By Fessehaye Kidane, Asmara
Once, Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Afghanistan remarked, “When I heard the U.S. were going to meet in Doha with the Taliban and without the Afghan government, I said, ‘that’s not a peace negotiation, [but] those are surrender talks.” In the same manner, when the document of ‘Peace Deal’ between the Ethiopian Federal Government and its arch opponent which pushed it into a ruthless war of two years and three rounds of offensives since 2020 became public, many Tigrayans and including other observes labeled it as ‘surrender of the TPLF’ equating it with what the US ‘succumbed’ to the Taliban’s terms of conditions.
Above all, what is astounding, however, is the so-called TPLF international lobbyists and strategists were infuriated and ailed with headache more than the peace-loving Tigrayans. The fact that they apparently screamed being ‘more catholic than a Pope’ is something that questions their morality and sense of conscience. For them, regardless of the suffering, death, atrocities and displacements of innocent peoples and soldiers, war seems like an entertaining billiard indoor-game. One of the paper-tigers of such staunch sympathizer of the TPLF elite since 1988, a British scholar Alex de Waal wrote an article one day after the Peace Deal, almost crying that ‘the [peace] deal conforms with the objectives…law enforcement operation against the party ruling the [Tigray] region. [As such], Tigrayans at home and in the diaspora have greeted the deal with dismay’ (Yahoo/news, November 3, 2022). Furthermore, de Waal even didn’t feel a sense of guiltiness or disgrace to propose to ‘some Tigrayn commanders to continue guerrilla war rather than submit to what they regard as humiliating peace terms’. Earlier in 2020, no one also fails to recall about de Waal’s cry when his recruiter, former ambassador of Ethiopia, Siyoum Mesfin, was killed in the earlier weeks of the war. If the ‘Law Enforcement Operation’ of Ethiopia became a success story that is what Ethiopians including other Africans wanted to secure over the two years since Tigray is also part and parcel of Ethiopia. However, the reason that Mr. de Waal is not in favor of peace in Ethiopia is probably he seems to envisage a fragmented Ethiopia in which Tigray and other regions of the country may be flying in the air in an ever invisible political map of Africa. That why he seemed to dare to invite for a guerrilla warfare of the Tigray commanders. In other words, he seems staunchly to fall in love with TPLF leaders, but not with the Tigrayans as Ethiopians.
Likewise, another friend of the elite, a Norwegian citizen, Kjetil Tronvoll, a scholar of Ethiopian politics and professor of peace and conflict studies at Oslo New University College, who used to amplify the false narrative of the TPLF history as ‘a war-hardened heroes of the Horn of Africa,’ and had a close contact with the TPLF leaders even while they were in hideouts in 2020, couldn’t hide his anger and frustration of the Peace Deal and thus expressed his anger dubbing it as ‘capitulation of the TPLF’ (The New York Times, Nov 3, 2022). Furthermore, he also said that it will be “an extremely controversial issue” to convince Tigrayan forces to “voluntarily disarm and make themselves indefensible in the face of an enemy they have been fighting for two years. Martin Plaut who once happened to be an EPLF guest during the late 1980s, but has been soon lobbied after Eritrea’s independence and now campaigning against Eritrea as a chief-editor of an ill-aimed website of ‘Eritrea Hub’ was surprised with such an ‘embarrassing over 100% submission of the TPLF on the peace deal not least that Eritrea is not referred to in the whole document of the peace accord.’
According to James Schear, deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs, “Peace, on the other hand, is a leap into the unknown. It involves bargaining concessions, contingent exchanges of promises that can come undone. Most of all peace involves loss of political control and cohesion. It tends to dissolve the glue that cements wartime coalitions together whether on the political left in El Salvador or among the non-communists in Cambodia or among the nationalist Serbs in Bosnia.” In this connection, he also underlined that ‘often war is a safer bet’ than peace, because it has a familiar pattern; it imposes order, stifles dissent, generates profits in Angola and other places, provides employment, and provides a pathway to advance.”
