“The current quagmire, we have found ourselves in, has known actors and we also know the sequence of events that have led to it.”
By Bruck T.
I wrote the following reflection note prompted by the show I watched on Artstv on the theme of peace and war in Ethiopia.
Let me first confess that I consider myself as a deeply concerned and worried Ethiopian, who desperately longs to see a peaceful and stable united Ethiopia free from the ethnic politics that has ravaged our innocent people and beloved country. I also believe that, if there is a will, there is always a solution to any problem. I also confess it pains me to see the suffering of our people because of the on-going conflict. I am writing this because we need all of us to find a way out and to make the best contribution, so that we can end not only the current conflict but any other future conflicts.
I was watching the ArtsTV interview with great hope that there would be some concrete suggestions from the two well-known Ethiopians regarding how Ethiopia can attain peace. Instead, both interviewees spent a lot of time speaking in abstract terms, enumerating the problems we already know, citing analogies from world history that might not necessarily repeat itself in our case, instead of suggesting concrete proposals for the way out. I felt that the guests were more interested in showing how they were vindicated for the position they took prior to the conflict rather than seeking a genuine solution going forward. The same can also be said in large part about a similar program I saw recently on GEBEYANU, where the guest spent most of his time apportioning blaming equally on both sides for the conflict.
The current quagmire, we have found ourselves in, has known actors and we also know the sequence of events that have led to it. The war we see in Ethiopia now is a culmination of the events that took place in the country for the last 47 years from a place called Dedebit by seven fellow Ethiopians who founded TPLF (The Tigray People Liberation Front). Ever since, our country has been marching through the thick and thin of time to the current intractable mess we are now in. I do not want to dwell on my short message long by enumerating in detail what has transpired in the last four decades in Ethiopia. That would only be a distraction from my main message I wanted to share here. Besides, they are all well-known to most Ethiopians, especially to my esteemed fellow citizens who were the guests of these shows.
Any proposal about peace and reconciliation or any other type of settlement which does not start by boldly acknowledging at least the following facts is doomed to fail:
- The TPLF started the bloody conflict on Nov 4, 2020, by attacking ENDF a day after the Federal Government allocated the budget of 11 billion birr to them.
- The last 47 years of TPLF’s history show that it has total disregard for human life and has been committing heinous crimes that can be prosecuted as crimes against humanity, war crimes at the ICC. It never had a qualm when it massacred Sidams, Somalis, Gambelias, Amharas and Oromos just so to show its power and instil fear. Its dismal record on human and political rights is unparalleled. Like the Germans in World War 2, the hate-based ideology it has used to mobilize the Tigrayan people at its inception is now a mainstream thinking amongst Tigrayan people, especially with the youngest one. In the latest incursions in Afar and Amhara region, young Tigrayans flock like birds to certain death driven by the irrational hatred and contempt they have developed toward Amahras and other Ethiopians by TPLF propaganda over the years. TPLF with its ideology is unredeemable.
- TPLF has a dismal track record in conducting negotiations in good faith and respecting the outcome of a negotiated settlement or contracts. To name a few of the well-documented examples:
- The massacre of fellow Tigrayans who members of a similar party were, killed while asleep in the same place where they agreed to work together with TPLF the night before.
- OLF’s departure from the transitional government in 1994
- Cheated the collection of parties who called
forthree days of civil disobedience in the post 2005 election period (only the late PM MZ stating “we will negotiate about everything under the sky”) and we also remember very well the role played by the US and EU
- Breaching international contract – does anybody know how TPLF unilaterally and abruptly left from a contract worth 100 million NRK, funded by donors in 2011, with the Norwegian corporations, Norplan and Norconsult, and the German Lahmeyer corporation who were commissioned to undertake a pre-feasibility study on three cascading dams to be built on Abay River. The late PM Meles Zenawi did not have the decency to inform them he was withdrawing Ethiopia from the contract. Please note that, whether this is right or wrong, it is not my interpretation. I am merely showcasing the cavalier attitude of TPLF with anything pertaining to contract, rule, or elementary decency etc.
