Strategies to nullify Abiy’s agenda of subduing Tigrai
Ethiopia’s current trajectory is worrisome and appears to be entering unchartered territories that could tip it to Yugoslavia type political upheavals which culminated in the complete break-up of the East European Country. In January 1992, the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist having fractured into various independent states, and according to International Centre for Transitional Justice, the destructive war that spanned from 1991 until 1995 consumed the lives of 140,000 people.
In Ethiopia, the effect of an all-out strife will certainly be very much higher than Yugoslavia with death tolls likely to run into hundreds and thousands. The Gedeo-Oromo ethnic clashes alone caused the displacement of 820,000 people from their homes in Gedeo; and 150,000 from West Guiji zone of Oromia not long after the installation of Abiy Ahmed in April 2018 (Source: International Organisation for Migration). And the recent Oromo-Somali discords instigated by officials on both sides made it possible for over a million Oromos to be expelled from Jigjiga and its environs. The number of fatalities reported by independent bodies were significantly more than the official figures released by Abiy Ahmed, who is in the habit of misleading the populace by down-playing the severity and level of such calamities which occur in various parts of the country on daily basis.
Moreover, each region has its own special forces and if serious hostilities were to break-out, especially between Amhara and Tigrai, the outcome is certain to precipitate huge casualties in the vicinity and beyond. Our neighbours south of the border, who claim Raya and Wolkayit as theirs contrary to historically evidence, have been threatening to take Tigrian lands by force, and if this was to materialises, it would certainly end in a humiliating and comprehensive defeat. It helps to remind our neighbours and others that, Tigrai, the home of the brave, single-handedly defeated one of the largest armies in Africa, and if necessary, it still has what it takes to secure a resounding victory once again.
Other factors that could potentially cause serious discords and jeopardise the unison of Ethiopia included the circulations of illegal weapons throughout the country and the wanton and recurring torching of churches and mosques in Oromia and Amhara regions. Only two days ago, 4 mosques were burnt-down in Mota, Gojjam causing huge hostile demonstrations in various parts of the country by followers of Islam. There has been a mute response from the government, and no doubt, there will be a tit-for-tat retaliation giving the opportunity for the extremist Wahabian sect in Saudi Arabia to interfere and inflame the situation further.
A cocktail of ethnic conflicts, anarchy, and religious dissonances will sooner or later cause the powder keg to detonate taking the whole country with it. The presence of media which are devoid of broadcasting ethics are funning the tension by disseminating ethnic-spiked hate in the same way as Radio Mille of Rwanda did resulting in the death of a million Tutsis in 100 days. An article by the think-tank group, Foreign Policy, stated that Ethiopia is among the ‘’10 Conflicts to watch in 2020’’……. Afghanistan, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Libya, Kashmir, Venezuela and Ukraine have also been included on the list ( December 26, 2029).
Abiy Ahmed appears to be heightening the already explosive situation in the country by invariably undertaking illegal and unconstitutional measures. Only yesterday, Welayita became the 4th region to be placed under a military command, without going through the due process, because of its demand for the formation of a state in line with Article 47 Part 3 of FDRE constitution. PM Abiy has turned himself into a complete dictator where the army, cabinet, media and the rubber-stamping parliament have come under his full command. Article 87 part 5 of the constitution clearly states that ‘’ The armed forces shall carry out their functions free of partisanship to any political organisation(s).’’ But this is not the reality now.
Information from reliable sources indicate that the high echelon of the defence force has come under the influence of the newly minted Prosperity Party, and the Deputy Chief of Staff, General Berhanu Jula, is the officer tasked to carry out the indoctrination in contravention of the constitution. This transgression is likely to create a division between Abiy’s followers and the remaining members of the defence force who pledged their allegiance to the constitution. Leaving aside the potential for factional armed clashes, the other implications of the schism would mean that the defence force would not only be unable to guard the nation from foreign enemies, but it would also be hindered from executing its duties in internal emergencies.
But Abiy’s recent threats and unlawful act against Tigrai is a serious and perilous development and must be corrected immediately. If not, the continuity of the nation as we know it would certainly be in grave danger. Tigrai is on Abiy’s radar because the TPLF refused to be part of his brandy new Prosperity Party which stands for a presidential type of governance. This party came into being after dissolving the EPRDF which came into being following 17 years of armed struggle costing over 60,000 martyrs and 100,000 disabled combatants.
