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The upside down world: Ex-fighters becoming victims of their insurrection

By Awalom Gebru
March 25, 2012

It is surreal to read time and again the accusation and with that a call for uprising against the current government by the ex-combatants of the TPLF Tesfay Atsbeha and Kahsay Berhe. These two ex-fighters, bitter and harsh in their attempt to paint the government of Ethiopia as evil, have been and are trying to evade their ground work in the struggle to overthrow the dictatorial regime of the derg on one and single person, namely PM Meles Zenawi. I for one do not agree with their innuendos and their incessant harangues, knowing their background and share in the formation of the TPLF. The TPLF whether we like it or not was a grassroots’ movement of the Tigrian masses, which paid an enormous sacrifice for the emancipation of the Ethiopian masses from the atrocities and massacres of the fascist derg. It would not be possible to recount the mass killings, terror and the oppressive measures of the derg in this short notice to rebut their flimsy and inconceivable attacks in two consecutive articles (February 2012 and March 2012), entitled “Ethiopia: 37 years of the TPLF and the footprints of Meles Zenawi,” that appeared in Ethiopian Observer First, what raises the eyebrows is that the timing of the articles, though they can be considered to be the same old tape recorders, heard and sang several times. These are the songs of the deaf as we call them without any news or substantial content going on from year to another. Poor guys, while the world is on dynamic movement, these people are still living in their cocoons for the last 30 years never to get out and live their new life. Having saying this, I would like to give the elementary mainstay if one is to heed for political life in its meaning and gain supporters. Moronic style and the old way vituperation, though one has an axe to grind, leads to a total failure in sending ones own message be it written or oral.

The struggle of the TPLF we like it or not, has been one among the temporary history of Ethiopia that has reverberated and changed the course and fate of our Ethiopia. How and how many joined the initial uprising, the type of arms and the people who were being trained have no meaning looking to the wider perspective and dimensions. Picking and singling out persons such as Mikael “an Amhara” (Part II) who joined the struggle is a callous call of a populist effort to wedge a rift between Ethiopians. This statement is an outright summon to fight back against the Tigrian people by singling out them as “extreme ethnic nationalist by obeying the orders of Meles to the disadvantage of more than 94% Ethiopians” (Part I). Very dangerous indeed if one listens to these German refugees, who might have got it the wrong way, knowing the pogroms against the Jews. However, the problem is that these gentlemen were once the powerful leaders of the TPLF. Persons, who were at the helm of power and who considered themselves as the enlightened by mobilizing the masses against the military rule turn themselves against their own principles are simply pathetic and deranged. Kahsay was one of the central committee members and instigator during the early days of the TPLF, who lead the day-to-day activity of the rank and files and decided on the fate of the thousands of young people. As a CC member was one of the mightiest with all the secretive work of an organization and as such was not bestowed on anyone without the qualities and necessities of leadership. Though his personal history is unknown to me and why he fell out from the leadership and fled to Germany, he needs to reconsider his role and see his fallen comrades with courage and respect. Symptomatic of such people is that he denounces Feb 18, 1975 as “a day of sorrow for the overwhelming majority of oppressed and hungry Ethiopians”, while in his luxury in Germany without doing any survey of the population he struggled (Tigrians) has the temerity to feel sorry for Ethiopians.

The case of Tesfay Atsbaha (cento), though somehow mystifying may have other explanations. Tesfay a cadet from the Harar academy together with his comrades like Tadele joined the TPLF in the early days of its existence and was considered to be one of the best contributors in military strategies of the Front and combat training of the youth, who came in drives to join the struggle. He was one of the upper echelon of the military cadre and when he was wounded during the fight against the derg, he was sent to Italy and then to Germany for medical treatment. This was during the early years of the TPLF, when thousands of his comrades due to bullet injuries suffered and died of gangrene and other associated infections. He served throughout Europe in organizational work, collection of money to the Front, etc. as a staunch cadre until 1988, three years before the seizure of power by the EPRDF. Though people knew that he had an established and settled life in Germany an no more was “fighter-tagay”, he resisted the formation of Marxist-Leninist of Tigray (MLLT), deferred and was expelled. This was not only his final destiny, but also included others of his kind, who felt overridden and abandoned by the new structure of the party and the leaders within. This was the clear and plain truth of a person, who tries to accuse Tigrians of narrow nationalism and ethnic doctrine by benefitting themselves. The birth of the TPLF was considered to be “For a few oppressors and exploiters as well as their supporters as a day of celebrating their gains and luxuries. There is also the macabre situation of the sad being forced to celebrate their losses”. This self-importance and arrogance of unmatched character shows the mentality of someone burning from extreme hatred and unguarded inflammatory rhetoric.

