Freefall: Fate of Tigrai’s Enemies
The Tigrean saga has taught the entire world that David prevails over Goliath. Tigrai faced an enemy claiming over hundreds of million population seating over an economy estimated in hundreds of billion dollars (including Gulf monarchs). This enemy also wielded the diplomatic prestige of sovereignty represented by not in one but three flags. Yes, this gigantic hard and soft power melted and fell in disarray in less than six months. Why? Because its sinister political ambition triggered an overwhelming reaction.
Every war is driven by a political ambition. That is why novice politicians give orders to seasoned combatants. In this case, the chief architect is Isaias Afewerki. This individual is renowned as the cruelest despot in the planet. The only reason why the world, including Ethiopia (1998-2018), endured him is because he lacked sufficient capacity to wreck-havoc outside his territory. The world caged this savage inside his turf until 2018. But this renowned convict was shuttling to the Gulf monarchies, offering his subjects their mercenaries, in their quest to stave off democratic incursions post-the Arab Spring. This octogenarian war criminal manipulated the political and energy vulnerabilities of these monarchies. He knew they would not tolerate two things: 1) democratic revolutions and 2) interruption of the vicinities in the Horn of Africa-the sea route they use to export oil to Europe (via Suez Canal).
The Gulf monarchies are not easy to manipulate. These families have managed to nationalize the global deposit of oil beneath their territory and control its price by manipulating the Cold War superpower rivalry. These families survived while other oil-rich regimes near (e.g. Iran) and far (e.g. Venezuela) gave in. They even shocked the world by forming an oil-cartel and spark a global economic crisis to retaliate Israel in the 1970s. But the challenges these families are facing in the 21st Century are insurmountable.
First, the new Century has reawakened 350 million Arabs, engulfed by youth bulge, in the region via two tectonic shifts. The religious Arabs are joining Sunni extremist groups like Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and ISIS. The secular Arabs have mastered non-violent strategy honed to bring about a democratic revolution in despotic countries. On top of these, these monarchies face a growing challenge from Shea sect that are allegedly backed by their longtime foe, Iran, residing in the area where their oil deposit is seating. They also see the economic revival of their historical colonizers, the Turks.
Second, the global market for Gulf oil is dwindling. The West no longer needs the Gulf oil to survive. The US and Canada have discovered sufficient oil. The Russians are top exporters of natural gas to Europe. So, the West no longer fears Russia controlling the Gulf as in the Cold War era. Further, the shale revolution in the US has rendered traditional oil obsolete. Even Israel and Egypt have discovered huge oil reserves. So, the remaining market they have is China, which is making a deliberate effort to move beyond export driven-labor-intensive economy towards domestic market based- high tech and service.
Beyond all this, however, the world is trying to avert the catastrophe of climate change by moving away from fossil fuel. It is, of course, difficult to devise clean modes of transport (e.g. to replace fuel based ships-90% of global trade), make (e.g. plastic), and do (e.g. gas based electricity) at this stage. However, technology is catching up fast by creating efficient battery based vehicles, clean building materials, and renewable energy sources (including nuclear energy). All of this trend makes the Gulf monarchies very nervous. That is why they are bringing up young princes, making radical political reforms, and trying to diversify their economy away from fossil fuel. As they do these things, they need stable political environment, secure sea routes to export their oil, and import sustainable food sources (the import 90% of food consumption from abroad).
The serious political and economic vulnerabilities these monarchies face today exposes them to ruthless manipulators like Isaias. So, this warlord offered the Eritrean youth to serve the regional ambitions of the Gulf monarchs in return for a small amount of money. The Eritrean youth fought the rebels in Yemen at the behest of the Gulf monarchs. He replicated the same business model on the Ethiopian despot. This warlord sent his soldiers to Addis Ababa to guard the Ethiopian despot against domestic enemies. He also received $1 billion by engaging the Eritrean troops in Tigray. Today, his mercenaries are reported to be fighting in Oromia region as well. So, this warlord is serving as a warmaker (as opposed to peacekeeper) in the Red Sea vicinity.
What makes him the prime architect of disability in the Red Sea region? Well, the numbers speak for themselves. What did his sponsors get in return? The Gulf monarchs ended up leaving Yemen without gaining anything concrete. One of them is implicated in the Tigrai war, forcing it to dismantle its drone base in Assab. The Ethiopian despot got $1.4 million from the Nobel Peace Prize commission. This amount, by the way, is not small. WFP tells us the $1 million the Weeknd donated to Tigray will feed 2 million people. While leaders like Obama donate their Prize to charity, this greedy man declared he will keep his Prize while giving his one month salary ($200) to Tigrai. Perhaps, he allocated that money to cover the annual lobby cost ($75,000/month or $900,000/year) he is expending in the US while the Ethiopian economy is in shambles. But that is not what makes him a fool. Ethiopia gets most of its export earning from Sudan (23%)- a country he is fighting now.
