July 23, 2016
This past week we’ve heard news of “return” of Afar people’s party to Ethiopia from Eritrea with about 400 armed fighters. Sudan Tribune’s report from Addis Ababa (Tesfalem Tekle reported it) and news from Ethiopian Broadcasting corporations basically resonate same narrative.
Circumstances under which the rebels ended up in Ethiopia is not much known except that a group of people are seen in what looks like a town hall meeting which was aired in Ethiopian Broadcasting corporation. Alo Aydahis, whom the state media depicted as leader of Afar People’s party,is seen speaking in the video. I assume Ethiopians in Toronto who do follow news and attend political events are familiar to Alo Aydahis. He is a regular in places like Lalibella Restaurant in boor street – saw him not too long ago.
Two things stands out from EBC ‘s ( and Sudan Tribune’s) report. One is that “return” of Afar People’s Party to Ethiopia came after’negotiation with Ethiopian government.’ This seem to be problematic seen from the point of view of Statement issued by Afar Peoples party. The statement which was issued on July 21,2016, states that Mr. Allo Aydahis and colonel Mohammed are already banned from all party responsibilities of Afar People’s Party on grounds that “Mr Allo Aydahis Mohamed and Colonel Mohamed Ahmed Ali have lost the trust, the moral and legal ground for being part of our organization[Afar People’s Party].” Based on the statement, it is clear that if there was any “negotiation” – it was fully endorsed by the entire executive committee of Afar people’s party. That makes the alleged “negotiation” look like conversation with a defected executive members of Afar People’s Party.
Second, reports by state media also indicated that “returned” Afar People’s Party opted to continue “struggle in a peaceful way.” Party program of Afar people’s party suggests that full-fledged Afar Regional State within the federal system of Ethiopia, freedom of speech, pluralistic democracy, and self-rule are political ideals that the party is struggling for. If so, it is safe to assume that Afar People’s party opted for armed struggle because there was, seemingly, an assessment that peaceful struggle is not possible in Ethiopia to achieve all its objective. So, what is really changed in Ethiopia as far as conditions for peaceful struggle are concerned? Actually, it is worse than it was when the Afar people’s party opted for armed struggle.
It is now a public knowledge that the regime in Ethiopia slummed door on any peaceful struggle to the extent that “anti-terrorism” legislation is enacted as a tool to enervate, and with ultimate goal to jeopardize, any meaningful peaceful opposition in Ethiopia. A little before the last general election, government mounted crackdown on all opposition parties who are seriously making endeavor to challenge the system. Subsequently, the ruling party “won”100 % of the vote” (not joke!). No single opposition voice is allowed in the parliament.
Even after the election, some executive members of Semayawi party, including young girls, were thrown to prison and subjected to inhuman torture. Recent attacks on civilians in Lafto, crackdown on Oromo Speaking people of Ethiopia which claimed more than 400 lives and attack on civilians in Gondar last week- among many other evidences, clearly points to the fact that peaceful movement is virtually impossible in Ethiopia. There is no way that Afar People’s Party could be an exception if the “peaceful struggle” is meant to be a real one.
So it is very likely that a faction of Afar People’s Party that “returned” to Ethiopia literally sold itself to the regime in power. The offer could be power ( in Afar or at Federal level). It could be money. Or it could be both. And this in the long term will definitely work against the regime in power as the regime will be unable to pay for the political and economic cost of keeping “returned” party in good terms with the regime. That’s one of the reasons that the “return” is not worth anything other than mere propaganda consumption for a certain uninformed targeted audience. Probably, what the regime invested on in that line could be additional problem.
The ruling party, Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has a special interest in Afar region of Ethiopia just like Wolqaite region of Amhara,which is forcefully incorporated to Tigray region. It is not a secret that the regime included Afar in its Greater Tigray Project for posterity. And there are indications that the regime is aggressively working to change the social composition and social relation with Afar people by way of political intervention and settling its own, supposedly, people in the region. Yet, it would be erroneous, to say the least, to assume that TPLF’s intention and what it is doing in the region is accepted by the entire Afar people. Without a doubt, sooner or later the project will come into a collision
Leaders who happen to live in the diaspora, whether it’s in Europe or North America, could simply develop lust for values that are at odds with the just motive of liberating Ethiopians from unprecedented oppression in their own country. In fact, living in the west could come with moral vulnerability for some people. The regime in power has established relation with investors and may use them as a tool in a number of ways one of which could be influencing supposedly “political” people in a way that TPLF wants. There has to be clarity that the regime in Ethiopia has got overt and covert support from the west.
Challenges of waging armed struggle for freedom, so to speak, do clearly demand perseverance, invincibility and ethical view on life. It is for people with incorruptible and unshakable moral ground and conscience. It is for people who do not mind living in adverse environment in pursuit of freedom. A fighter is free in sense that he is living with his ideals ; ideals that no one could snatch away while he is alive and he is not under the immidiate control of an oppressive regime like TPLF. When the moral conviction and commitment to pursue ideals of freedom, of defending the interest of a nation and saving the country from the jaws of ruthless minority ethnocentric regime is strong among fighters, as it should be, the regime in power cannot put a price tag and purchase it. The challenges of adverse physical environment remain weak to entice a fighter to abandon struggle and be reduced to live at the mercy of a regime like TPLF again. What the regime in Ethiopia seem to be celebrating is purchased and corrupted faction. And that does not mean much, if not nothing , or even less than nothing.
By Dimetros Birku
Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros