I think the defection of a battalion of TPDM’s fighters from Eritrea has not yet lose its topicality, as tides of commentaries, exegetic exercises, debates and follow-up reports that are continuing to flood in would indicate. Thus, I would like to take some issues with the defection of TPDM’s fighters and its commander.
Considering that TPDM has the strongest, in relative terms, armed group operating in Eritrea, the defection of the commander along with his eight hundred fighters would surely signify that the armed positions in Eritrea are at their lowest ebb. It also equally implies the menacing problems the rogue state in Asmara is facing. Here I am trying to unpack the political significations of the episode in relation to the Ethiopian oppositions who took up arms and their sponsor the Eritrean regime.
Unraveling implications of this incident does not take an exceptional skill of analysis. A person with average analytical capacity or skill would never fail to grasp the kernel of the issue I am getting at. If we hold back ourselves from panic buying ventures and try to look into the contesting views, we would easily grasp the basic implications of the event.
In fact, I assume, lightly cooked implications have unfolded themselves like a junk mail, i.e. just as unsolicited advertising and promotional material that arrives through the mail and the Internet.
I know that implications of the evacuation of TPDM’s fighters and its commander would not add up immediately. Hence, its meaning would become clearer with the passing of sufficient time that would allow one to form perceptive insights on the political as well as military import of the defection. That is why, I claimed, the topicality of Mollas’s evacuation would not grow fainter with laps of only two weeks.
Before I take up the discussion on the implications of the Eritrean episode to Ethiopian opposition groups and their host, I would like to give some passing remarks by relating the incident with the Ethiopian government.
As Molla Asgedom has made it clear when he was debriefing local journalists, his decision to return back home was primarily prompted by the satisfactory performance of the Ethiopian government. Moreover, according to Molla, the government has adequately addressed political, social and economic problems that had forced him and his colleagues to take up arms a decade ago.
One may disagree with the above assertion of Molla. However, one would definitely be of the same mind with one who may assert that the Ethiopian government has made many impressive improvements in many sectors over the intervening years between the time Molla went to Eritrea (i.e. before ten years) and now.
Surely, we have witnessed remarkable progresses over the last twelve years. This is a fact that can be supported by solid testimonies of the Ethiopian people, international agencies and the global community as well.
I do not doubt the sincerity of Molla’s motive. I would also assume that Molla must have changed his mind, as detractors of the EPRDF, of late, have opted to accept some of the policies based on the tangible successes it has brought about.
It is to be recalled that the Ethiopian government has put in its foreign policy document that lack of good governance would create favorable conditions for insurrection who would threaten the national security of the country. Thus, promoting accountability and transparency would enhance the while that in turn ensures peace and development. Consequently, the Ethiopian government should work hard to consolidate democracy and good governance and consequently deny every pretext not only to take up arms but also to continue fighting.
Fortunately, on the conclusion of its congressional meeting, the ruling party has vowed and declared its commitment to consolidate democracy and good governance. In line with this commitment, the government is campaigning to promote investigative reporting. I believe promotion of investigative journalism is essential to encourage journalists to do research to expose those engaged in incorrect behavior and to reveal those who are trying to cover it up.
Recently, EBC is screening higher government officials who are sending out messages that remind elected officials and civil servants are legally bound to give information to the public. They have also stressed those officials who fail to fulfill this legal prescription as stipulated in the constitution, freedom of information law and other decrees would be held accountable.
Evidently, Mollas’s evacuation has devastating and demoralizing effect on the armed groups. For one thing, it would throw the groups of the new coalition into a prison of mistrust and thus led them to be afraid of their own shadow.
We know that TPDM has been operating under the tutelage of the Eritrean regime for about ten years. As an instinctive response to their mishap, they act the fool by staging theatrical scenes of public relations, which they think is helpful to appear as a very much alive and kicking fighting forces.
Right after realizing TPDM’s commander, Molla Asgedom, along with his eight hundred fighters had defected; his former allies began to bastardize the person they been praising just a week ago when they elect him as the deputy chairperson of the new coalition. Taking it as fitting public relation stunt, his former allies are seizing every media forum as an opportunity to denounce the same person they had been eulogizing up until the time of Molla’s evacuation from Eritrea. However, their foolish reactions have an irreparably tarnished their already dull reputation as political and military organization.
In fact, the defection of TPDM’s fighters was not only shocking to the bunch of anti-peace elements that have fortified in Eritrea, but also to the government that has been espousing these forces.
