Al Mariam’s Commentaries / November 14, 2022
Let me make it crystal clear!
I am a gung-ho supporter of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (“Agreement”) between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front signed on November 2, 2022 and the Declaration of the Senior Commanders (“Declaration”) on the Modalities for the Implementation Through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) signed on November 12, 2022.
I support the Agreement and Declaration unconditionally because it memorializes for eternity the victory of the Ethiopian people over hate, division, war and lawlessness.
I support the Agreement and Declaration unconditionally because it enlightens and edifies future generations of Ethiopians that the one and only way to solve disputes and difference is by talking, discussing, debating, negotiating and compromising, and NEVER by shooting at each other.
I support the Agreement and Declaration unconditionally because it affirms the sacred principle of “African solutions for African problems.”
Both the Agreement and Declaration are historic and monumental achievements with enormous social, political, economic and individual peace dividends for Ethiopians.
In a single word, the Agreement and Declaration will usher a new era of PEACEPERITY in Ethiopia.
But how I wish the Agreement and Declaration could also bring back the hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens we lost in the TPLF terrorist war.
How I wish the Agreement and Declaration could heal the physical, mental and spiritual trauma of the women raped and abused and the children whose innocence was robbed by the horrors of war.
How I wish the Agreement and Declaration could alleviate the suffering of entire communities plundered and ripped apart.
That will not happen.
I shall leave the suffering and grief of the innocents in the hands of Providence.
To me, the Agreement and Declaration represent one small step for the Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF and one giant leap for the people of Ethiopia.
The Agreement and Declaration offer phenomenal peace dividends to Ethiopians.
I define “peace dividend” as long-term economic, social and political benefits that can be achieved from the end of conflict.
I am not talking about peace dividends that can come in traditional form through decreased defense spending.
To me the peace dividends of the Agreement and Declaration go well beyond reductions in defense spending and budget savings.
There are short- and long-term peace dividends. I address only the short-term ones below.
Short-term peace dividends for Ethiopians living in Tigray
The short-term peace dividends for the people of Tigray are many.
With the guns silenced, the people of Tigray will now have peace of mind and body for the first time in 2 years.
They no longer have to hear the deafening crash of guns and artillery; the mournful mutter of the battlefield and the midnight knock to take their children away to war.
Law and order will be established for the first time in two years.
The people of Tigray no longer have to go hungry because the humanitarian aid sent to them is hijacked to feed combatants or because they do not have the money to pay inflated prices for donated food.
The peace dividend in food prices is already self-evident.
Within days of the signing of the Agreement, food prices declined precipitously in Tigray. Last week 100 kilos of teff went down from Ethiopian birr (ETB) 14,000 to ETB 8,000; wheat from ETB 9,000 to ETB 3,000).
Humanitarian aid can flow into Tigray without delay or obstruction.
With disarmament and demobilization, TPLF combatants can undergo rehabilitation and rejoin their families.
The people of Tigray can now begin to live a normal life for the first time in two years.
They can go to houses of worship to thank the Almighty for the peace they have.
They can walk freely in the streets and go to market.
Students can get ready to go back to school and university after two years of war.
Farmers are harvesting their crops and members of the heroic Ethiopian National Defense Force are doing their usual civic action in Tigray without grudge and reservation.
Families can come together, cry together and laugh together and travel across the land freely.
People in Tigray can go to places of entertainment and attend social events.
They can communicate with the outside world as telephone and internet services are being restored in more towns and cities.
Tigray will soon be wide open for tourism and investment.
Above all, people of Tigray can greet each other in our time-honored and civilized way, “May peace be unto you.”
These are just a few of the short-term peace dividends awaiting Ethiopians living in Tigray region.
Short-term peace dividends for Ethiopians living in Amhara and Afar regions
The war-torn areas of Amhara and Afar regions may now begin to return to normal life.
With the guns silenced, the people in the two regions can go about their daily lives and routines as they have before the TPLF invasion and destruction.
Ethiopians in Amhara and Afar regions have suffered greatly at the hands of the TPLF.
Tens of thousands of innocent citizens have been massacred, maimed and wounded by TPLF fighters, hundreds of thousands displaced, and homes, farms and livestock, schools and hospitals totally destroyed.
Untold numbers of women in Amhara and Afar regions have been victimized by sexual violence. Children have been traumatized by the horrors of war.
The people of Amhara and Afar regions no longer have to fear another TPLF invasion.
They are resilient people and can now begin to rebuild their shattered lives.
The two regions have extraordinary needs.
Distribution of relief assistance can proceed smoothly and effectively.
Work on restoration of TPLF-destroyed physical infrastructure and facilities can begin in earnest.
Efforts can now begin to reestablish social services and civilian administration.
The conditions are now present to attract foreign direct investment and private sector development.
