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Tigray’s Election: One major step for Tigray & one giant leap for Ethiopia

Tigray’s Election:

One major step for Tigray & one giant leap for Ethiopia

 

Hailemariam Abebe

07-21-20

 

Make no mistake about it, this is the best of times for Tigray and not the worst! Do not get me wrong, I am aware of the dogs barking in our neighborhood. Nothing new on the latter though. Remember that these are the wailings of those undergoing anaerobiosis, the desperate and not only without ideas but without much time on the clockeither.  So, that you can rest reassured though, I believe, that, on that front too, that Tigray is on the move to put those dogs of war, where they belong, in their kennel, is obvious! And if you need more assurance, just know that, based on the history of the TPLF, when the TPLF meant business, it has never failed to deliver! Two pivotal examples.

On the national level, although we can talk on the short comings on the level of effective democratic implementations, the evidence is overwhelming that the TPLF got Ethiopia out of the “misery index” label and propelled it into an economic tiger, more than any of its predecessors in the history of Ethiopia! It also created, at least until the death the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (RIP), peace, security and stability for the Ethiopian people!  And internationally, the late PM, and you are hearing from someone who had fought him virulently, had Ethiopia transformed into a global player!  These are facts!

On the Tigray front too, think of the time when TPLF was in the homefront with its home front in its heart, intact! It got the job done! It set out to prevail over the Derg and it did! It was only after it took over Arat Kilo, and a few of them developed power-mediatedencephalitis which resulted in anything but home front Alzheimer (a few leaders became acutely allergic to the initial mission), things went awry! And we all agree that TPLF is in the home front now and with the backing of our people like never before! What we have, in effect, is TPLF back by just every Tigraway (including the various political parties), and with a tremendous expertise in just about everything required to deliver a knockout blow to anyone with evil design against our people!

I would even add a third fact.  Two years ago, the dogs of war told us that they had surrounded us and barked “yekegn jibotch,” and “game over!”  Remember the total delirium we saw from Gondar to Bahr Dar, and from Addis Ababa to Asmara? Remember the Weyane is defeated and on death row psychobabble? But nothing can be further from the truth so goes the saying.  Two years later, we know who is dead or gasping for air! In as little as two years, TPLF backed by the people of Tigray has proved, without firing a single bullet, not only it can neither be defeated, nor killed but also proved that it is indomitable as it is immortal.  It has proved that it can never be surrounded too, for it is like AIR surrounding all, and a lifeline for the very life of those “Shitholes,” “House Negros,” and the Misery indexers! And what has been served thus far is the appetizer; wait until the main course is served!

Indeed, it is the best of times.  What makes this time as the best of times for Tigray, is that Tegaru of various political platform have,for the first time, in fact and in a concrete way, come together to lay the bricks and mortars required for the monumental task of building the edifice of justice! In fact, this isnot only historical first since time immemorial but also it is for the first time, the TPLF leadership has opened upto a multiparty political debate and competition in any meaningful way, since its very inception! That is to say, that, it is only now, and I believe for the first time, the fundamental reason why the people of Tigray fought the war against the Derg, is making the first steps on its way to be actualized!

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Now, we can be cynics, skeptics and stand on the sideline and treat every positive move with suspicion.  Indeed, there are plenty historical evidences to make those skeptics reluctant to join in.  But what makes the current one different is that we are seeing it live! We have seen political debates liveon television, and the appointment of Tegaru of extraordinary resumes to the Election Commission Board!  Clearly, these demonstrate that Tigray is in fact serious about the election. And I believe every one of us should do his/her level best to help the seed germinate, flower and make an abundance of seeds to nourish us all, to keep us strong and to guarantee that we will never again find ourselves winning all the battles but lose the war!So that never again: te-awitna my keyni akut!

