These days, Ethiopia ruled under the Oromo Prosperity Party (here after the OPP-regime), all of a sudden, we are forced to redefine our position as to who Ethiopia is, not only for ourselves, but also for the outside world. Outdated TPLF’ and OPP-regime’s spokesmen still carry on their divisive constitutional policy that involves domination of one tribe over the others (or at the cost of all others). This situation invites not only suspiciousness and distrust of the government, but also hatches dangerous ethnic cleansing and hatred among tribal communities. Suffice to quote Professor Mesfin Woldemariam here, who criticized Meles Zenawi and his TPLF-leadership style:
“… Meles Zenawi’s ignorance begins with his denial about Alula’s history. Meles was born and grew up as a villager. All his thinking path is that of a villager. All his work is about lies and denial. Woyane means an ignorant group who is anti-knowledge. Woyane wants to make the people of Tigray the same as the soap that came out of the soap factory. Above all, Meles is the enemy of the people of Tigray. The people of Tigray are like the Christmas bread in the pan. Fire is burning from above and below. If there is tension, Eritrean militants from the north and Gondar and Wollo militants from the south will attack it. Because Meles wants to attract all benefits to Tigray at the expense of all others, Meles created an enemy force against the people of Tigray and destructed Ethiopia as he pleased.” – Professor Mesfin Woldemariam – 1996-2008.
In the same tone as those of the professor, we can safely conclude that both TPLF’s and the OPP-regime’s direct communication with the parliamentary representatives in Addis Ababa, have customarily been and still remains to be, a conversational give and take routine, often filled with fraught and deception, but an exchange nonetheless. Currently, OPP-regime’s public politics has typically been a one-way street, a unilateral broadcast of OPP-regime’s propaganda ploy directly transmitted to the public, (domestic and international), a kind of explanatory carpet-bombing to justify its roles for what it calls “reconstructing the new Ethiopia / Greater Oromia”.
The 2020-2022 skirmishes conducted betwixt TPLF and the OPP-regime won’t be remembered for how the actual war was waged so much as for how it was sold to the domestic and global public in the form of media broadcasts. Looked back in retrospective, the TPLF vs OPP-regime confrontation was a propaganda war, a war of perception management between two groups who take the TPLF-constitution to hearts. During the war, loaded phrases were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience – both domestic and global. Some of the loaded phrases included, but not limited to: “Unitary regime longing to install the old government system” versus “property and resources robbery conducted by the terrorist TPLF “, “rascal unitary regime”, and the like.
Both TPLF and the OPP-regime had their respective spin doctors and public relations folks who directly managed the countdown to war from Mekele and Addis Ababa where party politics spin issues of interest as they see it fit to their desired intermittent objectives and missions. Amidst the ongoing battle, the real effort on both sides was aimed at driving-up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear. At the end of the day, nearly half a million people died, a hundred thousand youth were physically disabled, and another half a million people were displaced or impoverished as the result of this two-year-war.
What was the propaganda on the ground in Northern Ethiopia?
In neighboring regions bordering Tigray, the political environment was a different story. Throughout the war period, the Amhara and Afar population, traumatized by terror threats and shattered economy due to the 2-year long skirmishes, became easy prey for the saturation bombing of the OPP-regime’s message that TPLF was a terrorist group linked to OLF and other terrorist groups in the region.
The Ethiopian public at large were the victims of an elaborate con job done to “confuse and convince”, pelted with a daily barrage of threat inflation, distortions, deceptions and lies, not about tactics or strategy or war plans, but about justifications for the war against TPLF. The lies were aimed not at confusing TPLF, but the Ethiopian general public. By the start of the war 2020, 80 per cent of Ethiopians thought TPLF was close to having a massive destructive heavy weapons. This charade wouldn’t have worked without a gullible or a complicit press corps of the OPP-regime’s main media coverage meant to a large extent shape public perception, and as a force to propel the OPP-regime into a war that no one really wanted.
