AweseBrhan. Aug 9, 2020
Tigray, where our Ethiopian story began
Tigray, whose children sacrificed for Ethiopia more than their fair share
Tigray, land of king Ezana, land of St. Yared, land of Ras Alula, land of Meles
Tigray, wherein rests God’s Covenant with His children
Tigray, with your generous hospitality to outsiders far and near, Christians and Muslims
We know you are just
As the Prophet witnessed eons ago.
Ethiopia, you are made in Tigray
Rebuilt by Meles and Company
Enriched by generations of Amharas and Oromos and Tigrayans and Harrari and Guraghes and Wolaytas and many more
You know what Tigray meant to you
You know what Tigray means to you
Listen to its leaders
Work with them
For your own sake.
Three thousand-year history, own alphabet, Christianity since the 4th Century AD, the cradle of mankind, etc. Sound familiar? This is the history of Tigrayan Ethiopians.
The proud people of Tigray don’t do shilela or qererto, unless they had to – and by that, I mean unless they are ready to fight anyone who dared to attack their people. Once victory is achieved, they go back to their life. They proudly leave theshilela and qererto to the people south of their region.
When the Prophet Muhammad’s followers faced persecution in Mecca, they sought refuge in the Christian Kingdom of Axum. And it was the Tigrayans that the Prophet was referring to when he advised his followers to flee to Abyssinia.
Throughout their history, the people of Tigray made great histories. And the Amhara elites told the stories, with shilela and qererto, sometimes changing the facts as they wish, obscuring the gallantry of the people of Tigray, and sugar-coating those stories from South of Tigray. This is not to belittle the achievements of non-Tigrayans, but to emphasize the achievements of Tigrayans which have been deliberately ignored for so long.
Tigrayans’ love for Ethiopia is much deeper than whatsome Ethiopians make us believe. No shilela, no qererto– simply moya belib. About four years ago, at a time when tens of thousands of Tigrayan families were being forced out of their homes in Gondar, I was visiting a Tigrayan familyin the US. The head of that household is a very proud Tegaru and former TPLFtegadlay. While we were having coffee, I noticed that his coffee mug had Ethiopian flag on it. And, I might add, it was just the green, yellow, and red – no star in the middle. Few minutes later, while I was going to the bathroom, I also noticed a keychain that hadthe Lion of Judah emblem on it. I also saw one other artifact in the house, which I don’t remember what it was exactly now, but it, too, had the Ethiopian flag on it. To those who were behind pushing Tigrayans out of Gondar, the likes of this man I was visiting would be labeled as less Ethiopian, or even anti-Ethiopian. But noone is more proud of his/her Ethiopianness than the people of Tigray. They show their love to Ethiopia with deeds, and not with bado fukera.
Travel to Tigray, and you will notice old churches decorated with Ethiopian flags. Travel in the countryside and remote areas of Tigray, and you will meet people who do not understand how some people, south of their border, try to tell these proud Ethiopians that they are in fact less Ethiopian. It is so meaningless to them that they just ignore it.
As I said before, Tigrayans love for Ethiopia is very deep. They show their love through hard work. They show their love by their determination to eradicate poverty from the face of Ethiopia once and for all. That was exactly what Meles tried to show us. That it is possible to get out of poverty. That it is possible to do it on our own. And not to sit empty-handed and tell our children and their children teret teret about past histories– yemitlebsew yelat yemitkenanbew amarat.
Meles and Company laid the foundation for Ethiopia’s rebirth.
When the Addis Ababa City administration was in a mess, Meles called Arkebe Oqubay, from Tigray, to fix the problem. And Arkebe did; and did it well. He went on to be named Best African Mayor of 2006; and was a finalist for the World Mayor Award. Then followed his PhD, and the rest is history. Remember the industrial parks?
Health Ministry needs improvement? No problem. Another son of Tigray, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, was called in from Tigray. In few years, the Health Ministry constructed 4,000 health centers, trained and deployed more than 30,000 health extension workers, reducing infant mortality rate significantly. And the world noticed.The rest is history.
Oh, and what about the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church? The Church has gotten significant recognition worldwide during the time of Abune Paulos, another son of Tigray. We all remember the people of Addis Ababa buildinga statue for His Holiness. And they did that while he was still alive, which, in and of itself, was remarkable.
Whether it is out of jealousy, hatred, fear, or a combination of these, past Ethiopian administrations did not give Tigrayan leaders and heroes the recognition they deserved.Emperor Yohannes died in Gondar fighting for Ethiopia. And Ras Alula, the indomitable hero, who fought, almost single handedly, at Dogali and Gundet and Amba-Alagie, to name just a few, was referred to by the Europeans as the Garibaldi of Abyssinia, recognizing his monumental contribution for the independence of Ethiopia. But, do we see anything in their names in Addis Ababa? None.
