By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Statement of the problem
Principle-based and clearly laid out foreign policy objectives are a window to the soul of a nation.
On the contrary, when a nation’s foreign policy obscures, or deliberately ignores the strong linkages between peace and stability on the one hand and justice on the other, there is no better indicator than something being terribly wrong at all levels.
For instance, how can one achieve peace in South Sudan that has backslid for the nth time into raw conflicts, in a situation where the very causes of the war are the peacemakers? We all know that the people who have become voiceless in the longest South Sudan tribulations are denied of the justice they deserve. Similarly, one can take the example of Somalia, where society has been under the gun since independence, while for more than two decades now the will of the people has been supplanted by the terrorists.
Some a reader may think that this is because these nations did not have properly constituted governments!
In part, it may be true; however, Syria is also an ancient state with long tradition of statehood, and yet one could still see that it also has been on fire and resolutely destroyed in the last five years before the very eyes of the international community. The question who did most of the destruction in Syria returns the answer: Syria’s own Alwaite government. This has been happening due to the Assad dynasty’s cruelty and selfishness – its Alwaite proponents and the beneficiaries wanting to remain in power forever and ever.
Truth be told that the reason for opposition by the Syrian people against the Alwaites since 2011 has been because they have become a nation of tired people of the minority regime’s exclusive privileges, built on the captured state’s institutional services and laws that also encouraged their heavy-handedness. The ‘Alwais’ system came to power via a coup d’état Col. Assad Al Hafez led and became the founder/patriarch of the dynasty exactly half a century ago. In fact, the colonel’s 1966 coup was against the 1963 military coup, of which Mr. Assad himself was a core member and one of the orchestrators. It is this system that Syrians have been wishing to disappear for good.
The reason I bring this is because of the many incredible similarities between the behavior of the Alwaite dynasty and the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) 25-year old dominion over Ethiopia. In many respects, they are incredibly woven from the same fabric – hunger for power.
To start with, they both are a minority group controlling the majority; they both have harsh security apparatuses with a shoot to kill and ask later policy; at the core of their regimes the engines of governments are run by corruption and nepotism at the expense of the majority. Nonetheless, Syria, the Ba’ath party and national development first slogan aside, closer look shows the shared resolve of both never to relinquish power to anyone – irrespective of the ballot box or use of arms.
Where has the TPLF got it from? Is it indeed a historical calling for the Front, as they allege, to restore Emperor Yohannes’s crown to Tigray/Tigreans via TPLF? Thus are TPLF cruelties in this quarter century its payback, even defiling the names of individual Ethiopia’s historical leaders? We have been hearing ad infinitum from misguided TPLFites that still refuse to accept historical facts and system of government of the time, including Emperor Menilik being the legitimate successor of Emperor Yohannes IV.
The latter was killed by Egypt-based Dervishes – Ottoman Turks – to realize their Islamic ambition by subjugating Ethiopia and taking control of the Red Sea.
This now dying poison has been a conspiracy hatched and given a longer lease of life by dictator Meles Zenawi, among other pseudo academicians, Prof. Kinfe Abraham collaborating with him. The professor’s writings were the source of the official poison, in which he berated past events and leaders, a conspiracy against Tigray that became cause for it to lose the Ethiopian crown once and for all.
In that respect, his Ethiopia: From Bullets to the Ballot Box (1994) spews out the poison; it intoxicated a generation of young TPLF members. For many, it was not apparent the poison was a ploy and the Front’s springboard for seizing power in Ethiopia. Thus in a country they have been the leaders for 25 years now, the real objective of the TPLF has remained power, although Ethiopia happens to be the country they wanted to break away from. Here is how the traitorous Kinfe Abraham had characterized it:
“[T]he Tigrians also resent the unfair historical process through which the Tigrians overloardship of Emperor Yohannes IV was lost to Menelik II, leading to the gradual decline of the region from the citadel of the Empire’ to a quasi autonomous one’ …The Tigray resistance is naturally the outcome of the gradual decline of the region whose human and material potentials was spent in the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. It was the case of a candle that consumed itself while giving light to its surroundings”.
Daniel Pipes’ Syria Beyond The Peace Process (1996) reminds me that Hafez al-Assad had organized four elections every time enjoying electoral victories, the percentages shooting up – from 99.2 percent in 1971 to 99.6 percent in 1978, to 99.9 percent in 1985.
