By Dawit Befirdu
Tigrai Onlne - June 04, 2014
We are celebrating the 23rd anniversary of ‘Ginbot 20’ victory day; a day that heralded peace, development and democratic order building for our country’s nation, nationalities and people through the sacrifice of the brave children of the people. Our country is preparing to colorfully commemorate the day under the theme that has similar connotations to “grand ambitions, grand achievements”. Of course, many things can be raised based on the theme.
We can raise the questions: ‘what did the children of the people who gave their lives in order for our country to transform and in the name of our people’s right?, ‘What are these grand ambitions the new Ethiopia have?’, ‘What does the government and the people effort look like in their endeavor to realize these ambitions?’ and ‘What result did they get?’ So in commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the day, I will try to show, in this article, to my dear readers, the realities that are attached to these questions.
As we all can recall, the ‘Derg’ regime had the largest and the most heavily equipped army from Sub-Saharan Africa. It can also be recalled that, at the time, the former Soviet Union gave the largest number of arms to the ‘Derg’ regime compared to any other backward country. And its manpower used to be no less than half a million.
However, this huge and dangerous army was annihilated, after 17 years of bitter struggle, by our great leader Ato Meles Zenawi and his organization’s strategy and tactic, with no more than 70 thousand committed men. After the great military strategic and tactician Ato Meles Zenawi and his organization made an important strategic decision in 1977 about the direction of the armed struggle, ‘Derg’ was annihilated in short time after that.
With the political, strategic & tactical, and military theory work being done in 1977, they gave the arm struggle a populous veneer. By making the army the ‘sword edge’ of the people, and the people the vanguard of the arm struggle, the arm struggle was able to have a fast and decisive victory by dislodging the dictatorial forces. And the dislodged forces faced the people that are organized in militia and various organizations.
This populist armed struggle that was spearheaded by Ato Meles Zenawi’s clear and concise path (strategy) was able to disintegrate the ‘Derg’ regime from Ethiopia in less than six years.
Here there is one thing that should be mentioned. That is, despite the fact that EPRDF and its army controlled most the country’s parts during the last years of the armed struggle, they still put a request to the dictatorial ‘Derg’ regime for peace talks to be held - this coming from the strong commitment they have towards peace.
Nevertheless, as dictators always respond to arrogance and not peace, EPRDF was not able to bring peace; despite the fact that the ‘Derg’ leaders briefly accepted EPRDF calls for peace, thinking it would buy them much needed time.
Thus, as the peace talks did not bring any solution (courtesy of Derg’s child games), EPRDF with its ‘peace should be brought through struggle’, it mounted heavy attack campaigns from various directions and took out the painful and miserable regime, that was lodged on to our country’s nation, nationalities and people for 17 years, once and for all.
The EPRDF army; which being led by our great leader Ato Meles Zenawi and his organization war strategy and tactic, took out the ‘Derg’ army in 1983. It next went on to do stabilizing and securing works in all parts of the country.
With this campaign, it cleaned up anti-peace, anti-democracy and anti-development forces that were trying to take away this victory that was gained through the sacrifice of the sons of the people. At the time when EPRDF and other armed groups were working hard for the peace of the country, the self-proclaimed ‘OLF’, a collection of narrow-minded individuals, rejected this process, choosing the hawkish way.
Although the EPRDF army begged (which went as far as making sacrifices) OLF for peaceful negotiation, demonstrating huge capacity for patience in the process, the narrow-minded squad didn’t budge. After all the peace offerings made by the transitional government’s army was met by hawkish response, it was forced to take the militaristic way OLF chose after exhausting all of its plea and patience.
So, before the conflict spiraled into heavy war, the army of the transitional government was able to contain OLF’s advances. It was also successful in its mission o=f disarming various armed groups.
The EPRDF army, together with the people, was able to open one important chapter with this act. By bringing peace and stability to the country, the plans set forth by Ethiopia’s nation, nationalities and people, and the objectives put out by transitional government has all been realized.
