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Victory… And the Day After

Victory _ peace agreement _ Ethiopia
Members of the Ethiopian Defense Force commemorating victims of the TPLF attack on the Northern Command Post on November 3, 2022

Maimire Mennasemay

The November 2, 2022 agreement in Pretoria is a victory for all Ethiopians, a victory for peace and common sense. It is a victory for the humanist principles and values that are central to Ethiopian civilization to which Tigreans have made notable contributions. To ensure the success of this Agreement, Ethiopians need “good faith” and “a lesson” from their history. I will deal with these two issues separately.

Good faith means that the parties will deal with each other honestly and fairly and will interpret and implement the Agreement in ways that uphold it rather than destroy it. The Agreement is quite complex and its interpretation and implementation requires good faith on both sides. Given the horrendous loss of life and property the two-year war has inflicted on Ethiopians, it is reasonable to assume that both parties will exercise good faith to the utmost in its interpretation and application instead of replunging the country  into another horrifying cycle of death and destruction. 

Those who are inimical to the Agreement will engage in bad faith interpretations of the Argument. As we already see on social media and some western news outlets, the opponents to the Agreement are mostly pro-war Ethiopians in the Diaspora and pro-war foreigners. 

The pro-war Diaspora Ethiopians have not experienced the ravages of the war in their bodies, souls, and daily lives. Their experience of the war is abstract, limited to the images and rumours they see and hear on social media. If these pro-war Diaspora Ethiopians are listened to and engaged in good faith in ways that demonstrate that further war will simply prolong for nothing the suffering of Ethiopians, particularly Tigreans, they will recognize sooner or later that peace offers much more rewards than war to Ethiopians living in Tigray. If engaged with good faith and fact-based dialogue, pro-war Diaspora Ethiopians will come to see the indispensability of peace and will support the Agreement. They are after all Ethiopians who care about the welfare of their country.

The second possible source of opposition to the Agreement are certain politicians in certain countries who believe that a weak Ethiopia better serves the geopolitical interests of their countries. They  therefore would like to see either the resumption of the war or the persistence of conflicts that will permanently weaken Ethiopia and make her amenable to their interests. Such politicians’ views could change when they realize that a strong, independent, prosperous and peaceful Ethiopia is a better ally than a weak Ethiopia. Good faith and fact-based dialogue is possible with this group.

Finally, the third group opposed to the Agreement are some Western journalists, analysts and academics. They consider themselves “experts” on Ethiopian questions. Over the last two years, this group willingly served as megaphones for amplifying the propaganda and lies of the disinformation services of anti-Ethiopian forces. Unable to swallow the fact that there is an ancient, never-colonized African nation with its own written civilization, they somberly predicted the demise of Ethiopia. However, the Pretoria Agreement exposed their ignorance of Ethiopian history, spirit, culture and commitment to the existence of the Ethiopian nation. Their self-respect and their self-esteem as well as the respect and esteem others have of them as “experts” have been bruised irreparably. One could then understand their bitterness and their commitment to a bad faith interpretation of the Argument, hoping that their bad faith interpretations of the Agreement will convince some Ethiopians  to sabotage it. No amount of good faith and fact based dialogue with this group will change their mind. The best is to ignore them.

Will there be an internal opposition? One cannot exclude the presence of individuals and groups within Ethiopia who think their interests are better served by the continuation of the conflict in one form of another. However, if the parties to the Agreement interpret and implement it in good faith, the internal opposition to the Agreement will not find followers in Ethiopia and will peter out in time. In addition, an internal opposition to the Agreement may be motivated by unfounded fears and impossible expectations. These fears and expectations could be resolved through good faith and fact-based dialogues with this internal opposition.

“The day after” needs however more than “good faith” to give the Agreement a “permanent” positive impact on Ethiopia. The Agreement and its implementations are only first steps. They are  preambles to the important task of creating a foundation on which a permanent peace could be built to ensure an enduring democracy and prosperity. To accomplish this, good faith has to articulate itself with a crucial lesson from within Ethiopian history. Otherwise, the Agreement’s outcome could end up in a historically stagnant cul de sac. Let me explain.

