BY I. HABTE
By virtue of being ‘liberators’ of Ethiopia, the TPLF ruled the country under the veneer of ‘democratic revolution’ and kept a tight control over the eight regions through the heavy hand of its agents including police and security forces. What is more, the representatives of the regions in the Executive Committee of the EPRDF and National Parliament of Ethiopia were true servants of the TPLF than their own region or people. Their unfailing loyalty and silence were indeed a benediction to the TPLF to plunder the wealth of the country, grab huge lands and implement policies or decisions that indulge Tigrai without any resistance from the representatives and other crimes, to say the least.
The death of Meles Zenawi cast a dark shadow over the TPLF’s power and influence. Its dominance under the pretext of ‘collective leadership’ started to be challenged by Oromo and Amhara main political parties. In addition, the eruption of ethnic uprising, which didn’t come out of the blue, quickly snowballed into all regions and became violent and uncontrollable, which finally led to the removal of the TPLF from power.
For this political change, thousands of Ethiopians made the ultimate sacrifice, jailed and tortured while many others fled the country to escape political persecution. ‘Whatever has a beginning has an end.’
Given this fact, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the first Oromo has become the new PM of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. His coming to power has ushered in a new era in Ethiopian politics. Besides, the new political change has given a strong impetus to all opposition political parties to come to the country and work together with the government to shake off turmoil and ensure stability and prosperity.
The TPLF sailed under false colours for 27 years; however, its removal from power has reared its ugly head.
When Ethiopians embark on a new path to bring about a real change in the country, the unscrupulous TPLF leaders started to sing a different song: to hell with Ethiopia if Meles’ doctrine is not followed or if the TPLF is not in power; it threatened Ethiopians with breaking away from the country by invoking Article 39; and, when they were in power, they ruled Ethiopia through ‘divide and rule, when they were driven out of power, they have started to ‘divide and destabilize’ the country.
Since 1975, the creation of an independent state of Tigrai has been on the TPLF’s bucket list. But, it thought that this dream could not be realized unless the country is being left in a state of confusion and chaos. To this end, it has designed a series of devious stratagems in order to pave the ground for the ultimate dream, wash its hands of crimes, crimes of humanity committed against the Ethiopians, shy away from accountability and run away from corruption, economic sabotage and money laundering charges which they have still got away with it. This clever political gambit of the TPLF is devised to throw dust in the people’s eyes.
Ethnic federalism or politics is a political minefield in Ethiopia. Because of this, the ethnic-based violence in the country could be seen against the backdrop of this policy. On the basis of this fact, the TPLF has sown discord or hatred, harbored mistrust and fester inter-ethnic conflict among different contending ethnic groups.
Over the past four years, Ethiopia has been hit by fierce ethnic uprisings which had been spinning out of control until the new PM came to power. The violence has been masterminded by the TPLF and implemented by its recruited agents including people placed in high government positions, military and security people, opportunists and others collaborators. So, it is not a stretch to say that the TPLF is a real trouble-maker in the true sense of the word and can never be a genuine and trustful political partner in Ethiopian politics.
Ethiopia has still been engulfed in the worst political crisis and ethnic unrest in several decades. As a result, the political chaos took a heavy toll on human lives, hampered slightly the ongoing reforms, negatively affected the slow economic growth and torn apart a number of economic infrastructures of the country.
In addition, thousands of innocent people killed and wounded; a number of government buildings and churches were destroyed in a fire with their properties and/or looted by rioters; over 1.5 million people displaced internally from their homes and are in dire need of immediate emergency support, to say nothing of the rehabilitation cost, which is not an easy task for a country that is struggling to revitalize its wrecked economy; and, the spirit of living together in peace and harmony among the different ethnic groups disrupted, to name just a few.
According to the TPLF visionaries, if the government is unable to deliver immediate emergency support to the displaced people and fail to ensure security and promote economic growth, the people’s anger and frustration against the government will mount and lead to further instability. For example, some religious leaders, politicians, and people aired their resentment over the government’s delay in handling the security problem in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The TPLF has been trading on the grievances and discontent of the people created by insecurity, lawlessness and economic problems to undermine the ongoing reforms, weaken the power of the government by subversive or terrorist acts, diminish its popularity and finally break away from Ethiopia as an end in itself.