What the OPP-regime’s TV-coverage sought was a new kind of living room war, where instead of photos of mangled TPLF soldiers and dead Tigray kids, the media could control the images of the stories by embedding reporters inside selected divisions, and count on the reporters to build relationships with the troops and to feel dependent on them for their own safety. It worked, naturally. One reporter for instance trembled on camera that the National Army functioned as “our protectors.” In return, he confessed that he was willing to do “anything and everything they can ask of us.”
When the OPP-regime needed a heroic story, the press obliged. Some of the generals at the war front became the war’s first instant celebrity. Here was a tale of a steely young TPLF combatant woman wounded in a fierce battle, captured at the battle field and dramatically saved from certain death by a team of selfless rescuers of the national army. Of course, nearly every detail of her heroic adventure proved to be as fictive and maudlin as any made-for-TV-movie. But the ordeal of this TPLF-combatant woman dominated the news for more than a week, served its purpose: to distract attention from a stalled campaign that was beginning to look at lot riskier than the Ethiopian public had been hoodwinked into believing.
Led by PM Abiy himself, the Army network of photographers, videographers and editors carefully culled the footage of the videos of the key battle front scene to present the OPP-regime’s montage of the war, eliding such unsettling images as disgruntled TPLF-troops.
Amidst the fighting the national defense forces were vacating key areas they captured from TPLF and started to withdraw from Tigray region altogether without providing any substantial reasons for such decisions taken by the OPP-regime.
Applying the Pretoria Agreement as the OPP-regime sees it fit to its needs
At the end of the Pretoria Peace Agreement, the OPP-regime never wanted to present a legal case for initiating war and causing huge damages. It had no interest in making any of its legal allegations about the 2-year war’s destructive hold up to a standard of proof.
To OPP-regime lead by PM Abiy, facts were never important. Facts about deaths, destruction and displacements were simply disposable chunks that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with the OPP-regime’s polls and focus groups. To government owned media centers on both sides, the war was about seizure of massive weapons from the enemy side one week and fighting terrorists the next. When neither allegation could be given public attention, the fallback position became the mass graves (Mikadra, Waldiba, Mai Tsemri, Dedebit, Tembien, etc. proving that TPLF was an evil terrorist group that deserved to be eliminated.
The motto of the OPP-regime’s political spin machine was: Move on. Don’t explain. Say anything to conceal the lying behind the real motives for war and peace deals. Never look back. Accuse the Amhara and other questioners of protecting unpatriotic sensibilities in OPP-regime’s political benefits. Eventually, under the pretext of concluding peace agreement, OPP-regime’s official case for the 2-year war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it. For fear of being brought to ICC for committed crimes during the 2-year war phase, neither the OPP-regime’s officials including PM Abiy, nor the TPLF-interim leadership find it necessary to be reminded of the war impacts. In fact, they find it a taboo to talk about the lives lost and the destructions done by either side. Both prefer to let go to other possibilities of the peace accord and find venues for reconstruction attempts.
Tribally geared disarming and selective arming attempts of regional special forces
The Abiy OPP-regime’s warmongers viewed centering around PM Abiy as pivotal to most ideas of the TPLF invasions as a political marketing product, just like a new pair of shoes could be advertised and sold for profit making. Instantly, it required a roll-out campaign to soften up the domestic public (who are the domestic political consumers). Giving direct order to the main media channels, the OPP-regime re-enforced the same techniques (and often the same PR-gurus) in its attempts to get change of hearts from the domestic audience. To peddle the agreement suit to their aspirations, Abiy appointed few key people into top-level jobs at his office and the ministry of Defense. These newly appointed spin-ministers soon had more say over how the rationale for the peace agreement could be resolved.
The themes of OPP-regime’s political maneuvering were simplistic and flimsy. Its counter- invasions of TPLF were all about claims to bring the balm of “freedom” to oppressed peoples of the north, where areal bombings and drone attacks were depicted as instruments of liberation. Abiy himself distilled the fight against TPLF combatants to its bizarre essence claiming: “This war is about ascertaining peace.” From his point of view, the war itself was already won, the fireworks of shock and awe were all after play.