Development and investment proposals are being drawn up by many as evidenced by various business conferences in North America.
With peace at hand, the Amhara and Afar regions are ripe for tourism.
The showcase Gorgora Resorts, an amazing facility on Lake Tana, is a surefire magnet of tourism in Amhara region. Once completed, it will be one of a kind in Africa.
The world will flock to visit the Semien Mountains National Park. It is a “park of global significance for its biodiversity and endemism. It is home to many species and habitats that exist nowhere else.”
The world will flock to visit the Danakil Depression, Erta Ale and Dalol in Afar region, one of the most unique areas of the planet.
With peace at hand, I can guarantee an endless train of diaspora Ethiopian visitors to these regions within months.
Short-term peace dividend for Ethiopian diaspora- Brain gain, not drain
The peace dividend of the Agreement and Declaration for the Ethiopia diaspora will be a reversal of brain drain to brain gain.
Diaspora Ethiopians can be force multipliers in Ethiopia’s economic growth and development.
A small but highly organized diaspora professionals can dramatically increase capacity building in Ethiopia.
Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian nationals today work in diverse fields throughout the world, particularly in the US and Europe.
A decade ago, it was said, “There are more Ethiopian physicians practicing in Chicago today than in all of Ethiopia, a country of 80 million and Africa’s second-most populous country.”
Many Ethiopians have gained global recognition for their scientific and professional achievements.
There are physicians, nurses, engineers, doctors, professors, business professionals and entrepreneurs, investors, agricultural experts, architects, lawyers and so many others who would love to make a contribution to Ethiopian PEACEPERITY.
They now have a chance to do just that.
The professional Ethiopian diaspora should be regarded as Ethiopia’s brain trust.
Many diaspora Ethiopian professionals have been turned off by conflict and rumors of conflict.
There is no doubt that in the immediate future there will be a resurgence of Ethiopian brain gain from the traditional brain drain.
Ethiopia needs young people with entrepreneurial spirit.
There are many in the diaspora that can drive economic growth with rapid expansion of the IT sector.
Many of the young entrepreneurs shall soon return with new ideas and ways to improve, adapt and innovate in the Ethiopian technological sector.
All diaspora Ethiopians deserve special commendation for their contribution in sending remittances to Ethiopia and charitable work for a variety of causes related to the conflict.
“In the Ethiopian fiscal year 2021-2022, which ended on July 7th, remittances from Ethiopians living abroad totaled 4.2 billion dollars.”
That is many times more than all the economic and humanitarian aid Ethiopia has received during the same period.
The GOE has established the Diaspora Engagement Affairs General Directorate within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work closely with Ethiopian Diaspora and facilitate diaspora engagement in all aspects of economic development and nation building.
I expect an explosion of diaspora Ethiopian activity in the next six months.
Short-term peace dividends with our neighbors
When America declared independence in 1776, Edward Gibbon, the great historian of Western civilization wrote, the Ethiopians, then called “Abyssinians, an unwarlike people.”
Gibbon wrote the Abyssinians were interested in a “rational project of importing the arts and ingenuity of Europe; and their ambassadors at Rome and Lisbon were instructed to solicit a colony of smiths, carpenters, tilers, masons, printers, surgeons, and physicians, for the use of their country.”
Ethiopia and Eritrea are at peace today despite TPLF provocations over the past two years with missile attacks.
But for nearly two decades, Ethiopia and Eritrea remained in a no war, no peace situation until PM Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afeworki broke the ice and mended relations in June 2018.
I personally realized my dreams for peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea when I was granted the supreme honor and privilege to join the march for peace alongside H.E. PM Abiy Ahmed and H.E. President Isaias Afeworki at the border towns of Zalamabessa and Bure and become a witness for history on September 11, 2018.
The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea are brothers and sisters, no matter geographical borders. We have so many things in common that any differences are insignificant to the things that bind us together.
The short-term peace dividend is final demarcation of the physical borders between the two countries.
I believe once the border is secured from terrorism and black marketeers and the two countries work out the details of trade and travel, economic activity between the two countries will accelerate at a high rate in a very short time.
As I have always said, “Ethiopians and Eritreans united can never be defeated.”
Now, I will change that. “Ethiopians and Eritreans united will become East Africa’s economic powerhouse.”
But as in incorrigible utopian Ethiopian, I see an East African common market as one of the peace dividends of the Agreement and Declaration.
Ethiopia shall soon become a driver of peace in the Horn of Africa.
In 2019, PM Abiy Ahmed played a key role in the Sudan during negotiations between protestors and the provisional military council which currently rules Sudan.
In 2019, PM Abiy Ahmed also played a key role in helping the contending parties in South Sudan achieve a peace deal.
Ethiopia and Kenya have been key allies in Somalia’s peace and security matters particularly in fighting terrorism and supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and strengthening regional security.
