Nineteen months after TPLF’s treasonous attack on the Northern Division of the ENDF, the war is not over either in the battlefield or around the table. Amhara and Afar Kilils still suffer from TPLF invasions and sporadic artillery attacks. In fact, TPLF is fervently preparing and gathering its forces for an impending all out invasion of the Amhara region anytime. On the other hand, all indicators show that the government of Ethiopia has apparently lost all interest in pursuing the war. Neither defensive or offensive preparations are nowhere to be seen. Nor has it declared any negotiation to resolve the matter. The only military activity it is engaged in is the Kilil-wide campaign of interning Fanos and conscious Amhara elements, as if it is out to aid and abet TPLF in its coming invasion. Even though the World knows that the African Union Commission has been working to bring peace in the area through its appointee Former Nigerian President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, since August 26, 2021, the Ethiopian Prime Minister and all his spokespersons have repeatedly and absolutely denied that any peace negotiation with TPLF has been going on. Obasanjo’s several trips to Mekelle, rumors of meetings at Seashells and in Nigeria, and the latest statement of Obasanjo stating that the negotiation is steadily progressing did not induce any ownership of the process from the Ethiopian Prime Minister. This has resulted in all kinds of suspicions, speculations, and conspiracy theories. In this article, I will try to show what this rumored negotiation can and cannot be about, and the outcome it may deliver and the danger it entails.
At the outset, let me make clear that having an integrative negotiation of give and take that will result in a win-win resolution of the conflict is impossible with TPLF. By its very nature, the negotiated outcome it expects will not be any different from the one it wanted to attain by violence. It is there to take, not to give. Those who want more on this may refer to my Borkena article of July 29, 2021, titled, “National Conference of Reconciliation: Naiveté, a Genuine Search for Solution, or a Political Ruse?” It is just as timely now as it was almost a year ago.
If Ethiopians should believe Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obansanjo more than they should believe their own Prime Minister and his high level officials (as embarrassing as this may be), there is a negotiation between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF terrorists that is steadily progressing. This Negotiation sponsored by the African Union and supported by all the Western powers is developing in complete darkness, with zero transparency. If the government of Ethiopia is informed about it and approved it is very doubtful, unless we say Prime Minister Abiy is the government. In fact for it, TPLF is the treasonous and terrorist organization which declared war on the Ethiopian State. Ethiopian intellectuals, the country’s elders, religious leaders, academicians, political parties, and the nation’s parliament, are completely shut off the process. Worse still, Kilils that bear the brunt of TPLF’s invasion—The Amhara and Afar Regions—are not part of this negotiation in any shape or form. They remain misinformed and lied to; as far as they are concerned any negotiation that does not include them is a farce. Such is the social environment this mysterious negotiation is ‘progressing steadily’.
The structure of the negotiation is too simple for the complex problem it is out to resolve. The over arching problem is the treasonous war the TPLF terrorists started on November 4, 2020 and expanded to Afar and Amhara Regions. The State of Ethiopia, as an aggrieved party, should decide whether to resolve this war through negotiation, meaning whether it should negotiate with groups it legislated terrorists, or it should change its designation before the start of negotiation. And if it decides to negotiate it should pick its negotiators and give them a clear mandate and accept periodic progress reports. This is not happening. The parliament is in the dark as we all are with regard to this matter. This basically means the negotiation is between PM Abiy and TPLF’s Debretsion, directly or through their agents. Both seem to be obsessed about their own power. Their motivation in this negotiation will be shoring up their respective power practically at any cost. The devastations of the Afar and Amhara people, their endangered identity, and the genocides they faced will not be their problems, and there is no one to remind them of these issues; it’s just the two tyrants. Both terribly paranoid, heaven knows what and how much one can give to and receive from the other without seriously denting one’s own power. So, the negotiation is not about bringing peace in the area. This cannot be done using two very unpopular leaders while ignoring many obvious and critical parties to the conflict.
