BY I. HABTE
Hogged its seat at the top of the heap, the TPLF ruled the country and treated its people with high-handed contempt and tyrannical manner. They completely controlled the country’s politics, financial institutions, trade, construction industry, military, security, police and others. This monopolization of politics, economy, and power in combination with ethnic politics led the country to ethnic clash, instability, wholesale corruption and abuse of power, which all these and others finally challenged the unity and survival of the country.
It is not a stretch to say that Ethiopia was a cornucopia of wealth for the TPLF leaders, who abused their power to feather their own and their families nest while forced millions of their nationals to resort to living in a scourge of poverty. Billions of dollars have been siphoned off, illegally outflow from the country and stashed in foreign banks. The entire economy of the country was being sapped by an institutionalized corruption rarely parallel in African corruption history.
The reckless and ruthless looting and plunder from state coffers have greatly affected the country’s economic development, the lives of the Ethiopian people and image of the country. Furthermore, millions of dollars worth of public property have been deliberately destroyed or damaged. In short, Ethiopia, under the TPLF-rule, was a country where rules and laws were ignored and flouted.
The new PM Dr. Abiy has inherited a number of challenges and problems which have become a real conundrum for his administration and, of course, winning over them is a long way off. To name just a few: over $25 billion of debt which have still remained the sword hanging over the country, high number of unemployment, migration of young Ethiopians, political and economic problems, rampant corruption, embezzlement, grave human rights abuse, ethnic violence, identity and boundary crisis and above all a poor country.
Ethiopians firmly believe that the coming of Dr. Abiy to power has salvaged their country from total collapse. When he took power, he promised to bring about new changes and to deal with a number of problems, among which, to redress injustice, root out corruption and return billions of dollars of stolen money from abroad and bring those responsible to justice.
Thanks to the new government, the corruption, human rights abuse and vandalism have been exposed and the remaining others will be revealed slowly but surely.
The TPLF seems to forget the old adage that law sometimes sleeps, but never dies. So, the time has come for the corrupt officials and human rights abusers to face justice. After making enough preparations, the FDRE Federal Attorney General recently issued a red notice and stepped up a stringent clamp down on many military officials of different ethnic groups suspected of high-profile corruption and grave human right abuses.
The Ethiopian people and political parties expressed their support for and appreciation to the courageous move taken by the Federal Government against corruption and power abuse and vowed to stand by the new government to the end of the road.
The Federal Attorney General opened up the cans of worms and uncovered billions of dollars of the poor Ethiopians stolen by TPLF leaders and their collaborators in the Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC). The corruption, embezzlement, vandalism and economic sabotage in the METEC, a state-owned but run by the military officers, is just the tip of the iceberg since many other corporate scandals will be revealed and be made public in the not too distant future. Under the TPLF rule, no state and region-owned corporations are free from corruption. These and other firms were established partly to enrich themselves, their families and collaborators.
When the Federal police began to arrest suspected officials, some tried to flee the country, others went into their hiding place or safe haven in Mekelle while some are on the run from police. Sitting in Mekelle, the officials have refused to appear before the court for trial in alleged corruption and human rights abuse. But, no one is above the law and those hidden in Mekelle or elsewhere will face justice, if not today, then tomorrow. It should be noted that the TPLF has the right to express its opposition to the decisions or policies of the Federal Government or Attorney General but it has no right to obstruct its implementation in any way. Ignoring the rule of law or non-compliance with the court is, indeed, a high-wire act for the TPLF.
Whenever the government issued a statement, introduced new policy, takes actions or brings in new laws, even before it reaches the ears of Ethiopians, the TPLF reacts swiftly and issues a statement of its own to oppose them. It is bizarre why it acts like this but it could be due to the bastion of Tigrai chauvinism, drunken with power and stolen money, a crisis of belongingness, deep-rooted sense of inferiority or other. It is almost nine months since the halcyon days of the 27 years of the TPLF’s power and glory have gone forever but still, they think that they are still in honeymoon.
The arrest of its comrade-in-arms, caught while trying to flee the country, was a stunning blow to the TPLF’s hubris. Following this, in no time did the TPLF issue a statement, which was full of contradictions, dualities and verged on supporting the Federal Attorney General but runs counter to that of it. In other words, it praised the move taken by the Attorney General and in the same breath it associated it with ‘anti-Tigrai myth.’
The statement was intended to convey a message to the corrupt officials hiding in Mekele that “they shouldn’t worry about the warrant since the TPLF would not betray you and the people will stand behind you in your difficult times.” In addition, it was a warning to the Attorney General to refrain from targeting Tigrai nationals and keep its hands off corruption allegations.
But the truth is that no one could be responsible for the country’s political, economic and social woes other than the TPLF leaders and their collaborators, who were comfortably in the driving seat for 27 years, during which corruption, human rights abuse, embezzlement, economic sabotage, nepotism, and cronyism became the order of the day and remained part of the political system.