As a retaliatory measure, the treasonous PM prevented a pre-arranged and foreign office sanctioned meeting between Chinese officials and their counter-parts in Mekelle, Tigrai, by forcing the visitors to disembark from the Mekelle bound airplane that was manoeuvring to take off. Fortunately, the Deputy President of Tigrai, Dr Abraham Tekeste made his way to Addis where he met the delegation and secured an accord on tourism, education, investment and capacity building.
In October 2019, as part of Abiy’s vendetta against Tigrai, a delegation of 15 Ambassadors from Asia Pacific countries, who were on a visit to Mekelle, were also instructed to abort their stay and return to the capital. Abiy has now raised- the-ante and seems to be determined to continue with his agenda against Tigrai until he secures a submission from the TPLF. Of late, Abiy summoned Tigrian business men and told them that if the TPLF doesn’t change tack, he would bring Tigrai to its knees by authorising the disruptions of banking, telephone & electricity supplies, daily flights and blocking arteries including the road leading to Djibouti. EFFORT is likely to be the next target. So, what can the TPLF do to circumvent Abiy’s ultimatums?
TPLF could give-in to Abiy and join PP; the threat may be removed because of the climb-down but its political relevance in Tigrai will certainly come to an end. TPLF has time and again labelled the Prosperity Party as a unitarian outfit, and to join this party under duress, would be a betrayal of the valour Tigrians who fought for 17 years to build ae federal system that the nations, nationalities and peoples’ of Ethiopia have been enjoying since 1992.
To request a modification of PP’s political programmes and make it acceptable for the TPLF to join in without alienating its constituency.
To compel Abiy to back track by raising the stakes; this can be realised by coordinating federalist forces who are prepared to pay the price if necessary and challenge Abiy’s dictatorial rule head-on. Abiy believes that because he has the support of the US and Arab states, he is at liberty to do whatever he chooses including bullying, black-mailing, and use of brute force to get his way. It is in now high time for the exponents federalism especially the Oromo to strike an urgent alliance with others of similar persuasions and alleviate the country from the precarious positions she finds herself in. But most importantly, they should jointly prepare for the next general election and ensure the tyrant, who is threatening to rig the election, is comprehensively defeated. Winning the next general election would also be considered as a vote of confidence on federalism and the final rejection of chauvinist instigated Unitarianism.
Surely, the TPLF can’t just sit and wait whilst Abiy and the chauvinists contrive to destroy Tigrai; it is therefore, legitimate to retaliate in kind and reinforce its standing by forcing Abiy to the negotiating table. For a starter, invading parts of Amhara and remain in occupation until the resolution of the stand-off should be seriously considered. It is also justifiable to have sleeping cells in the capital that could be activated to strike at selected targets including Addis’s water reservoir in Legedadi. Federal army interference is possible, but this is likely to immerse the country in a morass from which it would not be able to disentangle herself. The situation could also be intensified by the involvement of Eritrea where the leader of the Red Sea state is on the record for saying that a weak and vulnerable Ethiopia is in Eritrea’s interest.
Article 39 can be invoked without resorting to the above options. This is an attractive proposition which seems to have received tremendous attention from Tigrians of all walks of life. For this option to have a realistic chance of success, the groundwork including economic transformation and immediate political liberalisation must be accomplished. The rule of law, accountability, good governance, political pluralism and intolerance to corruption and networking must be the norms. Short of this is likely to lead to a massive upheaval that could interrupt the peace and unity in Tigrai making it harder to consider secession in the immediate future. Moreover, territorial disputes with Eritrea and neighbouring Amhara region must also be resolved so that the peace and stability in Tigrai which are the prerequisites for economic development and political diversity can be maintained.
In the long run the best option for Tigrai is secession, but for now the TPLF and other political parties operating in Tigrai should aim for confederation where political power is vested in the sovereign regional states. Tigrai, with its rich and varied history is ahead of the rest; if it were to go it alone, it would be in a pole position to bring qualitative socio-economic transformation in a short time.