Almost immediately upon taking up his new political marketing show in preparation for the Pretoria Peace Plan, Abiy convened a series of regular meetings with a select group of his cabinet members in clandestine and further with his top private PR specialists and lobbyists in Washington DC to develop a political marketing plan for the Pentagon’s forthcoming geopolitical interests by waiving TPLF from its terrorist lists.
OPP’s newly appointed brain trust also boasted as top diplomatic fixer, Redwan Hussien, to confer the Pretoria peace deal with TPLF and with top Pentagon brass on how to frame the peace treaty. Redwan was also roumered as having worked as a double agent for TPLF feverishly just before the war broke out betwixt OPP regime and TPLF.
In the wake of hostile press coverage following the exposure of TPLF’s initiatives to wage war on the Defense forces, TPLF needed all the well-placed help it could buy. It seems to have gotten its money’s worth. Redwan’s felicitous influence-peddling key notes about the status quo of forces that might have helped to explain why the references to TPLF as terrorist and destructive were dropped from the recent OPP-regime’s and parliamentary reports. Consequently, no investigation was made into intelligence failures of the TPLF/ OPP war in Northern Ethiopia (devastating resources within Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions). Nor are these two warring groups willing to allow any type of investigation pertinent to war crimes committed and lives that perished due to the war.
Each waring group told to the public that in order to get the Ethiopian public to buy into the war propaganda, they needed to fix a target for their respective military campaigns, some distant place to drop bunch bombs from drones. TPLF suggested playing up the notion of so-called OPP-regime’s rogue regional states as the real masters of terrorism, while Abiy’s regime in turn was name calling TPLF as a terrorist group fighting to topple the popularly elected government Thus was born the fight between these two groups that hated each other.
Tens of millions in federal government’s money plus funds raised via public support were poured into fanning the war drams by way of private public relations and media firms working to craft and broadcast the Abiy regime’s dictate that TPLF had to be taken out before it blew up neighboring Amhara, Afar and Eritrean states by dropping bombs and missiles loaded from long-range posts.
The Redwan Pertoria Peace Deal Group also played key roles in pushing the phony TPLF/OPP regimes’ peace treaty intents that has now come back to haunt the Abiy OPP-regime. So Redwan Hussien and Getachew Redda circle represented a new kind of off-the-shelf clandestine agreements. Once interviewed, “I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician. I’m just a diplomat and a politician who uses the media to meet OPP regime’s public policy objectives.”
That means, Redwan and General Abebaw are currently tasked to take actions to convey and/or deny selected government’s information and indicators either to domestic or to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning. In other words, lying about the intentions of the OPP-government. In a rare display of public frankness, the OPP-regime actually let slip its plan to establish a high-level peace deal media broadcaster with a mission to plant false stories in the press. Nothing stirs the OPP-regime’s main media into outbursts of devout scandal like an official government memo bragging about how the TPLF owned media are manipulated for political objectives, while the OPP-regime’s main media does the same thing.
At a diplomatic front, despite the drone-guns and the planted stories, the OPP-regime’s war profile was lost. It failed to convince the western world and even America’s most fervent allies and dependent client states that TPLF actually posed much of a threat. It failed to win the blessing of the U.N. and even NATO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington. At the end of the day, TPLF-supporting nations, the vaunted coalition of the willing consisted of Britain, Spain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy, Australia, and a cohort of other nations overwhelmingly opposed the war against TPLF.
But as the hot war turned into an even hotter occupation by TPLF combatants, the OPP-regime, despite its airy rhetoric from TPLF regional occupation and installing democratic institutions such as a free press, it moved to tighten its monopoly on the flow images out of the war places. First, it tried to abandon Al Jazeera, the Arab news channel. Then the Pentagon intimated that it would like to see all foreign TV news crews banished from Addis Ababa.
Few newspapers fanned the hysteria about the threat posed by TPLF’s war of community destruction as zealously. In the months leading up to the war, the OPP-regime’s pro-war columns outnumbered the anti-war columns by a 3-to-1 margin.
