Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeOpinionA Response to Prof. Ephraim’s zoom meeting on the war in Ethiopia

A Response to Prof. Ephraim’s zoom meeting on the war in Ethiopia

Professor Ephrem Issac

By Addissu Admas

I want to begin this response by thanking Mr. Jeff Pearce, a true friend of Ethiopia, by providing us with a very rare YouTube video. By posting the zoom meeting of Prof. Ephraim and friends, a motley group of western diplomats and active members of the TPLF regime, he provided us with a unique opportunity to see how American Foreign policy is shaped behind closed doors.

The apparent objective of the meeting among these “old friends” was to interview former ambassador to the U.S., one time Foreign Minister of Ethiopia and current chief envoy of the TPLF, Ato Berhane Gebre-Christos to “update” them on the current state of affairs in Ethiopia. However, the true purpose of the meeting was how to influence, or more precisely, to encourage America to pursue the very policy she has already adopted towards Ethiopia. Prof. Ephraim’s group could not have chosen a more experienced, suave and convincing member of the TPLF, which, unfortunately is only known for its “rough edges”. For these very qualities, Ato Berhane could prove extremely effective in the corridors of the US and EU state departments where form always trumps substance, an American weakness.

Ato Berhane, rather than offering lachrymose pleas, provided well-reasoned and cogent explanations and arguments to his receptive group. What better way to be most effective! However, on nearly every point, he was, to be charitable, way off the mark. He claimed that the difference between the TPLF and PM Abiy’s government is of ideological and political nature: the former fighting for the maintenance and consolidation of federalism, the latter reverting Ethiopia to a unitarian centralizing form of government. In this latter case, the objective would be to simply increase the PM Abiy’s power to the detriment of the federal system of government. In this process, PM Abiy chose to coopt the Amharas because they were the ethnicity most receptive to his call. Why, he does not say; but I presume he is implying that Amharas love imperial form of government; or is most convenient to them. Let us grant that his statement remains to be clarified! The only proof he provided a propos was the coup the PM conducted in the Somali region (Killil) and his presumed attempt to do the same in Tigray. When this latter happened, it is not clear.

This argument, compelling to the unknowing, does not hold water at all. First of all the difference between the government of PM Abiy and the TPLF is not of ideological nature. It is not even of political nature, unless we understand this in a very broad sense. The fact is that two more zones (Sidama and Keffa) have become regional states (Killils) with the same privileges and obligations of all the other Killils. Thus, the process of federalism continues unabated. It is nonsense to claim that one party is gunning for a unitarian state, and the other one to maintain federalism. As far as political differences, I see only the Herculean struggle that the TPLF is fielding to recapture the enormous power it wielded for nearly three decades. Apart from this, there is precious little else to talk of “political differences”.

I say that this most destructive and dishearteningly tragic war started primarily to shield the TPLF elite from any prosecution for the enormous corruption, abuses of power, political persecutions, imprisonment and even assassinations it committed over its three decades long tenure. Secondly, it was to protect the vast privileges and advantages enjoyed not only by the TPLF elite, but also by their families, relatives, friends, and, by extension, the Tigrean people as a whole. Ironically, with the probable exception of Meles Zenawi, the chief ideologue of the TPLF, and for 21 years prime minister of Ethiopia, none of the TPLF cadre understood that, in so diverse a nation as Ethiopia, no one particular ethnicity can wield forever all the top spots of every major sector of administration, the military, diplomacy, with unrestrained access to finance and commercial ventures. After all, the days of Mighty Sparta are dead and gone!

A constant refrain I heard from Ato Berhane, is his rather cavalier use of the word “genocide”. We must be careful using this ominous and dangerous word. Genocide means the elimination of a “genos”, i.e., ethnic group. Reports of the UN and other human rights group have come out and none of them has declared that anything resembling genocide has occurred. An attempt at genocide was actually made by TPLF goons in Mai Kadra. A few of whom were flown recently to Israel with members of the Beta Israel. Beside this, what would Ato Berhane call the devastation that the TDF (Tigray Defense Force) is wrecking in Amhara and Afar? How about the rapes of uncounted number of women, destruction of farmlands, hospitals, and schools in the hinterland perpetrated by the invading TDF? What one can see is a savage war between ethnicities that have shared the same space for millennia, much of it in peace. This is a tragedy that needs decades, if not more, to heal.

