Monday July 6, 2015 was an important milestone in a court case that has been simmering since Ethiopia’s crackdown on Muslim protestors that began on July 19th 2012. The trial that followed became yet another high profile court case involving the government and a group of individuals; only this time the latter are no journalists, bloggers or opposition political party members; they are no ordinary citizens either. Many of them include members of an arbitration committee who volunteered to seek solutions to bridge the widening gap between the Muslims and the government in Ethiopia that started surfacing in December 2011.
Abadir M. Ibrahim
Something was awry at a hearing of the High Court of Ethiopia on July 6, 2015. As the much anticipated conviction of Muslim civil society leaders (Abubaker Ahmed and 17 others) was underway, it was clear that this was no ordinary trial. Security was beefed up, the public gallery was crowded and the atmosphere was tense. A significant amount of time was spent with the court presenting a detailed defense of the government’s policies on counterterrorism and Muslim-state relations. The court also defended the state’s imposition of the Ahbash sect and, in an odd twist, compared the Ahbash sect to Zoroastrianism in Iran. Given how much time was spent on defending the government’s positions, the morning session made it feel as if the Ethiopian state was on trial and not the other way around.
During the military Derg regime of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the motto of the day was “Everything to the Warfront,” Abitew Kebede, a prominent Afaan Oromo singer and song writer of the era was serving in the army. Abitew’s song Yannikoo, Afaan Oromo for ‘my thoughts’, which he wrote for his mother, first came out in the ‘80s and became an instant hit.