The suitable peace environment needed for establishing one political and economic society was created. And this has not only enabled the people to ratify their constitution after deliberating on it together, but it also enabled for the Federal Republic of Ethiopia to be born.
Even after this, as a result of the light of peace that rose from the ashes of previous regimes, courtesy of ‘Ginbot 20’, consecutive historical chapters started to be made in our country.
Chapter 1 – Path to laying the groundwork for transformational development
Although the FDRE government was established by the public’s full participation and consent, our country was not able to enter in to its planned development path set in its constitution. Nevertheless, suitable groundwork should be edified, if our country is to achieve its planned grand ambitions.
In this article, I will try to mention three issues that were a barrier for the groundwork. The first was the invasion of the Eritrean government that threatened our county’s sovereignty, while the second is the threat that was posed by Al-Shabaab at our country’s national security.
The third is the difference of thinking that was created by rent-seeking and developmental democracy paths within the ruling party. Although these barriers didn’t have the capability to hinder our country from its planned objective, we’ll look in to them for the sake of understanding the issues.
As its known, as the mission of the transitional army, which was operating to create a peaceful environment at cost of their lives, was over, there was a need for an army, which would protect the constitutional order against foreign anti-peace forces and terrorist. Thus, according to the principles laid out on article 87 of the constitution, a defense force was reorganized in 1988 under the proclamation number 27/88.
Even after the army was reorganized with the public’s full consent, and despite it being on a capable and strong posture, its effort to protect the peace of the country ‘was not a walk in the park’.
All in all, as our forces aimed to protect (guard) the constitution and constitutional order, seek to guarantee the country’s peace and stability, and as it have a fair (equitable) ethnical distribution, it has helped it to protect the country’s constitutional order from internal and foreign anti-peace forces and terrorists.
I think we should look into the invasion by the hawkish Eritrean government and the clear and present danger posed in our national security by ‘Al-Shabaab, if we are to understand the efforts made by our people, government and army in protecting the country’s peace so that the grand ambitions could be worked upon.
It was during the aggression and invasion of the adventurous and dictatorial Eritrean government – led by the colossal miscalculation it made (with regards to the invasion). After Shabiya’s dream of growing on the back of Ethiopia’s natural resources was shattered, it went on to invade Badme and other close by lands with a terrible miscalculation of ‘Ethiopians are not ready (for the invasion)’.
The invasion did not only take place at a time where our forces’ were not ready for war. It also took place at a time where the hawkish Eritrean government has been building its capabilities for some time, whereby with regards to both manpower and arms there was a huge unbalance between the two sides.
Nevertheless, our defense forces, which were situated near the border that was violated by shabiya, have deterred this prepared and huge invading force, shrugging off the huge difference in the process.
Although the invading force tried its might to move beyond and seize other places, our forces which is armored with iron-clad commitment to guard its people and country’s peace have deterred many shabiya attacks together with the people by giving their lives.
At the time when the FDRE parliament called to deter the invading force; the whole nation, nationalities and people of Ethiopia gave a quick response to protect the sovereignty of their country even if it means sacrificing their lives. Youths entered into military camps to strengthen the arm of our forces. And the public showed its support to our forces in an Ethiopian way by giving money and material, and by going as far as the frontlines.
This, as our forces’ capability was strengthened both in man-power and arms (equipment), it was ready for the decisive attacking campaign. Our forces carried out the challenging training which would help them deter the enemy and kick it out of our country, behind the frontlines.
Finally our defense forces took out the highly fortified trenches, that shabiya arrogantly said to be impossible to breach, with its thunderous strike. And the invading shabiya forces run away to where they came from, unable to sustain this attack of our pro-people army.
Our forces which in addition to freeing (previously) invaded land, they went as far as controlling many Eritrean lands – which of course our forces later left it as per the political decision of our government.
And since then, it has created a suitable and peaceful environment which has enabled the rapid development and the democratic process to take root. With this, it was able to lay the groundwork for our people and government to work on transforming our country by achieving those grand ambitions – a fruit of ‘Ginbot 20’.
