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Fight the TPLF/EPRDF if you have issues

By Godofai Tgiorgis
August 01 2011

For over 100 years now the people of Tigray have been the subject of endless insult, ridicule and bashing in the hands of the aristocrats and extremist elites of Amhara region. These groups who had the upper hand in Ethiopian political and administrative affairs tagged the people of Tigray, who they consider arch enemies, with many names and characters to humiliate them, to keep them low profile. The poverty that plagued the region time after time due to over use and draught and their sectarian administration drew no sympathy. They were rather quick to brand it as given to tarnish the image of the people. Worst yet they were encouraging the hunger, however tacitly, because it does the killing for them without engaging in battle. Anything that degrades the people’s potential and kills their morale was more than welcome because it fulfills their wish, wiping the people out. In short, they, the upper class and until overthrown, have left no stone unturned to see the people hurt, to send them down the hill. Tigray was needed for geographical purpose only not for its people.

That attitude and abuse did not stop there however. It passed down straight to the new generation, the extremists, who are the inheritors. And they were not disappointing in executing the traditions. The torchbearers, who most of them are opposition and stationed in the West, continued the attack nonstop and with zeal and anything that they are capable following EPRDF/TPLF’s ascent to power. The insults the extremists shower the people with were not enough however numerous and offending they are. They have to classify the people further low and equate them with diseases such as cancer whose cure requires surgical operation only. In the health dictionary of Ethiopia, the people of Tigray are a tumor, a cancer, a debilitating disease by definition. Disease because the Tigreans are, they claim, people you never trust, mercenaries whose interest lies not in the unity of Ethiopia but in its disintegration. They are moles, a health hazard, you have to be careful.

The sponsors gone, people cared less to challenge the organized attacks of the later day extremists. The people, first, took it normal for ex-officials and descendants to be angry following their defeat and loss of privilege and power. Second, EPRDF/TPLF indeed made big mistakes and third, people assumed the extremists have a misunderstanding of the situation and the nature of politics itself. But what made the people more forgiving to the extremists was that they too were angry at TPLF/ EPRDF’s measures. Plus they expected the extremists will come to their senses and be able to differentiate the chaff from the wheat and conduct a healthy politics and political campaign. Reason however did not come. And the insults and attacks only grew harsher and harsher accompanied by strong condemnation. The political paradigm shifted little from the old past and the extremists’ targets, like before, were the people.

In the middle, and following the fall of most of the individuals who spearheaded the anti Tigray campaign, emotions subsided for a while. And most of us hopped a better understanding is finally getting momentum following their break down. But the hope, against our hope, evaporated quickly and a new and fresh attack, by the extremists, has abruptly resurged up in the air again. An article titled “What do the People of Tigray have to say?” and written in 1993 by Adefres Tesema reappeared in the Ethiopian review recently to implicate the people of Tigray for TPLF’s mistakes and rule. A similar in content article (July 2011) written by Shegye Nebro titled “What prevails in Ethiopia? The equality of nations and nationalities or the supremacy of Tigray?” too was posted in the same hub trumpeting the same accusations. Another Adfers’ article titled “Everything for Tigray and to Tigray” also showed up on July 16th dressed perfect to make the same allegations. I assume more articles are forthcoming to highlight the campaign. Why now again and why the TIgray people?

The answer to the question are two and simple. First, a revolution is going on across North Africa and Middle East and they want Ethiopia to follow suit. Second, the revolution needs slogan that can rally the people. Old EPRP theories did not work. The extremists cannot create new propaganda either because they are brain dead, both in theory and practice, to produce a new paradigm, a new vision. The people of Tigray appeared therefore perfect substitutes, for the extremists, who can furnish the fuel because of their connection (with TPLF). The extremists’ desire is to recapture Menelik’s palace not to change the lives of the Ethiopian people. And to that end the only value they adhere to is thus targeting the people because it is handy to brandish it with hate principle. Hate is indeed the only weapon they have to use and know because that is the only lesson they learned and experience they acquired, in the culture they grew up, the culture of divide and rule.

Until their plot catches fire however something has to be said in response summarized though it is. This is not an attempt to widen the rift but to mend it, to tell them who they are if they have the ears. I know they don’t but hoping against hope I have to tell them that all they have to fight is not the people but TPLF/EPRDF if they have issues. Government is a system and if the extremists want the system gone, all they have to do is formulate replacement addenda that will undo EPRDF/TPLF. They have to identify themselves with programs and policies (not the old one for sure). Focusing on hate simply does not open palace doors. EPRDF/TPLF is, not the people of Tigray, one that has the key. Sending the people to a slaughter house thus will not do the math no matter how sophisticated the calculation is. Plus the people of Ethiopia are not ready yet to walk over the dead body of their Tigrean brothers. Revolution or not therefore the brothers in the extreme have to change their courses from that of hate to that of principle, a principle that focuses on issues and on who runs the affairs. EPRDF/TPLF is if they don’t have clues.

