The struggle toward freedom reached its tipping point?! [By Assegid Habtewold[1]

dr-asegid-253x300When I heard that EPRDF’s Executive Committee held an extraordinary meeting that aimed at addressing the current stalemate, I had mixed feelings. In one hand, I thought for a brief moment, the party may carryout a genuine introspection, assess the situation objectively; most importantly, read the writing on the wall, and respond accordingly. On the other hand, knowing TPLF for more than two decades, I expected some dramas too. Well, they didn’t disappoint! Rather than admitting mistakes, taking responsibilities, and making serious concessions to calm down the public, they purposely overlooked the real problems and pretended as if the major issues are implementation related such as corruption and poor governance. Accordingly, they selected some scapegoats to blame for the current state of our country. We’re still waiting to see who the scapegoats are. TPLF has this tradition where it sacrifices some of its ‘goats’ when it finds itself in trouble from time to time. Will this trick succeed this time? Besides, the party pulled out a card that has saved it many times in the past. Like they did before, they chose four top lieutenants, namely, Abay Tsehaye, Abadula Gemeda, Bereket Simon, and Kasu Elala to brainwash Ethiopians. They also sent similar mouthpieces of TPLF coupled with local administrators in Gondar region to TALK their way out of this serious mess. The goal is simple. They intend, like they have done it again and again, distract the public and buy time. They promise things they won’t deliver. What TPLF misses this time around is, Ethiopians are unwilling to play this game any longer.

I’d like to remind leaders of TPLF that Ethiopians’ quest toward freedom, democracy, and justice begun in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Unfortunately, one dictator after another, they tapped into the timely anger of the public, answered a few superficial questions to please the public, and stayed decades subjugating and oppressing our innocent, God fearing, and forgiving people. Nonetheless, this vicious circle seems to stop in this generation. Ethiopians learned from their repetitive mistakes, and they want all of their questions are answered NOW. The question is: does TPLF have the discernment to read the season or like other domestic and foreign dictators before it, it follows the same predictable route?

Let me refresh TPLF leaders if they’re listening. This is not the first time you faced popular resistance. However, if you’re closely interpreting the trend, the popular resistance has shown a clear evolution. It has already reached its tipping point or very close to hit the final mark; and, when that happens, it’s over! You would be history. Let me give you a good analogy. When you boil water up until 211 °F, it fools you unless you’re aware of water’s boiling point. You may push it one more degree to make it hotter, and BOOM! In your very eyes, at 212 °F, your hot liquid water evaporates into gas. Unfortunately, we cannot tell with precision when a popular struggle reaches its boiling point. Haile Selassie had control and influence just prior to the tipping point. He could have read the signs and made some serious concessions. Our country wouldn’t have been in this mess if he allowed a smooth transition like other countries did when they faced the same challenge. Countries such as Britain, Japan, Belgium, Sweden, and so on maintained their monarchies intact while making a smooth transition to democracy before it was too late.

Mengistu Hailemariam had a chance to negotiate with rebels so many times. I recently heard that Shabia, a few years prior to entering into Asmara, was ready to negotiate and ceasefire if the military junta was willing to conduct a free and fair referendum allowing the people of Eritrea to determine their own destiny. What would have been the choice of Eritreans if they were given more options like Federation and Confederation than just Freedom or Slavery? Where would have been the relationship of the two people at this juncture? I presume that the two sisterly people would have been forces to reckon with in the Horn. We would have experienced prosperity, peace, and stability in the region. Mangistu had remained stubborn, and waited until after the tipping point. In the eleventh hour, he was desperate to negotiate. His negotiating team led by Tesfaye Dinka attended the London Peace conference on May 27, 1991. The initial goal was to broker between the military junta and rebels so as to end the civil war. Unfortunately, by that time, Mengistu lost all of his negotiation cards except to leave the country alive. Mengistu’s government delegate in London came out from the negotiation table empty handed. Why? He didn’t have wise advisors who should have told him the consequences of failing to negotiate when it mattered the most. Or he ignored their advices. We all know what happened afterwards.