Ato Berhane did not say it out loud, but clearly implied that Tigray enjoys a most exceptional and resilient people because it is not only defending itself, but even “winning” against four nations and the Amhara regional state. However, if Ato Berhane were truthful, the “sad state of affairs” in Ethiopia was brought about almost entirely by the TPLF’s own doing, or omissions. The fact is the Ethiopia military is fairing incredibly better than one has the right to expect. Indeed, the TPLF ensured, that after the demise and complete demobilization of the Derg’s military, Ethiopia would have only what amounted to an armed wing of the TPLF.  There has never been an attempt to rebuild a veritable national defense force with an officer class recruited from Ethiopia’s most diverse ethnicities, as during the Imperial and Derg regimes. Why then disparage the EDF when its most experienced officers and generals “returned” back to Tigray to attack Ethiopia?

Conversely, Ato Berhane tried to impress upon us that the TDF was formed in less than “2 or 3 months”. I say no it was not! It was there all along waiting for 30 years the clarion to sound. If the EDF has been decimated, as he claims, then the TPLF should take the blame! The TPLF was never indeed about “nation building” but about “dividing and ruling”. 

Ato Berhane claimed that the “majority of the people of Amhara and Oromia” are supportive of the TPLF! In response to this assertion, I let recent events, both inside and outside Ethiopia, provide the response! In no time since the end of the imperial era, have Ethiopians come together to express their opposition in such large number and with such dedication in opposition to what the TPLF is doing. That the TPLF is enjoying any form of support outside Tigray and Tigrean diaspora is only his wishful thinking.

What Ato Berhane is asking quite bluntly is the effective removal of a duly elected prime minister and government by “external pressure” to establish in its stead “an all-inclusive government”. If memory serves me, there has never been a truly inclusive one during TPLF’s long tenure. Apart from the absurdity of the demand, it seems to disrespect the intelligence of the Ethiopian people. Do you really think that the TPLF will be welcome back to Ethiopia after all the destruction, spiritual and material, it has wrought on Ethiopia?

How Ato Berhane presented his case was of one auditioning for the TPLF to take over Ethiopia and that the only think he needed, was American and European help to achieve this goal. Those present in the discussion, most of them veteran diplomats, were more than disposed to influence their friends and contacts active in their respective administrations to redouble, I presume, their efforts to help his beleaguered party. There was no indication or desire that the other side, the majority of Ethiopians, deserved a hearing in their court. Ato Berhane’s demands, reasonable to all uninformed individuals, were paragons of absurdity to any reasonable and informed diplomat. Yet the “old friends” continued to assent and implied to follow up on them.  

While the TDF is wreaking havoc all over Amhara and Afar, to lift restrictions over Tigray sounds like the TPLF has never crossed its borders to impose its will. Yet, it claims to be less than 200 Km from Addis Ababa! How much have the restrictions hurt Tigray if the TPLF is able to field tens of thousands of its citizens all over North Ethiopia? If the TPLF has no desire to take over Ethiopia, why so much carnage? How do you plan to hold accountable the other party while you yourself are still under the suspicion of attempted “ethnic cleansing” in Mai Kadra, besides countless other charges? Since you have laid down on the table all your “plans”, you have given every Ethiopian incentive to see them fail.