For an arch and mortal enemy the action these elites propose or dream may be warranted. But can we pass over that to the people? Are the people of Tigray really an enemy who deserve to be stoned from within and outside? For them the answer is for sure to be affirmative because in them they see only challenge to their power and loss of privilege, wealth and property. They therefore have to preach enmity because to stop any resistance they have to kill the people. Dergue had tried this. And they know the experiment did not work and only brought its demise. Why do they want to embark on this precarious road then? My assumption is they count on their good lucks because they assume the rise of EPRDF /TPLF is Dergue’s, for not following more harsh measures against the people, mistakes.

Whether or not right the extremists have points they mention to justify their opposition, their hate politics. The actor is EPRDF/TPLF but ironically the problems they mention of, the party they target as are the people. Here are three of the much talked about reasons why they act and say what they say with regard to Tigreans (and to some extent Eritreans included). Looking at them is therefore worthwhile just in case I don’t label them with unsubstantiated allegations.

Betrayal or selling off the country or its borders is one that stands out in every article and story they narrate. This blame starts with the reign of Emperor Yohanes IV and continues to this day. And it has to do with the Italian occupation of Eritrea and Tigray which they claim is the result of an alliance of Tigreans with the invaders. The giveaway of Eritrea is attributed as the fault of Tigreans and Eritreans jointly. Hence Emperor Yohanes IV and the aristocrats from the two regions are mentioned as first class traitors. The occupation of Eritrea and the invasion of Tigray by Italians, for the extremists, is the making of the people of the two regions. These are allegations of the first order handed down but equally handed down is also the magnification of the upper classes of Amhara as heroes, defenders of the highest degree Ethiopia has known.

I don’t for a moment doubt that the people of Amhara like their compatriots in the South or North are Ethiopia’s defenders. They have sacrificed whatever the country has asked and when needed. Their role in protecting Ethiopia therefore is not something one can dismiss to counter the extremists. But anointing them as the sole guardians, the only ones who maintained the independence of Ethiopia, is however very exagurated. I can even accept that it is true for everyone but the question is whether the people of Tigray, as portrayed, acted like a real estate merchants selling lands behind the counter while these heroes from the south were defending the country. I will give a summary of answers I think will show how absurd their claim is.

First Italians did not occupy Eritrea overnight and peacefully. It took a load of mischief and a bitter fight before they entered the main land. Emperor Yohanes’ first diplomatic maneuver with Britain too was intended to strengthen his power over the two Emperors, Tewedros II and Teklegeorgis, not to sell Ethiopia. And this was a diplomatic ploy Tewdros himself was good at (with Britain to oust his rivals) even though it failed. Further the agreement Emperor Yohanes later signed with Britain was to secure Eritrea. Luck of course did not ride with it. Confronted though Yohanes was with all the difficulties, he did not give away Eritrea. Menelik did. It was Menelik not Alula who called for a truce if you will. The Italian invasion that occurred forty years later too did not happen at the request of Tigreans but because their resistance lacked strength. Even then it was them, together with other ethnic compatriots, who stayed fighting during the five years. The extremists’ allegation that the Tigreans were backstabbers, sellers of Ethiopian land is therefore baseless. We have to give credit where credit is due even if this means the extremists have to swallow the false pride they have been breast feeding themselves for years. It is fair.

The leaders from central Ethiopia mainly composed of the Amhara ethnic have done many egregious mistakes. Djibouti, a port, is gone for good not because the Tigreans sold it but because the kings from the South failed to protect it. The south eastern part too was rigged with similar problems. However one hears nothing about that because it catches up with a legacy the extremists don’t like. The kings did this and we know it but no one in his right mind should blame the Amhara people for this. The two are different, apples and oranges. Blaming the leaders for other than historical correctness too is foolish. Errors aside these are leaders who managed to make us walk tall with confidence and pride, a privilege and freedom very few people around the world have enjoyed and known. This is the value our brothers from the far extreme lose sight to notice when it comes to the north and sink into their bottomless hate filled political wells.

The second allegation too has something to do with Eritrea. The people of Tigray are a scapegoat here again. This is in modern times during the era of TPLF/EPRDF administration. The leaders of EPRDF, TPLF at its helm, have let Eritrea go, though the people of Eritrea also fought for this. Agreeing to unjustified border demarcation too is part of its failures. The two decisions, bad administration aside, are EPRDF/TPLF leaders’ biggest blunder. However grave, though, this is also where the mistake ends. The extremists however size this and open their mouth wide to tell us that these is a legacy of Tigreans passed down from ancestors, from Yohanes and Alula ( the subject of first allegation) to mention some by names. Based on that, they target the people slating the lion share of the blames. That was fine if that is all that there is. But the extremists want the people face harsher punishment: they want to send the people of Tigray, as a sacrifice, to the palace Jinn “Korith”, to feast on their bloods.

