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TPLF: The Price of Complete Victory

By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online Feb. 06, 2013

TPLF: The Price of Complete VictoryTPLF'S struggle for justice, democracy, equality and economic prosperity was exceptionally hard and arduous, and demanded a great deal of patience and perseverance.

It is that time of the year once again. Members and friends of the TPLF at home and in the Diaspora will soon celebrate its 38th anniversary in the grandest way possible. In 1991, Ethiopia was liberated from a juggernaut of tyrannical rule after 17 years of protracted and costly war that precipitated huge human and material losses. The country has moved on since then; its image has been positively transformed and very encouraging results have been recorded in the economic and political fields over a lengthy period. Many people will be very sad that, the great former leader of the TPLF and Prime Minister of the FDRE will not be with us to commemorate this momentous day which has secured a unique place in the history of Ethiopia

The fledgling democracy is growing from strength to strength, and huge amounts of money have been invested in higher education and massive infrastructures that, for sure, will extricate the country from humiliating and degrading poverty in a short space of time. The images of emaciated children and famine that bedevilled successive previous regimes are no more part of our lives. As the Growth and Transformation Plan is on track, it will not be too long before the country becomes self-sufficient in food production for the first time in recent memory. Hunger used to be synonymous with Ethiopia but thanks to our martyrs, it isn’t the case anymore. This shameful episode is firmly behind us; we can now confidently and proudly disclose our country of origin with our heads held up. At this moment, Ethiopia has reached a stage where it is able to store 3,000,000 metric tonnes of emergency food reserves that can feed 20,000,000 people for a year without too much sweat.

The struggle for justice, democracy, equality and economic prosperity was exceptionally hard and arduous, and demanded a great deal of patience and perseverance. It certainly was not a bed of roses, and there were numerous instances where the brave and gallant fighters of the TPLF had to resort to extreme measures such as drinking urine and going without food for days on end. Exposures to the extreme elements, and criss-crossing the inhospitable mountains and terrains of Tigray were the realities that the combatants had to endure in order to liberate their people from the firm clutches of the notorious military regime.  

Thanks to the strong and visionary leadership of the organisation and its partners, a stunning and mesmerising victory was achieved in less than two decades. Those that are at present endlessly barking were active members of the Derg who hurriedly fled the country when the EPRDF entered Addis, to avoid being held accountable for the heinous crimes they had perpetrated with impunity. Now, most of them live in Europe and the US, and lead a lavish existence thanks to the millions of dollars they managed to repatriate leaving Ethiopia with empty coffers tottering on the verge of collapse. To all intents and purposes,’’ year zero’’ began in Ethiopia in 1991 as far as the economy    was concerned. It is from this rock-bottom position that the country has been catapulted to the current state in a short period of time. The saying--- Rome was not built in a day, becomes meaningless when it comes to Ethiopia.

Tremendous fortitude, valour, hardened resolve and immense sacrifices were the prerequisites required to discard a brutal junta that was in the business of killing its own citizens in thousands over a period of nearly twenty years. To triumph and establish a new Ethiopia, where the rights of nations, nationalities and peoples’ were respected, seventy thousand Tigrayans who were in their prime had to bequeath their precious lives. The martyrs that trod on countless landmines to pave the path for their comrades, those who died of thirst and heat stroke, and many more others who jumped to their deaths from the peak of cliffs in order to avoid capture by the enemy, must quite rightly be filled with utter pride in their graves, as their demise has made it possible for Ethiopia to be among the top fastest growing economies of the world.

It is remarkable indeed for a country that doesn’t produce a drop of the ‘liquid gold’ – oil, to have performed in such a spectacular fashion. The age old negative images of war torn and famine ravaged Ethiopia has more or less faded from memory; in its place is a new vibrant and forward looking country heavily engaged in the constructions of various mega dams & roads, universities, strategic industries, huge railway networks, car assembly plants, creation of large scale job opportunities to name but a few.       

