A concerned Ethiopian
Amidst the news of the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam, the declaration of state of emergency, and the percolating conversation that preoccupied Ethiopians on who should be the next prime minister, I am concerned if we are losing sight of Ethiopian people’s demand for change. Some of the conversations taking place on social media, discussion forums and opinions expressed on various web portals are the sources for this concern.
The concern I am about to express may not be shared by all. However, I would like to offer a few examples in the hope that those who are less concerned would be convinced. The premise for my concern is how well do we understand TPLF and its manoeuvers to keep change-demanding voices fractured? How well do we understand TPLF’s propaganda scheme that attempts, and in some cases succeeds, in keeping its critics divided?
TPLF has invested incalculable resources to make sure that the day will never come for those critical voices to come together and see TPLF, in unison, as the primary and only problem in Ethiopia. It will be shocking for some, when I say that TPLF, in the last twenty-six years, had chances to dictate what its critics, inside and outside the country, think are important issues. TPLF has managed to implant some of the talking points oppositions and activists think that it is theirs. TPLF has often controlled the general narrative of critical voices, and provide the exact linguistic tools to keep them fractured. As outrageous as my claims sound, here are a few examples.
Take for example the recent commotion between some Amhara and Oromo discussants and the conversations taking place on their respective social media and political forums. What is circulating on social media is news about Oromo youth (kerro) going around various towns in the Oromo region, defacing billboards and signposts with Amharic writings. Some Ethiopians believe this contradicts what was said before in the spirit of cooperation between the people from these two regions. Some have gone to the extent of interpreting this as an act against Amharas.
The act is surely designed to give the impression that Amharic and, by implication, Amharas are not welcome in Oromia. But let us consider the following in context with what is transpiring in the country. As we speak, there are at least half a million Oromos displaced in their own country. Most of the Ethiopian political leaders and activists from the Oromo region, who just left TPLF’s prison cells, are reiterating, daily, that all Ethiopians, and especially Ethiopians from different parts of the country who are residing in Oromia, should be protected. The Oromo people know that TPLF has murdered and imprisoned thousands of its people. The Oromo people know that the struggle they are waging is against TPLF, and they have confirmed this numerous time. We have heard the voices of Amhara and Oromo youth in unison demanding regime change, directed particularly at TPLF. This is the current situation in the country.
Yet, the conversations and discussions on social media entice distrust and doubt between Ethiopians. The question we should ask, at this very moment, regarding this fiasco campaign of defacing signs with Amharic writings, is who benefits from creating suspicion and mistrust among Ethiopians.
Based on the intended message of the act, even if we entertain the idea that there is a “conspiracy by Oromo youth to rid of Amharas from Oromia,” it is very difficult to make sense out of it. At a time when TPLF is standing on one jittery leg, couldn’t the Oromo youth find one bright mind to say, “the conspiracy can wait till we get rid of this regime”? While TPLF is still murdering Ethiopians in the Oromo region, is it difficult to understand a simple logic that the real youth (Kerro) do not have time to search for signs with Amharic writings, let alone to deface them?
Defacing signs with Amharic writings is surely the brainchild of TPLF. And surely it has captured the attention of many. TPLF’s design will be complete if it results in division and suspicion among Ethiopians. Perhaps we have to learn to calmly study news that come from the frontline, so to speak, before joining TPLF-engineered conversations designed to promote suspicion, mistrust, doubt, and division among Ethiopians.
Here is another example. The “who should be the next prime minister?” is one of the recent talking points conceived by TPLF. And there was no shortage of participants in the conversation, to the delight of TPLF. TPLF succeeded in implanting a collective amnesia on all participants that it is, and only TPLF is, the chief architecture of power in Ethiopia. The predictions who will be the next prime minister and the expressions of preference for this or that political figure as a candidate for the next leadership is designed to castrate the movement waged by Ethiopians that demands for total political changes. It helps TPLF conceal the fact that EPRDF, as the only begotten child of TPLF, is a nursling that is forbidden from developing into adulthood. It covers the fact that EPDRF is an organization that depends on suckling TPLF’s breast for its existence. What TPLF succeeded through these discussions is planting the nothing-burger narrative that political change will come if a suckling of TPLF gets donned with the Prime-Ministerial Robe. Investing time and effort to study, analyse and discuss the possibility that a leader from the Amhara region, the Oromo region, or any region under EPDRF; or pointing at this or that official in the EPDRF rank and file, as a potential candidate for the Prime Minister-ship, is forgetting that they are all children of TPLF. No change will come through EPDRF!
TPLF’s charades of manipulating public opinion by leaking “confidential information” to media sources that a leader is elected in ‘secret meetings’ is also designed to arrest the movement of change that is currently swarming the country. Why the charades? Because TPLF hopes that Ethiopians take these ‘leaked news’ seriously and lose sight of the core problem — TPLF. Most importantly, however, TPLF hopes Ethiopians will forget, even if it is for a short while, the fact that TPLF has done whatever it wants, for the last twenty-six years, with impunity. The leaks are nothing more than tools of gaging public opinion, conditioning the public, and fuming the discussion that has already made all of us forget the relationship between EPDRF and TPLF, that they are one and the same.
