By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
We learned early this week about the visit to Ethiopia of the newly-appointed Italian Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Luciano Pezzotti. The visiting Horn point man for Italy had been in Addis Abeba for days since December 8, 2016, consulting with officials of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) regime.
Italy has had historical ties and strong bilateral relations with Horn of Africa nations, especially Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. It is possible to assume that his mission to Ethiopia at this point is an Italian initiative, linked to Italy’s status as an incoming newest member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) beginning January 1, 2017 – like Ethiopia.
It has been possible to garner from the discussions the visiting Italian official had especially at the Foreign Ministry a signal suggesting that the TPLF regime has plan of its own. It aims to humiliate Eritrea and make effective utilization of the support of the Italian government to trample upon the popular uprising of the Ethiopian people, demanding freedom, equality of citizens, democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
If not direct assistance, the TPLF could also be satisfied with diplomatic and political support, so that its violent actions would not stir the international community into action.
This is a demand in conflict even with Italy’s own national interests, let alone its democratic values on which proximity between nations is based. Evidently, what matters for the TPLF is its Eritrea agenda for the beyond, once the Obama Administration leaves office at the beginning of January 2017.
Ethio-Italian cooperation in the Security Council
At the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, State Minister Hirut Zemene apprised Ambassador Pezzotti stating, “there was need to check the distractive effort of the Eritrean regime to destabilize the Horn and in particular Ethiopia”. She reminded him of “the recent incursion made by terrorist factions in Northern Ethiopia”. In that context, the state minister implored the Italian official, “We need your support and understanding in our effort to deter fundamentalism and terrorism in the region.”
It is evident from many angles the TPLF is now aiming to achieve certain political objectives regarding Eritrea and executing brutal military goals to stamp out Ethiopia’s internal turmoil that has shaken the regime’s core for over a year now. This seems mapped out to be carried out effectively in the usual TPLF way – crushing the protests with the support and approval of foreign powers. What is clear here, however, is that the purpose that required this brutal action has nothing to do with defeating terrorism, since the terrorist in Ethiopia is the regime itself.
This shows how far the TPLF is prepared to go in both abusing the United Nations Security Council and hoodwinking the international community by misrepresenting the true causes of the Ethiopian internal political crisis. If this is accorded the indecency of genuine acceptance by other nations, those collaborating with the fascistic regime would only be rewarding it for its horrid and persistent violation of human rights and justifying its persistent use of force, instead of compelling it to make peace with the people through real reforms – if at all the ethnic minority tribalist, corrupt, violent and repressive system be reformed.
Recall that in the early days of the protests, Debretsion Gebremichael boasted on his Facebook about TPLF’s “capacity to crush the entire Africa, much less 30 million citizens” in Amhara region! I fear for we live at a time in Ethiopia when over 100 thousand Ethiopians are in concentration camps, daily beaten, starved and tortured.
Rumor has it that the brutal graduate of ‘Shideíste Zero’ – TPLF torture chambers when it was a guerrilla movement – has succeeded in getting his way to some extent. That is why so many Ethiopians in Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR have been slaughtered under the guise of disarming the people, even those that bought their weapons and were legally armed to protect themselves and their families.
Under normal circumstances, there is no doubt that the collaboration between UNSC members rewards the states with reasonable and effective diplomatic working method, save that the situation in Ethiopia is scarcely normal. If that were not the case, the importance of the collaboration for both Ethiopia and Italy could have been immense, especially in addressing early tense situations, leading to conflicts the root causes of which are governance problems and rights violations, as in the case of Burundi and Ethiopia itself, with scores of others to follow.
In Africa these days there are leaders that are prepared to remain in power until the Second Coming, as does the TPLF in Ethiopia and by any means, especially killing as many citizens and locking opposition party members. It is a sign that the Security Council would be kept busy by the high number of African conflict situations that would claim so many lives.
Regrettably, Ethiopia under the TPLF is not the right country to represent African interests in the Security Council, as I have argued through most of 2016.
The briefings and TPLF schemes
Ambassador Luciano Pezzotti was first received by President Mulatu Teshome, who briefed him on the regime’s activities aiming at pacifying the Horn of Africa, according to the Ethiopian News Agency. In that, the president focussed on the usual TPLF exaggerated self-importance, praising Ethiopia’s commitment to continue to ensure peace and foster friendly relations with all states in the region.
After a tour of their failed East African efforts in South Sudan, with IGAD permanently under TPLF leadership, he singled out as an example the support Addis Abeba has been providing to Somalia. This mainly is belonging to a peacekeeping mission detailed to that country through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to contain Al-Shabab terrorism, which is not either a success story. All these years, Al Shabab has been attacking any part of Somalia at will, including the gates of the presidential palace.
