Yonas Biru, PhD
JULY 22, 2021
~ Jawar Mohamed, Founder and Managing Editor, Oromo Media Network
~ Mohammed Ademo, Founder and Editor of Oromo Pride
“It is the Economy, Stupid” is a phrase James Carville, Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign Strategist, popularized to focus the campaign on the state of the US economy. Campaign staffers who talked about anything other than the economy were required to wear a T-shirt with “It is the Economy Stupid” print to remind them they are stupid.
If there is a PR campaign against TPLF, the campaign’s motto should be: “It is Apartheid Tigray, Stupid.” The current war is TPLF’s power play to secure an Alpha tribe status. Defending TPLF’s position under different pretexts, the US, EU, and UN are helping institutionalize Apartheid on the people of Ethiopia.
People ask why #ApartheidTigray rather than #ApartheidTPLF? TPLF is not demanding an Apartheid Status for itself as a party. It is demanding an apartheid status for Tigray tribal region and for Tigrayans.
Apartheid is an institutionalized system that gives a superior political and/or economic status to one group or conversely gives an institutionalized inferior political and/or economic status to a social, racial, or tribal group. That is why the Indian caste system is widely referred to as an apartheid system.
As the Time magazine noted, “For 30 years Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian politics. That influence started to wane in 2018, when Abiy came to power, and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has been demanding greater local autonomy in response.” This was affirmed by René Lefort, an expert in Ethiopian politics, who wrote in a widely read article “TPLF’s overwhelming aim now is to govern Tigray with as little external interference as possible. It therefore champions a true confederalism”.
Tegrayans demand for a confederation arrangement because in their decayed and make-belief mind as the nation’s Alpha tribe they cannot be ruled by non-Tigrayans, whom they derogatorily call “አድጊ” (donkey). In the meantime, knowing full well that Tigray is not economically viable without Ethiopia, they want to remain within the proper Ethiopia under a confederation arrangement.
TPLF imposed war on Ethiopia to maintain the #ApartheidTigray status quo. On November 4, the former US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo confirmed this, stating: “The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front carried out attacks on Ethiopian National Defense Force bases in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on November 3. We are saddened by the tragic loss of life.” TPLF’s motive, according to the US government, was “to overthrow the Prime Minister and return to the type of privilege they had enjoyed within the Ethiopian State for the last 27 years”.
#ApartheidTigray Like Slavery and Jim Crow Emanates from a Sense of Intellectual and Power Superiority
Leaders of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) view themselves as “the Israel of Africa,” with intellectual and power superiority.
For reasons not even the Almighty God, the creator of Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln on one extreme of the knowledge continuum and Getachew Reda and Debretsion on the other extreme, can understand, Tigrayan elites feel they are white trapped in black bodies. Their view of themselves as “the Israel of Africa” is embraced by Tigrayan intellectuals and laymen alike.
The Facebook of እስራኤላዊት ሃገረ ትግራይ (Tigray the Israel of Africa) was run by a “public figure.” Here is a window through which we can enter the thinking chamber of Tigrayan intellectuals, in the pseudo sense of the term intellectual.
- Tigrayns cannot be governed by one-man-one-vote suffrage because Tigray is the cradle of Ethiopia’s civilization. If the PM insists that Tigray’s influence over the nation’s business will be determined by the size of our population, we cannot accept that. The option will be secession. “ትግራይየ ኢትዮጵያ የስልጣኔ ምንጭ ናት። ሰለዚህ በኢትዮጵያ ሃገር አቀፍ የፖለቲካ ውሳኔ ላይ በህዝባችን ልክ 6% ድምጽነው የሚሰጣችሁ ቢሉን አንቀበለም። እንገነጠላለን” https://www.facebook.com/koki.abesolome.3/posts/635575347344935
- We do not need to fight with the Amhara. All we need to do is blow the proverbial whistle and they will run away from the contested areas. “አማራውጊያ አያስፈለገዉም፡ በፊሽካ ነው የሚወጣው። ፊሽካ ተነፍቶ ነው የትግሬን መሬት ለቀህ ውጣየምነለው” https://www.facebook.com/tariku.adane/posts/3751287608308886
- Speaking of a meeting by members of the Ethiopian Parliament to discuss Tigray’s defiance about the election, a senior advisor to TPLF tweeted: The mice are in a meeting to discuss who will put the proverbial bell on the cats neck to alert them from the threat of the marauding cat. “አይጦቹተሰብሰበው ደመቷ አንገት ላይ ማን ቃጭል እንደሚያስር እየተነጋገሩ ነው::”
These statements are not off the cuff remarks of TPLF fringe elements. Their thinking was the governing principle of TPLF when it was in power. In the legislative branch, the Tigray tribal region had and continues to have 38 seats in the Parliament, 40 percent more seats than Somali tribal region that has more population than Tigray.
Under the Ethiopian Constitution that was dictated by TPLF, the Constitution has three different classes of tribal groups: Those who are fully recognized as tribal groups and granted full autonomy and region to govern themselves (Tigray, Amhara and Oromo); those widely referred to as miscellaneous tribes lumped together based on economic considerations not ethnic consideration (the Southern People region); and those the constitution relegates to a second-class status without constitutional rights or protection (over 60 small ethnic groups).
The Constitution and the political orders were never framed to protect minority tribes. They were designed to elevate Tigray to a status of Alpha tribe. In terms of autonomous governance, Tigray with 6%-7% population representation was given the same right as Oromo (32%-35%), Amhara (27%-30%) and Southern People (18%-20%).