Ato Berhane wanted to describe PM Abiy as Ato Isaias ‘stooge. Whatever the prime minister has done so far is only to promote the good of all Ethiopians. If Ato Isaias is part of his strategy, why disparage him? The TPLF had benefitted immensely from its association with his regime on its march to capturing Ethiopia’s seat of power. Its association would have most likely continued to this day if it were not for the “unpardonable” blunder of Bademe! We Ethiopians encourage and support the PM and his government to seek help wherever they can find it. Even, as your other spokesperson would put it, to the gates of Hell.
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  1. Btw, what does Berhane do for a living? Just curious. I expect him to be a man of a college education but what does he do to earn for a living? It is not that cheap to live here in the USA or Europe. Does anyone among our Diaspora with a finance background try to trace the finances of such former high ranking officials? Those financial firms and news outlets like Bloomberg, Forbes and Fortune must know or at least they have the tools to track monetary transactions from foreign sources. They should know. They tell us who is billionaire and who is not a billionaire any more every year, right? I am not accusing him of larceny but I am just wondering.

    In related news I have also read Mr. Pearce’s article and profusely thank him for staying upright and a friend of the old country. It is a revealing finding by him. I come to know from his article what some of the members of the United Front do for a living. There are those who make a living as limousine, Uber drivers and parking lot attendants. All such jobs should be seen as noble ones. I say this because some of the commentators used such honest discovery to belittle the individuals. This is America where working is king. We all had to start from the bottom to become as successful as we are now. Working hard should never be denigrated.

    • I agree some of your comments. Yes, most of us started working from the bottom and working hard should never be denigrated. However, we must be able to differentiate facts from opinions. Here is one fact, fast-food chains require resume to see if the individual that is applying is fit for the job nor have prior experience with customer service and so on. This is the same thing, brining up or discussing the individual careers or educational background is not belittling individuals, it is just pointing out the facts, especially when those individuals are selected by whoever to run and/or lead the people of Ethiopia. My opinion, if you are an uber driver and that is the only thing you done in your life go be a leader for uber. If you want to lead a gov and a nation of different ethnicities, you better have the resume to prove that you have done the work.

      • You comment took me back to days here in the early 1970’s. The inflation/stagflation was on rampage. The job market was tight and in many places non existent. That was when I ran into a person from the old country. He was a member of the late emperor’s army, a man of discipline and manners. We used to go out everyday and fill up application forms with companies in the area. I had a degree under my belt and he was highly trained in mechanics. We were getting a lot of promises but nothing telling us we were hired. So we came up with a temporary plan. We wanted to work where at least our meals are covered. We applied at two separate local pizzerias and were accepted for a minimum wage that hardly covered our rents. We did that for months until real jobs came calling. Those pizzerias were founded by immigrants from Italy. They were local mom and pop small businesses. There were no Dominoes. Pizza Huts then. So our meal expenses were covered. The owners even let us take some pieces home at the end of our shifts. We had stayed friends with those owners for many years after we became successful in our careers. I proudly tell that story to my children that in most cases you may have to start from the bottom/scratch and working hard is noble in America. My countryman and I then had the same opinion about settling in small communities and start families. There were larger cities nearby but we both liked the small towns we were staying at that time. We went to those larger cities just for entertainment or pick some essentials not found in our small town. We both found steady and good paying jobs where we able to start families and raise wonderful children. Thank you for taking me back to my earlier days.

  2. The TPLF has built an extensive network of activists and propagandists who are now mobilized in their full gears to support and advance the military campaigns of the TPLF. There is a coordination between this network and military campaigns of the TPLF. This meeting is arranged and conducted in order to create the impression that the TPLF victory is imminent and a transitional political arrangement should be planned in advance. However, gauging the political environment and public feeling in Ethiopia one can be pretty sure that fascism and racism which had been part and parcel of the TPLF misrule and subjugation. Ethiopians have risen in unison and say no to fascism and racism in Ethiopia.

  3. The characterization of Berhane Gebrekrestos as an experienced, suave, and convincing member of the TPLF is overly generous and not so well deserved. More importantly, the argument that Berhane “could prove extremely effective” in US and EU policymaking circles misses the the essential point. Namely, these powers didn’t need to be “convinced” by “suave” TPLF leaders in adopting their pro-Woyane and anti-Ethiopia attitude.

