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In the Ethiopian War the West Sides with a Terrorist Group

Ethiopian War _ Yonas article
Yonas Biru, The author

In the Ethiopian War the West Sides with a Terrorist Group

Yonas Biru

As Noah Smith, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, took note, “the most-educated immigrant group in the U.S. isn’t East Asians. It’s Africans.” Ethiopians are among the African groups that are doing well. They occupy faculty positions in America’s flagship universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, among others. At some point there were four full professors as well as associate and assistant professors at Mayo Clinic, America’s number 1 ranked Medical School.

An Ethiopian immigrant, Joe Mamo, is building an iconic skyscraper in Tysons, Virginia, that will be “the tallest of any currently standing between Philadelphia and Charlotte” – 539 miles (867 km). And this is one of five high-rise buildings he has filed for permit to build, simultaneously. Yohannes Abraham, another Ethiopian American was the Executive Director of the Biden-Harris Transition, “overseeing preparation for the implementation of Biden-Harris policy and management priorities.” 

Why, then, are Africans poor and often at war in their country, while peaceful and successful in the West? Simply put, the West’s intervention in African politics has distorted the political incentive structure and the constraint matrix, institutionalizing a power calculus in favor of terrorist political groups. The push from such a system explains the mass exodus of African elite more than the lure of economic opportunities in the west.

The problem emanates from a racist misconception that Africans cannot be held to high democratic standards. Having a stable system is good enough even if it does not meet democratic standards. Consequently, a stable system that is enforced through terror became the source of political legitimacy.

Here is how African politics is seduced with terrorism. Unscrupulous politicians use the barrel of the gun and the state’s security apparatus to take over or remain in power, invade the economic space to collect rent, and hold the people hostage for ransom as bargaining chips to milk financial aid from the West. Evidently, violence and poverty have become key elements of the political equation in the game theoretic sense. The calculus of political profiteering embedded within the geometry of the vicious cycle of violence and poverty is what brought the current war in Ethiopia, and, sadly, what is sustaining the aftermath.

The war at issue is between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that was running the Tigray regional state, and the Ethiopian Federal government. Understanding this war is understanding how the West’s intervention in African politics has distorted the political incentive structure and the constraint matrix, institutionalizing a power calculus that favors authoritarian leaders who use acts of terrorism to establish a predatory political and economic governance.

TPLF was established in 1975 by hardened communists who fancied themselves as followers and later heirs of Enver Hoxha, the supreme leader of Albanian Communism. Soon after TPLF was established, it was listed as a terrorist organization in a US-based global terrorist database, Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium. 

After 16 years of guerrilla warfare, the terrorist establishment took over the government, in 1991. Once in power, the US removed them from the global terrorist list. To remain off the terrorist list all they had to do was to pretend to run elections every five years with no intention of losing power or conceding seats – often winning 100% of all national and regional elections.

The 2005 general elections proved an anomaly in TPLF’s uncontested reign. The incident is the window through which Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Bjørknes University College, showed us a glimpse of TPLF’s sheer terror. He exposed TPLF’s threat of mass murder and sustained poverty that brought both the people of Ethiopia and Western nations to their knees. 

In 2005, the unthinkable happened. The TPLF-led government, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), lost the election. The government delayed the announcement of the results, triggering the people to take the streets in protest. As a result, “security forces and police killed at least 36 people….5,000 people were arrested and detained,” Tronvoll documented. 

According to Reuters, the government refused to concede defeat and, in the aftermath, additional 200 civilians were killed, 800 wounded, and 30,000 arrested. As Tronvoll noted, in a unanimous disapproval of the government’s terrorist actions, “the donor group tried to play tough.” The group decided to withhold international aid until those who won the election were allowed to take their rightful seats in the Parliament and those who ordered the police to shoot to kill peaceful protesters were held accountable.

The then Prime Minster Meles shrugged them off and told them “pack up and go home if they were not interested in helping the country to develop.” As Tronvoll put it succinctly, in commiseration of the poor people whom TPLF holds as hostage, the donor community and decided to “stay quiescent on internal human rights violations and lack of democracy.” 

In the next election cycle, the opposition pleaded with the donor nations to use their leverage to observe the elections. “Fourteen foreign embassies generally washed their hands of the whole exercise for fear of provoking the government” Tronvoll lamented.

