The Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) has been ruling Ethiopia with an iron fist for 27 long years. The regime has been able to stay in power for so many painful years mainly through its ethnic based federalism – a divide and conquer policy that the regime has employed effectively in pitting one ethnic group against another and weakening the Ethiopian state.
The role played by the teams of Lema Megersa and Gedu Andargachew in coming up with the antidote for the divisive ethnicization of Ethiopia and reversing the danger of the much-feared ethnic fragmentation is enormous. The event that took place in Bahir Dar where Oromo and Amhara Ethiopians re-asserted their unity was historic.
In the wake of this and as a result of the struggle and enormous sacrifice paid by Ethiopians across the country since the regime seized power in general and during the past three years in particular, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, a member of the Lema Megersa team, was selected as the leader of EPRDF and assumed premiership, the highest office in in the land.
In his inaugural address as Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy used parlance that was in stark difference from the speeches that EPRDF officials used over the past 27 years. Previous speeches by the regime’s officials were tuned on Revolutionary Democracy, a “Communist tendency, with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its core.” On the contrary, Dr. Abiy spoke with Ethiopia and Ethiopians at heart, a notion that was considered a taboo by the Stalinist TPLF, the core party with an upper hand within EPRDF. His speech triggered hope for a change in the political order among the Ethiopian people.
As stated by different media, Dr. Abiy joined EPRDF at age 15 and worked through the system for the last 26 years. He was a military officer in the rank of Colonel and established the regime’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA). Dr. Abiy’s full story is unknown to the Ethiopian public. That is to say the specific roles that he played especially in the military and intelligence remain unclear. In spite of this, however, Ethiopians have given Dr. Abiy the benefit of the doubt and have been waiting to see if he could translate his inaugural address into action.
The political reality on the ground indicates that the status quo is continuing. The illegal state of emergency continues nearly three weeks into Dr. Abiy’s premiership. It was reported recently that soldiers from the “Command Post” murdered an innocent woman who was three-month pregnant and arrested several others in different parts of the country. Thousands of Ethiopians continue to languish in official and secret prisons throughout the country (albeit the regime claims that they have closed Maikelawi, the notorious torture chamber in the capital). It was also reported that many innocent citizens have been killed and thousands displaced due to the conflict that took place between the Gedeo and the Guji ethnic groups in the southern part of Ethiopia, an outcome of the regime’s ethnicization of the country. Furthermore, the regime’s forces have reportedly murdered innocent citizens for a second time in Moyale. Dr. Abiy’s Government has so far been silent instead of acknowledging and intervening to stop these tragic incidents.
Dr. Abiy has been touring in different parts of the country since he ascended to power and he has made speeches in Jijiga, at the Palace Reception, Ambo, Mekele and the Millennium hall. His Mekele and the Millennium Hall speeches in particular have been talking points among Ethiopians over the past few days.
During his Mekele visit Dr. Abiy’s characterization of Trigreans as gold, tested in fire, (reminiscent of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s similar characterization) has angered many. Meles Zenawi masterminded the constitutionalization of the poisonous, divisive and destructive ethnic federalism in our country. The revival of such characterization by Dr. Abiy was ill advised and dangerously divisive as it implicitly denigrates other ethnic groups in Ethiopia.
Above all, his remarks with respect to the question of Wolqait, a region that TPLF forcefully annexed and included in the Tigray administrative region for economic and political reasons, is greatly dangerous. Dr. Abiy characterized the issue as one of economic and developmental instead of an identity issue that the people of Wolqait have been demanding for decades. As fellow Ethiopians from Wolqait region have repeatedly claimed on different media, TPLF has committed possible genocide due to this issue. This writer does not believe that Dr. Abiy’s statement in this regard was out of ignorance but it was instead intentional that was either prescribed by TPLF (following their modus operandi of democratic centralism), or it was made to appease TPLF. In either case, Dr. Abiy has become a subject of condemnation for his remarks.
The Ethiopian people have been demanding the end of the brutal dictatorship and internal colonialism of the TPLF immediately and unconditionally. However, during his meeting with the youth at the Millennium Hall, Dr. Abiy declared that the usual TPLF orchestrated national election, which he said will take place after two years, would be free and fair.
The Ethiopian people have spoken loud and clear that they will no longer carry the yoke of TPLF’S brutal ethnic dictatorship. The people across the country have demanded an immediate (repeat immediate) change of the political order. To say that the next election would be free and fair is an insult to the intelligence of Ethiopians since this is a tactic that the despotic regime has been using over the past two and half decades under the guise of a “fledgling democracy”, particularly at times when the regime is in short of oxygen. Indeed, Dr. Abiy is not walking his inaugural talk!
This writer strongly believes that the Ethiopian people (in particular the Keros, Fannos, Zermas, Nebros) should resume their non-violent (peaceful) struggle in a coordinated and unified manner without any further delay. That is the only guarantee that brings about real change in our country.
May God protect Ethiopia! Felek Alemu
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org