Ethiopia has been a major contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
For these and many other reasons, the peace agreement in Ethiopia will contribute greatly to stability in the Horn of Africa in the short- and long-terms.
PEACEPERITY or peace dividends for all Ethiopians
The end of the conflict and permanent cessation of hostilities and declaration on disarmament will have extraordinary positive effects on the Ethiopian political economy and society.
With restoration of security and law and order in Tigray, other satellite terrorist groups financed and supported by the TPLF will no longer pose a threat to Ethiopian society.
The ENDF will take swift counterinsurgency action to eliminate various terrorist threats in certain pockets of the country.
Fiscal resources that have been directed towards the management of the conflict can now be redirected to other critical social and infrastructure and reconstruction activities.
Tax revenues are likely to increase as businesses expand and foreign direct investment finds attractive economic opportunities in a stable and peaceful Ethiopia.
There is no question the conflict and war in Northern Ethiopia has severely impacted and disrupted the country’s macroeconomic performance across the board including economic output, inflation, foreign exchange rates, exports, balance of payments and so on.
In August 2021, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres observed, the conflict had “drained over a billion dollars from the country’s coffers.” By August 2022, when the TPLF mounted its third attack, the cost of the war had skyrockets.
The cumulative effect of the conflict has been diversion of much needed resources from poverty reduction and social services programs with negative impact on growth and development.
As a short-term peace dividend, it is reasonable to expect increased outlays for education, health care, job creation and other productive activities.
Post-war countries generally have a very low capacity to raise revenues to address their diverse needs ranging from social services to reconstruction of damaged institutions and infrastructure.
Luckily, donors and the international community have already expressed substantial support following the peace agreement.
The European Union (EU) has already “granted €31.5 million (nearly 1.7 billion Ethiopian Birr) to restore and strengthen health services and systems to improve the lives of women and children living in conflict-impacted regions in Ethiopia.”
The International Monetary Fund has indicated as a result of the “peace accords”, it has entered into discussions “that could lead to a potential fund program” to support Ethiopia’s reform programs.
Ethiopia, which was terminated from participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), could be restored within a foreseeable period of time as a result of the Agreement.
Conferences to explore investment opportunities are taking place in many countries.
Sectoral initiatives to attract investments are being held in Ethiopia.
War dividends, peace dividends
The dividends of war are plunder and murder.
There is such a thing as “war prosperity.” It is prosperity driven by the military industrial complex.
The dividends of peace are prosperity, safety, security, unity, dignity and sovereignty.
Prosperity driven by peace is PEACEPERITY.
To enjoy the benefits of PEACEPERITY, Ethiopia must be cleansed of the toxic politics of hate.
Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone once observed, “Don’t let the actions of a few determine the way you feel about an entire group. Remember not all Germans were Nazis.”
I would say, “Don’t let the action of a few demented and power hungry TPLF leaders and supporters determine how you feel about the people of Tigray. The overwhelming majority of the people of Tigray are not members of the TPLF.”
I do not know how long it will take for Ethiopians living in Amhara and Afar regions to overcome the horrors committed on them by the leadership of the TPLF.
I do not know how long it will take to rebuild the schools, hospitals, roads and bridges the TPLF has destroyed.
I do not know how much it will cost to rebuild Amhara, Afar and Tigray regions.
The Ethiopian Government estimates it will cost USD$20 billion!
Beyond reconstruction of infrastructure, there is the task of reconstructing the Ethiopian Spirit.
The Ethiopian Sprit has been catastrophically damaged by the conflict.
Unspoken hate hangs like smog in our hearts and minds. Most of us are too hypocritical or ashamed to admit it.
The horrific crimes committed by the TPLF over the past two years should be remembered for the lessons they offer and to make sure they are never repeated.
The war crimes committed by a few hateful TPLF leaders should never be allowed to stigmatize and disgrace the people of Tigray.
Hate gestates in the womb of silence.
Albert Einstein once observed, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
Ethiopia has suffered the slings and arrows of war not because of the evils of TPLF, Shene or other terrorists and their supporters.
Ethiopia has suffered because enough Ethiopians of good will and good faith have simply looked on, said noting and done nothing.
But the sins of the TPLF can neither be inherited nor atoned for by the people of Tigray.
All Ethiopians of good will know the TPLF never represented nor cared for the people of Tigray.
There is no more compelling proof of that than a needless 2-year war in which hundreds of thousands have died and been displaced just to satisfy the power hunger and egos of a few blood thirsty criminals.
Is it fair to judge and demonize an entire group of people, the vast majority of whom are poor and survive on safety bet handouts, based on the crimes of a few crooks and cutthroats?
Dr. Martin Luther King taught:
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.
All Ethiopians individually and collectively must examine their consciences and decide to stick to love.
