Cutting the noise out of noisy politics: The fight between master bully and major folly

By Koki Abeselom

Until philosophers are kings or kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political authority and wisdom are united in one … cities will never have rest from their troubles – no, nor the human race, I believe. So said, Plato, the Greek philosopher, who, inter alia, fathered political theory, economics, sociology, and European Jurisprudence. If poverty does not scare you and eating is not on your list of
priority, philosophy is the best subject to study. Hi, my name is Koki Abesolome and I am a philosopher. As the French would say, enchanté de faire votre connaissance – tournez la page!

The purpose of this essay is to shed some light on the darkest corner of our collective soul. By way of this essay, this writer would like to share her take on what has transpired since EPLF’s Master Bully pocked TPLF’s Major Folly in the eye. But first, she would like to indulge herself in politicus hocus pocus, with an interest in establishing her gooder than better track record, to use Ebonics — English as spoken by Black Americans.

Ethiopia’s politics has taken a very complex, if not comical, dimension. The opposition is caught off guard. Apparently, missing an opportunity is an opportunity that the opposition never misses. It is caught unprepared and sits dumbfounded for the umpteenth time. Those of us who had the audacity, if not the political insight, to write on the looming conflict between our primary tormentors and dared to suggest prudence, if not strategic, political stand were showered with hoots of cyber disdain, if not outright vendetta.

For the record, in 1995, this writer authored 14 pages of analysis explaining how “President Isayas grew both in political strength and stature during President Menigistu’s era and dissolved into political oblivion during President Meles’ epoch.” Hence her title, “Isayas’ doom under Meles’ Loom: Contrary to Popular Opinion.”

When the popular opinion focused on the antiquated so-called Eritro-Tigrayan Grand Conspiracy (Talaku Sera), which supposes an Eritrean hegemony over
Ethiopia, this author wrote: “Regardless of the nature of the original common agenda that the two leaders may have established, the Ethio-Eritrean political reality has developed its own dynamism that (i) what started as a common agenda has become a shared burden in that the two leaders are overwhelmed by their own creation (far from controlling the agenda, they are frantically struggling to deal with its side effects), and (ii) it has radically altered the two leaders’ relative standing in favor of Meles Zenawi.”

Five months ago, she wrote a follow up entitled “Sacred Sin: Beyond Political Razzel Dazzel.” Once again she flagged to the opposition the imminent conflict between EPLF and TPLF and suggested a political position. For her insight and, as it turned out, correct reading of the political situation, she
was vilified by the political cum intellectual establishment, no less!

While she is at it, allow her, as she insists you must, to also establish for the record that in 1996 when the EEDN community was debating “on the imminent war between TPLF and the Government of Sudan and whose side Ethiopians should take” this author wrote why there will be no war between the two
regimes. She noted that Ethiopians were debating in a vacuum.

For the record again, in 1995, when Ethiopians were worried about the close relationship between Meles and Mubarak of Egypt, she wrote (1995): “Mr. Mubarak’s courtship with the young Ethiopian leader, like a doomed love affair, shows a fairly predictable cycle from infatuation to disillusionment and to eventual estrangement. The first phase of the cycle is done with. The second phase seems to be inching toward a point of no return. The third is inevitable. In fact, one can be as certain about the third, yet unrealized phase, as about the first that has already materialized.”

In February of 1996 Haile-Mikael Befekadu (aka Mamush – a first cousin of this writer) asked: “Is Koki’s analysis [in Isayas’ Doom under Meles’ Loom: Contrary to Popular Opinion] an exercise in futility driven by a sophomoric delight in shocking a popular opinion or a serious work that introduces philosophical ethos of political rationalism to a world characterized by political pathos devoid of rational ethos?” He then subjected Doom and Loom to “a laboratory test.”

