By Amanuel Biedemariam
Historically, in Ethiopia, change of leaders comes abruptly and unexpectedly. These changes are not accidental. They come-about due to undercurrent that builds-up leading up-to it. This was true during the transition periods from Emperor Haile Sellassie to Mengistu Hailemariam and to the current TPLF regime led by Meles Zenawi. These changes have many similarities. They were violent, sudden and brought about systems that were unnatural and unfit for the people of Ethiopia.
In 1974-1975 Ethiopia was surprised by the violent and abrupt nature of the leadership transitions from an open feudal system to Marxist dictatorship. Ethiopians had no say or choice in the process. The mood of the country changed overnight. The rhetoric was based on communist dogma that was threatening and redundant. Land was nationalized and “Land-to-the-Tiller” (መሬት ላራሹ) became the order of the day. The music changed bringing with it a sense of tension and uncertainty. Most of the ministers’ were executed at once taking with them any chance of continuity. It was a surreal environment that turned Orwellian overnight with thousands of youth killed on the streets for mere suspicion of opposing the ruling party and so on…
After the fall of The Derg, Meles Zenawi had a unique opportunity to bring positive change for the good of the country and the region. He came to power at a crucial juncture with a blank slate to a nation hungry for change. He had overwhelming political support from the international community, relatively calmer region with the exception of Somalia and an era of global transition from the Cold War into the new Global-Village. But he squandered that opportunity by becoming a dictator worse than Mengistu Hailemariam. As a result, Ethiopia currently finds herself in worse position without prospects for peaceful transfer of power and perpetuating unfortunate history of violent leadership changes that plague Africa.
Now, it is an established fact that the TPLF is determined to hold on to power however possible. While that on itself is a problem, the main problem is the fact that they don’t represent the interest of the people of Ethiopia. And worse, all that they do is at the expense of the people. They double-time, sell, kill, ethnic-cleans every ethnic group. They destroy and burn villages. There is no moral fiber that governs this group. They are desperate and extremely dangerous. They are loathed by the people of Ethiopia and the region. After 18 years of deceit, lies, torture and particularly after the 2005 election- debacle, Ethiopians have given-up on Meles and his gang altogether. By now Ethiopians know clearly that no matter what, TPLF will never play fair.
Conversely, Eritreans know-well the nature of Meles and his gang because Eritreans have experienced tremendous grief due to many crazy TPLF adventures. They are traitors, backstabbers and devoid of any humanity. Soon after Eritrea gained independence, Meles Zenawi stood on a podium in Asmara-Stadium and empathically promised Eritreans that “he will not scratch the wounds” they suffered on the hands of brutal Ethiopian regimes. But soon thereafter however, he ignited unnecessary border war and ethnic-cleansed over 75,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia for reasons that defy logic while boasting “we can kick-out any one even if we don’t like the color of their eyes.” It didn’t end up there. He continued with his mischief and mayhem, thinking that he has the upper hand and assurance from The US and his Western enablers. He denied Eritreans any hope for peace with the people of Ethiopia. Moreover, in order to be the KEY player/ anchor, he destroyed and displaced the lives of millions in Ethiopia and the region with no signs of change of direction.
Possible Hurdles to Relations
Ethiopians can rest assured of one thing; Eritreans harbor no ill will toward them! Eritreans want peace first and foremost. Peace is a prerequisite that Eritrea demands because, as a young nation, Eritrea knows it is difficult to achieve sustainable growth without peace. Eritrea’s long term interest is best-served by peaceful-coexistence with her neighbors in the region and beyond. Therefore, as far as Eritrea is concerned, there is nothing that can stand on the way of peace with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
Moreover, Eritreans understand, the enemies of the region are only interested to see a fractured, destabilized and weak region so they can exploit the resources of the region at will. Coincidentally, that works well with the design of the TPLF that looks to divide and rule Ethiopians because it lacks support from the masses.