On the other hand, Stedman found during his doctoral studies at Stanford in the late 1980s that Civil war, the most common type of war since the end of World War II, is far less likely to be ended by a negotiated agreement than wars between countries. Similarly, other studies also suggest that in cases of Peace Deals the urgency attached to implementation, rather than to mediation itself are challenging. For instance, Margaret Anstee, who had the unfortunate experience of being assigned as the U.N. secretary general’s special representative to the Angolan peace implementation on her part suggests that a ‘Peace Deal requires careful development of carrots and sticks for foot-draggers. The reason is that too often, the peace agreements are vague, which makes implementation more difficult. As such, with respect to such comparative literatures, one also likely comes to a deduction that the Peace Deal of Ethiopia is a ‘lip into the unknown’ since its end result became a win-lose outcome. In other words, the Ethiopian government as a victor on the battle ground was able to dictate terms for the benefit of its interest and people while the TPLF has been unable to impose even a single point out of all the preconditions it used to boast when it was in its heydays. To use James Schear’s phrases, the TPLF as a loser seemed to ‘loss its political control and cohesion’ since Ethiopia’s ‘war gains’ became a ‘safer bet’ and an order of terms in the Pretoria deal as well.
In general, right after the Peace Deal was signed many were astonished with the sheer ‘capitulation’ of the TPLF. Such astonishments start from the reason that, first of all, it was not recognized as a ‘Government of Tigray, as it dared to nickname itself. As far as such nomenclature is concerned, soon after the TPLF’s sudden attack of the Ethiopian National Army, it was questionable as well as controversial too as regards the TPLF’s audacity and belittling of the Ethiopian constitution for the simple reason that it has been acting as if it is a ‘De facto State of Tigray’. For instance, why the TPLF established a so-called Tigrayan National Defenses Forces and an Agency of Foreign Affairs are, among others, some solid testimonies of the TPLF’s transgression of Ethiopian constitution and internal integrity. In other words, if the TPLF cabal happened to win on its political vision and military adventure, it could have been a bad lesson and even provocative to Ethiopia which has existed for a century as a sovereign state. Seemingly there may be no doubt that the name, Government of Tigray, was deliberately coined so as to dismantle Ethiopia as a state such that other Ethiopian regions, such as Oromia and Somalia, could follow it suit. Granted that ‘names matter’ more than anything else, the fact that the Pretoria Peace Accord document was keen to put such an illegal and unconstitutional term to a garbage is thus primarily something important and even educational, including to the rest of Africa.
Meanwhile, the TPLF was compelled to come to terms to abide by the constitution of Ethiopia that it boycotted since Dr. Abiy came to power besides it swallowed to disarm its combatants which is seen as a total betrayal to the blood of so-called TDF which were indeed innocently dragged to the war triggered by the TPLF leaders. Moreover, repealing the TPLF’s proposal of referendum as well as nullifying its illegal election were among some of its recantations as well. It is having such ‘painful concessions,’ in mind, in the parlance of the TPLF’s chairperson of the peace delegation, that many of its supporters went extra miles to condemn the TPLF leadership. Apart from that, the main reasons of its condemnations both from within and without the region of Tigray resulted from the fact that it asked on its own behalf seeking its ‘designation of terrorism to be ‘lifted by the Ethiopian House of Representatives. In other terms, it was in no political or military acumen to decline to swallow all the Ethiopian government’s bitter medicines. Rather the TPLF forsook all of its principles either to take the demands of the Ethiopian government as a carrot or lest the political capital city of Tigray was about to fall under the government’s hands; since it was besieged not more than 60 kms radius. In a word, the TPLF clique was never conceded even a little point; but whether they liked it or not it was pressured to self-celebrate its defeat through signing the peace deal document.
In general, as per Article III of the Agreement for Lasting Peace and Cessation of Hostilities, it was agreed that ‘a permanent silencing of the guns to end the two years of conflict’ in Northern Ethiopia was signed by both parties. Accordingly, the commitment to safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia was reaffirmed. Moreover, as in any sovereign country, it is underlined that Ethiopia has only one national force. As a result, the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration for the TPLF combatants is guaranteed taking into account the security situation on the ground (Ethiopia: Peace Agreement Joint Statement, November 2, 2022). There is no question that such a ‘Peace Deal’ is a ‘win-loss outcome’ when it is looked from a pragmatic perspective. On the other hand, as the chairperson of the TPLF Peace Delegation, Mr. Ghetacew Reda, bitterly remarked, “it is [not only] a painful concession,’ but also ‘a bitter medicine and humiliation to swallow” in view of his organization’s defeat both in the arena of diplomacy and on the ground.