The other mission is the one, in which our defense forces showed their valor in dismantling ‘Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’, a terrorist group which posed a clear and present danger; and in weakening Al-Shabaab.
As it’s known, the sheikh Dawir Aweyes led Islamic fundamentalist group by the name of Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’ clearly declared war on our country at the behest (backing) of the Eritrean government. Nevertheless, not only our government should great patience (restraint), but it also tried to make them understand that it’s a wrong position to take. But, it didn’t get the ears of the other side.
Therefore, it became inevitable for our forces to enter into the failed state Somalia to combat and to try to put a stop to the direct threat that was posed on us.
Although the Eritrean government forces, OLF (who shamelessly betrayed its own country), the self-proclaimed ‘ONLF’ terror squad and other international terrorists sided with Dahir Aweyes’s team, our forces with the support of the Somali people dismantled it, along with its cohorts. It not only relieved the threat which was posed on our country, it has enabled our Somali brothers and sisters have a relative peace.
However, after the dismantle of ‘Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’, a terror group by the name of Al-Shabaab, which is created in the spit image of UIC, and which is also Al-Qaeda’s East African terror faction, posed the same kind of threat on our country.
This terror group which (is based) on Somalia, at a time when the country itself was administered by a fragile (not strong) transitional government, declared jihad on our country, just like the union of Islamic court, and of course with the full backing of Eritrean government.
Understanding the threat the group poses on our national security and on the region as a whole, and also seeing the clear and present danger it poses, the FDRE government and people decided for our forces to weaken Al-Shabaab by working together with the brotherly people of Somalia and the transitional government.
Our forces in Somalia, being led by a sound strategies and tactics, have confirmed that they are a force of both peace and victory. It has enabled our Somali brothers get relative peace and freedom.
Although Al-Shabaab and other forces, that have their own angles, tried to create conflict between our defense forces and the Somali people by spewing bogus rumors, they weren’t able to convince the people; as they saw (under stood) our defenses to be a force of peace and pro-people.
As our forces demonstrated in Somalia that they are a force of peace and victory, and have a pro-people attitude, they were able to marginalize fundamentalist and terror forces from the people.
With this, it was able to strengthen the people’s desire for peace. Our forces in addition to averting the direct threat posed on our country by breaking the back of Al-Shabaab and weakening the group, it has played a major role in helping the Somali people establish their own federal government that is free of fundamentalists.
The FDRE constitution on Article 86 (sub-article 6) stipulates that “trying to resolve conflicts that arise between neighboring countries through peaceful means”. And these kind of peaceful means ranges from table negotiation to military peace keeping operations that are coordinated by international institutions and laws.
And our defense force have recently, with call from AU, have joined AMISOM and is carrying out its mission with flying colors. It is now, under ‘AMISOM’, working on further weakening ‘Al-Shabaab’ to a point of irrelevance (oblivion) together with other countries’ peacekeeping forces. It can safely be said that by deterring the threat posed on our country, it was able to lay the suitable environment for our country to work on achieving those grand ambitions and realize transformational development.
The other thing that laid the groundwork for the transformational development is the ‘renovation campaign’ that was taken within the ruling party. In 1994, a danger of split loomed upon the party, after two contradicting outlooks, which came crumbling down for previous years, boiled over.
That is, on one side, there was a developmental democracy path that would save the organization and the country from disintegration, while on the other a faction of rent-seekers stood.
When the developmental democracy path took upon an agenda of ‘let’s save our organization and country from being ruined‘, the other faction showed its true undemocratic color by walking out of a meeting, in which it was begged to return to the organization’s proper path.
Truth be told, had the thinking that was flaunted by the rent-seekers took the upper hand, our country would have turn into oblivion by rent-seekers, chauvinists and narrow-minded individuals.