The two articles are simply put contemptuous and full of character assassinations in their approach against the people of Tigray and Ethiopia. The good authors allege that “TPLF is as much the creation of Meles, as Meles is the creation of the TPLF” by citing a known philosopher and ideologist of the Derg. They go on saying that “the members of the TPLF were and are as many Ethiopian vulnerable to tyranny. The TPLF is not principally made up of progressive elements who consciously struggled for democratic and human rights… the TPLF behaves as if it were created to fulfill the wishes of Meles….as if all members of the organization were produced with a program to act like a private army of Meles…”freedom fighters” could not even defend themselves and their peers against arbitrary killings and physical beatings within the organization”. This reminds of the old man who ones uttered his racist attack “of Tigrians as one and the same being manufactured from the same soap factory”. These two people were represented at the top of the leadership and formed both the embryo and the struggle by composing the rules and provisions of the organization. They did consider themselves as the revolutionaries with progressive mind to change the course of the events. They could have at the leadership level at least tried to change or amend the terms and conditions instead of coming now and then blaming on someone else or all the freedom fighters.
Most people do know, however, that Meles during the early days had no role in the organization and did ascend the ladder of the leadership later than Kahsay and all the other mighty CC members. If there is any valuable information, which can be told about the killings and beatings it would have been an act of wisdom what these two men did during the early formation of the TPLF, what their role was during the fight against the TLF, EPRP, the internal struggle (hinfishfish), etc. Hiding their roles behind in a far place acquitting themselves as the cleanest and brightest of all is a dilemma of people, who live in constant warfront of psychotic disorders. How do we assess these disorders in light of their call to overthrow the government of the EPRDF by giving freedom to those “members who have not committed crimes….” is a dream, which came true in their daydreams. The problem is that these people are very self-centered narcissists, who want to tell us that they were important “ where Kahsay is excluded particularly by Seyoum” and show their resentful behavior. Disrespect against the armed people of “illiterate farmers” whom they were bossing as “ a measure to avoid the dominance of educated critical elements” is another point of pleasure from their side. Thanks God that these “elitists” didn’t come to the helm of power. One has to assess the social and educational level of our people at that time and secondly the need of the extreme cautious mission of the start of the struggle. One would have expected from these highly intelligent people a modicum of balanced and reasonable work and not a distortion of facts.

The story of the manifesto of independence of Tigray being harped several times to win the sympathy of extreme groups has been on the display both by these two individuals and others as well. There is no crime in it at all, when the first group tried to write down a policy document of the Front by taking into consideration the oppression and abject poverty of the Tigrian people. After all those who joined the movement including Kahsay and Tesfay were convinced that the national movement was the one which could give momentum to intensify the struggle and gather the people. Whether three, six or ten months went to rectify the document and was replaced by national issue until secession is immaterial. Under the yoke of dictatorial regimes and in an oppressive system, where people were regarded as second class citizens, where the majority people of Ethiopia were not allowed to exercise their rights to speak, write and use their languages and cultures, the option of the struggle could not be anything but freedom. Fact denial, be it from a naïve, wannabe politician, turncoat, etc. cannot be a solution to any problem. Regional administrations, though there might be here and there problems in dealing and constructing the basic tenets of the society have at least to a great deal solved the problems of inter-ethnic tensions and contradictions, which were prevalent for many years. Their assertion that TPLF’s intention or design was two-pronged either secession when they don’t monopolize the country or living together when they rule is absolutely bullshit. This is a typical Shaibya’s style of logic. Their personal hatred and fixation take out their way of thinking from any of the context and end up in simple mudslinging. It is a dilemma of ex-combatants becoming victims of their insurrection.

These two authors were considered to be in their earlier struggle to be part and parcel of the future Ethiopia. However, instead of coming up with political programs describing what their alternative policies are regarding the social, political, economic realities of the countries and teaching young generation of Ethiopians in positive thinking, they are still entangled back in the 70s and early 80s. In some cases they even go so far as to warn an independent institution Deutsche Welle for not spreading their iniquitous propaganda in the radio program. Intoxications and not knowing ones limitations might lead to pompous behavior to be despised by many. They have to put their cards and join any genuine opposition to make positive changes instead of living in a fool’s paradise. There are a number of problems in the Ethiopian political space and those who struggle in the midst; I have a great respect and admiration.

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