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HomeOpinionThe Fight Against Extremism Doesn’t End with the Defeat of the TPLF

The Fight Against Extremism Doesn’t End with the Defeat of the TPLF

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By Fayesa Assefa

Although Prime Minister Abiy and his team have won the battle against the TPLF, they have so far failed to leverage the victory for bringing the country together and successfully tackling the myriad internal and external threats that it faces. Abiy and his team have demonstrated flashes of strategic excellence and tactical brilliance in vanquishing the entrenched TPLF. But they have flip-flopped on taking a firm stand against the rising violent extremism in the country and committed amateurish mistakes in understanding and managing the country’s multiple and serious political risks.   

The TPLF’s institutionalized “divide—and-conquer” ethnic federal system, has left serious structural vulnerabilities for internal and external adversaries to easily exploit and throw the country into full blown instability and crisis. Vulnerabilities also have risen from the unpredictable and chaotic nature of the transition itself. Closing the structural and transitional fault lines and managing and mitigating risks is indispensable to thwart internal and external threats and achieve sustainable peace, stability, and development.  

Abiy and his team combined courage, strategic excellence, and tactical brilliance to outmaneuver and outfox the entrenched and treacherous TPLF and extract the country out of its long and deadly grip. They mobilized Ethiopians to stand together against the extremist TPLF. They formulated the crucially important strategic alliance with Eritrea to counter a common and deadly threat. They demonstrated tactical and operational excellence in reversing the TPLF’s surreptitious armed attack and in eventually defeating its huge and highly armed military. 

However, the same cannot be said of Abiy and his team when it comes to countering the TPLF’s ferocious, well-funded propaganda and managing the political transition. Thanks to the TPLF and its acolytes for cultivating radicalism over the past thirty years, the nation faces lethal threat from violent extremism. The TPLF exploited genuine ethnic grievances to divide and control the country. It purposely instituted ethnic federalism for short-sighted gains. This evil calculus might have served the TPLF for a while but was never a sustainable strategy. Most of the TPLF proponents of this system are now either dead or in jail. 

Using the bogus federal system, the TPLF amassed power and economic benefits, while sowing distrust and afflicting discrimination and suffering upon the vast majority. In so doing, the TPLF accumulated the ire and deep resentment of the people, which formed strong, popular support for its eventual removal from power and demise. This popular sentiment against the TPLF explains the almost universal, cross-ethnic support the government enjoys in its legitimate actions against the former.  

The TPLF, claiming at best to represent the 6-7 percent of the country’s population, did the people of Tigray and the rest of Ethiopians a disservice in instituting ethnic federalism that jeopardized minority rights and put the country in turmoil. The TPLF went to the extreme to defend this unworkable formula even after it was ejected from power. Now the TPLF’s remnants and supporters are aligning with Ethiopia’s internal and external enemies to make the country ungovernable, further isolating themselves from most of the Ethiopian people.  

But why are the remnants of the TPLF and their acolytes so adamant about preserving their bogus ethnic federal system, despite irrefutable evidence of its failure? It appears they are incapable of learning from their costly mistakes. Change is difficult for them. They can’t pivot because they are steeped in ethnic politics and are uncomfortable in contemporary multiparty democratic competition. They think they can hoodwink Ethiopians and the international community again. They present a false dichotomy of a unitarian state versus ethnic federation, as if these are the only two options. The TPLF and its ilk make the false argument that A Boy and his supporters are trying to take the country back to a unitary state of the type under Haile Selasse and Mingistu. Neither Abiy nor other pro-democracy forces are clamoring to bring back such a system. Instead they seem to realize, despite the occasional wishy-washiness, the TPLF’s experiment with ethnic politics has miserably failed to usher a peaceful, stable, democratic Ethiopia and a bright hope for the future. That is why they dissolved the EPRDF ethnic coalition after kicking out the TPLF. 

If the ethnic policy of the TPLF is pursued to its natural end, Ethiopia will be reduced at best to tiny states and devolve into incessant inter and intra-ethnic conflicts, economic malaise, pestilence, and abject poverty. It sure is a path to joining the hellish club of failed states. No wonder no sane nation in modern history has institutionalized ethnic federation as its governing framework. In fact, most outright ban it. Simply speaking, the thirty-year costly TPLF experiment has rendered the case for such a model moot.

Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, once declared that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Former US president Obama built on this and in a 2015 speech to Kenyans stated: “politics that’s based solely on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that’s doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure — a failure of imagination.” This lack of imagination is what prevented the TPLF from seeing other alternatives and eventually brought its demise. Ethiopia’s thirty years’ experiment with ethnic politics has proven the wisdom of Lincoln’s aphorism beyond any shadow of doubt. Although, sadly, for whatever reason, US policy toward Ethiopia didn’t reflect this revered American principle during Obama’s presidency and so far under Biden. 

The TPLF is never to come back to rule Ethiopia again, but its toxic legacy will cast its dangerous shadow for a long time to come. The most potent aspect of this dangerous legacy is the rise of violent ethnic extremism feeding on the TPLF-enabled radicalization of the past 30 years. The Abiy government’s lack of resolve to address this existential threat and mistakes committed early in the transition have contributed to the current instability in some parts of the country. For example, inviting avowed and armed extremists into the country without requiring them to disarm and denounce violence and standing by when they conducted systemic and open mass radicalization were costly mistakes. Thereafter, emboldened ethnic extremists openly agitated and called for violence against perceived enemies and began to challenge the government’s authority. Soon these extremists organized and launched attacks and consumed and disrupted the lives of innocent millions. The extremists also likely infiltrated the government structure and made it dysfunctional to effectively respond to the violence that they instigate. The government needs to rid itself of TPLF-clones who want to maintain the same failed system and only change the driver. The issue is not in the identity of the extremist but the unacceptable idea of one ethnic group dominates all others. Such a system didn’t work for the TPLF and it won’t work for anybody else. Encouragingly, the government seems to be waking up to the scary rise of violent extremism and the dangerous enablers ensconced within its own ranks.  

The decision last week to legally designate the TPLF and OLF-S as terrorist organizations is a clear step in that direction. Honestly, such a measure should have been taken long ago, given the duo’s documented terrorist activities that have resulted in the injury, death, and displacement of untold numbers of people and the destruction of property. Mind you each was bestowed with such a label years ago (the TPLF before it came to power by the US Government and the OLF by Ethiopia’s EPRDF government under the control of the TPLF). Likewise, the recent statement from Ethiopia’s National Security Council on neutralizing internal threats from within the government is encouraging. The time has now arrived for the government to actualize these declarations through concrete actions and to put the country on an unambiguous stable path. 

At the same time, the government must work hard to earn the trust and support of the people of Tigray and others affected by conflict. It must continue to provide humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance to victims of conflict in Tigray and other parts of the country. It must investigate atrocities committed and hold those culpable to account for their crimes. The government’s performance on these issues will have a huge impact at the upcoming elections. Progress on this front will likely earn the government a clear mandate to lead the country moving forward. 

Now is not the time for flip-flopping, indecision or blame game. The vast country of over 112 million people is squeaking under the pull of tremendous tensions. Unless loosened judiciously and decisively the strained mesh that is holding the country together could tear apart and all hell will break loose. None of the contending ethnic parties are going to benefit from such an outcome no matter how big or small they are. In such a scenario, each ethnic group will be condemned to perpetual conflict, poverty, and pestilence. They can kiss goodbye forming a viable, modern socio-economic polity that can provide for its people and compete and succeed in this technologically and scientifically advanced age. Ethiopia’s leaders were able to defeat the extremist TPLF because they pursued a just cause standing together. They need to do the same now to bury the ignominious legacy of the TPLF, rid of extremists from within their own circles, and bring the divided country together. In so doing, they would avoid the fate of the TPLF, guarantee a bright future for their people and themselves, and secure their rightful place in a glorious history.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Needless to say, this may be the case for motherland ETHIOPIA, since terrorist TPLF have been able to train satellite terrorist groups inside ETHIOPIA, predicting its fall, and therefore motherland ETHIOPIA will always be on a war footing, to distract ETHIOPIA from the ongoing development. However there will be no doubt, if and or buts that motherland ETHIOPIA will defeat her enemies, be it from within and or without.

    GOD BLESS MOTHERLAND ETHIOPIA AND HER PEOPLE WHEREVER WE MAY BE.

