TPLF’s Psychological Warfare: A Longstanding Practice and a Deadly Weapon of its Political Existence
By Fessehaye Kidane, Asmara
7) TPLF Titans’ ‘Painful Voices’ after the 2022 Ethiopian Peace Deal of Pretoria
Moreover, it is even worth relating the history of ‘lies and exaggerations’ of the TPLF in accordance with its longstanding practice and culture of its pseudo-narratives of its past history. Likewise, the TPLF’s pseudo-narratives with respect to the losses and casualties of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers it used to present during the recent 2020-2022 vicious civil war of Ethiopia is also not different. In reference to its media reports and figures, even when it faced a total defeat in 2020, the TPLF’s moral infraction was well-witnessed. In hindsight, one may not even fail to recall how far it dared to inflate its military successes through uplifting the casualties of the so-called enemies. According to its sheer lies, in the course of the one year long civil war of Ethiopia alone, around 40 Eritrean divisions and three folds of that figure of Ethiopian divisions were totally decimated even while the TPLF leaders and combatants fled from Mekele. One may question, then, the integrity and madness of the TPLF that if such amounts of casualties were incurred on both armies, there was no reason for it to escape the capital city of Tigray. To the contrary, if such figures of death tolls and casualties were credible, one may not be doubtful that the TPLF’s agenda of toppling both the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea could have been materialized in this time around.
In the meantime, after the Pretoria Peace Accord of the Ethiopian warring parties, the tide of Tigrayans opposition is running against the TPLF’s surrender since it lost all its reasons of the war. Even as Alex de Waal, the staunch polemicist of the TPLF, testified, ‘many Tigrayans – at home and in the diaspora – are angry at what they see as a ‘political surrender’ including the TPLF’s own central committee.’ That’s why, at the moment, the TPLF’s Pseudo-Narrative is targeted purely towards the Eritrean government and its Defense Forces. As before, the TPLF is deliberately misrepresenting Eritrea as a mortal enemy of Tigrayans. There is no doubt that such cheap propaganda of the TPLF simply emanates from a simple reason: whether sooner or later ‘accountability’ of all the TPLF’s crimes, futility and carnage of the war is at the forefront. That’s why searching ‘witch-hunts’ became its top agenda. In this case, two scapegoats, namely Eritrea and so-called ‘Amhara Allied Forces,’ are chosen as a way out of its gloom and doom fates. In fact, this may only be taken as a litmus-paper on how far the TPLF’s narrative noises rose to a crescendo.
In this juncture, regardless of what the TPLF’s voice may precipitate, the deep-rooted inferiority complex of the Tigray elite is also the main factor of its roaring only to portend troubles among peoples. The tone of the elite that ‘Amhara’s are chauvinists while Eritreans belittle Tigrayans as from immemorial time’ is always in place. However, animosity of Eritreans and Amhars towards the Tigrayan people is only a created storyline which is, in fact, a null and void precedent even in the history of Abyssinia. The TPLF elite, nonetheless, tries to exploit it as an art of its psychological warfare only when it falls down from grace. In stark contrast, no one forgets the TPLF’s cruel massacre of an innocent national army of Ethiopia including the May-Kadra massacre of innocent Amhara citizens. At the same time, the crime of the TPLF-led government of Ethiopia over Eritrean cemeteries i.e. exhuming martyrs from their graveyards, as well as expulsion and looting of around 90,000 Eritrean citizens who used to live in Ethiopia are also fresh in the minds of Eritreans including Ethiopians. The term ‘genocide’ is thus attributed only to the TPLF‘s pattern of conducts and dictionary. In short, a ‘reversal of crimes’ to the other party will never transpire any yield after an ‘impossible mission and humiliations’ of the TPLF is evidenced on the ground.
In fact, it is a kids’ politics to charge and isolate the Amhara Militias and Especial Forces from the National Federal Army of Ethiopia. Any country when it is in a state of emergency or war crisis has the right to call and mobilize both its permanent and reserve armies in order to deter any sort of tension or aggression. Hence, what the Federal government of Ethiopia did is also not different: the Amhara militias and Especial armies are also part and parcel of the Ethiopian army; they are duty-bound to challenge the aggression and invasion of the TPLF. Even from commonsense, the charge that the TPLF politicians are forwarding against the Amhara militias and Especial armies that it committed ‘genocide and looting’ thus cannot get any currency.
In the first place, it is not questionable that Eritrea’s involvement was important as far as the rescue of the government of Ethiopia is concerned. In essence, irrespective of Eritrea’s own interest, the fare-share and contribution of Eritrea in weakening the TPLF’s existential threat especially to Ethiopia is well-sensed and articulated by a former May Patriotic Party high-ranking official. According to the views of Mr. Neamin Zeleque, a former Director of ESAT (Interview, December 2022), “Ethiopia could have faced a state collapse had Eritrea not immediately rushed and aided the Federal Government of Ethiopia.” The main reason is, he further substantiates his insights, “At the time the TPLF suddenly attacked the Ethiopian Northern Army covered with a night’s darkness while it is asleep; as a consequence of this vicious attack of insurrection, a big number of the Ethiopian army with all its armaments, motorized armors and tanks etc was captured.”