It was said at the time that Assad was displeased with the results for losing the fractional votes. In a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, a former UK ambassador to Syria once told that President Hafez al-Assad motioned him during a reception at his palace to follow him and they went for some private discussion. Meantime, aware the president’s displeasure about the electoral result of 99.6 percent, the envoy asked if the president knew who those were that dared not vote for him. Sharp as he was, Hafez al Assad responded saying he had received a list of their names.
Interestingly, the Hafez Assad dynasty electoral victories were beaten only by the TPLF in May 2016. Unfortunately for it, ever since winning 100 percent electoral victory the signs have been all over that it may even be TPLF’s last election. Interestingly, this has indeed marked the beginning of its end, more precisely, the Front’s demise!
As a matter of fact, less than six months after the May 2015 election there followed a chain of popular uprisings from Oromia, simultaneously the Amhara protests in Gondar, in the heels of the Surma mass killings in the South Omo Valley, the troubles in Afar, the sufferings of Gambellans, the Gamo etc., have deepened.
Certainly, these affirm one fact: Ethiopia is neither at peace within itself, nor the hitherto claim of a stable country no longer applies to it.
With such evident similarity between the TPLF and Syria’s Alwaite minority regime, the Front in Ethiopia has time and again made it known through its persistent actions that justice is not its priority concern. Therefore, there is one vitally fundamental factor lacking in Ethiopia’s foreign policy today, and hence the reason for the regime’s unaccountability.
The TPLF has also shown amply clearly, like the Alwaites in Syria, its determination – in a supposedly multi-party nation even on paper since 1991 – not to share power with any contender in the ballot box it so much likes.
Consequently, the TPLF has had consistent policy that enables it to routinely resort to decimating even the legal opposition in the country. It has used its security forces and the laws and courts it has put in place to mercilessly suppress, imprison and also systematically eliminate its opponents. For that, it invokes its 2009 anti-terrorism law ‘it ably crafted’ for its repression purposes, but the United Nations and its allies rejected, after the country underwent its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2014.
In the eyes of the United Nations Human Rights Council, therefore, the anti-terrorism law, which involves international collaboration, represented TPLF’s mechanism for the maintenance of its power by crushing the aspirations of the Ethiopian people for freedom, justice and democracy. By that, the international system was able to unmistakably identify the real culprit behind the persistent violations of the fundamental human rights of the Ethiopian people, in particular since 2005.
Before continuing further, let me state here that this article is not intended to become the sharp end of the poisoned spear against all Tigreans. I state that, because we are one people with one common homeland. The unfortunate fact of life is that the depth of the ruling group’s belligerence against citizens, its chauvinism, the deceits and greed and its lack of sense of proportion are rendering that pointless.
It would, therefore, be disingenuous on my part if I do not declare here I am angry as an Ethiopian, and like all other Ethiopians. The roots of the problem are the unfair and bad things the TPLF has been doing persistently out of arrogance of power, malice, greed and politically-motivated abusiveness against individual citizens.
Therefore, the article’s unmistakable focus is TPLF’s misgovernance of Ethiopia, as also the behavior of its individual members. Their faults and weaknesses have graduated to unmistakable levels of betrayal of Ethiopia, has become anti-democratic, and cause for the gross and flagrant violations of fundamental human rights of all Ethiopians, naked as are its deceitfulness and characteristic divisiveness and corruption. Who in Ethiopia has not been subjected in these past 25 years to all forms of violence by the TPLF and its members – especially their lies, false propaganda packaged as politics and the anti-Ethiopianism of their pseudo academicians. Unaffected by these poisons are only the Front’s bosses and their greedy followers!
Let it be clear that, we could live together until the end of time so long as mutual respect governs our relations. Also the TPLF must unreservedly recognize the equality, dignity of all Ethiopians and needs to ensure the equality of opportunities for all. There is no longer choice, or choices for it, other than accepting individual freedom, democracy and the rule of law and official accountability as the only tools of statecraft in Ethiopia. The days of the TPLF’s vacuous and deceptive politics ofdevelopmentalism and pseudo ethnic federalism are now closing fast. Ethiopians are now moving on forcing their views: I hope in earnest it would not be bloody, as happening now in parts of the country especially Oromia and Gondar, as we read this!
A faith anchored on the above principles can save all Ethiopians! In turn, citizens would voluntarily bring their hands and minds together to change our country into a tolerant and livable place.
Only then, we will have all become the winners!
When the Ethiopian opposition, human rights groups, both national and international, bring the regime’s crimes and its violation of the human rights of the Ethiopian people, the TPLF response ranges from defiance and pulling the triggers to denials. It is the first to falsely claim, it has never suppressed democracy in Ethiopia. The TPLF leaders, since the days of dictator Meles Zenawi have often sworn that democracy for Ethiopia is its ‘security of survival’. The Sun never sets before they continue with their illegal imprisonment, torture and killing of citizens.
