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News: Joint Security, Intelligence Task Force cautions against unauthorized rallies, threatens to take actions as Orthodox Church Schism takes toll

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force cautioned both dissenting groups of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) to restrain from calling for unauthorized demonstration to be conducted in Addis Abeba, and elsewhere in the country, to deliberately “create unrest” among the faithful.

In a statement it released on Wednesday, the Task Force said that it has reviewed the recent situation in the EOTC and it strongly believes all efforts must be exerted to resolve the dispute through peaceful means.

The Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force that consists National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), the Federal Police Commission, and Information Network Security Agency (INSA), further blamed the social media activists for steering the situation and inciting violence.

The joint task force also warned the entire population to abstain from the “illegal demonstration and conflict-inciting activities” taking into consideration that there is no any kind of demonstration authorized by the concerned body.

“Any force that acts illegally and those who try to coordinate and participate in the demonstrations” are responsible for any damage up on citizens and the country. The joint task force will take the necessary legal measure in a bid to ensure the peace and security of the country,” the statement said.

It also stated that the joint task force will continue to “strengthen the security protection for the religious fathers and the followers of the faith”.

On 01 February, the Synod of the EOTC issued ultimatum to the government threatening to call for a worldwide protest if corrective measures were not to be taken with regard to “upholding the institutional supremacy of the Church, the rights and interests given to it by law, and by giving appropriate correction to the illegal actions” of the breakaway Archbishops.

The ultimatum was followed by an announcement on 04 February, of plans to stage nationwide protest rallies to be led by Patriarch of the EOTC, Abuna Mathias, beginning from 12 February. The breakaway archbishops have also called on their followers for a support rallies on the same day, in Addis Abeba and elsewhere in the country.

The statement by the Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force warned that different “agitations are being made to use the opportunity to take the lives of citizens and other conflict-provoking activities”, adding that, “this approach is opening the door for anti-peace forces working to destroy our country by using the incident as a cover”.

“Different illegal activities have been made to make the demonstration bloody and many weapons were being circulated in a coordinated operation in different areas…”the statement emphasized.

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The joint task force also pinpointed that at the time when preparations are being completed to hold the annual heads of states summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, organizing illegal demonstrations under the guise of religion is a deliberate act of trying to disrupt the assembly and giving image that there is insecurity in the country.

It called on the entire nation, religious fathers and the followers of the faith to comprehend the situation and restrain from being the execution of the “evil intentions for our historical enemies” who are working together with the internal terrorist forces, individuals who operate on social media, and with some political parties who want to take power to bring “unrelenting violence” in the country.

On Monday the Addis Abeba Police said that, “19 police leaders and officers sustained serious and light injuries” during a confrontation with a group of people who gathered at St. Lideta of the Orthodox Church, located in Philidoro, a location bordering Addis Abeba City and Oromia Regional State Special Zone Surrounding Finnfine, escalating tensions between the Synod and government.

On Saturday, 04 February, clashes between followers of Orthodox Christianity and the local police in West Arsi zone, Shashemene city of the Oromia Region “claimed the lives of many people.” The clashes erupted at St. Michael Church during a reception ceremony for members clergy appointed by the new “Holy Synod of Oromia and Nations and Nationalities.

These confrontations are happening in the backdrop of tensions between the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC) and the government following differences over three breakaway Archbishops and 25 appointee episcopate, whom the Holy Synod accused of involving in “illegal anointment” and subsequently decided to excommunicate the group. The Holy Synod also accused the government of direct involvement in the crisis.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) has filed a request to the Federal High Court, Lideta division, fundamental rights, and freedoms bench to ban the three breakaway archbishops and the 25 appointee episcopate from accessing the church’s possessions for three months until it prepares to file formal lawsuit against them. The court on Wednesday for the second time adjourned the ruling on a request for Friday. AS

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