BY SENNAY ZEMEN
In spite of many indelible facts, the TPLF leadership has been deluded into believing that ‘Eritreans treat Tigryans with contempt.’ This fictitious threat has been deeply rooted in their political culture and, as a result, impacted negatively their relationship with Eritrea and many other political parties during their 27-year unbridled power.
They were throwing dust in the people’s eyes to make them believe that Eritreans despise them and massaging an imagined fear and non-existent grievances to fuel enmity between the two people. The rhetoric of hate speech was aimed at gullible people who were so worried about their deplorable living conditions.
There is no doubt that the TPLF leaders have borne grudges against Eritreans which are manifested in speeches made repeatedly on different occasions. To mention but a few: In the early 1990s, Abbay Tsehai, one of the politburo members of the TPLF and designer of the evil strategy of the TPLF, was attacking Eritreans with an aggressive tone and offensive languages at workshops, seminars, or meetings. His speech set a pessimistic tone for the future relationships between Eritrea and the TPLF. He was telling the participants that
“those [Eritreans] who are calling us dirty and lousy people will continue to say so unless we work hard and lift our people out of poverty through developing agriculture and industries so as to show them that you are better than them in every way.”
In other words, “people despise us because we are poor” Isn’t this a hate speech linked to an inferiority complex as well as an act of revenge?
Another example was, just a few days after the TPLF declared war against Eritrea, the then President of the Tigray region, Gebru Asrat, one of the notorious advocators of the war, made an acerbic speech on May 28, 1998, in front of large crowds to fan their feelings of hatred against Eritrean and said:
“Eritreans treat you with derision. One cat for 50 mice; a fly killer spray for thousands of flies. Therefore, the war must continue whatever price it takes.”
His speech was a clear manifestation of the TPLF’s harbored hatred against Eritreans for years. In addition, he revealed the secrets behind the war that it had nothing to do with border dispute other than political payback.
Against the deep hatred backdrop, no sooner had the war started than the TPLF expelled more than 80,000 Eritreans from all ages and walks of life from Ethiopia without giving much thought to future negative consequences. They were expelled in a dehumanized way and with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
Worst still, Eritrean women who married Tigrayns were also expelled leaving their beloved ones behind. The war was fueled by hatreds that decades-old and taken as a good opportunity for the TPLF to settle the old account with Eritreans and gloat over their misfortune or suffering. The Eritreans never committed any crime, except for being Eritreans and the ‘colour of their eyes is not likened in Ethiopia. Without a doubt, the expulsion clearly manifested the TPLF’s extreme hatred for Eritreans.
It is a sad fact that hate speech has become the music in the TPLF’s ears. For instance, during the 45th anniversary of the TPLF held in February 2020, Sebhat Nega, a member of the politburo of the MALELIT, made a speech in front of mass rally and said without shame “they call you [Tigrayans] disgusting and loathing people; they regard you as contemptible people.” Isn’t this a speech coated with an inferiority complex?
It is a shame for the TPLF to air live on its TV such as indecent and scurrilous speeches. Imagine how people would feel when a ‘trusted politician,’ uttered such hate speech in front of thousands of gatherings. But, the Tigray people are not so credulous as to believe the hate propaganda of their leaders.
It stands to reason that the noxious speech, which is the index of the mind of the three TPLF and other leaders, bears similar vocabularies of inferiority complex intended to inculcate feelings of isolation among the people, arouse narrow Tigray nationalistic egoism, develop a cult of personality around the political elites and instill chauvinistic influences in the society. They are trying hard to ‘trickle their hatred down’ the impressionable minds at seminars, meetings, and gatherings in Tigray and other places. In short, the speeches, which have ever been uttered by human lips in this day and age, are utterly abhorrent.
The hate speech was used as a strategy to achieve many objectives. To name just a few: to isolate the people of Tigray from Eritreans/Ethiopians; plunder Ethiopian wealth by crying crocodile tears and by presenting Tigray as a war-torn and a poverty-stricken region; motivate people to work hard in order to boost fast economic growth; make Tigray one of the richest region in the country at the expense of millions of poor Ethiopians who are still living in abject poverty; and, arouse narrow nationalistic feelings to pave the road for the Republic.
Then and only then can the people of Tigray trample their feet on the heads of their ‘enemies.’ In short, the whole strategy was to wreak vengeance on Eritrean and Ethiopian people and fulfill the imperial ambition.
Though the TPLF robbed mercilessly Ethiopian wealth for 27 years and build a huge economy in Tigray through EFFORT, second to Shiek Alamoudi, a Saudi billionaire, they have not yet freed themselves of complex feelings even after they have sucked Ethiopian wealth at an alarming rate. Of course, the new Emperors had at their disposal plunder and tribute amassed through shenanigans. But the question is: has the TPLF strategy paid off? The answer is yes and no.