Interestingly, after the justice ministry was reorganized and replaced by the attorney general system, the holdover of the post, the former justice minister, now Attorney General Getachew Ambaye in mid-June shamelessly said:
“[W]e believe that respecting human and democratic rights is a matter of survival for this country…By any measurement, we have achieved progressive and fundamental changes. There are some organs including those who claim to be advocates of human rights that deny our achievements and continue to tarnish Ethiopia’s encouraging records of human rights protection with denial. The truth is they want to twist our hand and make us instruments for their special interest with ideological orientation”.
At the same time, we note that nowhere in the TPLF foreign policy document can one find the reference to “justice”. Doing so, it realizes, would only deny it the exclusive supremacy, the permanent domination it has been dreaming over Ethiopia for a quarter century now in all spheres of Ethiopian life.
For instance, in the TPLF’s official portal, which explains the principles governing Ethiopia’s external relations, the following six principles are enumerated:
* To promote policies of foreign relations based on the protection of national interests and respect for the sovereignty of the country.
* To promote mutual respect for national sovereignty and equality of states and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
* To ensure that the foreign relation policies of the country are based on mutual interests and equality of states as well as that international agreements promote the interests of Ethiopia.
* To observe international agreements which ensure respect for Ethiopia’s sovereignty and are not contrary to the interests of its Peoples.
* To forge and promote ever growing economic union and fraternal relations of Peoples with Ethiopia’s neighbours and other African countries.
* To seek and support peaceful solutions to international disputes.
As I already tried to indicate, the purposeful absence of justice has become deafening.
How could there be genuine peace and stability in Ethiopia, when elections have lacked any legitimacy to reassure citizens that they have a say in the affairs of their nation? Or when the dictatorial regime’s response to popular demands is violence? Or sharing in the nation’s economic activities is a matter of gesture by the regime, not the right of citizens? How could this produce the much-needed peace and stability to the country, while violence is TPLF’s res?pose to such demands?
Just this past Tuesday, the TPLF surreptitiously sent a special force from Tigrai region to suppress the demand of the people of Wolqaite, which oppose the annexation of their territory and them being reduced to being a part of Greater Tigray, as shown on the map, below, instead of recognition of their claim of being Amharas.
The worst part of this is the people being told to accept the TPLF decision they no longer are Amharas, but Tigreans. That is the issue that led to those ongoing clashes between the Tigray special security forces the TPLF dispatched from Mekelle, without even seeking agreement of the Amhara regional administration – their puppets. This has now escalated into a ‘war’ between the Ethiopian state, as represented by the TPLF, and the people of Gondar, and the blood of innocent citizens spilt.
Not surprisingly, this is not the first time for the TPLF to do so. It has already been at war with the Oromos, because of which it has killed over 400 Ethiopians of Oromo region, who rose against the robbery of their lands by the TPLF members and the discrimination they are being subjected to.
In this situation, how could foreign policy become an authentic expression of a nation’s genuine interests, when it is not capable of addressing the nation’s hunger for justice in every sphere of life. It is a vital component lacking in the nation’s foreign policy, and is thus cause for the no return instability the processes of which has started.
There can’t be any good national policy, without clearly showing the consensus, based on laws and the needs of our people. This takes a principled outlook, which comes only from within and with due respect to citizens and the laws, which sorely lacking in Ethiopia under the dictatorial TPLF.
What this means is that there is no commitment to pursue national justice in all its dimensions, with foreign policy as one of the instruments, and without impinging on the nation’s sovereignty. Under the circumstances, there is no way Ethiopia’s foreign policy could become an authentic expression of the nation’s genuine interests in promoting peace within itself, ensures its security and stability to become a positive force to its neighbors. That is something, the TPLF loves to boast about, even without having it; it appears this might be merely because of military operations in Somalia against Al-Shabab. Even that could have been long over, without the TPLF.
A reformer comes to the foreign ministry
Four months after his arrival as minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Tedros Adhanom announced his primary objective is to reform the Ethiopian foreign ministry, especially setting out the key foreign policy objectives and improving the performance of the embassies.
The triple goals of the reform were: improving the country’s image, to reorient Ethiopian political diplomacy to economic diplomacy and avoidance of tension with other countries (creating confrontation). His policy document also ignores that a country’s image abroad is a reflection of the regime’s internal policies. The TPLF being a repressive regime, how did the minister think he could help improve Ethiopia’s image abroad under brutal power’s leadership? Since he could not make any headway in this, he abandoned it shortly after. He finally settled down to dancing with the diaspora, which a gathering with them he made an annual get together event, largely with the members of his ethnic group!
