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HomeOpinionEthiopia won’t end up like the former Yugoslavia

Ethiopia won’t end up like the former Yugoslavia

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By Shiferaw Abebe 

The August 2, 2021 edition of Politico carried an opinion piece penned by a certain member of  the British House of Lords and titled “In Ethiopia, echoes of Yugoslavia” ( ahmed/). In this piece, the author, named Arminka Helić with roots in the former Yugoslavia,  made a rather feeble attempt to draw parallels between Ethiopia and the now defunct  Yugoslavia on the basis of a single mistranslated statement from a July 18, 2021 Facebook post  by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister (PM), Dr. Abiy Ahmed. In that post, the PM wrote (paraphrased): 

The enduring threat of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) to the unity of the  country won’t succeed because Ethiopians have from all corners of the country  mobilized to thwart it. … Those who are intimidated by our unified stance [i.e., TPLF and  its allies] will do anything and everything to divide us. They will plot to make us lift our  eyes from them and target our own people [namely the people of Tigray]. We will never  do that… We will work to uproot the weed [namely TPLF] but will be diligent not to  harm the wheat [namely the people of Tigray].  

Throughout the past three years, no government statement that referred to TPLF has failed to  underscore the difference between TPLF and the people of Tigray. 

Yet the miserably ill-informed member of the British House of Lords, shamelessly twisted the  PM’s remark and stated the following: 

[Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed] drew a chilling distinction between Tigrayan Ethiopians  and others in the country, describing “the children of Ethiopia” as “wheat” and his  Tigrayan opponents as “invasive weeds,” who “must be uprooted in a manner that will  never grow again.” 

I believe Mr. Helić does not read Amharic or Oromiffa, the two languages the PM used in the  aforementioned FB post and therefore must have relied on someone for translation. More  likely, Mr. Helić knew nothing about Mr. Abiy’s FB post until the intentionally mistranslated  version was given to him by a TPLF hireling with a request to pen a piece that would put  Ethiopia and its PM in a bad spot. Apparently, the honorable member of the British House of  Lords didn’t think twice if joining the west’s chorus of disinformation on Ethiopia would be  beneath his honor. This is clear evidence how underhandedly the west has handled the essence  and the facts of the war in Tigray over the last nine months. 

Foreigners writing terrible pieces on a subject matter of or a country they know very little about  is very common. Ethiopians have witnessed tons of them in the last nine months. However, I  found this piece particularly disconcerting because of the author’s astounding arrogance in  writing a full piece just on the basis of one deliberately mistranslated statement made by a foreign dignitary. For someone who laments the disintegration of his birth country, Yugoslavia, to this day, making up a false and dangerous narrative of a non-existent plan by the Ethiopian  government to wipe out Tigrayans is inexcusable.  

For the record, aside from the gross mischaracterization of Dr. Abiy’s statements, Mr, Helić’s  comparison of Ethiopia’s current situation to former Yugoslavia is very superficial and self serving. To begin with, historically speaking, Yugoslavia, a country that came into being after  the First World War and went through further metamorphosis after the Second World War  couldn’t have been more different than Ethiopia. If there is any similarity between the two, it is  the fact that, like Ethiopia, Yugoslavia too consisted of several ethnic groups. But this is not a  factor worth basing an entire comparative analysis on, because almost every nation on the face  of the earth encompasses at least a few ethnic groups.  

More importantly, the political, economic and ethnic conditions that led to the break-up of  Yugoslavia are very different from the situation in Ethiopia today. In fact one can say what  Ethiopia is going through today is the direct opposite of what Yugoslavia went through  beginning the early 1990s leading up to its ultimate break-up into many states. In Yugoslavia,  the inter-ethnic conflict was precipitated by one ethnic group, Serbia, taking up a  disproportionate political and decision making power. This was resented by the Croats and  Slovenes who declared independence in 1991. The wars that ensued were the result of the  Serbs dominated federal government trying to keep the federation alive and, when this failed,  the subsequent attempt to create Greater Serbia. 

In Ethiopia’s case, TPLF, a front that represented less than 6% of the Ethiopian population, ruled  the country for 27 years, dominating all political, economic and military power. What then  happened in 2018 was the direct opposite of what happened in Yugoslavia in 1991. In  Yugoslavia, the disenfranchised groups decided to leave the federation. In Ethiopia such groups  formed a front and dislodged the divider. In Yugoslavia the politically dominant group on the  eve of the federation’s break-up – the Serbia Communist Party – attempted to keep the  federation alive while in Ethiopia TPLF recoiled to its base, Tigray province, and earnestly  started working on dismantling the country.  

