Aklog Birara (Dr)
Part 11 of 14
Updated on October 2, 2022 , 8:42 P.M. Toronto Time
“I have seen with my own eyes young people being killed by the Leaders of the TPLF because they retreated. “Tigrean Ethiopian eyewitness on TPLF atrocities, SCOOP
“As the world is focused on Ukraine, a genocide is taking place In Ethiopia,” The Washington Post
“Ethiopia’s fate Is In the hands of ethno-nationalists, ethno-fascist mobs and murderous groups of people within and outside of the current leadership,” Girma Berhanu, Zehabesha
“If Abiy wants to know how he lost the world, he need only consider his own actions,” Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute
“That November,2019, Abiy eliminated the governing coalition that the Tigrayans had led. In its place, he devised a new political vehicle, the Prosperity Party—the same coalition that he had disbanded, except for the T.P.L.F., which refused to join,” Jon Lee Anderson
“I had prayed hard that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will have the courage, wisdom, ethical and moral values, sense of humanity and competence to transition Ethiopia from ethnic polarization, targeted murders, theft, graft, corruption, and maladministration to that of genuine and representative democratic governance underpinned by the rule of law and buffeted by strong national or Ethiopian institutions. Sadly, fruition of these hopes is questionable,” Aklog Birara, Borkena, June 23, 2022
I urge the reader of this commentary to reflect on the genesis of Ethiopia’s insurmountable and manufactured, institutional, and structural hurdles. I urge the reader to reflect on why the cohort in the West is disclosing and revealing satellite images and precise locations of Ethiopian and Eritrean defense force assets such as tanks and other heavy weapons deliberately and systematically? Does this unprecedented focus imply intervention and involvement in the war? I pose this question because this unusual and unprecedented disclosure shows a neocolonial/imperial approach. It supports, encourages, and emboldens TPLF.
The west discloses Satellite images of weapons in a skewed manner. Imbalance is motivated by dominance rather than parity and search for amicable solutions. The west does not disclose satellite images of Russian or Ukrainian tanks or rockets and locations. Nor do they show TPLF weaponry and their locations. This is a form of proxy war. At minimum, the intent is to pressure Ethiopia and Eritrea and to assist TPLF.
Lost in the conversation by the west
I also want the reader not to lose sight of the often-untold story line that, regardless of ethnicity, faith, or class, ordinary Ethiopians (the majority) are decent, kind, thoughtful, civil to one another, restrained, empathetic, spiritual, enterprising regardless of where they live, and hardworking. I witnessed these attributes during my visit to Ethiopia after forty-five years. Thieves snatch your mobile phone in Addis Ababa; but a person carrying tons of Birr to deposit in a bank is rarely if ever affected or robbed. Try to do that in NYC or Nairobi or Abuja or Cape Town with confidence.
Had this Ethiopian civility and decency not been the case, Ethiopia would have been Rwanda-like in scale. Because ethnic elites who stoke ethnic violence populate the Ethiopian landscape. Had there not been a sense of belonging, the Ethiopian state and government would have collapsed by now. In the absence of a common country called Ethiopia, the self-financed GERD to which shoe-shiners, farmers and the rest contributed, and which is on the verge of completion would have been impossible. Ethiopian Airlines that broke the air transport grid lock in Africa would not have been profitable or continental.
I mention these two transformative examples in development to show there is promise against formidable odds. Tragically, both Ethiopia’s internal ethnic elite adversaries and the cohort of western corporate media, think tanks, influencers, policy and decision-makers, governments, and the UN system they dominate are single minded in their portrayal of Ethiopia’s agonies.
Since the TPLF initiated the civil war in November 2020, the cohort sugar coats or couches or emblazons Ethiopia’s multifaceted problems in the form of a one-sided human rights violations, the responsibility to protect, genocide, famine, encirclement, weaponization of essential humanitarian aid to Tigray and singling out Tigrean-Ethiopians as the only victims. This is wrong, dangerous, and precedent setting for Africa. The cohort of western elites speak from the same script, mirroring a US Government-led and dictated unipolar point of view in the relations of states. The focus of the script and implied punishment are Eritrea and Ethiopia.
There is no doubt in my assessment that human security, human rights, the right to live and work in any part of Ethiopia without fear of persecution or displacement or, in many cases death, the induvial right to move in and out of any part of Ethiopia without harassment and assaults, the basic civil right to challenge authorities, the citizenship right to receive basic administrative services without paying bribes and the rest are degraded in Ethiopia.