The defection has markedly changed the battle cry of the armed groups operating in Eritrea, who had been congratulating one another for bringing their forces into a coalition - a step considered as a decisive undertaking that covers half of the battle in demolishing the Ethiopian government.
Molla Asgedom, a coachman of the strongest force from among the armed groups operating in Eritrea, has now left his battle bus Eritrea behind him, and came to Ethiopia battling with the heavily armored Eritrean forces that were deployed right after the regime has learnt that a faction of the TPDM force is evacuating the country. Molla’s force has bravely engaged the Eritrean force and crossed the border beating off the combating units that have come in on his march to Ethiopia.
After declaring the establishment of the newest coalition that coalesce the forces of four armed groups, namely TPDM, Afar Peoples Movement, Patriotic Ginbot 7 and Amhara Democratic Movement, they have anxiously begun to brag about their achievement saying: “Woe, betide us if we fail to come out victorious from our battle so soon.” Unfortunately, soon after the release of the news about the latest coalition, they were forced to deal with the terrifying news of the defection of TPDM -the core-force of the coalition.
It is easy to understand the chilling effect of this incident. Hence, to relieve themselves of the distressing effect of Molla’s measure, they have launched a propaganda campaign against him. Thus, they began to deprecate their former ally by representing him as a benighted politician and a villain commander.
The far-reaching and all-encompassing effect of the defection seems to be far more inconceivable than one would expect before the fact. The dwindling morale of these anti-peace forces has sparked commotion all over Eritrea. The new developments have ignited in me the interest to reassess the meaning and principles of the cooperation between the Ethiopian opposition forces and the Eritrean regime.
Thundered with the tragic fact that has recently befallen them, these anti-peace forces have begun to grip and flounder all over the parts of the sinking ship that is sailed by the Eritrean regime. Now, everyone on board is agitated and reflexively throwing themselves out of the sinking ship expecting to cling on the floating barges that spread around the wrecked ship of the Eritrean leadership.
Being engulfed by such demeaning and soul-searching frustration, they are running after every unconvincing and fabricated flimsy story to save their face. Alas, but these stories tend to be so silly that could not even win the heart of an idiot.
The breaking news of defection created hopelessness both in the heart of the “host” and “guests” and pushed them into a kind of alcohol talking. They have lost face when the battalion has deserted and this circumstance has sprinted chains of reaction that are humiliating to those involved. Consequently, they have made every effort to lift their faces.
In as much as the event has deep significance in displaying the crumbling wall of the opposition forces that are operating in Eritrea, it also crisply indicates the eminent demise of the regime sponsoring these opposition forces.
So far, the Eritrean government seems to have been implementing a meticulously designed policy that enables it to not only control and monitor the activities of Ethiopian opposition groups that are operating in Eritrea, but also incapacitate them when it wanted to.
Now, Ethiopian opposition groups that are armed and trained in Eritrea to fight the Ethiopia government are forced to reexamine the unholy marriage with the Eritrean regime. Of late, the opposition groups have begun to express their disappointment noting that their “agenda has not moved an inch forward over the last ten years due to the subtle manipulation of Isayas Afeworki.” Therefore, all armed opposition forces are beginning to detect some defects in their relationship with the Eritrean regime.
Some opposition groups have alleged “TPDM (DMHIT), whose main task is to protect and serve the regime in Asmara, was the only group that had made substantial progress in power and number.” Besides, they claimed, “Since 1991, Isayas Afeworki had been directly financing and giving training to the TPDM in a secret location in Eritrea.”
Hence, the defection of the TPDM force is a remarkable event that would show the cleavage being formed between the “host” and the “guests.” In my view, the defection of TPDM is heralding looming disaster of Isayas’s regime. In fact, the regime in Asmara is sinking into the abyss of the hell-fire that is swallowing the ruling elite, the nation and its people as well.
The tyrant and dictatorial rule of the megalomaniac Isayas is liquidating the strong motivation, hope and national aspiration of the Eritrean people that they had been harboring in their heart on the eve of the secession from Ethiopia. The people of Eritrea who have invested everything in their possession to the cause of their nation Eritrea are now bewildered by the turn of events in the post-independence period. Luckily, the recent defection of TPDM is heralding the looming end of Isayas’s regime.
Now, the day that they have been longing for to see has come to be a day burdened with myriads of curses. These curses had tarnished the dreams and visions they had been entertaining for the three decades when they were engaged in battleship for freedom.