I am personally gung-ho about the whole political metamorphosis taking place in Tigray. I do sense something special getting hold on the Tigrayan landscape.  Almost without exception, Tegaru have converged on the idea that only freedom guaranteed not by personalities but by the rule of democratic law is what ensures the wellbeing of everyone and everything! That, any other way, is doomed to fail, is obvious from what we have seen in the past and what we are seeing in Ethiopia today!  The Meles/TPLF led government transformed Ethiopia from the “misery index” of the world into an “economic tiger” worthy of international prominence and respect but although it heralded a Constitution which reflected the aspiration of the peoples of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia. But the legal framework which ought to have protected the Constitution, was virtually nonexistent! Hence why, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, was not held to account for his handling of the war with Shaibia, dismissal half of the TPLF senior leaders, and how he was able to ram a law to imprison Siye and others.  Why the former PM Hailemariam Desalign was not held to account for conspiring to bring the current psychopath to power! And it is because the legal framework to protect the Constitution was not fully empowered and developed, that the current “House Negro” was able to bring so much national shame and so much pain and grief, and worst, he has been able to bring our country to the cliff of disintegration! Had there been checks and balances with real jaw and teeth, we would never have found ourselves where we are today!

Let me give an example why democratic law is really the answer for where we want to go. Take the state of Israel. It is a country of about 9 million people of which 6.7 million are Jewish. Currently, its Gross National Product (GDP) is a whopping $410.50 billion USD (2020)! It did not start out rich mind you!  In fact, when the state of Israel was founded, there was virtually nothing but desert!  Not only was it a desert land but it was surrounded by Arab enemies totaling 419.79 million people (2018) with total GDP of about“$10.695 trillion (6.0% of the world) at purchasing power parity, or US$ 3.841 trillion (3.55% of the world) at nominal values.”

Since its very inception in 1948, the Arabs, armed with the most advanced war machines, inexhaustible manpower and so much money to be able to buy anything, wanted to destroy Israel off the map, but they failed.  Not actually failed but Israel was able to destroy its enemies not just ones but four times! Why was Israel able to not only survive but thrive and the Arabs, have not only corroded into the Dark Ages, but they have been condemned to catabolize and cannibalize each other? The answer has to do with the fact that, unlike the Arabs who are ruled by the sword, Israel is ruled by a democratic law with a mighty jaw and teeth!  Yes, it has to do with the fact that Israel is a democratic country backed by the rule of law where no one is above the law! At this time, the Prime Minister of Israel is indicted for corruption and the PM cannot call the judge and order him to dismiss it!  Even before he was indicted, the PM knew that the Attorney General of Israel was investigating him for a possible corruption.  And unlike in the Arab countries and our country where the PM can do anything he wanted to with the police, army, the judiciary etc., in Israel where there exist a democratic law with powerful jaw and teeth, the Israel PM cannot order the investigative body to stop it! And if he was to tell the investigative body to stop it that would are obstruction of justice, and the PM can face even more legal action for interference. You see, democratic rule has built in quality control to not only hold those who break the law to account for their actions but also, since the citizens know that the law will come after them for any violations, it restrains them from committing crimes too.And there is more.

Rule of lawguarantees personal security, the rule of the game, and the work of the people, gets to get done! Such a legally secured space allows for people of all ideas to air their ideas without any fear to their safety.  The free flow of ideas coalesces into political parties of opposing views.  The rule of law allows for these ideas to compete and the people choose the idea they see well.  The rule of law ensures that the play book is followed and that it is followed, is not only checked by the process in place but also by an army of dedicated civic organizations, and by the legal framework in place charged with ensuring that the law is followed! Israel prevailed over its enemies because the law of the land will never allow its domestic or foreign interests to be sold to the Arabs with trillions of dollars!  If Abiye Ahmed was an Israeli, first he would never have made it to the top, for the democratic law would have made it plain that he was incompetent and full of hot air.  Secondly, the Mossad would have nipped him for spying against his country and in so doing; he would have been stopped for selling his country out! Unfortunately, although we had a Constitution in Ethiopia, because the infrastructure to protect it, was not in place or fully developed and robust, people of Abiye’s caliber, was able to spy against his people and country, sell Ethiopia’s vital national interests to the historic enemies, and left us flooded with shame and obituaries biblical in scale!

Clearly, freedom is the answer for all our ills.  And in Tigray, although our people had demanded it for so long, it is only now that the political leaders are making the “first step for the journey of a thousand miles!”  I do feel that it is dawning on all whose responsibility is the wellbeing of our people, to come together to layout the path that not only ensures the survival of the Tigray Nation but guarantees a future of glory not less than those of ourancestors of long ago! There is now in Tigray a unanimous consensus on the need to look inward and resurrect the glory of the universe of wealth left for us by our ancestors! Leading scholars and political figures are demanding it.  It is talked about at the universities, colleges, even high schools. It is talked about in the churches and mosques!  It is talked about in the streets of the towns and in the farms of the countryside.That such is the reality; I have heard it with my own ears and seen it with my own eyes! And this is also why I believe these are in fact the best of times for Tigray!  The question is how do we make it happen?

There was a reason why I talked about the state of Israel earlier. We must do what the Israelis did and do now!  The process has begun, for we have collectively agreed to live by the rule of law! We have agreed that we can never get there by personalities who tell us they are the ticket to our glory.  Now, I do not mean personalities are not important.  In fact, personalities of great foresight and wisdom are critical but only those who believe they are never above the law! I am for personalities who enlighten us with the need for being law abiding! I am for those personalities who bring the best in us and never use us for their selfish ends by having us go after each other’s throats!  I am for those who dream big and challenge us to reach our highest heights! But only if they themselves arelawful, selfless, humble, simple, and understand that we live on this earth for a short time and challenge us to leave our Nation better than when we found it!  I believe such an opportunity has, for the first time, openedup in Tigray.  But it is up to us to make it work.

There are critical requirements for the experiment to succeed.  First, all political parties and the electorate must keep in mind that the process will never be fair and perfect, right away.  It will take time.  There will be irregularities, and mishaps.  This is the first election where different political parties with real platforms, are contending for the people’s vote, in Tigray. We have not had much experience with this wonderful but difficult process.  If we are not careful and realistic, it is not only probable but possible for the parties to focus on what is wrong than what is going right!  So, we have to make sure that we can see what has worked before we jump for the outliers! We must be prepared to count our blessings first before we can pray for mends to our short comings! Moreover, all the political parties must realize that even though they have different platforms, they are really in it together to build this new way not necessarily for the current generation but for tomorrow’s generation! Democracy has qualities of a human character; it is conceived, born, is initially helpless and completely dependent on the mother, begins to crawl, learns to stand, begins to walk and then run, grows to adulthood, get married, have family, and extended family leading to a population.  Democracy in its fullest sense has been conceived and born in Tigray for the last forty-five years! But it nevermade it past the birthing stage, in Tigray, but it had made significant breakthrough in Ethiopia at large!  So, if we can jump start is to grow fast in this election, it would be an extraordinary win for everybody! At the end of the day, so long as the process deliversa reasonable outcome, it is a win for all!

I said we must be realistic and be ready to become honorable winners and losers.  Do not be surprised if the TPLF wins it overwhelmingly.  In fact, I would be stunningly surprised, if the TPLF loses to the other parties. No, I am not wishing TPLF ill, but given the historical record it has, I would be simplyin a state of shock and disbelief if our people were to try it with the newcomers.  Let’s face it.  Yes, TPLF leaders have committed gargantuan blunders.  But they have also delivered on equally herculean scale!  They have a record of forty-five years!  The people of Tigray know TPLF’s pluses and minuses, but the new parties are new and with a record, except for Arena, of two years!  And so, even if contending parties do not win a single seat but the process, for the most part was honestly fair, never lose sight that your role in the process had contributed to the fair play observed, and you should feel a winner!  Never fail to realize that you are in a building process; remember the Obelisks were not made in a season!

There is no question that it is the expectation of the people of Tigray for allthe political partiesto be governedby the rule set for the elections and to do their level best and in good faith, for the best outcome. But the ultimate responsibility rests on,more than any of the other parties, on the TPLF leadership!  It has the most extensive infrastructure and the carrot and the stick, so to speak, to either make it a complete success across the board, or half-baked exercises, or even a total sham and an embarrassment.  And so, I urge them, especially the elder leadership who have led the fight for the last forty-five years, to realize that this is their last chance to leave Tigray with a timeless legacy, a legacy which ensures Tigray’s wellbeing for many centuries to come! The elders must take time off and reflect on their forty-five years of leading the struggle.  If they reflect on it with open mind, there is plenty of historical data which makes it obvious that the rule of law and never personal charisma or might, is what ensures sustainability of a worthy idea!