I am not defending the TPLF/EPRDF regime or its mistakes here. I don’t. But to be fair the concept of secession was not the making of the people at the EPRDF only. Long before EPRDF, EPRP was the one who championed Eritrea’s’ independence and I believe, however mistaken the decision is, the revolutionaries from the South would have done anything different. But still that remains the problem of TPLF and EPRDF only not Tigray or its people. The people of Tigray and Eritrea are not to blame for this. Their leaders are. As people they have fought hard for years against secession but failed because they, the unionists, could not win the battle. Forget about the Tigreans for a moment. No Ethiopian will dare claim to have fought harder and bitter for Ethiopian unity than General Araya and General Aman, who by birth are Eritreans. We may differ on other facts but when it comes to Ethiopian unity the extremists simply don’t have the credential to question the integrity of the two people.

Many people, opposition or not, following the extremists’ allegation, within and outside Ethiopia have joined hands to blame the Tigray people. And the argument, this is the third one, seems to run like this. Every treasure Ethiopia has, every property that belongs to the public is looted (from central and south Ethiopia) and transported to Tigray. Tigray is beneficiary and is in fact inching down every day because it is unable to withstand the weight of the stolen goods that are pouring in. Hence they want to punish the people as much and as equal to the thief/TPLF because the people too are collaborators or party to the crimes. I don’t have the scale, nor did they tell us, to measure and tell the weight of the treasure and the depth of the sinking. But this much I know without going to detail: the allegation is baseless and self serving.

Are the officials beneficiaries? Are they better off now? You bet and they better be. But these are not leaders of TPLF alone. Everyone, including ANDM and OPDO, is also a party. The leaders have sunk deep in the sea of corruption, deep that lifting them up to the surface, for clean up, is not going to be easy in every region. A forklift might do the job but that too is costly and might end up breaking. All one has to pray for is therefore it does not mess up the regions further because the blunder is serious and deeper. But the people of Tigray are not party to this. They are like anybody else bystanders watching the drama of the TPLF/EPRDF. Worst yet they are victims of the change they brought themselves: the sons and daughters, the fighters, are left to beg on the streets including in Addis. And their parents, forgotten from memory, are dying of misery and hunger shut in their huts. The witch hunt allegation regardless the reality the extremists should know is therefore this. The alleged treasure/ jewelry they sensitize and salivate to auction off is not in Tigray lands but in their parent’s’ Swiss or other bank accounts. They better check the wills.

If the people of Tigray are suffering this much in the hands of TPLF why, the extremists always ask, are they not joining the opposition camps? The Tigreans won’t, except the sell outs, join extremists’ opposition camp no matter what because the extremists, unlike principled oppositions from the same region, are self delusional and deal with an exclusive brand, a brand whose operation is limited to, and in Amhara region (though they trade in Ethiopian name). Joining hand with them was in fact not an untried fact. Some Tigreans and Eritreans, out of love for unity, did in the past. They did not and could not stay long however because they could not stand the politics these extremists conduct. What the extremists target is not TPLF (although they mention in passing) but the people, their race, and region. And any Tigray speaking opposition is a spy by their classification. How can other parties be expected to join a party that questions their stand and identities then? The extremists’ political formula is wrong and their vulgarities have no limits. They have therefore to blame themselves for becoming pariahs.

EPRDF and EPLF have done many mistakes and they will continue to do. But one thing we should know is that they don’t do this by receiving instruction from the people, not from Tigray at least. In fact they are very allergic to the idea of the people. As to why TPLF/EPRDF has strayed itself so much, breaking old promises, in indulgence is mind boggling. Even if this blunder requires a revolution, however, what the extremists target should be TPLF/EPRDF not the people. I don’t mind if it is for a power share or retaking Menelik’s palace as a whole. From my perspective, all I hope for is that our need for change must come not from hate but from the need to mend the defaults and betterment of the people. Hate should be avoided by all means. After all we are brothers. Besides, it is counterproductive. And if our guide is principle, every time is spring and anytime is good for a revolution (whether orange or spring). A struggle directed at people and motivated by personal gain and Jinn comes nowhere close to the Arab uprising, a people’s revolution and is not part of the political mathematics unless, of course, that mathematics is zero balancing as our extremists’. Let us therefore reexamine our policies, examine ourselves.