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Amnesty for the criminals, a cold heart for the victims

By: Shiferaw Abebe

I want to be proven wrong but the Prime Minister is out of his mind.

I am afraid Sebhat and his group are released as a prelude for an upcoming negotiation with TPLF.

Jawar and his group and Eskinder and his group are menajo. This amnesty was not made for them, but the prime minister (PM) understands he cannot release the TPLF old guards and keep the Jawar – Eskinder group in jail. I wonder what Eskinder feels about all this. He was arrested as a menajo and now released as a menajo. But I am happy that he along with his colleagues is released.

Some diehard cheerleaders of the PM argue that by keeping active TPLF members such as Addisalem Balema & Keria Ibrahim while releasing the retirees, the PM is sending the message that he is not planning to negotiate with TPLF.

Nonsense! Wake up and smell the coffee.

If that were true why should the PM connect magnanimity with “victory”? The fight with Jawar, if there was one, was done a long time ago when the latter was sent to prison many moons ago. Sebhat and company were captured over a year ago. So their release has nothing to do with the “victory” that has gone to the PM’s head.

No, he is talking about TPLF and very likely OLF-Shene. There can be no question about it. But why did he do it?

Since he, as usual, doesn’t feel obligated to give a straightforward answers for most of his decisions or actions, we can only guess.

The first may have to do with money. Remember, Feltman was in Ethiopia this week and reportedly did meet with the PM. But this single meeting could not have done the trick. We have to think this meeting was a culmination of meetings the PM had with him, Kenyatta and Obasanjo in the past. In other words, what transpired just now was in the works for some time.

Money and revocation of the punitive sanctions is what the US has always hinted would put on the table for a ceasefire, negotiation and national dialogue that includes TPLF.

Obviously, Ethiopia needs a lot of money, now more than ever. Money – for reconstruction and to get the economy going (and also for the Prime minister’s various pet projects). America has also the influence to unfreeze loan money held by IMF.

The damage and cost of this war has been so staggering that Ethiopia would have a hard time recovering from it without aid and loan money from the west.

America will in return gain face-saving and can claim its own diplomatic victory which the Biden administration was thirsty for.

Susan Rice and her foot soldier at State Department and elsewhere didn’t save Seyoum Mesfin but she can say she has saved TPLF’s ass.

So from the dire monetary need angle, I can understand the pressure the PM could feel and the temptation to taking money on the table. He knows what his government has in its coffers. We only guess.

The second reason is more sinister and it is only a theory at this stage.

We always knew the PM was noncommittal on revising the current constitution to a point where all Ethiopians are treated as equal citizens everywhere in the country, in other words, the end of the ethnic federal system. With TPLF out of the game and Jawar’s camp in prison or in exile, the PM could feel he would not be able to stop a fundamental revision of the constitution or the reconfiguration of the current political system. If the PM thinks TPLF and the Jawar camp are too weak to pose real and present challenge to his power, he may want them at the table for the upcoming national dialogue where the constitution will be a subject matter.

Whatever the reasons are for the PM’s shocking decision, there are two questions that need some good answers.

First, why then sacrifice so much lives and property to arrive at the same conclusion that could have been arrived at 6 months ago or even 14 months ago?

Well, the Prime Minister’s track record shows that he doesn’t care about collateral damages as long as it doesn’t affect him directly.

An example is how he arrested Jawar. He arrested Jawar only when Jawar led his gangsters to Prosperity Party Office. The first time Jawar caused the death of some 86 innocent lives, Abiy called him a brother and dined with him in Harar or somewhere in Somalia region. Jamar’s mistake the second time was not that he caused even a bigger number of deaths (over 200 innocent lives) and the destruction of scores of towns. He would have gotten away with all that if he didn’t march to the power corridor of Abiy Ahmed.

Similarly in this war the PM has shown little concern about the lives lost and the property destroyed in Wollo or Afar region as TPLF ransacked one town after another. He was busy somewhere in the south appreciating a wheat field and condemning those who raised arms to defend their community from TPLF’s onslaught.

He has at no time to this very day expressed sadness or regret for all the innocent lives that were lost and the incredible suffering the people of Wollo and Afar experienced in the last 6 months. None!

Mind you, when the PM withdrew Ethiopian forces from Tigray in June 2021, he didn’t tell Ethiopians the truth. He knew the withdrawal was forced by losses in the battle field, but by misleadingly assuring Ethiopians that TPLF would not pose any meaningful threat, he robbed them precious time to prepare to defend themselves. As TPLF moved from one town to the next leaving destroyed lives and communities behind it, Abiy was nowhere to provide any explanations. He was dreaming food self-sufficiency in a wheat field.

It was only when TPLF was dangerously closing on Addis that he started to get worried and mobilized Ethiopians to face the enemy with whatever they have. It worked but after so much destruction, sufferings and loss of lives.

He hasn’t as yet provided an answer to that initial blunder.

The second question, as criminals get Amnesty and a negotiated deal, what do the millions of Ethiopians mostly in the Amhara and Afar regions who shouldered the brunt of this war get in return?

I don’t think they will get anything.

Truth be told, the PM never cared about innocent causalities. He has no empathy, let alone sympathy for their loss or miserable situation even though he has contributed to it by failing to protect them. We have seen his attitude toward those Amharas who were killed by Jawar’s youth brigade or by OLF-Shene to this day. The best he could offer has been statistics of how many non-Amharas died.

So their woes will continue.

Finally about the so-called victory and next steps.

Some ask: where is the victory the PM is talking about? True, TPLF has retreated back to Tigray, but we truly don’t know in what shape. The government narrative is TPLF has sustained a mortal blow in the counter offensive. We cannot take this at face value because the last time the PM said the same thing, he didn’t tell the truth. Even if we can agree that TPLF’s capacity is significantly diminished, we can’t be sure that he won’t regroup and pose a serious problem in the future.

Even today, TPLF still controls Alamata, Korem, Adi Arkay, Mai Tsebri, lands it annexed back in 1991.

People who migrated from Alamata six months ago are still in shelters.

TPLF’s generals were just the other day scraping the ground for a counter offensive.

The PM can claim victory as many times as he wants, but he will not get an admission of defeat from TPLF. And the truth is this war is not over by any stretch of the imagination. TPLF will use any lifeline he gets to prepare for another war. I only hope the PM won’t be in power when that war happens next time around.

What next?

So far the PM has paid no price for his bad decisions or, often, inactions. I think that should change going forward. He should at least be reminded that there are real political costs for reckless and contemptuous decisions he makes.

First Prof. Berhanu Nega and Dr. Belete Molla should resign from their cabinet positions as a show of protest to this decision. I cannot see how they can work for a PM who doesn’t show any respect to them, the Ethiopian people or most of all to those who suffered the most in this war.

Second, the Amhara and Afar regional governments should publicly express their disagreement with the decision.

Third, Ethiopians far and wide should protest the current decision and the way the PM handled the war in general.

Fourth, the Diaspora community that has travelled to Ethiopia should at the very least express their dismay and opposition to the PM’s decision. They should however do whatever they can to help those impacted by the war.

1 thought on “Amnesty for the criminals, a cold heart for the victims”

  1. Dear Shiferaw Abebe,
    Has it occurred to you that you might be wrong? How then were you unable to provide any alternative instead of just ranting on what went wrong?

    Btw, I am myself shocked with what took place. My hope is that something good will come out it.あ

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