigrayan commander General Tsadkan Gebretensae suggested that his forces would no longer agree to a mediated settlement.

Entreaties by the international community to settle differences by negotiations and an immediate ceasefire have been fruitless.

But at the Addis rally, an unexpected intervention by popular artist Tariku Gankisi momentarily silenced the angry calls for war. The popular Gankisi , known for his rap song Dishta Gina, called for peace and love at a time of incredible challenges.

His latest hit single speaks out against ethnic division and violence with lyrics that roughly translate to “Why fight one another when we come to this earth empty handed and leave empty handed…” and “Who said there is a superior tribe or ethnic group…we all come from the same ancestors!”

“I didn’t come to sing … I’ve nothing to sing about … let us not send more of our youths to war… enough, enough with the guns. We need peace!” he told a surprised crowd.

“As someone who cares about Ethiopia, I love all Ethiopians across all corners of Ethiopia,” he said later in a tweet, “& trying to dismantle this great nation is unacceptable!”

“Enough with the gun, it’s not a solution. May God bless the motherland!”

Awet Weldemichael, a Horn of Africa security expert and history professor at Queen’s University, Ontario, has predicted that the conflict will not end anytime soon. ““The current skirmishes have been portrayed as a law enforcement operation that would last a few weeks,” he said. “ A year later, we’ve since seen it degenerate into a brutal war to crush and erode Tigray, and where talk of the elimination of entire ethnic groups has been normalized.”

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman also expressed concern that a long war would be disastrous for Ethiopia and he urged all parties to “give peace a chance.” The United States’ top priority is the “unity and integrity of the Ethiopian state”, he said, and its “commitment to the Ethiopian people.”

Amidst the social media firestorm of commentaries, one Negus Kaleb on Twitter wrote: “Singer Tariku is my hero. In Abiy Ahmed’s nation of fear, he powerfully spoke truth direct to power. Literally, Tariku means “Historic”. He is my nominee for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

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