It is also important to note that the Peace Deal is dictated to the TPLF as a ‘face-saving’ alternative just because the US and Western leverages rapid intervention. Whether the intervention of TPLF Western backers is grounded on a good spirit or not, no one is oblivious of their biased stand and bad track-record though their encouragement for a proxy war was aborted at the gallantry of the Ethiopian and Allied Forces. The TPLF as an agent and puppet of Western agenda for a war project of ‘regime change’ in Ethiopia and Eritrea was not only making its mission possible, but also made a suicidal attack to its political existence too. After one month of the third round of the TPLF-instigated offensive, what one of its commanders and ideologue cried upon assessing his defeat is very shameful to hear. General Tsadckan Ghebretinsae, one of the Peace Delegation of the TPLF clique was heard to have said implicitly: “…this is a regional war. If the international community can save us, the US and the West will control the Horn of Africa; we are important to the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea and to the region at large. Otherwise, Eritrea’s version of politics [independent political line] will [shape] the course of the Geo-political interests of other big powers namely Russia and China.” When he screamed with such words, it was well-known that the TPLF and its army were at the brink of death. There was no question that at the time he had already conceded defeat on behalf of his organization and his western allies. Soon after weeks, the political capital of Tigray, Mekele, fell under a 50-60 km radius. That’s why a ‘safe-saving’ race and pressure were accelerated from all sides. The fact that the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, ran to call Ethiopian Prime Minister and for his South African and Kenyan counterparts was nothing but to save the TPLF clique. This is a good lesson for the international community that the US was interested to hide the TPLF’s humiliating defeat, but not to save the victims of the war.
What’s more, it is worth noting that the people of Tigray are equally or happier with or than the rest of Ethiopia basically for the fact that their region has been a ‘war zone’ and their children have been cheated to be cannon-fodders just to serve the TPLF’s ill-dream of power-mongering. However, it is also high time for the people of Tigray to think once more as to why the TPLF has been dragging their youth to unnecessary war in order to divorce them from the rest of Ethiopia. Now, it is the time to review which TPLF leadership under the motto of ‘Tigray Prevails’ with an ill-vision and ill-objective of establishing the so-called ‘The Republic of Tigray’ hijacking territories from the rest of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea was ungrounded and irrational; the indoctrination of the TPLF was merely based on fallacy and pseudo-narrative since Tigray to be formed as a state lacked historical facts when one is not oblivious about how African countries established with a pen and rulers of their master colonizers during the period of decolonization, The Scramble For Africa in Berlin Conference. At that point of time, whether for blessing or curse, Tigray became part of Ethiopia. As such, Tigrayans are Ethiopian citizens by any standards; there is no power to change ground facts.
What the ‘Peace Deal’ transpires is, thus, what the TPLF’s manifesto of 1975 predicted became in vain legally and under international witnesses after four decades. In other words, it has never been witnessed in history a ‘sound objective’ to collapse; in most cases strategies of organizations may change and be modified in accordance with context and pragmatism, if not suited to the objective. One analogy of this reality is that once a couple got married to be a social institution, its lifelong objective is to beget children. Unless some circumstances hinders it from having at least one offspring, it never rescinds having children as a prime vision; even if it happened so, it may only devise an alternative path of achieving it, for instance through modern medication or otherwise. In one way or the other, what happened to the TPLF’s ill-vision of creating a Tigray State is likened to this analogy.
Anyway, regardless of the cost of life paid for a false narrative, it is quite amazing and saddening for the TPLF junta to come to this end of history! Just because it is orphaned by the dictates of war, the TPLF is obliged to self-celebrate its military defeat. Besides, just like it betrayed its Tigrayan victims of the war, perhaps the pressure of its foreign masters is also another dictating factor. Despite the fact that TPLF’s western backers have a pivotal role in the grand planning, funding, arming and campaigning of the war to destabilize the Horn, it seems they have well-calculated its demise. Nonetheless, whether it rescinds its long-course vision of the Republic of Tigray is still to be put into question. The reason is that it is apparent that the TPLF is not trustworthy as it is not principled in its ideology; what it agreed now may be tactical because it is succumbed by a barrel of a gun. If it happens to gain political ground in Ethiopia, the seeds of the Greater Tigray Project may relapse anytime in the future.