Though we Ethiopians love to talk about Ethiopian history, we rarely engage in historical thinking. Historically speaking, Ethiopian victories have been mummified, because we have failed to unpack the historical implications of these victories and translate them into political, social, economic, and intellectual triumphs. Ethiopians tend to fetishize victories and engage in rhetorical bravado. We forget that victory is short-lived unless it becomes a “social” victory. As a result, Ethiopia’s past victories opened the gates of future defeats. Let me give two examples.

After the 1896 victory at Adwa, Menelik knew that Italy, France, and Britain had colonial designs on Ethiopia. Indeed, he seemed cognizant of the need to “modernize” Ethiopia to meet future challenges and took some timid steps. However, he did not undertake the political, economic, and social reforms necessary to prepare Ethiopia to face successfully the adversities that were looming on the horizon. His successor, Emperor Haile Selassie, did no better. So, when Italy attacked again Ethiopia in 1935, Ethiopia was unable to defend herself. Thus, the 1896  victory incubated Ethiopia’s defeat of 1936: Adwa gave birth to Maychew. And the Emperor fled to Britain.

Ethiopia’s victory against fascist Italy in 1941 was another wasted victory. Having lived in Britain during his five years of exile, Emperor Haile Selassie had first-hand knowledge of what a developed society is. He also knew that it was the technological and organizational superiority of Italians that led to the defeat of Ethiopia. He also knew that foreign powers still coveted Ethiopia. It was obvious then that political, social, economic, and intellectual transformations were necessary if Ethiopia were to avoid future defeats, be they of external or internal origin. 

On his return to Ethiopia from exile, the Emperor, however, transformed the 1941victory into a source of a cult of personality of himself and adopted a modernization scheme designed to serve his absolute power. Inexorably, the institutional rot of Ethiopian society proceeded unabated. Yet, the signs for the need for deep political, economic and social transformation were there early on: the peasant rebellion of Tigray in  I943; the coup d’état of 1960; the peasant rebellions of Bale in I963-70, and of Gojam in I967-8.  Thus, the historical emasculation of the 1941 victory gave birth eventually to an apocalyptic famine, and to the birth of two authoritarian governments: the first  in 1974 and the second in 1991, preparing the stage for the devastating war of 2020-2022. 

Thus, Ethiopians squandered two victories: 1896 and 1941. These victories remained the victories of our leaders and did not become the victories of the Ethiopian people, who continued to live in social, political, and economic poverties. Instead of ushering the emancipatory transformations of Ethiopia, these victories became the wombs of new defeats and sufferings.

We must not repeat in 2022 the historical errors of 1896 and 1941. We should convert the victory of 2022 into a trampoline for launching political, economic, social, and intellectual transformations, and for actively extirpating the poison of political and geographical ethnicization the has infected the body-politic of Ethiopia and the psyche of Ethiopians. Otherwise, the victory of 2022 will be a pyrrhic victory and Ethiopians will be drawn sooner or later into a new cycle of violence and suffering. 

Moreover, the West’s support for the undermining the sovereignty and unity of Ethiopia during the 2020-2022 war shows that it has not abandoned its centuries-old desire to dominate Ethiopia. Ethiopia must develop her capacities to forestall another Maychew, which this time will be political and economic, brought about through the subversive actions of the West’s puppets within Ethiopia. The historical lesson of 2020-22 war is that outside powers will always try to exploit our problems, faults, and conflicts and weaponize them to weaken Ethiopia. 

Will Ethiopians, in the wake of the victory of 2022 rest on their laurels, fetishize it, hypnotize themselves through the rhetoric of Ethiopia’s greatness and the valor of her solders, and squander the 2022 victory as they have the victories of 1896 and 1941? If they do, the good faith interpretation and application of the Agreement would have been for naught. To avoid the repetition of Ethiopia’s wasted victories, the good faith interpretation and application has to be contextualized with this lesson from our history.