This unique and unbelievable success story has, time and again, been confirmed (if needed) by international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Reputable and prestigious global publications including the Economist have widely reported Ethiopia’s meteoric rise ‘from ashes to riches’. These positive exposures and recognition of double-digit economic growth over the last ten years or so, has helped the country to be highly visible on the radars of a swathe of foreign investors that are very much interested in setting up various sorts of businesses in the peaceful and stable hub of the Horn.

This opportunity has in turn created brisk business for Ethiopian Airlines which has a fleet of the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliners that are not available to the best in the trade such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. As a matter of fact, out of all the European countries, it is only Poland that is in possession of the carrier at this moment. To date, no other African country has the privilege of acquiring this state of the art aircraft. Ethiopian Airlines is owned by all Ethiopians; and yet, the worthless and unpatriotic Diaspora has been campaigning for its boycott that is intended to immerse the airline in grave financial predicaments. Nowhere in the globe would you find such kind of people who work against the economic interests of their own country that is marshalling everything at its disposal to conquer poverty.          

The world at large has acknowledged Ethiopia’s sublime resurrection from the abyss. It is this undeniable fact that is sending the very few work-shy toxic Diaspora into delirium; the phenomenal economic success of the country has  landed the destructive Diaspora ‘ opposition’ in a precarious financial situation and that is why they are invariably observed  scuttling from place to place with their begging bowls. Supporters are abandoning them in droves and the efforts to stem the exodus are not bearing fruit. Furthermore, disgruntled followers are publically claiming that the minstrel Tamagne Beyene and his ilk are involved in a large scale squandering of the money donated by their docile members.

The foul-mouthed Tamagne has the temerity to accuse the Tigrian people of ‘’selling eggs while his forefathers were fighting foreign invaders’’. Clearly this is way off the mark. While in Shoa, Gondar, Wollo and Gojjam, exotic birds were singing, Tigray on the other hand was being pounded, without respite, with mortars from assortments of foreign enemies throughout the 1800s. And yet, with all their military might, they were unable to subdue the people, and not a single part of Ethiopia was signed away to the invaders.

Tigray was divided after the death of Emperor Yohannes, and even then, all possible measures were taken to prevent the Italians from setting foot south of their colonial domain Eritrea. However, as a result of the division that existed between Ras Mengesah and Ras Alula which was created by Menelik to ensure Shoan domination; and the summoning of the latter to Addis by the new ruler, made it possible for the Italians to occupy Adwa, Adigrat and Mekelle. The Italians would not have dared venture southwards if Commander Alula was in Tigray as his presence would have sent shivers down their spines.

When news of the invasion reached Ras Alual, he wanted to return and expel the enemy, but this was flatly refused by Menelik. In the end, the Italian incursions led to the infamous battle of Adwa of 1st March 1896. The Tigrian people with their great sons Ras Mengesha and Ras Alula, who were well acquainted with area and the enemy at the forefront, the Italians were completely routed. Crucial intelligence reports that landed on Ras Alula’s hands and brought to the attention of Menelik while he was in church praying for divine intervention, caused the demise of a formidable European enemy. It was also Ras Alula who had a pivotal role in the battles of Amba Alaje (7 December 1895) and in the Siege of Mekelle (January 1896) as an adviser to Menelik. The battle of Adwa left the Italians utterly humiliated and dejected; they were sent packing to Eritrea that was handed to them a couple of months after the death of Emperor Yohannes on a silver platter.

Adwa that hosted and fed 120,000 troops during the battle was destroyed beyond recognition. No efforts were made to help the people by reviving the devastated economy of the once bustling town. So far, not a single monument has been erected in Adwa to remind us of the complete defeat of a powerful European foe. Obviously, history is not Tamagne’s forte, and this sort of inflammatory comment is to be expected from a freeloader and an illiterate who has never walked past a school never mind attend to improve his life. ‘Selling eggs’, what a bloody cheek.

