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Commentary on ‘Tigray separation: is the agenda a monopoly of a single generation?’

Commentary on ‘Tigray separation: is the agenda a monopoly of a single generation?’


Dawit Abay



I have been a reader at aigaforum for years. In the past months, I have read articles by Yohannes Abera (PhD) on various issues. They were often measured and constructive.

This is not an ‘answer’ to the article but  just a commentary by a reader on the article published on April 27, 20202 as "Tigray separation : is the agenda a monopoly of a single generation?"

As a matter of disclosure, I am not a member of any political organization, and never held high government office in Ethiopia. I live outside Ethiopia but I regularly visit Tigray.

The issue of separation and non-separation: It is not my intention to argue against or for separation. Except for benign intellectual discourse, the overwhelming opinion among Tigrians seems-to live as an autonomous state as possible within Ethiopia but leave the option of secession on the table always.It appears to me any level-headed Tigrian has no romantic ideas about Ethiopia, not anymore at least. It is a pragmatic question. Neither are most Tigran’s rushing like fools to separate. I have never heard any current TPLF official espousing the idea of separation.

Which generation should decide the fate of Tigray?  My unsophisticated question to the author is, how do you convene then the generations to decide the fate of a region, a country?  Is it not the various dynamics in a specific time that determine the fate of a society? Or the present generation is not worth of such decisions? The Americans you mentioned who are preserving oil for their posterities had no say in the civil war and the revolution which shaped the current States. Should Eritreans have abandoned the referendum because it is not ‘the agenda of a single generation’? It seems to me that certain generations are destined by historical coincidences to decide the fate of coming generations.

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My issue with the article: My issue is with the underlying ideas of the article. The message I get from the article is that we (we includes TPLF) brought on ourselves the ‘rage’ of other Ethiopians. My point can’t be better illustrated with other than this quotation from the article. ‘The people of Ethiopia were forced to behave irrationally as a result against any Tigrean they meet in the streets or in the neighborhoods. They are not to be blamed because they got the information about the wealth in Tigray direct from the ‘horses’ mouth’.(emphasis mine). The author states clearly some Ethiopians were justified to see TPLF members as non-citizens because they caused Eritrea to separate from Ethiopia at least without getting a concession to a sea port. The author still fear show Ethiopians will think about us Tigreans after listening to Maj. Gen Tekleberhan’s Interview who is belittled as an officer who threw ‘ the plate from which he has dined’.The author repeatedly is concerned about aggravating “the anger of Ethiopians on the people of Tigray’. To be sure, I certainly believe TPLF’s failures in some respects factored to the persecution and misery of Tigrians. But it is not the whole story.

Demonizing TPLF: On a related matter that was mentioned in this article, these days’ many articles on issues of Tigray/Ethiopia starts by demonizing TPLF. First of all, let’s separate the historical struggle by the people of Tigray under TPLF and the TPLF that was the ruling party or part of the ruling party since 1991. For the most Tigrians the ‘weyane’ movements (1st and 2ndWeyane) area sacred part of our history and it is a manifestation our desire for self-rule.The fact that TPLF was imperfect doesn’t change anything. I don’t know where people get this puritan attitude that a political organization is supposed to be free of flaws. Can you give me any example from this planet of any organization that was not tainted by corruption, greed, misguided policies etc? Writers on Ethiopian politics make often refer to USA and other western countries for comparison without going beyond the rosy pictures painted for 3rd graders.Scandals, ulterior motives of historical figures, corruptions are abundant in most movements and revolutions that transformed societies for better. For the ordinary Tigrian, the struggle under TPLF is a mark of resurrection for Tigray. It isa chapter where we said ‘we count, we will not be sidelined, we will determine our fate, and nobody far from Tigray has the right to decide our destiny”. It has not to be perfect to be lofty. Have we realized it fully? No, but the road have been paved. It doesn’t matter if I were a member of EDU or EPRP who was chased by TPLF out of Tigray. It should not change if I were a victim of TPLF’s injustices. It should not change also if I believe these two movements were dominated, to some extent, by people from certain parts in Tigray.

In contradistinction, the TPLF/EPRDF post 1991 should be scrutinized as any political party in power. But the criticism against TPLF/EPRDF for the past three decades was not always factual and reasonable. The real motive behind such demonization goes against the heart of the weyane movement and against the foundations of Tigray. Failures of TPLF were demonized while its achievements were scoffed at. Granted that TPLF should have been more inclusive, establish rule of law, negotiate with other political forces on equal basis, deal with fundamental causes of corruption etc. And we should continue to hold TPLF accountable. We should also laud its achievements and be sympathetic to the challenges especially the campaign against the ‘weyane’ Tigray by beating TPLF.

What propaganda provoked the anger of Ethiopians?:I want to know honestly which propaganda pieces aired by TPLF was instrumental in provoking the anger of Ethiopians? Are you telling us the barbaric acts by mobs against ordinary Tigrians (like Bajaj drivers and ordinary citizens in Gondar) were instigated because of some TV show on the afforestation in Tigray? Have you found easily somebody who cares to reason out about TPLF among these few but vocal non-Tigrian Ethiopians? They simply don’t care about facts. Show them how poor or rich we were, it is irrelevant to them.Of course I am not including all Ethiopians in the same basket but many of those that make difference in the media and political forums.

In a country that has known little of rule of law and democracy in its history, how far could have any political done better than TPLF? Are those blanket accusations that TPLF caused Eritrea tosecede really true? Were Eritreans really inclined to give back Assab after emerging victorious from a 30 bitter war?Why are so many people so tolerant now in spiteof whatis happening in Ethiopia currently? I am just wondering.

Maj.General Tekleberhan’s Interview: I found Tekleberhan’s interview (that was aired on TMH recently) thought-provoking and goes beyond the skin-deep analysis I hear often from Ethiopian commentators. We don’t have to agree with him. Here is my take from the interview,

·         The foundations of Ethiopia are based on unitary assimilation and it has not benefited nations like Tigray

·         Nations like Tigray and Oromia are not ethnic groups but fully developed political entities that deserve self-rule

·         TPLF should have started in 1991 by negotiating with credible political groups on equal basis and that TPLF/EPRDF is guilty of continuing the unitary state without practicing real federalism

·         The nations in Ethiopia has to re-negotiate the foundation of the Ethiopian state etc.


So let’s respect our history, be honest about our failures and be pragmatic about questions that affect our people.

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