The TPLF elites and war generals including their families have emerged as wealthy people in Ethiopia while millions of Ethiopians have become indigent and many regions are left in the dust. They are trying to hide their corrupt practices under the veneer of ‘Tigray people paid the heavy sacrifice for Ethiopia.’
In the subsequent years that followed, the TPLF continued its aggressive acts and wave of atrocities against Eritreans in Badma in scope and intensity. Using threat of force, the police and militia of the TPLF expelled Eritreans from their homes, banned them from tilling their lands, looted or set ablaze their properties with the aim of compelling them to leave their villages where they had been there for decades. Despite its frivolous political maneuvers, the TPLF clung to its old mindset and defied negotiation as a means to solve border claims. The tension escalated to a new height, worsened the gravity of the situation and the mission of the joint committee finally reached the end of road.
The intimidation and harassment against Eritreans became an unstoppable snowball and stoked political tension. However, Eritrea, unfazed by the provocative and aggressive acts of the TPLF, displayed remarkable phlegm in the hope of defusing the tensions and averting the threat of war, which was on the horizon. Amid increasing atrocities against Eritreans in the occupied land, incursions into its sovereign territories, the intensive hostile campaign against its people living in Tigray and other places, the simmering tension that was developing steadily finally boiled and turned to border accident.
On May 6, 1998, the TPLF militia ambushed and killed seven from Eritrean armed forces who were on patrol duty, that is, on the track of jihadists who were crossing from Sudan. This incident had greatly impacted the magnitude of the crisis and led to a violent face-off between the two armies at the border. Unfortunately, the incident was taken as a golden opportunity for the TPLF and deployed a huge army in the contested territory where it soon became a battleground.
Eritrea was on the cusp of state-building and collecting bodies of its fallen martyrs buried in many war-fronts and laying them in honor since they were not accorded proper funeral honors during the armed struggle in the hope of no more Eritreans would die in a battle as the war was drifted into in history. However, few days after the incidents took place and when the Eritrean delegation was in Addis for a meeting, on May 13, 1998, the hawkish TPLF politicians jumped the gun and declared all-out offensive amid peace efforts was underway to de-escalate the tension.
The casus belli of the invasion was the more than three-decades-old illegal land claim and through which to gain other political ends. The Badma incident was indeed a pretext for the TPLF to cover expansionist policy. Befuddled with arrogance and contemptuous attitude, the TPLF made a Himalayan blunder, or a strategic error, in declaring war against its ‘brothers-in-arms,’ who brought them up to political power in Ethiopia with their military ingenuity and blood.
The decision to go to war flew in the face of joint cooperation made between the EPLF and TPLF to defeat the Dergue, of the historical relations between the two neighbouring people and of Eritrea’s vision of building a shared future with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries. The TPLF ignored completely the fact that war would make a rod for its back in the future and went to it without a slight consideration for future political, economic, and social consequences of both people.
Worst of all, the war tore the aspiration of the people to shake off poverty and to live in peace to shreds. It also left a black mark on the history of the people and the legacy of hatred. Despite Eritrea attempted to dissuade the TPLF from entering into conflict, the war was viewed as a political choice for their political agenda and a panacea for their psychological ills. It is time to put it on the line that the TPLF’s empty rhetoric that it had ‘sincerely’ backed Eritreans for their independence was merely an imposture. Behind the façade of supporting their cause, a shocking political agenda of the TPLF was hidden.
Failing to draw a hard lesson from past mistakes of its predecessors, the TPLF was hell-bent on winning the war at all costs using a military infantry tactic of human wave attack. The other reason that fooled the TPLF was that Eritrea had disbanded its hard-bitten army and replaced it with Warsay, young and new Eritrean army. It also bragged that it could win the war without much difficulty because it knew very well the tactics of the EPLF to the extent that “the TPLF army will lunch in Asmara,” as if they were walking and singing behind a marching band.” Not only this. Ethiopian ambassadors abroad invited international diplomatic corps in their respective receiving states to announce that “Ethiopian forces would enter Asmara within hours.”
The TPLF launched total war against Eritrea and its people believing that the Eritrean army would easily be brought under. It hoped also that its army would do wonders for the war employing a huge army and advanced weapons. After the offensive started, the heroic Eritrean army faced wave after wave of enemy troops and it was most unfortunate to see when thousands of Ethiopian army were dropping like flies, not by the spray of flies as Gebru Asrat once said, but by spray of bullets, for a nonsense war just to fulfill the TPLF’s political ambition and cupidity. After Eritrea made some changes in its military strategy, the TPLF ‘won’ Pyrrhic victory with much fanfare in controlling of Badma.
The TPLF floundered through the swamp of war for two years to achieve its political agenda but turned out to be a phantom thanks to the Eritrean people’s grit and determination in the highest form. The dream of ‘eating lunch’ in Asmara, winning the war, and establishing the Greater Republic of Tigray also vanished like a mirage. Shame on the TPLF! They confused themselves and misled their ambassadors. War is no picnic. The TPLF political leaders and other war generals were kept on tenterhooks to receive a telephone call from Asmara. To the TPLF dismay, they were forced to hang their head in shame for their idiotic war plan. History repeats itself endlessly for those who are unwilling to learn from the past.
