OPINION By Kungu Al-mahadi Adam
The people of Ethiopia, in dozens of millions, in July this year gathered in Addis Ababa’s Meskel square and other parts of the country to show support to the country’s military in its fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighting in the Northern region of Ethiopia, Tigray.
Many with placards, the demonstrators heaped praise on Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed as well as the national army for putting ba spirited fight in protecting the country against TPLF’ aggression. They matched as they sung songs of liberation and calling-on the international community including media to desist from meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia.
The people have remained resolute on their stance against TPLF and have gone as far as standing together across the nation in joining the Ethiopian army and many other millions are expressing readiness to join for the same cause.
TPLF brutally ruled the country for 27 years. During this period they plundered Ethiopia into multi-faceted and complex socio-political, security and economic problems. They promoted politics of sowing mistrust amongst different ethnic groups including publicly working to create a rift between the two largest Ethnic groups, Oromo and Amhara, depicting as both work against each other, a dangerous move that cost the country’s unity.
In addition to controlling the political sphere, TPLF members also controlled the Ethiopian Defense Forces and key other security frameworks. A 2017 public report revealed that out of 49 top ranking military generals in the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, 34 (around 70 percent) were TPLF appointed ethnic Tigrayans.
TPLF ethnic loyalists held the same majority in other critical defense departments, in the middle and lower echelons of the defense forces. Ethiopians have moved away from the politics of identity orchestrated by TPLF, they have since embraced unity and togetherness.
In the territorial sphere, the TPLF could loot Ethiopia of its resources, use its military to expand the borders of Tigray, as a purpose of establishing the great Tigray. TPLF took several actions that seem to adhere to its previous goal, the TPLF has successfully annexed lands from the neighboring regions of Wollo and Gondar.
In the economic sphere, shortly after coming to power, the TPLF established Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) with the purpose of rebuilding Tigray which was good but EFFORT was established and funded with a substantial amount of Ethiopian capital garnered from several sources, public assets, money from private and public Ethiopian Companies.
The TPLF diverted large quantities of government resources and international aid to the pocket of few TPLF’s individuals and leaders. Moreover, by declaring itself to be a democracy, the central government obtained large amounts of international aid and loan and money borrowed from the state-owned banks of Ethiopia for Ethiopia but was diverted to TPLF-affiliated projects.
As a result of this major businesses from mining to construction were dominated by TPLF allied ethnic businesses.
During that time, beyond the economic dominance, the Ethiopian political space was completely closed and characterized by mass-incarceration of political opponents, gross human rights violations, corruption, and communist-like elections where they always won to the tune of 100% parliamentary seats.
In the spirit of saving the ancient and historical country from disintegration in the hands of TPLF, Ethiopians within and outside the country rose-up and engaged protests that forced the group out of power and ushered-in the Abiy Ahmed-led government through elections within the collation in 2018.
Prime Minister Abiy effected reforms aimed at uniting the country as well as ensuring the rule of law, while advocating for peace, reconciliation and healing to many of the country’s ailments.
The reforms were however openly objected by TPLF group, since they meant loss of dominance over all aspects of political and economic life as well as influence over military and security sectors. TPLF leaders were nolonger able to live above the law.
Angered by the unexpected loss of the disproportionate influence and undue privilege TPLF leaders and its allies enjoyed while in power, they rejected the new leadership and its calls for reconciliation for the purposes of moving the country together. Instead, they insisted on terrorizing civilian communities by saying “if we don’t hold the supremacy, and if it’s necessary, we could go down to hell to disintegrate Ethiopia.”
To the effect, they have since 2018 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over country’s leadership retreated to Tigray and as part of their rejectionist attitude towards PM Abiy’s initiatives, the TLPF leadership in Mekele increasingly called on Tigrayans (Members of Parliament, Federal Government Ministers, government officials) to ‘leave’ Ethiopian federal institutions and join them in Mekele.
They suppressed all political options including dialogue and calls for reconciliation and instead opted for military solution. They recruited, trained and armed more than 250,000 militia and soldiers.
TPLF has killed and displaced thousands of people, raped women and children in similar numbers and blocked humanitarian support access to Tigray as well as using children as soldiers. The group has since been declared a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian Parliament.
But despite all this, the federal government in the spirit of unity, put in place efforts to restore peace including sending elders and religious leaders to Tigray for dialogue and reconciliation which were all rejected by the TPLF.
The immediate cause of the current conflict was sparked by TPLF’s unprovoked attacks against the federal troops stationed in Tigray on November 4 last year, when the TPLF group surrounded military bases in the region.
On that night, troops and officers were savagely murdered, many of them while asleep. The sole objective was to confiscate the national army’s heavy and mechanized weaponry for use to illegally and forcefully change the leadership of the country. Thanks to the national army that repulsed them.
No nation worthy of the name would tolerate such a wanton act of violence against its sovereign defense forces, to go on within its law enforcement operation.
That however, did not deprive the Abiy-led government from continuing to root for peace, later in June after it re-evaluated its law enforcement operation, it declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrew its forces from Tigray.
This was done with the hope of easing the tension, reducing human suffering and creating a space for reconciliation and rehabilitation.
However, the remnants of the TPLF failed to assume an equal responsibility, instead they chose the road to violence and have continued to engage in conflict by taking the fight to adjacent Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia. TPLF utilized the cease-fire to regroup and recruit child soldiers.
Using the billions of dollars plundered from the country during its 30-year rule, TPLF facilitates lobbying networks to intensify its public relations attacks against the government of Ethiopia and has indeed succeeded in luring the international community into believing them as they act victim of the Tigray conflict.
Part of the international community have since threatened sanctions, others have meddled in internal affairs of Ethiopia while their media is openly amplifying the agenda of the group by misrepresenting facts.
The pro-government protests and support from the people, only communicate that the more than 100 million Ethiopians are united in saying that their country is an ancient and historical one, never colonized and should not be disintegrated by TPLF rebel motive
Ethiopians are emphasizing that no amount of internal and foreign threats, pressure and propaganda will deprive them from standing with government in pushing for a united Ethiopia.
The Writer is a Ugandan Journalist with passion for current African affairs.