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.
To publish article on borkena, please send submission to email@example.com
Join the conversation. Follow us on twitter @zborkenato get latest Ethiopian News updates regularly.Like borkena on Facebook as well. To share information or for submission, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org