Research released by opposition party Ginbot 7 several years ago revealed ninety-eight percent of high ranking military positions including in support structures are held by ethnic Tigreans which is the political base of the ruling TPLF party with only six percent of the entire population of Ethiopia.
Two ‘retired’ military generals made headlines in Ethiopian press when they spoke out against the very system they served and system that seems to have served them well too, at least rumored, in terms of building a fortune for themselves. Their core message was that the ruling government, they call it EPRDF while Ethiopians in opposition quarter refer to it as TPLF government, has turned out to be undemocratic and that the country is heading in a path that could bring about a civil war. They talked about a change in the direction of forming transitional government seemingly with a motive for reconciliation between different entities in Ethiopia.
Gen. Tsadkan G Tensae and Gen. Abebe Teklehaimanot were both made to retire early- it was a case of purger in actual fact for reasons not known to date with clarity. When they spoke out in an interval of a month or so a little before the outbreak of the popular uprising in North Western part of Ethiopia, speculations and conspiracy theories were triggered.
Given the fact that these personalities served TPLF for a long time, first as a member of guerrilla combatants and later as a member of government officials, many assumed that they still could have important connections in the army – connections adequate enough to plot Coup d’etat. In fact, some commentators had reservations as two whether they could successfully launch a coup while others question the very motive of a coup if it happens. Many swung to the view that a coup conducted by people of TPLF origin is probably about rescuing TPLF with an objective to re-brand in a way to make it capable to maintain a hold in power a longer period of time.
The political situation in Ethiopia is deteriorating. And it seems to be moving in a direction that could make the ruling party pay dearly for all the problems that it caused to Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
The movement in Oromo speaking parts of Ethiopia which started as a resistance to proposed Addis Ababa Master Plan is still going on. Despite the loss of hundreds of lives, the movement evolved to demanding an end to TPLF government. It seems to be fair to say that the world now knows what is going on in Ethiopia after Rio Olympic silver Medal winner showed protest sign as he crossed the finishing line.
North Western Ethiopia is even tenser with a potential to spread to towns and cities adjacent to the capital Addis Ababa. The uprising broke out in Gondar in early July when government forces make a move to arrest leading member of Wolqaite Question Committee Demeke Zewdu, was in the military himself, which caused incident involving deaths of what people in Gonder believed are security forces from Tigray region. Now, the movement in Gonder and Gojam is no longer about Wolqaite question per se. Like in Oromo speaking parts of Ethiopia, hundreds of civilians are killed in the past two months. Movement evolved to demanding an end to TPLF government in Ethiopia. Many towns in the region already cast aside TPLF governing structures and have formed their own local administrations.
Reform ‘to little to late’
The ruling party had its congress last week amid strings of uprisings across the country. It admitted that it has got issues as it relates to what it called the improper use of government authority, and the late Meles Zenawi said same thing years ago and vowed that it will come up with something in a month time from now. Ironically, the regime also sees itself in a positive light for what it calls are “achievements” in the last fifteen years.
Widespread purgers in the ranks of the party are expected. Wolqaite question, according to statement from the congress , is rather to be looked into by Tigray regional state – the very region that incorporated it to Tigray twenty-five years ago- which sounded like belligerence for many Ethiopians. Other contentious issues, including Addis Ababa master plan apparently, are to be resolved through “dialogue.” While what came out of the party congress is far from satisfying the demands of popular uprising, the party called on security forces to stand in “guard of democracy and development.” What if they actually stand for democracy – on the side of Ethiopia people?
Possibility of military mutiny or coup
From the statement, the ruling party wants to be partly illusive and partly ready to make some reforms. Possibly just strategies to buy time. However, even if these meager concessions are given, they are not enough. People want to see an end to what they believe is a TPLF rule. The demand is legitimate as it has political, economic and social grounds.
On the other hand, there is still a tendency to continue to use violent repression as a tool to maintain a hold on power. Security apparatus is called on, as indicated above, to guard “democracy and development.”
The regime already deployed defense force against civilians. And there was a report sometime last week that members of 24th brigade refused to fire on civilians and more than hundred armed soldiers reportedly deserted with their arms. Unlike high ranking positions, the majority of military and security personnel including the Federal police is not from Tigray.
Ethiopians are not settling for anything less than an end to the TPLF rule. It is clear. What is the regime going to do about it? To use the military and security apparatus to protect TPLF power is the ultimate form of dehumanizing the defense force and the very purpose of it. And it will not work out as the situation gets worse. They might actually find it quite easier to finish off the regime compared to suppressing a popular movement by killing civilians. In that case, it is possible that very soon Ethiopians could wake up to news of coup d’etat or powerful military mutiny that could help finish TPLF government. Ethiopians seem to be watchful that military coup if it happens, is a not reformed TPLF.
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It is a mistake to consider Ethiopia as coup -prone country. Any attempt to topple the government unconstitutionally, will be foiled easily since no one supports this kind of unlawful action against constitutionally elected government.