By Yilma Gebru
The political situation in Ethiopia is still inauspicious. Myriads of factors come in to the play as to why the problem persists. In my view, all the political actors are responsible in one way or another. Every political actor is busy at figure pointing, but bringing no solutions. Even more some actors are vying to manipulate the political milieu alone. As we are seeing, instead of trying to assuage the simmering ominous situation, they are adding kerosene to it. In this piece I will try to assess what I think all the probable essence of the problems are.
1.The naivety of the reformers
To begin with, the reformers mishandled the fortune that fall in their hand. I believe that they should be praised for the role they played in trying to bring the political reform in the country. Equally, I feel that their approach to lead the reform was utterly unwise. Especially, the premier busied himself in building his personality instead of controlling the politics.
- Offending TPLF
I think that in an attempt to build his personality, the first step he took was offending TPLF so as he might please TPLF enemies. In my view this approach was utterly wrong. In saying this I am not trying to defend TPLF, but I believe that excluding TPLF from the reform was wrong.
Look, TPLF still supersedes militarily. It still has the upper hand in that regard; therefore, working with TPLF shouldn’t be a question. The reformists should have gone a great length to persuade TPLF to work with them as they still had the military might. I know it won’t be easy to persuade TPLF hardliners. I feel that the Premier miscalculated when he purged most high ranking TPLF military officers before he secured the upper hand up on them. If TPLF was defeated militarily, it could have been a different story. we should not forget that they are still in the party. So, what the reformists should have done I suppose, first and for most, trying to bring as many TPLF members as possible to their side. As far as suspected TPLF officials concerned, it should have also been done in consultation with TPLF officials who are presumed to be innocent. After all, EPRDF is an ethnically organized party and TPLF is the parent of the remaining parties; therefore, to curtail TPLF’s influence should have been done delicately.
Another weakness of the Premier and his team is their imprudence to not try to make Tigrayans to feel the reform includes them. The so-called Oro-Amara alliance shouldn’t have been exaggerated to the extent it isolated Tigrayans. This alliance, could have been important till it fulfills its purpose. Once it finished that, the focus should have been how the reformists bring all the nations together. The reform came with the slogan forgiveness and reconciliation. But in some places the Premier, imprudently utters words that offends Tigrayans. This helps the TPLF to bolster its base even more. His beginning was excellent especially on that date when he visited Mekele, unfortunately he couldn’t keep that momentum.
Not involving TPLF in the Ethio-Eritrea reconciliation seems to have a problem, too. Again, it should have been done in consultation with TPLF. From what we are observing, President Esaias Afeworki is not after the peace. He doesn’t seem even to care for the peace. All his interest seems to be only annoying TPLF. why he decided to reconcile? I think that because, he saw the rift the Premier has with TPLF; therefore, he just wanted to peeve TPLF; otherwise, he doesn’t seem to have any interest beyond this; hence, the so-called peace agreement remained stalled.
- Thirst for populism
The other problem related with the reform is the fact that the Premier seeks too much populism. His approach to dissidents especially in the diaspora clearly displays this. Before even he grabbed power hundred percent, he rallied every dissident around him. I don’t think that he was cautious with that. This approach wreaked him in two ways. Firstly, TPLF took umbrage. This may be ok. Secondly, I think he didn’t seem even to foresee some of these dissidents are a threat not only to his power, but also to the country.
It is love of populism that brought him to the US. I don’t think he chose the right time when he travelled to the US. He should have resolved the problem at home first. Above all, gathering all dissidents in the country together was wrong. Some of these dissidents’ rift is totally irreconcilable. Especially those from his own ethnic group. This group is a militant group, which is doomed to destroy the country.
- Nationalist dissidents’ approach to TPLF
Those who call themselves Ethiopian Nationalist claim to try to build a democratic Ethiopia. But I don’t dare to say their means is always correct. From the start, TPLF had never been alone. TPLF always thrives on these nationalist dissidents. There is no question TPLF is like the Oromo activists a fanatic tribal group. But the nationalists, in their attempt to bring a democracy in Ethiopia, they don’t seem to make any attempt to sever Tigrayans from TPLF. Let alone that, they don’t even show cautious not to touch Tigranes in criticizing TPLF. That is why I argue TPLF has never been alone.
Most nationalists don’t have the courage to work with Tigrayan opposition parties. They never try to approach, but you see them accusing Tigranes of not doing this, not doing that. Indeed, it is stupid of one accusing a Tigrayan not saying Wolkiat belongs to Amhara. I am saying this, because I heard it. This is not to say Wolkiat is or is not to Amhara, but it is hard for a Tigran activist arguing the other way around. On the one hand, we are talking about building a democratic country, on the other hand if we are not trusting Tigrayans how can it work unless we say Tigrayans are not Ethiopians. Sometimes TPLF doesn’t even need to do that much to rally Tigrayans around it as some extremist nationalists do the job for it.
