TPLF understands that it does [not]stand a chance to win the war it started yesterday. The question is what is the calculus behind this reckless adventure?
The negotiation prospect is not going in the direction TPLF had hoped for. Its hope that the international community will pressure the Ethiopian government to return Welkait to Tigray, and have some sort of national dialogue has not materialized.
The way the negotiation is shaping is that the first round of negotiation will be limited to: (1) averting humanitarian crisis, (2) restoring public services, including banking, electricity,and telecommunication, (3) providing federal budget assistance.
Another important issue that did not go in the way TPLF hoped for is Western sanction on Ethiopia. I have been writing that the West will not sanction Ethiopia in any meaningful way. Far from sanctioning Ethiopia, the West is providing Ethiopia debt relief.
TPLF is frustrated in all directions. In desperation, its strategy is to derail the negotiation plan, hoping the international community will reconsider its position on the negotiation baselines.
Its gamble is to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Tigray. I have been telling you since November 2020, TPLF strategy is to create a humanitarian crisis and leverage it for political gains.
TPLF understands that its looting of fuel trucks from the UN compound in Mekele will trigger the Ethiopian government to block humanitarian aid. This will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis.
TPLF’s hope is the international community will reconsider its position and start pressuring the Ethiopian government to reconsider its negotiation strategy and agree to find a solution for Welkait ahead of the negotiation.
The Ethiopian government is justified to block humanitarian aid. The purpose of humanitarian aid is to help the civilian population not to provide fuel and fuel tanks to TPLF fighting forces.
The Ethiopian government has no guarantee that the next load of fuel and food will not be looted by TPLF. The UN can no longer blame Ethiopia for the humanitarian crisis.
Will The International Community Start Pressuring Ethiopia?
The answer to the question is: It depends. Let me explain how this will play out in the US, a nation I am familiar with. The US has its own political calculus. Biden has an interest in havinga stable global order.
The last thing he wants is an unstable horn of Africa. If for whatever reason the humanitarian crisis worsens and/or the region becomes unstable, the Republicans will be happy to use it against Biden. “The world is falling apart under Biden! First Ukraine and now the Horn of Africa” will be their attack line.
In Biden’s calculus, who is at fault will be a detail nobody cares about. What the world sees is the crisis under Biden. TPLF understands this well. The question is: Does the Ethiopian government understand it?
Ethiopia needs to understand how the international community functions. Just because you have the truth on your side does not help you if you do not defend it. Ethiopia must be aggressive in its international PR. It must go on the offensive. It must find it possible to get the story out in US and European Newspapers. The government’s “We do not have money for lobbying and media influencers” is utterly stupid.
A war can cost Ethiopia billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs, not to count human lives. Yes, Ethiopia can spend $5 million without any problem. Its GDP is $307 billion in PPP.
If South Sudan with GDP of less than $20 billion can spend $3.7 million on lobbying, Ethiopia can spend $5 million easily.
Hire the best lobbying firm and media placement firm and get wall to wall News coverage. Disarm TPLF’s weapon of last resort: International PR. Then you will be able to control the international agenda and narrative.
That will influence the international community’s policy and kill TPLF’s strategy of using humanitarian crises for political gain.
Editor’s note : The open letter was first shared on P2P forum on August 25,2022
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