The UN defines terrorism as: “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.” This is how TPLF governed Ethiopia for 27 years.

It needs to be remembered, during its reign as the head of government, TPLF was not a rent-seeking force in the traditional sense of the term where politicians extort kickback from the business community. It was an armed looting enterprise. The Party was running business for profit, curving out all lucrative sectors for a near monopolistic control and enforcing its privileged position through terror. 

Speaking of TPLF’s armed rent-seeking endeavor, Martin Plaut, BBC World Service Africa editor, flagged: “TPLF’s tight rein on political freedoms and human rights, while giving privileged access to resources to the prime minister’s core constituency in Tigray.”

There is no question that the Tigray region benefited during the TPLF’s era. This has been documented in

World Bank reports in 2017 and 2020. Another legacy of TPLF was illicit funds transfer out of the country. According to IMF data, as presented on the Brookings Institute website, “the top four emitters of illicit flows— South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Nigeria—emit over 50 percent of total illicit financial flows from sub-Saharan Africa.”  

Two numbers tell TPLF’s looting enterprise, as described in the Forbes Magazine: “The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion”; and “The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion.” 

TPLF’s motive in launching the current war, according to the US government, was “to overthrow the Prime Minister and return to the type of privilege they had enjoyed within the Ethiopian State for the last 27 years”.

Contexts and pretexts matter. Let us retreat a bit to 2018 and look at what transpired since TPLF lost its firm grip on the leavers of power, after a nationwide uprising. It left behind over a million forcefully displaced people, a nation gripped with political anxiety and tittering at the verge of a civil war fueled by ethnically charged and restive unemployed youths. To top it off, the nation was mired in economic despair.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed was selected as Prime Minister. At the time, his challenge was approximated by an unlucky pilot pushed into the cockpit of a crippled plane in flight occupied by unruly travelers and asked to land it safely.  

Across the conservative-liberal spectrum, international observers cheered his stewardship. The conservative Fox News reported about “sweeping changes that seemed unthinkable just weeks ago have been announced almost daily.” Five months after Prime Minister Ahmed took office, the liberal leaning CNN praised him for “electrifying Ethiopia with a dizzying array of reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war.”

Others also piled on accolades for the Prime Minister’s “path for prosperity” whose success “could ignite economic change through emulation equivalent to South Korea’s influence on Asia in the 1970s” In October 2019, at the age of 42, the Prime Minister won the Nobel Prize for Peace for, among others, ushering in “important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future.” The US-based Freedom House flagged Ethiopia as one of the five “most encouraging examples of democratic progress over the past two years” in the world.

What the Ethiopian populace and the rest of the world hailed as a promissory note for Ethiopia’s peace, security and prosperity, TPLF saw as a declaration of proclamation to end its political dominance and economic rentseeking empire. It vehemently objected every aspect of the reform from releasing political prisoners to liberalizing the economy. 

Yearning to regain its heydays of armed looting, TPLF leaders retreated to Mekele, the capital of Tigray, and began building a militia force that ultimately reached 250,000. Once in Mekele, they constantly objected the Prime Minister’s agenda, looking for a fight. 

As the BBC reported, they declared the Prime Minister “an illegitimate leader, because his mandate ran out when he postponed elections due to coronavirus.” The fact is that it was the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE – a constitutionally empowered autonomous government agency) that decided to postpone the national and regional election because of Covid-19. The federal government and all regional states barring TPLF agreed to be governed by the decision of the NEBE.  

On November 3, TPLF launched a surprise attack against the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF). The former US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo made this clear, stating: “The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front carried out attacks on ENDF bases in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on November 3. We are saddened by the tragic loss of life.”  

What Mr. Pompeo did not disclose is that the ENDF was attacked from within by officers of Tigrayan origin, who slaughtered their fellow soldiers who hailed from other parts of the country in their sleep. Having invaded the ENDF in Tigray, next on TPLF to-do list was invading the neighboring Amhara regional state to take over two ENDF garrisons stationed there with the aim of strengthening their fire power, before marching to Addis Ababa to overthrow the Prime Minister’s administration.  

After his futile plan failed, the head of TPLF called upon the US and European capitals to pressure Prime Minister Abiy to negotiate a power sharing settlement. The alternative, he said, will be bloodshed, hunger that will affect over 6 million people in the Tigray regional state and a destabilized Horn of Africa. As noted in the Washington Post, the US Secretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy, is on the record, stating TPLF is motivated by a desire “to internationalize the conflict in Tigray.” 

