March 9, 2018
The differences between the government of Eritrea and the minority regime ruling Ethiopia is that Eritrea does not have malicious intent against the people of Ethiopia. Eritrea is sensitive to the needs of all parties and the plight of the people of Ethiopia. The stand of the government of Eritrea on Ethiopia dates to the days of struggle for liberation. It is unambiguous principled stand that stood the test of time.
EPLF, on Adulis Publication, Vol. I No. 11, May 1985 (pgs. 3-8), “THE EPLF AND ITS RELATIONS WITH DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENTS IN ETHIOPIA,” states,
“Conscious of this inter-relationship and convinced that the Eritrean Revolution is an integral part of the peoples’ struggles throughout the world, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) has, while leading the Eritrean national struggle, forged links and fully cooperated with Ethiopian organizations capable of setting up a democratic alternative to the Dergue’s military regime. For the EPLF, this cooperation is not based on the belief that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, but rather on the firm conviction that total independence for Eritrea and the emergence of a progressive government with popular support in Ethiopia are inseparable goals. Hence, the front encourages and assists those organizations and movements that push towards this goal while, at the same time, criticizes and opposes those forces and tendencies that harm the cause and push its attainment further away.”
Then, as in now, The Eritrea People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) does not envision a fragmented Ethiopia. EPLF envisioned a country that respects the rights of all nationalities, with equal-rights capable to decide their future collectively. EPLF believed domination of power by one Ethnic group as counterproductive and dangerous. Adulis Vol. I No. 11, May 1985,
“Ethiopia is a multi-national state. Apart from the exploiting classes, the masses of all nationalities have been deprived of the basic rights and the fruits of their labor. This picture is complicated, however, by national oppression which affects nationalities, except the Amharas. These nationalities – Oromo, Tigrai, Somali, Afar, Sidama, etc. – have been deprived of their lands and denied the right to determine their destiny, to participate as equals in the political life of the country and to develop their languages and cultures. National oppression – this powerful weapon of the ruling classes – is, however, a double-edged sword, which harms not only the subject nationalities but the masses of the oppressor nationality as well. Among Amhara- toilers- regardless of how poor they may be – it fosters contempt for the oppressed nationalities, while among the Oromo, Tigrai, Somali and Afar masses, it arouses deep hatred not only for the Amhara rulers but also for Amhara workers and peasants. Moreover, it induces the oppressed nationalities to regard each other with contempt and hatred. The ruling classes fan these feelings of mutual suspicion and scorn as they pit the masses of all nationalities, who have the same interests, against one another and enable the rulers to consolidate their power and perpetuate their exploitation.”
Eritrea’s aspirations for Ethiopia, therefore, are based on peace, equality and governance that respects the aspirations of all involved. Hence, Eritrea’s relations with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) during and after the struggle fall within this context and, as part of the greater Ethiopia picture. Eritrea has a principled longstanding stand on Ethiopia. This principled stand is what guides Eritrea’s Ethiopia policy.
On the other hand, TPLF envisioned Independent-Greater Tigray or, autonomous Tigray capable to stand on its own. TPLF’s struggle, therefore, did not have national aspirations. The Tigray Manifesto is evidence of the desire, motivation and intent the movement was based upon.
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was and remain determined to see the total annihilation of Eritrea by any means necessary. The TPLF’s spoken and unspoken agenda is devious, brut, conniving, intent to destroy Eritrea by any means necessary. At its core, in order for the manifesto to succeed, defeating Eritrea was TPLF’s number one objective. TPLF was determined to weaken Ethiopia, the region and especially Eritrea in pursuit of its hegemonic agenda. Ethiopia was not important for the TPLF.
And here are some of the tactics the TPLF-Tigray embraced to achieve its plan:
- Subservience to US or Western agenda. The US was a perfect partner to the TPLF. The TPLF did not have the moral backbone that can hinder foreign agendas. Washington and TPLF created a symbiotic relationship whereby the TPLF can pursue its hegemonic ambitions inside Ethiopia, the region, Africa and by proxy the world whilst the US can pursue its agenda via Ethiopia as anchor state. To that end, TPLF has turned Ethiopian forces to mercenaries for hire and uses Ethiopian boots it provides as the number one hook to win favors from Washington.