The regime is disintegrating from within and the people of Eritrea are losing the inflated optimism they had been entertaining for so long. The regime has betrayed the people that have been unreservedly supporting, caressing, and cuddling from start to finish.
The nation that came into being two decades ago is doomed to see its death. Then, EPLF was a midwife for the nation that is choking to death now. The party itself is suffering from an avalanche of ideological and political crisis that has put the young nation into precarious situation that would eventually lead Eritrea to death.
The project designed to promote Eritrean nation-hood has failed. The “Eritreanization” effort has also ended up in farcical political tantrum. The hypocritical predisposition of the ruling elite has deceived not only the members of the party working with it, but also the general public and its sympathizers living around the globe. Gradually, people began to see the grim reality of their new nation.
Moreover, the political percepts and agendas that have shaped and characterized the ruling party have practically proved to be wrong. These deceptive political agendas and percepts are gradually dragging Eritrea to its morbid deathbed. The country has no constitution and entirely curtailed from any democratic exercises and institutions. It is completely inhospitable to any democratic values and thus demolished any modalities of active citizenry or political pluralism.
In short, presently Eritrea is politically less developed. Under such gloomy circumstances, Eritreans who wanted to instigate any change in the political life of their nation cannot hope for a peaceful or democratic transition of government but a revolution – only a revolution that some scholars referred to as “palace revolution.”
According to these scholars “palace revolution” is a revolution against a monarch or similar figure (or against the institution of monarchy) that is instigated by those close to the monarch, such as the higher nobility and officers of the court, and conducted within the precincts of the court, rather than in the towns or the country.
Nonetheless, taking into account Isayas’s massive security network that stretch its grips deep into each household and his tyrannical nature as well as his unquenchable power greed, some commentators suggest that “palace revolution” is a remote possibility in Eritrea. They argue that it is unthinkable to see “palace revolution” in Eritrea where we have a police state. In fact, Eritrea is a state in which political stability is dependent upon the security forces supervision of the ordinary citizen, and in which these forces are given arbitrary powers.
We also know that Eritrea has an extended security forces that operate secretly, with powers to detain for interrogation without charge, to search, to interrupt correspondence and to tap telephone calls, in general, to keep detailed records on citizens accused of no crime, in order to enforce measures designed to extinguish all opposition to the government and its institutions. In short, there is no rule of law in Eritrea. Under this circumstance the powers of the security force is not legally delimited. Thus, they enjoy large de facto powers. But, we must remember that TPDM (DMHIT) is claimed to be the dependable steward of Isayas that has been entrusted the task of protect him and regime. Fissure in the security force like TPDM would therefore endanger Isayas’s security and it may open up the venue for palace revolution.
The Eritrean government has been engaged in destabilizing business of its neighbors. Ethiopia has put longstanding ultimatum against the rogue state in Asmara and it has invoked its rights to protect its sovereignty based on international laws that entitles her to defend its national security from any aggression that may be perpetrated by any state in the world.
Accordingly, the Ethiopian government has been responding to the provocation and attacks of the Eritrean regime in equal magnitudes. Its longstanding ultimatum is “if the Eritrean government is waging war against it, it will take measure that would give no chance to launch any attack for the third times.” Thus, any further attack would invite the demise of Isayas’s government.
It is a public knowledge now that Ethiopia has made its position clearer as it declared that if the regime in Asmara attempt to encroach Ethiopia’s national security and interests, it would respond in rhyme. PM Hailemariam said, Ethiopia is now “… compelled to take an action against the State in Asmara unless it ceases its destabilizing activities and change its peace poisoning strategy.”
As the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi once said, “second round provocation of war from Eritrea will be responded in a manner that would not allow the Eritrean government to have a third chance. Therefore, any provocation of war from the Eritrean regime that endangers Ethiopia’s sovereignty will be paid back with harsh measure that does not allow the regime to have another chance for third round war.
Recently, PM Hailemariam Desalegn has declared his government’s position with the same seriousness when responding to the query of a local journalist who referred to the Eritrean government that shelter and sponsor anti-peace elements who wanted to bulldoze Ethiopia.
Though Ethiopia has no ulterior motive to encroach Eritrean independence, recently the Isayas’s government is accusing the Ethiopian government for contemplating to launch attack on Eritrea. But this is a hollow propaganda, skillfully designed to reawaken Eritrean nationalism and to give impetus to the failed project of Eritrean nationhood.
