By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
This article is a follow-up to the July 29, 2016 piece, under same title, Part II (a).
- In every sense, today the feudal Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for a while now has been nostalgic. It has been searching for inspiration from a distant era with a view to finding solution that could help it sustain its authoritarian rule over Ethiopia. The savior they have chosen for this is Tigray’s Ras Michael Sehul (1691- 1779), the architect of the Zemene Mesafint (the Era of Princes, 1769 – 1855) in Ethiopian history. As usual, the TPLF leaders have blundered making a bad choice as their example, not that they have ever been good students.
After overthrowing and killing the Ethiopian emperor in his palace in Gondar, rather under pressure of the time, Michael Sehul had the power and the only option open to him was becoming king-maker to the Ethiopian throne. He put his two handpicked persons one after the other in his mere two years in that role. In not time, he became a victim of his political miscalculations, mercurial behavior and an insatiable appetite for power. Nonetheless, he indirectly presided over the empire from his base in Mekelle the palace in Gondar between 1769 and 1771 his proxy, as does the long hand of the TPLF today through its ‘potted plants’ throughout the country.
It is so metaphorical that the TPLF leaders should choose the Tigray feudal lord for their inspiration, a person whose ignominious end, following his capture in 1771 in a battle, reduced him to a prisoner and recluse geriatric, when was at about the same age with another notorious former TPLF leader Sebhat Nega now is.
The thinking of the TPLF leaders has only shifted in these 25 years from their anti-Ethiopianism and the denial of their Ethiopian-ness for 17 years to their conditional Ethiopian-ness of today. Their denial was first launched through their Tigray Manifesto, which in vain tried to justify their view of why Tigray should separate from Ethiopia. This identity ambivalence the TPLF has been suffering from has now become the main cause and the lack of trust and confidence today in the Front’s leadership’s the mounting problems and uncertainties Ethiopia finds itself in at this very moment.
In power, the TPLF leaders now pretend they are the true Ethiopians. In truth, however, they do things that citizens do to each other. They consistently disenfranchise the poor, if one examines the violations and deprivations they perpetrated through dislocating rural farmers and the demolition of homes in urban areas while people are inside. They rob their lands as booty to TPLF members and selected investors, without any compensation.
Through these actions, the TPLF has hurt more than one whole generation of Ethiopians and the country as a whole, for example, artificially driving up land prices in Addis Abeba. In these past few years, there have been market moments, when land prices in Addis Abeba were more expensive than Stockholm and Tokyo per square meter. This a consequence of both economic and politically-motivated disenfranchisements of the poor they linked to land transactions amongst selected and connected individuals.
In one of the slogans in the environs of Addis Abeba, Adama and other towns, in preparation for Oromo protests Saturday reads: “ቤታችንን ከሚያፈርስ ወያኔ ይፍረስ” – Literal translation: ‘Let Woyane (TPLF) be demolished instead of our homes’.
Land grab and lawless robbery of properties of the politically or ethnically unconnected has caused huge hues and cries, to which the TPLF response has been state violence. Under the circumstances, why should it become a source of surprise when after a quarter century of abusive TPLF overlordship now an entire nation – from north to south, east to west as an assemblage of Ethiopians united in a common resolve, is throbbing to rise against TPLF Tigreans?
Are TPLF members true Ethiopians?
For a long time now, Ethiopians have often found themselves in disbelief and real anger, every time they learned that the commitment of the TPLF Tigreans is to their undying goal of conquering Ethiopia and exploiting its resources. The prevailing view of the majority of Ethiopians is that the Front’s policy is to deliberately relegate other Ethiopians to second-class status, its heavy-handedness keeping them under criminal its subjugation. And these are the tissues and cells that have given rise to the widespread Ethiopian hatred against the TPLF as a political organization and its members.
All along the preoccupations of TPLF members have been to relish the benefits and privileges of being on top to ensure that the opportunities the power they seized could afford them by ensuring the TPLF’s continuity in power. Nonetheless, on account of the TPLF’s arrogance and hubris, Ethiopian patience has been exhausted! In other words, Ethiopians are rejecting the TPLF’s political deceits, abuses of power, because of which Ethiopia is headed to a crush point right at this moment, which the threat of violence and the ongoing killings especially in Oromia are no solution at all.
The only solution is one that restores confidence in the nation’s institutions, its legal system and in the entire system of governance, without any manipulation by the minority TPLF regime, which is unrepresentative of Ethiopians and their interests at the hearts of power.
Everyone is advised here to carefully note that the reference here to Tigreans is strictly to TPLF members and their hired hands. Therefore, this statement should not and cannot be distorted to make it blanket accusation against all Tigreans!
For Ethiopians, Tigray has been known rather for its historical legacy, which has made it the dominant influence on Ethiopia’s culture and civilization. The misfortune, however, is that today’s TPLF Tigrean personality has its arrogant origin only in the 1970s; its inordinate beginnings are linked to the intoxication by hunger for power of a handful of adventurous individuals that needed to strictly serve their personal interests in a separate country they could run as bosses as they chose.
