Ethiopia: Have the Tigres benefited under TPLF/EPRDF rule?
By Mulata Gudata
Obviously, this question is very delicate and sensitive but I will try to navigate thru as fairly as possible without understating or over stating facts not only to avoid jeopardizing truth but also to spare some good people who are surely there as we talk of the bad apple in the basket. A word or two on how we have all suddenly turned out to be Andargachew Tsigie, and some other timely facts are also in this article. Find out!
Where is the source of our trouble? The answer is nothing other than our tribal extremists from across the divide. Our extremists talk to us in our tribal languages; to make us believe they invoke a bit of history in a very narrow way that fits their own selfish interest; they tirelessly work hard to keep us tribally compartmentalised far from mixing as a healthy and free society since their political capital emanates from what makes us different as opposed to what makes us one and the same; they promise heaven that would only be achieved under their narrow extreme views of our politics while in real fact their ways keep proving to take us the opposite direction or leave us in a limbo yearning for justice, respect for basic human right and dignity all of which are mutually exclusive with their extreme political ideologies. All these can only stand to succeed at the expense of the society at large when we accept to be passive recipients by forfeiting our right to protest. Our politics went tribal for some understandable reasons but there is no justification for it to remain there if and when we manage to address our socio-political and economic issues with an acceptable reform.
Extremism of any sort is undesirable and far less when individuals with extreme ideologies ascend to the helm of a nation since they are sure to become extreme dictators far worse than ordinary despots. Whether they are tribal or ordinary ones, despots always have excuses for insisting to remain in power with the sole aim of exercising their self centred tyranny with no regard for the interest of the law abiding citizens under their misrule. Derg had the fight for maintaining the country’s unity including Eritrea as an excuse for its nearly two decades warmongering tyranny. The TPLF/EPRDF has development as an excuse for not brooking any dissent while the experience of the less developed and most developed countries on Earth points to the contrary.
By the time the African countries were at the height of bloody struggle for freedom and independence mostly in 1960s and 70s, most of the African countries were probably far more developed than the Ethiopia of today whose development appears to be fervently trumpeted seemingly even more by foreigners than the Woyanes do themselves. I lived in Kenya for a long time hearing Kenyans talking of how the British left them with a better condition of infrastructure in place which they say was more ruined than maintained under the 24 years of Moi’s tyrannical rule, the second president of Kenya after independence in 1963.
If they were to trade their freedom in exchange for skyscraper lofty buildings and state of the art infrastructures at the time, Kenyans would still be under the British rule. To the contrary, they asked for their freedom and earned it after all the sacrifice it took. The same thing happened across Africa from East to West, South to North without any country accepting to forfeit freedom for development. The very recent Arab spring that toppled dictators one after the other also shows us how human beings are averse and indisposed to settle for any misrule whether it is colonially imposed or home grown development-masked colonial style tyranny. This simply means development cannot be a replacement for the fundamental human rights and respect for the rule of law as well as the need for unlimited freedom for the exercise of one’s democratic rights.
Kenya today with its about 37 tribes enjoys one of the best if not the best press freedom in Africa; one of the most remarkable judicial independence which does the most incredible job of sending MPs home at half way through their term when they rig their way into parliament, though in terms of fighting corruption they are rated among the most mediocre ones; Kenyans enjoy unlimited freedom of electing their member of parliament though the presidential bit has a long way to go before it could be described as acceptable. In spite of all these remarkable achievements their struggle in the quest for a better system for Kenya is still alive and marching on as I write this. Unfortunately none of these basic freedoms exist in our country even at the most minimum level which surprisingly enough seems to have gone as far as usurping even the freedom of worship. What with the cracking down of peaceful Muslim worshipers with brutal force in their mosque without any provocation what so ever?
When it comes to human development, today Kenya and Nigeria are leaders in Africa and far beyond by the number of educated man power which started under the British colony and further developed on the basis of the best education system left behind by the British. When it comes to ours, today one would simply be left appalled at the poor quality of education in our country which is nearly no-existent for the vast majority of Ethiopian youngsters. If it exists it is discriminatory at its best and far below second rate at its worst. With this respect I have no much to say as I leave you to read a well informed assessment of the conditions of education in our country at the links below.
Development is not a gift to a society by its government or groups of individuals as it is the potential of the country that makes it possible. The primary duty of any government in the development of any country is planning, coordination and facilitation of the process which is one of the main purposes of being a government. If the people are supposed to be the employer the government is an employee doing its job for which it is paid. The employment contract is sealed by the free and fair election from which the governing party draws its mandate and legitimacy which is never the case in ours as the ruling party remained in office by rigging all of the elections that happened on its watch.
