Ethiopia PM Abiy warns ethnic violence could worsen

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, addresses a news conference in his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia August 25, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 October 2019

Ethiopia PM Abiy warns ethnic violence could worsen

  • In an interview with AFP Friday, Jawar accused Abiy of acting like a dictator and said he could challenge his former ally in next year’s elections

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned Saturday of further instability and vowed to bring to justice those responsible for violence that left at least 67 people dead this week.
“The crisis we have faced will become even more fearsome and difficult if Ethiopians don’t unite and stand as one,” Abiy said in a statement issued by his office, his first remarks since the violence broke out.
“We will unswervingly work to ensure the prevalence of the rule of law and to bring perpetrators to justice.”
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate also noted that what began as protests against his government had quickly morphed into clashes that took on an ethnic and religious dimension.
“There has been an attempt to turn the crisis into a religious and ethnic one. In the process our comrades have become victims in terrible circumstances,” he said.
He added that homes, businesses and places of worship had been destroyed, and that an untold number of Ethiopians had been displaced.
Violence erupted in Addis Ababa, the capital, and in much of Ethiopia’s Oromia region on Wednesday after a high-profile activist accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him — a claim police officials denied.
The activist, Jawar Mohammed, is credited with promoting the protests that swept Abiy to power last year but he has recently become critical of some of the premier’s policies.
Both men are from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, and their feud highlights divisions within Abiy’s Oromo support base that could complicate his bid for a five-year term when Ethiopia votes in elections currently planned for May 2020.
On Friday, Oromia police chief Kefyalew Tefera said 67 people had been killed there, including five police officers.
He said most of the dead had lost their lives in “clashes between civilians” rather than at the hands of security forces.
He also claimed that calm had been restored but the defense ministry announced Friday that it was deploying forces to seven hotspots to restore order, and reports of violence persisted through Friday night and into Saturday.
Abiy was in Sochi, Russia, for the Russia-Africa summit when Jawar’s supporters first started mobilizing in Addis Ababa.
Prior to Saturday’s statement, he was facing criticism for saying nothing about the unrest.
In an interview with AFP Friday, Jawar accused Abiy of acting like a dictator and said he could challenge his former ally in next year’s elections.
But Jawar said he could also end up backing Abiy if he changes course.
United States Ambassador Michael Raynor said in a statement Saturday that Washington was “deeply troubled by the recent hatred, inflammatory language, and violence.
“For Ethiopia to build the peaceful, prosperous, and politically inclusive future that so many of you tell us you want to see, Ethiopians must unify around, and work toward, that vision,” Raynor said.
“Anyone who undercuts these efforts undercuts the best interests of all Ethiopians, now and in the future.”
 


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 47 min 53 sec ago

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”