The Art of Dominance: Is TPLF the West’s “S.O.B”?
“Somoza (President of Nicaragua) may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch” F. D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, 1939
By Aklog Birara (Dr)
Part 14 of 20
“There is a conflict in Africa right now that appears not only to have been forgotten by the rest of the world but to be one which could, without much prompting, become one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in living memory.” The Irish Examiner
“One must realize the truth. The only Tigray Defense Force (TDF) chance to turn the conventional war launched August 24 in its favor would have been to crush the ENDF-EDF-Amhara army at its the beginning, exactly as it did in June 21. Mekelle’s communication proves that this has failed… “Tweet by Rene’ Lefort, TPLF champion
Lefort is among the West’s staunchest champions of TPLF’s military prowess. He had hoped that the rebel group would crush Ethiopia’s defense forces and march to victory. For almost two years now, Lefort championed TPLF cause in his capacity as a member of the cohort of foes, adversaries, or enablers that Ethiopia is fighting to defend its very survival. Ethiopia is on the verge of defeating TPLF. The rest of the world ought to urge TPLF to stop fighting now.
Concert of actors
As the graphic depiction on the next page shows, there is incontestable evidence that Ethiopia’s internal and external mortal enemies, foes or adversaries wish to advance a highly synchronized strategic goal of either weakening the Eritrean and Ethiopian states and governments or forcing Eritrea and Ethiopia to submit or worse stimulating and causing implosion in the entire Horn of Africa or pushing for the disintegration, dismantlement, or balkanization of Ethiopia. As far as the cohort of actors against Ethiopia and Eritrea are concerned, the two countries are a flip of the same coin. Weakening both and or replacing their government leadership with the TPLF assures Western dominance of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, and Eastern Africa. This defense of the indefensible is crumbling fast.
I have no doubt that both Eritrea and Ethiopia shall prevail. They must, however, coordinate their efforts on all fronts. Long-term, these two countries must establish a common economic federation and prosper. The immediate question is at what cost would the war end? Would Tigrean Ethiopians reject TPLF’s fanatical, exclusionary, and corruption-ridden doctrine of ethno-nationalism and tribalism, embrace reconciliation and peace, accept the fundamental principle that Tigray—foundation of Ethiopia’s state formation and civilization—-is a core part of Ethiopia? I am hopeful this will occur.
Tigrean-Ethiopians who have suffered hugely from TPLF repressive and corrupt leadership will benefit most from the overthrow of TPLF. Equally, Eritrea and Ethiopia will enjoy peace and stability if they dismantle TPLF, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) other extremist entities. They operate collaboratively.
My considered advice for Ethiopia to prevail is simple. Instead of pointing fingers at one another internally, placing blame at Ethiopia’s lead adversaries externally, discussing the West’s and TPLF’s propaganda machine that Eritrean and, often, Amhara forces must withdraw from Tigray (a core part of Ethiopia), priority number one is for all Eritreans and Ethiopians to close ranks, unite and save Eritrea and Ethiopia first.
No individual person or class or ethnic group in either country will benefit from Eritrea’s or Ethiopia’s collapse. Second, rooting out and dismantling the terrorist core ideology and the massive network headed by TPLF that operates with other ethno-nationalist and terrorist groups in Beni-Shangul Gumuz, Gambella, Gondar (Kimant rebels) soonest will reduce the carnage and sufferings of tens of millions of Ethiopians, especially Tigreans. It will decrease the cost of war. It will re-elevate Ethiopia’s status on the world stage. This will create a favorable environment for sustainable and equitable development not only in Eritrea and Ethiopia, but also in the entire Horn and Eastern Africa. I repeat, TPLF is a cancer.
In the light of the concert of internal and external actors depicted above, I commend Ethiopia’s national determination to end the war. I also admire its commitment to arrive at sustainable peace.
Despite rhetoric from the West, I do not find any evidence that TPLF leaders, hard core supporters, foreign enablers and paid agents are committed to lasting peace and stability. One of the leading Western champions of TPLF’s incurable and tribal cause, Rene’ Lefort finally admitted that TPLF has failed in its reckless civil war against Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces and the support Ethiopia’s broad coalition defense forces (ጥምር ኃይል፤ ምታ በዝምታ) enjoy. Implicitly, Lefort suggests TPLF is no longer able to set preconditions. Why not be bold and demand TPLF leaders stop the carnage now?