If the development job is done to the satisfaction of the people the government gets the chance of being re-elected over and over again in a free and fair democratic process as a gesture of appreciation. The government which gets there without the free will of the people and insists on remaining there like a monument by isolating the majority from all the crucial national affairs by reducing them to mere by sanders has no the moral ground what so ever to talk of development before earning the mandate of the people in a respectable manner. A massive country like ours would undoubtedly be able to develop to a greater degree by far more than it now does if the entire society is called up on and made active participant thru an all inclusive and mass based open political and free democratic process. That is why the development we are being told today sounds hollow at its best and appears to be a distractive ploy from the underlying fundamental questions at its worst. Anyone who has taken away the fundamental basic rights of any society has not given them anything. “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity,” Nelson Mandela.
Back to my heading which is whether the Tigres have benefitted under the TPLF/EPRDF rule. This question appears to be doing rounds in the Ethiopian opposition circles for valid reasons given the tribal situation we find our self in and the predominance role of the TPLF in our government ever since the tribal approach has been the norm. On the surface the makeup of our government looks strictly tribal with individuals from the Tigrian community appearing to be the front runners but look a little deeper and you would find individuals from every community doggedly hard at work enriching themselves as the public remains isolated from national affairs of grave importance and the entire nation teeters on the brink of national crisis.
Three facts always remain gospel truth and the first one is the fact that our politics has gone officially tribal two decades ago. Tigres have organised themselves and taken tribal approach to our politics as did the Oromos and any other communities in the country including the Amharas with the All Amhara Organisation which no longer exists in that name. The second one is the fact that tribal representatives of all tribes have never been elected by the free will of their respective tribes. This does not only leave the tribal barons without legitimacy as it also makes impossible for all members of a particular group to be liable to blame for any of the wrongs or rights committed by the self assigned tribal agents. The third truth is the fact that the vast majority of Ethiopians have either actively taken part on the side of their tribe or silently sympathised with the one they call theirs deep in their heart though the decisively active role has often been the preserve of a tiny fraction of any tribe. When a strong wind blows across a landscape hardly any tree remains unshaken. This being the case if we ever think of criminalising tribal approach to our politics, then we should have a jail as big as the country itself. In other words the Tigrians will go escort free for going tribal like anybody else since it has been a norm with our politics far from an aberration. I like to believe that there are a number of individuals in the TPLF/EPRDF rank who initially jumped on to the bandwagon with the hope that it would lead to a fair government that we always struggled for. When it failed their expectations such people must have been badly caught in their own situation and stack there bidding for time. Though there is no denying the presence of brainwashed hardcore and die-hard tribalists who can readily go to any length and myopically commit any crime in a futile bid to sustain the tribal status quo. As we had witnessed under the Derg regime once a cadre always a cadre until a different force comes around to make it impossible.
Amid the tribal jostle for the national cake the TPLF has applied a hideous tactic with the help of guns that enabled it to outsmart and outmanoeuvre everybody else coupled with the backing of America as well as European powers who saw TPLF as a stabilising dominant force in the country until very recently. But that is no more as TPLF is very busy exposing its very nature by its actions gradually becoming to be seen as a highly irresponsible group and a potential agent of instability in the country that can end up with a far reaching implications for the entire region in the Horn and beyond not if but when, given the way things are going, a country as big as ours gets out of control for which there is clear indications on the ground.
When it comes to material benefit any citizen deserves the right and the opportunity to benefit under any government. The benefits can come either as a collective benefit or individual benefit. And the individual benefit can take three major forms: benefit fairly, benefit unfairly and benefit criminally. God bless those who benefited fairly with their toil and sweat since we should pray for more of the same citizens. If anyone has benefited unfairly, we may have some little bones to pick with this categories of people though at the end of the day the focus should rest more on the system that allowed them to have it.
A great deal of interest remains around those who benefited criminally that can take a wide range of forms and fashions. Since naturally crime attracts punitive measures under any fair and just society, as no professional in the field I have no much to say with this respect. When we have individuals from all communities who signed up to the highly flawed and fundamentally skewed system only to enrich themselves as they lend a hand in brazenly undermining their side of the faulty ‘contraption’ called tribal federalism, it would make no much sense to focus on members of a particular community in spite of good reasons surrounding it given how the TPLF leadership are the makers and breakers of it all. Since the criminally superrich are also few and far in between I believe it would not at all be of any concern for our future coexistence as a society when such individuals will eventually be required to carry their own crosses regardless of their ethnic background; if at all they would remain around to face the music since most of them are sitting like a bird on a tree having moved their ill-gotten wealth abroad.
