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IS ETHIOPIA BEING PUSHED TO LOOK TO THE EAST ONCE AGAIN?

Aklilu Demessie
In the last 14 months, Ethiopia has been in the news due to an internal war initiated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the subsequent law enforcement action by the Ethiopian Defense Force (EDF).

Some in the media, such as CNN, BBC, and others, have been misinforming the public as to the reasons for the war, influenced by the propaganda from the perpetrators of the war and misguided US policy, camouflaged as humanitarian crisis. To be clear, a brief background information is essential to describe the genesis of this crisis.

Before May 1991, the US Department of Homeland security had designated the TPLF as a Tier III terrorist organization. The Ethiopian Parliament has classified TPLF as a terrorist group as recently as 2021.

The current war being waged against the Ethiopian people and government by the TPLF, and the indirect support of the TPLF by the United States since 1991 to present, has its beginning in relation to the overthrow of the military government known as Dergue/Derg  (Committee), which had declared itself a socialist republic, following its murder of Emperor Haile-Selassie in 1974.

From 1974 to 1991, the US spent millions to bring about the overthrow of the Derg by collaborating with the TPLF and ELF, the Tigrayan and Eritrean liberation fronts which had Marxist-Leninist ideology. These guerilla fighters were based in the neighboring Sudan from which they launched their struggle to overthrow the Derg, the military-led government.

Regardless of the fact that these Marxist fighters had diametrically-opposed ideologies to those of the US, the US backed these fronts who were able to play the game as directed by the US policymakers of the time.  They were rewarded for playing the game and were installed in the position of power with the support of the US, as heads of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF in 1991, following the successful overthrow of the Derg.

The EPRDF was dominated by a minority ethnic group, the TPLF, which ruled with iron fist for nearly 30 years. The good intention of the United States of installing this brutal, so-called civilian government nevertheless brought untold misery to the Ethiopian people as a result of the intentional government policy of dividing the people along languages and ethnicity and creating what is said to be an Ethnic Federalism.

As members of the ruling party, the TPLF depleted the Ethiopian treasury for their own benefit and implemented policies which were divisive among the different ethnic groups. As members of a minority group, it was a strategy they employed to stay in power indefinitely and work against the greater and unified Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

The EPRDF/TPLF Government encouraged Eritrea to become an independent nation and allowed it to secede from Ethiopia, including allowing Eritrea to take the Ethiopian ports of Assab and Massawa, rendering Ethiopia a land-locked nation. TPLF leadership did this with the hope that someday that they would themselves secede and join Eritrea and form what they called “Greater Tigray”, a conspiracy-filled treasonous dream which failed miserably.

The TPLF and its creation, the EPRDF, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary democratic Front, ruled Ethiopia for 27 years starting in 1991. TPLF-dominated EPRDF was installed to rule Ethiopia with the support of the United States, as a result of ousting the military junta which had overthrown Emperor Haile-Selassie in 1974 and subsequently ruled the nation for the following 17 years.

However, the TPLF-led Ethiopian Government went to war with Eritrea from May of 1998 to June 2000; it was a war in which thousands lost their lives from both sides, supposedly, over a piece of land between the borders of the two countries. This dispute was not resolved until 2018 and until the TPLF-led Government was replaced by the Government of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed in 2018 from within the ruling, EPRDF party.

The TPLF-dominated Government was replaced by a democratic process from within the party and named itself the Prosperity Party. The Ethiopian people were unhappy with the brutal regime and the TPLF Administration. The Ethiopian people were sick and tired of this ethnic apartheid policy of the government, designed to keep the minority ethnic TPLF in power by playing one ethnic group against the other, creating very devious strategies and divisions.

During its reign, the TPLF allegedly stole more than $40-billon from the Ethiopian treasury, restricted free press, violated human rights of millions of Ethiopians, killed untold number of Amharas, and performed many atrocities on the Ethiopian people. Ethiopians said NO MORE to the TPLF.

The people of Ethiopia and especially the youth, could not tolerate the abuses of human rights, lack of job opportunities (unless you are of a certain ethnic group, job opportunities were hard to come by), the divisive politics and the general weariness in the country.

The Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, who was at the helm at the time, resigned, and the current Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, was elected by Parliament to finish up the balance of PM Desalegn’s term. After finishing up his term, Parliament voted to postpone the election temporarily due to COVID pandemic. And then Dr. Abiy was democratically elected and assumed the Prime Ministerial office on December 1, 2020.

