Yohannes Aberra, PhD 12-30-19
I read Baitona’s reaction to some unnecessarily provocative statement made by what Baitona suspected to be a significant personality. Before I go any further on the subject at hand I would like to say a few words about writing anonymously. Anyone is entitled to write with a pen name; but there are limits that cannot be crossed without doing harm. At least on matters pertaining to the current affairs of Tigray, which badly needs open and bold encounters, hiding behind pen names is nothing less than a criminal act on the people of Tigray. Who are the writers with pen names hiding from? From an enemy which is advancing without covering its face? Writing is the least we can do for Tigray, keeping in mind that thousands have given it their precious lives and limbs.
I was impressed by the way the reaction article was articulated by Baitona, which gave me some hope of continuity of leadership in Tigray which could protect and maintain the hard won status quo of peace and self-rule. Baitona was accused for being a “TPLF clone created to destroy Arena Tigray Party”. A few days ago I read Ato Gebru Asrat’s interview with Addis Zemen (Mereja.com), which did not specifically mention Baitona, but was a worse blanket accusation levelled against all opposition parties in Tigray, as strategic offsprings of TPLF, sparing Arena and TAND (Changed its name to TDP to fit into the ADP and ODP row). Although break-neck competitions between political parties are characteristic to election politics world wide, it is suicidal in Tigray as far as the current situation in the state is concerned. Ideological differences between parties are a normal part of democratic life. However, all parties in a political jurisdiction cannot be allowed to compromise the basic tents on which the existence and continuity of a nation is based.
Even assuming that Baitona is a political handicraft of the TPLF what matters, above everything else, is not how it came into existence but what it stands for! Baitona claims to be a Tigray nationalist. I can only pray that it is genuinely so. This is what Tigray needs at this critical juncture in its history. Tigray’s nationalism has never been an aggressive nationalism; it has been and will continue to be a defensive nationalism. The nationalism in Tigray recognizes and supports by any means the positive nationalism of others and fights against any form of hegemonic nationalism from any source and direction. Isn’t this a noble cause loved and approved even by God Himself? We never know what is going to happen in the next century. Because of globalization Tigray may be integrated into African nationalism, even into a global one. Tigray nationalism may go down as being simple tribalism or clannism. What we are talking about is what we need to do now to shape the foreseeable future.
TPLF has to be applauded if it is making such an effort to perpetuate what I prefer to dub as “woyanism” (a unique form of nationalism in Tigray) in the young generation of Tigray. Whatever good thing TPLF does should not be disapproved as self-serving simply because it is the TPLF (blindly hated by many) which is doing it. Demonizing the TPLF, as if the bulk of the membership living and martyred are not good people, is an evil-intentioned campaign to render Tigray leaderless and unprotected. Hasty generalization, based on a relatively small proportion of cases of corruption and dangerous amnesia of what TPLF stood and fought for, is totally unfair. Tigraians involved in this are committing acts of treason whether they know it or not. Political ambitions may be tolerated and even approved; but killing a nation as a means to that end cannot be excused.
The reason why Tigray nationalism is a way out of the current crisis is because, unfortunately, it has become the rule of the game in Ethiopia. Nationalism is adopted in Tigray not as a luxury but as a necessity. As members of the human species no one is created to be exclusionist of fellow members of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Since the day of the murder of Abel by Cain, the following generations of humans have learned to defend themselves from the aggression of their fellows. Unfortunately, Abel did not know that he had to be prepared to defend himself against his own brother. Trust got him killed! Some Tigraian politicians, who have a lot of work to do to ground their politics on stark everyday realities in Ethiopia vis-à-vis Tigray, have busied themselves with taking the “right side” and accusing Tigray nationalism as anti Ethiopian. It was the dream of everyone of us that we live in Ethiopia accepted and respected as Tigraians. Unfortunately, this dream has turned into a nightmare for over a century and is most likely to continue long into the future. Tigraians are forced to be nationalistic by circumstances that are not their own making. The late president of USA John F. Kennedy was a marine during WWII. He swam ashore to safety when his boat was attacked. During the ceremony for his decoration as an American war hero he told journalists the reason why he became a hero. He said “I was forced to become a hero because they sunk my boat”.
For the entire century, beginning from Yohannes IV and Alula to Meles Zenawi and many other honest and hardworking Tigraians and members of the TPLF, working diligently for Ethiopia and the central government is least recognized and praised. I don’t mean an Ethiopian should expect to be praised for working for his own country. However, if others are recognized and praised for something less it becomes a waste of time to go to greater distances than the expected share of duty for Tigraians as citizens (until even that is also lost). We know, in spite of the persistent campaign to discredit what TPLF and Tigraians have done for Ethiopia by canvasing it in real and fabricated bad deeds, many TPLF members and Tigraians have continued to serve in senior and junior Federal government positions. This was not out of “kindness” of the chief executive but technically TPLF is elected to the Federal Government until the June 2020 elections. It still has the right to retain its “six-percent share” regardless of the noise: “Weed all of them out!”. Those who stayed in the Federal positions after the TPLF ouster like the affable general Seare lost his life under unknown circumstances and another (W/o Fetlework) is losing he name in public. The ESAT chatterboxes repeatedly pointed their fingers at those Tigraians in Federal positions as “enemies behind the lines” and urged the central government to get rid of them all.
Last week one of them almost lost his breath with anger about the “double” role he alleged W/O Fetlework is playing, “abusing” her ministerial portfolio. He said the following without any fear of the law which protects any citizen before being proven guilty by due process: “Fetlework is working with the government during the day and conspiring with the TPLF in the night”. By the way, W/O Fetlework is known for her uprightness and sense of purpose. Those who are attacking her know very well that they are hitting at the belly of the TPLF/Tigray. They don’t do this to all others. They are selective to where it hurts most. This is indicative of the fact that Tigraians are the “unwanted birth” of Ethiopia under all circumstances. Ethiopians outside Tigray have over 100 parties and over a thousand differences. Theonly consensus they have is their blind hate for TPLF-Tigray.
In this regard what Baitona stands for is appropriate and timely. Baitona seems to have taken the accusation levelled against it, as carved after the image of TPLF, very seriously. In its reaction statement it went into great details to prove that there are only a few former TPLF members in Baitona and the majority are novice to politics. It is fine for the young and politically unexperienced generation to participate in the political life of Tigray. The TPLF monopoly of the political-sphere has to reduce significantly to make way for them. However, using this to defend Baitona against the accusation that it is dominated by former TPLF membership is unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with Baitona accepting even all of the TPLF members into its ranks as long as they think they can serve the people of Tigray much better within Baitona than within TPLF. The Arena and TDP leaders, who are throwing stones first while living in glass houses, themselves were former TPLF members and leadersWho is judging who? Is TPLF good when one is in it and wrong when one leaves it? The aged TPLF, Arena, and TDP leaders must coach the young generation of politicians in Tigray like Baitona rather than tenaciously adhering to gerontocracy. The future of Tigray unquestionably belongs to the young generation of politicians. The old generation of Tigray politicians have to be altruistic to ensure what they have toiled for is turned into reality by the following generation of Tigray.