TPLF champions notwithstanding, there are many good hearted and caring persons, policy and decision makers, intellectuals, think tanks and the like in the West who support Ethiopia’s just cause; and who do not agree with or support either the TPLF or their own governments.
Tigrean-Ethiopians who live and work peacefully outside Tigray are doing their level best to expose TPLF atrocities and suppression in Tigray. But Western corporate media refuse to convey their voices and recommendations concerning the way out of this tragic war that hurts Tigrean Ethiopian civilians.
US Department of State admitted for the first-time last week that TPLF instigated the third war. I wish it had also acknowledged TPLF and not the governments of Eritrea and or Ethiopia instigated the first and second wars. TPLF may be considered “a bitch” but it seems to be the West’s “bitch” that they want to save.
My core argument is that there is material difference between defending the human rights of Tigrean Ethiopians—a deserved human right I too defend and support—and dismantling TPLF ideology and insurgency. The two are not a flip of the same coin. TPLF is the source of the mayhem and Tigrean and non-Tigrean Ethiopians bear the brunt of the war TPLF reignited. Surgical operation against the TPLF war and propaganda machine is in the interest of Tigrean Ethiopians too.
Independent domestic and foreign observers agree that the TPLF war machine is no more. I am not convinced this is true yet. TPLF possesses close to half a century of experience on insurgency. It has now made the fight a “people’s war.” Rightly or wrongly, TPLF has convinced Tigreans that they face an “existential threat.” I urge the West to reconsider this strategic mistake. It prolongs the war.
TPLF complements its current insurgency by harvesting assets from a network of international diplomatic and material enablers that it established over decades. TPLF enjoys support from hard core followers and financiers including thousands in the Diaspora who benefitted from 27 years of TPLF harsh rule. These die-hard adherents say, “In the event of military defeat, TPLF might revert to and activate guerrilla warfare.” My concern is that TPLF may be willing to sacrifice more innocent lives in the process.
The way out is not reverting to guerrilla warfare but pursuing national reconciliation and peace for all Ethiopians. This is where the EU, USA, UN, and the AU could invest heavily. Their approach must be comprehensive, measured, and all-inclusive. Differentiating atrocities…Tigray genocide, Tigray famine, Tigray encirclement, unfettered access to Tigray and the like is ill-advised. For more than half a century, 50 percent of the Tigrean population has been dependent on international humanitarian aid. This dependency is demeaning. Ethiopians can solve this core problem by unleashing the creative and productive potential of the Ethiopian people and not by slaughtering one another.
Parity in treatment of human beings is critical. The West has a moral and ethical obligation to consider the notion that the lives of Afar, Amhara, Eritrean and other non-Tigreans matter too. I will respect them if they say, “all Ethiopian lives matter.”
My advice to the West is “If you wish to solve the problem, refrain from dividing Ethiopians along ethnic or faith lines. Do the right thing for the right reason.” TPLF hardly represents ordinary and hard working Tigreans.
This leads me to the most recent calls by the international community, including the leadership pf the African Union for immediate cessation of hostilities. On October 16, 2022, the Chairman of the African Union, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat issued the following statement to which I subscribe.
a)” Unconditional Cease-Fire, Peace.
b) WE BLACK AFRICANS are inside out, up, and down, thoroughly mixed-up that we lost our direction as well as our dream, in totality.
c) And so, COLONIALISM succeeded in making us neither true Black African nor any other copied camouflaged.
d) WE ARE SADLY and COMPLETELY LOST in the JUNGLE of COLONIALISM— NOT INOUR OWN JUNGLE.
e) IF in doubt, as to what we became, we have a piece of cloth called ‘necktie’ around our necks where we can be choked to death for any disobedience to our master, the everlasting colonialism.”
Ethiopia needs peace and not war. The international community failed to demand accountability from the TPLF and its foreign enablers from the start of the war in November 2020.
A change of heart is good policy
The West, the UN and AU must reconsider their narratives and policy towards Eritrea and Ethiopia. In particular, the West must respect the sovereign rights of both countries harmed by the TPLF. The West must entertain the noble idea that neither country is a lacky to any power. It is in West’s long-term interest to abandon the TPLF. Below are additional reasons why. TPLF is:
- Anti-Ethiopian national identity, unity, territorial integrity as well as peace, stability, and prosperity
- Barbaric, brutal, greedy, corrupt, and inhumane recruiting, deploying, and sacrificing tens of thousands of Tigrean child soldiers for a cause forced on them
- Cruel in its treatment of Tigrean Ethiopians who express dissent and demand peace
- Incurably tribal and racist, unable to coexist peacefully and respectfully with non-Tigrean Ethiopians
- Treasonous, aligning itself with Ethiopia’s external mortal enemies
- Incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, truthfulness from falsehoods and fake news
At this moment, TPLF is a diminished insurgency. It is beyond redemption. Ethiopia must never negotiate with TPLF unless it vows that it will not revert to war anymore. The international community must understand the fact that TPLF has a history of denial, regrouping, mobilizing, rearming, and reverting to international and regional diplomatic and material support and pressure whether it loses or wins. It repressed and stole billions of dollars when it was in power. It committed treason when it lost power. So, how does one trust such an insurgency?