The ethnic-hatred violence, directly or indirectly, has affected all Ethiopians though the degree of damage or causalities inflicted upon them vary from one ethnic group to another or from one region to another. The Tigrai people have suffered greatly by the uprising more than the other group, that is to say, that they have taken the full brunt of the consequences. Despite this, the other ethnic groups vented their anger and frustration on them. Of course, they were targeted not because of being Tigrians but they had fallen prey to the TPLF’s brutal rule. The retaliation taken against them is, therefore, not legally or morally acceptable since one should not be punished for the sins of others. When violence becomes a common outlet for anger and frustration and a way to achieve revenge, it not only results in harm to victims but also to the health of society.
The three most regions hit by ethnic violence were Oromo, Southern, and the Ethio-Somalis. In addition, hundreds of Amharas were threatened and driven out of Oromo and Benishangul Gumuz regions and returned to their home region.
Likewise, few hundreds of Tigrians were forced, threatened, intimidated or afraid of their life left many troubled regions and returned to Tigrai to escape ethnic-based violence. The returnees left their properties behind them and arrived at their respective regions with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and are still worse off for shelter, food and other necessities for life. In the meantime, there is no such resentment about any attacks on the Afar people from other ethnic groups.
Despite this fact, the old fogeys have been repeatedly touting ‘Threat against Tigrai’ rhetoric to stir up attention from their people. They are making a drama out of the ‘ethnic-based vitriolic attacks particularly on the people of Tigrai just to cover up sinister aspect. But, nothing could be further from the truth! The TPLF wouldn’t have been ranting about the attack on its people if it had set its mind on and looked into the constitution sincerely.
Creating instability to achieve one’s ambition is unrealistic or unlikely. In addition to this, the TPLF has designed another strategy geared towards drumming up support from the people living in and outside Tigrai to achieve its goal. To this end, it has launched a string of campaigns accompanied by deception, cheap lies, mendacious propaganda, exaggeration, and the likes.
The TPLF and its villainous accomplices are trying to take the people of Tigrai in with their political chicanery. Inside Tigrai, the TPLF has been engaged in carrying out intensive meetings, conferences, rallies, or interviews for the people to arouse the people’s ‘nationalism.’
Besides, they are making all-out efforts to isolate them from the other Ethiopians by stretching the truth of the ethnic-based attacks of all kinds on its people, disseminating dogged information, spreading doubts about the positive change underway in Ethiopia and trying to persuade them that the change is a real threat to Tigrai and its people. .
Since one deception makes way for another, the TPLF has been preying upon the people’s credulity and ignorance of the situation to take them down a dangerous road. The Tigrian Diaspora have been informed through its agents/spies, to stand by the Tigrai people and to stay vigilant for any future unknown happenings in the country. They are being warned to remain aloof from any meetings or gatherings organized by Ethiopian Diaspora other than that of promoting the ‘Tigrai First’ vision.
The TPLF has spared no efforts to imbue the Tigrai communities with hatred and ethnic resentment. By perfidy means, it has been instilling non-existing fears, ‘fear of being a Tigrian and living with Ethiopia’ (or, fear of the “other”) in the minds of its people.
It should be noted that the TPLF leaders have been bragging about the contribution of Meles to ‘peace, unity and economic development’ to Ethiopia. The so-called ‘Meles vision’ is being disseminated through seminars and mass media to influence the young Tigrai generation and to etch his doctrine in their minds. They have been making great efforts to brand Meles as an icon of ‘Tigrai armed struggle’ and of ‘democracy and federalism’ in Ethiopia. They are arguing that ‘not supporting the TPLF constitutes betraying Meles,’ and trying to whitewash his crimes, which, one shouldn’t surprise, truly demonstrates honour among thieves
All but literally, Tigrai has become a ‘Punt Land’ of Ethiopia. Its leaders have openly defied policies, decision or orders of the Federal Government and slowed down their communication and relations with it since the new PM came to power. They have failed to cooperate with the government on security and other related matters and are working at cross purposes with other regions. They cling obstinately to ‘we have our own way’ mindset, so much so that they set to govern Tigrai according to their preferences and wishes. The chairperson of Tigrai region criticized the PM and other region leaders in barbed words on many occasions. In short, the region seems inaccessible to the Federal Government and becomes a stronghold for ‘wanted’ or other criminals, more or less like a ‘no-go area.’
It seems that ethnic federalism, which is blamed for the present crisis in the country, is still being sustained by many and carried on to the future rather than throwing it away due to its negative impact on the country. Most, unfortunately, there is no end to the TPLF legacy in sight. According to its engineers, each region has to look after its regions interests rather than considering the interests of others. In other words, each region is concerned more about its ethnic group’s benefits and strives hard to improve their well-being while leaving the unfortunate ones to their fate. It is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.