The test, as he wrote it read: “I will take the three islands that Eritrea and Yemen are fighting for as a laboratory test. If Meles takes Isayas’ side and involves Ethiopia in Eritrea’s war against Yemen, Koki will be proven wrong in a major way and the two most popular opinions ‘Meles and Isayas represent the two sides of an Eritrean coin’ and ‘Meles is Isayas’ stooge” will stand unchallenged. If, on the other hand, Meles decides to remain neutral and leaves Isayas in the cold to tough it out alone thereby violating Ethiopia’s Military Pact with Eritrea, the aforementioned two popular opinions would be proven wrong and Koki’s analysis would prove itself worthy of closer scrutiny.”

Six months after Mamush published his laboratory test, the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia announced in public that Ethiopia considers both Yemen and Eritrea her good neighbors and will not involve her self in their conflict. This statement came two weeks after Eritrea’s Ambassador to Ethiopia publicly asked Ato Meles’ administration to stand on Eritrea’s side.

Need less to say, this writer’s track record is gooder than better. But gooder than better, however, was not good enough to buy her respect from the establishment. Far from giving her respect, some even warned her readers to be careful of her. One warning went thus: “Don’t be seduced and mesmerized by her flowery language and drop your guards.” While rejecting her substantive opinions, the establishment routinely acknowledged her “ability to write attractive English” and commended her for her “seductive style of writing.” One comment is particularly worthy of noting for the record. A chap wrote: “I read her only for her style. She has no substance. But I like her to keep writing. I will make time to read her.” At the time, his comments reminded this writer of a typical Ethiopian father who, after having ‘given’ his daughter for a husband and after having helped to prepare the best bed for the newly wed, stand by the door at the wedding day to sing “Anasgebam sergegna edej yitegna. Anasgebam beroone, sergegnawene – beroone, sergegnawene –
beroone …” It is a cultural thing, one is compelled to think.

A carefree gal – and a pompous one at that – who boasts to have never taken a single course in political science and declares that what is often touted as political science contains too much politics and too little science, and a ‘chick’ who proudly announces with a straight face that she is a Tatcher admiring and Reagan adoring second generation libertarian cannot expect to be taken as a serious political observer by the establishment. Yellow blood liberal establishment, if she is allowed to add. As she has said in the past, where logic fails to persuade, time will! And time, indeed, did!

“In every complex political interaction there exists an inevitable state of tension between the wrong thing that feels right and the right thing that feels wrong. Discussion on Ethio-Eritrean relationship in general and Meles’ and Isayas’ alliance, in particular, is replete with a complex interplay of emotional and rational factors. The mundane responsibility of subordinating the emotional to the rational concerns the politician. The more
difficult task of sorting out the right that feels wrong from the wrong that feels right and the emotional from the rational, however, rests on the shoulders of the political scientist.” So wrote Mamush in his aforementioned article.

For us Ethiopians, it is time to cut the noise out of the usual noisy politics and go beyond politicus hocus pocus. More than any time in our history, we need to show prudence, temperance and wisdom. More than any time in our political life, we need to control our emotions and appreciate the virtue of obedience to reason.

The parameters of this essay need to be outlined from the outset. First and foremost, this writer recognizes Eritrea as an independent country. Second, she accepts a time honored principle that is attributed to Aleka Gebrehanna (or is it Churchill): “countries have neither long term friends nor long term enemies, only long term interests.”

Eritrea’s invasion of a part of what the moronic Ethiopian constitution demarcates as Tigrayan homeland is more than likely to reinvigorate a painful debate that cuts through the fabrics of Ethiopia’s very sovereignty. The invasion of parts of Tigrayan home land by Eritrea not only dissolves the ideological foundations of tribal politics, but also creates a serious legitimacy gap in the leadership of TPLF.

This writer grew up hearing her grandfather say: “Wakni belea fi Ethiopia inega” Loosely translated into English: “God protects the blind and Ethiopia.” Apparently, it proved easier for God to disunite Ethiopia’s enemies than to unite her children. Hence the war between Master Bully and Major Folly. Let us hope that God will prevent Ethiopia’s children from getting in the way of their enemies who are performing a defiant dance in preparation for engaging in cannibalistic military science. It takes God’s intervention to stop us from doing that. And don’t underestimate our ability to do so. We should allow them to dance and then “eat each other up like spiders in a glass jar,” as the Russians would say.

