I believe it is worthwhile to try to persuade those who disagree with us and bring them to our side than to try to persuade those who already share our views. It is in this spirit that I suggest in this text that we extend our Ethiopian hand to Diaspora Tigreans who reject the Pretoria Agreement.
According to reports coming out of Tigray, people of all walks of life have welcomed the Pretoria Agreement with relief. Nevertheless, many in the Tigrean Diaspora are opposed to the Agreement. We should not hurry to condemn their pro-war reactions. Rather, we should try to understand the source of their pro-war stand in order to facilitate extending our hand to them.
As commentators have pointed out, Diaspora Tigreans who are actively involved in the recent pro-war protests are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They thus belong to the generations born after the TPLF’s anti-Ethiopian 1975 Manifesto. Since then, the TPLF has been feeding Tigreans anti-Ethiopian ideas, sentiments and erroneous facts, and seducing them with the mirage of an independent Greater Tigray. As the Däqiqä Estifanos, the 15th century precursors of Ethiopian critical theory put it, “the ruler tries to make his subjects resemble him.” Indeed, the TPLF seems to have succeeded to mold many members of the post-1975 generations of Tigreans in its own image. Hence, their continued attachment to TPLF’s false representation of what is happening in Tigray and their rejection of the Pretoria Agreement. However, the beliefs that the Diaspora Tigreans have imbibed from the TPLF and still hold are disconnected from the disastrous conditions in Tigray and are therefore recklessly hubristic.
It is not surprising that Diaspora Tigreans who in the majority belong to the TPLF-molded generations reject the Pretoria Agreement. They feel radically betrayed. Being disconnected from the reality on the ground in Tigray, they are at a loss to understand TPLF’s abandonment of its rosy promises and projects of Greater Tigray. We should then understand the profound anguish that has seized our Tigrean brothers and sisters in the Diaspora when confronted with the jarring implications of the Agreement. Thus, we need to extend our hand to them as Ethiopians helping other Ethiopians to overcome a commonly shared condition of illusions and suffering.
I say a commonly shared condition of illusions and suffering, because all Ethiopians have suffered from the falsehoods that the TPLF has instilled in many of us: that we are primarily ethnic beings, driven by ethnic interests. The harm done by the ethnic othering that the TPLF has infused into Ethiopian society manifests itself in Ethiopia as ethnic cleansing. The TPLF-generated ethnic othering is one of the sources of the Tigrean Diaspora’s opposition to peace. In extending our hand to our Diaspora Tigrean brothers and sisters, we are inviting them to join us to overcome the TPLF’s ethnic othering and falsehoods that stand in the way of mutual understanding and peace.
What does extending our Ethiopian hand to Diaspora Tigreans mean? Given the collapse of the false promises and the fantasy projects that the TPLF has been peddling for decades, it is quite normal that those who grew up under its influence, imbibing its deceitful promises, strike out at Ethiopians, whom they wrongly consider responsible for the failure of TPLF’s political fantasies. Out of respect for the Ethiopianess of Diaspora Tigreans, even if they deny it, we should not reply in kind to their discontents. Rather, we should respond with camaraderie and reasoned arguments to their unfounded claims and their untenable rejection of the Pretoria Agreement. We need to convince them that the Agreement will deliver Ethiopians back home from meaningless death and destruction, and that it is a necessary step for creating the conditions we need for building an Ethiopia based on and bonded by trust in which Tigreans, like all Ethiopians, could thrive.
Second, in our effort to extend our hand to Diaspora Tigreans, we should impress upon them and upon ourselves that “words matter.” The war has inflicted massive pain on Ethiopians. There is no need to amplify this pain by abusing words indecently. The most abused word in this war is “genocide.” Words do things: they have the power to dehumanize or ennoble; they could become weapons that could change the reality they are describing. Abusing the word “genocide” could create insurmountable animosities and divisions based on exaggerated or irrelevant facts.