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  1. This section in this article reminds me of the old days back in the 1960’s and 70’s. It goes: ‘Yet, the signs for the need for deep political, economic and social transformation were there early on: the peasant rebellion of Tigray in I943; the coup d’état of 1960; the peasant rebellions of Bale in I963-70, and of Gojam in I967-8.’ It is a perfect copy and paste from dusty pages of magazines of the then student associations here in the USA and Europe. My question is: ‘What does the spontaneous uprising incited by a sudden hike in property taxes in Gojjaam has anything to do with the current stupid conflict? The same goes for the rebellion by cattle herders in Bale. What do these aimless and unorganized chaoses have anything to do with this peace deal? Those two chaos were never intended to overthrow the then Emperor Haile. It was like ‘you must pay this tax. No I won’t. Yes you will. No I won’t’. Then it escalated into senseless bloodsheds. They were not revolutions but rather sudden uproar that went out of control. What those well read individuals like this dear writer should do is be patient, stay composed and give this peace agreement a chance. Its ink is not dry yet. Let’s keep our hope alive and kicking for the sake of those wailing mothers and the sacrificial gullible youth. Enough, enough, enough with the bloodshed and destruction. I am with those innocent citizens who had to deal with the brunt of the brutal bloodshed. My hope is their hope that Abiy and Debretsion had sent their delegations with a mission as told in this eternal parable: ‘In their beginning they carry our hope and at the end they bury our fears.’ Insha’Allah!!!

    • We the proud Tigrayans never give up the fight for our rights. Those who are ignorant of our golden history think that Tigrayans can be defeated and subjugated. Make no mistake. Tigray will reorganize its forces, fight back and teach both its old enemies (Amhara) and new one (Eritrean dictator) unforgettable lessons. The unique people in the horn of Africa Tigrayans have a long history of patriotism, modernity and national pride.

  2. I would like to say a word or two to and share my thought with my dear countrymen/women who have made USA their home sweet home like me. Mid-term election is upon us. We need to cast our vote this coming Tuesday November 8, 2022. Just like any midterm election there is a lot at stake this time around too. The primary factor that determines our preference should be based what affects our livelihood here in the USA. The economy and security should be what should influence our vote. What is happening in the old country will not have any bearing on our economic wellbeing and safety here in the USA. Other than that make sure to go out and vote. It is one of the most precious entitlements we have.

  3. May all Rest in Peace. Not only killed by TPLF but also by the unnecessary war that took so many precious Amhara and Afar Peoples lives.

    One who has no merit and brings his hunger for power the result is sending the country into chaos and massacre. Case in POINT, Derg, TPLF and OLF.

    Having said that I found this article to be so irrelevant, out of context and out of order. If some one has the nerve to criticize the past leaders who made Ethiopia the beacon of hope for all Black people around the world and that is hundreds year ago this article owner must have missed the point what just happened to Ethiopia today.

    Ethiopia today is the most dangerous, unstable and a place of violence country in the world where hundreds are being killed, starved, displaced from their homes and many thousands political people are in prison without charges and on unfounded charges.

    What social, political, economic transformation has the current government brought except sitting on Genocide, rampant corruption, land theft, money and property embezzlement and and many more crimes against humanity?

    Destroying all the rule of law and introducing ethnic division so the ruthless government can keep breathing.

    Where 3000 Amharas Slaughtered just in One Day and over 30,000 innocent and unarmed Amharas slaughtered just in 4 years.
    7 million displaced and starved and many million Tigrayan in Famine while Abiy Ahmed and Shimelis callously and arrogantly boasting about wheat farm and fake economic gains when Ethiopia is living on food handouts and squeezed to pay back the $3 trillion loan in few days.

    Ethiopia is on a bring of collapse socially, economically and politically because Abiy Ahmed and the so called Prosperity Party are all inept and have no ability to rule.

  4. Is the writer of this article presenting the current miserable time and news resulted from the lack of good government or still stuck on 50 years ago and century old history?

    What has the failure of the Ethiopian Ethnic Apartheid government who descended the whole country into the place of human misery and wars has anything to do with the past glorious leaders who prevented foreign occupation and managed to rule in peace by upholding the rule of law ?

    Does this writer thinks to be the only source of Ethiopian history or believe people as naïve and stupid that will grab and run what OLF throws at them when they can compare and contrast with the real and document history of Ethiopia.

    Amhara are known to believe in Education, writing and documenting history for centuries because they invented the Amharic and math alphabets. As far as the OLF they just took and started to use the Latic alphabet only few years ago let along documenting history.

    Such people are the exact problem of Ethiopia who has been disseminating false history that do not realize their time is expired with their ideology and mentality.

    For four consecutive Ethiopians lived and suffered without spending a day without going through the trauma of bad news, death, misery, Amhara Genocide , and name it, they are living with every kind of mayhems and suffering especially Ethnic Amhara people.