Given TPLF’s record as a war mongering entity that also serves foreign powers, a two-track approach a) dismantling TPLF militarily so that it is no longer a threat to Ethiopia; and b) negotiating for permanent peace with no-TPLF stakeholders makes immense sense. The ultimate beneficiaries of peace will be Tigrean Ethiopians.
The government of Ethiopia must engage non-TPLF Tigrean Ethiopians and political parties who are committed to reconciliation and peace. It must encourage them to come forward and negotiate for peace, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and sustainable development as part of Ethiopia. I argued in Part 13 that secession proposed by TPLF is never the solution.
Ethiopia’s Achilles Heel is ethnic hatred, division, polarization, and the associated agony emanating from greed, individual profiteering from the war, graft, bribery, and corruption. One can trace these maladies that affect the Ethiopian economy from TPLF. Egypt, the EU, the USA, and other actors that operate in concert deploy this ethnic-elite inflicted and implanted institutional and structural weakness in Ethiopian politics to achieve their dominance in the Horn, the Red Sea, and Eastern Africa.
Ethiopia’s adversaries penetrate and exploit this glaring gap in Ethiopian national identity and the dearth of national social cohesion TPLF created during the height of its brutal rule to recruit African and non-African partners wherever it can find them. The concert’s primary goal is not necessarily to save innocent Tigrean and non-Tigrean lives. It is to advance their geopolitical, national security and market interests.
One of the most notorious partners of this plot in Africa is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. A favorite of the West and a one-time trainee of the CIA, Kagame is among Africa’s authoritarian leaders who enjoys protection by the West. He is among the concert of deal makers, trying to channel drones to the TPLF. Journalist ANJAN SUNDARAM’s who covers Rwanda, and the DRC writes in Politico Magazine (2014 and updated in January 202), “Rwanda: The Darling Tyrant” that “The thing to know about Rwandan President Paul Kagame is not just that he is a dictator responsible for human rights abuses but that, despite this, he has a great many friends.” The West celebrates and protects him because he “commanded the rebel force that put an end to Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago.”
The West’s boys in Africa
Former President Bill Clinton, former Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, and former UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon spoke in unison and hailed Meles Zenawi, Yoweri Museveni, Isaias Afewerki and Paul Kagame as among “the greatest leaders of our time.” All became untouchable except for Afewerki who decided to defend his country’s honor, dignity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, forgoing aid, and adopting a policy of self-reliance in development. Afewerki’s Eritrea is a pariah and Kagame’s Rwanda is a star. Other stars include Al-Sisi’s Egypt, Museveni’s Uganda and the former President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, once accused of crimes against humanity. But, in 2014, The International Criminal Court in The Hague withdrew the charges of crimes against humanity, in large part due to pressure from Western powers. He too is protected. An illegitimate African leader accused of genocide enjoys legitimacy. It helps to have friends in high places.
Uhuru Kenyatta is among TPLF supporters. Despite this, the AU designated him to serve as a member of the Obasanjo three-person mediation team. On October 7, 2022, Kenyatta wrote a letter to AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki, announcing that he cannot attend the scheduled conference in South Africa due to “prior commitments.”
What stunned me and millions of other Africans is Uhuru Kenyatta’s embrace and advocacy of the TPLF position that “hostilities must stop” before negotiations begin. Imposing a precondition by a member of a mediation team makes the negotiation flawed and partisan. Mr. Kenyatta does not meet the ethical and moral standard to remain a member of the team.
The privileged status granted to Paul Kagame by the West earns Rwanda more than one billion dollars in foreign aid annually. International praise granted Kagame internal invincibility and untouchability. “The political “opposition” consists of parties that refuse to speak out against Kagame even during elections. Kagame has been in power for more than 20 years.” He has declared to the entire world that he plans to run again in 2024. Kagame scrapped the constitution to allow himself to stay in power until 2034. He made elections a sham in the same manner Meles Zenawi did during his long tenure as Ethiopia’s “Renaissance leader.” TPLF under TPLF authoritarian leader Zenawi received substantial aid. He too was untouchable.