In all honesty, some regions could have more rich citizens, experts, scholars, local investors, vast fertile lands and other opportunities than other regions. The fortunate ones can harness and make good use of the region’s opportunities to improve the living standard of their inhabitants.
In general, this will widen the wealth disparities among the ethnic groups, develop strong ethnic nationalism rather than Ethiopian nationalism and deepen further the existing fissures among the ethnic groups. This endogenous driven potential threat could probably be a tinderbox for the unity of the country unless Ethiopians do something to prevent the way the country is heading for, then the dream of nation-building will be nothing more than chasing the rainbow.
It is true that the political chaos over the past four years together with other factors have aggravated the country’s economy as well as the living conditions of poor Ethiopians. As a result, millions of young Ethiopians have left their country to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and America for a better life. This economic hardship has affected more than just Ethiopians but also Tigrians. The 27 tumultuous years rule has exposed the TPLF to the cruel fact that millions of its people have been plunged into poverty, thousands fled the country to escape poverty and many others reduced to begging.
In short, poverty has become a byword in Ethiopia. Despite promising the earth, the TPLF has done nothing to improve the life of its people. When the ethnic fighting flared up and the people of Tigrai started to feel the heat of the conflict, oddly enough, the TPLF rushed to portray itself as a guardian of the Tigrai people.
The anti-reform forces led by the TPLF are dead-set to do everything possible to create havoc on the country, contain the course of the political reform and keep Ethiopia weak, unstable and disunited. Before the new PM came to power, the country was sinking into an abyss of violence and lawlessness. Since then, the new leadership has been tasked with introducing a number of political reforms, easing tension and containing the escalation of ethnic-based violence and restoring peace and stability. Though the people of Ethiopia have so far achieved a considerable success in lifting the country out of the current political quagmire and ensuring peace and sustainable economic development, they shouldn’t rest on its laurels since complete success over the anti-reformist is a long way off.
There is no getting around the fact that driving a wedge between the Tigrai and Ethiopian people is the same as trying to square the circle since both of them have lived together as one people and stood by each other in weal and woe since time immemorial. So, without digging the wounds of the past and regretting the missed opportunities, the Tigrai and Ethiopian people have to work jointly to frustrate the intrigues of the TPLF and march towards building a peaceful and a united country because they are masters of their own destiny.
So, it is high time especially for the Tigrai people to break with the shibboleth doctrine of the TPLF and join the reformist forces. Without a shred of doubt, if not today, then tomorrow, the old guards will hoist by their own petard. Along with this, the political opportunism, hegemonic tendencies and destabilization tactics of the TPLF will vanish into thin air.
Having said that, the security situation of the country is still highly uncertain and volatile and as a result, the country is hovering on the brink of civil war. To the dismay of peace-loving people of Ethiopia, after a hiatus of weeks of peace, fresh ethnic-based violence has flared up again and escalated in many cities and towns of the country and killings, beatings, lootings and rape on ethnic-based has become the order of the day. In addition, thousands of people have also displaced from their homes.
Lawlessness has overshadowed the country after anti-reform forces organized hooligans or crime gangs to destabilize the country. These young people, who had paid a heavy price for the existing political changes, are playing right into the hands of the TPLF group they were protesting against. They have taken the law into their own hands and upset peace and security of the inhabitants which put the ongoing reform at risk. It goes without saying that the TPLF is always behind the violence through underhand dealings.
It is true that the government has made great headway in bringing about significant political changes in the country and gone to great lengths to defuse and prevent the escalation of ethnic conflict; but the fact remains that the success gained so far through huge sacrifice could slip away easily unless the government keeps forging ahead with its reform plans. No doubt of winning out in the end despite challenges lies ahead.
Needless to say, the TPLF is on its deathbed but will never give up easily and fight to the bitter end until it meets a sticky end. To avert the risk of further violence, all political parties should put aside their political agenda and reaffirm full and unremitting support to the government until they bring their enemies to their kneel.
Similarly, religious leaders, activists, scholars, elderly people, and other citizens should stand along the government to preserve the hard-won political reform and save the country from heading off into uncharted waters rather than wringing their hands about it.
Otherwise, leaving Ethiopia to sit on a powder keg may surely one day lead to unstoppable catastrophe. No interest will be served then, neither the people of Ethiopia nor the region as a whole.