Is history repeating itself once again? Is TPLF going down in history as a party that nose-dived because it misread the time? Let me refresh the memory of TPLF leaders, and remind them where they are in the MAP. Ethiopians initially began their struggle to get ride of your faulty policies using ballet boxes. When it was apparent that you constantly rigged and kept stealing election results, they lost hope in bringing change through elections. Then, they commenced protesting in public to express their overwhelming dissatisfaction against your rule. The responses always had been you using brute forces. Subsequently, Ethiopians escalated their opposition to the next height. Starting last year, protesters revolted and closed roads in the Oromia region. It had shaken you to the core momentarily. Again, you used excessive force. In the last couple of months, things got heightened. In Amahara region, some people determined to defend themselves using arms against your lethal forces. They said enough is enough. I’m sure, this defiance would continue in the rest of the country unless you answer their rightful questions ON TIME. Besides, one of your longstanding tricks has been fractured gravely. You extended your rule by divide and conquer. Adding to the above insults, you have experienced a major setback as this tactic fallen apart badly. The people of Ethiopia showed the world that they are smarter and wiser than their rulers. They demonstrated solidarity against an apartheid system that flourished by creating conflicts among people. From Oromia to Gondar, Ethiopians are showing comradeship. Here in the diaspora, it’s not different. Popular activists like Tamagne Beyene and Jawar Mohamed, and many other leaders from diverse ethnic groups are calling for more unity in the fight against repression. This is a deadly slap in your face. You worked hard to antagonize the two dominant Ethnic groups for decades to stay in power (My recent article entitled “The era of divide and conquer is over” was posted on some Ethiopian websites. Check it out.)

These are just the tips of the iceberg. The point I’m trying to make is that these all should have given TPLF ample reasons to make fundamental changes than using the same tricks again and again, and expecting Ethiopians would buy them this time too. The chance is remote but if TPLF would like to be a different government than its predecessors, this is not the time to fake. You should propose serious concessions. Understand that Ethiopians seem unwilling to settle for superficial changes this time. They expect you to make changes that involve radical transformations including amending the constitution; reorganizing the military, police, security apparatus; reconfiguring the judiciary system, election board, etc. Any thing less than these cannot extend the rule of TPLF any longer. TPLF cannot rule peacefully and maintain order if it attempts to continue business as usual. The majority of Ethiopians are sick and tired of being second rated citizens. They are fed-up with TPLF’s outright arrogance that allowed a few loyal TPLFites controlling and dominating every sector in the country leaving the rest servants and spectators in their own country.

Unfortunately, TPLF continued its arrogance by using brute forces in the face of many warning signs that clearly show that this option doesn’t work any more. Recently, TPLF shocked the whole country when it ordered the military to intervene. Rather than showing restraint, wisdom, and making serious concessions to answer the legitimate questions of the people it claims govern, TPLF decided to hide behind the military whose mandates is to protect the country from external forces. This coward and criminal act shows that TPLF doesn’t think any more that it has better days ahead. Like an addicted gambler, they went All-inWhat was shocking to me was the way they announced this embarrassing decision. I couldn’t believe that, though TPLF is some how a predictable party, they openly admitted, even posted Facebook posts to proclaim that they ordered the army to control the situation. Excessive force of this magnitude communicates lack of confidence and a sign of weakness, even if they attempted to appear bold in the midst of wide speared resistances they had never faced in their history.

At this point, it’s hard to predict the full-scale implications and consequences of trooping the defense forces armed to its teeth against civilians. It is an act of war and genocide against an ethnic group. I asked myself: What were they thinking? Are they thinking, in the 21st C, they would get away by massacring civilians with a mechanized military? Or was that just an oversight? Ordering in public and leaving many traces of evidences that would come back to bite them as they face criminal charges when they lose power seems amateurish. Or was that a desperate attempt to boost the morale of their supporters and allies: to tell them that they are still relevant and matter? In the latter case, they gambled. The whole world knows the end when a government sends its army against its own people. It is a fatal sign of self-destruction. I’m sure, allies of the regime- both in the region and internationally, they must be busy right now attempting to carryout damage control activities in the short term, and looking for a substitute within TPLF or outside that may preserve their national interests in the region.