Hate is too great a burden for our beloved Ethiopia to bear!
PEACEPERITY cannot grow in the toxic soil of hate.
We cannot crawl, walk or run into PEACEPERITY carrying the albatross of hate on our necks.
Let’s choose peace and love in our daily lives!
I have been an implacable, unrelenting and unyielding foe of the TPLF for more than a decade and half.
Every week for the past 16 years, I have investigated, prosecuted and convicted the TPLF in the court of world public opinion.
Some say I have written long essays all these years driven by hate.
Nelson Mandela perceptively observed:
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
That is perhaps the difference between TPLF leaders and myself.
I was never taught to hate another person because of skin color, background, religion, gender, disability or any other characteristic.
I was taught to respect, appreciate and love others consistent with the principle of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
If I have been driven at all, my driving principle has come from Dr. King’s inspirational words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
And the words of the great American educator and slavery abolitionist who proclaimed, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
I wrote endlessly for 16 years every single week not because I hated the TPLF but because I so much loved Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people.
That is the secret of my success in relentlessly pursuing the TPLF and also the method in my madness.
Truth be told, I have disliked the leaders of the TPLF and expressed contempt for their actions.
I have vilified them with words of ridicule, scorn and disdain.
I have argued vigorously for their arrest and prosecution fully accorded due process of law.
But I have never crossed the line to hate them.
For if I were to hate them, I would be them.
I have studied TPLF leader Meles Zenawi.
I have watched many of his videos speaking to parliament, his media interviews and read his public statements.
Perhaps I should not say this because Meles is not around to defend himself.
But then again, I harangued and criticized him while he was alive.
He never said a word.
But I know for a fact my weekly sermons seared his ego, if not his conscience.
Be that as it may, to me, Meles was a frightening exemplar of hate.
Dr. King said, “hate scars the soul and distorts the personality.”
Meles’ soul was permanently scarred by hate.
Meles was damaged by his own hate as much as his victims.
I wonder if Meles were alive the peace Agreement would have given him peace of mind.
When I saw representatives of the Ethiopian Government and the TPLF sign the peace Agreement, I also put my imaginary signature on it as well.
I have declared my own permanent cessation of hostilities with the TPLF.
On April 18, 2018, sixteen days after Dr. Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as prime minister, I wrote him my first Public Memorandum:
Now, we have a chance to have young leaders in Ethiopia who can break the old mold and make a new one forged out of a simple principle: ‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.’
In my view, the greatest peace dividend is the hope that , “Never, never and never again shall this beautiful land we call Ethiopia will again experience the oppression of one by another.”
That is the ultimate definition of ETHIOPIAN PEACEPERITY!
“Ode to Silenced Guns in Ethiopia”
(Here are a few couplets, rhyming two-line verses, reflecting my happiness, inner musings and ruminations about the silenced guns in Ethiopia.)
We shall forever bury the hatchet
With peace and harmony as our target.
Thank God! All quiet on the Northern Front
What a glorious announcement!
War in Ethiopia has been bloody hell
To war, we say, “Goodbye Forever! Farewell!”
Begone bitterness and ill-will
Welcome kinship, friendship and goodwill.
In the Tigray conflict, what did we gain?
Nothing but untold grief and pain.
What did we learn from the Tigray conflict?
That Ethiopia/ns can never be split.
We shall beat our swords into ploughshares
And make our people millionaires.
Live by the sword, die by the sword?
No, live in the world according to the Word!
The crash of guns births the silence of the tomb
For those alive and in the womb.
From war and hate, what did we l/earn?
Only belly ache and heartburn.
How do we escape the darkness of hate?
By learning to better communicate.
Will we live together in unity?
The alternative is to perish as fools in a sea of poverty.
Do we forgive and forget?
We must, living on this insignificant pale blue dot planet.
What happens when the crash of guns turns into silence?
We will have found our path of nonviolence.
The crash of guns will be drowned by children’s laughter
To the joy and happiness of mother and father!
What is Ethiopian PEACEPERITY?
It is productivity through connectivity and collectivity.
It is growth and development in unity in our diversity
It is love anchored in our humanity, community and Ethiopianity.
How can we build our market?
By making Ethiopia Africa’s breadbasket.
How do we change Ethiopia?
When each one of us labor to make it a Utopia.
When we overcome the forces of dystopia
And make Ethiopia Africa’s cornucopia.
What sways our future?
Peace and prosperity in our national architecture.
We can now devote our time to our Green Legacy
And nurture our young democracy.
Behold our GERD
That will carry our destiny forward.
“GERD is for Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan!”
That is our collective slogan.
We will sell our surplus wheat
Ain’t that doggone sweet!
Ethiopia today, tomorrow and forever
She shall be Horn of Africa’s Peacekeeper!