TPLF’s terrorist actions worked well for its architects. It did not take long for Western governments to start exerting pressure on Prime Minister Ahmed to negotiate with the terrorist group. Ethiopia was confronted with two choices: Allowing TPLF to extort political concession to stop the reform through war or reject its reckless gambit and launch a law enforcement campaign. The government chose the latter.

A recent Washington Post editorial portrayed Ethiopia’s law enforcement campaign as “an invasion” against the Tigray regional state. It further characterized it as having “all the earmarks of Ethiopia’s previous dictators.” At best, this arrogance fueled by utter ignorance of the pretext of the war. At worse, it is a repulsive racist policy that uses a different standard for Africa.

It merits recalling that when the mob invaded the US Capitol Building, on January 6, the Washington Post was singing a different tune. It never questioned why 25,000 army forces were brought in rather than the police. It did not talk about mediating and reconciling with the insurgents. Rather its call was to hunt them down and bring them to justice. 

TPLF is singularly responsible for the war. This does not mean the Ethiopian government gets a free hand in the way it conducted the law enforcement campaign. Its delay in allowing unfettered access to international agencies to investigate atrocities committed during the war played in the hands of TPLF heired American and European lobbyists. 

And then there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the Eritrean involvement in the war. Many including the US government have concluded Eritrea was involved. There are two issues. First is the intervention of Eritrean forces. I found it amusing that TPLF is complaining about it. It is to be remembered that TPLF took power in Addis Ababa in 1991 with Eritrean forces fighting alongside it. 

Second, more recently TPLF tried all it could to get Eritrea on its side. Daniel Berhane, TPLF’s senior advisor posted on his Twitter handle: “To my Eritrean brothers and sisters. There is a war in Tigray. Make no mistake, it is a war on all of us. Whoever wants to kill Tigrayans would have you as his next target. We’d better stand together.” 

The involvement of Eritrean army in the war is an issue that the Ethiopian government should be fully transparent. It can explain or even defend its decision to involve Eritrea. The second issue is the widely held accusations that atrocities including widespread rapes and mass murders are committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. This has to be investigated both by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and by international organizations. The investigation must include the Mai Kadra mass massacre and the November 3 war crime of murdering Ethiopian soldiers and generals in their sleep.

The government needs to understand TPLF’s survival strategy remains creating a risk for mass starvation and regional instability for political gains. Those who believe that TPLF cares for the people of Tigray should read Martin Plaut’s 2010 expose. During the 1984/85 famine that claimed over a million lives (most of them in Tigray) TPLF was selling sacks of grains mixed with sacks of sand to international NGOs who were buying grains for food aid. 

Currently, TPLF is all but a totally destroyed entity. Its effort to resuscitate itself draws its energy from the oxygen it gets from international intervention. The international Community’s policy must be two pronged. First, it must reject TPLF’s futile effort to resuscitate itself with the help of the international community. Second, it must exert maximum pressure against the Ethiopian government to open and maintain unfettered access to international investigation and bring those who perpetrated war crimes and crime against humanity to justice, if the allegations are confirmed by credible and independent investigators. Anything more is a violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. Anything less is a dereliction of international moral obligation.
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10 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s not forget Bereket Simon filled the Amara region’s especial forces Liyu Hayil with Tigrayan combatants for decades. Many ethnic Tigrayans are serving in the Amara regions Liyu Hayil especial forces. Maybe they are sleeping cells TPLF planted for all we know.

    What the whole world wants to know right now is what has happened or changed for the common civilian dwellers in Wolqait and Raya since the “ethnic Amara” esoecial forces Soldiers went in the area ?

    Sending soldiers in a mission is costly for any regional government in Ethiopia , so what has been achieved worthy of stationing active duty especial forces in those areas, needs to be examined,. otherwise the whole thing just looks like another corrupt fraud to exhaust the Amara region’s budget unfairly while harming the civilians of the Amara region currently in need of many worthy causes where the budget could be spent in, the budget the Amara region administers mostly comes from the federal government of Ethiopia, the budget the ETHIOPIAN government administers mostly comes from outside foreign governments. Foreign government tax payers are more than ever in need of the budgets in their country so unless the ETHIOPIAN government comes up with a better explanation then the US government and other governments would be forced to slash more budgets , if Ethiopia thinks one or two superpowers help is enough for Ethiopia, then Ethiopia is mistaken.