To achieve this goal, they TPLF fought the Ethiopian regime of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam for 17 years, in collaboration with half-hearted Eritrean secessionists, in return pushed by the TPLF to separate from ‘colonial Ethiopia.’ Only mismanagement of the war effort, the economy and violation of the rights of citizens by the military regime and foreign support made fortune turn its face to give victory to the TPLF. The Front forced a power vacuum in Addis Abeba in the mid-1980s that brought about in the TPLF a sudden change of mind that had them scurry to claim power and their Ethiopian-ness anew with both hands.
At that point, two things became evident that surprised Alemseged Abay, himself a TPLF member/supporter. He discusses in his book: Identity Jilted or Re-Imagining Identity? The Divergent Paths of the Eritrean and Tigrayan Nationalist Struggles, thes sudden shift in the TPLF identity, i.e., from anti-Ethiopianism and total denial of their Ethiopian-ness after 1985 to being Ethiopians. In their pretense, the current TPLF bosses even started massive ‘re-education campaign to the TPLF fighting force’ to accept that they are Ethiopians.
By their admission, this conversion proved an uphill struggle; the fighting force was not entirely persuaded it was Ethiopian, even as they marched into Addis Abeba. Here are two things one gleans from Alemseged’s book:
(a) Tigrean fighters were required to give up the goal of secession from Ethiopia. After all, in the face of the power vacuum, the TPLF bosses realized that Tigray was and is Ethiopian. This is not an outcome of a genuine discovery of the reality and the truth that has always been there. They were lured by their hunger for power and the empty throne ready for them to seize. Cursed be those that would be reminded by this of the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, who in seizing power in France said he saw its crown in the gutter, picked it up with his sword and put it on its head. That is not the case with the TPLF, which is driven by sheer opportunism. This has also been confirmed by their actions in power, when in power their first duty was to maraud the length and breadth of Ethiopia, including pumps from Gambella, cars and power generators to be shipped to Tigray, under their motto manifesting their greed in their ‘EVERYTHING TO TIGRAY’ slogan; and,
(b) Then the there appeared the little known arcane TPLF officials’ pledge about their uncertain identity, over which decision was kept in abeyance. These constantly suspicious TPLF officials that do not trust even their shadows. they had an implicit understanding that they are ‘Ethiopians with changed heart’ as long as they are in power and overlords of Ethiopia.
Along a similar line affirming the above, Alemseged Abay quotes the words of Sebhat Nega, the former TPLF leader before dictator Meles Zenawi’s time, both shared characteristics similar characteristics as master anti-Ethiopians. Sebhat has dishonored old age – a virtue in Ethiopia – and Ethiopian-ness as a brigand who is political insane without any integrity. They poisoned Ethiopian politics, with their divisiveness and ethnicity based inequality. We caution readers that there are no times when Sebhat Nega’s words were and are ever free from lies or distortions of of some sorts; here too they are poisonous and need not be gulped down straight:
“After 1985, more than just passing remarks, we were teaching [TPLF’s fighting force] more emphatically that were were fighting for Ethiopia’s unity based on equality … Before 1985, “May be” used to be the answer to the question. “Could the Amhara oppressed masses be our allies?” “Would they struggle for emancipation?” Again the answer was “They may.” So there used to be a lot of suspicion against the Amhara. That was why we stressed Tigrayan nationalism – language and culture, etc.”
That TPLF secessionist effort, the last of which Ethiopians have yet to see, has caused psychological problems in the TPLF Tigrean personality; disloyalty is one of them as their personality attributes, since they are cast in TPLF’s own image. As the past quarter century has informed Ethiopians, TPLF Tigreans think and believe Ethiopia is theirs, at least, for now.
Unfortunately, their Ethiopian-ness is predicated on TPLF Tigreans being superior within Ethiopia and more privileged citizens. Therefore, many are the evidences that non-Tigrean Ethiopians are likely to face several complications, given the incompatibility of TPLF Tigrean and non-Tigrean Ethiopian minds and aspirations, the latter imbued with a sense of the national interest.
In consequence of this we see that the causes and grains of today’s Ethiopia’s germinating instability, which are rooted in the TPLF Tigreans’ perception, ideology, political thinking and belief that Ethiopia belongs to them only. Since 2005, the TPLF showed us it trusts Sudan’s Omar Al-Basher with its security and protection of its interests than Ethiopians. That is why the struggle between the TPLF dictatorship and all other non-Tigrean Ethiopians over issues pertaining to citizens’ rights and well-being of the homeland on one hand and the TPLF working harder to make the country a nation of unequals has become more pronounced and increasingly sharper.
Luckily, to date Ethiopians have kept strong faith that Ethiopia belongs to all Ethiopians. There does not seem to exist an easy escape route from this problem. This is because on hand even this Ethiopian position has begun to trouble TPLF Tigreans. This has been shown by the continuing TPLF harshness towards citizens, fighting them with the nation’s institutions and more laws, including its 2009 anti-terrorism law that the United Nations Human Rights Council during its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and even its allies and bankrollers have officially distanced themselves from, see United States statement.
