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HomeOpinionThe Boy King’s Ploy: Buying Tigryan Fighters with Fake School Test Results...

The Boy King’s Ploy: Buying Tigryan Fighters with Fake School Test Results and Wolkait

Abiy Ahmed (Photo : screenshot from Ethio Chronicle video)

Yonas Biru, PhD 

Tigrayan students who have been out of school for several years are said to have passed 69.9%  of the students who took the test. The national average is 3.2%. Do the new results reflect the  national and Tigrayan passing rates before the war? The answer is a resounding no. There is  some claim that Tigrayan students were given a three-month long remedial class to prepare them  for the test. Even if it is true, the results stand out as fake considering the national average.  

The Story Behind the 69.9% Test Results 

The fact that two supremely good news were delivered to Tigray within a week (the School Test, the Wolkait referendum) is not a coincidence. The PM is in desperate need of fighters in his futile  effort to win the war against Fanno. Tigray supposedly has 200,000 war-hardened milita forces if we believe the TPLF. It appears at least the boy king believes the story. 

Two factors stand in his way. First is the mothers and fathers of Tigray who have sacrificed  hundreds of thousands of their children for a meaningless war that the TPLF ignited. Tigray got  nothing out of the war other than unimaginable human and resource destruction. The question  is: Would the mothers and fathers of Tigray deliver their sons and daughters to fight for the same  PM whom they have been accusing of committing genocide against them? 

The second obstacle is the question of Abiy’s trustworthiness. The transaction requires TPLF to deliver hundred thousand Tigrayan sons and daughters in exchange for a promissory note that  it will receive Wolkait in two years. Abiy understands Wolkait will give TPLF access to smuggle  weapons from Sudan and Egypt. It is utter madness for TPLF to believe the PM whose betrayal  track record is longer than his lying track record will honor the promissory note.  

And The Wolkait Issue 

The following represents a slightly revised version of a draft I prepared for AEPAC that was  published under the title “The Amhara-Oromo-Tigray Conflict Nexus in Ethiopia: Challenges,  Opportunities and a Way Forward.” 

There is nothing the PM will not do to stay in power. In this venture, his friends become his  enemies and his enemies turn into his friends at the snap of the fingers. The only thing constant  is that he has neither loyalty to a cause nor integrity in his person. Some say his loyalty is to  Greater Oromia. Others say he is riding the Greater Oromia wave only if it serves a higher agenda  of keeping him in office. If not, they say, he will drop it at the snap of the fingers.

Nothing is off limit in his conflict brewing venture in pursuit of perfecting a zero-sum personal political gain. During the war between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Tigray  People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), he was unequivocal that Wolkait belongs to Amhara. On national  TV he stated: 

“The people of Armacho, Wolkait and Tegenie have maintained in the past and  continue to maintain to date their Begemder [Amhara] identity despite 30 years  of violence perpetrated against them. They never stopped to uphold their  Begemder identity while they were being killed and exiled.” 

This was not a one time statement. In another televised speech he stated:  

“You all know the Wolkait freedom committee has been fighting for years [during  the TPLF era]. Who amongst you does not know leaders of the Wolkait Freedom  Committee were arrested in Sululta (outside of Addis Ababa) when they were  traveling to file an appeal to the Parliament? Wasn’t the reason why we  established the border commission to address this and other similar  problems? The Junta [TPLF] is against the border commission because it knows  what it has done.” 

The Fanno uprising led him to change his stance in a New York second. His minister of defense  suggested Wolkait and Raya (W&R) were illegally annexed by the Amhara. He declared the federal  government will take over the administration of the two areas, return Tigrayans who have been  forcefully displaced after the war, and conduct a referendum to give the people opportunity to  determine where they belong. The Minister suggested this is what was agreed during the Pretoria  agreement between the Ethiopian government and TPLF.  

This is disturbing on many levels. First, the involvement of the minister of defense militarizes the  conflict when in fact the conflict is rooted in a legal dispute of land ownership rights. Second, the  PM is using the Minister, who is Tigrayan, to send a signal of support to the TPLF position. Third,  the Minister’s statements were politically driven and stand in stark conflict with the PM’S earlier  public statements. 

“The Pretoria summit has no authority over the issue of Wolkait. I do not  understand why the issue of Wolkait is dragged into the Pretoria summit. We need  to realize there is border conflict in Northern Shewa between Oromia and Amhara.  Are we going to take this to South Africa for resolution? Don’t we have the means  and experience to address our problem by ourselves? Haven’t we established a  border commission to sort out such conflicts.” 

The Minister’s statement also clashes with a public statement Getachew Reda above referred  statement, suggesting the Abiy Administration is working on returning Tigray Raya and Tselemt  to Tigray. Regarding Wolkait, he said the presence of Eritrea is complicating the matter and Tigray  is ready to help the government if requested. This shows the so-called referendum is a farce. This  is clear in Getachew’s speech where he made no reference to any referendum.  