This brings us to the collective benefit that cannot be described in any other way than the infrastructures, schools, hospitals and other amenities of collective use. If such things have been built in Tigrai or any other part of the country it is job well done for it simply means the next government will have less job to do in such places than it would require otherwise. If any other part of the country has failed to catch up or been neglected and excluded from the focus for development it did so not because of the attention given to the developed parts of the country but because of the billions of dollars pilfered from the public coffer and stashed away in overseas bank accounts. So the ultimate focus on the repatriation of the gargantuan amount stolen from the public should remain the priority of the next government far more than undue focus on individual or collective benefits that exist within the country.
From my view point, there is more reason in focusing on the social aspect of our politics than its material aspect because once the social aspect is fixed with the help of a fundamental reform the material aspect will answer itself with time. The sheer scale of the crime against the nation and its poor mass means we would hope to succeed only by being generous on the forgiving side far more than exacting punishment for every wrongs committed. Simply because a bunch of individuals have chosen to act with madness in pursuit of their own narrow and shameful self interest in the name of their tribes cannot and should not make us abandon our age old traditional values of forgive and forget which we are known for. In other words national reconciliation is the only way out of situations like ours which involves a wide range of crimes and spans a long period of time. History and time has presented our generation with all the pain and the opportunity for us to rise up to the challenge by joining hands with the express goal of averting the national disaster we seem to be pushed into.
There is no denying that as our tribal approach to politics stands today the TPLF comes out dominating all aspects of it. This simply means the individuals from the Tigre community appear to catalyse and enforce the whole process making it look like it is deliberately designed to set the Tigres against everybody else. Given this fact the Tigrian mass is left in a difficult situation with far heavier responsibility than any other community as they are expected to stand up to TPLF and say not in our names. They stand caught between the expectation of fellow citizens on one hand to challenge the TPLF not to misuse their name in pursuit of its hideous agenda against the entire country and the special pressure TPLF exerts on them to keep them under its tight grip on the other hand.
This is why I believe it takes a great deal of courage from all of us to stand up to the challenge towards embracing each other in order to be able to point a united finger at the wrong party in our situation with our eyes on the greater good for all since we know TPLF is not an elected representative of the Tigrian people. The fact that TPLF is made up of Tigrian individuals does not necessarily make every Tigre individual a TPLF. Simply because I am an Oromo person, people think I am an OLF while I am not, for which I often make all the effort it takes to understand whenever it happens. There is no wonder if the same problem befalls the Tigre individuals.
The Tigrian mass will choose to remain on the wrong side of history only if they choose to stick with TPLF when all other fellow citizens call for unity in our quest for freedom and justice for all. The struggle for freedom is not a choice as it is a fact of our national life and an obligation imposed on every one of us as the Woyanes are busy giving us the reason for it complete with its slogans: freedom for Anrardgachew Tsigie, freedom for Abraha Desta and Oustaz Abubakar, freedom for all Oromo prisoners, Amhara prisoners, Ogaden prisoners, Anuak prisoners, Sidama prisoners, the list goes on and on. We have no other option left to us but jump and grab the slogan in unison far from resisting it under any excuse only to unnecessarily put ourself in the spot light.
As a human being a Tigrian or any one would have the moral duty to treat fellow humans fairly and friendly, and more so one’s fellow citizens when at the helm of leadership. In spite of this fundamental truth, the way TPLF first as a guerrilla force behaved towards the Tigres themselves, and then as a dominant force in the government behaves towards all communities in the country can be described in any other way but not respect. I believe the significant majority of Tigres are in good grasp of this truth as could be seen from the increasingly dissenting voices from that part of the country which the TPLF is seen in a desperate mood of cracking down with a more likely effect of aggravating what they are in a frantic attempt of controlling. Arresting peaceful opposition vocalists and leading lights like Abraha Desta and Habtamu Ayalew, the summary dismissal of Oromo journalists as well as the arrest of zone 9 bloggers and many others are pure signals of such desperations which leaves TPLF/EPRDF without any veneer of commitment to democracy and respect for the freedom of law abiding citizens to self expression.