Unfortunately, this vision was also bereft of the justice component; however, the minister was wise to understand that it would create tension with his party and shortly after abandoned it altogether.
As far as economic diplomacy is concerned, the foreign minister had to focus on securing financing for the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I, 2011-2015). There too, the plan being a tool to direct resource allocation, it did not work out well. GTP II proved an exaggerated proposition, its targets unattainable. Therefore, it only proved responsible for the present uncertainties in the nation’s economy especially in the tradable sector and foreign exchange earnings, by the admission of the regime, not a single target attained. Its spillover effects are also having huge adverse impact on GTP II.
Pretentious and miscreated ‘government’
In the face of the foregoing, a quarter century is a sufficiently long time for any nation to have a sure sense of the kind of government and leaders it has been dealt with. Accordingly, unlike any time before, the past 25 years have shown Ethiopians that their country has in the TPLF a pretentious and miscreated ‘government’, its loyalty divided, commitment to our nation uncertain and its integrity flawed all around.
There is no doubt that the TPLF has used the powers in its powers to the hilt, to ensure its supremacy over the nation and over all Ethiopians. For instance, while not having any significant meaning and implications on its own beyond symbolism, it was at the height of the TPLF leaders low self-esteem that without prior consultations, purposefully changed Ethiopia’s regional precedence in 1995, emplacing Tigrai as number one, as shown under Article 47. Its symbolism speaks to Tigray being the first on the list, meaning at the top of Ethiopia’s nine state governments. This has ever since required government offices to write in any official document Tigray regional state’s name first, lest one face childish chagrin.
TPLF’s ‘innovation’ here, which other Ethiopians saw as shamelessness, is its denial of the importance of political neutrality and logic of regional precedence, based on alphabetical order, a common practice in the civilized world and the international system. That initial greed about “Everything to Tigray” has still continued.
In the economic Sector, TPLF companies have become first beneficiaries, even from the national budget. This is now systematically carried out by the Endowment Fund for the Reconstruction of Tigray (EFFORT) companies and on the part of the state the defense ministry under Gen. Samora Yunus, with the Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC) doing the projects and finance distribution work, without delivering anything concrete to the nation. They cannot be challenged because they have the law and they are the courts.
A land of unequals
At every turn, the TPLF has made sure its laws give the appearance and semblance of even-handedness. In reality, however, Ethiopia has been systematically reduced to a land of unequal citizens. This surely is the case, despite advocacy by the constitution’s Article 25: “Right to Equality” – including the equality of opportunities – guaranteeing “…to all persons equal and effective protection without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status.”
Characteristically, the rule of law is one thing the TPLF cannot live with. That’s why the country has been suffering unlawful imprisonments, torture of prisoners, the abuses of human dignities, discrimination of citizens in their own country of birth and the denials of rights beyond words could describe.
TPLF courts and laws are thus unwilling to prohibit abuses of rights and the discriminations against citizens on account of their ethnic origins in particular, faith and gender. There is also the national assembly, whose members Ethiopians supposedly elected as their representatives for the fifth time in the May 2015 nation-wide election. At the end of that process, the expected happened while the extent of the victory, to say the least, was bizarre. The National election board on June 22, 2015 announced that 100 percent electoral winners are TPLFites, representatives of the TPLF regime – meaning not the people of Ethiopia – as the TPLF is not!
Such is the state of injustice in the country that, not even faith institutions, including those with the largest congregations and thousands years of history – example: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Council – have been given reprieve from TPLF’s political interference and Tigranization of its control at every level. Indeed consistent has been the TPLF’s violation of the legal separation between state and religion. Enshrined in Article 11, especially sub-article 3, it states: “The state shall not interfere in religious matters and religion shall not interfere in state affairs.”
It has been now three years, four months and 15 days on July 13, 2016, since the TPLF has imposed on the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC) a Tigrean as the sixth patriarch, as it did also in the case of his predecessor corrupt and Rasputin-esque Abune Paulos, in Abune Mathias. Instrumental in the arm-twisting and prolonged negotiations (and threats) were the security chief Getachew Assefa, senior TPLF political cadres Abay Tsehaye and Sebhat Nega arm twisting the Church Synod.