Surprised and disgruntled by the sudden loss of power, the TPLF leaders had packed up and left the government before the official popular election. They had gone back to their region of Tigray in opposition to election postponement due to COVID19 pandemic. They did not honor the government’s decision to postpone the election. Instead, they held their own election against the advice of the Ethiopian government and against the constitution. The Ethiopian government in turn, did not recognize the unlawful election that had not been supported by the constitution, as that was tantamount to insurrection. They, nevertheless, fled to their region to conspire and prepare their militia to attack the Ethiopian Defense Force, EDF, that had been stationed in their region to protect Tigray from possible foreign invasion or conflicts. They killed members of the EDF stationed in their region to protect them, while the members of the military were sleeping. This is a treasonous act that demanded a response.

The EDF, under the leadership of PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed, was sent to defend his military and dismantle the arms and weapons that TPLF had amassed to regain power in an effort to avoid possible mass killings by the TPLF.

However, the Biden administration vehemently opposed the action of PM Abiy Ahmed against the terrorist group, TPLF. The US Administration once again did not stand with the Ethiopian people and its democratically elected government. Instead, it appeared that the administration and news media like CNN, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc. started coordinated efforts in the name of humanitarian intervention, to work against the Ethiopian people, against the democratically-elected Government of PM Abiy and in favor of the TPLF.

The TPLF’s end game was to overthrow the democratically elected government of PM Abiy and regain power once again. Incidentally, they had 80% of the Ethiopian military and equipment in their own possession, claiming that they had needed that much military power to defend Tigray against possible war with Eritrea. They were able to do that while they were still in power and ruling with iron fist, and with no one powerful enough to oppose that action. Anyone who opposed what they were doing were either threatened, made disappeared or imprisoned with made up other accusations and charges. However, thanks to the unified Ethiopian people efforts, the TPLF dream of regaining power and continuing their brutal governance was averted.

Given over a century of diplomatic relationships, it is surprising why the Biden administration chose to side with the TPLF, a registered terrorist organization. TPLF ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years and allegedly stole more than $40d-billion over 20 years from the Ethiopian treasury, restricted free press, violated human rights of millions of Ethiopians, killed untold number of Amaras, and performed many, many atrocities on the Ethiopian people.

Many in the diplomatic circles, think the current TPLF initiated war and support it garners, from the US and other western nations, is because it is believed to be a proxy war against China’s growing influence in the Horn of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. The diplomats reasoned that if Ethiopia is destabilized, the Chinese would divest from the Horn of Africa and the proxy war could easily be won. If that is indeed the case, the US strategy needs a reconsideration, and that proxy war can only be won by working with the democratically elected government of Ethiopia and by making counter investment to that of the Chinese and not by supporting TPLF, which brought in the Chinese to Ethiopia in the first place.

Although it is an infant democracy, the Ethiopia’s Prime Minister is committed to democracy and the rule of law. There is NO difference between the Biden administration and the democratic Ethiopian government in ideological grounds. Ethiopia’s democracy should be encouraged as for the first time in the history of Ethiopia that people voted approving the current government’s part by over 94%.

Ethiopia would like to continue its mature and historical relationship with the US. If the US would invest in Ethiopia, like the Chinese do, and work to support democracy and free market ideals, there is no reason that the current semi fractured relationship cannot be repaired, and the historical friendship continued or restored. The US has a lot to gain to be on the side of the Ethiopian people rather than helping the TPLF which is determined to break up the unified nation. A united Ethiopia can be a stronger allay of the US.

The Ethiopian people have chosen unity over division, peace over war, harmony and coexistence over conflict, friendship over animosity, democracy over its alternative, as well as mutual respect among nations of the world, especially the United States of America. Friendship is what we help to make it.

The US-Ethiopia relations were at their best when US invested in Ethiopia’s development, security, cultural, educational, humanitarian and other programs of mutual interest. The Ethiopian people are nostalgic to the halcyon days where Ethiopians and Americans had, a friendship based on mutual interests and respect for one another.

Mr. Jeffrey D. Feltman, the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, is currently in Ethiopia. Coincidently, a number of TPLF leaders and political activists that were held in prison in the last year are being released. This breaking news is being transmitted by all major Ethiopian news media as of this morning. The Ethiopian public reaction is not yet clear. Although the reasons for the release of the prisoners is not yet clear, I hope this gesture by the Ethiopian government is in the interest of Ethiopia.

Given that the above action is taking place while Mr. Feltman is in Ethiopia, it is probably an indication that the USA may consider lifting the economic sanctions that it has imposed on Ethiopia as of January 1st and earlier.  This may also be the beginning of better relations with Ethiopia at the conclusion of the internal war. If this true, it is a good start towards improving the US Ethiopian relations.

As the saying goes that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. Let us not push Ethiopia once again to align itself with those that do not have the best interests of the West in general and of the US in particular.

Aklilu Demessie

 

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