I HAVE often contended that the ruling regime in Ethiopia controlled by the Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF) is a thugtatorship, the highest stage of African dictatorship . If democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people, a thugocracy is a government of thugs, for thugs, by thugs.
My concern in this commentary is not the domestic policy but the international diplomacy of the TPLF thugocracy? I am minting the terms “thugplomacy” and “thugplomat” to describe the recent outrageous criminal conduct of an accredited gun-toting diplomatic TPLF representative who fired several shots in an attempt to murder Ethiopian protesters on the chancery grounds.
Diplomats seek to solve disputes by talking, negotiating and compromising (and often by deception). Thugplomats solve all problems by shooting, beating, jailing and torturing their opponents and enemies. Diplomacy is the “art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states.”
It seems thugplomat Gebre Sillasie “Wedi Weyni” learned his diplomatic craft by training at the proverbial Zhou Enlai school of diplomacy: “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.”
Gebre Sillassie wanted to bring the decades-old TPLF war against Ethiopians into the United States while garbed in the protective armor of diplomatic immunity.
Gebre Sillasie is obviously uninformed about U.S. policy and law on the protection of foreign missions and resident foreign diplomats.
There is no law, policy or practice which allows diplomats with diplomatic immunity to engage in running gun battles with unarmed protesters, maintain weapons caches for possible combat in the host country or carry concealed weapons for use against Americans or others in the U.S. as part of their diplomatic duties.
Certified thugs are rarely, if ever, selected to become diplomats with immunity. The vast majority of countries recruit their diplomats from the highest ranks of their civil service. Most of the recruits are highly educated, experienced and politically sophisticated. Many countries also provide some degree of professional training for their diplomats before they assign them to a diplomatic mission abroad.
It is extremely rare for any country to post a functional illiterate like Gebre Sillasie to, of all places, a diplomatic mission in the United States. The trend even among the least diplomatically active countries is to rigorously train their diplomats so that they can effectively deal with the rapidly changing pace of international diplomacy before deploying them. That training is obviously in the art of diplomacy, not in the art of war or shooting people in the host country.
The incredibly tragic fact is that virtually the entire leadership of the TPLF foreign ministry is sorely and pathetically lacking in any professional diplomatic training or experience. For instance, the man at the head of the “Foreign Ministry” has no diplomatic training or experience. None!
“Foreign minister” Tedros Adhanom got his undergraduate degree in biology from Asmara University. He received a Master of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London and his Ph.D. in Community Health from the University of Nottingham in Britain. He was appointed health minister. One fine morning after the passing of Meles Zenawi he found out that he is “foreign minister”. (I am sure in a few months, he will wake up one fine morning and find out that he is “Prime Minster”. The foreign ministry is his stepping stone to the prime ministry.)
Pray tell, how does a man with no diplomatic experience, training or background, a man who did not even serve as an ambassador, ( and absolutely clueless about international law and diplomacy, [see my commentary “From the Ethiopian Fire Into the Saudi Arabian Frying Pan”]) suddenly become foreign minister?
The answer is obvious. It is only, and only because of his ethnicity that Adhanom became the diplomat-in-chief for the TPLF. Of course, that should not be surprising. What qualifications did the late Meles Zenawi bring to his post of prime minister? He got a Bachelor’s degree from a correspondence program in England in business administration and could not complete his Master’s theses at Erasmus University on a subject he claimed to be the world’s singular authority , “development economics”.
Perhaps it is time to shake up the staid and reactionary world of diplomacy by allowing a specialty in thugplomacy to flourish. I can imagine an “Institute for African Thugplomacy” being set up not too far away from the African (Beggars) Union Hall, the official gathering place of African thugtators and dictators. It could be interesting.
We must face facts. You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day it is still a pig. Likewise, you can dress up thugs like Solomon Gebre Silassie, Girma Birru or Tedros Adhanom and the rest of the lot in pricey designer suits, give them a brief case and fancy titles. At the end of the day, “they are what they is”, thugs.
NOTE: The above is an abridged commentary from an article titled “The Thugplomacy of the TPLF ” by Alemayehu G. Mariam
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Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.