By Dula Abdu
During my life time, Ethiopia experienced brief euphoria whenever a new regime came into existence. I witnessed violent transfer of power from Haile Selassie to the military led by Mengistu Haile Mariam and from Mengistu to TPLF (Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front) led by Meles Zenawi. Unfortunately these brief euphoria disappeared quickly and people started to hope for a return to the old system or for change. Unless Dr. Abiy acts immediately to halt ethnic killings and displacement of innocent children, women and families he may face a similar situation.
The euphoria in the overthrow of Haile Selassie was short cut by internal conflict mostly led by secessionist forces like TPLF and internal opposition led by Ethiopian Peoples Revolution Party (EPRP). Of course, the invasion by Somalia engineered by Siad Barre aided and abetted by the U.S. brought more challenge for the Mengistu Regime. These dynamic forces led Mengistu to be more violent and desperate to keep the country together. The military was eventually defeated by the combined forced of TPLF and the Eritrean Liberation Front (EPLF) helped by the withdrawal of support from USSR. Immediately, TPLF facilitated the session of Eritrea, and introduced a toxic tribal system that enabled it to establish a political and economic monopoly at the expense of the majority of Ethiopians.
TPLF had some support initially because people were tired of war and conflict and the heavy handedness of the Mengistu regime. Unfortunately, TPLF superimposed a system called Kilil, akin to apartheid system as it realized it lacked enough support in the country to stay in power.
TPLF system of Kilil became so exploitative economically and toxic politically it enabled TPLF affiliated tribes or leaders a ticket to kill and exploit other tribes with impunity. Now under a more open society ushered by Dr. Abiy the hate and division built in the last three decades became more toxic and it has become the cause for the displacement of millions of people and hundreds of death.
Ethiopia will face genocide and will disintegrate like Yugoslavia unless Dr. Abiy says enough is enough and gets rid of Kilel and return Ethiopia to its old traditional provincial system or states without solely relying on ethnic boundaries where governors and mayors will be elected by the people without any consideration to their tribe or religion simply based on the content of their character and leadership to govern.
Since Dr. Abiy took over in less than a year over 3 million people are displaced and hundreds of innocent children and women have lost their lives by tribal gangs with impunity.
Kilil is anathema to democracy, individual rights and nation building. Kilil was devised to divide and conquer and to destroy Ethiopia’s unity and its viability as a nation by anti-Ethiopian TPLF secessionists who has loathed the Ethiopian nation and its history. To continue such a system by Dr. Abiy is contrary to his often stated belief of “Endemere”.
Innocent women, children and others are killed throughout the country with impunity because there seems to be no rule of law to protect minorities or innocent people as some local police and authority are in collusion or look the other way.
No nation in a 21st century upholds such a rotten system except Ethiopia. The apartheid system was the last bastion of a racist and ethnic based system. When South Africa got rid of minority rule it returned to democracy, and apartheid was scrapped. Unlike the Afrikaners, who wanted merely to rule and exploited, TPLF aims included the destruction of Ethiopia as a nation out of malice and hate for the system that some Tigrean leaders thought kept them out of power led by Anmharas for centuries. European colonial powers implemented a divide and conquer system, but it was also abandoned with the demise of colonialism.
Ethiopia cannot survive as a viable and peaceful nation under a kilil system. It will face more violence and disruption if the current system is continued.
Cities should be administered like any other city around the world by their own elected representatives instead of tribally selected and unaccountable robots appointed by misguided and ill equipped tribal leaders.
Parties should be structured on values and principles not based on tribes or nepotism. Tribal parties should be discouraged even made illegal as they are a catalyst for further division and bloodshed.
Ethiopia can return to its provincial system and governors and mayors should be elected by their own representatives like in the U.S. and other countries. Ethiopia should not be an exception to the rule for the wrong reason.
Dr. Abiy should bit the bullet and bring an end to chaos and Kilil that displaced millions and resulted in the loss of so many innocent lives. Otherwise, it will continue to spread further like a wild fire with devastating results unless reigned on without delay.
As a leader Dr. Abiy is accountable to the current and future bloodshed despite the fact that he inherited the system from TPLF, but failing to take drastic action will eventually erode his leadership and eventually his regime. Time is the essence to act decisively and immediately to end the impending cloud of anarchy. Act today, as tomorrow may be too late to save lives and the whole country from imploding.
Dula Abdu is a retired banker and economist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org