About a year ago, I wrote an open letter to his Excellency and my brother, Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael.  I would like toquote a section of it for my next point. Following is the quote:

“…Let me be bluntly candid, Your Excellency and my brother, Dr. Debretsion.  Before I go further deep into what I set out to say in this section, first and foremost, let me congratulate you for having the greatest honor not only for being selected for the Chairmanship of the TPLF, but more importantly, for earning the trust of our people to hold what in effect is the office held by the likes Ezana, Kaleb, Yowhannes, Alula and others whose foot prints, like the sun, not only eternally powers our resolve but also timelessly warms our heart, soul and spirit!   This honor and trust is indeed fantastically enormous as it positions you as the bearer of the mantle not only of those Bistot (Tegadelti) of yours and Tigrai’s finest that are the Amoras, Hayeloms and others too many to count, but also of those Tigrayan leaders not only who made the Egyptians, Turks, Italians and the entire East block not to mention those in our neighborhood, run out of ideas, but also reigned over frontiers from Meroe to Saana!  Indeed, the shoe you have stepped in to fill is of immense latitude, altitude and magnitude but you must never forget that if you have consecrated yourself to serve as our peoples’ servant, committed to execute those priorities (not of those who have historically claimed to know what is good for our people but time and again handed our people incalculable devastation) that which are truly those deeply held yearnings of our people, you can be absolutely certain that you will have the full force and might of the Tigrayan people, to get you there!

But this honor is also exciting and with an opportunity for you to go down in history as the greatest leader of them all. You can be like Azena who ignited the creative power of our people and in so doing left us with timeless treasures that not only captivate our imagination and infuse monumental pride and awe into our soul but also serve us as the everlasting source of power and unparalleled resilience which have been fundamental for the spectacular history we have been able to write since then!  You can be too like Kaleb, Yowhannes and Alula with indomitable spirit and with a premium on freedom and independence, and smash into smithereens the evil wall so erected in our midst and restore whole not only the umbilical cord which once bond Adolis to Axum but also the Kingdom of Axum and its famed glories!  And there is more and perhaps one which is truly the Mother of all priorities, and one our people can never do without!

We live in the digital age.  At this period of time, our young people whose brain is wired with the glories of our forefathers and mothers and whose cultural make up has been shaped by a society born to one of the four greatest civilizations the world had ever seen, and a society baptized with a deep sense of faith, justice, honor and independence, are hungry for a space, a space free of political toxicity, to unleash their creative power and usher, as General Tekelebirhan put it brilliantly, the second and even mightier birth of the Kingdom Axum.  In other words, this young people need to breeze free, and that is only possible when ideas freely compete, and that competition is played in an arena permanently backed and secured with an impregnable democratic law!  You can be that torch of light or that brick layer toward that end!  You can be that great son of the great Tigrai nation who oversaw the death and burial of tyranny, and the birth of a government in Tigrai that which Abraham Lincoln called a government of the people, by the people and for the people!  Such is what the young are yearning for, and the elders, paid so much for it, but to this day, remains beyond their reach!  You can be that person who reaches out, grabs it and unleashes it in the Tigrayan landscape!  This role is in fact the ultimate gift you can give to both the young, the old and the in between!  Anything else is nothing but another heartbreak where we pay the heaviest of prices to win all the battles but because of rotten apples in our midst, we end up losing the war!  And so, my brother, Your Excellency, Dr. Debretsion, you stand at the gate of no return; you can either choose glory and live forever OR go down like your predecessor, perish forever in the Black Hole of ignominy, infamy, and obscurity!...”

I believe the key points I tried to remind Dr. Debretsion, do apply to all the TPLF leaders but more so to the elder TPLF leaders! You have spent just about your entire lives fighting a worthy cause. I must tell you all past and current in the leadership and every other Tegadaly/Tegadalit that heeded the call, that had you not started the cause and carried it through to where we are today, Tigray would have ceased to exist! And if it existed, it would have been in name only! Although you, in the leadership, have made us extremely proud and you have broken our hearts too, with all your pluses and minuses, I am personally grateful to you, and more so to those who gave their lives, those who fought and lived, and above all to the people of Tigray!  But we are now at a juncture in time where you can play the Mother of all playsto ensure that Tigray never loses the war ever again!You stand at a crossroads where you can help the new generation to build upon the glory of Axum and transform Tigray into the digital glory not only where the future will be but also ensure Tegaru to become pioneers in the digital frontiers!How can you do that?