However, following his rosy description of the success of Ethiopia’s diplomacy, the president took exception to what he referred as Eritrea’s troublemaking in the region. It is at that point he made a direct request for Italy’s support to put some sense into Asmara’s head. In that context, he sought Rome to exert every effort to bring peace between the two countries.
It is not clear whether the TPLF is asking Italy to mediate and foster reconciliation with Eritrea.
What is the TPLF upto?
There is no doubt the first TPLF priority is to end, through state violence, the popular rebellion and remain in power until the Second Coming. What the TPLF is scheming now, which it has not even managed to disguise, is also focussed on seeking foreign assistance, the objective of which is elimination of possibilities of any consequences to the collective or as individual leaders of the Front in the form of charges being brought against them in the long-run at the national or international level.
While it is a smart move for the TPLF, reflecting the following three-pronged interests – as usual it’s daft and full of holes:
(a) As I tried to argue on several occasions after the TPLF regime sought a seat at the Security Council, its current chaotic situation in Ethiopia is not tenable with its new status as one of the 15 nations presiding on matters of international peace and security, mandated by Article 24 of the UN Charter. Bear in mind that, Ethiopia is not only internally unstable. But also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has kept it on his active list of countries whose internal human rights situation is in need of investigation for possible crimes against humanity, especially on account of:
(i) the shootings on and massacre of peaceful protesters;
(ii) Ireecha Massacre
In that context, the United Nations has repeatedly asked to send human rights experts and investigators the TPLF has spitefully refused. One other country on that list was Turkey. Ankara finally allowed UN investigators last week and has won praises for the openness and cooperation it has availed to the invetigators.
- (b) Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden internal situation has forced the TPLF to look for the support of another Security Council member, which now happens to be Italy. While a hard sell, among others, this is aimed at saving the skins of TPLF officials, who are likely to portray and continually accuse all #Ethiopiaprotests movements, bred through internal governance problems, the work of hired-hands working for Eritrea. Their objective here is to prolong their stay in power as it also serves as their escape from any future human rights violation charges against them.
(c) The TPLF is determined to the extent possible to continue its brutal crackdown against citizens, invoking the state’s right to ‘self-defense’ from ‘internal and external enemies’– which it already has done through its ‘martial law’. This shows that it is prepared to garner in particular political and all other forms of outside support.
Failing in these, the TPLF fallback position could be to ensure that sanctions are tightened against Eritrea for the foreseeable future.
From international point of view, nevertheless, the November 10, 2016 anomalous decision by the United Nations Security Council, contained in Resolution 2317 (2016), by which sanctions once again have been slammed down Eritrea’s throat, has angered some and surprised other member states. Even inside the Security Council, division was openly readable. This was due to the fact that the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) has hardly found any clear evidence of Eritrea’s complicity in anti-peace activities or collaboration with rogue elements within the Somalia regime, signaling a violation of the arms embargo.
As a sign of inconvenience of some member states within the 15 member Security Council, the sanction resolution was approved only by 10 members, while five abstained. The Security Council would once again be review the sanctions on Eritrea in April 2017.
The question now is why the TPLF, in violation of Article 24(2) should angle to exploit its Security Council membership against Eritrea. Article 24(2) states: “In discharging these duties the Security Council shall act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations”, not vindictive politics such as this in the Horn of Africa.
Regarding the Ethiopian internal situation, there are now some nations that have begun to breathe sigh of relief, thinking the TPLF ‘martial law’ has restored peace and calm, as the regime has made them believe.
This a mistaken perception. Such perspective is better explained by Irish journalist James Jeffry, who in an article for The Irish Times of December 9, 2016 cogently summed it up as “An Ethiopian never forgets”, referring to history, about which he wrote:
“History always matters, but especially in Ethiopia, where people take the long view. Ethiopians cherish their history – one of the world’s oldest Christian traditions; the only African country that wasn’t colonised – and recall and tell the associated stories spanning the centuries; at the same time they remember the tragedies and atrocities committed among the country’s various ethnic groups, all of which exerts a powerful influence on the present.”
Clearly, the TPLF dupery and diplomacy against popular uprising has been handled badly from the prime minister to every bureaucrat in the administration. Its necessity arose because of the current internal situation of the country, which has become difficult to manage as a member of the United Nations Security Council and the responsibilities thereon on behalf of Africa.
I have confidence that the Italian state would not become an accomplice of a regime whose hands have been spoiled with the blood of innocent citizens.
What the Ethiopian reality attests is a rejection of the TPLF regime by wider citizenry in most parts of the country.