This newly devised propaganda campaign is simply meant to give a new life to the old hackneyed political tantrum.
The Eritrean regime is caught in trouble that it caused by misguided foreign policy. It has such a cantankerous characteristic that spoiled it relationships with all of its neighbors. Moreover, it is always suffering from externalizing its problems arising from its tyrannical, undemocratic and dictatorial governance.
In the usual fashion, the regime has recently alleged that Ethiopia is contemplating and preparing to instigate war on Eritrea. Isayas is playing a diversion tactics that would mystify the Eritrean people, thus garner support for his government and elongate his stay on power.
There has been debate on the wisdom, implication and meaning of Molla Asgedom’s decision to put arms and denounce violent means to attain the political goals that has driven him to engage the Ethiopia government in armed struggle.
As he has publicly declared he has made this decision after a thorough investigation of the objective reality of his country Ethiopia, and made change of opinion favoring peaceful political struggle than bringing remedy to perceived or real problems in Ethiopia’s fledgling democracy through war.
Molla said, “We have come to the decision to quit the armed struggle after an in-depth appreciation of the objective reality of the country and a through deliberation on matters that have previously pushed us to take arms. We have realized that many things have changed in the intervening time of between that day we went out to the field and now.”
This is a realization of the fact that many things have changed in political, social and economic arenas that have previously forced him to consider armed struggle as justified means to engage the Ethiopian government. Molla is heralding the end of the time when armed struggle is being seen as justified means to engage one’s political contenders.
Molla Asgdom’s decision to denounce armed struggle is a concrete prove to the attractive change in the political arena and the opening up of a new chapter in the political trajectory of Ethiopia.
Anyone who has the courage to appreciate honestly the objective conditions of the country would readily reach at the same conclusion that Molla and his comrades - in- arm had reached. It is starkly clear that has Ethiopia made, in the last two decades, appreciable the progress in all sectors progressively removing the objective conditions that have predisposed any grunted political group to choose violence as justified means to resolve differences and divergence in political ideology and opinion. In sharp contrast to the leadership in Asmara, the ruling party in Ethiopia has strived to put in place a democratic society by increasingly improving records of its human and democratic rights.
Thus, the situation in Ethiopia does not encourage a political party that uphold opposing political views and orientation to the ruling party take violence as legitimate means to resolve differences. Today, in Ethiopia, we have no objective conditions that would drag a group into an armed struggle. Therefore, we do not need to sacrifice our most precious lives to realize the political, social and economical aspirations we cherished.
The days have gone when political forces advocating diverging political agendas would be pushed to take up guns and run into bush. Ethiopia has a democratic system that would allow anyone to realize his political visions in peaceful manners.
The progressively consolidating democratic and constitutional system of Ethiopia has made violence an obsolete option that could only be endorsed by misguided political groups who lack the gut to operate in a democratic political system. However, I believe that it requires perceptive insight, solid conviction conjoined by courage to learn and admit one’s mistakes and accordingly correct one’s folly as Molla Asgedom did.
This was the reason why some commentators opted to designate Molla and comrades as hero. They displayed their heroic spirit by rebutting their political orientation and the unholy collaboration they had established with the regime in Asmara, whose longstanding aspiration has been nothing but destabilized our beloved country-Ethiopia.
Isaya’s government unswervingly bent on to realize its evil mission to see the dissolution of the new federal arrangement of Ethiopia. The ruling elite in Asmara are eager to see Ethiopian people devouring each other in bloody civil war. Thus, the regime leaves no stone unturned until it sees another Bagdad in the Horn of Africa.
When Molla and his comrades realized beyond any shadow of doubt that the Eritrean regime is unfailingly striving to realize its evil mission of seeing a demolished Ethiopia, they opt to dissociate themselves from the archenemy of their motherland- Ethiopia. This is absolutely a patriotic measure that could only be taken by conscientious citizens who adored their motherland and fellow citizens. This really demonstrates their commitment to peaceful engagement and their loyalty to democratic values. The lesson to be drawn from the decision taken by Molla and his comrades is that a political group must uphold the interest of a nation and its people over and above one’s own selfish political interests.
It also reaffirms the need to reassess ones political agendas in terms of objective conditions the political community in which one is operating. Political parties should reevaluate their political stands to remain relevant to the need and aspiration of the society they wish to represent. However, when a political party is detached from the objective reality of the society like “EPLF” they would fail to see the fact on the ground and thus stick to their obsolete political orientations up until to their deathbed.