The Command Post ordered loyal security forces to “take all the necessary measures” against protesters. A recourse to violent repression of popular demands in stead of addressing the call for political dialogues?
Despite the declaration of the state of emergency (SoE) on February 16, the protest in many parts of Ethiopia is not bowing down to regime’s intimidation.
Today, the Command Post, a body mostly constituting military officers administering the SoE, which is not yet approved by the parliament, issued a warning that security forces are authorized to “take all the necessary measures.” When an expression like that is employed it usually means shoot to kill, from previous experience. In fact, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) loyal security forces, Agazi, killed one civilian in Nekemte and wounded at least twenty others today in an effort to quell a peaceful demonstration in the city.
Protests are pervasive and relentless in Ethiopia because the very issues that caused them are not addressed in a way to convince protestors to call off actions to demand political questions including an end to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) government, as many call it rightly. For millions of Ethiopians, this is a regime that has plundered the country’s resources for twenty-seven years to create wealth in its ethnic support base, Tigray, at the expense of the rest of Ethiopia and a regime synonymous with ethnic-chauvinism. Ironically, this same regime is known in the western world as an administration that brought about “double-digit” growth for the country.
For the regime, the popular movement is aimed at overthrowing “the constitutional order” in the country and is manipulated by foreign hands with a vested interest in destabilizing Ethiopia. Sometimes Egypt and Eritrea are cited in that regard and sometimes no name is mentioned. Critical Ethiopians do not discount Egypt’s ambition to distabilize Ethiopia especially after the regime in power embarked on the Grand dam project, which Ethiopians never considered a priority except a political necessity for the regime,but the best way to deal with the foreign threat is to address legitimate political and economic demands at home and unite the country. That way, argue those in the opposition quarter, there would be no ground for foreign interest to meddle in the Ethiopian affair.
What does it take to address the political and economic demands fundamentally? It takes the minority regime in power to embrace the principles of inclusiveness and equality and accept the reality that Ethiopians have the right to demand not to be governed Tigray People’s Liberation Front(TPLF) indefinitely which is what the regime wants. And what has become clear to most Ethiopians is that TPLF, as a party still with firm control over the military, security and intelligence apparatus, will never relinquish power peacefully even if it means the disintegration of Ethiopia. Consequently, the regime is risking civil war by trying to quell down the popular movements across Ethiopia with legitimate political and economic demands.
“Take all the necessary measures”
Web publishers that support TPLF, primarily Tigray online and Agia Forum, recently published views that make a case taking ” serious measures” rather than changing prime minister, the “who” question is going to be known this week, which will not fix existing political crisis in the country.
Just like TPLF party leaders, supporters see foreign hands in protests across the country. People’s legitimate desire for change after 27 years under a regime with recorded egregious human rights violations is barely recognized.
TPLF’s supporters accused the leadership of being fearful to take “serious measures” and opposed any appeasement for the demands for a systemic change. Usually, views from ardent TPLF supporters based in the country or abroad inform TPLF’s policy decisions.
But the pretext for issuing the warning today and authorizing security forces to “take all the necessary action” was that parliamentarians are being harassed by protesters and requested government to give them protection. Government is claiming that protesters are pressurizing members of parliament not to approve the SoE when they are back to parliament this Friday for an emergency meeting.
By authorizing loyal security forces to “take all the necessary measures”, perhaps TPLF leaders are officially resorting to violent means of suppressing the popular protest. If one is to look back what leaders of the four ethnic parties that constitute the ruling coalition announced after completing weeks of executive committee evaluation in December 2017, a picture would emerge that rather seem to show interest to broaden the “democratic space” in the country. All the member parties have reiterated that interest in their respective statements they issued following the conclusion of their subsequent evaluative meetings.
As it turns out, rhetoric on broadening the democratic space rather seems to be a mirage. What is happening instead is that the regime wants to suppress the movement by brute force. It has been practiced in the past and what it permanently did is that it emboldened the movement for change and transformed the determination to make political change happen. This time, at least two member parties within the ruling coalition, ANDM, and OPDO, seem to have accepted the fact that the popular demands are legitimate and the way forward lies in accommodating the demands for change not suppressing them in a way to cause a civil war. It is only TPLF that does not seem to accept the reality that Ethiopia will never be the same again for TPLF.
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