On the other, for a reason difficult to fathom, TPLF Tigreans are seen endeavoring to find pretext to undermine or distort the confidence and pride of Ethiopians in their Ethiopian identity, which they have made a staple of their ideological attacks. For several years now, they have engaged in their anti-Amhara, anti-Oromo, anti-Gambellan, anti-everyone project, synthesized from their chauvinism, false theories and politically-motivated campaigns – just to extend their lease of life in power. The sad part of this is that the TPLF Tigreans’ see strong Ethiopianity as a challenge directed against them, while its target is their treatment of Ethiopia as an occupied country.
Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensay is here to salvage the TPLF, not help ameliorate conditions of Ethiopians
Gen. Tsadkan may have an interest in Ethiopia’s peace and stability. However, while peace is an essential condition for all citizens, the degree people attach importance to it varies. Those under repression who cannot find support from the law, or overcome by any other means the problem may have little stake in it. On page 19 and 20, the way the general has drawn his three scenarios is troubling.
He seems to suggest that the massacre of the type that has been taking place in Oromia must continue, since the TPLF cannot deliver any solution. In that regard, he says: “አመፁ በስፋትም በግዜም ቢቀጥል ኖሮ በተጨማሪም ሌሎች ተጓዳኝ የህዝብ አመፆች ቢነሱ ኖሮ በማዕከላዊ መንግስት ላይ ሊፈጠር ይችል የነበረው ችግር መገመት አይከብድም።”
Such harsh conclusion comes from not being able to attach any importance, or value to the life of Ethiopians that are being massacred in Oromia. He did not have any qualms when he tells us that Ethiopia would have been in serious trouble, if the defense forces did not intervene and pacified the situation, by the regime’s biased admission as massacring over 400 Ethiopians. This number has this week reached over 620, according to sources that follow this.
Since a measure Gen. Tsadkan has welcomed is also the regime’s position, today Hailemariam Dessalegn appeared on the media to exclusively tell Oromos that they would not be allowed to hold their protest rally in Oromia this Saturday. Whether the protesters would comply is a different story. However, it is very likely that Oromia would once again become the TPLF’s killing fields, in view of the whole wide world that is making only count of the dead.
The prime minister told the nation that the TPLF regime would do what it should to curtail the protest rally it has not consented to, in keeping with his warning.
That is why I squirmed at the views of retired army chief of staff Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensay’s, I do not know how to put it, whether it is the height of cruelty or naiveté, in his analysis, where he states Ethiopia would have been engulfed in massive destruction, were it not for the TPLF taking prompt action in stoping the protests in Oromia (page 19). His central argument is about legality and reliance on the constitution to help address the many problems the country has encountered.
Nonetheless, it is worrisome that closer reading conveys the subtle sense that what is good to TPLF members and Tigray, should be all right for the country as a whole. I felt his logic is anti-people, as long as the action pacified the country! It is not clear to whom the country is being pacified, in a political order where people are hunted like animals and killed. Incidentally, the social media today report that public killings are taking place in Gondar itself, according to one source, “የጎንደር ከተማ ነዋሪዎች መላውን የዐማራ ሕዝብ የድረሱልን ጥሪ አስተላልፉልን ብለዋል፡፡ የአርማጭሆና የመተማ፣ የሁመራና የዳንሻ ሕዝብ በአስቸኳይ እንዲደርስልን ሲሉ ጥሪ አሰምተዋል፡፡
This article should be taken as a concerned citizen’s effort at diagnosing the diseases that over time have been vitiating, as shown above, our country with all of TPLF’s toxicities – ethnic and others – a subject of subsequent conversations.
The emphasis here is that the writer is gravely concerned that the TPLF is still romping with automatic fire and tanks all over criminally eliminating citizens. This means is that it still is in its known attitude of business as usual, so long as its violence and Western nation’s support continues.
So far, it is only Canada that has given open acknowledgement of the deteriorating Ethiopian human rights situation. In response, it has gone to the extent of introducing some changes in its immigration policy affecting Ethiopian asylum seekers. Other Western nations, the United Nations and others, seem to have preferred silence. This is perhaps to wait and see if the TPLF regime’s turning Ethiopia into ‘killing fields’ prevails. This too is another failure like as in the case of the so many “Not again” unfulfilled international promises.
Ethiopians are now both angry and worried that the assumptions in the TPLF robber barons’ politics and policies are the clear contrast about them and the rest of Ethiopians. Even in this situation, they are exerting themselves to see their permanence in power. Another consequence of such a policy is to drive more and more Ethiopians either to confront the regime or leave the country to go out in every direction as refugees, a failure of the regime’s policies, as well as its bankrollers, after their Syria experience.
In most African prisons, today there are as many Ethiopians, if one looks into the reports starting from Egypt down along the East African corridor to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, etc., and up again into West Africa up to Libya, aiming to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. These are citizen that flee state violence the TPLF is waging against helpless people!
This must be unacceptable to the international community!