The Art of Dominance—why Ethiopia won and TPLF lost
Dr. Aklog Birara
Part 19 of 20
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat other people with the concern and kindness you would like them to show toward you.”
The Golden Rule
For me, the Golden Rule applies to relations among human beings as well as to nation states. It is this rule that TPLF broke. It committed treason exactly two years ago and killed non-Tigrean soldiers and officers in Mekele, Tigray. The mayhem that followed for the past two years is unimaginable.
Equally, it is the Golden Rule that the EU, US, and the UN Security Council broke repeatedly by supporting and enabling insurgency. Instead of doing the right thing by demanding that the aggressor, TPLF stops insurgency, they blamed the victims, Ethiopia and Eritrea that were attacked by TPLF. They imposed sanctions and threatened to impose more sanctions.
At one time, I had wondered whether the Government of the United States would resort to military intervention in Ethiopia under the pretext of the doctrine “the responsibility to protect.” History tells us that US has been involved in 107 wars, including Libya and Somalia in Africa this century. So, my concern is not far-fetched. Ethno-nationalism followed by US military intervention dismembered the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into five successor states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later known as Serbia and Montenegro).
Bolstered by foreign powers, most notably Egypt, TPLF tried to do the same. It is incontestable that TPLF initiated the catastrophic civil war in Ethiopia that pit neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother or sister, sister against sister, husband against spouse, son or daughter against parent, peasant farmer against his or her peer. Ethiopian historians will no doubt record this savagery as a black spot in the annals of Ethiopia’s distinguished and long history. By doing these and more, TPLF put into tatters the historical, cultural, religious, economic, social and political bonds that distinguished Ethiopia from the rest of the world.
In commentary 18 last week, I quoted my most favorite American President, Abraham Lincoln on the anarchy of secession. “Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy.”
Current US Government policy towards Ethiopia and Eritrea is flawed because Western support to TPLF entails anarchy in the form of secession. In other words, supporting or enabling TPLF that causes anarchy and human misery is the same as undercutting and destabilizing Ethiopia and Eritrea both.
TPLF is a “Trojan Horse” that operates on the behest of Egypt, the EU, US, and UN Security Council to which the West has reverted more than a dozen times in support of TPLF and well-financed propaganda machine.
The ideology contained in its unchanged Manifesto, its tribal and exclusionary political history both in power and outside, its voracious appetite for annexing lands and property that belong to others, its inhumanity to man and its inability to observe the Golden Rule of give and take make me wonder whether TPLF can be trusted at all.
This caveat of mutual trust notwithstanding (trust but verify), the most important news of 2022 is the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on Ethiopia signed in Pretoria, South Africa, on November 2, 2022. I support this AU sponsored Agreement and urge its immediate implementation.
Why I support the Agreement
I have argued consistently that Ethiopia is a promising country with potential to prosper. Former President of Nigeria, Obasanjo and his mediation team recognize this hope and promise. They have done an outstanding job of translating the often-misstated goal that African problems and conflicts can be resolved by Africans.
- The overarching theme contained in Article 3 of the Agreement for Lasting Peace and Permanent Cessation of Hostilities captures the essence. “Representatives of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the TPLF have agreed to announce to the people of Ethiopia and the rest of the world that after 10 days of intensive negotiations have concluded a peace agreement.”
This is huge. Warring factions committed themselves to pursue peace and end the bloodbath. I think of mothers and fathers whose sons or daughters perished or will perish if the war continues. I think of a spouse whose husband may die. I think of a poor farmer whose farm or household is destroyed or damaged. I think of children unable to go to school because their school in no more.
Peace, human security, stability, respect for the rule of law, consideration for persons as human beings and the like are core to sustainable and equitable development. The Golden Rule does not make distinction between or among ethnic or faith groups. It is universal. Commitment to peace is thus universal. All Ethiopians deserve peace. Peace requires political will and commitment. You do not agree to peace when you lose and revert to war when you recoup or regroup.
- “We have agreed to permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia.”
The essence of the agreement is permanence. “Silencing guns” must be accompanied by deliberate and on the ground normalization and institutionalization of conversation and dialogue for peace. Ordinary people, including students, parents, professionals, businessmen and women, spiritual leaders and the like must own the process. Treating one another with respect is core. This requires a paradigm shift in thinking. Ethiopians together must say it is “our peace” and live it by practicing it in real terms.
Ethiopian society must learn from this catastrophic war. It must learn that ethnic hate and exclusion are not only costly; they are not Ethiopian values. They led to war. War does not have boundaries. It hurts everyone.
- “The conflict has brought a tragic degree of loss of lives and livelihoods and it is in the interest of the entire people of Ethiopia to leave this chapter of conflict behind and live in peace and harmony.”
Over the past two years, we Ethiopians as a group lost sight of the notion that “Ethiopians were killing other Ethiopians” not because they are born to hate or to kill. In this war, most of us took sides and defended our positions without considering adverse consequences. It was “black and white.”