But thanks be to the developmental democracy path, Ethiopia is now on a fast lane to rapid and sustainable development. By thwarting the apocalyptic agenda of the faction, our country has now the third fastest growing economy next to China and India. And the people is benefitting from it.
I believe, had the ‘renovation campaign’ not taken place in 1994, the transformational development we are seeing currently would have not had happened. The country would have been in a vicious circle of poverty without any hope getting out of it.
Its grand ambitions would have been hijacked by the rent-seekers. However, as Ethiopia runned faster than the mess that would unfolded in the country by the rent-seekers, today the country is able to stand and say for the 23rd time,’ I will still work to achieve the grand ambitions I have laid out on myself’. And the fact that ‘Ginbot 20’ was celebrated with this fervor goes out to show the gravity of the day.
Chapter 2 - Path to new heights
‘Ginbot 20;’ is a day that showered our people with new phenomenon. This day has brought human and democratic rights like ‘securing lasting peace that would be built by the public’s full participation’, ‘making the public step-by-step beneficiary from the development’, ‘(the fact that) every citizen is equal before the law’, ‘freedom of expressing views’, ‘free press’, ‘free and fair election’, ‘religion equality’, ‘women rights’ etc…, in other words rights that were disregarded by previous regimes.
This fruits of ‘Ginbot 20’; peace, development and democratic order building, are being embarked upon with even more fervor after the renovation campaign.
As its known, the importance lasting peace has on a country’s aspirations of development and democratic path cannot be put to debate. Discussing about whether development or edifying democratic order, when there’s no lasting peace is futile.
Without guaranteeing a lasting peace in a certain country first, it would not be possible for the country to record development or root a democratic order. Therefore, our country’s people and government firmly believes that in order for their objective of entering middle-income countries to be realized, there should be a lasting peace in their country, and then the region as a whole.
They have opened a campaign to fight poverty citing that it will make them vulnerable to instability. Also as they understand the negative impact the instability of our neighbor countries have on our country, they have worked committedly for their neighboring countries’ peace. As they know the gravity of the momentous day of ‘Ginbot 20’, there wasn’t a time where they backed from giving their all to savor that was gained by the sacrifice of children of the people.
By declaring country-wide war on poverty, by benefitting the public step-by-step from the development, by considerable lowering our vulnerability to tribulations, and by taking measured actions against the Eritrean government, it has been able to deter the Eritrean government out of its changed tactic of wrecking havoc and chaos in our country.
By promising to look in to the developmental fruits of ‘Ginbot 20’ in the next part of the article, I think I should here be looking into how the barren-hope effort of the Asmara regime was thwarted by our peace loving people and its prudent government.
As its known the Asmara government turned to terrorism and acts of terror after its spine was crushed in the Ethio-Eritrean war. As the Eritrean government tends to choose exploitive ways of growing its economy at the expense of churning out its own country’s resources; today it’s heavily involved in exporting terror-related products once its parasitic ways are shut down.
With this, it’s churning out “rebels” in Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and recently in South Sudan labeling them with a ‘Made in Eritrea’ tag. it s effort to infiltrate terrorist groups like OLF, ONLF and ‘Ginbot 7’; which it recruited, , trained and armed, into our country has withered into thin air, due to our people and government’s effort.
Nevertheless, as Shabiya did not stop its effort to blacken our country’s image through its lackeys, our government, after exhausting all its patience, was forced to take measured action that has acceptance to international rules. This put a stop the regime from its role of exporting terrorism, as it’s well aware of its dwindling capabilities.
All in all the FDRE government and the people want to realize the grand ambitions that are laid by spurring the fruits of ‘Ginbot 20’. The fact that; in an effort to bring lasting peace to the country, they were able to propel their development for the last 23 years by deterring lackeys that work for foreign powers and by lowering our vulnerability to tribulations, shows their bright future ahead.
The sky is the limit when it comes to what the ‘Ginbot 20’ victory will allow as to achieve. Dear readers! In part two of this article I will try to show you how the achievements gained in the developmental sectors are enabling as to work on our grand ambitions.