Especially, ESAT is very poor when it comes to entertaining Tigrayan opposition groups. In this regard, I would say TPLF and ESAT are symbiotic, one thrives at the expense of the other, one exists at the demise of the other. True, TPLF goes a great length to rally Tigrayans around it, to that end it may use any means it encounters. but it has never been alone. ESAT and some nationalist activists are as bigot as their opponent. A case in point is Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s bid for the highest office in World Health Organization. I would say, if it were not for the bigotry of ESAT and some nationalist activists, his bid could have been a good opportunity to alienate Tigranes from TPLF and a means for their end namely building a democratic Ethiopia. I know you may say he is a TPLF how can it be. Firstly, as his story tells, Dr. Tedros is an outsider to TPLF. It is said that he joined the group after the victory. Secondly and more importantly, he is a nationalist in his outlook. True, he works for the TPLF; however, it can’t be easy for him to influence the TPLF hardliner to reform institutions. For that he needs to penetrate in to the party’s inner circle, however, anytime he appeared in a media or in his message in social medias he is consistently a nationalist in his approach. Dr. Tedros exposed himself to extremist nationalists when he was Ethiopian Foreign Minister. That time he was representing the Ethiopian government; therefore, in his attempt to depict a good image for his country he stressed only on the good works whenever he attempted to reach the public. Now the question is, shouldn’t he uncover the human right violation of the government? This is the problem as this kind of question is always difficult to answer as we don’t know what is in the person’s mind. For instance, his measure problem was reflected in relation with Andergachew Tstge’s jail. He was despised for saying Andergachew was writing a book, offered a laptop, treated well. I understand his attempt to justify his jail is ludicrous. But the question is, did he really have any part in that drama? Not at all. This Andergachew himself proved admitting the fact that he was provided with a laptop, and was writing a book and saying be it the Foreign Minister or anyone else has no any information except the chief of the Intelligence. The bottom line is those who call themselves nationalists, instead of assiduously strive to thwart his bid, could have used that opportunity by campaigning for him. For the sake of nationality, sometimes it is ok to bury the yacht. This may not soften TPLF hardliners, I know, not only TPLF all extremists are cynics by their nature. Yet, it would disprove TPLF’s claim that nationalists are ant-Tigranes. Anyway, with extremists the game is always my way or the high way. Therefore, fanatic nationalists bungled that opportunity and as usual extremist Tigrayans used it for their purpose. Yet, thousands of Ethiopians did support Dr. Tedros in his attempt to assume the highest Office in WHO.
- Militant Ethnic groups who call themselves federalists
3.1. Oromo Ethnic militants
The main perpetrators of the reform, are the Oromo extremist activists. They are really a thorn on the side for the Premier. The problem with this group is that they have depicted themselves as the lone player of the reform; hence, totally uncompromising in their approach. They are outmaneuvering and manipulating the country’s politics in their own way. From the outset, they were disparaging the reformers, complaining that the reform was not going in the right direction. The reformers, on their part for an unknown reason could not restrain them.
The fact that they are insatiable in their interest, it is very hard to predict what direction they want to take the country. They ask one thing today, once they get that, they come up with a different question the next day. We can take this week’s issue they raised in relation with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Imagine, if they really, really think for the country there is an Ethiopian Orthodox church, what is the need to establish Oromo orthodox church separately? For peace sake, why don’t they stay away from the church? Only because they think that they have the upper hand, they think they can do anything they like. This is very dangerous to continue as a country.
These are people claiming to be intellectuals, yet sometimes what they are doing makes one question their intelligence. Fighting for right; they think, means getting anything you want without caring for others. Persons like Tsegaye Ararso castigate ODP officials for not moving to make Addis their capital. When there is a possibility to accomplish a lot by sitting round the table, they strive arrogantly, to gratify their interest. By narrating unfounded historical facts or distorting history, they think they can reach their end easily. One thing they should not forget that if they are thinking their way only is right, absolutely there are others to confront them in that same way. Civility is very essential. For instance, Addis Ababa is not only Ethiopian capital it is an African capital. It is beneficiary to all Ethiopians should it remain Ethiopian capital, therefore, I don’t see the point of embroiling into an unnecessary controversy.
3.2. TPLF and its ethnic militants
Like I said, TPLF has never been alone. On the one hand, its rivals help its end by alienating Tigrayans, on the other hand, it is aligning itself with Oromo extremists. The problem with TPLF is its intransigence, making itself unrepentant for all the crimes it committed.
Prior to the reform, anything that happened in Ethiopia happened with TPLF’s blessings though TPLF adamantly denies. Therefore, now when the reform takes place and investigation is to be conducted obviously most former TPLF officials can be targeted. Now TPLF officials and their stalwart supporters frivolously argue that Tigranes are deliberately targeted. This is the problem with extremists. They are always blind when it comes to others. Their eyes are opened when it happened to themselves. Before the reform when citizens were arrested with trump up charges, they were justifying the action. one TPLF official even likened one journalist’s charge with Osama Biladen, the person who admitted for masterminding the September 11 attack. They were arrogant this much. Imagine a person who didn’t utter a word when citizens were thrown to dungeon for the nonsense anti-terrorism law, unashamedly clamors and whines for the imprisonment of people who were serving in the corrupt administration thinking there could be no hole to involve them in crime, except their ethnicity.
One argument TPLF and its supporters always bring to the table is that, each region administers itself. This may be true; the question is for one to be EPRDF member, the prerequisite is to be a subservient to TPLF. Corruption, mismanagement, misadministration were rampant, unless they were used as a pretext for TPLF to attack anybody trying to go awry from the party’s guideline in the predominantly TPLF administration. In that administration, it is normal to say we are corrupted, but that was only spurious, because corruption was encouraged as long as one sticks to the party’s guideline. TPLF is arguing that there is no such a thing that TPLF alone should be responsible. In this regard they are right. Anybody, whichever is his party as long as he or she is involved in a crime they should be held accountable for that. But establishing a party, to get suspects released only because they are Tigrayans, is wrong. I was hearing one member of a movement established for this purpose saying our people. What do you mean? common man! They are our people, too. If they are jailed for no reason, we will stand for their release.
This said, Ethiopian political actors need to sit together to work out for the solution to solve the problem the country is facing. Thinking if you are not with me, you are against me, doesn’t help at all. Especially those who claim to represent this ethnic group or that ethnic group, need to be careful. If you are really caring for them the way to achieve your goal, is not by destroying the norm. I think that without struggling to destroy, you can play a role to change that community, the community you claim to represent.