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Ethiopia : Is this 1991 Version II?

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Ephrem Madebo (

In the last fifty years Ethiopia went through three regime changes. In 1974, when a popular revolution ended the era of monarchs, some royal family members were detained and the rest left the Ethiopian political scene and started a new life in Europe and America. In 1991, when the EPRDF marched to Addis Ababa, Colonel Mengistu was already in Harare and his strong men in Addis surrendered and went to jail.  

Unlike the previous two regimes that accepted defeat and got out of the way, the TPLF that has such an insatiable appetite for power and money, started mobilizing the people of Tigray to make a political comeback. Despite several attempts by the Federal government and by the elderly to bring the TPLF to a negotiating table, the TPLF continued its preparation for a war that it’s waging now.

In November 2020, the TPLF forces attacked federal posts in Tigray and brutally murdered members of the Ethiopian army. This treasonous act started the Tigray conflict, and with it started the coordinated propaganda campaign by the US led West against Ethiopia. The campaign continued from November to June, and when PM Abiy won a landslide victory in June, the attitude of the west towards Ethiopia changed. Today, the entire West, their media conglomerates and some agencies in the UN are fanning ethnic violence in Ethiopia siding with the ever-belligerent TPLF.   

In July 2021, the TPLF warmongers refused to adhere to a government-initiated ceasefire and advanced to Afar and Amhara regional states massacring civilians, raping women as young as 12 years old, destroying crops and killing livestock. When the TPLF called the ceasefire offer a “total joke” and committed despicable atrocities, the otherwise vociferous US, its allies and their media didn’t utter a single a word. The silence of the US and its allies was nothing, but a coded go-ahead message to the TPLF. 

Today, a year after the Tigray conflict and five months after the election, the propaganda campaign of the US changed its tone from “Weaponizing food” to “Regime Change”, and the US has started prescribing a transitional government that excludes the democratically elected government of PM Abiy Ahmed. The US brags to have been the promoter of democracy in the world, but in reality, its actions are obstructing the progress of democracy. The US has been calling for national dialogue in Ethiopia, but what it actually is doing is closing the doors for dialogue.  In fact, the US is making things worse and much complicated by being a biased mediator.  

In 1991, Herman Cohen, a US diplomat, walked the TPLF controlled transition team from London to Addis. In 2021, the US plan for transitional government in Ethiopia has already started in Washington Press Club in Washington, DC.; and this time the project leader seems to be Jeffery Feltman. The 1991 journey that started from London wounded Ethiopia for 27 years. The pain from that wound is still aching Ethiopians. The Ethiopian people strongly believe that any more solution masterminded by the US is existential threat to their country. They also believe that any Ethiopian related transitional process and/or constitutional design dialogues must start by Ethiopians in Ethiopia.  

After the 1991 London Conference, the EPRDF was formed by organizations created on the way to Addis and some here in Addis. In the 2021 Washington Press Club Conference, seven of the organizations were created on Thursday night for the Friday conference. It seems that the US is grooming yet another batch of ethnic organizations, form a transitional government and repeat 1991 all over again. It’s really mind-boggling why the US thinks it would always do the right thing after doing zillions of wrongs.

People in Ethiopia want peace and they really want a way out this never-ending cycle of violence. But Ethiopians also understand that it takes at least two to make a war, and it also takes two to negotiate on ceasefire. The Ethiopian government has unilaterally ceased fire in July to give peace a chance. If the US and the rest of the West are honest in what they’re doing, they must pressure the TPLF who mocked at the Ethiopian government’s call for a ceasefire and took the war all the way to Afar and Amhara regions.

The author of this piece strongly believes that, regardless of who wins the war, political settlement is the only gateway to a lasting peace. The TPLF is the one that started the war and it’s also the one that is killing people outside its jurisdiction. Therefore, it must immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Afar and Amhara regions and negotiate on only how to stop the war and open the path for a national dialogue. 

National dialogue in Ethiopia where the future of the nation should be negotiated is long overdue. However, it must be very much clear that the cease-fire negotiation between the federal government and the TPLF has nothing to do with the national dialogue. The question of who will participate in the dialogue, the time, schedule, agenda, decision-making process and the rules of engagement of the dialogue should be decided by independent body.  

National dialog is not something the Biden administration imposes on Ethiopia, or it’s not a process that starts in Washington, DC and makes its way to Ethiopia. National dialog is a process that completes Ethiopia’s democratic transition, and it has been the key demand of the Ethiopian people since the 1974 revolution. The initiative of national dialogue in Ethiopia must be handled by Ethiopians in Ethiopia. The international community can help Ethiopia in the technical and financial aspects of the dialogue, but Ethiopians and only Ethiopians start and complete the dialogue. The United States must understand that Ethiopia is a sovereign nation just like the US is, and Prime Minister Abiy is the leader of Ethiopia as President Biden is. The US must respect this equal relationship between the two countries to earn the respect of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.  Anything forceful is immoral and uncivilized!!!


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  1. In 1991, after the fall of Derg, there would have been a huge power vacuum that could have been disastrous. Some sort of a transition government was a must, and that was what was done. It was not perfect, but, power vacuum is a very dangerous proposal. I am thankful that there was a government ready to fill that vacuum in 1991 and administer the country. With the Derg gone, there were no other options.


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