Editors’ note : The writer is making a case for a “diplomatic solution” for what the Ethiopian government calls a campaign to enforce the rule of law in Tigray. Northern Ethiopia. The views reflected in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of the this website.
By Addissu Admas
November 11, 2020
The attitude of the TPLF can be summed up in the oft quoted Amharic proverb “When I am dead, said the donkey, may no couch grass grow”. As soon as it was stripped of its overwhelming dominance of the coalition that it had craftily created and dominated for almost 28 years, the TPLF retreated to the province that it had virtually “liberated” during the final two years of Mengistu’s regime. Even though it justified and legitimized its southern march by some ideological rationalization, the reality is that it clearly knew that Tigray, unlike Eritrea, could have never aspired to become a viable independent state. Even Eritrea, with its favorable geographical location and its people’s bitter determination to stay independent despite overwhelming economic problems, has not turned into the “Singapore” of Africa it had envisioned of becoming on securing her independence. Contrary to TPLF’s propaganda, Tigray will always be better off with Ethiopia than alone. Those who clearly know this more than anyone in Ethiopia are the very same people who are now pounding the drums of war. In fairness, this is not only true of Tigray of course but of every so-called Killil, or federal regional state of Ethiopia. Balkanization, despite the very high human and material cost it had exacted in the region, may have in the end produced viable independent states; and even perhaps long-term peace. It would be however utterly delusional to hope for the same outcome in Ethiopia’s case. As the saying goes, Ethiopian regional states will either prosper as one or fail separately. None of the Killils, be they large or small, has either the natural or human resources to become an autonomous and viable state. For Ethiopia, staying united is not a matter of sentimental choice; it is simply a question of survival.
Dr. Abiy has responded to TPLF’s arrogant provocation with perhaps overwhelming force, at least from outsiders’ perspective. Obviously, no one can pretend to have access to intelligence reports that the PM has. I am sure he knows better than perhaps anyone the strengths and weaknesses of his adversaries. To outside observers, however, his response to TPLF’s aggression does not only appear excessive, but an unmistakable invitation to war. At this very juncture, Ethiopians’ fervent hope is that the two major Ethiopian ethnicities, the Oromo and the Amhara, and their leadership consciously choose not to be swept by the winds of war. An event that appears more than welcome at the TPLF’s headquarters in Meke’le. This is precisely the time when cool heads need to prevail, especially among all the top leadership of every party in the country.
From all indications, the TPLF leadership had been preparing for this moment when it clearly realized that its dominance over the EPRDF and the whole state apparatus was about to end. Instead of preparing itself to carve its place and role in a new democratic Ethiopia, it chose to self-segregate itself in Tigray and revamp its irredentist agenda. This can only end in disaster. What the TPLF leadership expected from the current administration was to be let go with impunity and even with some gratitude for having spared Ethiopia a prolonged civil war after the fall of Mengistu and his regime. The Ethiopian people have always known that TPLF’s southward march and seizure of the “vacated” central government was motivated by economic and strategic calculations than by genuine desire to liberating all Ethiopians from the cruel oppressive regime of the Derg. Once installed, the TPLF has done its utmost to exacerbate the ethnic animus that plagued Ethiopia for much of its modern history in order to secure its own survival at the helm. As a representative of a minority ethnicity, it was clearly aware that it could have never maintained power for very long without feeding the hostility between the two major ethnicities. This is in essence what allowed it to remain in power for nearly 28 agonizing years.
Let us be clear also that the complaint of the TPLF leadership that it had been overwhelmingly and unjustly targeted for corruption and abuse by the new administration is rather lame and disingenuous: there has never been in Ethiopia a more blatantly tribalist and parochial an administration as the TPLF’s. Suffice to mention here the thorough dominance of its cadres and ethnic base of the military, which was but the armed wing of the party, the bureaucracy and diplomatic corps. It is statistically inevitable therefore that the TPLF’s cadres are overwhelmingly involved in corruption and abuse since they were holders of the highest positions in the land for much of the nearly 28 years they were in power. No one should be fooled by their crocodile tears!
The Tigrean people should know by now that the conflict that has been sparked by the TPLF can only hurt them. Whether they proclaim Tigray’s independence compelled by the TPLF, or wage war against the rest of the country to regain control of the central government, they would only damage their historic region irretrievably. Thus, even more cool heads should prevail in Tigray for ending the conflict before much damage is done. It should be evident that Tigray will perhaps benefit from wise council than any Killil in this crucial moment!
Civil war in Ethiopia would not only usher the end of a major historic nation, but would plunge into chaos the whole region as Western observers have rightly predicted. It is puzzling that so much energy is spent in Ethiopia to be worse off. Those who are leading and instigating the various ethnic organizations are more moved by undying resentments and grievances for long past offenses and violations than present injustices. Instead of leading the country’s ethnicities towards a more viable and peaceful coexistence, they are intent at demanding bloody revenge.
If Dr. Abiy is tied up by a war against Tigray, and the Oromo and Amhara begin another front against one another, they will be not only abandoning their historic responsibilities towards the country’s other minorities, but will be destabilizing the surrounding countries. The multitude of ethnic minorities will be forced to take sides, and may reasonably expect to become victims of the vagaries of the civil war. The region will be swallowed by the vortex of civil unrest and the whole region may become a wasteland of failed states.
Dr. Abiy must seek, even at the risk of appearing weak in the face of the completely unreasonable and unjustified defiance of the TPLF, the cooperation of the most reasonable voices of the opposition parties. All Ethiopians, on the other hand, must demand that their leaders find peaceful solutions to what clearly appears a slide into civil war. The word of the day should be restraint and measured response. Better yet, Dr. Abiy should be amenable to diplomatic solution, even if this means the involvement of other regional and continental powers. In the end since nothing is gained through war, it is at least reasonable to give diplomatic solution a chance.
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