  5. Very eloquent and moving missive. But I have only one question and that is do politicians have a faith in general , and especially do Ethiopian politicians have faith or have faith only anyone
    or on anything and particulary the TPLFites cases? When someone only obsesses and fetishizes with greed, raw power, the barrel of the gun , violence at any cost, etc I don’t think he has faith on anyone nor anyone could have faith on him be an agreement , promises or working in partnership and so on.

  6. There is a sad picture of Ras Desta Damtew the day before he was hanged by fascist Italians in many of Ethiopian history books. Had he stayed instead of listening to the decision of the cabinet that voted for him to leave, the emperor’s fate would have been exactly the same. And after that Ethiopia wouldn’t have a leader to come back to power to which would’ve discouraged the resistance against fascist occupation or worse yet many wannabe kings would vie for attention from fascist Italy. After Italy attacked occupied France to the disgust of Europe and joined the axis, Britain was dislodging Mussolini’s fascists from Africa. Col Wingate and the Gedion army among others were fighting in Ethiopia but with the absence of the Ethiopian resistant fighters and A leader to rally around Britain wouldn’t have left Ethiopia alone. The first few years of Haile Selassie after the second war with Italy were full of fights against British arrogance. Deja’s Kebede Tessema and Geresu Duki have left us a whole lot of their memories of that difficult time. If the emperor had stayed to fight like the only two Ras’s who did, Desta and Immiru who are his son in law and close relative respectively, he would’ve been caught and killed by Fascist Italy in order to kill the hope of freedom of Ethiopians and with Ethiopia being British protoctarate or worst yet colony, the decolonization of Sub-Saharan Africa would’ve been delayed up to the 1990s, at least. Remember the Portuguese didn’t leave until the 1980s from Mozambique and Angola?

    The so called ‘peasant rebellions’ were mis-told and twisted to fit the narration of the communists in 1960s and 70s. ‘General’ Waqo was never a general and his beef was land that never belonged to him. The Woyane I was a rebellion of spoiled cattle raiders who didn’t consider Muslim Ethiopians citizens of Ethiopia at all. Woyane considered it was their rights and ‘tradition’ to go down to Afar to kill people and steal their domestic animals. And according to some memoires of American Peace Corps in Ethiopia during the 1960s there were a lot of rebels without causes that made it a must to travel with guns in those areas.

    Feudalism was outdated but Haile Selassie didn’t invent it. Those who praise and want to canonize ‘EMEYE’ Menelik II and hate Haile so much need to do some fact checks. There was never a nice Feudal in the history of this world but it is now behind us never to come back again. When those who fought in the eve of freedom in 1941 were awarded large chunks of lands, they didn’t exactly took out loans to buy tractors. They messed people up and uprooted some to work for them as serfs. And some of those simple farmers who became landlords over night were probably the cruelest but the student movements were working with them when they rebelled against DERG for confiscating those lands save for 100 acres each max.

    Ato Gebreyes of AMALGAMATED was on ESAT talking about his experience a few years ago. There was indeed a budding class that was trying to transform Ethiopia beginning in the late 1960s and the emperor and his minsters were encouraging those people very much. Some people were even quitting their gov’t jobs and joining the new class. There was a labor shortage at harvest times even when they offered double the going rate. It was a great start but like everything good in Ethiopia it was a short-lived experience. Expensive farm equipment like water pumps were destroyed by wannabe revolutionaries that have learned from the students that broke city buses. The centralized economic plan and the communist styled villagization brought nothing but misery. Grain was spoiled and rotten by the time it hit the markets and the quota system didn’t help either. Corn flour was never part of diets of many parts of Ethiopia but that was the only thing available. The other communists being in power rather than DERG wouldn’t have changed anything for the average Ethiopian, for the same system was tried and had failed in other countries decades before it was implemented in Ethiopia. The system itself is flawed.

    There is one basic thing that is a big enemy in Ethiopia and I think the late Prof. Mesfin W/M and the novelist Ambassador Haddis Alemayehu have written about it: Mesfin wrote something like ‘we fight against being oppressed but never against oppression itself’ while Haddis said ‘we don’t mind being oppressed by someone higher up as long as we have some others to oppress underneath’ or something like that. To be fair, there are some other places in this world who do worst than us but they are much better off in other aspects.