In the uncertain flux of Ethiopia’s political development, where any thing is possible, especially amid the current rapid changes fueled by authentic Tigrayan tribal stupidity, prophecy is precarious. Yet one prediction can be made with reasonable degree of confidence: Major Folly’s political life is no more.

To the extent tomorrow serves as a screen upon which the results of today’s political events are trajected, as far as Major Folly’s political life is concerned, tomorrow has come and gone today; only the mechanical ticking of the clock is yet to run its course, and only to provide a time-frame for tomorrow’s event that has already unfolded today in every sense but in a mechanical way.

Major Folly, who monotonously taunted the opposition to “go and pick up arms and engage us at the battle field of your choice” has his prayers answered by Master Bully. Forget the political acumen that Major Folly is alleged to have, one quality that the moron has is lack of shame. He now wants the very people he humiliated, insulted, looted and taunted to rally behind him and free what he, by way of a custom made constitution, demarcated as the tribal home land of Tigrayans.

In 1995 this author wrote: “Whenever I think of Meles, I think of a man suffering from what author Antony Robert calls the Niagara Syndrome. Think of a man swimming in a raging Niagara river closer to the falls. Imagine an impressive swimmer who passes each and every rock that stands in his way and confidently focuses on the next rock to show yet another dazzling maneuver, but not seeing far enough ahead of himself to avoid the falls.”

The success of his tribal politics crystallized and deepened Major Folly’s failure as ominous. Major Folly clinched his own demise when he exiled militant Tigrayan nationalists to Tigray. In the old days leaders exiled their competitors to regions that they are not familiar with. An Oromo would be exiled to Amhara region, and an Amhara to Tigray. Major Fooly sent his rivals to their ethnic base. The chicken went home to roost! For Major Folly, who had talked the talk and walked the walk, it is now time to fall the fall.

The poor soul, who was known for his picture perfect arrogance (arrogance so thick in the air that one can almost cut with a knife) is now on his knees. His arrogance has evaporated like dew under the morning sun. I am told that he recently bought a full page advertisement in the Washington Times with a pretext of attracting investors. The advertisement page, I hear, boasts about Ethiopia’s three thousand years of magnificent history. Furthermore, I hear, the page is graced with the Ethiopian flag that sports a lion as its emblem. Mind you, a lion as its emblem, not the new emblem that TPLF put on what Major Folly called a piece of garment. How desperate! I resist the temptation to comment on this, for reasons of humanity. May Major Folly rest in peace!

In a move that surprised only greenhorn politicians, the Eritrean bully has invaded what TPLF’s Folly demarcated as the tribal land of Tigrayans. In 1995 this writer wrote: “President Isayas’ victory to win the war and create an independent Eritrea has mutated from being his greatest achievement to his worst nightmare.” The Eritrean leader, who takes a malicious pleasure in being a self defacing bully, did it again. His success in taking part of what is constitutionally demarcated as the tribal land of Tigrayans, has allowed him to clinch his own demise. Believe you in me, it is God’s love for Ethiopia that is being manifested in the high octane stupidity of her enemies. God is almighty! God is great!

In many ways Ato Isayas reminds this writer of a primary school bully who operates under the presumption that it is his God given right to take other students’ lunch money by force. The head of a country called Eritrea is infuriated at Major Folly for failing to convince Tigrayan nationalist factions
within TPLF and make Eritrea’s currency a legal tender in Ethiopia. Major Folly’s failure to appease EPLF and TPLF factions spelled the beginning of the end of the extended honeymoon. Sure enough, the orchestrated consensual sex between the bride and the groom gave way to aggravated rape. The bride
is now looking for her siblings in other regions of her mother-land to come to her rescue. Her siblings, however, seem to be saying: “wedeshi ketedefash, mewdekiyash aykfash!”

In a sardonic twist of irony, the rapist is also crying out loud for a rescue squad. An Eritrean scholar once wrote: “we were successful in convincing the world that a free Eritrea will be a self-sufficient Eritrea. Now that we have succeeded to gain our independence, our challenge is to convince the world that we are a resource-barren and poor country.” Don’t expect this writer to comment on this one. Those who are interested may, however, read her article entitled: “Run Away Teenagers’ Syndrome – A Cruel Fate Befalling Eritrean Scholars.”