Another freeloader is Abebe Gelaw who heckled the late Premier while high on illicit substances. The ‘democrat’ and’ human rights activist’ could have used the opportunity to ask pertinent questions, but instead he chose to interrupt the departed PM Meles who was fielding questions from invited guests. Guesh Abera is Abebe Gelaw’s latest victim. He has accused this hard working man of attempted murder which he claimed was foiled by the FBI. Desperate measures from a grossly paranoid man to attract attention from those that are ditching him in great numbers.  

Abebe resided in London a while ago and anyone who visited Mercato Restaurant any day of the week would invariably find him with Mr Johnnie Walker by his side. It is hardly surprising that Abebe is prepared to say and do anything to maintain the flow of funds from his impressionable followers by creating imaginary enemies. In any case, why would the TPLF send an assassin to kill a non- entity who is a member of a proscribed outfit approaching its end? Even Legesse Asfaw, who ordered the ariel bombardment of Hawzen in 1988 resulting in the death of 2500 innocent people in a single day, is freely roaming the streets of Addis. Who is in Abebe’s sight— TPLF or the Tigrian people?

Incredible pain and sadness is what the toxic Diaspora feel when the quality of life of millions of their own people is changing for good. Their futile hopeless endeavours to derail the ‘’high speed train’’ is not materialising, and this is leading to a terminal factional infighting as the leadership has not delivered what it promised. Out of sheer desperation, the withering toxic’ opponents’ are standing side by side with those handful Islamists that are on the pay roll of the Egyptians and Saudi Arabian Wahabists hell bent on creating religious disharmony in Ethiopia similar to what we are witnessing in Nigeria and other parts of the world. A short while ago, it was the nationalist OLF that they were desperately seeking to entice into their fold ; but this futile undertaking failed to materialise as the OLF realised that it was being used to advance the interests of the minority ethnic segment of the population that nearly brought the complete disintegration of the country.

Even the ‘Ethiopianist’ strand of the OLF refused to rub shoulders with the die-hard and aimless Diaspora that is slowly but surely disappearing into thin air. In the name of Ethiopia, the toxic Diaspora Amhara elite have been doing their utmost to revert the country to the bad old days of perpetual famine and destructive wars, but at every trails, they failed miserably due to lack of popular support.  It is a pity Al-Shebab is no more an option for the miniscule ‘opposition’ as it has been decimated by the Defence Force of Ethiopia. The terrorist group managed to penetrate Kenya and Uganda, and caused immense damages in retaliation but not in Ethiopia. This is due to the presence of first class intelligence agency capable of detecting potential threats and take appropriate measures to defuse them.

The fact of the matter is that, the country is not for turning and is now on an auto-pilot. And if these political and religious zealots select to stand in front of it, they will be completely flattened. No force in this world can impact on the stupendous economic growth and consolidation of democracy which have been gathering speed over the last decade and a half. Ethiopia is surging ahead and it is on target to be the giant economy of the African content in the not too distant future. The people have clearly shown their commitment to support the government to the hilt; there is no doubt that the current administration will work with renewed zeal and gusto to move Ethiopia to the next exciting level of economic development that would continue to bring great improvements to the lives millions of ordinary men and women.         

Now let us leave the very few toxic ‘Amharaspora’ intelligentsia behind, and concentrate on one TPLF fighter from the hundreds and thousands of martyrs, and reminiscent a portion of his contributions in the destruction of the Derg, and the subsequent re-construction of Ethiopia under the leadership of its leading architect, the late Premier Meles Zenawi. One of these brave Tigrayan fighters was named Haile Teklu, a teacher from Axum the genesis of Ethiopia’s early civilisation. He joined the TPLF in 1967(EC) in his twenties, and was a diligent, resourceful, meticulous and first class clandestine urban operative, based in Addis Ababa, Gondar and finally Axum. His brief was to gather intelligence and recruit new members that were required to swell the ranks of the TPLF.  

While performing his duties, he suffered a great deal at the hands of the ruthless Derg cadres. As if this was not enough, EPRP members in Gondar   were also out to get him when they realised he was a member of the TPLF. The family man was able to put up with tremendous hardship and suffering for the sake of his organisation; he was resolutely determined to ensure victory for the oppressed, dispirited, dispossessed and humiliated people of Tigray at any cost. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing remotely possible that would have stopped him from playing his part in pursuing and achieving the TPLF’s objectives, come rain or shine.           