These and other governance problems emanate from the system itself. Jon Lee Anderson’s Op-ed, “Did a Noble Peace Laureate Stoke a Civil War,” New Yorker, September 26, 2022, presents a compelling picture concerning the systemic and structural hurdles Ethiopia faces. This is the “elephant in the room” Ethiopian elites, academics, political parties, civil society and the like either refuse to unravel or fail to challenge. The dearth includes Ethiopia’s diaspora estimated at more than two million. I have been asking myself how Ethiopia’ s diaspora remits foreign exchange to Ethiopia through: formal or legal channels?
Unbelievably, remittance to Ethiopia is not included in the latest statistics by renowned entities. In 2022, the five top remittance recipients in Sub-Saharan Africa are Nigeria $19.2 billion, Ghana $4.5 billion, Kenya $3.7 billion, Senegal $2.7 billion, and Zimbabwe $2.0 billion. It is time for the diaspora to ask whether it is contributing to the demise of the Ethiopian economy by remitting funds through the black or informal market?
Ethnic federalism fails the Ethiopian people.
“In an effort to reset the balance of power, the T.P.L.F. split Ethiopia into semi-autonomous regions, encompassing the traditional territories of the main ethnic groups. The effect, a senior Western official told me, was to “seed the future with ethnic problems,” creating a system of eleven mini-states in near-perpetual tension. For much of the twentieth century, the Amhara, the country’s second-largest group, had dominated Ethiopian politics. Now the government gave the Tigrayans a portion of land that the Amhara regarded as theirs, provoking an enduring resentment. Everywhere an internal border was created, people felt that their traditional lands had been breached, and that they had been shut out of power,” writes Anderson. He is referring to Wolkait that TPLF annexed and calls “Western Tigray.”
Of the most recent articles on Ethiopia that I have read, Anderson’s analytical piece is more balanced, fairer, and more favorable to Ethiopia than the rest. Anderson underscores a thesis on which I have written a great deal, namely, Ethiopia is “ethnically fractured.” Whether deliberate or not, Anderson misses a huge part of the problem though. He sidelines or ignores or leaves out the November 2020 treasonous war initiated by TPLF that caused mayhem. This is huge. It is the core problem today.
Despite this, Ethiopia’s governing elites fail to diagnose the root causes of the war with TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) that operate in concert. Winning the current war by itself will not resolve the country’s problems. This is the reason “Critics accuse Abiy of tearing Ethiopia apart.” His government remains committed to ethnic federalism. The most damning example is recurrent and targeted slaughter of hundreds of Amhara in Wellega, Oromia, northern Shoa and Beni-Shangul Gumuz. These slaughters of innocent civilians—babies, women and the elderly compound atrocities and economic destruction in the north.
The missing balance: protecting lives vs planting trees
I believe in sustainable development. Planting eighteen billion trees is an admirable goal for sustainable development. But development is about the wellbeing and welfare of human beings. This includes Amhara, Tigrean, Afar, Somali, Oromo and other civilians who reside in all parts of Ethiopia. The lead responsibility of any government is to protect the lives and security of civilians regardless of ethnicity and irrespective of where they live. On this criterion, the Prime Minister has failed.
Prime Minister Abiy says the right stuff all the time. The difficulty I see is the disconnect between Ethiopian government leadership rhetoric on the one hand and state and government policies, programs, and implementation anomalies on the other. At the time of the Oslo celebration and Nobel Laureate award in Oslo, Prime Minister Abiy remarked “Before we can harvest peace dividends, we must plant seeds of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the hearts and minds of our citizens.” I recall the Bible says, “You reap what you sow.” The doctrine of sticking to ethnic federalism that causes and stimulates ethnic violence at any cost is hugely flawed. Schools teach children to hate rather than love. Elites vie for financial gain at the cost of others rather than push for shared prosperity. Theft, graft, bribery, and corruption permeates Ethiopian society. Such governance robs Ethiopia requisite and scarce capital that Ethiopia would be ablet to invest, alleviate poverty and strengthen shared prosperity.
Ethiopia reaped what it sowed under the TPLF. It lost tens of billions of dollars in robbed capital. It lost thousands of lives killed by TPLF security forces. TPLF degraded Ethiopia’s national institutions, its remarkable culture and citizenship as Ethiopians and as human beings. The system eroded national cohesion.
