By Bakri Bazara
Abiy must stand his ground in quelling the armed insurrection by TPLF. It is too late in the game now for Abiy to capitulate to pressures from the US and EU to stop the counter-insurrection and negotiate a peace agreement with TPLF.
Most Ethiopians agree that TPLF must be eliminated and that the stability and integrity of Ethiopia would have a better chance of being maintained without them meddling in the Ethiopian political scene.
TPLF had its chance at governance and rightening the mis-governance of previous governments and set the country in the right trajectory to peaceful coexistence and economic prosperity.
But they squandered the chance to govern equitably and justly. In 1991, after they routed out the military dictatorship of Mengistu, they planned on usurping state power and bring it under their leadership. They installed an ethnic federal system with a make-believe construct that was supposed to address inequality, which they conceived to be the reason for ethnic conflict. Instead of attending to and solving the core problems that led to ethnic conflicts, they purposely fanned enmity between the contending ethnic nationalist groups by using the common method of ‘divide and rule’. It was obvious from the start of their rule that their aim was to have hegemony over the state, use it for their ends, and to perpetuate their control over the state for the longest possible time. Needless to say, in the 27 years of their draconian rule, they busied themselves enriching themselves through nefarious means and doggedly exerting their stranglehold on state power by trampling on basic citizen rights and pitying one ethnic group against another.
Considering what Ethiopians went through under TPLF/EPRDF, it is inconceivable for Ethiopians to now negotiate a peace agreement with TPLF when it is loosing ground, as the US and EU are asking them to do. It is just too late now to resolve the conflict through dialogue, a lot has been sacrificed, in terms of lives and resources. Besides, TPLF has proved in the past that it has not been open in its dealings with the Ethiopian people. Without them in power, lording it over the rest of the population, they arrogantly believe that they are the saviour without whom peace and stability in the country won’t exist.
The recent sanctions imposed by US state department is counterproductive. It is not going to bring about cessation of the war and peace and stability in the region. The sanctions, instead, would alienate the Ethiopian government and strain the long healthy relationship the US have had with Ethiopia.
It is curious why the US decided to impose the sanctions and try to stop the war in its track immediately. The war has been raging for the last seven months. As in any war situation, there were human rights abuses and crimes against humanity committed by some soldiers. The Ethiopian government has been collaborating with independent observers in finding and prosecuting soldiers who committed those crimes. It has been carrying out its own independent investigations and with multilateral agencies such as the UN to stop those heinous crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. It has also allowed free movement of relief-aid services in the regions under their full control and, with caution, in areas where active fighting is in-progress.
US and EU policies in the Tigray war is mis-guided. The policies are based on misinformation and disinformation propagated by TPLF and its supporters in the diaspora. A very sophisticated network of propagandists in European capitals and America have been plying their tools to influence a pro-Tigrayan policy. Millions of dollars, stollen money from the Ethiopian people, are being spent on lobbying in Washington and Brussels to portray the Ethiopian government as belligerent and perpetrator of war crimes. Unfortunately, the Americans and Europeans believed the narrative thrown at the them by the pro-Tigray lobbyists and failed to consider the complexity of the war and the political dynamics that triggered the conflict. Instead of trying to understand the internal and external political dynamics in play that are threatening the Ethiopian state and the stability and integrity of the whole nation, the EU and America are trying to pressure the Ethiopian government to negotiate a peace agreement with a rebel group. A rebel group that has been consistently striving to collapse the Ethiopian government and put itself back as the ruling government.
Perhaps the EU and America should be reminded who TPLF is and what it is they are after. TPLF’s political machinations is not lost on the Europeans and Americans. They know exactly what TPLF is up to and the extent it will go to regain power and control the Ethiopian state. Nevertheless, just to nudge their conscious a bit and make them see the true face of TPLF, which, like I said, they know but chose to overlook, I’m listing some of TPLF’s deeds that have been problematic for Ethiopia. The list is not exhaustive, but it contains the salient ones:
—TPLF was pushed out from being the ruling party by the Ethiopian people, but refused to recognize the legitimate government that replaced it.
— TPLF repatriated to their region (Tigray) and basically declared themselves as a de facto state. Moreover, in defiance of the Federal government, they went ahead and carried out their own regional elections.
—TPLF embarked on actively trying to undermine the Federal government by supporting ethnic armed insurrections in different regions of the country.