Since the TPLF was above the law, no one of its colleagues had been indicted for corruption or other charges. They knew very well the existence of rampant corruption, but they deliberately ignored to deal with them in order to create social inequalities, discord, and instability in future Ethiopia.
Following this, Dr. Debretsion (19 November 2018) made a politically-laced interview which was hedged in with so many ifs and buts and full of red herrings intended to distract the people of Tigrai from corruption and financial charges being issued upon their leaders and collaborators. In fact, his freewheeling speech was met with hoots of derision. He sometimes said that “TPLF supports in principle the warrant and, at the same time, he went into a long tirade against the Attorney General and slammed its warrant as “ethnic-focused attack, biased and politically motivated.”
First of all, the charges have nothing to do with nationality, ethnicity, tribe, religion since they are purely legal issues, not politics. The TPLF has been attempting to correlate corruption and human rights abuse with ethnicity, despite the fact that the alleged government officials are not only Tigrians. All those who have looted and plundered Ethiopian wealth should have to face justice, whether he/she is a Tigrain, an Oromo, an Amhara or from other ethnic groups.
In spite of this fact, the accusation made by the TPLF against the Attorney General is nothing other than an excuse to set a political precondition to the issued warrant.
It should be underlined here that bringing corrupt officials to justice is a legal issue for Ethiopia but a political issue for the TPLF. Because, the investigation will further expose the TPLF’s secrets kept in the closet and this, in turn, will force it to eat crow in front of its people who are being deceived for 40 years. Yet, the cheap lies that the people of Tigrai are unfailingly loyal to the TPLF will be exposed in its naked absurdity. With this background in mind, it is beyond the realms of possibility to think that the TPLF would cooperate with the Attorney General and hand over its comrades-in-arms to appear in court. To put it briefly, it is a blind credulity to set a thief to catch a thief.
Following the statement and interview, the TPLF made a virtue of necessity and organized a big demonstration in eight towns in support of Dr. Debretsion’s interview which was conducted to ‘embellish’ the statement and the interview; to succumb the Federal Attorney General to its demands, needs and wishes; and, to politicize the arrest warrant under the pretext of “ethnic-focused attack.” Hundreds of thousands of protesters went to the streets and shouting, chanting slogans denouncing the Federal Government and Attorney General goals and carrying flags, placards, and banners that depict “violation of constitution and rule of law.”
The “anti-Tigrai” mantra disseminated repeatedly by the TPLF mass media, politicians and scholars is so ridiculous, absurd and intended to obstruct the legal proceedings, abort the goals of the reform underway, cordon off Tigrai from other regions and play on ethnic feelings to drum up support from the people. Instead of viewing the issue critically, they danced to the tune of the region’s president interview to help him throw dust in the Tigrai people’s eyes. They discredited the Federal Government, the Attorney General and made a defaming campaign against them in order to obscure the truth and give misleading and irrelevant information to the people.
For almost a month, the Tigrai region had been busy with different activities all targeting the Federal Government. As a conclusion to the previous interview and demonstrations in 8 towns, a mass demonstration was held in Mekele Stadium on December 09, 2018. It was an opportunity for the TPLF to give a show of force to the government and neighboring regions. Foreign media including BBC were invited to give coverage and to witness the events. Sudan flags were displayed during the demonstration to deceive the people that “the Sudan Government stands with the Tigrai people.”
In front of hundreds and thousands of people gathered at the stadium, Dr. Debretsion said nothing new from what he had said before but tried to make a drama out of the current situation in the country. He vehemently blasted all policies, decisions, and actions of the government and accuse it of not having the capacity to lead the country and, as a result, the country is heading towards a deep crisis. He frankly admitted that Tigrai is not part of the political system of Ethiopia or the Federal Government does not represent Tigrai ‘region.’
Furthermore, he also said that the TPLF has reached a point beyond which it can’t stand any violation of the constitution. Finally, he concluded his provocative speech by saying: “if the demands of the people are not met shortly, Ethiopia will pay a high price.” He has blown the ‘violation of the constitution and rule of law’ out of the proportion as if Ethiopia is in a full-fledged constitutional and rule of law crisis.
The TPLF leaders have always been so condescending and high-handed in their dealings with the Ethiopian people. Out of this arrogance, they have not still recognized the Federal Government of Ethiopia and set to remove it with different illegal means, including assassination attempts. The TPLF security agents tried to assassinate Dr Abiy twice. One may pose a question: if the PM was assassinated, perish the thought, what would happen to Ethiopia? The most likely scenario is that Ethiopian could have been disintegrated, although it is anybody’s guess of other possibilities. So, by any stretch of imagination can the TPLF care for Ethiopia’s stability and development. To this end, they have forged alliances with similar groups to create instability and chaos. Directly or otherwise, in all conflicts going on in the country, even at a village level, the TPLF with other anti-reform forces are behind them, funding and arming.