A Bird’s Eye View of the Amhara Grievances 

The Amhara contention that the TPLF annexed Wolkait by force has been corroborated by many  Tigrayan politicians. Ras Mengesha Seyoum, a Tigrayan and former governor of Tigray (1960- 1974), told the Voice of America: When I was the governor of Tigray, [what is now known as  Western Tigray] was under present-day Amhara region. The same was true when I was a child  growing up.”  

The Governor’s statement was affirmed by Dr. Aregawi Berhe, the founding chairperson of TPLF,  who publicly stated: Wolkait was annexed from current day Amhara during the TPLF gorilla days.  The land was critical to get an outlet into Sudan to smuggle weapons and transport food for TPLF  fighters. It was unjust for the Amhara.”  

There are many TPLF founding members reaffirming this, including Abraham Yayeh who in 1982  confirmed W&R were taken from Gonder – aka Begemder – and Wello (parts of present-day  Amhara). He further stated the people in both lands were Amharic speaking.  

Historical documents during Tigrayan Emperror Yohannes’ reign (July 1871 – March 1889), also  indicate the boundaries between Gonder and Tigray is the Tekezé River, lending credence to the  Amhara position. 

The fact that the TPLF annexed the two regions long before the 1995 constitution was enacted is  incontrovertible. Similarly, the fact that the Constitution has no bearing in the demarcation of  borders between Tigray and Amhara is undeniable. Amhara forces further allege the TPLF: 

• Engineered and forced demographic changes in the contested lands to have a  Tigrayan majority. Though both people of Amhara and Tigray lived in W&R, since  1991, schools stopped teaching in Amharic.  

• Settled its former fighters in tens of thousands and forcefully displace people of  Amhara heritage out of the annexed regions.  

• Perpetrated mass killings of Amhara forces. These allegation are covered by the  international media and international human rights agencies

Amhara’s demand is for government administrative and legal recognition as the legitimate owner  of W&R.  

A Bird’s Eye View of the Tigray Stance on Wolkait and Raya 

Tigryan forces allege W&R are historical parts of Tigray before Emperor Haile Selassie transferred  them to Begemder (aka Gonder) by a royal decree. This argument is refuted with maps showing  Wolkait in Gonder during Emperor Menelik, decades before Emperor Haile Selassie was born. In  response, the Tigrayan forces use old maps from the 18th and 19th centuries as evidence where  Wolkait is shown in Tigray.  

This is refuted with older maps going as far back as 15th century listing the names of regions  within Tigray without mentioning Wolkait-Tsegede or Raya (Source: Catalogue Raisonné de  Manuscrits Éthiopiens Appartenant à Antoine d’Abbadie). There are also multiple maps between  15th, and 17th centuries showing the Tekezé River separating Tigray and Gonder, giving credence  to the Amhara narrative (Source: Crawford O.G.S. (1958), Ethiopian Itineraries, Circa 1400-1524,  Cambridge; and Paez, P. (2011). Pedro Páez’s History of Ethiopia, 1622 (Vol. 23). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd) 

There are many more maps produced at different times. For example, during the Italian  occupation both contested lands were incorporated within Eritrea. If old maps are accepted as  evidence, Eritrea can become a party to the conflict with some degree of legitimacy. Its legitimacy  draws from internationally recognized national boundaries that separate and define African  nations based largely on lines drawn by colonialist powers.  

Another evidence Tigryans use is a meta-analysis of historical map of the last 300 years to show  Wolkait was part of Tigray. The meta-analysis was conducted by Professor Jan Nyssen – a known  quantity in the circle of pro-TPLF experts at par with Alex de Waal and Martin Plaut. The good  professor analyzed some 52 maps in which Wolkait’s geographic location is shown with clearly  delineated boundaries. 

Of the 52 maps produced between 1683-1990, in 19 of them Wolkait is mapped neither in  Amhara nor Tigray. In 19 cases, Wolkait is mapped in the Tigray region (1707-1941) and in 13 cases it  is mapped in Amhara (1891-1990).  

The problem in this study is that the Meta-Analysis of Historical map ignored maps from 15 to  17th century showing Wolkait in Amhara. Most importantly, maps from 300 years ago have little  value in determining geographic proper in 1980 (when Tigray annexed Wolkait from Amhara by  force) or 2020 (when Amhara reclaimed the land by force). Centuries ago, California and Texas  were part of Mexico. Portugal and Spain did not exist. 

When the map argument fails to sway the public, Tigrayans shift the argument to language and  claim W&R were incorporated into Tigray because the people are Tigragna speaking. This has  been refuted by many including founding members of TPLF. As noted above with a link to a video  clip, Abraham Yayeh is on the record, stating the people of Wolkait and Raya were Amharic  speaking when the two regions were annexed by TPLF. 

The attempt to justify demarcation of regions by language is futile in many ways. If language was  the determining factor, more than a third of Benishangul would have been incorporated into the  Amhara region. Addis Ababa where Oromos account for only 19 and Amhara represents 47%  could not have been incorporated into the Oromo region. 