Soon after the Pretoria Peace Agreement, the sleazy alliance between TPLF and the OPP-regime was suddenly sealed with a handshake caught on videotape. The current yield of OPP-regime’s warmongers also saw TPLF much differently after the deal was concluded by peddling the ludicrous conspiracy that the war was meaninglessly done. How times have changed the war drum-beating hearts. Suddenly, the OPP-regime felt downright soft toward TPLF. It argued that the OPP-regime should publicly embrace TPLF.
In the rollout for the war, PM Abiy seemed to be everywhere pushing the invasion of the Amhara and Afar regions by TPLF terrorists. He would often appear on two or three different networks in the same day. How did the OPP-regime’s main media reporters manage this feat? Each of the reporters attempted to embed a squadron of pro-war zealots into the national media, on talk shows, and edited press release pages. The media reporters not only got them the desired battle field appearances, they also crafted the theme and made sure they all stayed on OPP-regime’s core message not to be scared of intentions of the OPP-regime and its change of hearts.
For critiques of the OPP-regime, what was going on was totally a different issue. Suddenly, all of the holes in the Abiy-administration’s flimsy case for war were right there for the mainstream press to expose. Meanwhile, the OPP-regime’s main media, just like any private company, sought to commercialize the TPLF vs OPP-regime skirmishes for public perception management schemes. They didn’t want to deal with uncomfortable facts or present voices of dissent.
Nothing sums up this unctuous approach more brazenly than the main media’s broadcast featuring the usual interviews with war generals, key security officers, and other artist cheerleaders for defending the TPLF-invasion, a difficult face for OPP-regime in a time of such a sudden war. The media seemed to convince, by presenting interview guests who are in some cases, skeptical of the Abiy administration’s motives for the war. It’s war that sells. Once you buy it, the merchants of war accept no returns.
Take Teshome Toga, whom Abiy Ahmed picked as his commissioner for facilitating the so-called peace process. Teshome is a grand singer of Abiy’s behind closed door political spin, known on the political business website gossip pages as “the prince of reunion with TPLF.
Teshome and Abiy knew each other since the days of the 1990’s TPLF regime when both of them served and worked in the previous TPLF’s domestic surveillance office, which largely focused on beaming TPLF’s propaganda ploy directed at teens, with the aim to what TPLF regime called “a vital new arm to combat domestic and regional terrorism over time.
As the Chief Commissioner of the National Reform Commission, Teshome Toga, recently said that “in any fight or conflict, an “ex-combatant” who goes into battle organized and armed will disarm. Accordingly, while the Amhara, Afar, Benshangul, Gambella and Southern Special Forces will be disarmed, the Oromia Special Forces will not be disarmed.”
Many experts suspect that this issue of special forces is a partisan and destructive act to the national security and integrity. What the commissioner and the Oromo prosperity party are using is the politically loaded phrase that “special forces are a threat to national security and should be disbanded.” But what they are actually aspiring for is just partisan by character and deeds. It is devised to meet partisan conspiracies. It is untimely, does not meet conditions, does not consider the actual political situation of the country, and is not in accordance with the existing law.
The other day, I had the opportunity to listen to Messay Mekonnen’s reports on: OPP-regime’s decisions pertaining to the following three major points: (1) establishment of new standards – seemingly claiming as if “criminals are saints to be released and saints are criminals who should be thrown into the lion’s den”. (2) Rewarding and promoting TPLF (Woyane) for re-occupation of previously snatched Amhara lands and the opening of a sea outlet to Woyane/Foreign anti-Ethiopian forces. (3) Disarmament of patriots and rearmament of war criminals. (source: https://youtu.be/pV6CxXNqwMk).
In connection to these three points, it is important to further point out the following ten points of major worries in the public’s mind:
(1) Mainly, Tigray’s Special Forces attacked the Defense Forces. However, after striking back the TPLF’s special forces, the Abiy administration stopped disarming them altogether regardless of TPLF’s heinous crime during the 2-year war season. To our dismay, TPLF is now recruiting new members to re-enforce its diminished force members. Besides, recently, TPLF combatants attacked the neighboring Amhara areas. TPLF has not yet disarmed its forces that attacked and killed people and the defense forces. According to the Pretoria Peace Agreement, TPLF was supposed to disarm its forces within 10 days visibly open to the global audience and to supervising OU appointees.