Our tribal divisions aside, Ethiopians are clearly seen divided into two major categories. Tell them the fact that their country is being sold, and in the first category you will find the predominant majority who readily stand up in protest as they ask for those who sell it to go. Abraha Desta and the significant majority from Tigray Killil belong to this category which makes his arrest to be nothing other than a panic scramble from TPLF/EPRDF. Then there are the pathetic insignificant minority in the second category from all communities who either choose to remain silent or tend to say how they are happy to be sold with it so long as they can get a little leftover in the form of income. When the political, security, defence and economic nerve centre of the entire nation has fallen into the hands of a bunch of individuals and those who raise their voice against it are thrown into jail without any question, silence is the last thing expected of any patriotic and proud citizen.
Yes, as the vast majority from all communities wallow in abject poverty, there are few individuals who have immensely benefitted from the highly flawed crony economy fraught with nepotism which they want sustained at any cost. Yet what they forget is that something wrong cannot be right only because it serves their selfish interest. It only waits for its time to boomerang in their face in a way they have not imagined in their wildest of dreams as the increasingly embittered society finds a way of saying no to it.
With all said and done, I have no the slightest of doubt in my mind that our people will one day go back to the love and incredibly viral camaraderie that prevailed our land and existed among our society for generations before the tribal venom set its nest in our midst. We cannot hope for any better future by destroying all that is good. On this note my message to our Tigre brothers and sisters who are highly indoctrinated by TPLF ideology especially those who have the opportunity of living abroad in the Diaspora is this: please look at how people in the countries wherever you live are behaving towards each other and above all how they handle their political affairs for you to realise the wrongs that exist in ours.
As fellow citizens we don’t hate you rather we always wish to love you and any fellow human for that matter. Hate and love are two sides of the same coin. If we choose to hate we can make up any reason to do so. If we choose to love we can have all the reasons on Earth to do so. The choice is ours. Hate does not only stem out of terrible ignorance but it is also a sin. With hate we fall, with love we not only live but live incredibly happy. Our call for a united effort to bring a better system in our country includes you. It is not a call for any group or community against any other one. It should be all of us against the rampant misrule in our land and the recklessly irresponsible practice of political power as well as abuse of public office all of which the societies in the countries where we live abroad cannot tolerate even for a single day which is a proof that we are perfect human beings with the right questions.
If my voice doesn’t appeal to you for any reason, please try to listen to that of Abraha Desta and Asgede G/Silasie and many other fellow Tigrians to help you see the larger picture of being a citizen of a country and the moral obligations that comes with it towards other fellow citizens. Most of all we all should learn from the societies of different countries who are able to accommodate us foreigners without any problem what so ever to help as aspire on the same model for our country. If we know a good system exists anywhere on Earth, what stops us from working towards having a similar one tailored to our situation if not exactly the same? The answer is greed. Greed for power, greed for wealth, greed for the control of anything and everything. So we have to accept to fight greed where ever it exists in our national life for us to work towards building a system that can treat all of us equally and fairly.
Before the finishing line, we are facing a group in our government that is determined to hang on to power by flaunting local and international laws with impunity. The abduction of Andargachew Tsigie has come to pass proving this very fact. I received the news with shock and anger as did millions of Ethiopians across the world. Yet, what is as crucial as the incident itself is the lesson we should draw from this: united we stand divided we fall. This is what Ethiopians seem to have learned from Andargachew Tsigie’s abduction in Yemen. I remained surprised by some unlikely individuals reasoning out that any divided approach in the face of the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us is as good as spitting in the wind. If we go by the information leaked from around the Ethiopian security apparatus, someone with a paltry amount of less than 5million dollar can readily buy the entire Yemeni government. I also heard on a Nigerian TV channel that a piece of land and a tobacco factory has been promised to the individuals in the Yemeni government. It is amazing they can get to be that cheap and no wonder the world infamous terrorist leadership has chosen that country as a hide out. What an insult to the Yemeni people in the name of a government?! Stay off folks, avoid anything of Yemen like it is a pile of dirt.
Finally the 2014 world cup has come to pass leaving us to sleep well until it will come around after the usual four year long wait. The lucky Germany went away basking in the glory of victory after trouncing the unbeatable Brazil on home soil with a deluge of goals. Victory is fleeting and elusive, it never stays in one place. The world cup has also brought to the world attention the uncanny behaviour of Louie Suarez, the Paraguay player who has a knack for biting fellow players almost on every pitch and playing victim. Being the rational human society that we are if anyone in our midst behaves that way he/she should be told to stop, and that is why FIFA’s diciplinary action against him is a welcome move.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never explained.” – Nelson Mandela