The hashtag “Tigray genocide” burst on social media on November the 4th, 2020, less than a day after the TPLF forces attacked the Ethiopian Defence Forces: that is, before even the Ethiopian Defence Forces responded to the unprovoked attack of the TPLF!!! Since that day, “Tigray genocide” has become the mantra of Diaspora Tigreans and of the “White TPLF”—the coterie of Western journalists, analysts, and academics who are more TPLF than the TPLF. The “White TPLF” exemplify Placide Tempels’ paternalistic if not racist conviction that Westerners “understand Africans better than they understand themselves.” Hence, the bizarre campaign of the “White TPLF” against the Pretoria Agreement that the TPLF, the Ethiopian government, and the OAU have accepted, and their brazen fanning of the claim of “genocide” through false narratives targeting the Ethiopian Defence Forces and the Ethiopian government.
But let us ask a question: Was there really a Tigray genocide? According to the “United nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Act,” for genocide to exist, there must be “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”; and involves “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” The facts on the ground in Tigray, as reported during the war, do not meet the UN definition of genocide. To say, as some do, that there is a “risk of genocide” does not mean there is genocide. For example, there was a risk of a nuclear conflict during the Cold War, but it never took place.
Thousands of men and women have died during the war in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar; many women were dispossessed of their honour, and thousands of people were exposed to inhuman conditions. These acts must be condemned, and the perpetrators of these acts must be brought to justice. But we are dealing here with the outrageous consequences of war, not with genocide, which is different if understood historically and legally. To use the word genocide rhetorically, as some Diaspora Tigreans do, distorts the reality on the ground and generates hatred without cause.
When even highly educated Diaspora Tigreans (GSTS), whom one would expect to use words thoughtfully, use the expression “Tigray genocide” with abandon, we see how false beliefs trump facts, distort reality, and exile reason. This sad situation shows the urgency of extending our hand to Diaspora Tigreans so that we and they could pull together the emergency brakes of this runaway “Tigray genocide” toxic rhetoric before an unbridgeable division separates us from each other. Ethiopians need reconciliation urgently, but it cannot be based on falsehood.
Extending our Ethiopian hand to the Tigrean Diaspora does not mean denying the existence of substantive differences between us and them. Indeed, there are also differences of views amongst the supporters of the Pretoria Agreement, and probably amongst Diaspora Tigreans opposed to the Agreement. Acknowledging all these differences is healthy and important, for it liberates us from the suffocating embrace of “group think” that the TPLF instituted in the name of ethnic identity.
In rejecting “group think” and in recognizing differences of views, we take the necessary step for submitting our differences to rational discussions and to peaceful solutions. If as Ethiopia’s intellectual traditions intimate and as one philosopher put it, “Thinking establishes the independence which makes men into human beings,” turning our back on war and engaging in rational dialogue will bring out that which is in us more than us: our dignity as Ethiopians.
Finally, the immediate obstacle we have to overcome in order to extend our hand to Diaspora Tigreans is the ethnicism with which the TPLF has infected Ethiopian society. We and Diaspora Tigreans have to recognize that the voice of exclusive ethnic identity can never become the voice of conscience. For decades, the TPLF enabled ethnicism to hijack our values and norms, our inner and outer spaces, our discourses and practices, and our rational faculty.
It is precisely this ethnicization of Ethiopian society that led to the war that devastated Tigray. If Diaspora Tigreans are sincere in their claim to defend the welfare of Tigreans, then they must recognize that Tigreans have suffered massively from the ethnicism that the TPLF institutionalized in 1991 and constitutionalized in 1995. The war is a proof of this. It is therefore in the interest of Diaspora Tigreans to join hands with us and sound the death knell of ethnicism so that we could together construct Ethiopia as a nation whose unity is based neither on subjugation nor on exclusion.
Cynics may consider that trying to dialogue with the pro-war Tigrean diaspora is a naïve enterprise. May be so. I believe that every Ethiopian who burns his / her bridges with Ethiopia is a painful loss for Ethiopia. Extending an Ethiopian hand to Diaspora Tigreans who reject the Pretoria Agreement is, then, a moral imperative for all Ethiopians who support peace and unity. We could surely agree that falsehoods, hating and killing each other cannot create the conditions necessary for these.
To Publish Article On borkena, please send submission to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Telegram Channel : t.me/borkena
Join the conversation. Follow us on twitter @zborkena to get the latest Ethiopian news updates regularly. Like borkena on facebook as well. To share information or send a submission, use email@example.com