As of its inception, the TPLF’s manifesto of 1975 which is a basis to its ideology and narratives were founded on what is termed as a ‘Devil’s Theory’ of demagogues. In a treatise of John Foster Dallas (1943) entitled ‘Six Pillars of Peace,’ the Devil’s Theory is stated as seeking a national unity by fomenting fear of other people and promoting a feeling that their nation is in danger or extol patriotism as the noblest emotion. It attempts to instill an image of a [country or people] that are surrounded by ‘nation-villains.’ By the same token, it can be fairly said that the TPLF demagogues also used to foment fear on the people of Ethiopia at large while they were at the helm of power in the political capital of the country and a creative and pseudo-narrative of Tigrayans’ ‘especial heroism and patriotism than the rest of Ethiopia’ so as to serve their agenda of polarization on the one hand and hegemony on the other. At large, over the 27 years of TPLF’s control of Ethiopia, it used to instill seeds of fears and perils on the people of Ethiopia against its neighboring states such as PFDJ’s Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and the like as ‘villain-nations’ which are always a threat to the existence and development of Ethiopia. As a result, apart from cheating and gambling with the wisdom and intelligence of its people, it even made the people of Ethiopia pay unnecessary prices just for the sake of its hidden agenda. The same scenario has been going on after the TPLF demagogues left the capital of Ethiopia and stationed in Tigray in which the civil war of the two years is an extension of its devil theory. However, the TPLF’s game of fabricated bravado rendered a zero-sum-outcome especially after the Pretoria armistice came into life.
Yet the TPLF’s untrustworthy and demagogy seemed to continue even after the Pretoria Peace Deal and Nairobi Roadmap of implementation reasonably for the fact that it is still on its way to renege Article 3(3) of the former agreement (on cessation of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech). In reference to an article of Alex de Waal (November 16, 2022, Responsible Statecraft) [while] ‘the TPLF-headed regional government is dissolved and a new one will be elected as well as the constitutional order to be restored; ironically, the Tigrayans could hail this as a victory.’ Besides this observation, the fact that the TPLF officials and their Regional media outlets still seemed to distort the blueprints of the agreements in such a way that they are hoodwinking the public through agitating them that ‘what has been achieved in Pretoria armistice is the result of a four years political struggle and two years military triumphs of the people of Tigray’ wouldn’t be helpful as far as disarmaments and dissolution of unilateral makings of the TPLF are concerned. In other words, as the challenge on the ground by the people of Tigray is strong such that they are questioning the integrity and deceit of the TPLF leaders as to why Tigrayans were grappling with their fellow Ethiopians if the end result is ‘peace and one Ethiopia.’
Meanwhile, since the TPLF officials couldn’t justify, convince the people and answer the flow of legitimate questions of the people, they appeared to opt a false course and narrative of victory even upon the Pretoria accord. A case in point is that if one refers to an interview of the TPLF’s chairperson of the peace negotiating team, Ghetachew Reda, with the BBC (November 14, 2022), he may find it is not only laughable, but also questionable and with no substance as well. According to his literal words, “…We were pressured to sign the Peace Deal on behalf of the TPLF as the other party [Ethiopian government] didn’t give the ‘Government of Tigray’ a recognition. At the same time, the AU [advised or persuaded] us not to lose the opportunity of the Peace Deal as a result of disagreements with names. Disarmament doesn’t mean giving up your hands. The Tigray army has faced and challenged two of the biggest African armies. Even such big armies couldn’t succumb to the TPLF army. Yet, the Tigrayan army has not collapsed; but while the Tigray army is still with its full capacity, we are considerate enough on the protection and wellbeing of the people of Tigray. Our concern was mainly on truce….” What can one understand from such ideas? Nothing. In fact, what the Gospel of the TPLF said conflicts one idea with the other; he is deliberately confusing and deceiving the people of Tigray. In other words, he has utterly admitted the TPLF’s capitulation. He also seems to blame both the Ethiopian negotiators as well as the AU authorities. In the phrases of Samuel Huntington (1993), Reda is ‘flying in the face of truth’ which is a pseudo-alternative path to the total defeat of his organization.
In the final analysis, what we learn from conventional lessons of history is that, most often, the peace settlements were imposed by victors. In the case of the Pretoria Peace Accord of Ethiopian parties, the logic of ‘might is right’ has got the currency to dictate the party which is in a weakest position as far as the military ground is concerned. In this case, it seems fair to cite one similar analogy. For instance, on 11 November 1918, an armistice came into effect ending the war in Western Europe, but this did not mean the return of peace. The armistice was effectively a German surrender, as its conditions ended any possibility of continuing the war. The peace conditions imposed upon the defeated powers were not unduly harsh, but the treaties contained many compromised solutions to difficult issues. As a consequence, their long-term success was limited. There is no question that what seemed a ‘settlement of conflict and a reigning of peace’ in Northern Ethiopia is as a result and commitment of the AU which is imposed by the victor as well. That’s why the US including the EU couldn’t condone the weak party, TPLF diehards, in the last minute of its breathless time. However, regardless of who gained what, the possibility of peace depends on underpinning trust and mutual confidence on the opponent parties. Hence, anyone notably Ethiopians including Tigrayans aspire the ‘long-term of the peace success’ not to be limited; rather the full return of peace is hoped to be cherished and strategic.
