BY WEDI ABEYTI
The present government of Ethiopia is dominated by the minority ethnic Tigrayans through a federal structure that was designed to effectively divide and rule larger ethnic groups such as the Oromos and Amharas and bars non-members of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The struggle initiated by the Tigrayans was usurped by the TPLF to be used for the narrow end of revenge.
After 23 years in power though, the TPLF minority regime is still a “liberation front“. Liberate whom from what?
This style of rule is geared neither to the interests of the people nor to the benefit of the nation as a whole. While claiming to represent the people of Tigray, TPLF commits all kinds of crimes against other ethnic Ethiopians in the name of Tigrayans. But what does that benefited Tigray other than becoming a victim of hatred and target?
So the people of Tigray ask, where are we heading? Here are some of their grievances against the TPLF:
A) About Development
1) A significant portion of the population of Tigray still lives under the mercy of food aid. Close to one million people are getting their daily bread by the mercy of World Bank’s safety net. When will we be food self-sufficient? You claimed that the region producing more than75 million quintals (30% of the national crop production of 250 million) while the truth on the ground says otherwise. Why all these lies? Why cooking data miles apart from the truth?
2) What footprints did the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) leaves in Tigray? Why did you make Tigray outside of the industry zone while TPLF was talking for years now “industry is the future of Tigray”?
Why the Wolkayt Sugar factors, which was meant to be finalized by last year in December, is at only 32% today, while the other sugar factories in other regions are getting finalized? Why the railroad from Woldiya-Mekelle, which was part of the first GTP, is not started yet? What happened to the 18 factories you were telling us for years to open (the biggest being a PVC company you told us to build in Maymekden) in cooperation with EFFORT and partners? How about the multibillion projects the Defense’s Engineering wing was said to establish like the steel factory and others? How come it fails here to open just one while it has opened plenty in other places? How come a 115 billion Birr company refused to invest a thing so far in the war-stricken Tigray? How come you fail to achieve even a single success story? 100 % failure! Why?
3) The SAERT irrigation project was massively moving until it was stopped by Ato Meles. According to the master plan of the SAERT, Tigray was to be food self-sufficient by 2008 by installing 500 micro and medium sized dams for irrigation. Was there a discussion to stop it? What has replaced this very crucial program (other than the failed, the devastating and the most ridiculous and shamefully nonsense things called ‘ሆረየ’ and ባንኪ ማይ)? What scientifically proven and adaptable, sound projects, technologies have you put in place to replace it? Do you feel any remorse for halting it? Why you didn’t ask apology for killing a bright beginning and a big hope?
4) What happened to project like Golgol Raya irrigation, Abergele Animal husbandry and many other projects?
5) The most educated, capable and experienced Tigrians are unwelcome here. They now prefer to work outside of Tigray. Why is it so and when will this out-migration end? Because of this, Tigray remains the least in bureaucracy efficiency. Why? Why every year the regional budget is returned to the federal government unused; 2003E.C- 40%; 2004- 36%, 2005- 29%; while there are massive problems remaining to be solved? How much of the remaining money is put in place having the massive corruption here is another question. Why? Why? Why are you intentionally harming the people of Tigray?
6) There are exaggerated cooked data of growth and prosperity in Tigray. The fact in the ground is our people are still the poorest, marginalized people. Year after year, you tell us billions of forest plantation, thousands of irrigation installations, millionaire farmers… where is all this? A research, which was funded by the regional government, conducted by DR. Z of mekele university (full name hidden for security reasons) three years back revealed very shocking result showing the massive poverty level in Tigray (52% living under poverty line). It was denied publication as it was very contrary to what you people say (less than 30%). One higher official even put it at 18% recently. Why do you hide the truth? True, there are very few people close to the system, close to EFFORT who are multimillionaires now, but the majority are still very poor. When will this end?
7) After 24 years in power, water shortage in almost all towns in Tigray remains unsolved. Mekelle and Shire are hit the hardest and the problem is getting even worse. Why the problem remains unsolved? Year after year, we were hearing hundreds of millions are allocated, and yet, we didn’t see anything being done. Nothing! Why? There are evidences of massive corruption (in billions) in the Tigray water Enterprise. The previous manager, Eng. Getachew, (Haleka’s nephew), embezzled 120 million birr; and he was sneaked out through Bole and then tried in absentee, sentenced for 12 years of imprisonment; and yet, he is walking free in the streets of Japan and USA. Why no effort is made to bring him home? Similarly, the succeeding manager, a close person to the palace by blood, said to have embezzled millions, is recently promoted to lead EPRDF bureau with the portfolio of minister let alone to be brought to justice. Why? The health service delivery, electricity, and other services too are very poor. Why?