The Peace Agreement offers Ethiopians a window of opportunity to amend, to heal and to bridge broken relations for the current and coming generations. I am not suggesting we forget. There is an Amharic saying (የወጋ ቢረሳ የተወጋ አይረሳም/ He who harms may forget. But the harmed never forgets). Accountability matters.
I am suggesting we learn from the atrocities by holding those who committed crimes accountable in a court of law so that violations are not repeated. The art of compromise is not abdication. Rather, it is a give and take. You live in peace so that I can live in peace. You prosper so that I can too. Compromise is not a zero-sum game. “Stopping the bloodshed” is a win-win in that it elevates our common humanity.
- “It is fundamental that we reaffirmed our commitment to safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and to upholding the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Thus, Ethiopia has only one national defense force. We have also agreed on a detailed program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration for the TPLF combatants, considering the security situation on the ground.”
Key components of the Agreement that I welcomed with aplomb are unbridled commitment of the signatories to the “safeguarding of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia” and endorsement of a single Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF).
It is the erosion of these core principles that led me to critique and condemn the TPLF and its foreign supporters and enablers. Undermining these fundamental principles do not serve the immediate or long-term interests of the people of Tigray. A strong, unified, internationally respected, and prosperous Ethiopia with one national army is in the best interests of all Ethiopians, including Tigreans.
TPLF championed and instituted the current ethnicity and language-based Constitution that I believe must be amended sooner rather later. But TPLF abrogated it as is when it held its own election, defied its own Constitution and committed treason and insurgency.
The US, EU and UN Security Council made the situation worse when they ignored these transgressions for inexplicable and self-serving reasons.
TPLF remedied its strategic mistake by signing an Agreement that a) commits it to Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and b) binds it to a single Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF). This would mean there will no longer be a TPLF/TDF military force.
The Government of Ethiopia agreed “to reintegrate TPLF combatants following the group’s disarmament and demobilization that” Ethiopia had demanded throughout the mediation process.
Mutual trust, political good will, and commitment will facilitate the reintegration process.
I urge the Government of Ethiopia to also disband all Special Forces of the ethnic regions and incorporate them into the ENDF or Federal police or local police.
- “ We have agreed that the Government of Ethiopia will further enhance its collaboration with humanitarian agencies to continue expediting aid to all those in need of assistance.”
I welcome this section because it is inclusive. The war devastated the Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions the most.
Now that a Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been signed, I urge the Governments of the US and EU to lift all sanctions imposed on Ethiopia; and provide substantial humanitarian aid to the Government of Ethiopia directly. I also urge UN specialized agencies to do the needful without discrimination and favoritism.
- “We have agreed to implement transitional measures that include the restoration of Constitutional order in the Tigray region, a framework for the settlement of political differences, and a Transitional Justice Policy framework to ensure accountability, truth, reconciliation, and healing.”
If done successfully, the platform of “Transitional Justice Policy Framework” will do wonders to Ethiopian society.
Here we can learn a great deal from other post conflict countries. The experiences and best practices of South Africa that moved from an Apartheid system to multiparty and inclusive democracy comes to mind. This process can also be merged into the work of the Commission on National Dialogue that Ethiopia initiated.
- “To start implementing these undertakings without delay, we have agreed to stop all forms of conflicts, and hostile propaganda. We will only make statements that support the expeditious implementation of the Agreement. We urge Ethiopians in the country and abroad, to support this Agreement, stop voices of division and hate, and mobilize their resources for economic recovery and rehabilitation of social bonds.”
TPLF has regionalized and internationalized the conflict. Civil society and diaspora groups on both sides of the conflict are involved heavily. In some cases, persons or groups who benefited from TPLF rule inflame the situation. It is vital that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia urge so called activists from inflaming the situation further.
Our individual and collective effort from now on must be in restoring mutual trust among all Ethiopians; and in providing expertise and material support to those in need regardless of ethnicity or location.
- “The Government of Ethiopia will continue the efforts to restore public services and rebuild the infrastructures of all communities affected by the conflict. Students must go to school, farmers, and pastoralists to their fields, and public servants to their offices. The Agreement requires the support of the public for its smooth implementation. This is a new and hopeful chapter in the history of the country.”
I want to commend members and allies of ENDF for their dual commitment of restoring peace and security while at the same time reconstructing, repairing, and rehabilitating physical and social infrastructure. These best practices can and must be replicated with financial support from the donor community.
- “We express our gratitude to all actors contributing to the success of this endeavor. In particular, the African Union Commission Chairperson, the African High-Level Panel led by His Excellency former President Olusegun Obasanjo, supported by His Excellency former President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Her Excellency Dr. Phumuzile Mlalmbo, former Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa. We thank the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Commissioner Bankole Adeoye and his colleagues for their tireless work during these talks. We rely on their continued support as we implement the Agreement.”
I am impressed by comments from each member of the mediation team headed by President Obasanjo as well as observers present. It is true the “devil is in the details.” But the agreement, the body language, the statements, and the thematic areas of agreement demonstrate to the entire world that Africans own and can solve conflicts and wars through constructive engagement.
Orderly and systematic implementation of the Agreement will go a long way in affirming Ethiopia’s capability and capacity to succeed.