Any way, it is now evident beyond a shadow of a doubt that Eritrea cannot survive without a handout from Ethiopia. Like a run away teenager who insists to be on her own and yet feels that her parents have a legal responsibility to feed and clothe her, the runaway province wants Ethiopia to feed and clothe her as its child, while in the meantime recognizing her rotten child’s legal right to live as fully independent. There seems to be a breakdown in Eritrea’s logic. But desperation knows no logic. With Major Folly’s hands tied by Tigrayan nationalist faction within TPLF, the notion of Eritrea as an independent country went from the amorphous to the vaporous. Poof! Eritrea has, as a result, retreated back to its days of Gorilla life. It has become a way of life for Eritreans to use camels for connection flight to take an international flight to the outside world.

In the narrow path toward peace, Ethiopians faces an abyss on both sides. However, whatever else the debate among Ethiopians may be, it should be on what is good for Ethiopia and not on what is bad for Eritrea. Ethiopians thus far have shown both courage and mercifulness towards Eritreans in Ethiopia who financed EPLF’s war against Ethiopia. This is dignity! And this is prudence. Such nobility of manner in the face of protracted betrayal is nothing
less than holiness. As a matter of political choice, Ethiopians must resist the temptation to succumb to the mistake of garbing Eritrea in the midst of the present pandemonium. We must also resist TPLF’s delusion of involving Ethiopians to recapture Asab. Leave alone Asab, it is militarily possible to recapture Asmara. But it is suicidal. If we leave Eritrea alone, it would take but a few decades before it comes back on its own and under our terms.
If we capture Eritrea by force it would fight us for centuries to come, for no reason other than to prove that it is incapable of existing as an independent nation.

Whatever else Ethiopians choose to do, we must resist TPLF’s ploy to use our suppressed anger against Eritreans in Ethiopia. In desperation, TPLF is more than likely to show its Ethiopianness by expelling Eritreans from Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s position on the subject matter must be judicious not ferocious. The argument advanced above is not only made in the interest of capturing the moral high-ground, but also in the interest of advancing Ethiopia’s long term interest in establishing permanent peace.

No matter how one looks at it, and in whatever fashion one slices it, EPLF is no more a significant threat to Ethiopia. It is a deflated force. As this writer has noted in the past, it takes more than old Russian tanks to be a regional super power. One needs money for gas to move these tanks around. And Nakfa does not seem to buy much.

TPLF is a potent force with an ability to destroy Ethiopia. Its ethnic policy has already started to erode the very fabric that holds Ethiopians together. The longer TPLF remains in power the more damage it inflicts. Whether we like it or not, in TPLF’s political equation EPLF remains to be the only check. When TPLF tribal chieftains talk about politics they are more concerned how their policy will affect EPLF than other opposition elements. In many ways, EPLF has in the past served as a balancing force against TPLF. In the absense of a potent Ethiopian opposition force, if we help TPLF defeat EPLF, we will learn the hard way that we have fortified our own worst enemy. Ethiopia has never seen a more potent, and dangerously reckless enemy than TPLF.

In the past, TPLF has betrayed Ethiopians in all regions of the country, particularly in Gonder, Gojam, Wollo and Shwa. The very people who opened their doors for TPLF’s fighters, fed them and helped them to win the war against Mengistu learned the hard way that they had made a mistake of trusting the untrustworthy. TPLF returned the peoples’ favor by putting in place a systematic policy to loot and transfer their resources to Tigray. In the
aforementioned regions, TPLF was not satisfied in looting only. The vengeful TPLF tribal chieftains had to humiliate, rape and kill the people. Most importantly, TPLF saw itself fit to do everything in its power to emotionally destroy the people. In their attempt to destroy the Amhara spirit, TPLF tribal chieftains simply played the script left behind by Italian Fascists. True, it did not work, but that is beside the point.

