By Alex Bekele
As the war against TPLF drags on there is a repeated call, both from within and from abroad, for an all-inclusive conference and dialogue to bring about reconciliation, peace, and national consensus. Some make this call out of a genuine concern about the destruction the war will cause to our people. Whoever wins it, supposing there will be a winner, the destruction and the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation will remain ours, and that is going to be huge. These people want to avoid this. Others make such calls out of war fatigue and the uncertainty of victory to any side. The daily alternating tactical defeats and victories, advances and retreats, and fake news and rumors have been a rollercoaster ride for them. They want it to end, and they think national dialogue will hasten that. Still others, especially those in the West, reporters, think tanks, and diplomats make this call when TPLF is cornered, and play it down when it is advancing. Certainly TPLF will benefit from an all inclusive conference, if not in any other way, certainly in giving it a seat at the national table, erasing all its crimes of treason, massacre and corruption of thirty years. But should Ethiopians, including the other groups of callers for a national conference, bite this bait? I say no for the following three reasons: 1) TPLF, by declaring war on the Northern Division, has committed an act of treason on the Ethiopian State. In the wake of this, it had committed genocide of epic proportion at Maikadra. Justice and fundamental fairness rejects the normalization and legalization of this criminal cabal. Besides it is wanted for many serious other crimes it committed in its thirty years of existence. 2) Resolving differences through negotiation is not in TPLF’s nature, nor is its goal amenable for negotiated outcomes. 3) The war has to come to a conclusion at the battlefield or at the conference table between the combatants, i.e. the Ethiopian government and the TPLF, before the country holds an all-inclusive national conference.
It is utterly incomprehensible why the West trashes Ethiopia’s sovereignty by requiring its government to negotiate with TPLF, a fugitive group who disobeyed the law of the land for three years, held its own illegal election–flaunting the Ethiopian State– organized its own militia and declared war on the federal government by a surprise raid on its Northern Division. On its retreat it massacred over 600 Amharas because of their ethnic identity. These acts of treason were only a climax to its 27 years of massive corruption, gory human right abuses, ghastly massacres, and hideous ethnic cleansing in the various parts of the country. For instance, the Bedeno Massacre of Amharas in the early 1990s, the devilish December 13, 2003 massacre of the Anuak in Gambella, similar massacres in the Southern Regions, particularly in Awassa, the over 190 peaceful demonstrators that were massacred on the streets of the capital in the wake of the stolen election of 2005, the October 2, 2016 Irreecha massacre in Bishoftu, the systematic ethnic cleansing carried out for almost three decades in Wolqait Tegede against the Amharas, so on and so forth. To call on the Ethiopian government and its people to negotiate with this utterly depraved traitors and hardcore criminals is to plunge a knife into the belly of every patriotic Ethiopian and keep twisting it in deeper and deeper slowly. Those foreigners who want us to do this dared to suggest it to begin with simply because Ethiopia is an African country, and as such knows or deserves no better. You remember? We are ‘the shithole’ countries anyway. Otherwise, what government, with a scintilla of national pride, will negotiate with a domestic terrorist group that routed out one of its most effective national fighting force in a surprise raid and carried out a cold blooded genocide on its citizens? How could they contemplate the Ethiopian people will forget and forgive TPLF after it had shown them its barbarity and depravity time and again? So when the West talks about a national conference that includes TPLF, it is a political ruse, a bait we should tactfully avoid. For them the pain our people suffered, the humiliation they endured, the deprivation they went through, and the coming vengeance this group will unleash is nothing. They are shrugging it off, “so what?” All they are telling us is that TPLF did our bidding for 27 years with the utmost loyalty, even though to the detriment of Ethiopia, and we want their service renewed.
