The Author of the “Master of Stupidity” Toba Beta declares “If you violate laws of God, you’re a sinner. If you violate laws of men, you’re a criminal. If you violate your own laws, you’re pathetic. (Emphasis added)”
In order to say the Ethiopian government should or should not negotiate with the TPLF, we must first understand how we got here. The TPLF criminal Enterprise cannot be explained with such a short article. We need more than 6 volumes to adequately expose and express TPLF’s criminality. For now, the writer will point to a limited aspect of TPLF’s criminality.
We are where we are because the TPLF violated the laws of God, men, and its own law. Therefore, the above-mentioned quote from Toba Beta is a fitting description of the TPLF criminal enterprise. Since its inception, the TPLF leadership was never interested in “freedom or justice”. The TPLF criminal Enterprise began by robbing banks and killing its opponents. In the 1980s, when the people of Tigray suffered from devastating man-made famine, the TPLF removed more than 150,000 Tigrayans from their homes and led them to the territories it controlled and to Sudan. During that time, the TPLF forced world aid agencies to provide aid to “the people affected by famine” directly through the TPLF. When the aid agencies provided food and medical aid to the victims of famine to be distributed by the TPLF, instead of using this aid for the intended purpose, the TPLF sold it and purchased weapons for its war.
While Tigrayans were dying, the TPLF leadership was purchasing weapons by selling food aid and medical supplies. The TPLF held hostage the victims of famine to get more aid. Such criminality led to the death of millions of people. The West that was aware of these criminal activities rewarded the TPLF by providing more money, more weapons, and intelligence information in the guise of getting rid of “communism” from Africa. The West rewarded the TPLF by placing it at the helm of power in Ethiopia in May 1991.
Even at the helm of power, the TPLF did not change its modus operandi. The TPLF was supposed to establish a Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) with the participation of all stakeholders in the country; however, it used some useful idiots and established a TGE that it led and controlled. It implemented a Transitional Government Charter which it never honored. Since taking power, the TPLF’s criminal enterprise grew faster, deeper, and wider under the color of the Ethiopian government. To paint itself as a “democratic government”, it drafted, ratified, and implemented a “constitution”. Although Ethiopia was supposed to be led under this constitutional framework, the TPLF never honored it and practiced it violating its own laws. In 2011, this writer published an article titled “Ethiopia: Does the constitution apply to the EPRDF?
Under the color of this constitution, the TPLF violated human and civic rights. It committed untold suffering of Ethiopians. In violation of the Ethiopian laws, the TPLF organized its own business entities that were engaged in criminal enterprise not only in Ethiopia but also in the rest of the world. The TPLF was involved in selling onions in a local market to illegal arms dealings in the international stages. The West knew these criminal activities but exercised willful ignorance and continued to provide weapons and training to the TPLF brutal security force. Moreover, the TPLF leaders and their relatives looted more than 30 billion dollars from the country’s meager resources. While more than 50 percent of the Tigrayan people were living under the “safety net” program, the TPLF leaders embezzled billions for their own and their families’ financial gains. While they were drinking “Blue Label” Whisky, the people of Tigray did not even have clean water to drink.
It was after 27 years of enormous struggle and sacrifice, this brutal criminal enterprise was ejected from power. Even then, the people of Ethiopia wanted peace and development more than anything. Thus, they forgave these brutes and allowed them to leave with the money they looted. They were also invited to be part of the reform and contribute their fair share to the development of the nation. Despite the fact, the TPLF leadership claimed it has made enormous errors while it was in power and it will reform itself to be part of the new political path; this was not genuine, it was buying time to find a way to return to power and continue its criminal enterprise.