- Exploit African Union (AU). The TPLF uses the African Union as one of its institutions. After the fall of the Soviet Union nearly all African leaders became yes men or women to agendas that Washington funneled through Ethiopia. Washington wanted Meles Zenawi to be the henchman and Meles, using US-Ethiopia relation as wild card, became the bully in the halls of the AU. The TPLF conducted its affairs fearlessly, confident and unashamed. Hence, and by default, African initiative means US and Ethiopian initiative.
- Control Ethiopia. Control of the economy, enabled the TPLF to manage and control Ethiopian affairs to suit its needs. TPLF controlled the economy by controlling the financial institutions, all resources, the infrastructure, manufacturing and by controlling mechanism that allow economies to function. They controlled the land, transportation and created personal relationships to impose its will. They also controlled incoming floods of international aid in various forms. They controlled the political, diplomatic and military spaces and denied all ethnic groups access.
- Preempt threats to power from other Ethnic groups. The biggest threats to TPLF’s power are united Ethiopia and resistance by one or more Ethnic groups. To counter, the TPLF established EPRDF, a phony coalition of ethnic nationalities to rubberstamp its agenda. The ethnic federalism that the TPLF touts as beacon of stability is in fact designed to divide. Furthermore, the TPLF crafted article 39 of the constitution, that gives (in theory) Ethiopian ethnic groups the right to become independent.
- Undermine Eritrean independence. Defeating Eritrea serves many objectives. It solidifies the anchor-state status thus elevate its importance with the US. It makes TPLF relevant on the Red Sea. It appeases Ethiopians that long for access to sea. It also gives the people of Tigray the upper hand when dealing with Ethiopians. The zero-sum game TPLF played was a calculated risk.
Changing Dynamics Pressing TPLF
The foundation TPLF built their thuggish hold on power has crumbled. The rug has been pulled for under their tables. No matter what the TPLF does moving-forward, things will not be the same. This includes US-TPLF relations.
Washington is clear that the TPLF is unhinged, not capable to govern and that it is a threat to American interest. Congressional ultimatum, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s stern statement, US Ambassador in Ethiopia’s statement are indicators on how Washington views the TPLF currently.
The reaction of Tigrayans to these statements is proof that they are feeling the pinch. Recent article on Tigrayonline.com, “Mr. US Ambassador, please stop poking your nose into Ethiopia’s internal affairs.” demonstrates the frustration vividly.
However, absent of alternatives, aware, if the EPRDF coalition crumbles the military will go along with it; Washington is in desperate race to save the TPLF. Sec. Rex Tillerson’s trip to Ethiopia at this dangerous hour reflects the significance and the pressure to try to quell the situation.
That is a fine line to navigate because at this point Washington’s interests are opposing the people’s interests. Washington cannot please the people and the TPLF at the same time. It is therefore, damn if you do and damn if you don’t. Therefore, Tillerson acknowledged the problem by saying,
“We do firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom” and, “While we appreciate the government’s responsibility to maintain control … it is important that country moves on past the state of emergency as quickly as possible,”
He then, praised Ethiopian leadership at the AU, stressed upon the important role TPLF plays in Somalia, Djibouti, military cooperation, the war against terrorism and AMISOM. Tillerson’s statements showed the Trump administration will continue old policies.
The $113 Mil. Washington gave TPLF and $375 Mil. development assistance from world bank amounting to half a billion USD will be used to pay the regime’s military that is killing the people. The aid is a stopgap-Band-Aid. This is not sustainable because Washington must pay that amount every month indefinitely to save the regime.
This is poorly thought out move. The TPLF is fighting for its very survival and Washington will soon find out all the reasons for supporting the regime are invalid.
The situation in Somalia is changing. In South Sudan the TPLF failed militarily and on the negotiating table.
The geopolitical dynamic of the region is changing rapidly. Prior to 2010, Egypt and Saudi Arabia stood with Ethiopia against Eritrea in the Arab League. Today, Eritrea is indispensable ally. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are staunch allies of Israel and the US. Which means, US must consider the interests of its allies.