All over Ethiopia, TPLF has killed and imprisoned unionist forces, and still continues to do so as a matter of tribal policy. TPLF’s leaders have shown time and again their disdain to Ethiopia’s history, tradition, culture and even its very existence as a nation. Major Folly once said: “Nothing will
stop us from implementing our ethnic policy. If in the process Ethiopia disintegrates, so be it!” TPLF, as we now know it, cannot be a choice for Ethiopians, not by any stretch of the imagination. Ethiopians should do anything in their power to kill TPLF’s revolution dead!

The urgent task facing Ethiopians is not recapturing what Eritrea has snatched from Ethiopia. It is a self-defeating strategy to focus on a piece of land that EPLF has taken from Ethiopia when the very foundation of the country is being subjected to TPLF’s protracted assault. We should not allow ourselves to go down in history as a nation that saved its tail but lost its body.

Any way, this writer does not understand the fuss in TPLF’s camp regarding EPLF’s invasion of part of what they call Tigrayan tribal home land. According to Ethiopia’s tribal constitution, which Major Folly forced on Ethiopians, what TPLF needs to do is to first ask the people in the region to exercise their right of “self-determination up to secession.” In theory, at least, the people may free TPLF from engaging in war by choosing to stay with Eritrea. If TPLF was willing and able to give such a “novel right” to Eritreans, how can it deny the same right to the people in the disputed area. If one has to be stupid, why not go all the way? EPLF seems to be singing to TPLF the famous American song: “Don’t take me half the way, give me all your love!”

With EPLF invasion of what belongs to Ethiopia, Ethiopians cannot create an alliance with Master Bully. Considering all factors on the table at the writing of this essay, the cruel choice Ethiopians have is not to choose. The choice is TPLF’s. Failing that it is EPLF’s choice to approach Ethiopians. And Ethiopians should not be reluctant to shop the list. Remember Aleka Gebrehana’s wisdom noted above.

Before one talks about TPLF’s choices, one must be clear of which faction of TPLF one is talking about. Apparently, TPLF has three factions. First is the faction led by Major Folly and co. This faction’s existence was closely tied with EPLF. This is a force with dwindling constituency. Second is the Tigrayan nationalist faction. This, unfortunately, is the powerful faction that is anxiously waiting in the corridors of the palace to sack Major Folly. This is also the most dangerous faction from Ethiopia’s interest point of view. This faction is made of the most arrogant and moronic members of the Tigrayan revolution. The third, and practically impotent, faction is made of TPLF members who over the last seven years have shaken themselves
out of the illusion inculcated by TPLF’s belief to rule and pillage the rest of Ethiopia to finance development in Tigray.

The third group is the only force that Ethiopians can work with. But, unfortunately, Tigray has to pay enormous price in terms of lives and limbs before the militant Tigray nationalist faction looses its grip on power. This faction, too, will soon realize (like Major Folly and co) that it cannot force its will on 60 million people. It is only after this group bites the dust that the Ethiopian nationalist faction within TPLF can come to power,
assuming all else being constant. But that may come too late in the game.

Unfortunately, Ethiopians of Tigrayan origin are silenced by their armed sons and daughters. What is probably more disheartening is that mother Tigray is betrayed more by her highly educated sons and daughters than by her ragtag militants. It is disquieting to watch so many intellectuals behave the way
most Tigrayan intellectuals did. And it is mind-boggling to see tribal intellectuals assist TPLF to squander a unique opportunity (earned by the blood of Tigrayan children) in such a shameful manner. When they needed to guide their brothers who came to power by the barrel of the gun, TPLF’s intellectuals instead succumbed to primitive tribal instinct. Rather than being objective opinion leaders TPLF intellectuals exhibited blind faith like a peasant. As this writer has noted in a previous article entitled “The Tormented Soul of A Cloned Patriarch: The Tension Between Evangelism and Evilgelism”, Like peasant militia, TPLF’s scholars monopolized the political scene, wearing standardized jackets and professing ideological fervor of blind tribal faith.