As Ethiopia had no contingent army at the time which could challenge the TPLF, the TPLF could have regained power as smoothly as it could. Indeed, the TPLF was inspired just because of such miscalculations. That’s why Eritrea’s role and involvement in saving Ethiopia becomes important and must be acknowledged by generations of Ethiopians. Even now, the TPLF’s claim of Eritrean withdrawal from Tigray, after the ‘Peace Deal’, thus, needs to be looked at from such a perspective. One should not forget that the TPLF’s provocation of war may be imminent soon after Eritrea withdraws. In other words, comparatively speaking, it seems not doubtful that the TPLF is more fearful to the Eritrean army than any other neighboring armies. The TPLF’s false accusation of Eritrea may then be for two potential reasons: seeking exculpation from its bellicosity and misconducts of the war on the one hand, and for underpinning a fourth round offensive on the other.
Nonetheless, no one can believe the allegations of the TPLF under the fake charges of ‘Eritrean genocide, massacres and looting’ taking place in Tigray parts that the TPLF does not control; so does even with the charges of the Amhara militias and Especial armies. Besides, the TPLF elite also shamelessly and continuously baptizes the Eritrean army as a ‘wild creature’ just to indoctrinate and intoxicate its Tigrayan subjects. First of all, Tigrayns can themselves serve as eye-witnesses, earlier in 2020 and now, that Eritrean Defenses Forces were the main defenders of Tigrayan rights and properties even among Tigrayan lawbreakers. Secondly, since the Eritrean and Ethiopian Defense Forces are working together to protect the security of Tigray together like hand and glove, it is the Ethiopian Federal Forces who know what is happening in the territories they control. As opposed to the fake propaganda of the TPLF, the fact that it is singling out and attacking Eritrea apparently leaving the other party innocent, has two motives. On the one hand, in the first place, such a shame campaign is meant to shift and divert the attention of its Tigrayan victims of war towards other created enemies. On the other hand, it seems that the Tigray elite is on its way to escape from the instigation and carnage of the war. It seems clear that the TPLF knew well that the noose is tightening such that all its painful voices stem from hysteria and paranoia.
In a nutshell, the nemesis of the TPLF has a domino-effect since it made all sorts of suicides ranging from its political journeys and bellicosity of wars all the way up to military resorting which was proved that the TPLF was found to be a cause of the war. In this case, what Stephen Sackur in his BBC Hardtalk Show (December 2022), verified suffices enough to mention it as an evidence. As of his introduction, Sackur seems in doubt that as far as the outcome of the Peace Deal of Ethiopians was concerned, ‘in effect, the TPLF appears to have surrendered.’ Furthermore, though the TPLF’s chairperson of the Peace Delegation, Mr. Ghetachew Reda, remarked that ‘his organization submitted itself to a federal system,’ disregarding to his lame exit excuses, Sacker on his part, was bold enough to underline that ‘what matters most in this terrible war is the one who has the guns imposes his authority with the gun; [TPLF] forces will have no longer the power of the gun.’ He even asked him that, with regard to the TPLF’s real fighting mood in earlier times (referring to August 2021 of a similar interview in the same TV channel), if the Tigray rebels acknowledged the loss of the war. At the same time, Mr. Sackur even challenged the interviewee that if the [TPLF] wished, in reflection, that [it had] not started the war back in in November 2020; that [it] wished [it] had not attacked the base of the Ethiopian federal army.’
Overall, irrespective of Mr. Reda’s excuses such as using phrases like ‘painful concessions and submissions…’ According to Sackur’s objective research and observation, the BBC journalist eventually underscored that ‘the bottom-line is that the TPLF didn’t win, but it capitulated. The reason is that, he further went on, ‘[the TPLF] signed to disarm and demobilizing [its] forces; the federal government will put its forces in key installations in Tigray to control [the region]; [that the TPLF] will be reincorporated into a federal system.’ Needless to say, Mr. Sackur even confidently concluded that ‘whatever the [TPLF] says the people of Ethiopia and Tigryay see [the TPLF] as the losers.’
Moreover, when the interviewee of the TPLF, Mr. Ghetachew Reda, happened to to justify to his organization’s agreement on the Peace Deal as a ‘painful concession’, Sacker, on his part, was in no way to accept Reda’s excuses such that he ultimately emphasized that ‘even the [interviewer himself] felt a little pain in the voice of his interviewee.’ In the end, one may only question is that was such an interview with the BBC Hardtalk Show important to the TPLF spokesperson? For sure, the answer is not affirmative. Simply, as far as the solid facts and investigations of the tough interviewer are concerned, the outcome of the interview only added another impetus to the ground ‘frustration and humiliation’ of the TPLF.