Sundaram reveals that “Criticism of Kagame can be lethal… When Patrick Karegeya—Kagame’s former spy chief and friend who became one of his fiercest critics— found dead in a South African hotel room in January, the Rwandan foreign minister, asked for the government’s response, tweeted, “This man was a self-declared enemy of my Gov & my country, U expect pity?” The Rwandan defense minister added, “When you choose to live like a dog, you die like a dog.” And Kagame himself remarked in a speech, “Shouldn’t we have done it?”
Not only was the president justifying a murder—he was warning his critics that betraying Rwanda brings consequences. In fact, in Kagame’s 20 years as the de facto leader of the country, more than a dozen prominent dissidents assassinated, imprisoned, exiled, and tortured. According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in recent years half a dozen well known investigators, journalists and opposition politicians have also found dead in mysterious circumstances, including, six months ago, a Rwandan Transparency International worker who had been investigating police corruption.”
As America’s celebrated President Roosevelt opined concerning Somoza (Nicaragua), if you are the West’s tyrant, Western powers grant personal protection regardless of brutality, gross human rights violations, genocide, theft, and corruption. TPLF did these and more but ruled unchallenged.
Sundaram caps his assessment. “Foreign governments, notably the United States, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, are nonetheless lining up at Kagame’s door with praise, and money, desperate for a foreign aid success story after 50 barren years in Africa. Total publicly reported foreign aid to Kagame’s government stands at some $1 billion annually, of which the U.S. government provides about a fifth. It’s not surprising that these Western countries, as well as international institutions like the World Bank, believe Rwanda is one of their best hopes in the region: Kagame’s government says it lifted 1 million people out of poverty between 2008 and 2012, and that the country’s economy grew at a remarkable 8 percent clip during the global economic crisis—successes that seem even more remarkable in a country still recovering from the 1994 genocide, which killed nearly a million people and brought the economy to a standstill.”
It is this privileged status that prompted Paul Kagame as well as the son of Uganda’s strong man President Yoweri Museveni, General Muhozi Kainerugaba, commander of Uganda’s ground forces to tweet that his forces would “capture Nairobi, Kenya in two weeks.” At one time the general had tweeted Uganda’s “support to Tigray rebels.” He feels protected because he received training in the USA and Egypt. Uganda sent the general to Ethiopia and relations have since been normalized.
Paul Kagame had a strong personal relationship with the TPLF leadership led by the late Meles Zenawi. TPLF established a network of friends in Rwanda and Uganda. SCOOP and other reports had revealed Rwanda’s and Uganda’s sinister and underhanded support to the TPLF. Such support by African states against other African states undermines the steady march of African market and economic integration that the US and its Western allies must support.
When Kagame’s collusion with the TPLF, Egypt and the West against Ethiopia became public, Kagame sent his foreign minister to Ethiopia on a secret mission and restored mutual trust and confidence between Ethiopia and Rwanda. Ethiopian media reported that Rwanda’s foreign minister had said that the government of Rwanda is committed to Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity.
I find these two reversals of policy as timely and helpful to relations of states in the entire Horn and Eastern Africa. They also bode well for the entire Africa.
What do I suggest?
- Ethiopia’s diplomats and those in the Diaspora wherever they (we) live must be vigilant in representing Ethiopia’s national interests and in challenging think tanks, media, opinion-makers, and influencers such as Lefort as well as government policy and decision-makers.
- The West has an obligation to recognize the civil war initiated and repeated three times by the TPLF is identical to the failed civil war in Nigeria (1967-1970) in which two million innocent civilians, most of them children and females perished. The West has an obligation to affirm Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and reject secession. This unequivocal policy position will also save lives.
- The European Parliament and the US Congress as well as the Biden administration will regain respectability among Ethiopians and other Black Africans if they restore development support to Ethiopia, and refrain from gross interference.
- The federal government of Ethiopia must invest more heavily and engage Tigrean Ethiopians in the search for durable reconciliation and peace.
- Ethiopians within and outside the country have a moral obligation to reach out to one another beyond ethnicity and faith and proffer the value-added proposition that ethnic diversity makes Ethiopia richer, better, productive, creative, and attractive.
Ethiopia Shall Prevail!!
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