The sixty plus tribes are represented in the Council of Federation (CoF). Though the CoF is part of the legislative branch, it has no legislative power. It cannot introduce and enact laws. Nor can it block laws from passing. TPLF believes small tribes are natural allies to Pan-Ethiopian groups. For them Article 39 has no meaning because they are not economically or politically viable to exist on their own. The disintegration of Ethiopia in tribal groups goes contrary to their interest. Hence the reason why TPLF made sure they are not constitutionally empowered.
In terms of influence over the nation’s affair, Tigray was granted the special status of an Alpha tribe. In the case of Oromo and Amhara tribal groups, their respective 178 and 138 seats in the Ethiopian national parliament are established based on one seat per 144 thousand people. In the case of Tigray, it is one seat per 118 thousand people. Before the US civil war (1861-1865), a slave in America was counted as the equivalent of three-fifth of a white man. In the 21st century, Ethiopia an Oromo or Amhara is counted as four-fifth of a Tigrayan.
#Apartheid Tigray, like Slavery and South African Apartheid is About Economic Exploitation of “Lower Races or Tribes” Enforced Through Torture, Murder and Mayhem.
The unprecedented tribal armed looting under TPLF was systemic with a two-pronged stratagem: (1) development funds were siphoned off from the other ethnic regions to benefit the Tigray ethnic region, as presented by the World Bank, the BBC and the Case Western International Law Journal; and (2) an unprecedented level of financial capitals was illicitly transferred to foreign personal accounts of TPLF leaders, as documented in independent articles published by the Forbes Magazine and the Brookings Institution.
The systemic looting phenomena were enforced through intimidation and political repression. The Human Rights Watch characterized Ethiopia under the TPLF as “one of the most inhospitable places in the world, bearing the hallmark of crimes against humanity.” Political prisoners were “frequently subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman punishment.” This included locking political prisoners with wild animals to “torture and intimidate political prisoners in secret jails.”
#ApartheidTigray: Annexing Lands from Others
Currently, two pieces of lands, namely Welkait and Raya are the epicenters of the Amhara-Tigray conflict. These were lands that were under the Amhara region for generations. This is confirmed by numerous prominent Tigrayans, including by the founding chairperson of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and former governor of the Tigray tribal region. Here are some quotations.
- AREGAWI BEREHE, founding chairperson of TPLF and currently chairperson of the opposition party named Tigray Democratic Coalition Party. He left TPLF in the early 1980s after the organization declared it was fighting to establish Marxists-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT). Speaking of the land dispute he made the following taped statement: “What is currently named Western Tigray was annexed from current day Amhara during the TPLF gorilla days. The land was critical to get an outlet into Sudan to smuggle weapons and transport food for TPLF fighters. It was unjust for the Amhara.”
- THE HON. RAS MENGESHA SEYOUM, former governor of Tigray Province under Emperor Haile Selassie. In a 1990 interview, the former governor said “when I was the governor of Tigray, the lands in contention were under present day Amhara region. The same was true when I was a child growing up.” The governor is still alive and healthy at 93 years of age.
- ABRAHAM YAYEH, founding member and former treasurer of TPLF – “What is currently named Western Tigray belonged to the current day Amhara region. The land was curved out of former Beghemder Province (presently in the Amhara region) by Tigrayans and later incorporated in current day Tigray.”
TPLF did not only annex the lands in contention, but also relocated Tigrayan fighters to farm them. For 27 years the disenfranchised Amhara living in these areas were subjected to inhuman treatment. Hundreds of thousands were forcefully displaced out of the annexed lands.
On what ground other than a privileged status of Apartheid Tigray can Tigray justify its annexation of the two lands from Amhara by force as a legitimate action but condemn the Amhara for retaking it back by force in 2020 as a genocidal invasion?
Currently, the Ethiopian government has declared a unilateral ceasefire. TPLF continues to fight to re-annex the two Amhara lands in contention.
#ApartheidTigray Unilaterally Nullifies Ethiopia’s Election Results while Legitimizing the Election in Tigray.
Here are Apartheid Tigray’s 2021 two preconditions for a ceasefire, reflecting its Alpha tribal status.
First, “Respect the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and accept the fact that the constitution is the sole basis for any negotiations going forward; enable the democratically elected Government of Tigray, with all its powers, and constitutional responsibilities, to resume its regular work; release the budget transfer that the people of Tigray were constitutionally and legally entitled to receive in 2013 [2020-21 budget year]; no members of the defense forces, federal police, security and intelligence institutions will be allowed to enter and operate in Tigray.”
Second, “Given the expiration of the legal mandate of the federal government as of September 25, 2013 (EC), subsequent decisions by the federal parliament (the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of Federation), federal courts, any proclamations, directives, decisions, issued by entities at all levels of the executive branch, and judicial and administrative decisions aimed at the State of Tigray and Tigrayans lack legal force, and, as such, should be considered null and void.”
Their election that involved a little over 2 million Tigrayans must be honored as the choice of the people. Ethiopia’s election that involved 38 million people cannot be considered legitimate because it has not been blessed by the Alpha tribe: Apartheid Tigray.
The West’s Support to. Institutionalize #ApartheidTigray
The current war is TPLF’s power play to secure its desired Alpha tribe status, institutionalizing #ApartheidTigray as the nation’s governance architecture. Defending TPLF’s position under different pretexts, the US, EU, and UN are helping institutionalize Apartheid on the people of Ethiopia.