“It is nearly impossible to militarily defeat an insurrectionist war that is supported by the people. This is particularly true in a country where the federal government has willfully relinquished its public relations ecosystem,” Yonas Biru
By Yonas Biru
Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways. Before Jawar Mohammed entered Ethiopian politics, the Oromo liberation theology was an amorous movement. With his rhetorical prowess, mass mobilization ability and PR acumen, Jawar united and uplifted the disparate Oromo movement to a political powerhouse turbo-charged by young blood Qerros. Jawar’s handicap was the lack of maturity and strategic vision. In a nation that needed a masterful multidimensional chess player, he was the king of tribal ገበጣ.
At about the same time, another Oromo by the name of Abiy Ahmed took the Ethiopian political market by the storm. A unified Oromo could only have one king at a time. Jawar’s proficiency in tribal ገበጣ was no match for Abiy’s mastery of multidimensional chess and strategic genius. The end result as succinctly put on Jawar’s virtual epitaph reads: “አቶ ጃዋር ከአወጣጣቸ ይልቅ አወዳደቃቸው የፈጠነ፤ የኦሮሞ ቄሮ ተብሎ ይታወቅ የነበረ ድርጂትን ለአለም ያስተዋወቁ ትልቅ ሰው ነበሩ::”
God, indeed, works in mysterious ways. TPLF finished what Jawar started by unifying Ethiopians from Oromo to Afar and Gambella to Somalia. Yesterday’s Oromo Qerros turned out in mass as Ethiopian Qerros to defend Ethiopia. TPLF’s 27 years of untiring effort to divide Ethiopia and deliberately keep it at the verge of collapse as a strategy to hold the nation hostage to build a strong Tigray ultimately ended up unifying Ethiopia. TPLF’s war was a last-ditch effort to maintain Tigrayan hegemony.
We owe Jawar for unifying the Oromo and see TPLF’s war as the last 12-inch nail that sealed the dreams of tribalist forces. In a mere three years we have seen TPLF’s 27-year effort to build Tigrayan hegemony dissipate, and the Oromo liberation theology turn from the amorphous to the vaporous. Ethiopia’s disintegration now exists in the minds of Tigrayan political and religious leaders only, as documented by these clowns:
“I am proud to be alive and witness Ethiopia’s disintegration” – https://youtu.be/2u1SI-DK4eg and
“I condemn Tigrayans who call themselves Ethiopians. You are more than Ethiopian” – a religious leader https://fb.watch/v/Lz9TqzER/ These are not exceptions. It is the general sentiment espoused by the current generation Tigrayan elites of all ages. Here is the evidence: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2300150776788020&id=862417327228046
Peace, Not War, Will Destroy TPLF and Its Intellectual Groupies
First, let me reiterate that the Ethiopian government had no choice but to go to war against the TPLF. It would be a dereliction of national duty to allow TPLF invade the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) without a law enforcement response. It would also be impossible to run a peaceful Ethiopia with 80% of the nation’s military arsenal in the hands of TPLF bandits.
Once the heavy armaments including tanks and other large weapons in TPLF possession were destroyed and the arrogance of TPLF leaders were shattered, their potential for disruptive behavior was significantly mitigated.
At the time we had two choices. One was negotiated settlement whose terms and conditions could have been favorable to the Federal government. Negotiated settlement would not have ruled out holding those responsible for igniting the war accountable. That was what I proposed at the time. My argument then was not to try to dismantle TPLF.
The second option was going for a total victory, entering Mekele (the nerve center of TPLF’s power), outlawing TPLF and replacing the regional TPLF led government with a provisional government.
At the time, we did not know how the outcome of either option would pan out. We could only speculate with the aim of mitigating the damage both to the federal government and the people of Tigray.
My position at the time was that the only way TPLF could be significantly weakened or removed from the political scene was by the people of Tigray. My fear was that going for a total victory, outlawing TPLF and replacing the regional government with a provisional government would end up strengthening the link between TPLF and the people of Tigray rather than weakening it. We needed to avoid any action that would solidify the social psychology of the people in TPLF’s favor.
