By Addissu Admas
If there were one characteristic that defines the TPLF, it would have to be its boundless cynicism with its attendant opportunism. For this, it would have garnered the “Machiavelli Prize” if indeed there were one! From its days on the stony fields and mountains of Tigray through the decades it wielded unchallenged power over all of Ethiopia and her peoples, one constant feature that defined it more than others has been its cold, callous use of power to reach its goals; no matter the consequences.
It was cold calculation that made it abandon its supposed liberation of Tigray and opportunistically adopt a “national agenda” to “liberate” Ethiopia from the inept and cruel Derg. What in reality it saw was an epochal opportunity to elevate Tigray and recapture her one-time hegemony. Not for one second did the TPLF, nor its chief architect Meles Zenawi entertained the idea of a truly “transitional government” that would have ushered a genuine democratic republic. It, instead, put up a magnificent show for the benefit of its American sponsors and its European allies. Only innocent Ethiopians fell for the spectacle. Most others were just waiting for the iron glove to appear. The TPLF indeed did not disappoint. It gradually and systematically extinguished whatever hope we had for a new democratic Ethiopia. Soon, we returned to what for many has been “Derg version two minus socialism”: the repression, the incarcerations, the torture and the not so mysterious killings grew unabated. Indeed, this has always been the modus operandi of the TPLF: first appear benign and amenable to dialogue. When all becomes “pacified and complacent”, unsheathe the “long knives” and eliminate your enemies. It has worked magically so far and they are determined to repeat it with this war. I say beware Ethiopians!
To this day, unless I have missed the official communique, the TPLF has consistently declared to be a Marxist-Leninist party with a little dash of Maoism. It may have in effect practiced the ideals of this ideology while it “liberated” Tigray from the Derg and “administered” it for a couple of years. However, since then it has been, for all practical consideration, a shameless Kleptocratic organization. It essentially used the Ethiopian state’s resources and foreign aid to enrich itself and the thousands associated with it by blood or through friendship. It was never for the TPLF about “nation building”. It was quite simply about seeking the profit and advantage of itself and the base it claimed to represent. Often, there was not even a pretense to do be doing otherwise.
The most contemptuous example of its cynicism is, without a doubt, its conscious and deliberate revival of the moribund ethnic animus between mainly Oromos and Amharas. I say moribund because if one sole credit is due to the Derg, it had severely discouraged rivalries and hostilities between Ethiopia’s numerous ethnic groups. In fact, it had actively encouraged that minority ethnicities be known and learned about by the major ethnic groups. It genuinely sought the collaboration of Ethiopia’s numerous ethnicities. What the TPLF did was almost the opposite; it calculated that it could avert any challenge to its power only through a policy of “divide and rule”. This cynical calculation did indeed work so well that Ethiopians, for fear of an all-out civil war, let the TPLF rule unhindered for 27 long years. It is a feat that it has been trying to repeat since it lost power three years ago. So far, it has not work, and there is every reason to believe that the Ethiopian people will not be duped twice!
The TPLF’s most ugly and dangerous cynicism to date is certainly the one we are witnessing and living today. It is has also assumed its most layered expression yet.
While it started the war by murdering untold numbers of soldiers from the Northern Command, it successfully presented itself as a victim in the eye of its people, the Western Media and rights group, not to mention the Western Foreign Policy makers. While it initiated the war, in effect, to prevent the Federal Government of Ethiopia (FGE) from investigating and indicting its most corrupt and murderous members, it again successfully convinced the Tigrean People that they, and not the party, were on trial and that the FGE’s aim was the persecution of the Tigrean people, and not the prosecution of TPLF’s most corrupt cadre. Even though the war was launched to remove from power the TPLF, the TPLF cynically and again successfully convinced the people of Tigray that the FGE was engaged in a genocidal war. The confused and ill-informed Western media went along with all the misinformation the TPLF was feeding it, and continues to this day with its wild speculations and accusations. All of which, I must add, sells very well. Even more cruelly cynical is how the TPLF treats the people of Tigray. It is treating the people it vowed to represent as being expendable as the bullets it allotted them, sending them to fight on all fronts for its own “strategic” purposes. Their lives matter little to it, if indeed it does at all!
Does the TPLF really think that it will regain the same power it wielded over Ethiopia for nearly thirty years? Does it really believe that the road to Addis Ababa is a “cake walk”? Thirty years ago, let us not forget, it was able to find its way to the Capital virtually unimpeded for the many reasons it desperately tries to make us forget now. First, the Ethiopian people were at that time completely fatigued by the Derg’s constant failed policies and cruelties, not to say of its repressive and authoritarian ways. The Ethiopian people would have welcomed any power to free them at the time; and so essentially, they gave the TPLF a “free pass” to trek down to the Capital. As ironic as it may appear today, the alliance with the EPLF (the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) played also an important role in TPLF’s rise to power in Ethiopia, both militarily and politically. An alliance, I must add, that soon soured and ended in the infamous “Badme War”. No less a contributor were of course the other armed parties, like the OLF and the EPDM, in helping the TPLF in its ambitions. All these factors have been conveniently forgotten, or deliberately underplayed by the TPLF. The sole purpose of which is to be able to recruit indefinitely the poor Tigrean youth for a war that could potentially lead Ethiopia to become a “failed state” for generations to come. Here in lies TPLF’s utter cynicism: the real cause of the war is as clear as day light to every Ethiopian willing to reason. Obviously, it is unclear to those whose entire policymaking is based on bad faith or bad information (I let the reader decide) such as the US’s and the EU’s, their sensationalist and shallow media, and the so-called “field specialists” who often have no clue what they are talking about. Tragically, the poor youth of Tigray have been systematically brainwashed, cajoled and incited to do the biddings of an unscrupulous, heartless cruel taskmaster. To what end? To whose benefit? One may ask. The true end of this war for the TPLF is neither to restore constitutional order, nor the sovereignty, dignity and stability of Tigray, but to evade accountability, scrutiny and transparency. And if the stars align for it, to regain the power it had lost. Even if this involves sacrificing a whole generation of Tigrean youth, the complete destabilization of the region, the gratuitous killing of untold number of Ethiopians, and the destruction of the country’s economy. Who can think of a worse example of cynicism?
This war will not end unless the people of Tigray want to end it. They are the ones who can refuse to fight for the protection of their most corrupt sons and daughters. They are the ones who are being mowed down for an unworthy cause, for a cynical cause. Where are Tigray’s intellectuals and opposition parties? Have they also bought TPLF’s narrative? Are they going to sit, speculate and expatiate about Amhara conspiracy, PM Abiy’s hidden agenda and Oromo connivance? They should know and do better. This war was instigated to save the skin of the TPLF, and it will end only when the TPLF is permanently removed from Tigray and the whole of Ethiopia. The TPLF should not be given the benefit of a negotiated settlement for two reasons: one, in point of fact there is nothing to negotiate about; and two, for the TPLF negotiating has always meant to engage in its cynical attempt to buy time and resources to pursue its twisted goals.
Let us be very clear: TPLF’s cynicism is such that it would rather continue this war indefinitely, destroy both Tigray and Ethiopia in the process, until it “recaptures” the power it lost by the will of the people! It would rather become a warlord in a failed state than face any accountability for the countless crimes it has committed over the nearly three decades it ruled Ethiopia, and continues to commit more in this very war. What both the people of Tigray and Ethiopia must realize is that their very survival and wellbeing depends on the eradication of this malignant and cynical party from the body politic of Ethiopia.
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