Secretary Tillerson stressed on Ethiopian leadership in the African Union (AU). That too is in question because there are competing interests. The geopolitical shift in the continent such as Egypt’s relations with South Sudan, Uganda and others could press the AU in a different direction further weakening Ethiopia’s influence. South Sudan’s application to join the Arab League is evidence that African countries will seek for alternative to pursue their interests.
Loss of Control
Declaring state of emergency twice in a span of two years is clear evidence of a loss of control. The declaration of state of emergency is no longer about upholding peace, it is about strengthening grip of power.
Declaring state of emergency legalizes the killing, imprisoning and illegal seizure of properties. It is done to free the perpetrators from legal accountability to crimes they commit against the people of Ethiopia. It is to give the regime a free rein to do what it wants violently.
TPLF never stopped the state of emergency it declared in 2016. That however, did not stop the people. Over the last two years the state of emergency was in place the people have managed to live with it.
This time, however, the people are fighting in ways that confuses the regime and have brought the nation to a standstill. At this point one can only safely say Addis Ababa is the only stronghold they have left. Even that is in doubt because reports indicate that Addis Ababa is blocked in four corners.
Another key is that the people of Tigray are supposed to represent 6% of Ethiopia’s total population. What percentage of Tigray’s population does the TPLF get its support from? It is impossible to say. However, recent social media activities and news accounts reveal that the people of Tigray are unhappy and uncertain about their future especially now that they are being displaced from various parts of Ethiopia.
Undoubtedly, today, it is nearly impossible to think of any ethnic group that is in alignment with the TPLF. The people of Ethiopia are looking at a sinking ship and are determined to oust TPLF from power. Persistent demonstrations in the face of fire is good example that the people are willing to die to defeat TPLF. They see TPLF as enemy. Ethiopians, especially in Oromia are no longer fearful. To the contrary, they have lost respect for the regime.
What can Secretary Rex Tillerson achieve? Obviously he can’t accomplish regime change. He can ask for a transitional process. And, or, he can urge the regime to choose a leader that represent the majority.
The TPLF will not opt for a transitional process that will end its reign. And no matter who they chose to lead them, it makes no difference whatsoever! As long as the military and the core is under TPLF nothing changes. In other words no change will come because of the goodwill of the TPLF.
The danger; If the situation persist as-is, the country will likely descend to chaos because the economic hardship will become unbearable shortly. Hence, western imposed change will-only prolong the suffering and lead to unpredictable end.
This is an impasse that neither Washington nor the TPLF can overcome. Because the transitional process the people of Ethiopia want and are sacrificing for, is not what Washington or TPLF want. The people want TPLF out of power completely and that includes the military.
The TPLF is powerless. The people of Ethiopia, particularly, the defiant Oromo protestors have exposed the regime’s limits. The fall of the regime is imminent because the protestors have effectively shut down the country. The TPLF is unable to reach majority of the population in the country. On Nov. 5, 2017 a New York Times, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamuranov penned a piece, ‘We Are Everywhere’: How Ethiopia Became a Land of Prying Eyes, shows that the TPLF does not have the ability to reach majority of Ethiopia. It uses individual militias to control remote villages.
This provides opportunity to opposition leaders to mobilize the people and empower them to self govern. There are reports that locals are self-governing in parts of Oromia. That maybe the only saving grace to a nation in turmoil.
Ethiopia will not be saved by western imposed changes. Foreign powers will try to keep the TPLF going as long as they can to safeguard their interests and investments. The money received as aid, recommendations made for change and tweaks TPLF makes to appease western donors will worsen the situation.
It is undeniable reality that Ethiopia must undergo through indigenous transformational process to realize its future. Only that realization and efforts to that end can save it. Maybe!
Hence, Tillerson’s visit and statements will only will strengthen the resolve of the people which will quicken the demise of the criminal regime. In a sense, Tillerson Read TPLF’s Last Rights unwittingly.
Furthermore, If the State Department is serious about the future of Ethiopia they must seek the help of the government of Eritrea.
Part II of this piece will reflect the Puppets of TPLF that operate as Eritrean opposition.