Yes, in 2020, Tigrayans overwhelmingly voted for the TPLF, but the TPLF instigated war and its consequences were likely to erode their favorable disposition towards it. Going for a total victory, outlawing TPLF and replacing the regional government with a provisional government allowed TPLF to marshal the people behind it.
It is nearly impossible to militarily defeat an insurrectionist war that is supported by the people. This is particularly true in a country where the federal government has willfully relinquished its public relations ecosystem. Please google and see my articles titled “Lesson for Ethiopia’s Engagement with Egypt: A Robust PR Could Have Avoided TPLF’s War” and “Ethiopia Risks Unravelling for Lack of PR When PR Matters the Most.”
Truth be told, at the time I did not expect TPLF would resuscitate itself and have the strength to invade parts of Amhara and Afar. My fear was that it would mount a protracted guerrilla warfare and draw the federal government’s time and resources into destructive engagements – resources that are badly needed for development. I was also not clear of the endgame of a protracted war from Ethiopia’s perspective.
One thing was clear to me. To decimate TPLF to a point of no return, everything must work in Ethiopia’s favor both on the war and PR fronts. When it comes to PR, our government is Missing in Action (MIA). On the war front, the task included eliminating all TPLF leaders, not only the likes of Getachew and Debretsion, but also the many TPLF military leaders that TPLF has produced over the last 27 years.
Remember almost all military leaders who were trained in military science outside of Ethiopia were Tigrayans. By design the Ethiopian military was left defenseless and Tigrayan military was strengthened both in terms of personnel and armaments. So, killing or capturing the top leaders was not enough. There were many who could have taken over the mantle to carry on TPLF’s banner. I did not think a protracted guerrilla warfare would end in our favor. The best-case scenario would be getting stuck in a quagmire.
We are where we are, and the question now is what is next. My view is that we need to find a peaceful way out without allowing TPLF to extort political concessions such as forming a provisional government. I have provided what I believe are possible terms of a peace process in a proposal titled “A Four Step Proposal for a Peaceful Resolution of the Conflict Between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray Regional Government”.
At this stage, TPLF is hard pressed for a peaceful resolution. The terms will depend on the relative strength of the Federal army vs. the TPLF militia. It is now clear that TPLF cannot win the military confrontation. The loss of life it endured, since it’s recent military offensives outside of the Tigray proper, cannot be sustained. Its fighters are dispersed in small groups and often engaged in kamikaze type operations rather than strategic military advances.
Their expedition into Afar to supposedly block the train line between Djibouti and Addis has received fatal blows.
In 1990, TPLF took over Addis as a junior partner of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). They fought against a demoralized army and the people of Ethiopia allowing their advance without any resistance. TPLF and EPLF had access to imported arms through Sudan. Today the Sudan front is sealed. The new nation of Eritrea is in war with TPLF. TPLF’s last resort for power are the people of Tigray whose children it uses as a wave and bullet buffers to advance its trained militia.
The longer the war drags, the harder it gets for TPLF. Bringing an unlimited supply of child soldiers to the war front is one thing, sustaining a logistical nightmare to feed and arm them is another.
What is even worse from TPLF’s perspective is that hundreds of thousands of Amhara youths are being trained and eager to join the war. TPLF’s calculation that other forces in the Oromo region will follow its lead has not only failed but has also unified the Oromo in defense of Ethiopia. In due course, TPLF will either run out of steam or be pushed back into Tigray proper (less Welkait and Raya) and engage itself in protracted guerrilla warfare.
Peace, not war will weaken the TPLF to a point of elimination. The end of hostilities and the beginning of the peace process will expose the war crimes TPLF committed against child soldiers. It is only after the end of hostilities, the number of perished children will become clear to mothers in Tigray when their children fail to return home or return with missing arms, eyes, and legs.
The people of Tigray will start to ask why did the TPLF start the war? Why did it refuse to accept the ceasefire? Why did it use child soldiers as buffers for bullets?
War will unite Tigrayan elites and keep the people behind the TPLF. Peace will alienate the People from TPLF and also fracture the unified Tigrayan elites. You may have heard General Tsadqan’s interview on BBC where he tried to clear himself from responsibility, stating he tried to advise both the federal government and TPLF leaders against war.
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