It should be noted that the military strategy of the TPLF went up in smoke, which was destined for failure only because when they were making a prognosis for winning the war, they left out to include the war-experience of Eritreans gleaned from 30-year of bitter armed struggle, the grit and strength of mind of Eritreans, their unyielding courage in the face of hardships and of being true-blue patriots. If that was not the case, the Eritrean struggle would have been defeated much earlier and the TPLF wouldn’t have come to power.
The TPLF faced with a dilemma after all its gambits ended in smoke. Of course, the war put a lot of strain on its shaky economy, which has been heavily reliant on foreign loans and aid. Besides, It suffered unbearable human cost and material devastation. The two-year intensive war and 18 years ‘no peace, no war’ situation brought the TPLF up against the realities that military success was next to impossible other than admitting humiliation and accepting the international call ending the war. Finally, Eritrea and the TPLF agreed to end the war peacefully in Algiers, Algeria, in December 2000. In short, the internal and external pressure and untiring peace efforts made by some African leaders and international community saved the situation. Eritrea expresses its deep sense of undying gratitude to those who made sincere and profound efforts to end the two-year senseless war.
Against the peace agreement backdrop, the Border Commission, which was established on the basis of Algiers Peace Agreement, gave its final and binding ruling in 2002 and awarded Badma to Eritrea and, as a result, the more than three decades political mumbo jumbo of woyane has come to an end. The law sometimes sleeps, but it never dies. Flying in the teeth of Eritrean people, Ethiopian constitution, AU Charter and the international tribunal ruling, the TPLF defied the ruling of the Commission and has still occupied contemptuously Eritrean territories, which is tantamount to an invitation to war. Besides, the ruling made the TPLF eat crow in front of its people, Ethiopian people, and the international community that the implausible story of Badma was nothing less than a political humbug.
Without reciting chapter and verse of the two-year bloody war (1998-2000), the TPLF launched three large-scale military offensives with avowed intent was to dance on the Eritrean grave, impose a regime change, install a puppet government, capture Assab and to redraw a new map of Tigray by annexing Eritrean territories which included western part of Eritrea, northern part of Seraye, vast lands of Akeleguzay linked historically to the Axumiate period, and from Red Sea coast to the border of Djibouti including Assab and invoke Article 39 to establish the Republic of Greater Tigray and to kiss Ethiopia goodbye. In the true meaning of the word, the sole aim of the TPLF’s military offensive was to decolonize or swallow up Eritrea. In the TPLF mind’s eye, they could see a more powerful and prosperous Tigray with access to the Red Sea. Despite this beautiful illusion, the Republic has not a wide currency all over the people of Tigray.
When the TPLF faced with the reality that winning the war militarily was beyond the realms of possibility or highly unlikely, it devised, few days after it signed the peace agreement in Algiers, a clever ruse to bring Eritreans to their kneel, which was indeed a real delusion, through economic sanction and containment policy, to isolate Eritrea diplomatically from neighboring countries and international community with the final objective was to reconsider its independence. According to woyane’s visionaries, Eritrea would be buckled under pressure of economic sanction and diplomatic isolation. To achieve this end, it colluded with some leaders of the region, Western countries and international organizations.
The IGAD and the AU did little-to-nothing to stop the war but instead conspired with the TPLF and Western allies to impose unjust sanction (2009) on Eritrea without an iota of truth just to satisfy the TPLF’s expansionist strategy. Their betrayal to the Eritrean people has been a blot on their respective Charters escutcheon for years to come. Against their expectations, the Eritrean people remained steadfast and braved the wicked plan whereby the TPLF hoisted by its own petard, meaning that, it was caught in the trap that it prepared for Eritrea. Other than Eritreans, nobody thought that Eritrea would beat the odds and survive the huge pressure bearing down on it for 20 years.
Finally, this month twenty years ago, after the TPLF failed repeatedly to break through the strong Eritrean defense lines to capture Asmara, it launched a desperate military campaign to capture Assab. It knew it wasn’t likely to win the war, but decided to chance its arms. The TPLF army met its Waterloo after its algorithms to capture the Eritrean port turned into a complete fiasco. The gallant Eritrean army bravely repulsed its army back and put them to rout. In addition, it was forced to end its military operation in Eritrea after facing a painful and disastrous defeat. Eritreans again embroiled themselves in a 20-year war against their will and paid heavy prices to uphold the sovereignty of their country and defend their dignity. Once again, Eritrea, the land of tenacity, becomes a graveyard for hundreds of thousands of woyane’s army. Indeed, the TPLF is a real thorn in the Eritrean flesh and will continue to remain so until it goes to hell in the handcart.
Eternal glory to our Martyrs!