  4. The characterization of Berhane Gebrekristos as an experienced, suave, and convincing member of the TPLF is overly generous and not so well deserved. More importantly, the argument that Berhane “could prove extremely effective” in US and EU policymaking circles misses the essential point. Namely, these global hegemonic powers didn’t need to be “convinced” by “suave” TPLF leaders in formulating their pro-Woyane and anti-Ethiopia policies. Indeed, their present flirtation with a narrow tribal-partisan outfit they had in the past designated as a terrorist organization and their hostility toward a historic, uniquely independent African nation-state defies reason of foreign policy, even taking into account their fear of China’s growing influence in Africa. In any case, given what we know about how brutally they ruled Ethiopia with partisan/tribal single-mindedess, individual TPLF bosses or the Front as a whole cannot have been seen by the Ethiopian people as “suave” or “convincing.” Far from it.

  5. a). Let us be honest to our individual self.
    b). It has nothing to do with the organization of the country
    c). Let us not skirt around.
    d). It has everything to do with holding absolute power as a base for INDIVISUAL specific RACE .
    e). It is a situation of TAKE IT. or LEAVE IT. It is as simple as that.
    f). What it means is that Ethiopia, as we know it, will be gone with the wind.
    g). We should also accept rhe reality that Ethiopia is being set-up by sleek individuals for THEIR OWN adventure.
    h) It is a candid truth , never, never for the ordinary innocent people.
    i)). The innocent people are there to facilitate the dictatorship of ambitious individuals i.e. they are slaves of charlatans.
    j) Go ahed and insult each other for the success of the charlatans..
    h) You are born to be subservient and the smart aleck was born to be your master. and does something to innocent girls
    i) That is how the almighty God, up in heaven, designed it.
    j). How do you feel to be a pony for your entire existence [not a Life]” STOP time for me to serve someone, my master.
    How about in your case?
    k) Do you have dignity and courage to be yourself? To save the ancient history-loaded — which happened to be dignified Black in Skin Colour. .
    l). There is no end to human stupidity — including me, of course. Have you ever entertained the ideas of discrimination against a person because he/she is short?!! How about if a person is not a long distance runner? How about if the person is not Einstein ? I think, I am getting crazy.
    m). Thank You, for the privilege of having a free space to relief my emotion

    The trumpet that we are hearings noting less than the sound of charlatans for their own adventure
    The current Race issue among the trumpeters i.e. Amhara, Oromo, Tigray is jus a diversionar tactic fo keep innocent followers in darkness.
    By the way, a doctorate philosophical degree is nothing more than a simple paper in an 10 X 13 inc paper in a frame. the highest. Do not expect the man with that frame would save you out of the pergatory. You will burn alive!!!!

  6. This is a very interesting article. One person I was shocked by Ms. Eleni’s presence at this pow wow. I thought she was apolitical and involved mainly in the economic development of the old country. She might have been dubiously lured into this mumbo jumbo by the other smart alecks. Btw, what does Yamamoto mean by ‘Abiy is not listening’? Somebody should ask this man what he means by such pejorative and denigrating statement. Doesn’t he know that Abiy was elected into office by a certified nationwide vote? He sounds like people like PM Abiy do not listen. Was this guy really a diplomat representing this greatest nation on earth? Or was he smart aleck enough to show a different face in the department? I could not believe my ears to hear him say that. As a black man I feel that I’m insulted by this deranged person. What is the matter with him?

  7. I also don’t see any malice on the professor’s part in arranging this discussion. His name rings bell with me from his past endeavor to solve conflicts in the old country peacefully through dialogue. His main problem to bring such blessed effort to fruition have been none other than the know-all ‘fake’ intellectuals among us here and there in the old country. As I said it before talk and solve conflicts that was deeply rooted in our culture has been badly beaten and wounded since the arrival of that demonic ideology of critique and destroy Marxist/Leninist pathogen. ‘First, I want to gouge your eyes out, I want to rip your heart out before we talk’ is the only way with many usually very vocal intellectuals then and now. ‘You are my mortal enemy’ has replaced our legendary spirit of brotherly love. Just look at what these loud mouthed ‘intellectuals’ are posting on the social media outlets. I cringe even from reading what they say and write. The game plan is ‘you got your shots and I want to have my turn to loot and pillage’.