    Are the Amara’s that had been expelled from those areas by TPLF decades ago resettled or is their some kind of mechanism underway to reinstate those Amaras that had been unjustly evicted? If not what other thing is taking place to bring justice for those civilians evicted previously? For all we know half the soldiers of Amara region are Tigrayans , since the Amara regional constitution allows any ethnicity to be part of the Amara especial forces or be a leader of the government so how do we know if justice is being served to those Amaras that had been killed and evicted from Raya and Wolqait?
    Did their life show any promising signs of changing for the better yet?

    I am sorry to say this but we Ethiopians had lately proven to be like little kids, getting too excited for nothing very quickly supporting any sign of change fully without examining what promising things we expect from the change. For all we know ID cards are being given to Oromos residents of Oromia region in Wolqait and Raya so they can vote to whoever , same as the Oromuma OPDO gave ID cardS unjustly in Addis Ababa to residents of Oromia region to win votes.

    In the past three years Debre Berhan, Ataye and so on residents in the Amara region were slaughtered while the Amara regional forces were sitting and watching nearby so how can we thrust the Amara regional Especial forces won’t just sit and watch if anyone attacks the civilians of Wolqait and Raya now?

  2. Subject: “In the Ethiopian War the West Sides with a Terrorist Group” March 3, 2021 by Yonas Biru,

    Commentary, 3 Mar 2021
    The WEST sides with any entity that satisfies its VAST AGENDA and NORMS in the Global Political/ Economical/ Social Affairs. There is no sector in the world that the WEST is not involved. The WEST will have its own way no matter what its costs. That is how the GLOBAL human structure is constructed!!! Love it or Leave it..

    In any case, to do justice to the Author of the Subject Matter, his desertion of about three thousand (3000) words is commendable and hope that the protagonists will be kind enough to lend him their ‘ears’ and try to live-up to the historical stature of one the most ancient independent African Country, around the Globe — Ethiopia. . THE END

    • Dear Queen of Sheba,
      I applaud you on your great effort to educate the world community about atrocities perpetrated by Tplf criminals over 27 years of terror! I agree Yonas Biru’s article is well-argued and with clarity that I have not seen in years! Do you mind adding the facts that you say Yonas has left out?

  3. Thanks.
    Very objective and convincing. It would have been really useful if the author had an opinion about the various persons he quotes – the likes of Kjetil Tronvoll, Martin Plaut, etc. who turned 180 degrees around and became TPLF lovers – manufacturing lies after lies in their support of TPLF..

  4. Excellent article. However, I would include a discussion of the money reasons that dictated the timing of TPLF’s November 3 attack on ENDF. In the 27 years of their dominance over Ethiopia, the TPLF leadership had amassed immense wealth in Ethiopia in real estate and manufacturing, but more importantly in contraband and money laundering operations. This wealth was used to fund countless insurrections and attacks on religious and cultural institutions across the country, in Wollo, Harrar, Shashamene and various parts of the SPN to name a few, with the aim of igniting ethnic and religious clashes. However, new controls put in place by the Federal Government dried up these sources of income. TPLF’s purse was especially hard hit when Ethiopian Birr (EB) banknotes were changed in a surprise move on September 14, 2020. Forced to unload the cash in their possession, TPLF flooded the black market with Ethiopian Birr driving the value down to 80EB/1US$. They also tried an armed hold up of two Ethiopian Airline planes at Mekele airport, which were delivering the new banknotes to banks in Tigray. When that failed, they robbed banks in many towns in the region. In desperation, TPLF’s next speeded up the planned attack on ENDF on November 3. True to form, they also robbed soldiers’ salaries and ration upon delivery just before the attack.

