by Tadesse Walle (PhD), London
Here is the argument: TPLF, ethnocentric political entity from its inception, has gravely attempted to dismantle Ethiopia against the will of Ethiopians, tried to unmake, rewrite the Ethiopian inclusive identity and integrity; resurrect ethnic enclaves, entities with untold fables against the Ethiopian state and its people. It’s continued and relentless effort to deconstruct, decentre the centre and divide its people on ethno-linguistic basis is incompatible with demotic, civic, liberal values of this 21st century and the current wave of change spearheaded by PM Abiy and team Lemma. At the time of writing my piece, TPLF is still committed to its obsolete view of revolutionary democracy, its ethnic driven rhetoric and irrational doctrine is utterly inconsistent with post- modern, rationale, civic and liberal values. Conventional logic demands TPLF to ban itself as the alternative is unsustainable, sham and stain to Ethiopian history.
The chronicle of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) informs us that it was founded in 1974 by a group of individuals including Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Its true vision was made clear in its Manifesto in 1976 (infamously known as Dedebit Manifesto). The Manifesto of TPLF, calls for the establishment of the “Republic of Greater Tigray” and made its primary objective to secede from Ethiopia, form an independent Tigray state. The Manifesto appears to have been written with an ostentatious strategy for the secession of Tigray from the rest of Ethiopian state without substantive consideration of its own historical legacy and irrefutable facts in writing the Ethiopian history for centuries. Accordingly, the plan involved two main steps: one, re demarcating Tigray’s borders to expand the then, province’s borders within Ethiopia, and acquire coastal lands from the then Eritrean part of Ethiopia. Ultimately since 1991, the EPRDF, in essence, TPLF, had taken several actions that appear to have adhered to the plans set by TPLF’s Manifesto in 1976. This action of TPLF is consistent to the entire conspiracy, plot and myth against the Ethiopian unity and integrity.
Accordingly, one of its missions was “accomplished” in 1991 when regions from Gondar and Wollo had been incorporated into Tigray. The first Chapter of this ethnic irredentism, territorial appropriation was accomplished by TPLF by crafting pseudo and bogus legal platform.
From its inception, the Front claimed with impunity, an extended territory for Tigray, curving a mass of land beyond its historical borders. This in fact is to the irony of the devout sons and daughters of Tigray, pioneers of Ethiopian identity and integrity; who paid incalculable sacrifices in writing greater Ethiopian history with their blood. This futile endeavour of creating ethnocentric states that could neither feed nor defend themselves, for the last 27 years has been against the history, extraordinary narratives of ordinary Tigryans and its outstanding leaders such as Ras Alula Abanega, Emperor Johannes the IV and others.
Richard Pankhurst, the well-known Ethiopian historian claims, “The founding of the Aksumite state, and civilization, which may have taken place as early as 300Bc, was an important development in Ethiopian history” Pankhurst, further states, “The language spoken in Aksum was probably Geez, also referred to in Europe as Ethiopic” (underlined for emphasis), which is anti-thesis to TPLF’s unpalatable theory and practice.
The land of Tigray where Emperor Yohannes IV- was born, sacrificed his life in defending the Ethiopian territorial integrity, during the battle of Metema; Ras Alula Abanega, and others who ensured the Ethiopian sovereignty in the horn of Africa by warding off the encroaching attempts of the Islamic Mahdists, Italians and Anglo-Egyptian armies while Europe scrambled for Africa, remain the bulwark of Ethiopian unity and integrity. This is paradoxically proved to be opposite to TPLF’s mischief, and duplicity. Judging by its actions, TPLF has no parallel in Ethiopian history, except those with fascist facades that lost their war in the battle of Adwa, where TPLF was hatched and nurtured to the irony of ordinary Tigrean’s narrative who wrote Ethiopian history with their blood. By doing so TPLF stood against the vibrant historical narratives of the People of Tigray. Logic demands TPLF and its cohorts should go, they have nothing to offer but chaos and revolutionary mayhem. TPLF as a catalytic agent chose to concoct Article 39 of the “Ethiopian” constitution with a view to “legitimately” divide and rule the Ethiopian people and ultimately secede when and if it wishes. Article 39, of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution reads, “Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession” Such maxims may have their own caveats, historical and political roots which I am not dealing for now. However, TPLF used such a contested tenet, with no context, as a prescription in order to pursue its concealed agenda to remotely apply and redress its own sham 1976 Manifesto.