What happened next in Ethiopia is also diametrically opposite to what happened in  Yugoslavia. The atmosphere that emerged after TPLF was kicked out of its hegemonic power  was one of unity and freedom among the rest of the political players and regions. Even in  Tigray, initial sentiments about the political change were highly positive because Tigrayans  knew of the wedge TPLF had created between them and the rest of Ethiopians and were  therefore keen on re-calibrating the historically strong brothers and sisters bonds. This is not to  say the political change didn’t face some resistance from other groups than TPLF. Some Oromo  nationalists who thought they could steer the political change in a direction were frustrated  when they realized that was not to happen. They subsequently engaged in creating instability in  pockets of the southwestern region of Ethiopia by killing innocent civilians of other ethnicities  so as to trigger interethnic warfare. It didn’t work.

What makes the Tigray situation different from the rest of Ethiopia is one and only factor: TPLF.  The west don’t understand or willfully ignore this fact. TPLF is essentially a group. Not truly a  formal party, but a group of individuals who left their schools to the rugged terrains of Tigray  following the 1974 Ethiopian revolution with part socialistic and part ethnocentric ideals. While  the socialistic ideals were meant to fit somewhere in the worldwide political divide between  socialism and capitalism, TPLF’s most defining and enduring goal and rallying cry was the  liberation of the people of Tigray from an alleged Amhara domination. Every TPLF fighter was  subject to ongoing brainwashing that portrayed the Amhara as their enemy, an indoctrination  that has continued to this day. 

Since TPLF took power in 1991 by force of arms, it controlled the entire military and other  security apparatuses and filled most all key government positions with Tigrayans while  diligently observing that the two biggest ethnic groups – the Amhara and the Oromo – who  combined represented over two-thirds of the Ethiopian population were kept at odds with each  other so as to ensure its political hegemony was not threatened.  

At the same time, TPLF leaders started publicly espousing a notion of a unique (exceptional)  nature of Tigrayans, of their fighting prowess and higher intellect than the rest of Ethiopia.  While it may be debatable how much of this bizarre notion has distilled into the ordinary  Tigrayan, this mindset had convinced the Tigrayan political elite that they were the rightful  rulers of Ethiopia forever.  

One must also remember that, not only did TPLF control the political and security power, they  also created and ran an economic empire solely owned by TPLF under the flagship of the so called Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT). EFFORT’s mega companies  enjoyed unfettered access to credits and foreign exchanges from state run banks and enjoyed  special favors in state procurements to become the largest corporations in all key economic  sectors of the country. TPLF further embezzled state property and hard currencies, syphoning  off the lion share of international loans and financial aid through various techniques and  mechanisms to foreign banks. 

TPLF crushed all viable opposition through arrests, tortures, killings and disappearances. It held  five elections all of which it declared to have been won with landslide margins by the coalition it  created and controlled. In the fifth national election in 2015, it took 100% of the parliamentary  seats besting its 2010 “win” of 99.8% of the seats. Such was TPLF’s political excesses that a year  later a widespread civil and peaceful uprising ensued that culminated in removing TPLF from its  hegemonic power in 2018.  

After all this, the west must be reminded that the political change of 2018 was all about ending  TPLF’s hegemonic power at the federal level. TPLF’s continued participation in federal politics  as representative of the people of Tigray or its rule over the Tigray region were not challenged  in any way. The federal government had made every effort in the books to pacify and bring  TPLF into the peaceful political process but TPLF would have none of it. Instead once recoiled to Tigray, it started recruiting and training additional military forces while at the same time  sponsoring instability in other parts of the country. It agitated Tigrayans that the rest of  Ethiopia, the Amhara in particular, are preparing to come after them to wipe them out of  existence. TPLF fabricated stories of Tigrayans being targeted for their ethnicity and encouraged  those living elsewhere in Ethiopia to return to Tigray.  

Then it attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces stationed in  Tigray igniting a devastating war that is still ongoing. The federal government didn’t go to Tigray  to prevent a secession. If TPLF wanted to secede Tigray from the rest of Ethiopia, it could have  put the request peacefully utilizing the constitutional order it created. Had that happened and  the rest of Ethiopians raised arms to stop it, then one could have made a remote parallel with  what happened in Yugoslavia. Far from it, today, the fight between TPLF and the rest of  Ethiopia is not a fight between those who want to keep the federation by force and those who  want to leave it. On the contrary it is a fight between the entire country who want to defend  their right to live in peace, unity and equality and an entity bent on taking away that right. As  simple as that. 

Since the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire and TPLF started offensive  operations in four directions, what is left of the TPLF leadership are vowing not to stop the war  until they settle a score with the Amhara elite whom they accuse of orchestrating the war to  destroy Tigrayans. Unable to deny the widespread opposition they are facing – not just from  the Amhara but from members of all other ethnic groups, they are defining the Amhara elite as  anyone who has a mindset of an Amhara elite, which they say includes some Tigrayans. Why an  Amhara elite or anyone else would want to destroy Tigrayans is beyond anyone else’s  imagination. There is no single evidence whatsoever of an Amhara elite ever painting the  common people of Tigray as enemies of Amharas or anyone else. In fact, the Amhara elite  belabour the point, consistently and unfailingly, that TPLF and the people of Tigray are not one  and the same in any form or shape. What scares TPLF most is the possibility of this truth  trickling through the cacophony of its propaganda into the Tigrayans’ consciousness. That is  why it works overdrive 24 hours of the day to make sure that message doesn’t filter through  and reach the ears of Tigrayans. 