Of course, the above implications are long term. Right now, I call up on leaders of the ruling party, even if there numbers may be few, to stop this aggression before it is too late. This desperate move leads our country into unimaginable bloodshed and uncertain future from which you won’t come out alive. You may gain a short-term victory by winning some battles since you’ve the upper hand militarily. In the long run, you cannot win the WAR. Those of you within TPLF, who are God fearing and those who care about the people of Ethiopia including your own supporters, this is time to intervene. If you don’t, not only you face justice in due time for being accomplices, you cannot protect yourself and the safety of your loved ones if this thing gets out of control. You have influence right now and use it before it reaches the tipping point. God forbid, our country will enter into civil war lest you restrain the crazy ones among yourselves. Recall the military and make fundamental changes; otherwise, it is a matter of time, the people WIN in the end.

Supporters of the ruling party should be aware that their party is following the same route previous in-house and foreign dictators pursued. It’s taking a dead-end path. It declared war against people, and sent the army to silence civilians. It’s a genocide and crime you would share the blame. You’ve to interfere NOW when it matters. It’s time for your party to make serious concessions and take fundamental reforms Ethiopians would accept. Once the situation reaches the boiling point, no concession in the world could save your party. We know the destiny of those dictators who failed reading the writing on the wall. They either got killed, jailed, ran away to a third country or like Gadhafi embarrassed in front of the world. None of these seem pleasant, if you ask me. Your party, you, and your supporters have some better alternatives before the tipping point. Force TPLF to enter into negotiation to give and take while it matters.

I also would like to make a call to my fellow Ethiopians withinin the country. As you can see, the struggle toward freedom, equality, and justice is approaching its boiling point. Regrettably, it looks like TPLF is not ready to make serious concessions and carryout major reforms. I cannot tell you what to do or not to do because you are unarmed civilians facing brute forces. You’re close to the action and the ones paying the price. Even if we’re afar, we have admired your courage, wisdom, leadership, and sacrifices. Continue your struggle as you find it fit.  The question at this stage of the struggle of Ethiopians for freedom and equality is not what happens IF TPLF is gone; it’s WHEN TPLF is gone? The writing is on the wall. TPLF may have some cards to play for a while to stay in power but they cannot last forever. Please be careful. TPLF may go down with you all by sparking a civil war. Refrain from making the struggle between people. It’s between a minority government that benefits a few elites, and the diverse people of Ethiopia.

As we have seen recently in Gondar, leaders of religious leaders around the country should come forth and demonstrate solidarity with the truth and the people who have been tormented for decades by a few merciless and ungodly politicians. The active roles of leaders of other civic organizations at this moment, as we approach the tipping point, are crucial. You could prevent further bloodshed. You could bring our people from every corner together toward one front that marches toward freedom, democracy, and equality. I’m emphasizing on religious and civic organizations because the alternative democratic forces aren’t in the position to protect the people from TPLF nor tap into the situation and force it to give up power before things go ugly. In their current state, we shouldn’t expect oppositions to lead us toward smooth transition. The responsibility requires a broader coalition. Of course, I’m not blaming or undermining oppositions. TPLF made its mission, especially since the 2005 election, to constantly crackdown and destroy the leadership and capacity of oppositions. There is one critical thing oppositions should do right now. They should narrow their differences, and come together to create a broader coalition to ensure a safe and smooth transition. This is time to put the country first than your individual party’s interest. You have a chance to compete and assume political power if the majority of Ethiopians vote for you. At this point, the priority should be saving the integrity of the country by preventing further bloodshed and a looming civil war. May God protect our people and country!

[1] Dr. Assegid Habtewold is a leadership expert at Success Pathways, LLC. Assegid can be reached at ahabtewold@yahoo.com

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