The Ethiopian people quietly showed they did not like what was happening. They have reacted negatively by abandoning the Church. Quoting the patriarch, The Reporter noted that the income of the Church had increased in billions of birr (because of its investments and rentals), who lamented the faithful have left the Church: In his words: (“ለመሆኑ ከቤተ ክርስቲያናችን እየወጡ ወደ ሌላ ካምፕ ለመሄድ ለምን መረጡ? የሚያስተምራቸው ካህን አጥተው? የቤተ ክርስቲያናችን ትምህርተ ሃይማኖት ክፍተት ኖሮት? አስተዳደሩ የማያረካ ሆኖ? የካህን እጥረት? ወይስ ሌሎች ከእኛ የተሻሉ ሆነው ስለተገኙ ነው?”
Surely, the patriarch cannot confuse anyone else here, with his seeming puzzlement, as if he was perplexed by complexity of the issue.
And yet already prior to this, the TPLF has taken another comparable action. The Muslim faith in Ethiopia has seen similar coup d’état, in fact, more violent and unjust in their case.
First, in 2012 the Muslims were asked to select their leaders to engage the government in discussion. Ever since the Muslim leaders have been in prison, accused of being terrorists. Secondly, the TPLF proceeded to electing Muslim leaders of its choosing.Ever since Muslims have been in protests in Ethiopia, before them a slogan: “We want our freedom, we want neutral majlis!”
Inevitably, one consequence of the above is total dissatisfaction and inequality amongst Ethiopians on one side, which has pervaded the very core of the nation and all facets of its life; the spread of corruption at all levels and apathy; and the ever rising arrogance of the TPLF and state violence on the other, whose origin could be the Front’s own sense of insecurity.
Indeed this deep-rooted problem of politics showing something and the law saying another and state institutions operating differently is not new or unique to Ethiopia. Most incredible however is TPLF members believing in it and behaving as if they are doing the right thing, with ‘state’ institutions allying with the criminal regime cryptically affirming the rights of the TPLF, as master of the flock.
TPLF members rip off the nation, as they live in a world of fears
Without a doubt this has been increasingly angering Ethiopians, to a degree its has now bred hostility toward those stealing from the poor Ethiopians and corrupting politics. Even some TPLF members have started adopting Amhara and Oromo names, as the hatred has become more public than any time before.
Responsible for this are individual TPLF members acting as controllers, spies, sort of a ‘government’ unto themselves. Nonetheless, their misdeeds, nepotism and crimes of corruption still continue, although they are catching up with them faster than they thought.
This complex situation, induced by their actions, has made them an unwanted negative target. In their situation, it must feel as if being considered by the greater part of the nation as an aggressive cancer on our nation, which has defied both God and the social chemotherapy all at once. Thus the cancer has been spreading the disease throughout the nation’s body, damaging reasonably healthier cell.
Ethiopia’s tradition of peaceful coexistence has gotten tired of being persistently under attack. Therefore, what is visible is that Ethiopia does not and cannot be under such conditions a tolerant nation, as the TPLF members keep on seizing everything.
Not even Ethiopian Embassies, in contravention of international law, have been spared of this anomaly. Every time some TPLF VIP goes abroad, exclusively Tigreans are summoned to the embassies for a briefing. That time, not even non-Tigrean diplomatic and other staff could stay, as happened last August at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C. Therefore, today Ethiopian embassies – the common symbol for all Ethiopians – have become strictly an exclusive ‘members only club’ for TPLF members.
This pettiness, ethnic chauvinism and the lack of sense of proportion has become TPLF’s poison against our nation, hundred percent criminal and an insult for international diplomatic tradition.The second part of this article would become more specific, shedding some light on the above mentioned problems, using the example of Tirfu Kidanemariam, wife of Abay Woldu, TPLF Chairman. It would be recalled that she was rejected by the 12th TPLF Congress at Mekelle, denying her place in the central committee and and also its executive body (politburo) at the end of last summer, where she was before.
When the TPLF people rejected her, thanks to the political power she and her husband wielded, Tirfu Kidanemariam was instantly appointed ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, with no apparent qualifications.
She did what people of her position do. She used her influence to get her predecessor on the post to be expressly recalled by the Fall and found herself on his post by early 2016. The Reporter dubbed the article on this change of guards, Ethiopia: Handing the Baton.
The next article would also discuss how Ethiopia’s important diplomatic posts in posh cities, which are increasingly becoming the TPLF members’ exclusive preserve. Tedros Adhanom nominates the candidate ambassadors, theoretically the state ‘president approves’ the appointment. This is fake; it is only the TPLF bosses that discuss nominations and confirm the appointment.
In posts the TPLF is not interested there is little competition. The other parties get them, with some preferences here and there.