As soon as the TPLF assumed its political power in 1991, it established the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (“EFORT”), conglomerates of business companies mainly based in Tigray, chaired by TPLF affiliates and its hierarchy. Through this EFFORT package, though not the only, TPLF managed to divert large quantities of Ethiopian resources, millions of capital and international aid to Tigray, with a view to consolidate its political, economic power at the expense of all Ethiopians. TPLF, by manipulating the Ethiopian economy for its own end, is now the economic power house. Its common sense, that this resource is currently used in financing organisations bent to reverse the existing change. Hope, it is not a question of IF but WHEN, all these companies are legally accountable to the rightful owners: Ethiopians including Tigriyans with the exception of TPLF affiliates.
TPLF, as an adversary to the Ethiopian whole, its handling of the Ethio- Eritrean affairs left Ethiopia as a country and its one hundred million people landlocked, with no legitimate access to the sea. No leader, no party that history records, had worked or would work against the fundamental interest of its own people. There is no nostalgia about Eritrean secession now; the critic here is the weird position of TPLF under Zenawi.
Typical and true to its anti-Ethiopian stance, TPLF, continued to sabotage the Ethiopian – Sudanese border in favor of Sudan including by concealing , holding back, legitimate information from the Ethiopian people. Once again this is a territory, where the devout sons and daughters of Ethiopia including Tigrians shed their bloods, led by emperor Yohnnes the IV in order to save the Ethiopian territorial state from Mahadists.
TPLF’s destruction, annihilation of the Ethiopian state has no parallel in the Ethiopian history except the Italian fascists who conspired to rip to pieces the African, black people’s icon –Ethiopia, from every corner of the land: common-sense has to prevail, TPLF should go.
As ethnic division and suffering continued unabated, the Amahara has been identified targeted, vilified and demonized by TPLF and its satellite groups. The Zenawi ethnic rhetoric identified the Amahara with Ethiopian unity and identity. He took malicious, horrible actions against the Amhara including ethnic cleansing (in Wolqait, Arsi Gambella and other parts of the country). TPLF’s fabricated myths, began to rewrite history including calling bad names against the Amhara and the Oromo, particularly after the OLF’s seasonal marriage with the TPLF which collapsed with a disaster in 1992; though after all these years of continued suffering by the TPLF; OLF appears to have aligned AGAIN with “ የቀን ጂቦች “, failing to be a credible and reliable ally to the existing wave of change.
TPLF’s inflammatory rhetoric, historical lies, disinformation was geared against the Amahara in an attempt to diminish, degrade and caricature the history and everyday life of the Amhara including banning Amhara lecturers from Universities and other governmental structures. TPLF shamelessly, tried to reduce the Amhara by providing bogus census (no majority), distorted historical facts including against Ethiopian heroes who sacrificed their lives for Ethiopian causes; the Amhara had no choice but to organise itself.
Against this background the All Amhara People’s organisation (AAPO) was formed in 1993 by its selfless leader Professor Asrat Woldeyes. The organisation’s bylaw specified that its objective was to oppose the ethnic myths of TPLF (የሳት አደጋ መከላከል ), deter the ethnic division of the country and also challenge the systematic massacre of the Amhara, identified with Ethiopian unity and identity. The Amhara, its Ethiopian history, culture, language, vibrant leaders have been tarnished including Menilik II who brought fame not only to Ethiopia but to Africa and the black people all over the world.
The APPO led by Professor Asrat was able to organised a challenging force both in the county and abroad, demanded the integrity of Ethiopia maintained and opposed the secession of Eritrea. For Zenawi, the secession of Eritrea was a forgone conclusion as this was his “learned view?” and commitment including at the time of the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea.
In a short period of time AAPO was able to organised and galvanize a considerable force which could potentially wreck the ethnocentric regime of Ethiopia. However, TPLF for fear of his growing power and influence amongst Ethiopians, not only the Amhara , TPLF decided to imprison Professor Asrat Woldeyes on phony and dubious charges – according to Amnesty international. He was initially arrested in June 1994 and imprisoned for a period of two years and extended for five years on same charges with bogus and concocted evidence. In 1996, he was subjected to a new circus trial, repeatedly adjourned for no apparent reason with a view to keep him in prison, indefinitely and was never legally released.