Therefore, when Eritrea says we are not threatened by a strong and democratic Ethiopia; it is not hubris or deception; it is only because it is fully convinced that it is a strategic imperative for the peoples of Eritrea to work and live peaceful-coexistence with our neighbors and cousins in Ethiopians! Like Ethiopia, Eritrea knows it can’t partner with Weyane no matter what. That means Eritreans must work with Ethiopians – not only to rid Meles and his gangs – but for many possibilities of mutual interest
Ethiopians on the other hand face unique challenges when it comes to Eritrea. Some reject Eritrea as a nation; some simply hate the idea of working with Eritrea and some obsess about Port-Assab and access to sea. Some are simply ignorant not wanting to accept the situation on the ground and go to their comfort zone; and remain hostage to history and pride they carry from the emperors’ days. Another hurdle Ethiopians face is their willingness to fall for the trick Weyane uses; Eritrea, the border, and Assab as wedge issues in order to divert attention from itself. On top of that the Ethiopian opposition in the Diaspora is heavily infiltrated by virus/TPLF to the point of total paralysis.
However, the main hurdle Ethiopians face is their disunity and susceptibility to be fractured by personalities. On his latest article, “Lacrimosa for Ethiopia,” the self anointed former TPLF King-Maker and ardent enemy of the people of Eritrea Tecola W. Hagos, in order to make the case against his former TPLF clique’s modus operandi of divide and rule; and to show Engineer Hailu Shawel’s “opportunist” nature, inadvertently made this case, succinctly. This is how he put it:
“The Amharas will continue in their present status, disorganized and ineffective, incapable to counter or regain the political clout they presumably had lost if the present fracturing continuous… moreover recent development indicate that AAPO officials in Addis Ababa are working together with the EPRDF undermining the very Amhara movement they were elected to lead and promote.” And, Tecola elaborates further;
“As he has done countless times in the past, Meles Zenawi will try all kinds of trickery dividing the opposition and driving wedges in between opposition leaders. It is no secret that Meles and his group have effectively divided and weakened the opposition in the past; for example, AAPO, OLF, CUD et cetera were all victims of the divisive schemes of launching leaders against each other. Thus, it will not surprise me if Meles Zenawi would offer Hailu Shawel the Presidency of Ethiopia in exchange.”
This shows, at this point, Ethiopians have no representative party. Weyane has clearly WON, this time. They have managed to weaken the opposition and frustrate the Diaspora Ethiopians who at one time rallied with the people in Ethiopia. Moreover, Weyane has brilliantly manipulated majority of those leaders who were the face of the opposition in 2005 who took to the streets by the millions rejecting the criminal TPLF gang and used them to pacify the international community, ala Hailu Shawel. Ethiopians at this point are divided, desperate and increasingly frustrated. They are rendered helpless to the point of almost giving-up entirely due to lack of cohesion and visionary-unifying leadership. In addition Ethiopians in the Diaspora lack the organizational structures that can work as a link with the people in Ethiopia.
Combinations of the factors above are working against the people of Ethiopia in every turn, making it difficult for them to focus on the real issues that plague their nation, Weyane. Unless Ethiopians realize that, it will be impossible for Ethiopians to make any progress towards achieving their main objectives, which is: A) the eradication of Meles-Weyane thugs and, put them to jail and in dirt bin of history. B) To free the people of Ethiopia from perpetual misery C) to help establish regional stability by focusing on people to people relations with the people in the region including the Somalis.
As history shows and teaches us, it is safe to conclude that, when we fail to make the efforts necessary to control our destiny, our fate will be decided by others who will bring unpredictable and unwanted changes. Historically that has been the case for Africa. The West has always dictated our fate resulting in perpetual disasters which plague our region to-date. They have shown callous disregard to the lives, norms, cultures, religious-beliefs and the future of the peoples in the region. In an effort to further their hegemonic agendas, the West has completely denied the people of the region opportunities to chart their own path. But worse, the practice is more prevalent today than it was in the dark ages of Africa. But how is that possible? It is possible because of people like Meles Zenawi who work as surrogates and have turned their countries into client-sates of the Western Powers. These surrogates give cover to the West as they pursue their agendas with impunity and without questioning by their constituents. It also shields the West from opposition and international scrutiny because these surrogates are considered legitimate leaders and representatives of their countries.
This creates multi faceted challenge for Ethiopians and the people in the region. First, it pacifies the publics because the outcry is muted since the media outlets are primarily controlled by the West. Secondly, since the main actors, behind the curtains are Westerners, the complaints end up falling on deaf ears. The irony is the West uses the banner of freedoms of speech, religion, press, human rights and good governance as a rallying cry.
