Ethiopian Politics, 1991 Revisited
Is the Ethnic Federalism TPLF instituted the source of our political quagmire we are now in or the solution for it?
Andualem Tefera, September 28, 2018 (ረቡዕ፣ መስከረም ፲ ፮ ቀን፣ ፳ ፻ ፲ ፩ ዓ. ም. )
Our country is now at a very critical political juncture. The recent wind of change the whole world applauded is facing a mountain of a challenge. The major forces in our political sphere are in full speed to divert the direction of the change from the interest of our country to what suits their political agenda and more or less to the determent of the change. This has put the very existence of the country itself in question.
In May 1991, three liberation forces, EPLF, TPLF, and OLF took power from the brutal military dictator Mengistu Hailemariam. Since then, they have defined what the country has been going through for the last twenty seven years. EPLF split the country with the approval of the other two and left the country landlocked. TPLF and OLF instituted an ethnic federalism they both desperately wanted. TPLF, representing less than 6% of the population, wanted to put in place a constitution that gives it legitimacy to assert its power over the other 94% of the population. The minor league player OLF, hoping to get a good share of power, eagerly participated.
OLF was ignorant or hoping against hope that TPLF’s OPDO will disappear or it will come on top in the contest for the hearts and minds of the Oromo population. OLF lost on both counts for the ruthless TPLF made sure of that and decimated it. Meanwhile TPLF killed thousands of Oromo youth and imprisoned tens of thousands of them. As TPLF’s OPDO slowly grew and started winning the hearts and minds of the Oromos, whatever is left of OLF, smarting from its wounds inflicted by TPLF, splintered into different factions.
In recent years, the youth in Amara and Oromo regions had had it with TPLF and rose all over and made governing impossible for TPLF. TPLF used all kinds of brutal inhuman measures to control or silence it. It couldn’t. At the same time, OPDO and ANDM grew in confidence and strength inside EPRDF and started to flex their muscles. They directly formed a strong relationship and a visible alliance. Then they started questioning the excessive use of force by the federal military unleashed by TPLF on the people. The panicked TPLF leadership started looking for its old accomplices. It has long severed its ties with EPLF irreparably. When the people of Ethiopia rose and started to shake the foundations of TPLF’s EPRDF government, the progressives inside OPDO and ANDM sided with the people. The top leadership of EPRDF switched hands in favor of those who wanted change.
When we look at how change came in countries that had brutal dictators in recent years and what followed the peoples’ uprising, we get no formula that clearly predicts how it happens and what follows. Who would have predicted the color revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring in the Middle East, what followed in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and the rise and fall of ISIS a few years before they happened! This tells us that it is difficult to fit a particular country’s situation into a formula and know ahead of time what will follow. The dynamics inside the country in point are as varied as they can be. Thus we all understand the difficulty of knowing what will follow in Ethiopia. There are many possibilities. Some are scary and some will put us at ease.
This is what is known so far. We have a pro-change government that is loved by the majority of the population. There is a faction of the government and other forces that are working deliberately day and night to resist and derail the change. The latter group consists of TPLF, those centrally financed by TPLF, and those whose agenda is the same as TPLF’s. TPLF, though not at the head of the government, is still holding key military, security and financial positions in the government. In addition, TPLF is in possession of the vast sum of the country’s wealth and military arsenal in Tigray.
Prime Minister Dr. Abey Ahmed is working with his hands tied behind. He is in power with the mandate of EPRDF. He is governing under the constitution of EPRDF. He is going with the military, security, and key government functionaries put in place by TPLF. He is working with a parliament handpicked by TPLF. His power on the other hand rests with the changing force and the strength of the people of Ethiopia. This cornering unfortunate situation has forced him to assign people in positions; per OPDO leadership wishes. OPDO is not a united force under PM Abey Ahmed and the governor of Oromia region, Lemma Megersa. This has created a gap between the youth that drives the change and feels the streets in cities and towns all over the country, and the leadership at the head of the government. For example, the people want the TPLF mark out of the flag and want the historical green, yellow and red flag only installed. The people want to dismantle the ethnic federalism that is the source of conflict all over the country.