His life in prison was torturous, subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment. Following the deterioration of his health, he was allowed to go abroad on Christmas day in 1998 and was flown to London (stayed three days in London) and then to Houston where he was welcomed and comforted by AAPO support groups in Europe and the USA, Ethiopian dignitaries and foreigners from all walks of life including those who appreciated his rare talent as a surgeon. Sadly, he died on the 14 May 1999 whilst in Houston, Texas, and buried in Ethiopia in the same year.
Here again, I am not intending to narrate the achievements or limitations of the AAPO , at least for now , what I am intending to show in these paragraphs is how the cowards of TPLF worked relentlessly to wreck the Amhara and its organisation. TPLF was intimidated by Professor Asrat Woldeye’s charisma and the growing influence in the West; hence, they did everything in their power to finish him. TPLF tired hard not to give space for genuine democracy, popular parties unless for satellite parties. As TPLF continued its tyranny as a minority, it was totally unsettled with forces who claim Ethiopian unity integrity. For fear of its existence, it initiated and nurtured mayhem, destruction, killing and indefinite dentation against those who stood for one Ethiopia and genuine democracy. Those who stood for free speech, free press, human rights protection and liberties have been marginalized, outraised, chased and led to prison. The catalogue of those who suffered in detention, torture and faced untimely death is untold; Professor Asrat was one of them.
Thus, taking into account the very doctrine TPLF stands for (revolutionary mayhem) to this day and its practice in the last 27 years and so, TPLF stands inconsistent with the Ethiopian paradigm and the current change; TPLF has nothing to offer: it is incompatible with the paradigm of undivided Ethiopia and certainly not with መደመር (medemer).
As this conflict-ridden, schismatic policy of TPLF continued undiminished in different forms, Ethiopia has become a Pandora Box, where nations for secession have been hatched and nurtured. The recent phenomena surrounding the Ethiopian Somali region, Ogden is typical to this scenario; if it were not for Prime Minister Abiy and his leadership, the ultimate end would have been a different outcome, taking into account the apparent sabotage of TPLF behind the plot. The hallmark of this practice, determination and direction by Abiy and team Lemma is consistent with their early pledges to the Ethiopian people: vision for Ethiopia, political pluralism, socio – economic inclusiveness, civic and inclusive identity.
As matters stand now, the word FINFINE for Addis Ababa connotes and have its own caveats; Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, the city of all Ethiopians irrespective of this or that ethnic group, the historical, political centre of Africans and where regional, international institutions flourish, appears to have been targeted by some ethno-centric groups including the OLF who got their wicked tuitions and practice from TPLF. The group appears to have endorsed TPLF’s out-dated route, ethnocentric federal structure and drive for Addis Ababa ownership. The substance of the script , the nature and tone of the language said it all. As TPLF, the OLF is on the wrong side of history, majority and ordinary Oromos identify themselves with Ethiopia irrespective ultra-nationalists rhetoric.
In addressing their message, the groups relied on some aspects of the current Ethiopian constitution, under “Article 49” which includes ‘… Addis Ababa shall be the capital city of the Federal State….. The residents of Addis Ababa shall have a full measure of self-government….and ….Oromia’s interest in Addis Ababa … regarding social services ….natural resources …shall be determined by law’. (underlined for emphasis). It is public knowledge that this TPLF tailored , ethnic based so called constitution has lots of problems, gaps, inconsistences and silent on many issues that matter to all Ethiopians , though not my theme for now. However, even taking as it is, there is nothing “determined by law “ in accordance to the cited constitution. The core issue, according to the constitution is that …’ Addis shall have a full measure of self – government.’… that Addis is a self-governing entity accountable to the Federal State ‘ which doesn’t surrender Addis to any ethno- centric interpretation , even by the standard of the constitution. The alleged claim, as is it appears is unlawful and unfair.
In that deliberation there were allegations of “Oromo identity attack”. Clearly there are now unprecedented, unprovoked attacks of the Oromo, the Amahra and other social /ethnic groups in the country, one must be cognizant of the causes of these attack and stand with the change loving people of Ethiopians to contain this. Safeguarding the identity of the Oromo and other groups is and must be the duty of all Ethiopians. Fellow Oromos have died for the survival of Ethiopia, remain to play an important role in the continued identity of Ethiopia, as has been seen in recent attempts in saving lake Tana , stating, አባይ ኬኛ፤ ኢትዮጲያ ኬኛ. This, I believe is the historical and contemporary place of the Oromo, irrespective of ethno-centrists bogus claim.
