By Addissu Admas
This war has generated so much anger and rancor on both sides that most believed that only a final showdown in Mekele would have satisfied the involved parties. For the Federal Government of Ethiopia (FGE) to rid itself once and for all of an armed party that was determined to remain contentious, rebellious and insurrectionist to the end. For the TPLF party bosses to prove to themselves and the world that they are able to destabilize at will the region and damage the reputation of the federal government and PM Abiy. What else? All TPLF’s rigmarole about restoring federalism, or creating a confederation of Ethiopian states, or its declared intention to stop the progressive centralization of the Ethiopian system of government, or worse yet, attempts of re-Amharanization of Ethiopia, etc… are ways of hiding its true intentions. Which are, as I have stated in many occasions, to evade prosecution for its vast corruption, politically motivated imprisonments and assassinations, and countless other crimes. It appears to have felt that it deserved freedom from prosecution because it had convinced the West that it had “brought”, so to speak, a modicum of economic progress to Ethiopia. But we Ethiopians continue to ask: to whose benefit and at what expense? I guess the reason may be good enough for the West since we are not starving. All the other things, such as freedom of speech, detention with due process, respect for one’s property and limb, freedom of movement, etc… are all luxuries reserved only to Westerners.
The TPLF and its ardent supporters want the Ethiopian Defense Force (EDF) to march to Mekele to demonstrate to the World that it has still enough power to exact revenge for its disastrous five months campaign in Ethiopia. A campaign motivated, designed, and implemented not to restore the power the TPLF once held, but to humiliate, degrade, and insult the Ethiopian people; especially the Amhara and the Afar. What it has really displayed for the world and history to see is its unbound cruelty, utter inhumanity, meanness of spirit, and extreme coarseness. Instead of being a campaign of battles, it was more of an orgy of depredation, destruction and rape. Was it because TPLF’s army was undisciplined and unwieldy? I do not believe so! It was intended and executed according to the plans designed and conducted by the TPLF bosses sitting comfortably in Mekele! I am more than convinced that this crazed march to the South was neither guided by a confederalist ideology, nor for uniting Ethiopians against the supposed maladministration of the new government. It was inspired instead by a paroxysm of hate. Not for what the EDF supposedly did during its 8 months campaign in Tigray, but I suspect, for all the imagined and unreal humiliations that Amharas have inflicted on Tigreans during the imperial and Derg regimes.
Let us set the records straight here once more: In Ethiopia, no one ethnicity has “colonized” the others. Colonizing not only implies occupying a territory to reside in it, but to exploit its resources for the benefit of one’s nation or ethnic group. In addition to this, countless attendant practices accompany colonialism: garrisoning, expropriation of land for the State, virtual enslavement of the local population, etc…I contend that there has never been colonialism in Ethiopia, except during the 5 years of Italian occupation. What has existed in Ethiopia is territorial expansion through wars between populations with comparable technologies, economy and political systems. The whole discussion of Amhara colonization obfuscates rather than clarify our present circumstances.
I venture to say also that Ethiopia has always been a multi-ethnic state; perhaps more today than in previous times. As such, it is inevitable that population size, organization (military and otherwise) may have allowed one group to dominate the others. This has always been the lot of contiguously living populations. It is also a fact that ethnicities living closely have often seen each other with some diffidence and prejudice even though they shared many cultural traits and belief systems. However, these should never constitute a basis for hostility, rejection and division. Ethiopia is, as the famous Ethiopia scholar Conti-Rossini memorably stated, a mosaic of peoples. Rather than this being cause for disunity and acrimony, it should be reason for celebration and pride. Indeed, we are “e pluribus unum”, out of many one.
Any group, party or movement that tries to overemphasize and exploit our differences and understandable diffidence towards each other’s ethnicity must be seen with suspicion, and even condemnation. This is what the TPLF has nurtured consistently for no other reason than to secure for itself and its people a lasting hegemony.
PM Abiy and his government’s decision not to continue the war by marching into Mekele is one of the wisest decision in Ethiopia’s recent history. In addition to the reasons or justifications he himself has provided for it, I would like to add here what his decision will be preventing and what benefits it will garner.
To begin with, I have been uneasy from the start by the Ethiopian government’s decision to enter Tigray to unseat the government of the TPLF in Tigray over a year ago, even though it had every legal justification to do so. While it managed, against the bitter hostility of the local population, to remain there in charge for eight long months, there was the awareness that the TPLF would have resurged since it had convinced the Tigrean people that only it stood for their wellbeing and good governance. Besides, fully aware that the day of reckoning would dawn sooner than later, it had put in place all its contingency plans.
The TPLF had done an incredible job at convincing the Tigrean people that the government of Dr. Abiy was their most malevolent enemy and that all Ethiopians wanted to see them suffer. Thus, the EDF was literally chasing a guerilla force fully protected, supplied, supported and encouraged by the people of Tigray. Had the EDF decided to pursue the TPLF again in Tigray, it would have fallen into the same predicament. To those who counter by saying that the TPLF is much weakened and cannot pose a credible resistance, I say that the TPLF is not so foolish as to have squandered all its force on its failed southern campaign. It may be that it has been preparing all along to do more damage to the EDF, whether it planned to win or not, once the EDF entered Tigray’s borders. By denying it a final confrontation, the EDF will preserve its newly acquired capabilities to seal off the TPLF in Tigray and deny it any possibility of a passage to the Sudan, or again to the South. Moreover, there is also the question of economics. Waging this war has been enormously burdensome on Ethiopia’s limited resources. Continuing this war out of desire to punish a deviant and malevolent group will only bankrupt the country. In effect, by not satisfying the bloodlust of the TPLF, the government of Ethiopia may be executing its best strategy.
Many have seen the PM’s decision to halt the war as a diplomatic act and an extending of an olive branch to his most rabid critics, namely the US. I say that the PM should not care one whit about them since they had decided beforehand that their winning horse has always been the TPLF. Any deviation or desire to dissimulate this on their part should be taken as a blatant hypocritical act. In their “grand global” scheme, we have never counted and we will never do. What the PM and his administration must pursue are the alliances that will never question or compromise the sovereignty of Ethiopia and her peoples. The war has indeed shown Ethiopia who her fair weather friends are.
By sealing off Tigray for a while and limiting the war to eventually necessary small-scale interventions, the government of Ethiopia will be providing Tigreans with a rare occasion to re-assess their stance vis a vis Ethiopia. This silencing of the guns should become for them, as it has been for the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians, an occasion to realize that the TPLF has no place either in Ethiopia, or most pressingly, in Tigray. In resuming the cease-fire that it had unilaterally declared in evacuating Tigray, the Ethiopian government is not only acting in coherence to it, but would be putting the well-being of Tigreans over its constitutional right to bring to justice the TPLF. This, indeed, requires enormous restraint. The TPLF’s thuggish daring of the EDF to enter Mekele should be looked at for what it is: an occasion to cry foul and attract the condemnation of the world on Ethiopia once more.
I believe that when the dust settles, all this mindless campaign of the TPLF will be seen for what it really has been. And the people of Tigray will ultimately come to realize that hitching their wagon to the TPLF may have been the worst blunder of their history, and hopefully will lead them to reconsider their relationship with the rest Ethiopia.
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