FENKEL: Miki Tesfay has pressed the right buttons for Ethiopian-Tigreans

Yohannes Aberra
June 27, 2020

A few weeks ago I had some harsher words for Fenkel regarding its name and methods that are implied in the name. The name I felt implies violence,  the beaten track method for political change in Ethiopia. Derg was Fenkel for HIMHS 1st, TPLF/EPRDF was Fenkel for Derg, and Team Lema was Fenkel for TPLF/EPRDF. I wonder for how long “Fenkelism” is going to continue as a method of political change in Ethiopia readily substituting free and fair elections. Incumbents who have come by the sword do not intend to forge the swords into genuine ballot boxes. The opposition find it much easier either to ally with the ruling group and take a bite from the political pie or resort to violence by inciting mob action while wearing designer suits and holding press conferences.

We know, except for Arena Party the rest of the opposition parties are flush floods that occurred soon after TPLF was seen off from Arat Kilo. Democracy “flourished” in Tigray a generation after the victory of the struggle for democracy! What changed in Tigray or in TPLF was not democratic mindedness but the coup-induced survival strategy. Encouraged to form parties the founders so much in haste don’t seem to have taken a few days to check how redundant they have become as clones of TPLF. Now the regional election in Tigray is imminent at least in words the voters will find it difficult to choose one from quadruplet or quintuplet parties. Obviously, the next election is going to be a vote of confidence for TPLF as a party and/or its ideology and modus operandi via its offspring parties. Whatever its track record it is totally unfair for a party to remain in power for another generation by fraud, by violence and intimidation, or by persuasion. This is not only for TPLF. Even the current ruling party claims to be new, but it is its form not its content that is new. It is the old EPRDF wine, a flashy new bottle, with an added advantage of demagogy. Ethiopia as well as its northern region badly and urgently need political parties that walk the talk about free and fair elections not that endlessly talk. Evasions of genuine elections are widespread. Politicians in Ethiopia are preoccupied by design in ethno-national tit for tat in order to confuse the people and drag the people in different directions. The disunited people of Ethiopia will have no way of controlling their political leaders and put the Country on the right democratic track. “Fishing in troubled waters” is what all politicians share in Ethiopia. Instability allows the mediocre to remain in politics; peacetime is for the talented and dedicated. Few politicians want this to prevail!

Coming back to Fenkel I had a chance to listen to the interview of Miki Tesfay on Mereja TV. I have never experienced such kind of interview which quenched my thirst for the right approach to complex politics in the Region. As a leader of Fenkel, he was pressing all the right buttons many of which are avoided by the multiple parties in Tigray. Before I move on into the details I would like to make a brief remark regarding the leadership of Fenkel. Three individuals including Miki and wedi shambel are mentioned in the media as leaders, but they seem de-linked. According to Miki Fenkel also has a “spiritual leader” in the person of Hayelom Araya (RIP). The name of the group is taken directly from the “nom de guerre” of the former TPLF commander. I don’t see how appropriate this is given the determination of Fenkel to end TPLF-rule for good and level the field for democracy in Tigray for all parties.

I am not going to repeat the questions and answers in the interview, from which other interviews could draw important lessons, but something that Miki said struck me so deeply. He said “There are over a million Tigreans living in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in Ethiopia”…” Who is protecting them?” He did not wait for the interviewer to answer it, he answered it himself: “It is not the TPLF which is protecting them, the people of Ethiopia are!”. Nothing could be as true as this! In spite of the disturbing noise TPLF is making from Tigray Tigreans all over Ethiopia are living in peace. TPLF has never been the protector of Tigreans outside Tigray. They were actually treated as scapegoats every time the TPLF went wrong over Ethiopia. Now people have understood and are correcting their mistakes with regrets of their ignorance about the situation among unattached ordinary Tigreans.

Fenkel cannot conduct a peaceful struggle to remove TPLF bearing this name. I suggest that it changes its name which suggests peace. It is well known in English diction that words have denotative and connotative meanings. The word Fenkel is most likely to face an unfavorable connotative interpretation. Miki said they have learnt lessons from Kerro’s mistakes and are not going to repeat them. The promise is well taken because Kerro has introduced unprecedented lawlessness in Ethiopia the precedent it set is raging like Prairie fire all over Ethiopia disabling law enforcement. Fenkel has well articulated and practical goals but it must have a clearly structured leadership network to ensure accountability and continuity. Willingly or unwillingly notwithstanding TPLF is a formidable force which has amassed popular support for over four decades. One must be better positioned ideologically and organizationally to outmaneuver   TPLF. Spontaneity and haste are suicidal. More noise than action is also a recipe for disaster.

Fenkel is anchored in Ethiopianism¬† as a fundamental Tigrean ethos. Those who seek separation of Nubia from Sudan, separation of former Mesopotamia from Iraq, separation of Indus valley from Pakistan, separation of Timbuktu Region from Mali, separation of south-central Mexico (Aztec civilization) from Mexico, and separation of the Indian tribal states of Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, etc. from USA, and separation of Tigray (Axum) from Ethiopia share the same motive: SELF SERVICE! Miki made another chilling statement. He mentioned one of the leading separatists by name and said ” He will kill me first”. It is the wildest of all nightmares that somebody could get killed in Tigray for running Ethiopianism. Worst part of the entire tragic drama is the helplessness of the people of Tigray who are held hostage to the power thirst of the self-centered elite both at home and in the diaspora. We hear nothing from five million people, but a few hundred individuals are making deafening noises. Last week somebody said “Ethiopians do not want to lose 5 million of their brothers and sisters in the north; they will work hard towards it”. Well said, and hope that it will be well done!



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