It is this degradation that the cohort dismisses or ignores deliberately and consistently. While I disagree with the root causes of Ethiopia’s insurmountable problems that emanate from the Constitution, the institutions, structures, and administrative modalities; I also share the predicament Abiy finds himself as expressed to Anderson. “Abiy gave a disgusted wave of his hand. “Then these guys came.” He was referring to the Biden Administration. “They do not know who their loyal friends are. They made the mistake of talking publicly and down to me. Samantha Power announced she was coming to Ethiopia and was going to meet me. Without even consulting me! That is not the way it is done. So, I did not see her, and she left terribly upset. Now there is a different approach—they know they must behave respectfully.”
The Government of the US (USG) under Biden behaves as an imperial or colonial boss. The cohort drives its assertions mirroring USG directives; and propagates fake news, fake assessments, misleading narratives, and conspiracy theories as if the Chinese and the Russians and other foreign powers exert power and influence in Ethiopia. In this regard, they fail to understand the Ethiopian mind of strong patriotism in the face of foreign aggression. They ignore Ethiopia’s long and distinguished status as an independent country and as “the Motherland of Africa.”
Ethiopia is a capital poor country. It needs infusion of foreign capital to propel its development agenda. The policy question is “At what cost and for whose benefit?” Whether it is Samantha Power or Anthony Blinken or Mike Hammer, the first principle for Ethiopia is mutual respect between the two countries. Respectful treatment engenders mutual trust and confidence. Disrespectful treatment pushes Ethiopia away regardless of the financial and military might of the state with which it interfaces. Anderson says “Abiy told me that he had “taken a big intake of breath” when he heard that Joe Biden had fallen off his bicycle. “I wish he acted his age. Obama was good at making inspiring speeches, but he made more promises than he could fulfill.”
Here I share Abiy’s sentiments. At the same time, it would have been prudent for Abiy to show empathy for those killed because of their ethnicity; to express remorse, sadness, and sorrow for human atrocities whether these atrocities are associated with TPLF in the North or OLA in the South or the war of mutual annihilation and destruction between the TPLF, OLA and foreign powers like Egypt on the one hand and Ethiopian coalition forces, including Eritrea on the other. Those who are dying in thousands are Ethiopians. Further, the social and economic destruction caused by the war instigated by TPLF is incalculable. It is Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people that are paying a huge price in this war.
Anderson’s attribution of blame on Eritrea and Ethiopia quoting international observers lacks intellectual rigor and integrity. The UN Human Rights Council and the International HR Experts on Ethiopia speak from the same script as the USG. There is deliberate and selective bias. “Most of the international observers I spoke with believe that Abiy’s soldiers and the Eritreans have committed violence on a greater scale than the Tigrayans, but none of the partisans in the conflict seem to have avoided brutality. A recent U.N. report described war crimes and human-rights violations on both sides. In addition to the widespread starvation caused by the siege, Abiy’s forces and allies had killed and raped civilians, and conducted scores of air strikes on civilian targets, including one on a displaced-persons camp in which some sixty civilians died. The Tigrayan forces, the report said, had committed “large-scale killings of Amhara civilians, rape and sexual violence, and widespread looting and destruction of civilian property.” The senior Western official told me, in disgust, “They’re all as bad as each other.”
I wish Anderson had conducted thorough investigative journalism on TPLF atrocities, rapes, murders, and other crimes of war in the Afar and Amhara regions. He did not do that.
- The missing part in this assertion is the lack of a clear understanding of “Who initiated the war, repeated it twice, committed treason and terrorist acts? It is neither the Eritrean nor the Ethiopian army. TPLF targeted and accused both. The cohort bought TPLF propaganda in toto. Eritrea and Ethiopia defended their societies. The UN Charter sanctions defensive measures.
- Regardless of the collateral damage and associated atrocities that ensued, the lead responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide resides with the TPLF.
- It is this fact that the cohort of Western analysts, opinion makers, influencers, policy, and decision makers as well as think tanks are unwilling or refuse to acknowledge.
- For those like me who believe in Ethiopian unity, Ethiopia’s promising future, the imperative of protection of human rights and human security for all Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity or faith, is to bring an end to this asinine civil war. Failure to end the war must not be an option. Because the longer the war, the more the atrocities; and the more costly for Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
- Prime Minister Abiy and his Prosperity Party have an obligation to deal with the root causes of the war and recurrent killings.
- The government of Ethiopia must hold those who killed innocent civilians accountable.
- Among policy measures I recommend in the strongest term is serious and bold overhaul of the Constitution.
- The international community, especially the USG, UN Security Council and specialized UN agencies must stop fueling and prolonging the war by taking sides with the TPLF.
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