To circle back to the Politico opinion piece, when PM Abiy Ahmed talks about the weeds  amongst the Ethiopian society he is squarely and unmistakably referring to the TPLF leadership,  not the people of Tigray or not even the rank and file members of the TPLF. It is true, some  Tigrayans have been arrested in the past nine months, but this has nothing to do with their  being a Tigrayan but with their covert or overt roles in supporting TPLF’s destructive and  criminal activities.  

Perhaps over a million Tigrayans live outside of Tigray in a country where TPLF cultivated  tensions between all ethnic groups over the years. It is therefore fully understandable if some  Tigrayans experience some angst about their safety today in view of the ongoing war TPLF  ignited and refused to cease. Incidentally this feeling is not unique to Tigrayans. Thanks to the divisive work of the TPLF over the years, the Amharas, the Somalis, the Gedions, and many  other ethnic groups share the same angst of being targeted by one or another ethnic group. It is  only with the conclusive defeat of TPLF that such unwarranted anxieties can be removed from  the land.  

What most foreign analysts and commentators fail to understand is the fact that the Ethiopian  society is highly intermixed. You don’t find this kind of reality in the former Yugoslavia, or  anywhere else for that matter. Tigrayans are intermarried with Amharas more than with any  other ethnic group in Ethiopia. It is not also uncommon to find intermarriages between  Tigrayans and other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Tens of millions of Ethiopians are the product  interethnic marriages. Yet TPLF considers Amharas Tigrayans’ enemy number one. Why they do  this is obvious: to isolate Tigrayans and keep them under their control. The rest of Ethiopians  don’t and won’t harbour animosity toward the ordinary Tigrayan brothers and sisters.  

Eritrea broke off Ethiopia after a 30-year war. Throughout those years Eritreans lived  throughout Ethiopia without any threat to their safety. Sadly, five years after Eritrea became an  independent country, another war broke out between the two countries that took a heavy toll  on both sides. At the beginning of the war in 1998, at least tens of thousands of Eritreans lived  in Ethiopia, whom TPLF gave short orders to leave the country with little time to get their  businesses or assets in order. What surprised the departing Eritreans was the sympathy and the  comfort ordinary Ethiopians showed them including by taking in trust the properties they were  unable to sell in time. There are many heartwarming stories of Ethiopians transferring those  properties back to their Eritrean owners once peace was struck between the two countries  twenty years later, thanks to PM Abiy and President Esayas’s courage and faith in peace and  brotherly and sisterly relationships. 

This is the Ethiopia the west cannot wrap its head around.


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  1. Sir, the member of the British House of Lords isn’t misinformed. His style of writing is called “esoteric” communications. Read up on Leo Strauss. From your article, I know you already understand that the The Western Global Empire’s propaganda for warfare is manifested in the idea of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) and its chief propagandist, Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland etc and examples of such “wars” or as they would state interventions are Libya, Syria and yes, the original case study Yugoslavia.

    So the member of the British House of Lord’s article isn’t meant to ba factual. You are climbing up the wronge try thought I command your ability to “discredit” the anaology between Yugoslavia and Ethiopia. His article is an esoteric message to the global corporate hitmen to get ready for the coming intervention. Tigrays will be the new innocent wahhabi Bosnians of Yugoslavia, thew new innocent wahaabi of Libya, the new innocent wahhabi of Syria, who are at teh cusp of a becoming victims of a genocidal regime.

    The article is just a strategic message, a signal, a morse code to the agents of desctruction, noting more. Just as Samantha Powers tweet on Amhara pulling out of “Western Tigray.” Those who believe that outsiders should not cast judgement on a nation’s intraterritorial issuse will miss the point, others who will argue passionately about the historical inaccurary of her statement are even more clueless.

    Samantha Power’s knows the truth of her statement. Her statement is again a signal to the masters of war and intervention to get ready because obviously Amhara can’t pull out of an area which is part of their own region even if the President of Amhara for some bizarre reason wanted to do what Samantha Power said his own government, the people the Amahra military leaders would do it.

    So thus we are left with the R2P justification. I just hope that Abiy and Isaias knows what is about to develop and are ready. If they succeed, this moment will go down in history as the beginning of the African and Black man’s Renessaiance and entry into the 21st century of the first modern and free African civilization. The future generation of all Blacks and Africans are watching.


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