— TPLF made an attempt in assassinating prime minister Abiy.
—TPLF refused in numerous occasions to negotiate for peaceful resolution of their problems.
—TPLF diverted a lot of arms from the Federal government’s arsenal and began its saber-rattling to engage the Federal government in an armed conflict.
—TPLF after barricading itself in Tigray, for the last three years it has been feverishly preparing to regain their seat in the Federal government by force and become the reigning party once again.
— Above all, TPLF executed a surprise nocturnal attack on the command military centre in Tigray, which became the immediate casus belli for the Federal government to retaliate.
Before offering their simplistic solution to stop the war in Tigray, the EU and America should have considered the difficulties the Ethiopian government has been facing internally and externally.
Internally, the Ethiopian government has been under assault by armed ethno-nationalist groups. Centrifugal forces driven by strident ethnic nationalism and fuelled by TPLF and foreign agents has been attempting to tear at central power. The Ethiopian government is doing all it can to stomp out ethnic-nationalist insurrections in Oromia and other regions in the country.
Externally, foreign states such as Egypt and Sudan, because of their opposition to the building of the Millennium Dam on the blue Nile, have been actively agitating to disrupt Ethiopia’s security and integrity by catering to rebel groups such as the armed wing of Oromo Liberation Front(OLF) and possibly Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front(TPLF). Both Egypt and Sudan, in tandem , are trying to create turmoil in Ethiopia and weaken the state with the hope that the Ethiopian government would divert its resources to fight insurgents than complete the dam.
Asking the Ethiopian government to sit on a table with a renegade rebel group such as TPLF and iron out its differences is preposterous. There was a window of opportunity to do just that early on, but TPLF’s hubris blinded it from accepting the extended hand of the Ethiopian government to resolve differences amicably.
The prudent action by the EU and America would have been to concentrate on delivering the necessary help needed by Tigrayans affected by this war and coax their erstwhile partners in fighting terrorism in east Africa to see the futility of keeping on the fight and to give up their hands. Enough blood has been shed on both sides, and all because of TPLF leaders’ stubbornness to stay in power and rule over the whole country. Their glorious days of bossing Ethiopia cannot be retrieved , to continue fighting to satisfy their hubristic need for power and glory is outright thuggery. The Tigrayan people has been lied to that the armed struggle is waged for Tigray’s independence, freedom, and pride. TPLF made it seem like a nationalistic war to free Tigray from the occupying enemy, while their ulterior motive to fight was simply greed, the greed for power and the opportunity associated with that for self-enrichment through corrupt practices. Their heyday of wealth and power is over, they need to reckon with that and stop sacrificing the lives of their innocent people for their own selfish interest.
America and EU have economic and geopolitical interests in maintaining peace and stability in the Horn of Africa. That interest can be maintained only if it sides with the Ethiopian people who have unequivocally denounced TPLF and chased them out of office. Ethiopia’s population of over a hundred million people cannot be held hostage to revive a dying rebel group who for three decades had been terrorizing citizens to live up with their draconian rule. It is their three decades of abuse of power and lack of interest in the welfare of the whole nation that led to the difficulties that Ethiopia is in currently. So, peace talk with the Tigrayan rebels as America and the EU are pressuring the Ethiopian government to do is unacceptable.
What would be acceptable to the Ethiopian people is for the US and EU to talk sense to TPLF’s surviving leaders and persuade them to surrender. As an incentive for their surrender, the US and EU could propose a safe exit for the remaining TPLF leaders. Of course, this idea needs to be negotiated with the Ethiopian government to see if they would go for it. In the meantime, both US and EU should cooperate with the Ethiopian government in continuing to provide much needed relief-aid to the suffering Tigrayan people. The Ethiopian government would need the support of US and EU to rebuild infrastructures. The sooner those infrastructures are rebuilt and Tigrayans resume their normal life without fear for their security, the less incentive there would be to take up arms.
The US and EU need to apply their sense of pragmatism to resolve the conflict in Tigray. They should engage as an honest broker in resolving the Tigray conflict. The actions they need to take should not be informed by lobbyists or the propaganda of TPLF cadres in the diaspora and their foreign apologists. The peace and stability in the region that the US and EU are interested in seeing can only be realized when TPLF is completely eliminated.
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