borkena Ethiopian News
Genebe Dibaba’s celebration of her spectacular performance at Sabadell, Spain, in which she clocked new world record time in 2000 meters indoor generated political controversy among Ethiopians in social media. Her victory was forgotten in a matter of hours as criticizing Genzebe took primacy. She is blamed for not using the historic Ethiopian flag, which is banned by Tigray People’s Liberation Front government, for her celebration. Last month, Workenesh Degefa, who claimed women’s title at the Dubai Marathon was in the same situation. She did not use Ethiopian flag either; for similar reasons. And, yes, she was blamed for it.
In both instances, Ethiopian video publishers affiliated with the regime in Ethiopia seized the opportunity, in a celebratory mood, to make a point, apparently, that the flag belongs to the opposition and that it is losing ground, which is not the case obviously. In the video released by DireTube, both athletes are shown picking the flag and then drop it when they recognize that it is the flag that is banned by TPLF government. On the part of the athletes, not using the historic and popular flag is not a matter of choice. The only context that it is a matter of choice is that it essentially comes down to whether they wish to return to Ethiopia or not, a decision perhaps with undesirable implication for their running carrier and their families,too . Maybe they are not ready to leave Ethiopia and their family. Their choice to use TPLF introduced flag rather than the historic Ethiopian flag need to be seen within the context of that political reality in Ethiopia.
Astute Ethiopian activists theorized that the athletes’ celebration in Dubai and Sabadell was set up in a way to capture their reaction. Not proven. But it is possible. TPLF is known for all sorts of political tricks to fatten division, which is a means to an end, maintaining power, for TPLF.
That said, I must say that the whole issue surrounding the Ethiopian flag clearly shows lack of foresight and political wisdom on the part of TPLF. During the widespread popular protest in Gonder and Gojjam, Ethiopians clearly demonstrated despise and defiance for TPLF created Ethiopian flag when they openly and fearlessly hoisted and venerated the historic Ethiopian flag. TPLF didn’t have option then but to tolerate it as it had to buy time to crackdown the anti-government protest. But its reaction was totally different once it declared the state of emergency in October 2016 and mounted crackdown on protesters to detain more than 50,000 Ethiopians in a makeshift detention centers.
Did that change the flag issue for good? Not really. Sill Ethiopians revert to the historic flag whenever they get a chance. This was evident during the last Timkat celebration in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia. Given the detest to the history of Ethiopia, TPLF’s intransigence not to loosen on its radical stand against Ethiopian values including veneration to the flag is understandable. On the flip side of it, it represents lack of TPLF political wisdom and foresight. No illusion that the regime is living legitimacy crisis the likes of which is unprecedented. Even at a time when it is talking about negotiation with the opposition parties in the country, it is not thinking in terms of some serious compromises- apparently because it is overrating its military power.
Externally, political developments in the region are evolving in a way that would pose threat to TPLF’s power. Forget Eritrea. Somalia is evolving in a way not to be manipulated by TPLF any longer and there are powers that seem to have vested interest in that for cultural or other reasons- in fact some of them pretend to appear as a friend to the TPLF regime. TPLF’s relation with South Sudan is not in the best of shape although it is not admitted. Overseas based Oromo radical ethno-nationalists, once nurtured by TPLF as allies, will exploit and be exploited by entities that have hostile interest and enmity to Ethiopia. No question about that.
There is no better time for TPLF to rethink about the dangers that its divisive policy pose to the very existence of Ethiopia. It is a question if it will realize that anything that unites Ethiopia is an opportunity, not liability, even if it means that it loses power. It is not realistic to think that Tigray will be an Island of stability and peace if Ethiopia is mired in some sort of political chaos. That is why it needs to rethink so many of its prejudices and hate about Ethiopia and Ethiopian values. For example, what is it that TPLF government will lose if it revokes legislation introduced to ban the use of historic Ethiopian flag?
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