Meanwhile, the Eritrean warlord has managed to squeeze $1 billion out of him- and still expects him to cover the salary for his mercenaries. The foolish despot of Addis is watching Ethiopia disintegrate under his watch as Eritrea, UAE, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, and God knows who else (Israel? Iran?) freely roam about the country. This is, of course, not to mention the international community expressing outrage over the way he is trampling on the rights of the people (not just Tigreans, Afars, and Oromos) in Ethiopia. Why is this happening? Because he lacks the strength to keep the country together. This dictator has effectively decimated the fighting force the country built over the last few decades. The Eritrean warlord ensured Ethiopia will never ever have a fighting force that can defend Ethiopia by advising the Ethiopian despot to divide the military along ethnic lines. The Ethiopian military is divided between incarcerated Tigrean soldiers, marginalized Oromo troops, and inexperienced Amhara fighters. We all know what happened to the best trained and equipped corps of the Ethiopian military, the Northern command.
The Eritrean warlord paralyzed the Ethiopian military because of the foolish despot situated in Addis. He also tried to do the same thing to the Tigrean military by employing drones from UAE. The destruction of heavy Ethiopian tax payer bought weaponry encouraged Addis and Asmara. But a perverted political ambition could only go so far. These war criminals and their stooges used to argue that the days of peoples’ war (revolutionary/guerilla?) were over. They used to argue that Tigreans lack the willingness and the ability to sustain a war from below. They were not lying but they were wrong. Tigrean leaders attempted to inform them Tigrai’s power rests on the cultural fabric of the population, not on their textile factories. But they did not listen. Their delusion primarily esteems from a perverted political orientation. What is political orientation? It addresses the purpose of power, i.e., to what end one uses power for.
Tigrean leaders see political power as a means to address popular interest. Their track record shows them using political power to ensure stability, reduce poverty, expand social services (schools and clinics), build infrastructure, and peaceful coexistence (regional integration, climate mitigation, development partnership). We all know what happened to Ethiopia when the Tigrean leadership opted out. Endless chaos! The track record of the Eritrean warlord over the last three decades is also out for all to see. The debt to GDP ratio of the 3.5 million Eritreans is, as of 2018/19 155% (Ethiopia’s was 28%). The number of people in need of food assistance in Ethiopia has risen from 18 to 22 million (it is not just 4.5 million people in Tigrai). IMF has also told us that the “prosperity” party will “help” Ethiopia grow by 0%.
The numbers tell us the political orientation of the despots in Asmara and Addis Ababa is not serving their people. So, what is it then? African experts (mostly Westerners) like to call it: “The Politics of the Belly”. The Ethiopian despot used the money he collected from wealthy Ethiopian merchants and Arab monarchs to renovate his own crib. He then used the rest to renovate his vicinity-making lavish gardens around Addis Ababa. No one knows what he did with the $1.4 million he got from the Nobel Prize committee or the secret arrangements to sell out the country’s minefields, agricultural land, telecom, and airlines. We only hear him pleading with Ethiopians to donate for the prosperity party and for the diaspora to contribute $1 to pay for American lobbyists. We also hear him begging for Western donors to release the hundreds of millions of dollars they withheld due to the Tigrai genocide.
The effort to expose the Tigrean genocide is bearing fruit. Yet, the international community needs to move fast. An overview of global reactions to genocide over the last Century is fraught with frustration. The diplomatic effort to stop the Armenian genocide (1914), the Nazi genocide (1933-45), the Cambodian autogenocide (late 1970s), the Kurdish genocide (late 1980s), the Rwandan genocide (1994), and the Bosnia genocide (late 1990s) by and large fell on deaf ears. The hero who coined the term “genocide” died penniless and frustrated as it took the US forty years to ratify the Genocide Convention. Powerful countries are afraid to accuse despotic regimes of genocide because the convention obliges them to take action per the convention.
The massacres in Srebrenica and Rwanda manifested after the UN peacekeepers were deployed. The books by Kofi Anan and General Romeo Dallaire reveal how paralyze this world body can become. In the end, it was the respective military intervention of the Allied forces (against Ottomans and Hitler), Vietnam (against Pol Pot), RPF (against Hutu militia), NATO (against Milosovich) and the U.S (against Saddam) that ultimately stopped the massacre. Given this, it is the successful culmination of the Tigrean resistance that ultimately guarantees the survival of Tegaru. Although the international community exclaims “never again” after each massacre; global apathy, negligence, miscalculation, national interest, and global rivalries seem to have paralyzed swift action.
The aspirations of minority nations in India (Sikhs), China (Tibeteans), Turkey (Kurds), Nigeria (Igbos), Myanmar (Rohingya) and many others did not bear fruit (hitherto) despite staging a strong political, diplomatic, and, in some cases military resistance. Despots are encouraged by these events. By contrast, other nations/minorities have succeeded in securing their autonomy (including sovereignty)-under similar circumstances. Leaders of the free world also learn from history. It is important to derive concrete lessons from these experiences and distill realistic expectations along each milestone.
In sum, enemies of Tigrai are on a freefall. It may take time before they hit the ground, but they are descending rather quickly. What is left is to look out lest external actors extend them a life support, some golden parachute or a safety net to land upon. Other than this, the best-case scenario for these murderers is to get tried in either a domestic (in Mekelle) or an international (in The Hague) court of justice. The worst case-scenario is for them to end up like Mussolini, Ceausescu, and Ghedaffi. It is because they know this that they are hard at work exterminating innocent Tigreans.