  5. It is a historical and given facts that, the American political system is a less than two dollars cheap prostitution, the whole world knows it, they pick and choose which dictatorships they wanted to sleep with, the very classic example of that is, the love affair between the US, UK and one of the worst, if not the worst dictatorship on this earth, the nation of murderous Saudi Arabia, and therefore, what democratic values, moral grounds as well as moral standings do the US and UK has to tell any sovereign country in the world, what they should or should not do in their internal affairs. All these talk of democracy and freedom, is nothing but, you can walk naked, you can be gay, same sex marriage, bla…..bla…. bla.
    Ethiopia needs leaderships that can stand up to any outside pressures, especially when it comes to our internal affairs, such as to the white supremacist and an egregious criminal colonialist power UK and it’s tail-end the US, period end of the story. Ethiopia can live without their GMO and processed wheat, and their dimes and nickels, so called aid money, which is absolutely false and not worth fore.
    Unless otherwise Ethiopia shifts away from the American and Britain’s cheap prostitution political system and dump both countries to the label of none friendly and none allayed nation to Ethiopia, our country will suffer tremendously for millennials and generations to come. It is most unfortunate that, we have not learnt from our past mistakes. As much as Ethiopia has done for America, America has never been there for Ethiopia in a time of needs, if anything US always have backstabbed Ethiopia, all you have to do is go back in history, as for the British, they are trying to accomplish what their forefathers had never accomplished in the past, not only that, the British egregious and criminally inclined colonialism in Africa and Asia ended when Ethiopia defeated a major European power Italy, under the leadership of fascist Benito Mussolini , in retrospect the British has tremendous grudges towards Ethiopia, in which the British has refused to drop or forget about.
    Ethiopia is capable of defending itself and defeating any powerful of it’s enemies when we’re solid rock united, and our enemies are very well aware of that, that’s why they always try to infringe on our sovereignty and interfere in our internal affairs for the purpose of fracturing us, we must standup and say no, over our dead bodies, in which our freedoms and sovereignty has been granted as well as preserved by our forefathers sacrifice and therefore we must keep our freedoms and sovereignties intact and pass it on from one generation to the next.

    ኢትዮጵያ: ታበፅህ: ዕደዊሃ: ሐበ: እግዚአብሔር::

  6. This article rants about the TPlf, their supporters, indicates the current government in power as saints with no faults of their own, negating the atrocities committed against the other ethnic groups such as Walita, Amharas, Beneshingul, Oromoia regions, elsewhere. It’s bias report; it shouldn’t be taken seriously but discarded from your minds.

    • Dear Namphili Gilo,
      You said, “This article rants about the TPlf, their supporters, indicates the current government in power as saints.” Do you mind pointing out to the reader where you found that? It could be you are hearing voices in your head!

  7. TPLF cadres will say and do anything, if they think it can gain them, ten cents. The devil as we know it, is the masters of lies, telling fictional stories, and deceptions, TPLF is the followers and believers of the devil, to proof it, all you have to do is listen to what they say and for what they do, for example, if they think someone has done them wrong or betrayed them , the choice of their punishments are rapping their victims, especially men, both men and women, the men are rapped by TPLF rankin and files. The notorious Murderer Getachew Assefa and the TPLF mafias are very well known for rapping men at daily basis. This is not in our culture, this is unheard of to our society, TPLF is antiChrist element connected to the British and US Illuminati. Just for your information, the Illuminati believes the great secrets of GOD is hidden and contained in Ethiopia and Illuminati wants to destroy Ethiopia as a country and as a people so, Ethiopia will be lawless and chaotic to occupy and find out where all the secrets of GODS are and the antiChrist Illuminati believes, that’s the only way they can defeat GOD. Believe you me or not the evil TPLF was recruited and incepted by the Illuminati, Meles Zenawi was granted and ceremonially sworn as a member of the world of Illuminati membership and he was assigned by the Illuminati to accomplish the disintegration, destruction, dismemberment of Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi got overboard with his genius and power, flip flapping between his assignments and Ethiopia in general, which lead to his elimination by his Illuminati handlers.
    The Illuminati strongly believe to this day that, Ethiopia was being protected and sheltered by GOD and his grace and they have no doubt that the secrets of GOD is undoubtedly in the land of Ethiopia.
    To make the story short, the antChrist Illuminati will not stop from trying to destroy Ethiopia, you can believe me or not, it’s the Biblically foretold war between the devil, his followers and GOD.
    My advice to you, stay solid in your believes, and pray to almighty GOD.
    GOD be with all of us.
    There is no if and or buts that, TPLF worships the devil.

    ኢትዮጵያ: ታበፅህ: ዕደዊሃ: ሐበ: እግዚአብሔር::

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