8) The bureaucracy in Tigray remains the most ineffective, incapable and deterring. Tigray is becoming the symbol of failure. They may start a thing and it never gets to completion; 9 years on, the stadium remains unfinished while Bahirdar finalizes it in just three years, and Hawassa’s is nearing completion; so does Adama and others. Welkayt sugar factory is at only 12% while the plan was to complete it by October 2013, and there are reports that it is almost stopped as no budget is allocated to go further; Almost none of the plans in GTP is put into place. Practically, there was no, and there still is no important project in Tigray in the past 10 years put in place. This is all because the well-educated and capable have no place in Tigray! Till when are we going to be symbol for failure and incapability?
9) We are hearing you are planning to rename ten health centers as primary hospitals? How come you fail to build hospitals? In fact, there was no hospital built by the regional government in the past five years while some regions have built many of them (Amhara region, for example, built 40 this year alone; Oromia- 36). Tigray- changing names of Health Centers in to Primary Hospitals and 0 newly constructed hospitl! Why? Health center is built with a capacity to serve 15,000-25,000 and a primary hospital- up to 100,000. How can a setup built for 15-25,000 people serve 100,000? Is it just about changing name? Why?
10) A Silk Warm disease introduced to Tigray by a Italian investor is now devastating the huge cactus (በለስ) plantation in tigray. People and animals eating it are being harmed. The very በለስ that fed our livestock, and our people (especially during summer times) for thousands of years have all gone; and the ecology is disturbed irreparably. Who is to be accounted? Why there is no responsible body yet? The Italian investor has left the country now. Why did things turn out this way? Why do you simply neglect the role of the educated? Shouldn’t you have consulted professionals before giving licenses for projects of environmental impact? What is the way forward? Why did you neglect the recommendations by FAO scientists?
11) Who owns EFFORT? Why our people are denied any information about this conglomerate? What are our people benefitting from EFFORT? Why EFFORT has never been audited? Why the people have never heard the audit report? Why the company is entirely managed by people assigned by TPLF CC, and why there are no representatives from the people? Why are most of the EFFORT companies going bankrupt, let alone to grow? Where is the profit going to? Why EFFORT denies private sector involvement in manufacturing in Tigray? Why EFFORT sells its products at far higher price in Tigray than elsewhere (Ex. Mesebo Cement)? What is the future of EFFORT? What went wrong with the 18 factories you told us to be established under EFFORT (the Mai-Mekden PVc Company included)? Why not even one is realized? What is really going on?
B) About Democratization
1) When is TPLF leadership going to tolerate dissent, any critical but constructive opposition in Tigray? Why is it anybody with alternative ideas seen as a threat, as an enemy? Why the opposition in Tigray is subject to imprisonment, torture, loss of livelihood, and all forms of mistreatment? Why do you name anybody with the different ideas all the bad names in the world? Why do you need to kill all minds? Isn’t it killing, destroying a nation?
2) Tegaru are currently living in an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and suspicion? No one trusts anyone in tigray. The social cohesion of our people is disrupted with mistrust as was devised by the government. A wife is made to spy on her husband. Literally talking, Tigray is a police state. When will the regime stop this widespread phobia?
3) Why are you always fearful of the media, civic societies, and professional organizations?
4) Research conducted by a professor from Mekelle university found out that Tigray has the lowest transparency in governance. There are many talks of how some of the previous TPLF CC members were ousted (pressurized to voluntarily resign), and it was presented as if everything went smooth. What is this all secrecy?
5) More than 6 thousand houses in Mekele, many more tens of thousands in Alamata, Korem, Mekoni, Maichew, Shire, Wukro are demolished overnight. Why do you have to make such evil harms on the very people who put you to the throne while you could have prevented their construction (if they indeed are illegal)? The officials who gave the permit for their construction are equally responsible. None of them are questioned yet. Why? Most sad is, a green area kept for years around GEREB BUBU, Mekelle was illegally seized by around 40 members of the central committee and big merchants, they distributed the whole land amongst themselves at a lease rate of 1 birr 32 cents, which is a rate 50-100 times smaller than the current lease rate, and the construction is still underway. People call it “Apartheid Mender”. Why all the boldness?
C) About Education and Investment
1) The same research mentioned above, and similar research by another professor in Mekele University showed:
• Tigray has the highest drop-out rate from all levels of education (elementary, high school, university) in Ethiopia. Even Afar and Somalia are better than us. How do you intend to improve the situation?
• Tigray is the least in terms of quality of education and every year, more Tigrians fail in the national exams than anywhere in the country. In 2003 e.c, Tigray was the least in terms of the percentage of tenth-grade students passing the national exam. It continues unimproved since then. In 2005 E.C tenth grade national exams, only 28 % made it while the country average was 35 %. Why all this disparity? Where are we heading to? Weren’t we the top many of the universities 20 years back and what went wrong? Do you really care about the future of Tigray and Tegaru? Why do you let our future ruined? Do you really believe in “Education made us what we are”? Why are you killing education in Tigray? Why?
• Tigray attracts the lowest level of investment and the lowest investment per capita in Ethiopia. The lowest! The regime in Tigray chooses the specific areas investors could involve. They are usually Hotels, other service givers, and they don’t want investors to get involved in manufacturing and other heavy industries. This is exclusively kept for the shadowy conglomerate EFFORT. Why?
