This past Wednesday, The Ethiopian Herald published a story entitled “United we stand,divided we fall.” Who would expect, a few years back, a story line like that in print media controlled by the regime in power? Content rather talks about how unemployed youth are “benefiting” from a plantation agriculture project in Alamata district -which, by the way, used to be part of Wollo until the same regime redrew map of regions in Ethiopia in a way to incorporate areas that were not part of Tigray. I still could not figure it out whether the title “United we stand, divided we fall” is appropriate for a story about papaya and mango plantation in Alamata. Perhaps the inextinguishable Wolqaite identity question, which is moving not just the whole of Gonder but beyond-so to speak, and the determination to get back its identity; the passion to kiss Tigray region of Ethiopia goodbye as an administrative authority over Wolqaite and be part of Gondar after twenty five years of imposed geographical detachment and so forth is simmering in Alamata, Raya too. Otherwise, the title used and the narrative in the Ethiopian Herald are not in the same province at all. Yet, what is notable is that views like “United we stand, divided we fall” which used to be portrayed as “neftegna” worldviews are now becoming views of the men in power, at least for purposes of cynicism.
There are other indications that seem to suggest that the regime is unwillingly creeping into the notion of unity, albeit in a context different from keeping snatched away regions like Alamata. Based on conversation I had with one of Ethiopia’s opposition party leader, trademark rhetoric of regime – “nations and nationalities” was muted during this years’ Ginbot 20 celebration – a day that former guerrilla forces set foot in Addis Ababa following the fall of the military government. And it was probably wise on the part of the men in power to do so.
It is hard to find “nation and nationalities” that have not become victims of the ruling TPLF party. Unfortunately, the regime is associated with Tigray identity and for a reason. Tigreans hand didn’t make noticeable effort to dissociate themselves from a regime that has claimed the lives of thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in almost every parts of Ethiopia except Ti gray.
Rather, there are even Tigreans who seem to think that the hate towards the regime in power is somewhat related to its Tigray identity. And of course, there are Tigreans who are made to think that supporting and/or defending TPLF is a matter of existence.It may even be possible to find quite considerable number of Tigreans who tend to think that the earth and the whole world revolves around TPLF – the bravest force the world has ever seen, a champion of “development” , “progressive” and what not. On the contrary, for Ethiopians who are familiar with the history of Ethiopia and even with an ordinary political consciousness TPLF – in all its forms – represents an entity that is up to destroy Ethiopia- literally.
Yes, there is ethnic Tigray opposition based in Tigray- Arena- which was established by former Tigray People’s Liberation Front founding members. This did not win the trust of many Ethiopians- that I can say with a sense of certitude and that is its own making. It tends to send blurry messages and is also primarily thinking in terms of Tigray and Ethiopia is something secondary – if at all. For example on the Wolqaite Question,it keeps mum. Its concern on the recent development in Gonder was the “safety” of Tigreans. For this and many other reasons, it is hard for a considerable number of Ethiopians to think that has a meaningful opposition in Tigray.
Recently, two former senior military generals of TPLF,Abebe TekleHaymanot and Tsadkan Gebre Tensay, did try to reach out to Ethiopians including Tigrigna speakers. The message from the latter was strong.Noting that Tigraians are noticeably seen as enemy by other Ethiopians, he expressed the view that Ethiopia could lead to a total chaos unless there is arrangement for a peaceful transition of power. His long message given to “Horn Affair” is interpreted differently. Some saw it as a move to measure the political heat. Others saw it as an indication of possible coup being brewed by a faction within what was once TPLF circle. Still other saw it as a political trickery to pave a way out current political quagmire.
Whatever the intention of the message from former TPLF authorities was, it clearly came at a time of, or rather after, popular uprising in Gonder on the question of Wolqaite, and it came in a way that sounds like Wolqaite effect.
The movement is scary to TPLF in a number of ways. Unlike erstwhile movements against repression under TPLF, Wolqaite movement is not a facebook bravado. It has all the attributes of Ethiopian invincibility – something that TPLF thought was dead. Funeral procession for killed member of Wolqaite committee members hints the depth of psychological readiness of people in Gonder. The valour one sees in faces of Wolqaite youngsters is real ; and brought memories of Ethiopian patriots for many. And the movement is turning out to be infectious. Other regions of Ethiopia are thinking in terms of confrontation.
Ahead of peaceful demonstration in Gonder this Sunday, it is visible that the regime is planning military action. Possibly,the plan is out of based on calculations that the movement is at its early stage and can be quashed easily with total military action. The truth is different. Actually, the regime can not even reliably count of its defense force unless it is thinking in terms of loyal forces which are likely to be from Tigray. If it is pushing that line of action, the result will be chaos as TPLF former comrade and defense chief , retired general Tsadkan said – although in a different way. In view of hate that TPLF nurtured, TPLF is prone to be a big loser if it chooses chaos.
by Dimetros Birku
Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros