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OPEN LETTER Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael




Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael

Regional President of Tigrai

Members of the Regional Cabinet

And former High-Ranking Officials of TPLF



Asegedech Mekonnen                      MARCH 18, 2019


Dear Dr.Debretsion;


As a way of introduction, I would like to convey my sincere appreciation for the mature, principled, and strategic leadership role you are playing in Tigray in particular and in Ethiopia in general.  Those vast majorities of Ethiopians who have benefitted from self-rule are within your circle of influence.  When push comes to shove the only shelter for them is the federal system and the constitution.


In this writing I would like to convey few pertinent messages in regard to the current situation in Tigrai, Ethiopia, and possible remedies that may help us propel forward in solving our perceived and concretely observable problems.


From the outset I would like you to know that, I have never been a member of your party.  My support and criticism have been based on the programs you undertook to advance the interest of Ethiopia.  And in main my assessment has been positive until 4 or 5 years ago.

Let me now return to the issues I would like you to reflect upon and subsequently consider their relevance in tackling some of the major problems of the country.


Mainly I would like to raise issue on the following points:

·         The role of former TPLF officials

·         Opposition parties in Tigrai

·         The role of former TPLF leaders who were thrown out of the party years back, and

·         Mending the Amhara- Tigray rift


1.     The Role of Former TPLF Officials

Those who went through the arduous military struggle and who are still alive have paid huge sacrifices in creating the current Ethiopian Republic.  Their contribution is remarkable.  They have been instrumental in establishing and carrying the concept of developmental state which has enormously contributed to the economic, social and general structural changes which is an envy of many countries in the world. Hence, the country is eternally grateful to these men and women.


However, in the process they have also substantially contributed in creating the explosive political atmosphere of the country. Corruption and maladministration have been rampant in the country.  This, coupled with unchallenged hate campaign against Tigray, has contributed in putting the country at crossroads.


I lack the facts and figures to accuse formers leaders of corruption.  In fact, I am of the opinion that the former leaders are largely free of any major corrupt dealings.  However, I can reasonably conclude that these leaders have failed to protect Tigrians by not challenging the many lies that perpetuate the thinking that Tigrians have been the sole beneficiaries of the system. In politics perception is a reality.  That perception has now become the unchallenged ‘truth’ in defining the source of the Ethiopian problems.


Of course, I am not in a position to dwell on this point and make relevant analysis on the subject.  Rather, my aim is to suggest that that former officials remove themselves from active politics and engage in teaching, research and writing as their interests dictate.


Why? Because their departure from active politics will help:

o   Relive the pressure on Tigrians from the hate mongers.  Their targets will be out of reach,

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o   Give the young members of the TPLF leadership to act independently and sharpen their leadership skills.

o   Give Debretsion the chance to extend his leadership skills on the Ethiopian stage.  He is a genuine and transparent leader who deserves all the support from all corners

o   Pave the way for other opposition parties in Tigray to promote their programs freely and openly.


2.     Opposition Parties in Tigray.

Recently I have been watching and observing young members of Tigray opposition party (Arena) in Ethiopian TV programs articulating the interest of Tigray, defending the constitution, exposing the hate promoted by many groups and criticizing the actions of the current Federal government.  I was impressed by their articulation and their civil conduct in the face of aggressive and sometimes rude discussants. 


I hear repeatedly that members of opposition parties are still in prison in Tigray.  If this is true then it is incumbent upon the government of Tigray to release these political prisoners without delay.  If it is unfounded, then the ruling party or the government has the duty to meet with opposition parties and come to a common understanding.  It is my hope that the government will do the right thing on this regard.


Retired members of the party should refrain from indirectly intimidating other parties.  I was not impressed by the recent interview of Ato Sebhat Nega regarding some opposition party leaders in Tigray. One is no more Tigrian than the other and accusing others as agents of the enemy is un-called for. 


3.     The role of former TPLF leaders who left the party years back


It was refreshing to see former TPLF leadership members in the same platform in Meqelle with the current ones thanks to the diligent work of the Tigray Business Association.


I have been following statement and interviews by some of the former leaders.  They have been constructive and instructive.  Tsadqan comes to mind immediately!


This should not be a one-time event.  The Tigray government and local associations must keep up the momentum and devise different means to engage these former leaders.  Those who would like to pursue their political struggle should be given the access to do so.  At the end of the day the final arbiter of power is the people of Tigray.


Former leaders have the means, the legitimacy and the ability to defend Tigray’s interest while at the same time criticizing the ruling party as they see fit.  Tigray at this particular juncture needs a collective effort of all of its residents.


It is my considered opinion that if there is to be democratic governance and a democratic election to be established in Ethiopia, Tigray will be its birth place.  Why? Because the people of Tigray (as has been demonstrated to date) are peaceful, respect the rule of law, and know their rights.  The prerequisites for democratic governance and peaceful elections are stronger in Tigray than any other region in Ethiopia that I am aware of.


This will also be one way how TPLF can demonstrate to the whole of Ethiopia that it has always been committed, despite some obstacles, to the rule of law and democracy (I prefer to call it fair governance).


·         Mending the Amhara- Tigray rift

It is unfortunate that we speak about the Tigray- Amhara rift at this time in our history.  The Amhara elite who have from the beginning interpreted the struggle against national oppression to mean a struggle against the Amhara people have been always at the sideline.  For the past forty years (since 1974) these folks have been sowing the seeds of hate against mainly Tigrians. 


To make things short, the TPLF/EPRDF leadership is to blame (at least partially) for this crisis.  Why? Because the leadership, as it failed to foil the hate propaganda against Tigrians, it did nothing to alleviate the fear of the Amhara elite and incorporating them meaningfully to the ruling party and re-assuring them that the struggle was against the system and not against any nationality/ nation.


Failure to do this has galvanized all hate mongers and Derg functionaries to the fore front and hijacked the Amhara Region leadership to its fold.


Raya -Rayuma and Wolqite are just a pretext for Derg functionaries and extreme nationalists to dismantle the Federal system.  It does not take a genius to acknowledge that these two people and others in Ethiopia intermingle and speak at least two languages at ‘border’ areas.  The solution is not to microscopically identify who is who but to create an administrative system that is acceptable to the residents.


I believe that it is incumbent upon the Tigrian elite to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Amhara elite and reach upon a principled agreement on the subject.  The fact is the people of Tigray and Amhara have been living side by side for centuries that there is no force that can separate them in the future.  This fact must be asserted at every opportune moment.



On Other Subjects


I state the following points without trying to justify them. From the observations I have made for the last several years, the concept of Federalism is misunderstood even at the highest level of leadership. This is a big problem by itself.  The leadership elite needs to revamp its understanding of Federalism.


The Ethiopian current situation is in a fluid state.  Some parties are revising their short-term tactics and trying to form new alliances.  One thing about TPLF that I have observed in the last year is its non-compromising stand on principles and long-term strategies.  It has to examine any talk of new alliances in terms consolidating the federal system.


In my opinion the Tigray government should also follow the previous proven economic policy that has been successful so far.  Other regions may pursue their preferred American prescribed policies.  It will be a big mistake for Tigray to deviate from established policies.


True there are areas that need a special attention in the economic area.  Wealth distribution is one thing.  The Tigrai state must also be very attentive in that the non-productive sector (mercantile based) consumption based sector must be discouraged.  A very serious thought should be given to local farmers when they lose their land to big investors and town/ city expansions.  An utmost priority should be given to local farmers so that their interest is permanently protected.

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