Ethno- centrists appears to have been biased with their own ahistorical myth, unable or did not want to entertain shared Ethiopians history and identity. Failed to grasp that inhabitants of Addis since the foundation of Addis and beyond have always been Ethiopians, throughout time and space. One cannot undo the ሰርገኛ ጤፍ analogy of the Ethiopian identity which includes the Oromo. There is no as such Oromo or Amhara identity for Addis or any possession rights to this or that ethnic group. To think otherwise appears oblivious and at best idiotic – sadly, one may not fix idiocy.
Addis Ababa, like the cities of Paris, London or Rome should and must be free to flourish for all Ethiopians, whilst amending the corrupted practice of not paying compensation to individual land owners of Addis irrespective of their ethnic origin; surly, this cannot and should not be an excuse to invoke group/ national rights on the city of Addis or any part of the country.
Addis, the centre of Ethiopian universe, culture, art, music and literature, should remain the collective identity of all Ethiopians. The capital should remain beyond and above the realms of petty jurisdictions cascaded by those who failed to learn from the beauty of its collective and inclusive identity. Addis’s dignified statuesque reigns beyond and above the realms of this or that ethnic group. The whole, as usual is greater that the mechanical sums of this or that ethnic group. Ethiopia is greater than any ethnic enclave, greater than the Amahra , the Oromo or any other ethnic enclave per se forget the realms of Zenawi and his cohorts. Inward looking ethno – centric vision for Addis is incompatible to its international image, no way no near to its sparkly international and regional standing which all Ethiopians enjoy.
The voices and the voiceless of Addis are all civic and liberal , not an ethnic enclave , it has always been a melting pot where all cultural , ethnic groups dislodge their ethnic past and become citizens of Addis with pride and by extension , Ethiopians. They feel equal, there is nothing unequal, equal to all including to foreigners. To limit Addis or force Addis to reflect this or that ethnic group is to reduce and diminish its inclusive and civic identity. One would also note that this is the legacy of TPLF, whose core principles, rhetorical doctrine of ethnic based federal structure is all about: ethnic fragmentation the core of its value. Its ethno- xenophobic view ultimately calls for ethnic irredentism as has been manifested by Tigray regional state, incorporating parts of Gondar and Wollo. This phenomena evidenced in Addis may not be the last as long as ethno -centric card is played by the state and Article 39 is upheld. It is time to ditch article 39; it is open for opposition and viable parities to grab it – make their case for the Ethiopian people.
The Way forward: Abiy-mania and the regime in change:
As stated above, TPLF is incompatible with the new changes: ethno – centrism is mutually exclusive to civic, liberal, demotic values and political pluralism. TPLF affiliates should resolve, come in terms with the Ethiopian people and with the people of Tigray. The people of Tigray deserve better. TPLF’s claim, that TPLF and the people of Tigray are one and the same is just an absolute nonsense, deceit, an insult to ordinary followers. Party and People are two different entities, though such a bogus claim is trailed by TPLF. This is a futile attempt to continue its pretences, deception, well and beyond its 27 years of misrule, tyranny. The people of Tigray remain, the bulwark of the Ethiopian identity both in the past (forget the time spent under TPLF) and in the future. Tigray is as old as the Ethiopian entity, as opposed to TPLF’s footing in the early 70’s with distorted Marxist dogma. Therefore, TPLF should give way to the new generation of Tigray with civic and inclusive identity; resurrect the realms of its distant past including that of Yohannes the IV, Ras Alula Abanega and others.
It is not too late, though late, to say enough is enough and leave the stage for the on-going well – rounded transformation, radical changes led by PM Abiy and team Lemma. TPLF should know, the more it stays in power it is a liability to EPRDF itself or for any coalition that works in the interest of all Ethiopians with civic and inclusive identity.
Think about this, the entire doctrine of TPLF from day one of its foundation, with little or no exception had worked against the fundamental interest of Ethiopians. It has worked against common values, shared culture, shared and collective identity of all Ethiopians. This has left Ethiopians divided, where they cannot live and work comfortably; confront each other as strangers, aliens and immigrants in their own country. Sadly, those groups who recklessly and irresponsibly caused this damage, appears to have shamelessly continued their sabotage against the new change. Those, ordained with TPLF’s terrible ideology, still plot in one or in a different form to deter the on-going change, but should think hard and think fast in order to change for the better or make a choice to sanction themselves; take notice, the alternative is utterly inconsistent, sham and indefensible unless in TPLF’s Kangaroo courts – which I believe is a bygone conclusion.
