Tigray - which way forward? – Call for a Special Commission
Haile Yibrah 05-04-20
Lately, the discussion on whether Tigray should separate from or remain within the Ethiopian state has been raging in the media by academics, social media activists, and concerned individuals. Recent articles in Aiga Forum indicate that people are being concerned by the issue. The question is not new, but the political dynamics in Ethiopia and the attitudes of other Ethiopians towards Tigray and Tigrians are prompting the issue forward. Knowledge and facts based discussion is usefull and healthy to make informed decision. Unfortunately the discussions lack focus. In stead of dicussing using reasonable arguments and facts some are using scare tactics in their discourse for or against. Some oversimplify the issue. Most of them are based on emotional feelings and sentiments rather than on facts (eg. ’’ we were great once and we shall rise again if we form our own independent state’’, ´´Tigray does not need Ethiopia´´ or ´´Tigray is Ethiopia and it can not seperetate from itself’’, ’’Tigray cannot stand on its own economically´´, etc. etc.). The intension of this contribution is to streamline the debate and create consensus around the matter and not to respond to the articles on AigaForum. I have my own views on this issue, but will reserve them for the future. I beg the reader petience if I repeat what is known to make my point more clear.
I have the view that the discussion need to focus on why Tigray should leave or remain in the empire (assuming the federation is not working) based on the needs and interests of the people of Tigray, i.e. political interests and economic well-being of the Tigray people. If our glorious history or our staying within the Ethiopia state of today do not contribute to our final goal, i.e. our fight against poverty and to improving the well-being of the people of Tigray, then they are of less value. We neither want to live in the past nor de we want to live in the present status quo. All actions we take today should lead to a better future for us and the next generation. So, the starting point/ ground should be What the TPLF did or not in the past is irrelevant here and shouldn’t be used to confuse people. The issue is more than that. It is about the future of the young and coming generation Tigrians.
Before talking about the issue of leaving or staying in the Ethiopian formation, we should evaluate what has been achieved during the past 30 years and what is remaining in contrast to the aim of the Tigrian movement/the Second Weyane and how best and by what means we can achieve our aspirations, dreams and economic development. As a result of the struggle Tigray has got rid of the national and cultural opression. Tigrians have regaind their national pride and human degnity (at least untill 5 years ago). Some kind of economic and infrastructure development have been initiated. What has been achieved so far is appreciated, but it is not enough. Tigray is not out of the woods yet. Full democracy has not been achieved to a satisfactory level. The issue of good governaance is still a big problem. Almost 30% of the people of Tigray live sill under extistens minimum. Any people which can’t guarantee food security can not claim to be free.
The overiding question for Tigrians today is reducing poverty to acceptable level. If we don’t achieve this we shall never be respected no matter what glorious history or superior culture we have. We can be enfluencial and repected once again only when we stand on our feet politically, economically and militarily. So the main direction of the debate should be how do we achieve our goals, i.e. within the Ethiopian context or by seperating and forming our independent state?
In order to answer to this question the first thing to be done is to evaluate the current situation of Ethiopia in relation to Tigrians and our need for economic development. How does the situation on the ground look? How does it affect the overall development in Tigray?
Present situation regarding Tigrians and Tigray
Tigrians are considered accomplice to all crimes committed under the EPRDF regime by association. Tigrians in many parts of Ethiopia have been harrased and forced to leave their homes and fortunes behind and displaced for the last five years. Genoside has been declared on Tigrians. Many have lost their lives. Thousands of Tigrians live like refuges in their own region as a result of the displacement from other regions. Many Tigrian business people in the capital and else where in other parts of Ethiopia live in fear for their businesses and their life.
Hundreds of Tigrian officialls are laguishing in prisons with out trials simply because they are Tigrians. To the contrary Oromo and Amara officialls suspected of the same crimes are promoted to higher offices in the state apparatus as if they never were part of the system. Allmost all Tigrians in higher public/federal offices and the Addis Ababa minicipality have been removed with out any reason simply because they happend to be members or sympatisers of the TPLF. The military and the security offices have been cleansed from Tigrians. Higher positions in the army, security, federal police , the judciary and others are staffed with trustees from the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups. This doesn’t mean that there are not individual loyal tigrians with the new comers.
Today the TPLF is relagated to Tigray. They have lost any influence what so ever they had on federal affairs. Tigrian parlamentarians are made redundant. This has been proved with out reasonable doubt during the past two years. Their presence in the house of representatives is only symbolic. The Ethiopian parlament is controlled by supporters of the forces of doom and gloom and it has frequently been used by the incumbent to pass illegal decisions. Politically Tigrians and Tigray have systematically been made to be irrelevant in Ethiopian politics. Almost all ethiopian main stream and social medias and almost all Ethiopian elites (minust Tigrian elites of course) have built a united front in spreading maliciouslies and venomous propaganda against the Tigrians in general and the TPLF in particular. They are still bussy demonising the TPLF, even after it has left the government because they still fear it will come back. They still use it as scapegoat for their falures. They are restlessly trying to create holes in order to create rifts between the TPLF and the people. They are reminding us day and night to accept that we are minority in the Ethiopian landscape and the time when Tigray could have any enfluence on the situation in Ethiopia is over. This means we should kindly accept that our destiny is in their hands, that it is only with their permission we can move and work within Ethiopia. The blocking of national/federal roads to Tigray, which pass through the Amhara region, the reduction of av budget, the effort to disturb the visit to Tigray of some South East Asian ambasaders and the hindrance of the Chines investers from travel to Tigray are all examples which tell us that there is another sheriff in the town. By doing so they are indirectly denying our rights as Ethiopian citzens, which is tantamount to declaring war. In todays Ethiopia Tigrians are not accepted as equal partners.
Practically speaking, Tigrians are at square one again like at the end of the emperial regime or the start of the Tigrian movement, even if we are economically and socially better off today. Tigray and Tigrians are today isolated more than ever. What is surprising is even all those nations and nationalities, who have been gained their human degnity and political as a result of sacrifices Tigrians paid have betrayed us because of their blind hate towards Tigrians and allied themselves with the monster. Today it is clear more than ever that we have no one to count on for our survival and development other than ourselves. This is the bitter reality we should have to grasp. At the same time Tigrians of all walks have shown our resolve to defend our region and ourselves irrespective of our diffrences against all odds.
The current situation in the country
The political dynamics in Ethiopia is changing fast. To start with, the party in power is illegal and controlled by one man. It was hasitating to conduct elections and as a blessing in desguise for it the COVID19 pandemic arrived on time for it. As a reslult an emergency, with their survival in mind has been declared for 5 months and the election is postponded indefinately. The TPLF and some Oromo parties want the elction to be conducted on time. However all indications are that the people in the Prosperity Party are desparetly trying to find loopeholes in the constitution (as if they have ben respecting it) to prolong thier stay in power. In fact they have already decided to stay in power indefinately by hook or crook, even by changing or completely dicarding the constitution if necessary. The Prime Minister’s meeting with some party representatives and digruntled individualls to a discuss on possible way out of the deadlock was just playing public gyymick. What if they decide to fundamentally change the constitution to suit them? They can do it using the rubber parliament. What if the TPLF conducts election in Tigray with out the recognition of the Election Board? What will be the response of the central government. All these is in addition to the already straind relation between the Tigray regional overnment and the federal one. In short constitutional crisis is becoming a fact. It seems onfrontation is inevitable. What will be the consequences?
How do we get out from this mess? What is to be done?
It is against this background we, Tigrians should discuss about our future. Whether we like it or not the time to make our choices is approaching faster than we imagine because of the fast changing circumstances in Ethiopia. We need to be prepared for any eventualities. Many people don’t know which way to go. The decision to be made will not be easy. In any case to make informed decision let us look at what options we have:
The options we have infront of us are three: 1) accept the status quo (zero alternative in environment assessment language), which means submission 2) negotiate a separate patrnership deal (special status) if possible (let the other nations and nationalities think for themselves). This demands that we identify our needs and priorites carefully 3) cessation, i.e declaring independence.
This issue is too important to be ignored or be left to some parties and social media activists. It concerns all Tigrians. Therefore, it is imperative that a proper environment is created for the people to make well informed decision. The pros and cons of the above indicated alternative options should be studied/anlysed using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis principle. This demands a Special Commision, composed of all stake holders (farmers, workers, proffessional and civic associations, politicians, academicians, parties etc. etc.). The regional administration has the responsibilty of facilitating the establishment of such a commission. The Global Society of Tigrian scholars (GSTS) may be asssigned to conduct the study.
The mission of the Comission would be to present a best alternative option after doing comprehensive and exhaustive study, taking in to account the political, social, economical, security and legal aspects and our relations with regions and countries around us. Then open discussion should be conducted at different levels. The last stage will be be conducting referendum. The result of the referendum should be respected by all. That is how we shall overcome the present predicaments and I am certain we can overcome the challenges and build Tigray on stable foundation.