(2) Tragically, when the TPLF-forces that attacked the National Defense Forces initially are enabled to gather more members to re-enforce TPLF- forces, which is contrary to the Pretoria peace agreement, the other regional forces that stood by the side of the national defense forces and provided services to guard the national unity and integrity, are now requested to “disarm”. By so doing, the Oromo prosperity party and its leadership have made huge fallacy. This decision has proved the conspired plots between TPLF and OPP-regime in their new rekindled relationships with a moto of tribal divisive constitutional stand meant to attack Amhara and other regional political challengers.
(3) There is this emotionally loaded tribal politics among OPP-regime and TPLF regime key leaders who continue to cause perpetual bloodshed between the Amhara and their respective tribes in the name of justice or to redress the past. Destroying the challenging elements within each regional government offices and making the regional authorities a tool for the political purpose of Ethiopia as a nation is a legacy of institutional racism that TPLF started during its reign and is continuing currently under the Oromo prosperity party leadership. Today, the attempt to disarm and reshape army corps loyal to the OPP-regime is designed to continue that old TPLF-legacy with the new task force run by the ministry of defense.
(4) Still there remain outstanding agreement points that need clear decisions to be taken, once the actual disbandment of the TPLF’s Special Forces. These Special Forces were disbanded early because TPLF intends to avoid disarming others (including the farmers) in Tigray from the OPP-regime’s attention.
(5) The “Government” obviously recognizes well that the TPLF-forces, in silence, are preparing for upcoming war claiming to retake places they lost to the Amhara region. TPLF has also testified this very stand in lieu of retaking areas from the Amhara territory. At a recent meeting, Getachew Redda disclosed that TPLF has not disarmed. the skirmish is not our desire; but we have to retake areas that belonged to Tigray prior to the 2-year war. This is the reason TPLF-leadership gives for its need for an upcoming war. On its part, the OPP-regime claims as upholding the laws and regulations of the Ministry of national defense. However, the national defense forces left not only Tigray but also the Amhara sensitive areas open claiming that: “Those who don’t want peace without our presence are preparing for war.” By so doing, the OPP-regime has given its open arms to TPLF forces to prepare themselves for a new invasion into neighboring areas.
(6) In recent past, the Somali special force prevented the Somali region from attackers like Al- Shebbab in its attempt to invade the Somali region. It is the Amhara special forces of the region that reached out and saved lives whenever the OLF-Shene combatants invaded the region. The special forces of Afar and Amhara regions fought against the TPLF combatants and saved the country from likely disintegration. Amidst all these events, the Oromo prosperity party has been instructing the national defense force members to pull its army out even from sensitive geopolitical areas, where there is a threat of ethnic violence. When innocent people were killed in different areas, the OPP-regime asked the defense forces to retreat. So at the moment the attempt by the OPP-regime to disarm special forces is an attempt to suppress the rights of citizens to freely live, physically move and work in a place of one’s choice due to lack of amicable security provided by the government.
(7) The national defense army was hit not only by the strength of TPLF’s special forces, but also by the grave problems existing within the Oromo prosperity party itself. For instance, cities like Ataye and Kombocha were destroyed not only by OLF-shene and TPLF’s joint forces, but also due to help coming to them from OPP-regime’s structures. Admittedly, it was the clandestine collaborating by local government officials that enabled OLF-Shene to remain stronger in its regional attacks. Amidst all this chaos it is not time for the OPP-regime to request disarming special forces in most regions except for Oromia and Tigray regions.
(8) Strategically, Oromo political leaders and activists in common have sown for decades the seeds of hatred after hatred against the Amhara and induced normalization of a culture of killing in the name of tribal patriotism. In line with this, the OPP-regime has arrived at selectively disarming the other regional forces other than that of the Oromo region, to directly repeat the publicly cursed era of TPLF-regime prior to 2018. The aim is to exert Oromo domination over all other ethnic groups. This is divisive. dangerous deductive and mistaken move that may cause yet another terrible genocidal events in parts of the country.