It was refreshing to hear PM Abiy’s speech, when he likened the Ethiopian people with ሰርገኛ ጤፍ . Literally ሰርገኛ ጤፍ is a mix of light and brown Teff (ጤፍ ) in its nature, not man made. Such mixture cannot be detached, separated one from the other, when cooked for food or preserved. This metaphoric insight, perception of the PM, with a subtle sociological explanation, underpins, addresses the social construct of the Ethiopian people from every corner of the land. ሰርገኛ ጤፍ is indivisible, inseparable; it is blended in one, both in form and content. This analogy says it all.
Young PM in one of his notable speeches also highlighted that we are all Ethiopians both dead and alive. We live as Ethiopians and die as Ethiopians. One would compare this with what was acclaimed by TPLF’s tribal chief, “The Tigreans had Axum, but what could that mean to the Gurague? The Agew had Lalibela, but what could that mean to the Oromo? The Gonderes had castles, but what could that mean to the Wolaitai?” ( Zenawi of TPLF).
It is not only PM, Abiy, one would take into account the speeches of young and vibrant Lemma Megerssa who said it all in one word – Ethiopia is my “ዕፅ” ….medication, painkiller …. Here you go back to history, Ethiopians irrespective of this or that ethnic group died and lived together, fought all wars together, blood was split, bones scattered for common goal: saving Ethiopia and Ethiopians – as Ethiopia has always been and remain ( for those who accept Ethiopia) to be “ዕፅ for every Ethiopian, irrespective of this or that ethno-linguistic enclave. Ethiopians died together for a common cause under the banner of one flag – an Ethiopian symbol, honouring it, and not discrediting, shaming the Ethiopian flag like Zenawi of TPLF, “”The flag is just a piece of rag.” (This was in an interview given to state media). Is flag just a piece of rag for any nation, for you as a reader?
In present day Ethiopia, the end goal appears to be in sight, though needs everybody’s input, with these young and vibrant leaders, social engineers, the agenda is set to call for genuine democracy in line with the doctrine of Abraham Lincoln – “the government of the people, by the people, for the people” under the rule of law in which justice, fairness and equality will flourish for all Ethiopians and not for this or that ethnic group. A grand vision which majority of Ethiopians celebrate: credit goes to PM Abiy, team Lemma, Demeke and Gedu.
Against this promising background, we are still witnessing, though not surprised, a group of schismatic entities, individuals who conspire 24/7 to wreck the on-going all-inclusive change by violent means including the June 2018 bomb blast during a pro Prime Minister rally at Addis Ababa’s Mesqel Square. The massacre and brutal attack in Burayu, Gambella, Ogaden, Benshangul regions; ethnic cleansing in Wolqait and Raya…the list goes on … is repulsive and disgusting, using the PM’s languages, those who are engaged in these are “losers”. True, losers will never win.
These groups appear to wage double standard: on one had they claim to be part of መደመር ( medemer) and on the other hand they conspire day and night in order to wreck the current change. It must be loud and clear: their action equals to terrorist activities as they are still bombing , shooting , inciting violence in one or in different form, and some of them did not hide their intention: they said they are against the change and are prepared to take us back to 1991. Some of them pursue double standard: telling us that they are there for change but conspire at same time, failing to grasp, “You cannot eat your cake and have it, too”.
It is also imperative to note, such groups will continue to conspire as long as they have the means and the space to carry out their hostile, futile schema; it is time if not late, the means, the resources they treasure in all forms is sanctioned unlawful and the space they operate , manipulate is denied. The resources, the capital, they had looted should and must be returned to their legal owners, Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
From these and similar scenarios in the past, all those concerned will learn and learn fast to avert such a Machiavellian, treacherous activities from groups who conspire to reverse the change for once and for all. Here is bare logic, such groups, individuals have demonstrated that they are incompatible, irreconcilable with the current democratic and civic change, hostile to መደመር , hence, reason should and must prevail; such groups be outlawed , the guilty party pay the price in a court of law and allow the current change finish its course.
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 Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians,2001,P22