    A few years ago Ethiopians were eager to read and discuss what BBC, CNN, et al had to say about Ethiopia and it seemed like the target audience was the Ethiopian public but since Nov 2020 not too many care anymore. It was a big lesson learnt.

    FANO is a great tradition and this time too have done it again with flying colors. When there is no more war FANO goes back to his normal life. The teachers teach, the merchants trade and the farmers till their lands. But there are some folks who want to use FANO for their political programs before it disperses. And those are the same people who have failed to come up with a good united and big organization for the past four decades. A female journalist/activist recently blurted it out in a heated argument with one of the most discredited politicians of our time on live broadcasting. The fact that no armed group can function legally didn’t come to her mind; but it was before TPLF signed the DDR deal in S/A. And she annoyingly says stuff like ‘we share Ethiopia’s history with others to be polite’ too often. Probably her history teacher is that insane old man who offends most Ethiopians on his interviews in order to sell his very amateurish books to certain group of people. The same old man degrades his own community and compares the worst of his with the best of the other, and viola thousands think they’ve found a witness that massages their ego and send money that will be stolen by TPLF fanatic in disguise up to that time. The sad thing is there are quite a few real grievances that need strong leaders to address but this week mr ex-EPRDF is the hero and next week it is a former such and such with known wishy-washy personality and the week after it is….And then the ‘movement’ goes on a witch-hunt and looks for enemies that haven’t done anything wrong. It gets too creative sometimes and loses the thinking supporters with it’s idiocy; and of course the other communities that were very supportive before.

    The last few decades and specially the last four and a half years have left us with a lot of things that have yet to sink in. It was not a revolution. It is sometimes very painful to hear and ‘trust’ these people now in power b/c they were handpicked to do harm to us in the first place. They were not picked out of merit for the good of Ethiopia but b/c they were the best to serve TPLF’s interest. There was ample time to strengthen the old opposition or found new ones to take power in election. But again there was TPLF scaring the people with war rhetoric and military parade on live TV from Mekellle. The voting public didn’t want to risk a new unknown entity and a new gov’t that will have to start from scratch with all that going on. And their fear and worst nightmare nearly happened, even with the established and experienced, they voted back in office.

    Ethiopia does not speak English or French and that is a problem for some Oromo elites. Other communities don’t have a choice and they almost never complain with Amharic being the communication medium. If it was possible to replace it, TPLF would’ve done that in a heartbeat instead of using it for 27 years. Thousands of children of TPLF that grew up outside of Tigray don’t really speak Tigrigna today. Oromo is the largest community and some don’t want to speak Amharic. Some think the using the language gives unfair advantage to Amhara. When Saturday markets become villages and then towns, Amharic is always the language that dominates in most parts of Ethiopia even when there are no Amhara there. Some stupid phases uttered by the above-mentioned journalist/Activist or the insane amateur ‘historian’ often isn’t helping at all. Some new ‘activists’ complain about everybody talking Amharic w/o accents these days and not being able to tell apart the native speaker anymore, ‘even their names’ they say. There must be a sensible solution to that. But English replacing Amharic is just not possible for the next few decades. The great majority of university lecturers don’t know basic grammar today. And since they’ve big ego and think they ‘know’ everything, it is unlikely they’ll learn; let alone the public at large. Afan Oromo is strictly the language of that community with no sign of spreading out. With the violence going on there, foreign companies taking root is looking bleak for now. Remember what that Caribbean lady said when her investment in Shashemene turned to ashes? How is Abiy going to stop the violence or at least manage it? Kidnapping for ransom has become everyday business. No sane foreign entity is going to support OLA Shene’s cause in the open no matter how much the now fallen-in-disgrace Merera says in support. And when Abiy moves to the center the OLA can twist everything and accuse him of being NEFTEGNA agent and the usual cycle continues. Some of those are totally addicted to exploiting people’s emotions and squeezing money out of them; and getting them killed.