First, heal the deep wound.  Call each and everyone who have marched with you from Dedebit to Arat Kilo and become whole again! Just like what we saw on the 44th Anniversary of the founding of the TPLF, Mother Tigray wants to see her children all at home and in the family, in love and in peace!  Mother Tigray wants to see let bygones be bygones and let all become whole and at home! Let’s get rid of the poison we carry in our minds! After all, it was differences in perspectives, ideas, thoughts or positions which broke you apart, which by the way, if we have had a fully functioning rule of law in place at the time, we would never have had the outcome which broke Mother Tigray’s heart into fragments! Secondly, if in fact democracy is what we are setting out to build right now, and I believe we are, there cannot be any greater test of our seriousness than having all of us home,together, looking out for one another just as brothers and sisters with different take on the world, love one another and look after each other’s welfare! Mother Tigray wants you to set the example for the young generation; a young generation that must be equipped with the best practices that you can muster and pass!

Ensure TPLF is led by the best minds the Tigray Nation has to offer!  Ones, that are on the cutting edge of knowledge, on the frontiers of service, humility, and humanity, and ones that deeply understand that the way to honor the martyrs, our people, our legacy and our standing on the world stage, is to live for the cause of those heroes and heroines who selflessly gave their lives! The ultimate way to cherish their memories and devote ourselves to the cause they died for, is to execute the democracy the martyrs hailed as they took bullets to their heart!  Never slogan but deeds!  Such is what will cure all ills, threats, both democratic and economic poverty, and what will weed out mal-administration, “Hang,”corruption and what will help the young generation see that not ‘might makes right” of Isayas’s Eritrea (we can see the outcome of that) but “might in the service of right” such as in Israel!

Oversee the election and ensure that all is done with honor, honesty and legally! Honor the martyrs by ensuring that the very cause for which they gave their lives for,is made functionally ever-vigorous, rigorous, impregnable and immortal! Let’s get those in total delirium out of their miseries. Let ‘s show them that Weyanecan never be defeated, can never be surrounded, can never be on a death row! Let’s tell them that nothing can be further from the truth that Weyane/TPLF can neither be defeated, nor killed; let’s show Abiy and company that like the people of Tigray, Weyane/TPLF is indomitable as it is immortal! Let’s show them that we are like AIR, we can never not only be surrounded but also as AIR not only we surround all but also,we are the lifeline for the very lives of thosebaked in the ovensof evil!

You the elders, have the ultimate responsibilities to make sure that we have a successful election. An election, not only of the caliber of your stunning records on the military and economic front in Ethiopia but of the standard better than those matured democratic states in Europe and North America! Let’s have an election where our parliament will become the stage where the best ideas duel, and the best results born to bring about the quantum jump we need to make to bury once and for all, tyranny and poverty, and over their graves, where love, peace and the pursuit of happiness blooms forever!

Let’s be the Israel of our region. Israel does not have natural resources! But what it does have in plenty of supply is brain power backed by the rule of law!  That is how it has become what it is today; a democratic and a technological superpower!  We have traced the hills, valleys and mountains!  Let’s make the land bloom and the digital farms flourish!!

Like the Israelis, let’s have heated political debates and fiercely contested election without losing sight that, like the Israelis, with regards to our collective security, we are one secured by the democratic law which we must believe is the guarantorfor everything we hold dear!At the expense of repeating myself, we must remember that democracy has enabled the Israelis to become one of the most advanced country in the world; defeated the desert, defeated the enemies, secured stability to build one of the most advanced and cutting edge scientific infrastructure that yields a GDP of $410.50 billion!

Ensure that the political parties must trust, respect and honor each other!  They must never be suspicious of each other! Be candid toward each other and do so with respect and care for one another! Remember, to honor and practice what is on your political platform!  We cannot say we fight for the masses, but we are tyrannical to the individual! Remember the masses are a collection of the individuals! We can fall in love for the abstract and sing democracy but what counts is when we fall in love with its play in the real world! Remember what it means to say “I love my people. I love the people of Tigray and I love Tigray!” It must mean that each is committed to the common cause in terms of the wellbeing of each and everyTigraway and Tigray itself! You can plot strategies to defeat each other at the ballet box but never plot to betray each other or Tigray! Score points by the quality of your platform and not by sowing the seeds of hate or vilifications! Remember, at the end of the day, our goal mustfor an election that is fair, legal, and transparent and one we can be proud of, so that theexperiment with ourelection can become one major step for Tigray & one giant leap for Ethiopia!

 


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