Tigrayan forces allege, since the recent war, Amhara forces have forcefully displaced hundreds  of thousands of Tigrayans and brought in Amharas to change the demography of the two regions.  The allegation is widely covered by the international media and international human rights  organizations. The problem here is Tigrayans are conveniently playing oblivious to the fact that  the forceful displacement of people was started and sustained by them until 2018.  

Tigray’s demand vacillates between three positions. At times they demand the government  reinstate the two lands into Tigray, recognizing the prewar status quo as part of the constitutional  order. At other times they demand a referendum after the people of Tigray who were forcefully  displaced are returned. Some in the Tigray camp put the number of displaced over a million. Yet  at other times they express to use force to reclaim the two regions. 

Getachew Reda’s recent speeches in Colorado came with a mixed message, partly nuanced  (walking a tight line between war and peace) and partly vacillating between peace seeking and  war mongering. For example, at some point, he talked about the unimaginable sacrifice young  Tigrayans have paid and the fact that “the people of Tigray do not have a shoulder to tolerate  another war.” On the other hand, he talked about “the capability or heroism of [Tigray’s] over  200,000 soldiers” and offers to help that his federal government to fight Amhara and Eritrea.  

His speech seems to be crafted to throw enough red meat to Tigrayan warmongers and in the  meantime wave olive leaves to calm the peace seeking public in Tigray and the diaspora.  

Problem With the Government’s Current Position 

Though both Amhara and Tigray forces are displaying intransigent positions, there is hope for  reasoned dialogue and peaceful resolution. Under the right political circumstances, extremist  positions on both sides can be counter-balanced by peace seeking forces.

The most dangerous problem is the Oromo-PP led by PM Abiy that has vested interest in  escalating the problem to use Tigray forces in his effort to weaken the Amhara as he has used  the Amhara to weaken Tigray. The government’s recent policy reflects this on many levels. 

First, a key question that Ethiopians and the IC ought to pose to the PM is: If the border  commission that he created was mandated to resolve border conflicts, why is the Amhara-Tigray  conflict handled with exception?  

Further, there are many places in the Oromo region that the Amhara are the largest group and  Oromos are the minority. When the Prime Minister acknowledges prevailing problems between  Amhara and Oromo, he always refers to conflict areas where Oromo lay claim. He does not  mention or recognize areas where Amharas lay claim such as Sheger City or Adama. Will the PM  address the issues of Sheger City, Adama other similar areas through referendum? 

Second, the PM, who is radio silent about the forced displacement of nearly a million Amhara  from the Oromo tribal land, lacks legitimacy to demand the reinstatement of forcefully displaced  Tigrayans into the contested areas. Similarly, he has taken a deliberate position to ignore the  Amhara demand to govern themselves where they are the largest group outside of the Amhara  region. Therefore, he lacks legitimacy to demand the Amhara honor and respect Tigrayans right  to decide if W&R belong to Amhara or Tigray.  

It warrants emphasis that my argument is in no way to oppose the return of forcefully displaced  Tigrayans to their homes regardless of which region is the legitimate owner of the two contested  areas. Our focus is the systemic difference in the way Amhara is treated by the PM. Amhara is  expected to respect, honor, and protect the rights of other tribes while its rights are  systematically and ubiquitously violated. 

There is also the question of the population of Wolkait. According to an official 2017 population  projection, the total population of Wolkait was 434,879. Extrapolating the 2017 figure to 2021  yields a total population of 483,198. In the meantime, TPLF claims, nearly 1.2 million Tigrayans  were forcefully displaced from Wolkait. This is to inflate the Tigrayan population for the planned  referendum. 

In Conclusion 

The Wolkait issue is perhaps the thorniest issue in the nation’s politics. No government with an  iota of political prudence and sensibility would inflame and galvanize a population of 40 million  at a time of war. Only stupidity or desperation can explain this. May God relieve the Boy-King  from his misery and Ethiopia from him.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Good job and one redeeming achievement to savor for those young boys and girls who just survived the mother of all wars their region has ever seen! In fact, I am not surprised by their accomplishment because just like those in Eritrea keeping oneself educated by every chance they get is in their psyche. Even during the war years with Mengistu, foreign journalists who visited the bases of both EPLF and TPLF, they were astonished when they saw fighters getting back to classrooms learning math and other science subjects right after coming back from a day of fighting. So, kudos young men and women!!!!

  2. Consider.
    The PM’s approach to solving Ethiopia’s problems is amateurish at best and frighteningly dangerous at worst. Ethiopia is effectively in a civil war today since free movement within the country has become impossible without risking one’s life. And yet, the PM response is more war! The very same PM who ironically received a Nobel Peace Prize not long ago. A referendum on Wolkait is not a peaceful solution, it is a ruse to capture TPLF’s support, and as such it will only make the Amhara people more determined to redouble their effort to rid Ethiopia of this government. The PM may think of himself as a “strategic” thinker; but what we see is a person with half-baked ideas that is jeopardizing the very existence of Ethiopia.

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