Since when has Tigrai been reduced to being Siye’s fiefdom?

By Dilwenberu Nega
Jan. 29 2010

Are you thinking what I am thinking? Or is it a case of Siye Abreha – the once renowned anti-feudal revolutionary – giving vent to his pent up feelings of ‘noblesse oblige’? At his press conference in Addis yesterday he proudly fulminated: “If EPDRF wins in Mekele or Tembien or anywhere in Tigrai, then it becomes a sure-fire sign that the forth-coming elections have been rigged.” Nor did he feel that this statement would be strong enough to convince us. So, he then had the brazen audacity to tell us that during his recent barnstorming tour of Tigrai, people were telling him that if the coming elections were to be “as free as “elections during Atze’s time, then he would win.” If people had heard these very words coming out, from say, Leul Ras Megesha Seyoum – whose pedigree stretches back to that gallant Emperor Yohannes – they would sneer at it as the pipe dream of a Prince of the Blood. But surprisingly, not to say annoyingly, it came out from the mouth of a supposedly staunch anti-feudal fighter who scarified the cream of his youth to liberate politically lethargic and gullible souls from the cruel and oppressive rule of feudalism.

To today’s younger generation, elections during the last Atse era may be viewed as a chapter from a good children’s bed-time story. And sure it was. I have lived long enough to vividly remember what in ruling circles of the ancien regime was dubbed “Ye Ayelech Mircha” (Ayelech’s Election) - named after Woizero Ayelech Meseha who was the daughter of a feudal nobleman from what was then Menzena Geeshay Awraja. In the mid 60s, Ayelech Meshesha, was so fed up of her mere house-wife status that she decided to contest the parliamentary seat for the constituency of her ancestral home of Mehal Mayda. Her one and only ‘credential’ was the fact that she was the daughter of a feudal with a vast estate with a sizeable serf community in the Awraja. Her contender Abeba Zeleke, on the other hand, was a university graduate and wife to one of the Beshe Brothers (renowned patriots of the Ethio-Italian war). To cut the long story short, without setting foot on Mehal Mayda to campaign, Ayelech Meshesha, managed to win Abeba Zeleke by a long calk. Abeba Zeleke who had spent the whole of the campaign trail with her constituents was highly suspicious of the election results and lodged her complaints with the then Election Board of Ethiopia. It was at this hearing that Ayeletch proclaimed: “To the people of Menzena Geeshay, what counts is whose offspring you are and not how qualified you are. Your best bet now would be to accept your defeat with grace.”

So much so for the “Ayelech Mircha,” today is another kettle of fish with Ethiopians not only having emancipated themselves from all forms of feudalism, but have drawn a line in the sand. Not to day, but never will Ethiopians opt to go back to the dark ages of feudalism. Surely, such sentiments can only ‘incubate’ in the minds of men and women who suffer from an acute form of delusions of grandeur.

I am not a Tigrian, nor is my knowledge of the history of the people and the Regional State of Tigrai that much. But from what I have observed during social visits to Tigrai and more so after visiting the Museum of Martyrs in Mekele, I can’t help but conclude that Tigrai was, indeed, the epicentre of the struggle nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia waged against voracious feudalism. That is why that I now tend to take with a container-full of salt Siye’s claim that Tigreans regard our current election process as being “not anywhere near elections during the era of the last Atse.”

It is one thing to sit behind the Imperial tri-colour of a Conquering Lion of Judah, quite another to confidently state that Tigreans have a nostalgia for the good old days of the Geraazmatch, Dejazmatch and the Meridazmatch. Perhaps what is giving Siye the kick to act in such condescending manner is his paternal pride of place. But he needs to understand that in today’s Ethiopia pride of place in one’s pedigree is regarded as nothing more than a badge of vanity. What Siye is portraying now is an anachronism of the worst time and no doubt Medrek will be ill at ease at defending Siye’s nostalgia for the good old days of feudalism. With the benefit of hind sight, however, I think Siye would have been a successful Leader of the now-defunct Moa Anbessa. But please resist the temptation of figuring out whether he is the 257th or the 258th direct descendent of the union of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba.

Siye Abreha’s electioneering has, so far, proved to be caught wrong-footed and a huge embarrassment for Tigrans whom he claims to represent. Therefore, if folly were grief, then it’s time for every Tigrean to weep.