(9) Whenever Amhara citizens were persistently killed by OLF-Shene militants, PM Abiy head-on and carelessly responded by saying, “I am not a neighborhood militant.” Likewise, Mr. Redwan, at his parliamentary speech commented stating; The Amhara special forces are resisting to disarm; and this is a threat to the peace accord reached between TPLF and the government.
(10) It is clear that the idea that “the defense and federal police will cover up the operations of the regional special forces” is a conspiracy of amateurs to disband the Amhara special forces that are protecting the people in Wolkait-Togede, Kelemt, Raya, Zata, Ofla areas. What needs to be known is the reality on the ground today. It’s about change. People in these areas have come out persistently throughout several decades for their rights. Recently also, they have come out to protest against disarming the forces without providing any security assurance or constitutional reforms that stops the racial apartheid system of the previous TPLE and the current OPP-regimes.
(10) At times, PM Abiy indulges into bewildering errors. The day after he commented about his intents that he would record a “hand-to-mouth victory”, the special force, the militia and the farmers jointly saved the dangerous situation in Northern Ethiopia. Similarly, the day after they were in the battle field, he remarked stating that “Clash is not a useful, weapon anymore”. Soon after, he declared stating: “I am going to march to the battle front; so follow me.” Therefore, amidst a political turmoil in the country, disbanding the special forces that the “government” once trusted and armed during tough times, is a partisan decision favoring TPLF and OLF-Shene at the cost of declaring a grave attack on the nation itself.
It is flawless that the idea that “the defense and federal police will cover up the operations of the regional special forces” is a conspiracy of amateurs within the OPP-regime’s leadership to disperse the Amhara special forces that are protecting the Amhara people in Wolkait-Togede, Kelemt, Raya, Zata, Ofla areas. What needs to be known is the reality on the ground today. It’s about change. People in these areas have come out in mass to protest against disarming the forces without providing any security assurance or constitutional reforms that stops the racial apartheid system of the previous TPLF and the current OPP-regimes.
The OPP-regime that is busy at the moment with its ‘State Formation’ attempts of the “Greater Oromia”, representing 90% of the country’s security forces, must halt this partisan action and instantly opt for paving the means to come up with a revised national governmental policy (constitution) that is fit for the rights of all Ethiopian citizens.
That means, in order for Ethiopia to dismantle its special forces as a nation and rebuild a strong national defense force in replacement, firstly, the OPP-regime must be willing to make constitutional reforms in which all Ethiopian citizens are treated on equal grounds regardless of race, religion or any other racially divisive mechanisms, that are still operational by the OPP-regime. It should be willing to bring about political changes and create an all-round transitional period. Doing so is the fundamental question of the general Ethiopian public at the moment.
Therefore, the government should come to a decisive political decision to establish a transitional government that is made up of thinking technocrats and other experts for Ethiopia and its citizens above itself, rather than entering into something that is not up to the standard and the season and disrupting the peace of the country. Secondly, the prime minister should hand over his power to bring about political change and call for a transitional period. After this decision is concluded, the second task is to create a commission to carry out constitutional amendment works and bring about structural changes. Thirdly, the OPP-regime must extend its to accomplish its tasks and obligations benefiting the Ethiopian people on the basis of equality, fraternity and foresight. Fourthly, when guarantees are expanded and threats are reduced in parts of Ethiopia, the OPP-regime can opt for carrying out its strategic plans for public awareness work. Fifth, the OPP-regime may opt for taking actions in terms of disbanding special forces re-enforce a unitary national defense force that patrols the whole nation on regular buses.
If the OPP-regime is unwilling to take these corrective measures, it is time for PM Abiy to call upon the Parliament and announce his government’s resignation letter. Or else, Ethiopian citizens worldwide, especially those audacious scholars from all ethnic groups, must instantly come together and establish an all-inclusive and considerate governance system and work zealously to realize this system that may transform Ethiopia from its current yoke of tribal apartheid system on the scene.
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