One such intellectual, for example, shamelessly accused the opposition of failing to submit to TPLF’s dictatorship. A Ph.D. holding and US residing Tigrayan tribal scholar wrote in the now-defunct Ethiopian Commentator (May 1993) the following: “The simplitude of [their] `legitimacy question’ is reflected in their implicit reference to a pluralistic democratic society where countervailing forces (political parties) share power by running
for offices and voted in by means of universal suffrage. It would be naiveté to think that `legitimacy’ and `mandate’ emanate only from universal suffrage.” The scholar further contended, “Legitimacy and mandate also come as a result of the conquest of power by means of force, mythology, ideology, and even by default.” The scholar chose to preach about mythology than democracy to his unsophisticated brothers. Unfortunately, this intellectual represents the norm than the exception. TPLF scholars ought to be ashamed of themselves.

It goes without saying that many courageous Tigrayan scholars have maintained their dignity and professional integrity. It takes more than courage to do so, given TPLF’s policy to ostracize them and some opposition elements’ tendency to blindly suspect them and treat them like criminals. A crime by
association! Focusing on the likes of Dr. Gelawdios (the mythologist) should not be taken as a blanket condemnation of all Tigrayan intellectuals.

It must be noted, also, that Tegrayan intellectuals are not alone in selling their pens to TPLF ethnic lords. A recent paper entitled “Making Ethnic Federalism” authored by Professor Andreas Eshete provides a classic example. Professor Andreas wrote: “Ethnic Federalism is an optimal means of effecting a transition to democracy not merely because it is the most efficient means but because it is the best workable constitutive means to democracy.”This writer accepts, it is not the place to comment on this. Interested readers may consult her forthcoming article (to be submitted to Ethiopian Register) “Professor Andreas’ Intellectual Drooling: By Omission or Commission?”

Coming to the point at hand, at this juncture in Ethiopia’s history, the choice is TPLF’s. The choice facing TPLF is getting out of its illusion. If TPLF’s leaders wants support from Ethiopians they must act like Ethiopians. They must make both symbolic and fundamental changes. The symbolic changes should include:

(a) removing Major Folly and his followers from power and bring them to court and not in Tigray region but in Addis [would it not be a dream come true to see Meles and Mengistu paired in a handcuff and dragged to court in Addis],
(b) releasing all political prisoners,
(c) allowing Ethiopian Teachers’ Association, Ethiopian Labor Union and other institutions to resume their functions free of TPLF intervention,
(d) forming a reconciliation committee ( similar to the one in South Africa) with a mandate to document political and economic crimes committed by Derg and TPLF, give amnesty to those who fully cooperate and bring to court those who try to hide or refuse to cooperate,
(e) abandoning the systematic policy put in place by TPLF to pillage Ethiopia in the interest of developing Tigray, and
(f) returning to the Ethiopian public all property holdings under TPLF, EPLF and their respective fictitious non-governmental organizations in Ethiopian proper, etc.

The fundamental changes, among other things, should include:

(a) ending ethnic politics,
(b) dissolving the moronic tribal constitution,
(c) putting in place a genuine provisional government that will lead to a true democratic constitution, and
(d) allowing constitutional governance to take root in Ethiopia.

But this is difficult to imagine, given TPLF’s leadership’s tendency to commit suicide.

EPLF, too, must come to grips with cruel reality facing it. It can no longer control Ethiopia’s politics. If it cannot control TPLF, the very force it gave birth to and helped catapult to the helm of Ethiopia’s political structure, how can it dream of controlling others? EPLF is weaker today than it was 6 years ago. It is bound to be even weaker next year and the year after than it is today.

This is a cruel reality that EPLF must come to grips with. EPLF must also swallow a bitter pill that it cannot keep Ethiopia’s land that it has taken by force. It is in its best interest to leave without any condition.

The OLF Connection is the weakest hand that EPLF can play. Furthermore, from Eritrea’s long-term interest point of view, that strategy is the most foolish one. EPLF can use OLF only if its interest is to destabilize Ethiopia. That is the most EPLF can get out of OLF. But, a destabilized Ethiopia translates itself into a starving Eritrea.