Congratulations TPLF for the soft-bravery!
Yohannes Aberra, PhD 11-29-19
I have clearly stated in one of my previous Aiga-Forum articles that TPLF is the name of the MISSION to deliver the people of Tigray from centuries of subjugation and lead them to a bright future as a peaceful and advanced Nation either as an autonomous part of Ethiopia or as an independent state, whichever becomes more feasible. TPLF membership and leadership is transitory; but TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) as a mission to bring about liberty for the people of Tigray is permanent. The mission also significantly includes the liberation of other people in Ethiopia from oppression. It is not like any political party which may have a particular goal to attain. TPLF is about entire people; and therefore, it is in the mathematical terminology a domain not a set. It is possible for some of the membership and leadership in the TPLF to be unfit to accomplish the mission due to corruption, bad governance, lack of administrative and managerial skills, and even lack of willingness to face the required hardships. Missionaries can fail, but mission must not. Hence, TPLF membership and leadership is obliged to refresh! The mission belongs to the people of Tigray not to the politicians. The leadership is only a tool-kit assigned to carry the mission forward.
The year 2019 has shown the whole world that the mission will never fail more than the 1991 victory did. The hard bravery and the resulting victory of 1991 was about steel and fire. The soft bravery and the resulting victory of 2019 was about the “war of the brains”. Comparatively speaking the hard component of TPLF’s struggle was much easier. It only required stony-hearts, planning, execution, readiness for sacrifice. Sometimes it required creativity at a time of surprise attacks. The soft component of the TPLF struggle, which started soon after the 1991 victory in the hardware arena, has been more lethal than the hard one. The soft campaign against TPLF does not have visible trenches; the front line is in all compass directions; the source of attack has been from within the TPLF, the EPRDF and from elsewhere. Fighting in an “invisible” battle front requires more determination and skill.
Initially, in 1991, most of TPLF membership and leadership felt that not only the battle but the war was also over. This was the greatest mistake TPLF membership and leadership committed in its entire existence. The victory of 1991 simply marked the shift from the hard front to the more complicated soft front. It was a historic blunder on the part of the TPLF to think that the largest army in Africa and its leadership, and the hundreds of thousands strong WPE has dissipated into thin air after the hardware victory of 1991. TPLF took control of the hardware component of the government of Ethiopia: the military, the security, and the economy. These could only help in controlling the Country, but not its people. TPLF membership and leadership put all their eggs in a single basket: the EPRDF. There was a lack of wisdom to realize that there were holes in the basket wide enough to let the eggs to pass through and shatter on the ground. TPLF membership and leadership either had put all their trust on their EPRDF allies as genuine friends, not as enemies buying time, or they believed that they could coerce them into submission, or both. Whichever, it was wrong given the historical experiences of Tigray in its association with rulers or politicians in the rest of Ethiopia (esp. the center). Many of the TPLF members and leaders and the media in their service were busy with storytelling about the 17 years of struggle and the sacrifices paid as if the war has ended, the mission completed, and everyone is back home in Addis Ababa and elsewhere.
In 1991 and afterwards, except for some groups who resorted to very weak armed struggle, the rest of the massive opposition was engaged in weakening the TPLF by persistent but invisible soft-weapons rather than take the “TPLF bull by its horns”. In the early years of TPLF/EPRDF rule some joked that TPLF did not control the Ministry of Culture (the audio, the video, the media). This is to indicate that TPLF has undermined the psychological war that can more effectively weaken its strong military and administrative position than any armed confrontation or violent demonstration. Most of TPLF members and leaders, along with their reluctant allies were honestly busy with the Ethiopian economy; while others were blindfolded by the riches they were amassing and were unaware of the direction from which the enemy was coming. In fact, the enemy was also drinking whisky on the same table posing as a trustworthy friend. The anti-TPLF front was manned by highly talented propagandists and scholars who could deliver a lion from a cow’s womb. The most formidable soft-power was being forged in the diaspora which constituted hundreds of thousands of disgruntled individuals and/or groups. They were well organized and strongly linked with the domestic opposition enabled by the democratic rights in the countries of their immigration. What made the soft-struggle bad is that it was not focused on the better democratization of Ethiopia, which is noble, but on the belief that Ethiopia is occupied by a “foreign force”. The entire call was not a call for democracy, but a call for patriotism. That is why the anti-TPLF front was not a single ideological force. The struggle against TPLF unified even bitter enemies because “freeing the homeland from invaders!” was given priority.