Anyhow, the Pseudo-Narrative of the TPLF as a deadly weapon of its existence has never proved productive before, and nor will serve it in the future too. In other words, even if it preferred to continue, it will remain as a soft phony war. By this time, no one is to be deceived by the TPLF platitudes, intrigues and actions. For instance, the TPLF’s showcase after the Nairobi Implementation Road Map of the Peace Deal is something unbelievable and laughable. Through its media outlets, a drama scene regarding its combatants’ voluntary withdrawal was aired. According to the TPLF’s fake narrative of the event, it announced that it has started withdrawing from all fronts including Zalmbesa. This scene is a sheer lie and is only meant for PR’s sake. The reason is that let alone Zalambessa which is nearby to Eritrea even Fatsi and the environs of Adi-Ghirat are still under the control of Ethiopian Army and its Allied Forces.
Even so, the political culture and PR policy of the TPLF leadership is always ‘beat first, and at the same time, ‘cry first’ too.’ It is like what the Tigrigna proverb says: ‘a lash beats itself, but also cries itself.’ As such actions and conducts of the TPLF have occurred repeatedly before, that’s why no one seems ready to give due values and attention to the PR game of the TPLF. The reason is that it has to be put into account that if a person’s lies are recurrent over and over, no one would care about him the next time even if he tends to tell the truth. The same analogy may be true as far as the TPLF fake narratives and its dogmatic manners are concerned.
For instance, in 1998, the TPLF attacked the Eritrean small platoon in a village called Bademe, which was a flashpoint of the border war and became famous in the world ever since; but it was the TPLF-led government that first announced that it was attacked by Eritrea. In this juncture, no one may forget that such similar ‘hasty petitions, announcements and PR lies’ of the TPLF have been reiterated over and over in the three rounds of war with Eritrea. In the same manner, the same PR tactic was used when TPLF itself attacked the Ethiopian Northern Army in November 2020. So did in the other respective rounds of two civil wars that followed afterwards. In short, using its PR ploys and pretexts, the TPLF used to absolve itself as if it was not a ‘provoker and sparker’ of wars and hostilities, be it now or before. Moreover, since all its schemes and appetite of winning the war failed and became against its expectation, it is trying to fool and coax its Tigrayan subjects from its humiliating defeat; its psychological warfare became an expression of its frustrations.
Overall, what history has recorded so far is that the age and efficacy of the psychological warfare of the TPLF is like a house built on sand. At the moment, there seems no doubt that every observer is aware that the TPLF is a war-mongering organization. In other words, as its precedent behaviors might demonstrate, it may have accumulated the abilities and experiences of creating war scenarios throughout its history. Nevertheless, in some instances, the pseudo-narratives of the TPLF may also seem plausible and rational at least for a brief time only. However, in the course of time, as has been seen on the ground, both its fake narratives and war causes are found to be no longer substantiated by facts; most often, all sorts of its narratives are found to be mere theoretical. On the other way round, hitherto regardless of the TPLF leaders’ motives and actions, what the shakers and movers of the organization face is ultimately a ‘Boomerang Effect;’ the ground facts always backfire against its fabrications and subterfuges.
At this time in particular, the ‘Boomerang Effect’ which the TPLF painfully swallowed is unarguably leading it to its accountability; both by its own people and the Ethiopian people at large, and if justice is served including by the international community too. Be that as it may, however, in the parlance of a Soviet Union journalist, Jiya Ehrewburg (1951), the TPLF’s Pseudo-Narrative, seems to [have been] “blow[ing] up the clouds, min[ing] the stars and slaughter[ing] the angels.” In the same way, if the TPLF happens to resuscitate in the future, the winds of its ‘pseudo-narrative’ may also not fade as quickly as expected. As a policy of lies and false narratives are seemingly inherent both in its nature and culture, the TPLF’s pseudo-narrative’ may die only if the organization at large dies. Nonetheless, whether the trumpet of the TPLF may be humming more than enough, it seems fair to reason out that the cause of its war and the ground failure became its only Achilles’ heel.
At present, the Pseudo-Narratives as a strategic instrument of the TPLF’s psychological warfare may not be a conundrum even to the international community. As such, no one needs an axe to grind the weaknesses and painful voices of the TPLF. In this juncture, one important historical incident of the TPLF suffices enough to mention here.
It is true that the TPLF used to espouse a narrow political vision till 1989. However, as it shifted from a secessionist to a Pan-Ethiopianist agenda, it faced a dilemma as to how to persuade its fighting forces. Even according to a Tigrayan scholar, Ghebru Tarecke’s study (1994), the people and the combatants of the TPLF did not internalize the shift of its agenda. As a result, after liberating Tigray in 1989, the fighters refused to proceed beyond their homeland. This ‘standstill,’ apparently known as ‘Dewta,’ lasted for a year during which time the TPLF gave its rebuttal saying that ‘Dewta’ was a ‘reflection of ‘narrow nationalism.’ In the same manner, it seems history is repeating itself. What the TPLF faced in its history for the second time is another ‘standstill,’ – Dewata – either from marching to Addis Ababa or establishing the State of Tigray; both were in vain. As such, to use Stephen Sackur’s phrase once again, all the ‘painful voice’ of the TPLF’s elite is thus nothing but only a frustration of its ‘standstill.’
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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