Since April 2018, after Dr. Abiy Ahmed came to power, the TPLF engaged in many sabotages to undermine the reform, the attempted assassination of Dr. Abiy in June 2018 at Meskel Square, brought the TPLF and the new Ethiopian leaders into direct conflict. The investigation of the attempted assassination investigation led to Getachew Assefa, the architect and the leader of the TPLF shadow group. Getachew Assefa was Director-General of Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency. Under his watch, thousands of Ethiopians were illegally detained, tortured, vanished, and killed. Despite all these human rights violations, Getachew was wanted by the Ethiopian Federal police for his involvement in the attempt assassination of Dr. Abiy that took place in June 2018. Getachew, who fled to Tigray with the rest of the TPLF leadership, found sanctuary and protection in Tigray. Despite the court order, the TPLF refused to hand over Getachew Assefa to the law enforcement officials. Since then, the TPLF intensified playing its “ethnic card”. The leadership claimed the new government is targeting “ethnic Tigrayans” in order to galvanize support from the people of Tigray.
The TPLF also intensified its effort to undermine the reform using its media; it falsely stated the “Abiy government is resurrecting the unitary government to abolish the gain made by many ethnic groups”. It began recruiting political organizations and extremists that it believes are close to its objectives. The TPLF, with the so-called “federalists”, held many meetings beating a war drum. The federal government made several attempts through mediators for the TPLF to operate within the constitutional framework, the constitution it drafted, ratified, and implemented. Instead of working within the constitutional framework, the TPLF was preparing itself for war and intensifying its challenge to the federal government.
The TPLF began to allege that it was surrounded by the Eritrean military and “Abiy Ahmed” soldiers and that Tigray could be attacked at any time. This false allegation was preempted to justify the upcoming TPLF’s aggression. Some anti-TPLF Tigrayans were posting on social media stating the TPLF is preparing for war and the federal government should strike at the “heart of the TPLF ”. Many political activists were angered by the restraint that the federal government showed for the TPLF’s aggression. The PM knew the cost of war and TPLF’s desire to galvanize Tigrayans as a victim of war. The PM sent mediators repeatedly to plea with the TPLF to stop its war-mongering propaganda. At one point the PM publicly declared “I rather send bread to Tigray instead of Bullets”. His message was mocked by the TPLF and its supporters.
When COVID-19 struck the world, many countries extended their national elections. At the request of the Ethiopian Election Board, the Ethiopian Parliament approved the extension of the Ethiopian election. Some opposition parties declared it was unconstitutional for the Ethiopian government to extend the election date and that the government would be illegitimate after October 10, 2020. The government organized a debate on constitutional interpretation in Ethiopia. This writer, in his article titled “Decrying” constitutional crisis where it does not exist” clearly stated:
“Article 93 of the constitution gives sweeping and broad power to the governing party to lead the country at a time of great crisis. It gives the government the ultimate power to declare a State of Emergency pursuant to 93(1a) which states: “The Council of Ministers of the Federal Government shall have the power to decree a state of emergency, should an external invasion, a breakdown of law and order which endangers the Constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement agencies and personnel, a natural disaster, or an epidemic occur (emphasis added)”. Article 93 of Ethiopia’s constitution also gives the council of ministers to suspend all constitutional rights with the exception of few rights. The suspension of rights includes election.
Article 93 (b) states “The Council of Ministers shall have the power to suspend such political and democratic rights contained in this Constitution to the extent necessary to avert the conditions that required the declaration of a state of emergency.”
Despite the assertion of government opponents, the constitution gives power to the Ethiopian government to extend the national election under the State of Emergency. The TPLF assumed “this crisis” gives it an opportunity to declare the government illegitimate after October 10, 2020. Some useful idiots also bought into this nonsense hoping to climb to power under the guise of establishing “transitional government”. However, through the constitutional interpretation debate, the government asserted its power of legitimacy.
The TPLF declared it will hold its own election in violation of the constitution. The federal government once again warned the TPLF to abet from its illegal conduct to no avail. The constitution gives the sole power of all elections to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). There is no constitutional framework in Ethiopia that allows any region to hold its own election without the approval and participation of the NEBE. However, like all criminal enterprises, the TPLF considered itself above the law and established its own fake election board, and conducted an illegal election in May 2020. The Ethiopian government made it clear the election is illegal and the TPLF will not be considered a legitimate administration in Tigray after a national election is held in Ethiopia. The TPLF was defiant and declared it would be a declaration of war if the Ethiopian government held any budget for the Tigray region.
