BY SENNAY ZEMEN
There is no debate on the fact that ethnic politics, which still remains a political minefield in Ethiopia, has ‘flourished’ and reached an all time high during the TPLF era. The partition of the country into ethno-linguistic federal system in a highly institutionalized way is, therefore, the thin end of the wedge; that is, the inconspicuous beginning of the present-day political chaos in Ethiopia.
Despite the fact that the TPLF was ‘chucked out’ of its political seat in humiliation and its political shibboleth or doctrine was thrown away by Ethiopian people, it tried to lift above its weight and make a comeback to power through the strategy of destabilization.
To its dismay, the strategy, which was destined for failure, produced barren results thanks to the Ethiopian people, including religious and community leaders, traditional clan elders, scholars and others, who made great efforts to put out the ethnic flames fanned by the TPLF. Despite this fact, it will never abandon the strategy until it meets a sticky end.
After realizing the fact that there is no hope of coming to power through the destabilization strategy or winning the upcoming 6th general election 2020 in August, the TPLF set out to achieve its long-awaited dream, the Republic, under the pretext of marking the 45th anniversary of the TPLF, yekatit 11 (February, 19). To make good use of the anniversary celebration, it made a lot of preparations with abundant financial resources.
The kitschy celebrations, the first ever of its kind in Tigray, were started almost three months earlier, exactly when the TPLF abjured or ended officially its allegiance to the EPRDF. Having said this, it is not hard to fathom out the motives behind the fanfare of yekatit 11; that is, to pave the ground for its fanciful dream,
#TIGEXIT, which is utterly quixotic.
The old guards of the TPLF have blockaded their minds behind walls of nationalistic egoism and vainglory and become truculent following their removal from power. They schemed to destabilize Ethiopia right from the onset in order to gain an upper hand in the country’s political system. After failing to achieve its desired goals through the strategy, it took the anniversary as a golden opportunity for clearing the way for Plan B. To achieve this end, the TPLF media blew the importance of the commemoration out of proportion for almost three months, during which time it was spreading cheap and hostile propaganda to brainwash the people into backing its
agenda and restore their confidence.
To this effect, it played up history of TPLF armed struggle, sacrifices made by the people, victories won in different battles and the likes. In coordination with this, the TPLF TV was also airing war films, interviews with veteran fighters, battle stories, revolutionary songs and the likes to push ahead with its plan.
In addition to media campaign, the TPLF staged much vaunted mass rallies throughout Tigray, in a war-like mood, to gain support from credulous people for its political agenda. Blinded by hubris, the leaders and their cadres made invective speeches and voiced hateful slogans against the reformist forces on highly acrimonious terms and shameless audacity.
During the events, the TPLF vowed to do everything possible in its power to cloud the people from realizing the truth behind their deceptive goals with bombastic words. The speeches, slogans and revolutionary songs were belligerent in nature and resonated with its agenda.
In short, the mendacious propaganda and hostile activities against the reformist forces have become a political flavor of the day and, indeed, flaunting its arrogance and iron pride.
The TPLF mounted a coordinated campaign of media and mass rally to spread poisonous propaganda and intoxicate the people with deep ethnic hatred/enmity to arouse ethnic feelings and imbue them with narrow nationalistic tendency with cheap lies and innuendos. What is more, it was inciting sentiments of war of the people for an inevitable future development. The event was also a good opportunity for the TPLF to agitate its people against the Prosperity Party (PP) and stir up hatred against them as well as other Ethiopians by virulent hate speech tainted with wrongs of the past history.
During the demonstrations, the TPLF was scoffing at the PP programs and visions with contempt and announced officially that it will never commit to accepting the government-led by the PP in Ethiopia now or in the future.
The mantra at the rallies were many but to name just a few:
‘only the TPLF political program is ideal for Ethiopians; Tigray will not be governed by any political line other than that of the TPLF political belief; we fought against the Dergue and now we are fighting against the Dergue [Prosperity Party]; the people of Tigray fought alone, paid heavy prices to defeat the Dergue; the sacrifice of the people liberated the oppressed ethnic groups from feudal and military rulers; our enemies are envious of our peace and economic development; we are encircled by enemies who are trying to invade Tigray and subjugate its people; frustrate the conspiracy hatched against Tigray and its people and defend it from the reformist forces and Eritrea at all costs; and, follow the footsteps and political line of the Tigray martyrs.’