But over the last ten years, thanks in large part to the brazen-aggressive approach of George W Bush, with EU leaders by his side, Ethiopians have experienced first hand the role of the good-guys the West played was a sham. After demonstrating from Gleneagles to DC and every place on earth to voice their grievances; Ethiopians know that there are no honest brokers they can turn to for justice. The West controls all African related organizations and uses them for their own gain. Africans have suffered mightily as a result. Ethiopians are no different because they are painted with the same brush.
Meles and his cronies are smart enough to know this. Meles is financed, armed, fed and given political cover by the West. Therefore his biggest game is political-PR geared at appeasing and pleasing his Western masters. And as such, the actions he takes are with that audience in mind. He doesn’t care about what Ethiopians say or do because there is no viable organization, party or individual that he fears or respects!
The coming election provides Weyane numerous opportunities to rewrite a bloody 2005 election history using the very people that rallied the people against him. Hailu Shawel has given Meles the best present he has ever gotten from any Ethiopian. He gave Meles cover to say Ethiopians have reconciled because the opposition leaders have joined the government in the upcoming election-process. It also gave him room to alienate legitimate Ethiopian opposition from participating. Those who will not play by Weyane rules are terrorists, coup plotters and agents of Eritrea etc… It basically gave him a blank check to control the process, a shield from international criticisms and PR upper hand.
When in fact, all the individuals that are being paraded as party leaders have no power, represent no party or garner any public support. These are opportunistic sellouts that are simply used as names for the notoriety they acquired after the failed 2005 election.
Therefore it is not passing judgment to say the whole world knows there are no viable political parties that can topple Meles and his gang, peacefully. There are no organized political parties that stand a chance against the TPLF. If one is to play the sham-election political-games Weyane have cooked up, it is to fall on their trap and to validate them.
The problem is if Ethiopia remains on this path it is guaranteed to disintegrate. That is inevitable and gaining momentum as we speak. As Ethiopian history shows Ethiopians have never had the opportunity to choose the direction Ethiopia took. However, they have a slim opportunity to rewrite that history, now. But that requires many things from every Ethiopians. It requires them to think outside the box, asks for their sacrifices, time, money, wit, resilience and unparallel political savvy. It also requires them to rethink their partnership and how they see each other as they pursue a dangerous leadership-core that is Weyane.
At this point it is very clear that Ethiopians have no place to turn to change that course of Ethiopian history. The only place they have is Eritrea and the willing open arms of Eritreans to partner with Ethiopians to make sure the despicable cancer that is Meles and his cronies, pay for their crimes. Eritreans are ready and eager to help in any way. But, one should not make the mistake of believing that Eritrean willingness is based on vengeance or other motives. It is based on a pragmatic approach that intends to establish a foundation for future partnership with Ethiopians. To that end, in his last interview with Ethiopianreview.com, President Isaias Afwerki invited Ethiopians and called for Eritreans and Ethiopians to engage and address their issues regardless of the differences because he believes that is the only way to come together. Therefore, Ethiopians must make that determination based on what they stand to gain or lose by working with Eritrea and come to that conclusion based on their own interest.
Moreover the only thing Weyane fears is Eritreans working with Ethiopians. By visibly working with Eritreans, Ethiopians can set their agendas. Eritrea has the ability, resources and experience to embrace Ethiopians in this critical undertaking. This puts the ball squarely on the court of Ethiopians because Eritreans are ready to engage because they know what they want and how to possibly achieve it.
To that end Ethiopians and Eritreans need to support the efforts of Ato Elias Kifle, Ato Tilahun Sileshi and others that are already engaged by participating on these endeavors. We need to confer with each other for the sake of our people. We need to open the door for understanding by discussing things of importance. We need to do it with a sense of urgency and with a clear understanding that peace is the ultimate goal based on respect for each other and upholding the sovereignty of each country.
The biggest mistake Ethiopians can make is give credence to the sham election by talking about it or posting it on Ethiopian websites. It must be clear for Ethiopians that Weyane has no fear of Ethiopians because they have controlled the situation. But working with Eritreans, especially in the Diaspora will be a game changer. That deserves your at-most attention.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])