Since the TPLF was ejected from power, it opposed all laws enacted by the Ethiopian parliament and acted as a de facto “Tigray Republic government” instead of a region that is part of Ethiopia. Because the TPLF controlled about 80% of Ethiopian military heavy weapons and most of the Ethiopian army top officers were from Tigray, it wholeheartedly believed it would win a war with the federal government and march to Addis Ababa if the federal government declared war on the TPLF. The TPLF was itching for war, while the PM was trying to navigate the challenge he faced through peaceful means. War was the last resort for the PM.
On November 4, 2020, believing its own sense of exaggerated power, the TPLF brutally massacred the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Northern Command in the middle of the night while the soldiers were sleeping in their barracks. The leader of this command was poisoned by the TPLF leaders who invited him for dinner. The TPLF, hoping to march to Addis Ababa also invaded the Amhara region; the Amhara region’s special force unexpected counterattack forced the TPLF to retreat. It was then, the federal government deployed its military force to enforce its laws and apprehend the leaders of this criminal enterprise. No country in the world will allow such brutal crime to stand. The Ethiopian government had no choice but to respond.
The Western governments that will never negotiate with anyone engaged in similar activities are pressuring the Ethiopian government to negotiate with the TPLF. Why? Why would westerners, including the Western media, put undue pressure on Ethiopia to do something that they will never do? The answer is simple. The TPLF has been subservient to the West for 47 years. It has paid Western journalists, aid workers, politicians, and international organizations millions. In addition, some top and mid-level TPLF officials are working in international media outlets and international organizations. Even when the Ethiopian government made a political decision to pull out of Tigray for humanitarian reasons, the West never put pressure on the TPLF to stop the war and its aggression. The likes of the New York Times continued to blame the Ethiopian government where its soldiers are no longer present and continued their hateful campaign against Ethiopia. In violation of international law, the likes of the BBC and New York Times glorified the TPLF for deploying child soldiers and went the extra mile to tell us “How genius TPLF’s generals are”.
The TPLF believed the hype the media fabricated and pushed forward invading the Amhara and the Afra regions. Those who were preaching about the humanitarian crisis, genocide, and all other “talking points” were silent. I guess the world is telling us it is ok for the TPLF to kill Amahars and Afars, and say nothing as long as the death is not happening in Tigray. After two months of patience, the Ethiopian government began coordinating with various regions of special forces and began counterattack; sadly, many of TPLF’s child soldiers are dying in mass at the war front. Now, when the TPLF is pushed out of the Amhara and Afar regions when the TPLF is on the brink of surrender, its “White Angeles” is “singing the song” we are accustomed to in an effort to save the TPLF. They are demanding that the Ethiopian government negotiate with the TPLF.
The question here is how do you negotiate with a criminal Enterprise like the TPLF?
The Mexican analyst Alejandro Hope in a statement he gave to “InSight Crime” says “Undoubtedly, negotiating with criminals undermines the fundamental principle of the law’s supremacy. We give ourselves laws so that all of us are subjected to them, without preferential treatments or privileges. However, in practice, there are moments and circumstances in which the public interest is better served if the authorities use certain discretion in the application of the norm.” Here, the question should be, can the TPLF be trusted? Is negotiating with the TPLF serves the public interest? If the TPLF is allowed to get out of off the “hook”, what would it say about the rule of law in the country?
First, we need to understand TPLF’s track record of negotiation. In the 1970s the TPLF held a discussion with its rival organization in Tigray, known as the Tigrayan Liberation Front (TLF). After the discussion was concluded between the TLF and the TPLF and a memorandum of understanding was signed to coordinate their struggle, the TPLF massacred TLF leaders and some of its armies while they slept allowing the TPLF to be the only organization operating in Tigray.