- “We thank His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of the Republic of South Africa, and Her Excellency Dr. Naledi Pandor, the Minister for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa for the excellent facilities they put at the disposal of these talks and their words of encouragement to the parties towards these successful results. We are indebted for the hospitality accorded to us by the People and Government of the Republic of South Africa.”
As a fan of Pan-Africanism from its inception, I believe the Agreement is a testimony of a trend. Emerging Africa matters. It is capable of resolving problems. It must be taken seriously by the international community.
We Ethiopians owe a debt of gratitude to the people and government of South Africa for hosting this monumental event. It is more than reciprocal.
- “We are grateful to the people of Ethiopia for encouraging these talks and patiently waiting for the outcome. We are confident that they will embrace the results of these talks and ensure their timely implementation.”
It is very rare for a high caliber international team supported by a panel of experts to express appreciation to the “people of Ethiopia for encouraging these talks and patiently waiting for the outcome.” Ethiopians, including some Tigreans in the diaspora” welcomed the news. This celebratory news suggests that individuals and families are directly affected by the war.
Africans say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is high time for Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity and past animus to break silos; reach out to one another and focus on forging a brighter future. Implementation of the peace process can benefit from horizontal linkages. It takes all of us.
- “Finally, we are confident that friends of Ethiopia and members of the diplomatic community will lend their support in rebuilding infrastructures in affected communities and the economic recovery of the country. We call on all types of media outlets to support peace, reconciliation, unity, and prosperity in Ethiopia.”
This is where the Ethiopian people deserve financial, technical and diplomatic support from the international community dominated by the West that has been unfairly critical of Ethiopia. I urge them to do the right thing by adhering to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat other people with the concern and kindness you would like them to show toward you.” Ethiopians are among the most considerate and kindest people I know. Even in the worst of times, they share with others the very little they possess.
The kindest, humane, and considerate welcome and treatment of Tigrean combatants captured or fleeing from Tigray into the Afar and Amhara communities affirm this. The embrace, smile or handshake of negotiators—Ambassador Redwan Hussein of Ethiopia and Getachew Reda of TPLF–attests that at the end of the day, Ethiopians can overcome hatred and vitriolic for the common good.
I commend the Ethiopian people for designating November 4—a day of disgrace and treason—to commemorate their heroes and heroines, preselected and killed by TPLF in Mekele, Tigray. I have attached a set of compelling reasons by compatriot Napoleon Amde why this annual event is purposeful.
In conclusion, the principal question Ethiopians and their friends across the globe must pose is “IS TPLF trustworthy?” My considered view is that it is unequivocally not. So, Ethiopia must be vigilant, monitor and verify that TPLF/TDF has, alas, changed for the better.
Finally, I must confess there are huge and unresolved public policy issues that cannot be overlooked. TPLF wrongful and forcible annexation and incorporation of Wolkait, Tegede and Telemt into Greater Tigray is among these. It is critical that this strategic land mass annexed forcibly by TPLF does not revert to TPLF under the pretext of adhering to a flawed Constitution that TPLF violated repeatedly and deliberately for 27 years when it ruled Ethiopia; and over the past few years after it lost power, eventually committing treason and civil war.
ETHIOPIA SHALL PREVAIL!!
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Congratulations Ethiopians for having permenantly silent of the gun,the bleeding for the pillar of Africa was a worrisome situation,disintegration of Ethiopia was a disintegration of Africa,we south sudanese are celebrating your peaceful settlement of the brutal war,as you come back to peace and harmony,Africa is in peace and harmony to,implement it and move to promise prosperity by Dr Abiy Ahmed.
Congratulations Ethiopians for having permenantly silent of the gun,the bleeding for the pillar of Africa was a worrisome situation,disintegration of Ethiopia was a disintegration of Africa,we south sudanese are celebrating your peaceful settlement of the brutal war,as you come back to peace and harmony,Africa is in peace and harmony to,implement it and move to promise prosperity said by Dr Abiy Ahmed.
I really hope that Ethiopians can heal this terrible wound, and that all sides can learn the necessary lessons. I agree that all regional militias should be integrated into national forces or disbanded, not only TPLF.
Much remains unclear, such as the attitude of Eritrea, and how disarming of TPLF forces can be accomplished without outside peacekeepers, eg from African Union.
God willing, Ethiopia can now begin to move forward again …. an Ethiopia now free from foreign interference of all kinds.
From a foreign well-wisher.
This is not the time for a contest to decide who won and who lost. I have said this already. No party lost or won from this blessed peace agreement. The entire 120 million citizens are the winners. Those mothers in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions can now have the respite to wipe their tears using the towels of peace. Let’s be well guarded in what we say and write. Let’s write and say things that will contribute towards the sustenance of peace and the rebuilding that is desperately needed. The peace deal has already shown its early dividends. Food prices are going down in the battle ravaged areas already. Let’s avoid derogatory and humiliating jargons in what we say or write. Brothers Abiy and Debretsion! Watch your language and steps! Peace y’all!!!!
Congratulation Ethiopia .peace for my motherland