Moreover, it is important to understand that TPLF’s nature is anathema to negotiation. Subsequently, never in its close to fifty years of existence had it carried out a genuine negotiation in which both sides win. When it started its armed struggle it called the TLF, another armed Tigrian group, for negotiation with intent to combine their forces, or create a united front, and they negotiated, appeared to have reached a consensus, partied all night, and it slaughtered them while asleep that same night. Another time, they called the EDU for a similar purpose, negotiated, appeared to have come to an agreement, and celebrated together, only to slaughter them at night. It negotiated with the ELF, promised it its fealty, got as much assistance as it can, soon to betray it in favor of the more powerful EPLF. In June of 1991 it negotiated with the EPLF and the OLF in London to assume power in Ethiopia and Eritrea. In no time, it disarmed and kicked out the OLF out of the national arena, hastened Eritrean secession at the cost of Assab, to drive out a serious contender as far away as it can. Even the distance it so created did not give it full comfort, and hence the war with Eritrea and the arbitrary deportation of every person with Eritrean blood , save Meles & family and those related to TPLF high officials. The only agreement this group endured was that with the member organizations of the EPDRF, for obvious reasons. These were organizations TPLF concocted out of war prisoners and EPRP defectors. From beginning to end, these organizations had a strictly master-servant relation with the TPLF. They take orders from TPLF and implement them in their respective regions on their people in their languages. None of them had a modicum of independence to carry out their own agenda within the people they claim to represent; they all accepted TPLF’s hegemony unquestioningly. This was possible, for TPLF had been effectively weeding out those with independent minds from these organizations carefully and persistently.
Another bulwark against negotiation is TPLF’s goal, i.e. Tigray expansion and Tigrian hegemony, and its determination to make it real at any cost. Equality and equity are not concepts they will entertain at all. Ethiopian history that is not supporting their claim will be redacted or distorted. Demography that belied their expansionist narrative will be changed through harassment, mass eviction, and when necessary through extensive genocide. They have to annex everybody else’s land, have to get the largest budget, disproportionate to their size, and only they should control and lead Ethiopia, or else they will push it into perpetual chaos to break its back. If the 27 years of its rule and its behavior of the last three years out of power did not make these clear, what will? So the nature and history of this group is anathema to negotiation, in a sense of reaching a win-win outcome for the parties involved.
TPLF uses negotiation either to buy time if cornered, or to impose its will and hegemony if it is winning. It knows no middle ground between these two extremes. There is no win-win negotiated outcome it can handle. For it, by their very nature, its interests are achieved only through hard bargaining, with a threat of war or chaos, or through war alone. It plays a zero sum game: what the Ethiopian state gains it loses, and the vice versa. The Ethiopian government, therefore, should not succumb to negotiation when it is not having the upper hand in the battlefield, unless it wants to give in to the most outrageous demands of its enemy, accepting it as its political equal, forgetting its crimes against the Ethiopian people, and legitimizing all the land it annexed. It should put clear preconditions, protecting the interests that are of critical importance to the Ethiopian people. This should include that all lands annexed by TPLF will remain in the hands of their legitimate native inhabitants of the respective regions from which they were annexed. The other precondition should be the surrender to the rule of law of all TPLF leaders implicated in massive corruption, gross human right abuses, and ghastly massacres when in power. Not doing this not only will agitate the Ethiopian people into perpetual unrest, but shall also embolden TPLF to terrorize and tyrannize our people once again. Such submission reaffirms for it its innate belief of might is right.
But, why call a national conference of building consensus before resolving the war at hand, in the battlefield or through dialogue between the warring parties, to begin with? How can one, in good conscience, invite TPLF to a conference of national consensus when one well knows TPLF, both when in power for 27 years and as fugitives for the last three, did everything to brew national chaos and divisions to harm Mother Ethiopia? Isn’t this like inviting Al Qaeda in the planning of the rebuilding of the twin towers, or inviting the January 6 insurrectionists into the planning committee that deliberates on how to secure the US capital from similar future attacks? I am not playing down the importance of a conference of national consensus building; I am only saying let us not conflate it with a conference that is required to end the war between the warring parties, for it is only then that we can talk about getting to a consensus building effort. Calling a conference of national consensus as a means of ending this war will result only in white washing the five decade long crimes of TPLF, reincarnating it as a victim that deserves national and international support. This will be a mistake of historic proportion.
In short, it is hard to have a national conference of consensus building when one of the parties is popularly rejected by the people, and then had committed treason by carrying out a surprise attack on the national defense force, and had perpetrated a ghastly genocide that claimed the lives of over 600 innocent civilians in a matter of hours. These, of course, are on top of all the various massacres, allegations of huge corruption, and gory human right abuses when in power. Besides, the track record of this group in resolving conflicts through give-and-take is abysmal. So, thinking it will be a constructive participant of a national consensus building conference is pure lunacy. It is incumbent on the Ethiopian government to resolve the war either in the battlefield or through dialogue first, which is going to dead end in an endless and unacceptable bargaining because of the nature of this criminal group and the expansionist goal it wants to achieve.
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