  8. This is a very interesting article. One person I was shocked was by Ms. Eleni’s presence at this pow wow. I thought she was apolitical and involved mainly in the economic development of the old country. She might have been dubiously lured into this mumbo jumbo by the other smart alecks. Btw, what does Yamamoto mean by ‘Abiy is not listening’? Somebody should ask this man what he means by such pejorative and denigrating statement. Doesn’t he know that Abiy was elected into office by a certified nationwide vote? He sounds like people like PM Abiy do not listen. Was this guy really a diplomat representing this greatest nation on earth? Or was he smart aleck enough to show a different face in the department? I could not believe my ears to hear him say that. As a black man I feel that I’m insulted by this deranged person. What is the matter with him?

  9. On the other hand inviting a representative of a group that has declared war on a democratically elected government was totally wrong. It was also held without any prior announcement and with no one representing the government. What was the professor thinking? It was a meeting seemingly designed to heap praise upon praise on the former ruler who are now involved in a deadly and destructive banditry. May be the professor was somehow convinced that Debre and his coolie Shene riff raffs will enter the capital very soon after destroying the sitting government. May be he thought it is now déjà vu 1991. If that is the case, what a blunder!!! Btw, as a person with a Yemenite heritage, has Professor Ephraim made any effort to promote dialogue between the Shia Houthis and Sunnis in Yemen? I’m just wondering,

  10. The average price of 1 piece of bread has skyrocketed 30 fold in Ethiopia during TPLFs reign of terror. TPLF sympathizers claim Abiy and company are resurrecting a “unitary” state. Far from the truth, every sector of the Ethiopian economy, Defence forces, security sector, diplomatic sectors have been usurped by TPLFites and cronies in the last 30 years. Estimates show up to $ 30 billion dollars or more have been looted by the criminal gang. What is even sadder is the fact that even total hegemony of every sector by TPLFites, they still have kept nearly 2 million people in Tigray on food safety zone. The amount of poverty and neglect seen in rural Tigray is heart breaking. Furthermore, the last 30 years have brought moral decay, bribery, corruption, depravity, lack of accountability, nepotism, mistrust and suspicion among brothers and sisters day in, day out. A few TPLFites, their elites and close friends in circle want the luxury, fanfare and carefree millionaire wannabe life style at the expense of literally hundreds of millions of Ethiopians. Is this sustainable? TPLF has never brought decentralized system of government. Ethno fascistic “federalism” is not a democratic system but apartheid system of divide and rule , a variant of divide and conquer.

    Ethiopia has myriads of problems, The fundamental questions Ethiopians should obsessively engage be focused on how to ensure access to potable water, electricity, universal education, some basic and adequate health care services and food security. Any Ethiopian from any ethnic group should be guaranteed the right, liberty and happiness to move freely, live freely, settle freely and receive equal legal treatment in any parts of the country. This fundamental human right is enshrined in the constitutions of most democratic countries. Ethiopians are entitled to these basic fundamental rights as well.

    TPLF was an overinflated ethno fascistic clique comprised of individuals with delusional dreams of grandeur. When TPLFs rule was imposed on the people of Ethiopia in 1991, its members were very destitute and resource lacking. TPLF used a fake privatization scam, defrauding Ethiopians of their public assets. Ethiopian State resources and capitals were looted and put in the hands of
    Let’s take an example, the industrial city of Dire Dawa was one of the most metropolitan towns in Ethiopia. The beautiful Harar nearby, once the fruit basket of Ethiopia, known for its guavas,mangos, bananas, rare gishta fruit ( wild custard apple fruit) and more now has been stuck and frozen in time for 30 years. The textile, cement industries of Dire Dawa were looted and destroyed to make Mekele the new Dire Dawa. And the nerve of the TPLF propagandist to call others names is beyond imagination.


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