Let me explore one more example. Recently, there were discussions on the topic: “is there a superiority of Tigrayans in Ethiopia?” The heated discussions on the topic had taken both TPLF media outlets and the opposition camps inside the country and among Ethiopians in the diaspora. While the resounding yes to the question causes distress to the naïve Tigrayans whose sources of information are only TPLF outlets, the resounding no from the TPLF/EPDRF mouthpieces had caused pandemonium among all Ethiopians, and legitimately so.
What really happened, in this indirectly TPLF controlled debate, is the circumvention of the more accurate question “is there a superiority of TPLF in Ethiopia?” If we were to ask this question, it would expose that EPDRF and its foot soldiers are domestics in TPLF’s Household. It would uncover the false, TPLF’s most prized, narratives, that TPLF means all Tigrayans under the sun and TPLF is just another party to the coalition EPDRF.
In addition, the denial of the domination enrages those who suffer under the tyranny of TPLF (those who are being murdered, incarcerated, displaced) because answering no to the obvious question “is there a superiority of Tigrayans in Ethiopia?” is an insult to injury. But what is unsaid, hidden, in the question itself is the evasion of the real question “is there a superiority of TPLF in Ethiopia?” T
The former question is formulated in such a way that it implies, the people of Tigray in general, as the culprits. It is not concealed from Ethiopians that TPLF is the one that pulls the wires in the country; but these types of narratives give TPLF air to stay afloat because TPLF can point to the people of Tigray and Ethiopians and say, “look, this is a targeted attack against a specific ethnic,” with yet another hidden message that equates TPLF with every Tigrayan on Earth. It enables TPLF to hide behind the people of Tigray, all the while, continuing what it does best, more killing, more incarceration, more oppression of Ethiopians, and of course, with the help of their cronies who happened to be mostly from Tigray.
In addition, listening to TPLF mouthpieces saying ‘no, there is no Tigrayan domination’ blackmails those who are suffering under TPLF to react in desperate ways. To make sure their voices are heard, those who are on the receiving end of TPLF’s atrocities are pushed to the brinks of hopelessness. This TPLF-invented talking point and the insulting denial, pushes them to resort to extreme expressions of resistance. In their struggle to free themselves from TPLF’s tyranny, the desperate reactions from those Ethiopians in the Amhara, Oromo, Southern Nations, Afar and Somali regions are what TPLF is after. Because those reactions, in turn, will create another opportunity for TPLF to control and set the next round of talking points.
The next round of talking points come in the form TPLF-made slogans: violent demonstrations, distraction of properties, ethnic based violence, Tigrayan business being targeted because of who they are, and so on. These slogans were used as the preamble for the declaration of the state of emergency. Diplomats, residing in the country, are also forced to repeat them even during their most pungent admonitions of TPLF and its state of emergency regime. At face value, these phrases obviously depict undesirable acts and therefore easy to gather sympathetic ears in condemning violence.
TPLF, through these slogans, may also be successful in suppressing the history of Ethiopians that ranks them among the very few societies in the world with unparalleled tolerance to ethnic and religious differences. TPLF is hoping (using these slogans) to shame Ethiopians, hoping that it will be too difficult for Ethiopians suffering under its tyranny to justify their actions after blackmailing them into resorting to these forms of resistance. These slogans are introduced by TPLF to achieve only one goal; they are designed to provide oxygen to TPLF, especially at a time when TPLF’s oxygen tank is dwindling.
For those of you who paid close attention in the initial announcemnt of the state of emergency, the language used has all the hints. “to protect the rights of Ethiopians who wishes to undertake any business endeavour in any part of the country and to protect their rights to prosper by doing so” were the words used as the premise for the declaration. Apparently, this is far from the present demands of the Ethiopian people. But TPLF has to protect its own, and therefore, a state of emergency to satisfy its base.
These are few indicators that might convince those who may not share my concern. I hope this writing will contribute for further conversations on how TPLF keeps critical voice hashed, oppositions fractured, and the outside world confused, as part of the many strategies TPLF deploys to remain in power. Whenever two Ethiopian opposition groups are locked in argument, whether “Lema Megersa of Gedu Andargatchew” is the better candidate as the next Prime minster, both are participating in TPLF-designed fruitless debate. When these opposition political groups stop, even for a moment, informing the Ethiopian people, their constituencies, that TPLF, and by extension EPDRF, is the main culprit that is working hard to push Ethiopians and Ethiopia over the cliff, TPLF gets a chance to gasp for air.
Unless there is awareness among all Ethiopians (political, religious and civic organizations) in considering TPLF as the singular obstacle for all problems Ethiopian; unless there is a common understanding that all efforts should be directed towards freeing Ethiopia from TPLF grips; unless there is an understanding that any reconciliation effort among Ethiopian political and civic organizations requires the examination and understanding of TPLF’s modus operandi; unless there is an understanding that EPDRF is another name for TPLF; and unless we free ourselves from TPLF catered talking points and its subliminal messages, it would be really challenging to achieve a cohesive movement that will shorten the life of TPLF.
I admit, there are ways of taking advantages of a fractured EPDRF to hasten the fall of TPLF. But only in the event real fracture materializes and the benefits of exploiting such splinters become clear to Ethiopians. Until that time, all Ethiopians must remain focused on the main perpetrator, TPLF and its appendage EPDRF. I might add, those days, where the cracks within EPDRF open wide, may be coming faster that we expect. Yet, we have to wait for those days patiently.
A concerned Ethiopian