• Tigray produces the highest number of street children in Ethiopia, and Tigray has the highest infant mortality rate. Why? Where is the 20 years of lie and empty propaganda?
2) Crucial institutions of education like MIT and Kelamino are currently being shut down or nearing closure. Why? Why is MIT being transferred to MU? The MIT which was established by the hard work of Araya Zerihun and many other dedicated Tegarus to train the best engineers, technologist for the nation, was initially tried to turn it to cadre and spy school, and when the students resist, you are shutting it down! Why? Don’t you have any plans for the future of the people? What is your vision for Tigray? Destruction?
D) About Corruption
1) Corruption has become the normal working system of the region, and officials, when they are caught, they are never questioned, never made to return the money, and never pass through any legal process. They are mostly made to change a working place just to quell the public anger, and are subsequently assigned with a bigger promotion, given a bigger authority, as long as they are “loyal” to the party. Why? They are literally licensed to do, rob whatever as long as they are loyal subordinates. Why? Why?
2) Where is all the EFFORT money going to? What are our people getting from EFFORT? Why it is not audited? Why the people are kept blind about it? Whom is it enriching, who is making use of the money, the profit? There are numerous rumors of corruption in EFFORT where even a guard owns G+6 and they remain unquestioned let alone to return the money they rob. Why? Why you hijacked it to your own use forgetting all the promises you made to the people? What have we got other than exploitation?
3) People in Mekelle call a certain area in the town “Musna Mender” because people (officials) with just 5000 birr salary own G+4, G+5, cars, and every other luxury life can provide and no one asks. How come this happen? What is the source of their wealth?
4) Ethiopia ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world now. There are reports of billions of dollars of capital flights. The situation is even worse in Tigray. The system is corrupt head to toe and there is no political will to fight corruption in Tigray. A politician can loot as much as he intends, and he goes away unquestioned as long as he is politically “loyal”. Where are we heading to?
5) When asked why corruption is so rampant, and why the government doesn’t act, You always say “corruption can’t be prevented anyways; when there is growth, there is always corruption…e.t.c” what! Are you conforming to it? Are you telling us that there is nothing wrong with it, that it is an acceptable practice? Is corruption part of the normal working bureaucracy, today? What is for tomorrow, then?
E) About Tigrayans Unity and Century-old History
• It’s painful to say it, but true, the internal unity of the people of Tigray has been hurt due to the wrongful acts and non-inclusive system of T.P.L.F where almost the whole system seems controlled by people from one locality, and many others felt alienated. The unwise and venomous intentional and unintentional wordings of some officials are never to be mentioned here. There is a devastating Kushetawinet in the rise today while our unity is needed more than ever. Why are some officials holding public office designed to be so myopic, narrow, and so divisive? Why is this all? They are never questioned for their bad behavior and it seemed Kushetawinet is something part of the guiding principle of TPLF. Why? Why? When is this going to be curtailed?
• Why did you also weaken, if not kill TDA and encourage local “development” organizations to proliferate here and there? What was that intended for? Why you don’t want a strong Tigrian nationalism and strong and unifying institutions?
• You also seem to be apathetic to the history of Tigray before 1983. You destroyed the palace of Ras Araya Dimtsu in Aynalem and built on top of it what is today MIT. This is 20 years ago when the land was abundant. You destroyed hundreds of years old historical Hidmos in Mekelle against the advice of UNESCO people; You are destroying Endaraesi, built by Ras Gugsa, along with its hundreds of years old big trees; you Destroyed the prison where Operation Agazi was undertaking; You prevented the erection of monument for Yohannes in Mekelle; you renamed a school built by the local people and named after Ras Alula to Meles; Yohaness palace is losing its originality; they are painting it with white lime and it looks like a villa house built just yesterday, e.t.c…there are a lot more similar stories throughout Tigray. You want to portray the Tigray of thousands of years of magnificent history as just 23 or 39 years old! Why? Why?
F) About visionary and capable leaders
The current regime in Tigray, TPLF, has no intention of creating new capabilities, visionary leaders, and is apparently academia phobic. People who failed to produce good leaders are doomed to fail. This is a very critical issue. Why the most capable, educated and visionaries are pushed aside and all appointments based on mere loyalty and locality? Now, the bureaucracy and all the political appointments are held by ill-educated fake degree holders, the incapable, and the visionless corrupt who are phobic of the educated and the capable, because, they consider them as “a possible threat”; how are we going to create leaders of tomorrow? Don’t you see the danger of not having leaders in uncertain horns and in a polarized country? Why can’t you think beyond your big bellies for the generations to come? Is that you don’t want or you simply can’t? Does TPLF really have any vision for the people 20, 50 years from now? Do you really care for the generations to come, for the future of the people and the land? Why we are left visionless after you killed the vision we had? What is up there in our tomorrow? Why you disempowered the youth of Tigray? Why you dis-empowered the people of Tigray? Why we are left leaderless? When will we create leaders, then?
The writer is a resident of Mekelle, Tigray Regional State of Ethiopia