    And on top of that all we are not out of the woods yet. There are a lot of good signs though. One can only hope at this time. We had very unlucky childhood at times very bad memories b/c of bad politics. The next generation need not repeat that. Running away from home does bring a lot of horror stories in 21st century. There is even a color-code; now compare the Syrian refugees with the Ukranians. And we are Black. A certain middle eastern country seems to enjoy deporting tens of thousands of us every other year. For every Ethiopian that made it, there is probably equal number that died on land or sea on the way there. College graduates receive diplomas but almost no education and do take those deadly routes every single day. Massive labor-intensive industries come to mind as alternative to the fleeing youth. Instead of selling it the grid can light up those new towns yet to spring up. And that needs a lot of hard currency and a lot of planning. A few million dollar donations is not going to cut it. Internet can come in handy to learn what other countries did when they were in similar situations like ours. Those who have the know-how can volunteer their time. The rest of us can put our houses on third mortgage and invest back home as much as possible if there is a guarantee to get it back. Peace being the basic requirement even when there is very little justice to accompany it, for now it looks like justice is a luxury we can’t afford.

    A thousand steps start with one, say the Chinese, if I didn’t get it wrong. We’ve millions of problems and we’ve to land running. All those glittering stuff is okay if it was for free and it is probably not. We need trillions to get the massive number of unemployed go to work. Gov’t don’t really provide jobs and some of us are still stuck in socialism to think so. Some others are stuck in the blaming game. For example those who were in High School in the early 70s or before were most likely EPRP members or sympathizers. The chance of being able to avoid being taken with the flow is almost zero. When that party suddenly collapsed in 1978 brutal DERG didn’t have enough prisons to jail them all. The majority of them were made to ‘confess’ their sins in public at each and every QEBELE of Ethiopia and go home to their parents. DERG also used the few hundred other communists to get rid of EPRP and then threw them out. In other words the great majority of the youth of the 1970s was member or sympathizer and can’t be just dismissed from Ethiopia’s politics today.

    Not to make fun of them but there was a widely believed theory in the 1970s amongst the revolutionaries that people above the age of 40 in general were useless. As they say Karma is a b… and look at what the youth of today think of them now that they are in their 60s. But seriously these people are near retirement but they don’t look like it. They’ve gotten experiences and some good basic education and much more than the rest of the population. Most of them are health conscious and don’t gobble raw meat and kitfo. They might outlive the next generation that came right behind them that ALMOST never reads anything on paper, never played soccer after the age of nine, never thought of going on a diet or exercise regime, never had a domestic team to support. Arsenal is not Ethiopian team BTW if anybody under 60 is reading this. And what kind of men watch soup opera on TV religiously? A few weeks ago a lot of Ethiopian men were tik toking their tears over a death of some character on some TV series while a war was raging. That is not normal.

    There are a lot of abnormal things going on. The trauma we went through is mostly to blame. The youtubers with more subscriptions than the REAL or SERIOUS ones with professional journalists and guests is something to worry about. Jawar’s fake FB message has resulted in hundreds of deaths even though subsequent calls for uprisings and mass murder were largely ignored, Thanx to FETTARIE. Some of them are pure poison while others are waste of time. I too were more attracted to my age group even when I knew the elders had wisdom that my peers didn’t have. Luckily there still are some good ones that are very young, and in some cases even better than the-no-more-spring-chickens.

    Youth is wasted on the young. As they say. And it is the youth paying with life and limb for our collective mistakes. If our recent past history is any lesson, the youth should never let do anything w/o ‘parental guidance’ and the oldest generation that escaped EPRP’s grip by a few years is few in number and dwindling every day. A person that was 44 in 1974 is now around 92 if still alive. We don’t need the elderly for manual labor and we can use their brains to Ethiopia’s advantage. They are usually set and are not in competition for the few available ‘jobs’ of any kind with the youth. Amb Haddis Alemayehu lived to be 94 and there is still no book that can nearly come close to FIQIR ESKEMEQABIR. Though I am not sure how old he was when he wrote that classic novel his other books were extremely good as well. Teddy Afro made a song and his wife Amleset Muchie made the music video and it was an instant hit all over Ethiopia and Ethiopian diaspora at least half a century after that great novel was published. If he was still alive Haddis would’ve said LIJ YIROTTAL ENJEE ABATUN AYQEDMIM or something like that.

  7. We the proud Tigrayans never give up the fight for our rights. Those who are ignorant of our golden history think that Tigrayans can be defeated and subjugated. Make no mistake. Tigray will reorganize its forces, fight back and teach both its old enemies (Amhara) and new one (Eritrean dictator) unforgettable lessons. The unique people in the horn of Africa Tigrayans have a long history of patriotism, modernity and national pride.


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