If Meles was not from Tigray, can you imagine what might we have seen by now? Probably a renaming of Bole International Airport to Meles Zenawi International Airport, a renaming of the GERD to Meles Zenawi Dam, building a monument in his honor, building a university in his honor, etc. But, as former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rightly said, Meles is written in the hearts of Ethiopians.
Speaking of Meles, I urge those with the resources to do it, to see that Meles’ story must be written. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. We owe it to our African brothers and sisters. And it must be written now while firsthand information is available – from his comrades, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances both at home and abroad.
It seems that the current administration took this hatred/fear/jealousy to a higher level. For example, how would you explain to any reasonable person the fact that the main road leading to the state of Tigray was closed for more than two years? This is not normal. The fact that Ethiopians from all walks of life did not object this atrocity is not normal either – it means they were and are in fear. We can list many other similar atrocities, including:
The leadership had belittled the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as some kind of petty project. They eliminated the project engineer, who was also the face of the GERD, its ambassador, and a household name to Ethiopians at home and abroad. His dedication to the GERD and his love to Meles was beyond what they can tolerate.
The Ethiopian army chief, son of Tigray, was brutally murdered. No one got to the bottom of this crime – or, if they did, they chose not to tell us. This is not normal.
The president of the Somali region was also eliminated. The Ethiopian Somalis were one of the strongest supporters of EPRDF/TPLF. Oh, how much these people loved Ethiopia…. I had the opportunity to attend few meetings during the GERD bond sale events in the earlier period of the project. It was during those meetings I saw the love that Ethiopian Somalis have for their country.
As a country, we must learn to denounce a leadership if, at its core, the leadership is unjust. For example, at its core, Derg was a monster. It doesn’t matter the fact that it sang the songs of Andnet, Ethiopiawinet, Ethiopia tiqdem, etc. At its core, it was a killer; it was a butcher. However, it was only the Tigrayans who said no to the Derg in a meaningful way. Some chose comfort over the hard work (military struggle) that was required to remove the Derg. And others did not have what it takes to fight the Derg. But the sons and daughters of Tigray fought tooth and nail, lost tens of thousands of their precious young people, and won. This is not to belittle the fights by the Oromos or Amharas, but when it mattered most it was the struggle of the sons and daughters of Tigray that played the most important role to dismantle the Derg.
During their struggle, or at any time in their history for that matter, Tigrayans had absolutely no animosity to the rest of the Ethiopian people. Prisoners of war (POW) from Derg were always treated with utmost respect. The proud TPLF gave each POW the option to either return back to Derg or stay and learn from them. Some chose to go back to Derg, only to get captured again. Some of these POWs later served in aleadership position within the EPRDF government. TPLF believed in the justness of their cause. To mistreat a human being is not their way.
It is also true today. TPLF’s cause is to attain freedom for the people of Tigray, and, in doing so, they remain our beacon hope. Can you imagine what the fate of Tigray would have been if we were not governed under a federal system? Tigray would have been in the same mess as that of the rest of the country. Its leaders would have been eliminated in much the same way the leaders of the Ethiopian Somali region were eliminated. To their eternal credit, Meles and his team instituted federalism in Ethiopia. That visionary son of Tigray, he clearly saw what is best for Tigray, what is best for Ethiopia.
And federalism has unified Ethiopia more than anything else. Paul Henze, the late American national security specialist and historian, once said that Amharic was spoken more widely in post-federalism Ethiopia than it was pre-1991. This is not to say that speaking Amharic is a key indicator of unity, but rather to show some of the fruits of federalism.
And we saw the peace, development, and the path to prosperity in Meles’ Ethiopia. The extremely vocal few in the diaspora left no stone unturned to sully Meles’ and EPRDF’s achievement. To their detriment, Meles/TPLF/EPRDF did not play the PR game as they should have. They were simply too confident in the good deed they were doing for the poor, for Ethiopia. Unfortunately, that was not enough. This is not to say that Meles/TPLF/EPRDF did not make mistake. Who doesn’t?
Few years ago, there was a story I read on Aigaform, supported by a video, about a young woman TPLF fighter, nicknamed Qeshi Gebru, who was captured by the Derg. Her conviction in the justness of TPLF’s cause was amazing. She understood that Derg was a monster. She understood that Tigray, and Ethiopia, must be freed from the Derg. It didn’t matter to her that she was in the hands of that monster. Even in the face of death, she clearly and confidently articulated her position. No regrets. Sew belaw Derg, of course, brutally killed her.But her conviction and the convictions of tens of thousands of TPLF martyrs still reverberates.
Tigray remains our beacon of hope. Our leaders must listen. Our leaders must work with them for Ethiopia’s sake.
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