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Why do we even think Ethiopian Helicopter MI 35 is hijacked? Dimetros Birku

By Dimetros Birku
December 23,2014

Days after news of “disappearance” of MI 35 of Ethiopian fighter helicopter by diaspora based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), Ethiopian government broke its silence with a belligerent statement aired through what is now Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC)

The Helicopter “disappeared” early Friday around 8:30 local time yet the public didn’t hear anything about it from government, as is always the case in issues that could have political implications, until yesterday.
While the statement from the ministry of defense painted the case as a “hijack”, it did not even name the “hijacker” who is actually the member of Ethiopian Defense Force. Yet, resonating through the ranting statement is a claim that the “hijacker” was an “Eritrean agent” and that he forced the co-pilot and a technician on board to divert the helicopter to Eritrean territories.

The statement did not even care about the question that could possibly linger in the minds of Ethiopians: Why on earth an “Eritrean agent” is a member of Ethiopian Defense Force and had the privilege to fly fighter helicopter in the Ethiopian Air Force in the first place?

I am not too sure whether it is technically possible for a helicopter pilot to force co-pilot and a technician on board to divert route and fly the helicopter to somewhere else.

The statement is composed of very little information as to how the “hijack” happened and much mobilization like war propaganda material. Underscored in the statement is the “destabilizing” nature of the government in Eritrea and the vanquishing power of the Ethiopian Defense force should Eritrea is not stopping what it is doing; “destabilizing Ethiopia.”

One can even get a sense, from the statement, that the regime in Ethiopia can’t wait for war to breakout and seem to be waiting for Eritrea to make another move that can be interpreted as “aggression” and the Ethiopian Defense force is sure of unleashing its vanquishing power. Well, if Eritrea is not making any move, something has to be invented by TPLF.

Concomitantly, Not coincidentally, I presume, Tigrai Online publisher which is a fanatic patron and mouthpiece of Tigray People’s Liberation Front seem to be setting an agenda of war with Eritrea through social media discussion following news of the “disappeared” helicopter. The dominant opinion in the discussion seem to call for war against Eritrea seizing the opportunity of “hijack” narrative and there seem to be an understanding that Ethiopian government, the master of which is Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the ruling coalition of EPRDF, should initiate war apparently to deal with “Eritrean aggression” for good.

True, there is no indication if TPLF even needs to manufacture a public opinion to take Ethiopia to another bloody war with Eritrea; they could just do it like that without the need to manipulate opinion. TPLF seem to think that war with Eritrea is in the interest of their hold on power. As much as the regime in Ethiopia is supporting Eritrean rebels, the government of Isayas Afeworki is supporting Ethiopian rebels which is what is causing the TPLF regime nightmare in addition to paranoia of political earthquake that could erupt in the center.

So this idea of war against Eritrea has been lingering for some time now as existential question for TPLF. However, the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea which claimed an estimated 80,000 lives on the Ethiopian side alone whose sacrifice is considered meaningless, rightly, by many seemingly caused skepticism within the TPLF leadership that all may not be well like the in past. For that reason TPLF seem to feel the need for manufacturing opinion to support war with Eritrea. To that end, it could be innovative about creating melodramatic situations to foster propaganda and ultimately justify the necessity of war with Eritrea. And all this happening while a mediation effort is underway to restore friendly relation with “Eritrean People” in the backdoor through TPLF affiliated, apparently, entity.

Very regrettably, from the opposition side in the diaspora, there is a tendency, without reservation in fact, to take the “hijack” on face value and use it to make a case that TPLF is even losing ground on its ethnic base as the “hijacker” who is now known to be Capitain Samuel Gidey is from TPLF’s political base.

It’s possible that the “hijacker” could have political affiliations with one of the factions that arouse from TPLF after the party purged a group of TPLF leadership, including people like Gebru Asrat who is now leading another ethnic based opposition in Tigray and people like Siye Abraham who seem to be, at least on the surface, agaist TPLF, from the party in the course of the two years’ war with Eritrea.

However, it would be too reckless and immature to cross off the possibility that TPLF is playing a trick either to cause war or some other form of trick with helicopter narrative. It is now a public knowledge that a considerable number of TPLF leadership trace linage and demonstrate attachment from and to Eritrea.

The way news are presented and analyzed in the opposition quarter could sometimes be very disappointing. The opposition in the diaspora seem to be over-emphasizing the power of obtaining information from within the ruling party and ‘urgency’ of “breaking the news” rather than emphasizing on strategic approach and analysis of the news in a way to shape consciousness and transform informed opposition. If there is a considerable degree of convincing evidence supporting the view that the pilot deserted for genuine political reason, then it has to be presented, strategically again, in a way to promote opposition to the dictatorial regime

The writer can be reached at
on twitter : @dimetros




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