By Fessehaye Kidane
In reference to a book authored by Stephen Kinzer, entitled ‘The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secrete World War), ‘troubles in the world come from misunderstandings among ruling elites, [but] not from social or political injustices (2013:2: 55)’. What one may understand in Ethiopian politics over decades seems not far from this truth. Among others, a case in point is what the TPLF elites, since the inception of their organization, have done in Ethiopia just because of their ‘misunderstanding of the concept of Ethiopia’ at large and their relentless efforts about the image of a ‘Republic of Tigray’ in particular. Granted the 17 years of armed struggle for the social or political injustices of the people of Tigray, such mistaken ambitions and pressures have also been in place for more than three decades even after their armed struggle was over. The worst of all is, of course, the TPLF’s resort to war over the last two years from 2020 to 2022. However, the TPLF’s attempts to impose their ill-political motivation became to no avail at the disposal of the Pretoria ‘Peace Deal’ of November 2, 2022. In other words, the TPLF elites’ misunderstanding and misconception of the Tigray region as a political unit is aborted at the bloodshed and sacrifices of Ethiopian and Eritrean patriotism and gallantry. The irony though is, regardless of all the curses of the war trauma which was dictated by the TPLF, what is striking now is, the fact that the TPLF leaders could not get ashamed to use the Peace Accord for their clemency from the Ethiopian people. By the way, would the TPLF’s claim of ‘lifting terrorism’ get a currency? Of course, it is something to be observed in the near future. Most of all, it is up to the Ethiopian political elites and citizens to judge whether for good or bad fate of the criminal elite. Having this in mind, however, it seems worth reasoning out as far as the TPLF political elites and their organization is concerned.
According to the Peace Deal between Ethiopia and the TPLF, one of the tenets of the articles (Article 7: c) that the Ethiopian government is supposed to facilitate or fulfill is ‘lifting the TPLF political leaders from the designation of terrorism.’ This lifting and clemency is to be presented to and thereby approved by the Ethiopian parliament (House of Peoples’ Representatives) which designated the TPLF core leadership as a’ terrorist group’ to Ethiopia after the junta ordered to attack the Ethiopian Northern Command on early November 2020. There is no question that any sort of political apology may help for a restoration of law and order in a country. Nonetheless, as far as the Peace Deal of Pretoria is concerned, one may wonder and as such may also raise questions as regards the TPLF’s demand to seek official mercy from the Ethiopian people.
To begin with, in the first place, seeking political mercy on the side of the TPLF can be interpreted as insulting the wisdom and intelligence of the Ethiopian people. The reason is that firstly such ‘audacity to insult the people’ must be related in terms of the TPLF elites’ brutal and gross crimes and violations of human rights not only in Ethiopia but also in Eritrea. Secondly, the junta’s option to come back again to a political arena of Ethiopia to be at the helm of Tigray’s politics and to share parliamentary and cabinet powers is also another unmerciful insult. Thirdly, had the TPLF leadership been conscious and believed in one Ethiopia, then what pushed it to such craziness of destabilizing its country? In this case, the answer may be clear: that is what sovereign Ethiopia meant to the TPLF was, Ethiopia which is only governed by its ideology and policy of cruelty under the cover of Ethnic federalism which is the main instrument of ethnic polarization and chaos. Fourthly, the TPLF elite should have been ashamed and should have hidden its face both from the Tigrayan victims of war as well as from the Ethiopian public eyes to act as a political entity. The TPLF leadership which dreamt big but had no political and military acumen of doing seemed to have calculated its zero-sum-results both in the political and military grounds. That’s why it needs to save its faces as if it achieved a proportional balance with the Ethiopian government and army. Hence, it is these points that Ethiopians must question and see from pragmatic viewpoints.
On top of that, Eritrea’s role in weakening the TPLF’s muscle of hegemony is something to be noted for the record of history. One can fairly conclude that the Ethiopian federal army couldn’t have dismantled the TPLF unless Eritrea was involved. As the TPLF is a common enemy of Ethiopia and Eritrea over the three decades, it was wiped out by common hands of both countries. If one can put it into consideration for the fact that the TPLF was funded, emboldened and armed by huge foreign support both in terms of hardware and psychological warfare for whatever agenda it had in mind, it has to be equally noted that it is a big triumph weakening it once and for all. Eritrea thus needs both an assurance and verification in terms of the costs it paid that the TPLF is not an existential threat to its people and territorial integrity and sovereignty.