After the Ethio-Eritrean brutal war, in December 2000, the warring parties decided to settle their disputes with the mediation of the Algeria government. They both agreed the mediator’s decision would be final and indisputable. The Algiers agreement sided with the Eritrean claim; both parties signed it. However, the TPLF refused to honor the agreement, keeping both countries in “no war no peace status” for 20 years. It was after PM Abiy came to power that peace with Eritrea was attained.
During the 2005 Ethiopian election dispute, when the opposition called a large rally, then PM Meles Zenawi negotiated a deal with the opposition. He did not want a large protest while the African Union was hosting African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa. He told the opposition the dispute will be resolved with serious negotiation after the AU meeting ended. However, after African country’s leaders left Addis Ababa, the TPLF led government hunted down opposition leaders and members and arrested them. How does one negotiate with an entity that has a poor record of honoring its words? In the opinion of this writer, the TPLF cannot be trusted.
The second question we need to answer is what would be negotiating with the TPLF serves? Is it in the public interest? The resounding answer is no. What the TPLF leaders want is to return to power to loot the nation and have the power to avenge those it considers as its enemies. That is the reason it keeps invoking the establishment of the “Transitional government” as a precondition to stop the war. The people of Ethiopia have elected their government and there is no going back. The so-called transitional government is a sort of backdoor to those who don’t have public support and failed to bring themselves to the front by presenting adequate public policy to benefit the nation. One thing has to be abundantly clear; the TPLF does not want to establish the Tigray Republic. If that was its desire, it could have used the constitution to hold a referendum and use its power to pressure Tigrayans to vote for independence. What these criminals want is to rule and loot Ethiopia. What would you give the TPLF during negotiation except to share power? This would not be in the public’s interest. Moreover, the TPLF has been ruling Tigray with Iron Fist for more than 30 years, the people of Tigray need to be free of these criminals.
The last and the most important question is if we allow the TPLF to be “off the hook” for all its criminal activities and transgressions, who would be next? How can a nation like Ethiopia enforce its laws when it negotiates with a criminal group that is responsible for the death of millions of people, for the destruction of properties, and most of all what kind of message does it send to the TPLF itself?
Let me conclude my piece with Alejandro’s statement to “InSight Criminal”. He stated:
“Based on the experiences in El Salvador or Colombia, the peace processes negotiated with criminal groups are morally and politically very complicated. To begin with, they require compromising a basic conviction: the non-negotiability of the law. Once that happens, important risks are opened up: the criminal groups may perceive that if they become sufficiently violent, they can receive privileged treatment from the authorities. Peace today can provoke more violence tomorrow.” He continued to say “That is not the only cost of a negotiated pacification. For the victims or their relatives, it can be very painful to realize that the perpetrators don’t receive full punishment; that those who committed atrocities receive special treatment.”
Given all these facts, it would be an egregious and grave error for the Ethiopian government to negotiate with the TPLF. The west stands by a principle of “no negotiation with terrorists”. Ethiopia should also adhere to this basic principle. It is clear why the West wants Ethiopia to negotiate; they want to save their Askaris hoping to bring them to power again. That is in the interest of the west but not in the interest of Ethiopia. It is not clear to this writer why it is ok for the West not to negotiate with the terrorists but to force Ethiopia to negotiate with an organization that is worse than AL Shebab and Boko Haram. If the Western countries and the UN really want to end the conflict in Ethiopia the answer is not a negotiation with the TPLF. It is to designate the TPLF as one of the world’s terrorist organizations and any support to the TPLF to be considered a support for international terrorism. Such pressure will force the TPLF criminals to surrender. This is the only way out if the Western governments truly want to end the war. So far, their motives seem to resurrect the TPLF from the ashes it finds itself.
Ethiopia will prevail with or without the support of the international community because we have the truth and our war is just. Therefore, the government of Ethiopia should not negotiate with the TPLF other than to demand the unconditional surrender of these criminals; if it does, it better be ready for long and disastrous conflict in our nation.
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