In this regard, unlike the TPLF, the fact that the Ethiopian government is cautious in terms of cessation of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech is so far so good so that it can pave a way for mutual trust and confidence. To this end, what the premier of Ethiopia reiterated on November 16, 2022 to the Ethiopian parliament is full of ‘optimism and commitment’ as far as implementation of the Peace Deal is concerned. Paraphrasing the bottom-line of his message of peace, he said that, “An endless war is just like water in a sieve. No one can live in [endless] fighting. There is no bad peace or war. Even while one [party] is being victorious in war, war is [always] bad. The reason is that we will be unable to achieve for what we think.” Apparently, such seeds of hope on the part of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia seems as a litmus-paper to committing and fleshing the Pretoria Peace Accord and Nairobi Declaration of Implementation respectively. However, as one hand cannot clap alone, the other signatory party’s assertiveness, courtesy and integrity of pledge must be in par both in spirit and letter of the armistice. Moreover, Ethiopia is on its way to resolve all issues of peace concerns and contentions of the country through establishing a ‘Commission of Peace and Reconciliation’ via a forum of national dialogue. What Ethiopia chose is like the experience of ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ of South Africa which has proved effective, efficient and a paragon even to other parts of Africa whose peace and harmony are still fragile. It is at the disposal of the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ that both black and white South Africans are living in harmony. For sure, the Peace Deal reached and signed between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF is also beneficiary under such frameworks. If so, the long-term dividends of lasting peace in Ethiopia will inevitably be helpful for the development and prosperity of the country.
Last but not least, the TPLF as a political organization has never proved to be effective in terms of its success stories and thereby it does not represent the aspiration of the people of Tigray. Rather its fatality throughout its political tenure led the people of Tigray towards hatred, havoc, mayhem and conflicts with their respective compatriots including with their neighboring countries as well. The people of Tigray thus need to enjoy a virtuous circle of politics other than always living in a vicious circle of dirty governance of the TPLF. Accordingly, it seems high time now to rethink and reshape the psychology of the people to divert into other alternative political organizations which are matured, seasoned and well-versed in the concept and politics of Ethiopia. In other words, a political organization that does not embrace a pan-Ethiopian ideology and nationalism is useless either to the people of Tigray or the people of Ethiopia at large. Needless to say, in par with the TPLF, even TPLF-created so-called satellite parties of Tigray namely ‘Tigray Independence, Third Weyane, Our Parliament (Baitona) and Assimba and name them whose political vision is narrow and quite remote from Pan-Ethiopian nationalism like the TPLF should not get rooms in the political platform of the region. In fact, such regional parties which contested in the illegal regional election of the TPLF are not recognized by the Ethiopian National Election Board and as such according to Article 10:1 (Transitional Measures), need to be revisited and disbanded for good.
Moreover, one has to put into mind that the TPLF’s political vision, ideology and strategy were relentlessly pushing towards divorcing the Tigrayan people from the people of Ethiopia. As opposed to this course of move and ideology, it is now high time for the TPLF cabal and its organization to divorce itself from the political arena of Ethiopia not least from Tigray as well. In other words, a political organization which espouses a ‘Devil’s Theory’ as from its inception is no longer useful and important to the people of Tigray. As a matter of fact, ultimately what the Peace Deal of Pretoria proved is nothing but the defeat of the TPLF both in politics and diplomacy and thereby it could be a safe-exit warranty of its political termination without disregarding that it is not also free of charges and liability of all its curses on the people of Tigray and Ethiopia.
About the Writer:
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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What does the author of this article mean by ‘lip into the unknown’ in the sentence ‘As such, with respect to such comparative literatures, one also likely comes to a deduction that the Peace Deal of Ethiopia is a ‘lip into the unknown’ since its end result became a win-lose outcome.’? Did he mean to say ‘‘leap into the unknown’? In any case, let the heavens rain peace over the entire Horn of Africa.