All these apocryphal tales and empty platitudes can be boiled down to obfuscate the ongoing reform process by deceptive propaganda and sunder Tigray from Ethiopia, which are nothing other than mocking the intelligence of the people.
The TPLF was blowing its own trumpet unashamedly in a way best calculated to satisfy its own vanity. During the mass rallies, it boasted about its military might that toppled the Dergue. It also vaunted its ‘military strength’ by parading its Special Force and mobilizing its militias in a farcical show of force. The crowds imitated war whoops and war dances to scare off the reformist forces and Ethiopians. They were chanting anti-reformist slogans while carrying guns to bluff their ‘enemies.’ They were also gloating over the victory that being won during their armed struggle just to threaten Ethiopians that they would face similar fate in case they tried to
They were trying to make the people believe that the same victory would be repeated easily in the fight against their enemies, ignoring the fact that one cannot step into the same river twice. This is to mean that the situation that favored the TPLF to come to power in 1991 has completely changed.
Unlike a fish that wants to live in calm waters, the TPLF wants to live in troubled waters. In other words, the TPLF is determined to make waves in the country as it has been part of its strategy since 2018. It is true that the hostile propaganda and the increasingly aggressive tone of the political discourse of the TPLF leadership has pushed the country into an unknown future and, as a result, Ethiopia is running the risk of going to war more than ever.
“We will fight to the end to defeat our enemies” has become a war cry while are bragging that there is no force on
earth that can stop the TPLF from achieving its goals. Keeping this in mind, Ethiopia stands on the edge of an abyss and unfortunately the prospect for a quick end to the country’s political problem seems bleak. It should be noted that since its removal from power, it has waged a war of nerves on Ethiopian people and especially on reformist forces; now it is to be war in earnest and, as such, belligerent noises are coming out of the TPLF.
In the true sense of the word, Tigray is in a state of war and there is likely to be a war in the country any time soon. The TPLF has tacitly declared war against Ethiopians, forcing them to fight against their will. It has been beating war drums, militarizing its society, displaying military parade, provocative speech, bluffing and alluding that the risk of war is on the horizon. Besides, the vituperative and pugnacious speeches and slogans voiced at the rallies against the reformist forces have become, to borrow a modern phrase, the order of the day.
Indeed, all the military show of force have brought Tigray to war footing and adumbrated its long-held ambition to leave or break away from Ethiopia. But the fact remains that, the TPLF is making a laughingstock of itself by holding the belief that everything would go smoothly according to its wishes.
To further flaunt its ‘opulence’, the TPLF allocated hundreds of millions of birr to organize the grandiose commemoration of yekatit 11. The TPLF prodigal, lavishing the wealth of people on big and lavish celebrations and forums while many of its people are still living in penury, lacking clean water and in many rural areas of Tigray, children are learning under trees or in makeshift schools, is driven by the fact that only through huge economic waste or extravagance can its political goal be achieved.
Others argue that it is dispensing the resources wastefully because the money is mercilessly snatched from the mouths of the poor Ethiopian people. As a result, the lavish expenditure or reckless spending for evil purposes reminds me of an English saying which goes like this: Who cares about the dead fish, except the fisherman.
By no stretch of imagination can one understand why the TPLF organized opening and closing ceremonies for Tigray residents in Addis Abeba. Though it was utterly senseless, they were intentionally held at the heartland of the PP only to show their teeth in front of the PP and their supporters so as to provoke them for confrontation, if nothing else. The celebrations in Addis were overshadowed by chauvinistic mood in its highest form intended to intimidate Ethiopians.
They were insulting the reformist forces and sloganeering emotionally and expressing their opposition and deep hatred to the PP in an uncivilized manner and contemptuous attitude. For sure, they were expecting similar response from Ethiopians. But to no avail. The TPLF wrongly imputed the Ethiopian silence to weakness and fear. In fact, Ethiopians should deserve much appreciation for bearing the calumny languages that the top TPLF representatives have been repeatedly heaping upon the Prime Minister, the PP and their supporters.