If you would go to the street of Addis and ask randomly any Ethiopian to characterize TPLF in three words, I would bet everyone would say something that shows TPLF’s deceitful nature “Leba” (thief) coming at the top.
4. PM Abiy Ahmed has shown a great deal of patience and restraint towards TPLF before the war.
5. I would be insulted, if these two well-known Ethiopians, do not know that TPLF came to power in 1991 with two alternative plans:
a. The first option is to rule Ethiopia for as long as possible and, whether they did it or not, they claimed to help develop the people and region they came from.
b. The second option is to dismantle Ethiopia and build a viable independent Greater Tigray at the expense of the rest of Ethiopia.
6. It cannot escape introspection The “invincible” TPLF desperately needed this conflict to come out of the confinement it found itself in Mekelle, outsmarted by the Abiy-Lemma-Demeke team.
People seem to not appreciate the fact that TPLF and by extension Tigrayans were side-lined from the epic privileges and unchecked power that gave them unprecedented power to seek rent from the political power they had for the past three decades. The rate at which the massive transfer of wealth was taking place was unparalleled in African history, especially when considering the size of Ethiopia’s economy. Anyone who wants to check that can do two things:
· google “Illicit financial flows from Ethiopia”,
· or compile and compare HDI by region in Ethiopia at the start of TPLF reign and in 2016.
So, to fall from that height of privilege and the confinement that followed in Tigray, with a gradual further degradation of these privileges, was unacceptable for the arrogant TPLF leaders. Besides the goal that was set by the late PM MZ to make Tigray the industrial and knowledge powerhouse of Ethiopia by rendering the rest of Ethiopia as a cheap source of raw materials and labour, was becoming a pipe dream with each passing day.
The reasons for the TPLF to choose war was conditioned by their wanting to reclaim and continue to rule Ethiopia with its ethnic power privileges and advantages. So, it used the three years of its relative freedom in Tigray and the advantage of having the majority of Tigrayans in the high-ranking military personnel in the ENDF to meticulously prepare for “swift war” to decimate ENDF beyond repair– aiming to force PM Abiy to negotiate, if not toppling his government and setting up a puppet administration at Arat kilo. I guess the plan was to rule Ethiopia with an iron hand for a second round to resume their interrupted control of Ethiopia. As we all know that did not materialize and the war that was imposed on Ethiopia ended up getting some of the most important leaders of TPLF killed and captured.
That forced the TPLF to go to the drawing board again and change its strategy. Increasingly now, it seems that it is now fighting for its second goal, i.e., to break away Tigray from Ethiopia, somehow managing to incorporate Raya and Wolkayt away from Amhara region.
TPLF knows well that this will not be an easy goal to accomplish by force only. It has thus devised a strategy to do it with the help of its Western allies that want to impose ‘TPLF peace’ on Ethiopia. Its recent incursion in Afar and north Wello are done to help it dictate such terms from a position of strength in the future negotiating table, if any, to which the GOE will be coerced by the West to accept their terms.
All Ethiopians who seek and hope to attain a peaceful solution for the predicament we are all now in need to acknowledge the above fundamental undeniable facts and without that, any suggestions even with the best of intentions will fall flat before starting.
I wanted to write a lot, but I am afraid that I would be repeating the same things others do in talk shows – beating much around the bush and without forward looking ideas.
So let me try to do my 2 cents worth proposal suggesting a difficult but somehow acceptable roadmap for peace:
- Immediate ceasefire without any precondition.
- Immediate withdrawal of Tigrayan forces from the Amhara Region.
- Setup an interim government composed of technocrats, politicians who enjoys broader trust of the Tigrayan people and representatives of the Federal government (until election). The interim government’s mandate should only be limited to provision of basic service – nothing more or less.
- Allow humanitarian aid to flow unabated to Tigray with full involvement and control of the Federal Government of Ethiopia.
- Conduct a free and fair elections in Tigray led by Ethiopian Election Board AU and UN as observers (six months).
- Then the freely elected representative of Tigray can negotiate all outstanding issues with GOE with the goal of putting the output for referendum to respective communities separately and the Ethiopian people in large.
- Negotiation should be led by Ethiopians who are selected by the parties. Foreigners can participate as observers just so to give credence to the process.