The Derg 2.0 CEO Tigrigna interview reminded me of a phrase from the Game of Thrones: “the North Remembers!” Tigreans remember what followed when Derg 2.0’s CEO spoke in Mekelle back in 2018. Tigreans also remember the threat against mothers and children he made few weeks ago. Tigreans do not suffer from the political amnesia that seems to have afflicted many these days.
The Tigrigna interview was a deliberate, though ill-advised, aim to attain two goals. First, Derg 2.0 wants everybody to forget the political assassination of Hachallu Hundessa, the repression that followed, and the Oromo protest across the globe. This diversionary tactic is intended to isolate the Oromo protest by putting the spotlight. Second, the Derg 2.0 CEO made a futile attempt to divide Tigrean leaders between “the peace-loving new generation” and “the war-mongering veterans”. One cannot help but wonder whether he was playing “good-cop, bad-cop” because, unlike his previous speech, the guy is not threatening Tigrean mothers but flattering them. This is a reminder of the fox story in Aesop’s fable. It goes like this:
A hungry fox was walking in the jungle and spotted a fresh pear fruit hanging on a tree. Before it could figure out a way to get it, a crow landed on the branch and plucks the fruit. So, the cunning fox started talking to the crow to prevent it from eating the fruit and snatch it. It said: “Oh! Mighty crow, how straight and shiny your beak is, can I get a closer look?” The unsuspecting crow was flatteredby the kind words and jumped to a closer branch to show its beak. The fox continued, “Oh! Wonderful crow, how beautiful are your feathers, can you come closer so I can see them better?” Again, the naïve crow jumped down to lower branch to show off its feathers. Then, the fox said: “Oh mighty crow, you are so elegant! I bet your voice matches your looks. Would you do me the honor of singing a song?” As soon as the crow opened its beak to sing, the pear fruit fell on the ground. The cunning fox picked up the pear fruit, devoured it, and left the foolish crow hanging on the tree.
The French summarize the moral of the fox-story by saying: “Celui qui vouscaresse plus que d'habitudevous a trompéouveut”. It means: “He who fondles you more than usual has either deceived you or wants to”. It seems Tigreans are facing a Tigrigna speaking fox these days.
Derg 2.0’s CEO wasted over an hour fondling the Tigrai people just like the fox coaxing in the story. He wasted his breath advising Tigreans to abandon the veteran fighters. He wants to destroy Tigrai’s leadership capital. The armed struggle for self-determination, the political struggle for federal order, the economic struggle for renaissance, and the social struggle for cultural flourishing has cost Tigrai countless lives and limbs. Tigrai earned competent leaders in multiple fronts as a byproduct. Veteran TPLF leaders of Tigrai survived martyrdom, severe physical disability, psychological trauma, and social ostracization one suffers if she/he stands up for Tigrai. Tigreans remember their martyrs and pay tribute to their disabled. Other powerful nations do the same thing and more. Powerful nations across the world venerate their veterans. They take care of their veterans.
Meles once said “tikunetat mistefetre ayatakum keytitelmu!” He asked the youth to be loyal for those who sacrifice their lives and limbs at their behest. But there is more. Powerful nations do not take care of their veterans out of mere loyalty. Powerful nations take care of their veterans for their own sake. Veterans are the key to building institutions. They provide institutional memory. Veterans set the norms, procedures, and methods of organizations. Gathering people/petitions and inaugurating political parties takes few weeks. Surviving in a hostile political environment like Ethiopia for decades takes an institution. Veterans are the microchip of institutions.
Veterans also set leadership standard. Leadership is not a science but an art. As we see nowadays, earning an MA in “transformational leadership” does not make one a leader. Experience forges great leaders. The more experience, the better. Why is it that we see leaders of powerful nations travelling across the seas to visit veteran leaders? Why did they travel to visit Kissinger, General Giap, Lee KuanYeew, Mandela, and others? It is because they want to learn not only from their native veterans but also from veterans across the world. We see Derg 2.0 leaders frequently travelling to Asmara. We all know Asmara’s population and economy is no match to Ethiopia. Derg 2.0’s leader shuttles to Asmara to solicit advice from the veteran dictators in Eritrea. The irony is he wants Tigrai to abadon its veterans while he keeps his Shabia and Derg 1.0 mentors.
The arduous struggle against Derg 1.0, assimilationists, and poverty created Tigreans worthy of the name “veterans”. These veterans have accumulated wisdom that could help young Tigreans, Ethiopians, Africans, and the world. We all know what these veterans have achieved. We also know what they are capable of. Yet, these veterans initiated and underwent through democratic succession process while their counterparts continue to hold a tight grip on power for decades to date.
Many world leaders, especially those in Africa, are in similar age group with Tigrean veterans. Trump, Putin, Modi, Merkel, Kagame, Museveni, Issaias, etc. are not younger than the TPLF veterans. Even in Ethiopia, the leaders of trendy political leaders like EZEMA, OLF, OFC are in the same age group as Tigrai’s veteran leaders. One will be hard pressed to imagine the Derg 2.0 CEO giving up power to a young generation if he lasts that long. TPLF veterans are not only democratic but also a bunch of high achievers. Their track record says it all. It would not be fair to demonstrate this fact by comparing TPLF veterans with angels because it is foolish to expect perfection from human beings. It is also unfair to compare TPLF veterans with senile politicians who refused to give up political and/or organizational power until their last breath. The only “veterans” are those working for the Derg 2.0 camp.
Let us compare Tigrai’s veterans with Derg 2.0’s veterans for a moment. The military veterans of Derg 2.0 such as Kassaye Chemeda are registered TPLF prisoners of war. The political advisors of Derg 2.0 such as Kassa Kebede are certified TPLF fugitives. The propaganda consultants of Derg 2.0 such as Nigussu Tilahun are self-proclaimed TPLF lackeys. The foreign affairs consultants of Derg 2.0 such as Isaias Afewerki (now serving as Derg 2.0’s special envoy) says TPLF outcasted them in the diplomatic arena for decades. No one can blame Derg 2.0 CEO for lacking confidence in his veterans because these folks are experts in failing, not winning. Their track record is embarrassing. So, the only channel left for him is to consolidate his grip on power is targeting and destroying Tigrai’s veterans! How? Through cunning- just like the serpent at the Garden of Eden. When Eve told the serpent that God cautioned her never to eat the tree of knowledge, the serpent replied:
You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When [Eve] saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took and ate it. She also gave them to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:1-7).
Derg 2.0 is coaxing Tigreans to disgrace their elders just like the serpent advised Eve to abandon God’s instruction at the Garden of Eden. This guy had the audacity to praise the intellectual acumen, moral integrity, and overall virtue of the young generation. He then contradicted them with what he dubbed as “intellectually backward, morally corrupt, and generally wicked clique of veteran fighters”.
In simple terms, Derg 2.0 CEO is begging Tigreans to commit a political patricide. His plea is an aftermath of his threat. He is applying the “good-cop, bad-cop” on Tigrai. This guy knows the veterans on his side have suffered military, political, economic, and diplomatic defeat at the hands of TPLF veterans. He knows he cannot rely on his veterans for advice. He also knows his 45-month-old organization cannot match the 45-year-old TPLF. So, he wants Tigreans to destroy the political capital and institutional memory they built over the last five decades to level off the playing field. It is not out of loyalty that Tigreans take care of their veterans but out of necessity. Tigreans take care of their veterans to heed their council, inherit their strengths, and learn from their failures. They take care of them because they add value for Tigrai. As far as the flattery goes, Tigreans already know the fox licks before it bites. Tigreans already heard the fox speak Tigrigna in Mekelle two years ago and witnessed what followed. The North Remembers!
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