TPLF was inadvertently boosting the energy of its external enemies by behaving in a manner suitable for them (rampant rent-seeking and maladministration) to convince the people to stand against the TPLF. It was very easy to convince the people of Ethiopia that TPLF is doing what it is doing because it hates Ethiopia and want to destroy it. Few of the TPLF membership and leadership realized that some of their actions could be misperceived as anti-Ethiopian. It was of course a matter of brand. Derg did much more bad things than the TPLF may have done. However, Derg was excused as a “good Ethiopian” regardless. TPLF is already branded as anti-Ethiopian outsider from the outset. Nothing has changed in this regard since 1991 and before it. Every tiny bit of TPLF’s mistakes add up to that branding.
TPLF has also been working against its own existence by reinforcing the organizational stamina of its treacherous allies. While they were paying lip service to TPLF the latter trusted them much more than they did their own comrades in the TPLF leadership. Every time there is an in fight within the ranks of the TPLF leadership the other allied parties of TPLF have been serving as shelter and support for the purged or for the purgers. It was clear that TPLF has been showing its internal weakness in broad public providing a psychological boost to the opposition and its ambitious allies. TPLF who was providing shelter before, as a strong and experienced organization, was turned into a shelter seeker. This brightened the hope of the anti-TPLF front that it can remove the TPLF more easily. It is true, some TPLF members and leaders did not have the personal confidence enough to refute and challenge the accusations leveled against them on issues of corruption and maladministration. The self-inflicted vulnerability did not allow them to boldly defend themselves in public. Many mock them for quietly sneaking out to Mekele when not a so strong force faced them.
The year 2018-19 was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It is on this that I congratulate the TPLF. The era that ended was an era of digression for the TPLF from its mission which is enshrined in its founding document. The priority of the TPLF was/is liberating the people of Tigray from poverty and social and political oppression. Only a part of TPLF’s mission was devoted to support the rest of Ethiopia to liberate itself. Everything went wrong when TPLF wanted to be more Ethiopian than Ethiopians and put its primary mission behind its back. Psychologically detached from its own mass base in Tigray the most talented members of the TPLF leadership were head and feet immersed, without any second thoughts, in trying to boost the economy of Ethiopia. The entire edifice of what they were building in Ethiopia came down roaring after 27 years of hard work put into it. There was nothing like this in any part of the world where so much effort was cruelly dubbed as “dark ages” and those who toiled as “daylight-hyenas”. This is not surprising; it was expected and inevitable! It was only the TPLF that hid its head in the sand like the ostrich without caring to hear to what people were taking about it.
The new era that has ushered now is long overdue because it must have started in 1991. This is the determination to realize Mission No. 1 of the TPLF: primary focus on the people of Tigray! For this mission to be realized a strong TPLF that emerges from the ruins of the EPRDF is mandatory. This is what is happening now! In its 45 years of history TPLF has not shown as much bravery as it did now. As an organization that has the historic responsibility to accomplish the mission the existence and strength of the TPLF has no alternative. What was happening in the last two years, where every finger was pointed at the TPLF and the people of Tigray; all political machinations in the text books were put into action by the anti-TPLF front, which now included the former EPRDF allies; the entire media hounds were let loose to character assassinate TPLF leaders; and lastly the fake EPRDF merger was designed as the last bullet to kill the TPLF. Like Noah, TPLF survived the great flood and even got a political upper hand over its tormentors. TPLF effectively protected its people and even became a symbol of peace and stability in the Ethiopia in turmoil. What was planned for Tigray is happening in the rest of Ethiopia. This is known as the “boomerang effect”. The boomerang is a hunting weapon of the Australian Aborigines. It is not straight; it is curved. When they throw it to hunt birds it comes back whirling to the thrower if it misses its target. It could hit the thrower if it is not aware of its return. The hunter may think that it has hit the bird.
TPLF does not normally allow personality cult. I appreciate it for that; but I have to be excused for now to express my great admirations for Dr. Debretsion G/Michael and Ato Getachew Reda for embodying the spirit of resistance of the people of Tigray at this very critical juncture in the history of Tigray. I know very well that it is the great force of the rest of the leadership behind them that has been crucial for their success in this historic victory in the soft-war. No one imagined that Tigray/TPLF will remain standing tall in the midst of the storm that engulfed them. TPLF leadership is poised to set an example for others who are alienated and harassed in their own home countries. TPLF is now among its own people, much stronger and less vulnerable. It has lost the Federal positions but not it hair like Samson. No regrets; TPLF was not created for Ethiopia. It is now in its proper place with all freedom to serve the people who genuinely call it their own. Ethiopia is now “free” from its alleged destroyer: TPLF. We shall see whether it is going to fare better! If Ethiopia feels relieved by ejecting Tigraians from its various body parts, so would Tigraians. Love is paired; never single!