Under very difficult and testing circumstances, Haile managed to proceed with his daily organisational activities until a Derg cadre, who was later taken out of circulation well after the elimination of the Junta, arrested him in 1970( EC) on trumped up charges. During his time in custody, Haile was grossly tortured for a considerable period because he refused to divulge critical and immensely valuable organisational information that would have been hugely beneficial to the enemy. Haile was fully aware of the fact that disclosure of a fraction of what he knew would have had serious repercussions on the TPLF’s struggle for justice, democracy and equality. The brave and skilful urban operative continued to plead innocence and denied any knowledge or association with the budding TPLF.

The interrogations to extract classified information persisted but Haile stood firm and refused to succumb to all sorts of vile torture techniques. Refusal to confess caused the cadres to intensify the torture, and food & sleep deprivations, in order to break his resilience and sprit. But not a word from this supremely courageous fighter; this was due to the simple fact that, unwavering loyalty and commitment to their beloved organisation were the unique traits of TPLF combatants. Human endurance has its limits and Haile was not an exception. As a consequence of the constant beatings and tortures over a protracted period, Haile was paralysed from the waist down.  He was offered an amnesty in return for confession, but declined. The punishment to force the gallant fighter to submit continued with greater intensity.

As the going got tough and unbearable, Haile didn’t want to take any more chances and wanted to ensure no classified information was disclosed through the means of force. In order to avoid this remote possibility, he decided to cut-off his tongue with the aid of a broken glass. Part of his tongue was lying on the floor covered with copious amounts of blood. The cadres were livid with rage when they realised what had happened. They had the right man in their midst all along, but were unable to elicit a single word out of him. By their reckoning, there was no point in keeping the brave fighter in prison any longer. He was taken outside and summarily executed with his body damped in the street for scavenging birds. Haile, the brave fighter, took everything with him to his grave but left a wife and a one year old son behind. The TPLF won the fight, and the rest is history.

It is patently clear that the TPLF had paid a very heavy price to defeat the Derg and establish a new Ethiopia. The victory would not have been possible if it hadn’t had the likes of Haile, Qeshi Gebru, Amoraw etc among its ranks, as well as the solid and dependable support of millions of Tigrians at home and overseas. Woyane the initiator of  Ethiopia’s democracy and ’ Industrial Revolution’( sugar factories, textiles, cement, Metals & engineering corporation etc)  was born and bred in Tigray, and will not crumble as it was not created at a fancy restaurant while consuming three course meals accompanied by expensive spirits.

So long as it continues to receive the support of millions of Tigrians, its longevity will not be in any doubt. The ritual insults and vilifications of the Tigrian people spearheaded by the likes of Abebe and Tamagen are also greatly helping the TPLF to consolidate its position. You can count on one hand the number of Tigrians that are members of the entire opposition at home and in the Diaspora, and many people can’t see the status quo changing in the immediate future.  It is very foolish and naive indeed to deduce that the TPLF is dead and buried with the late Premier. What we know for sure is that, the TPLF’s peers that operated in Tigray, and north of Tigray during the Derg era and previously are longer with us.           

A lot has been thrown at the TPLF, but the front invariably comes out unscathed and continues to work hard to transform Ethiopia. No one is suggesting all is well within the TPLF; it has to be rejuvenated and be in peak form in order to prepare itself for the new challenges ahead. Earning the support it garners from the Tigrian people is also equally paramount if it is to continue to withstand various attempts to destroy it by its sworn enemies. We have to be mindful of the fact that not all Tigrians support the TPLF. Their existence and presence as an opposition group at home ought to be viewed as a blessing as it will make the TPLF dynamic and very attentive to the needs of the Tigrian people. Competition will also ensure good governance, accountability and transparency; it will further deal with corruption effectively and eventually administer a mortal blow to those that are enriching themselves by latching on the back of Haile’s TPLF.