What is clear is those with a different agenda have placed their operatives inside the federal government and inside OPDO and ANDM. This could have been done with help of TPLF. The enemy is not giving up its hold easily. It is not even hiding its head. The agenda of TPLF is to destroy the unity of the Amhara and Oromo people by putting a divisive wedge between them. It is igniting divisive agendas through its surrogates. Right now, our country should be preparing to march forward into the path of democratization. Clearly there are those who are championing these divisive agendas. We all know the ethnic lines are not formed to satisfy anyone but TPLF. No line is correctly drawn because there is no correct line. The Amharas live all over Ethiopia. So do the Oromos. So do the Gurages. So do the others. No one place is owned by one group or another. Each Ethiopian owns her or his property wherever she or he lives. There is no one place that is a property of one sector of the population. Addis Ababa belongs to Ethiopia and it is Ethiopia’s Capital City. Yesterday Addis Ababa was Barara and the capital city of Ethiopia. This I leave to history experts and for us to learn. The administration of Addis Ababa should be determined by the people who live there. The same goes to Harar. People in their localities should elect their leaders from the bottom to the highest echelon of their city leadership.
Oromos should not have been ethnically attacked in Somali region. So should not the Amaras. The Gammo people in Burayo should not have been attacked. The Amaras in Gura Ferda, Harer, Arsi, Wellega, Benshangul, Wolkait, Raya, Telemt, should not have been attacked, imprisoned, loose their property, killed and evicted. This ethnically motivated agenda is that of TPLF. To perpetuate this ethnic division is to side with TPLF, which at present is coming out to be truly anti-Ethiopians and anti-Ethiopia.
The cause of conflict between regions is a TPLF scheming of keeping the population separate and keeping them as enemies of each other. That is the only way a minority can rule over the majority. This cannot be an agenda for the Oromos or the Amaras. Our forefathers and mothers have invested in building and keeping our country and we can only live together with the unity agenda. This holds true for all the eighty two ethnic groups in the country. Those who are supporting the change taking place in Ethiopia and the leadership of PM Abey Ahmed, VPM Demeke Mekonnen, Oromia President Lemma Megersa, Amahara President Gedu Andargachew should stand with them and champion the unity agenda. Yes there are short comings and we are in transition. I would have loved to have a mechanism where the TPLF tugs could be wiped out and the new order take place in seconds. That is just a dream. We live in reality. We have to prioritize and put the country first. We have to choose the path that will strengthen the unity of the people over the individual or group agenda we would like to push forward.
You cannot say we want unity and in the same sentence and state that Addis Ababa belongs to the Oromos. What does that even mean? Does it mean Humera does not belong to the Oromos? Or Jigjiga does not belong to the Oromos? Or Meqele does not belong to Oromos? Isn’t this the same line that monster used to describe Aksum Obelisks as the property of the present day Tigres only and not of the Wollaitas? This has to go when the ethnic federal governing structure goes away. For now, Addis Ababa is one of the regions set aside for governance for and by the people who live in Addis Ababa. Narrow Nationalism is the cause TPLF promoted and organizations it created perpetuated. TPLF had an ethnic cleansing campaign on the Amaras which the Amaras will never forget. It has to go! If Ethiopia is to continue forward, what I heard from representatives of five OLF branches, as per Bekele Gerba’s speech indicated, is dangerous.
The Amara youth in Gondar elevated Gerba as their leader when they sang “The blood of our Oromo brothers is our blood!”, “The cause of our Muslim brothers is our cause!”, and “Bekele Gerba is our leader!”, that was what Ethiopia needed at that particular time. He should have said “I am an Amhara!”, “I am a Gonderie!”. Well he did not want to. Those proud Amaras in Gondar do not hold this against him. They wanted to save Ethiopia. They wanted to stand with their Oromo brothers and whoever their counterparts in Oromo region said is their leader, those in Gondar said he is our leader too. That is what Ethiopiawinet is. To say Addis Ababa belongs to the Oromos betrays them.
Yes ethnic federalism will be destroyed. Yes those who committed crimes using this agenda will be brought to justice. Yes every Ethiopian will be able to live in any part of the country, own property, and participate in the daily life of the community as an individual Ethiopian. That is what this change is heading to. firstname.lastname@example.org