“Wag the dog” coming to the Amhara Region.
Haile Tessema, March 02, 2019
First the definition of the term “wag the dog” that derives from the phrase “the tail wags the dog, which can be seen when a dog begins to wag its tail, and its body then follows”.
When it comes to politics, “An unpopular party would wag the dog using a variety of provocative political maneuverings aimed to deliberately divert attention”.
On that note, a film with the title “Wag the dog” – starring two of Hollywood's veteran actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro – was produced in 1997. The screenplay was about “a spin doctor and a Hollywood producer who fabricate a war in Albania with the intention of distracting American voters from a presidential sex scandal shortly before an election”.
Unfortunately, it’s not the fictional film that is making its way to the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, but rather the real one. Sure enough, politicians and their cheerleaders are unwisely and recklessly wagging the dog to shift the attention of their people who are set to cast their votes in a general election scheduled for next year.
Meanwhile, there are grave political and socioeconomic problems confronting the Amhara Region, and leaders have been unable to tackle. Among them:
a) It’s like there are two governments: The ruling party ADP, formerly ANDM, and an unelected extremist opposition party with no parliamentary seat, NAMA, that has undue political influence in the region.
As a result, the ruling party – which lacks a political vision and is in severe short supply of capable, courageous leaders – has been caving in to the extremist party’s political aspirations and demands. Subsequently, the region has fallen into the hands of two formal and informal masters in the same house.
b) Owing to a growing gun culture in the region and the government’s unwillingness or inability to implement gun control, there are too many armed civilians, hence law and order is in disarray; peace and security has become elusive.
So, much so that even family get together and public gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, are becoming like warzones where grooms, brides and mourners are at the risk of being wounded and dying from gunshots.
c) A crime of robbery and murder has hit the roof.
d) While an economic slowdown is witnessed countrywide, the economy in the Amhara Region has been on a standstill for some time. This, in part, is related to the adverse impacts of the lack of peace and security in the region.
The Amhara Region is blessed with tourist attraction sites in Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile area as well as historic sites such as Lalibela and Gonder. However, due to the absence of peace and security, tourists have been avoiding the region.
The closure of the Addis Ababa–Mekelle highway route – that crosses through the Amhara Region – is the other culprit. This has been a busy highway for hotels and restaurants to provide their services and retailers to sell products to travelers by bus, individual car drivers as well as truckers. Sadly, politics and ethnic hatred giving way to economic benefits and prosperity, this has been thoughtlessly halted.
e) Related to the above economic realities, unemployment in the region is rampant. This makes it very difficult for political leaders – especially when the unemployed people they have to deal with, particularly in small towns and the country side – are armed to the teeth.
Nonetheless, instead of putting all their efforts and resources into dealing with and casting out their own political and socioeconomic demons, politicians and elites see blame-shifting and demonizing a perceived "ethnic enemy other” as their best bet to get out of the quagmire they find themselves in.
Political leaders in the Amhara Region have indeed tried everything in their power to incite retaliation from Tigrai. Innocent Tegaru who lived in the Amhara Region have been persecuted; physically attacked; their houses and businesses burned; forced to leave the Amhara Region for their native Tigrai or flee to the Sudan or, worse, brutally get killed including by mob stoning. Food cereals and livestock shipments that were destined for Tigrai have been looted in Amhara border towns, etc.
In all these, neither the government nor the people of Tigrai took a retaliatory action choosing, instead, extreme restraint. And this non-violent approach is apparently not appreciated by Amhara political leaders and elites who desperately want a heightened conflict that would lead to war, and that they hope would divert their above discussed political and socioeconomic problems.
Not surprisingly, Amhara politicians are now turning to “wag the dog” as their last resort, i.e. beating a war drum, and making the false claim that Tigrai is preparing to invade their region. However, while they may be able to fool some in their own region, the people of Ethiopia in general, the politically informed in Africa and the world know or ought to know that Tigrai has no any reason to wage war on Amhara.
To that end, the government and the people of Tigrai’s unequivocal position has been, if the Amhara Regional Govt. or any other invading force comes to their border, they will deal with the aggressor in a way they know how. But Tigrai surely won’t fire the first bullet unless it’s provoked, and it most certainly will never invade anyone's land.