  2. The little protest in DC, hardly no one was there! It is time Ethiopians wake up. The GOE, Dr Aby, must discretely talk to many opposing Ethiopians to understand their concern and bring them towards the support of Ethiopia. What is creating no one to motivate on Ethiopia’s issues, even he has to talk to the Olf and Tplf. Talking to them does not mean implementing their evil agenda but at least the GOE can understand from talking. Set up committee of all stake holders on Ethiopia bring people to talk to one another NOT on air. Democracy starts talking to especially enemies even though you know the answer you don’t like. That is why we have UN whose members are on opposite end. Bring experts on peace and conflict to talk to opposing groups. There are many bystanders who are true Ethiopians who can’t understand what is going on. Dr Aby must not repeat mistakes that other country’s leaders made such as: Qadaffi, Sadam, even African leaders such as Lumumba, etc . The West obviously wants someone they can control but by talking maybe you can reach in the middle, even we know the intention is to disintegrate Ethiopia. Emotion does not work but right method and thinking. Many recently in war thought China or even Russia are behind them and were defying West such as: Qaddaffi, Yemen, Syria, etc West was still able to attack these countries whose countries are in rebels today. These countries thought China or Russia is on their side, these two countries can only help you for arms, other wise they are not going to fight for you when Egypt and Sudan are ordered to attack Ethiopia on air by the usual “responsibility to protect” this time Tigrayan citizens. The West may not directly attack on air to Ethiopia but there are many parties such as Egypt and Sudan who would happily take this orders. Behind them is the main culprit Israel. That is our Achele’s heels, Israel. Many think and this is where Amaras will be tricked that Israel is a friend, we know in all the U.S government who are mobilizing against Ethiopia are them. Because they have dream of taking over Axum and Nile. There are no Hebrews who looked like White, so this is utterly Western Colonizaton agenda, and yet most think Israel leaders are friends, I don’t think so, they are part and parcel of Western colonization who have dreams of control of Middle East and Africa agenda, just like South Africa, just llike Northern Africa that is controlled by Arabs and West.

    What is sad is that why aren’t Ethiopians instead of being bystanders, mobilize themselves create leaders and lobby Western nations, the GOE must have professional diplomacy and negotiation committee. This is how Ethiopia won in the past, it is not just millitarily. Do you know you might want to be ally with Turkey, but what is the interest of Turkey, the secret ally of Turkey is British. So, who is the friend for Ethiopia. I think GOE. What about Erirea? What is the agenda of Eritrea? Yes, I like the peace and reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia. But how was it that Eritrea and Ethiopian government reconciled? It was Cohen who ordered the reconciliation, why? why now? what is behind it? GOE must think that Eritrea is an independet nation and it will only do things for the security of Eritrea thereore, Ethiopia and ERitrea are NOT the same. It will be futile to use the same strategy as Eritrea. Isayas can criticize the West as he pleases and nothing happened to Eritrea/Isayas even though with sanctions. However, will West see Aby/Ethiopia in the way they see Isayas/Eritrea? Remember, when Tplf took over, Eritrea as an indpendent nation lived in peace without any aggression within or with its neighbors except Tplf. Ethiopia’s case is not like that, Tplf worked 27 years dividing the people, killing, threatening disintegration plus it has support of OLF and foreigners. Ethiopia is indpendent nation and they want to disprove that by disintegrating it. So, GOE must follow the strategy of Ase Minilik, and H/Selassie and not like Ase Tedros /Yohannes, that left the region in Ethiopia attacked and defeated during those times. Despite WWI and II with Italian war, under Ase Minilik and H/Selassie people lived in peace among eachother while still British and others working against Ethiopia, today, they have been successful with Liberation Fronts.

    Ethiopians, do they think they can just sit and observe or do they need to particiapte in every aspect of Ethiopia’s affairs especially internationally. The GOE Ethiopia is scrambling for every issue and is also not sending message to Ethiopians everyone must do their share, for diplomacy, negotiation, peace, militarily, etc. There are many Ethiopians who thinks some foreign countries could save them, wrong! You are being used just like Tplf now that tplf is no longer there, they will use others. The GOE thinks it can defy and win. Wrong! Ethiopians and GOE inside and outside must work together for both domestic and foreign issues. Look at how the West working together with Sudan and Egypt. The fools, both Ethiopians ( in Ethiopia and in foreign nations ) and the GOE think they can do it their own way. WRONG! They must work the together:
    1. To bring back the opposing Ethiopians including Tplf or OLf, with talks because these groups knowing they have foreign support are mobilizing innocent Tigrayans and Oromos so that the war will continue. Ethiopia can’t continue fighting both within and outside.
    2. Show and realease evidence of Tplf’s attrocities at the UN, their supporters, internationally, etc. you must act professionally and internationally what is happening to Ethiopia. Silence means, you support Ethiopia’s disintegration, silence means the false information is true, silence means you accept Ethiopia’s weakness. Ethiopia must show it is Ethiopia that is both domestic and foreign vicitm, neocolonization and disintegration.
    3. What are Ethiopians doing? Why are they not talking to their constituencies, governments around the world, espeically in a country they reside.

    What is

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