The TPLF media and mass rallies staged in Tigray were deliberately gushing eulogies for the TPLF leadership and cultivating adulation for the role they played in defeating the Dergue. Besides, they were trying hard to resonate the names of the executive committee of the TPLF and others in the hearts of every Tigriyans. For example, a big photo of the top leadership was posted on the wall aimed to inspire or establish Enver Hoxha-style cult of personality around them. This kind of political campaign is indeed non-existent in our modern times.
However, when it comes to the TPLF, it might be stemmed from their medieval mindset or are still living
in the past. In addition, freewheeling speeches being delivered by the TPLF leadership, without doubt, typify, if you’ll pardon the expression, their deep-rooted feeling of inferiority. This is to say that during the rallies, one of the top political leaders of the TPLF, Aboy Sebhat Nega with venomous tongue said:
“They [Ethiopians] call you [Tigriyans] stinking beggars; while they give you money or alms, they say “how disgusting or loathing these people are!!”
This indecent, noxious and irresponsible speech from Sebhat was aimed at intentionally stirring up deep hatred against other Ethiopians, was nothing but an affront to the reputation of the Tigray people. The celebration continued unabated for almost three months with so many bells and whistles across Tigray and in Addis Abeba until it finally came to its closure with a great show of pomp and circumstance in stadium of Mekelle on 19 February, 2020 or yekatit 11, 2012.
The TPLF invited the so-called Federalist groups to the ceremony to mislead the credulous people that not
only the TPLF but also other parties are fighting against the PP together with it. During the closing of the anniversary, Dr. Debretsion as per usual made a billingsgate speech in front of 100,000 people and revealed his avaricious ambition without shame in few words.
“Tigray has only two options: to declare an independent Tigray or remove the Prosperity Party by force.”
When he said that “the choice of an independent state is at your hands,” pandemonium reigned in the stadium. In addition, since the TPLF is considering an attack on Eritrea, he called on Eritrean armed forces, to undermine Eritrea’s defense capacity, to escape Eritrea and come to Tigray for a better life. Not only this. The TPLF has been soft-soaping Eritreans to stand along it, which is nothing less than a declaration of war against Eritrea. Indeed, the hawkish politicians are headache for Ethiopian and Eritrean people.
To recap, the TPLF has been flying in the face of the interests of Tigray and Ethiopian people and organized the most ever superfluous celebration so far held in Tigray. The scurrilous speech, reproaching languages, bluffing acts of aggression, provocative activities in words and actions were nothing less than a political hullabaloo. What is more, the iniquitous activities of the TPLF also failed to make a dent in the PP’s commitment to its vision and its supporters’ zeal to achieve the desired goals.
Putting it briefly, the algorithms being used by TPLF to win over the people of Tigray and chill the PP’s and Ethiopians to the marrow, or to bluff them, have failed to produce tangible results nor will they make it in the future.
As the dream of usurping power by illegal (destabilization strategy) or legal means (election) seems remote and the national election is a few months away, the TPLF together with its allies are bend on making a life and death struggle to sabotage the election. It is true that the TPLF will never race for the general election for obvious reasons: First, the election will be conducted ‘under the shadow’ of the ruling party, the avowed enemy of the TPLF. Second, the TPLF knows very well that other than facing humiliation, it will never win the election nor capture enough seats in the government. Third, if it competes in the election, it will legally be abide by the election results. Finally, there is no need to do so as the TPLF has already declared a de facto government in Tigray in the teeth of the Ethiopian constitution.
In spite of the fact that the TPLF is on its death bed, it will not rest from making destructive malignancy together with its allies before and after the election and standing against the wishes of the Ethiopian people until it faces its nemesis.
Finally, the ingrained chauvinism has blinded the TPLF elites from cottoning the facts on the ground and it is unlikely that they will rupture with it. However, the people of Tigray including scholars, religious leaders and others will never be fooled by its political chicanery and entrapped by the #TIGEXIT device; otherwise, escape from it is difficult or next to impossible.
More importantly, the people of Tigray have lived together with other Ethiopians in thick and thin, especially with the Amharas, and, as such, their relationship dates back to more than 3000 years. Though Ethiopians have been sundered ethnically and linguistically by the TPLF, it is preposterous to think that the 45-year old TPLF would damage the strong relationship based on history, religion and culture among them that stretches back to time immemorial.
In conclusion, the TPLF’s supreme act of treachery will remain a blot on Ethiopian history escutcheon for many
generations to come.