From a lay man’s Eritrean point of view, the TPLF’s fate of survival is something to be paralleled with the fate of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. Like in Ethiopia, recent history gives us a lesson that similar law enforcement operation also took place in an East Asian country of Sri Lanka to wipe out the government’s militarist opposition party known as Tamil Tiger guerrilla faction in 2011.The conflict between Sri Lanka’s government forces and armed Tamil rebels has raged for nearly 60 years. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was one of the many groups that came into existence to fight for Tamil rights. Just like the TPLF’s birth time and vision, the LTTE also was formed in 1975 with its base in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka and the group vowed to form a separate state called Tamil Eelam. Finally, the Sri Lankan government defeated and wiped it from the face of the earth. By the same token, the fate of the Tigrayan regional leaders who happened to be not an exception in their behaviors and betrayal must have earned the same nemesis. The TPLF elite still needs decapitation but not an apology from the Ethiopian people. In this juncture, more than anyone else, the families, political and scholarly elites of Tigray are expected to ask and make the TPLF leaders accountable as to why purportedly one million innocent lives of Tigrayans lost their lives for no reason.
In hindsight, let alone Eritreans even others observers of the Horn of Africa also well know that the TPLF while in power in Ethiopia has been a big threat both to the sovereignty of Eritrea and if it could, even it was pessimistic to drain the human capital of the country using various means and in cooperation with its main patrons. The Western powers putting the TPLF agenda at the center worked and invested more in order to shift Eritrea’s youths to migration. What the former president of France remarked in the Malta Conference of Threat of Migration in 2012 is never erased from the minds’ of Eritrean citizens. Paraphrasing his words, quote in quote, he warned the participants that “Eritrea will remain a no man’s land as most of its young people are leaving the country; the country thus may be a hub of terrorism.” Then, a ship which was supposed to deliberately immigrate to the Eritrean young force was purchased which is to be refunded by the Eritrean diaspora. Such conspiracy theory was meant to create a ground for the invasion of Eritrea apparently by the TPLF and a regime change to be materialized afterwards. However, what Eritrea’s involvement in the civil war of Northern Ethiopia proved is the reverse. To the contrary, the TPLF in particular and its sponsors at large themselves witnessed that Eritrean resilience, human capital and unity are still strong and intact as well.
In the final analysis, what the Ethiopian federal government and parliament should decide in terms of the weight and proportion of the TPLF crimes and atrocities of the Ethiopian people is something to be seen after the disarmament process is entirely completed. Nonetheless, the Ethiopian parliament is expected to be cautious and objective when the TPLF’s destiny as an organization comes to its platform. In the first place, all negative roles and crimes of the collective leadership and each top crust TPLF official must be examined thoroughly, of course, in terms of the TPLF-made constitution. As a matter of fact, regardless of what the Peace Deal promised, from the perspective of any ordinary Ethiopian citizen’s spirit and sense of consciences, it seems illegal and unconstitutional to give the TPLF a chance to act in Ethiopian politics while it is accountable with immeasurable human rights violations, material damages and displacements not only in Tigray but also in Afar and Amhara regions.
In a word, of course, the attack of the national army as a single case cannot allow it any sort of clemency. Moreover, the TPLF’s own making of the constitution seems to suffice enough to ban it from political activity. For instance, what the Ethiopian National Board of Election decided recently on former members of the DERGUE proposal of party establishment is a good case in point to disband the TPLF as a political entity. Perhaps, if need be, the Ethiopian parliament may also look to and examine another scenario as well: a safe political exit to the TPLF top crust leadership to a third country which apparently is speculated even by its foreign lobbyists. Though the latter may not be optional in terms of its crimes and accountability, it is only preferable as a conditional alternative just for the sake of overcoming pressures of foreign interventions. Anyway, whether to make or break off the TPLF organization, it is all up to the discretion of the Ethiopian parliament and court of law.
Writer’s Brief Note:
Fessehaye Kidane Melaky is based in Asmara. He is a cadre of education in the Eritrean Ministry of Education at the Office of the Minister. Besides being an author of one book in English (entitled Star Reader), he has also written dozens of articles both in English and Tigrigna (mother-tongue language) versions in the State-owned Newspapers namely Eritrea Profile and New Eritrea. As a case in point, the writer’s recent publications in Eritrea Profile and Hadas Eritrea respectively include ‘From Home Song’ to ‘Family in an Ordeal’ (Shabait.com, Feb 16, 2019) and (መጕስዕ ኲናት ስነ-ልቦና ኽሳዕ መኣስ፧ ጋዜጣ ሓዳስ ኤርትራ፣ ሚያዝያ 2022 or ‘Regurgitation of Psychological Warfare: For How Long Will It Last?’). Prior to that, he has contributed various articles regarding education, linguistics, book reviews and political history of Eritrea.
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