Under the pretext of “…incapacity of the government to lead the country, violation of constitution and rule of law, organized anti-Tigrai attack, attempts to kneel down and humiliate the Tigrai people…” and so on, they are paving the ground to establish their own independent country and through which to escape litigation, avoid humiliation in front of their people, shun the Identity and Border Commission decision and refuse to return the billions of dollars stolen from the people. Briefly put, all these fanfare is to escape the rule of law. Of course, his provocative speech will be making a rod for the TPLF’s own back.
During his speech, he ranted on about foreign involvement, most probably on Eritrea. But this is just based on subjective guesswork and figment of his imagination. All Ethiopian politicians, including the TPLF themselves, know that Eritrea’s long-aged stand towards Ethiopia is clear and unwavering: a stable and united Ethiopia. His baseless and complete nonsense accusation against Eritrea is part of their strategy to solicit support for their hidden agenda. But the fact is that the TPLF was a back-seat driver in Ethiopian politics and kept a tight grip on the eight regions by placing its own representatives in each region.
All the fusses about “….Tigrai-focused attack, violation of constitution, rule of law, justice….” have undoubtedly exposed certain prejudice and stereotypes that TPLF harbors towards Ethiopia and its people. Since the constitutional rights of the people were being stripped, the people had been crying for justice and rule of law for 27, during which, the people had been treated inhuman and languishing in prisons for years without trial just because of being non-Tigrains. The ethnic-based physical and psychological tortures were unconstitutional and immoral. Now, after their removal from power and starting to feel the heat of their wrong policy, they are crying wolf to mislead the people and fan ethnic feelings.
It is ironic that a political party that ruled the country with rod of iron, that had stamped the constitution and justice of the country, that had trampled upon the rights of its citizens, hiding its true colour, have now come out to sing a song for “…peace, justice, constitution and rule of law…” Not only this. They are shamelessly trying to become advocators or defenders of the constitution of Ethiopia and still consider themselves as the only custodian of the country’s constitution accorded to them by law. His speech has also intended to provoke Ethiopians to react strongly against the TPLF so as to heighten the tension in the country, which is already in fragile state.
In general, the TPLF’s statement, interview, speeches and the demonstrations were aimed to prepare the Tigrai people spiritually, psychologically and mentally for the hidden agenda. In addition, they were intended to fan anti-Tigrai fallacy, promote Tigrai ethnocentrism, inject hate against the PM and his government, abort the ongoing reform process and destabilize the country. He conveyed a message to the youth generation to stand united and stay vigilant for uncertainties in the country and prepare for countermeasures. Since then, the TPLF has put the region on a war footing and Tigrai, once again, is at center of the war dance to scare off the new government and its neighboring regions. In fact, the demonstrations and the others are nothing more than a show of strength in order to impose their will by force. The speech has punctured the expectations of the Ethiopian people for unity, peace and social harmony and further deepened the existing fissures among the different ethnic groups.
In addition to the above political hot water over corruption and human rights abuses, the hubris of the TPLF has been shaken and its strong influence in the seven regions have dwindled except in Afar region, still a colony of the TPLF. The seven regions have already cut the apron strings and become independent from the TPLF and many of its supporters, loyalists or agents in most regions have been purged and arrested. Despite of fierce fighting of the people for reform and against the TPLF’s control of their region, the stunning reform going on in Ethiopia has not yet expanded its reach to that region. The Afar People’s Democratic Party held recently a congress and the region’s president and many others were stepped down from power and new members were elected to run the region. However, it remains to be seen whether they are going to snip the final strings that kept them dependent on the TPLF.
Another deadly blow to the TPLF is that its bucket has failed to achieve its intended goal. The long-dreamed dream of the Tigrai Republic seems a distant hope; many TPLF people have been dislodged from government posts; the dream of driving a wedge between the Oromo and Amhara people has been crushed; and, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace deal and the PM accepts the border ruling honestly and bona fide, which was a heavy blow it felt like heaven had collapsed. Since then, the relationship of the two countries has warmed and the high-level contacts hit a new peak. The unjust sanction, masterminded by the TPLF, was lifted on 14, November 2018. The TPLF’s prattle on a people-to-people relationship is nothing other than a Judas kiss. Old sins have long shadows.
Finally, under the TPLF rule, Ethiopia was a ‘bandit territory’ and Tigrai, by far, is ‘richer’ than the other regions in Ethiopia, it was just like robbing Peter to pay Paul. In spite of the TPLF’s contemptuous attitude towards Ethiopia, its will continue to push ahead with reform and a war against corruption to build a peaceful and prosperous country in the teeth of ethnical bigotry and political gambit of the TPLF. Every beginning has an end and as such, the once seemingly invincible power of the TPLF has faced an imminent demise and is on the slippery slope to an inevitable and disastrous end.
(Last updated on 27 December)