There is, of course, also the fear that PM Abiy, negotiating from a position of weakness, will give TPLF concessions he cannot and should not. The performance of the Ethiopian National Defense Force in the war was so abysmal that TPLF is emboldened to be more demanding from the overly submissive and compliant PM Abiy. Having occupied Dessie and Kombolcha for forty days and having advanced over three hundred kilometers towards the capital, TPLF despises him. Besides, he is aware of the fact that he is becoming more and more unpopular by the day. Thus, the only leverage the PM has is his ability to hamper the inflow of aid material into Tigray. Even that is highly weakened by Western pressure. Subsequently, Ethiopians are nervous about this secretive negotiation. They are disappointed that indispensable parties to the negotiation are excluded, and two parties with very hostile attitudes towards the people are negotiating with a possibly more incendiary outcome to the region.
Two parties who have committed genocide on Afar and Amhara in one way or another cannot be trusted to negotiate a solution to avoid genocide now and in the future. TPLF terrorists have declared Amhara an enemy as a people and have shown the extent they can go to exterminate them by the mass graves of hundreds of thousands of Amharas in Wolqaiet. They have shown us their hatred, cruelty and depravity in the war crimes they had committed. Abiy is no less an enemy of Afar and Amhara than TPLF. He watched the more than three months brutal invasion of Afar by TPLF sitting with his legs crossed and hands folded. The massacre of Afar children, of the elderly, and of the breast-feeding mothers did not nudge him to act. He callously watched them die as he watched Western movies. His dereliction of duty was tantamount to the genocide TPLF committed. PM Abiy hid the raging Amhara genocide in the Kilil he leads for several years now. Not only did he fail to investigate the crimes and punish the culprits, but he also shrouded it in a thick veil of secrecy, with the satisfaction of a mission accomplished. Besides, through inexplicable retreats bereft of any military logic, he allowed TPLF to occupy important Amhara cities for months. He failed to protect the people of Amhara and their property, and their basic infrastructures by design until they were completely destroyed. Ludicrously, the AU and the West believe the conspiracy-like negotiation that they are concocting will satisfy all the people of Ethiopia in general and the Afarees, and the Amharas in particular. I can understand the West’s source of blunder: It is their disdain for black Africa, and their “they don’t know any better” mentality. It pains me to think our African brothers and sisters at the AU look down upon our people similarly. This negotiation will have an outcome in which the two genocidal powers come out with a power distribution that will enable them to continue doing what they have been doing—fight for the imposition of their respective group hegemony over all others, even by trying to exterminate others.
Was this negotiation supposed to be a vehicle for a lasting peace in the area, it should not have been held with such secrecy, lies, and conspiracy. This kind of pungently toxic social atmosphere is inherently unconducive to any positive result. Academicians and intellectuals should have known about it and discussed its merits. Religious leaders should have been informed of it, convinced of it and educated their followers. The media should have analyzed the pros and cons of it to do its share of informing the public. Moreover, the House of Representative should have taken ownership of the negotiation and mandated it. Most important of all, representatives of the people of Amhara and Afar should have a direct participation in the negotiation to protect themselves from genocide, from any hindrance to the full enjoyment of their identity and from the annexation of their lands.
A futile attempt of taking cover in the participation of the Amhara Kilil administration or the leadership of the Amhara Prosperity Party in the tail end of the process will not make it any more productive for two reasons: 1) by failing to defend its people from TPLF invasion; in fact, by conspiring to loot 60 million Birr of the people’s money and flee abroad while the invasion was going on, the Amhara Kilil leadership lost all of its legitimacy, had it have any. 2) The fact that it invited or tolerated OLA or OPDO military forces to hunt the best and the brightest Amhara has, proved it to be an appendage of the Oromo hegemony scheme ready to sell out its own people. Proof positive, it has turned the region into the prison camp of enlightened Amharas and Fanos persecuted by Oromo soldiers wearing Amharas special force’s uniform.
Consequently, no sanitizer, no antibacterial or antiviral can kill the stench of this hideous negotiation. A genuine one with real and concrete representation of all parties to the conflict is the only path to lasting peace. Once again the World, including the African Union, has failed Ethiopia by following the darkest way of drug cartels tragically to nowhere.
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