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The timing is wrong on disarming special forces

April 9, 2023

It is true that maintaining separate regional forces does not promote national unity and quite divisive. This is largely supported by most Ethiopians. However, the question is why this emergency step of dissolving the special forces has to be taken at this time. There are several reasons why the timing and rationale are wrong.

First, the country just got out of a war that cost over a million lives and that a sense of fear and instability is felt everywhere. Special forces have protected the population from internal and external threats over the last few years. For example, when Sudanese forces attacked and took over some parts of the country’s territory, the only force that was ready to defend the region were the special forces. Some of this region is still controlled by Sudan and the government has yet to take action to defend the country. The same could be said about their defense of innocent men, women and children in Wollo and other parts of the Amhara region during the attack by TPLF in October, 2021. ENDF came at a late hour to defend them. These forces have paid enormous price to protect lives and property in the region.

Secondly, the threats to the Amhara region are still real and present. TPLF is amassing troops on the border and recruiting young people in Tigray. The Federal government did not comply with the Pretoria agreement to completely disarm the TPLF. Actions taken by the Federal government to return power to TPLF in Tigray and leave their forces still armed and dangerous has serious consequences for the Amhara region. This leaves the region vulnerable and could be a serious threat to their security. Another Maicadra and ethnic cleansing could happen. Better safe than sorry!!

Thirdly, the attempt to integrate special forces into the army will not work. Special forces in different regions cannot be a truly united national force at this time since their priority has been defending their region and ethnic group. They have to shed this narrow provincial mentality before they are fully integrated into the Ethiopian army. It is not the right time to integrate them. We need a cohesive national force to defend the country.

The actions of the federal government over the last few months have not helped to enhance its credibility. It negotiated an agreement with TPLF and people were quite hopeful that TPLF will no longer pose a threat to the country’s stability because a) it will submit all its weapons to the government, and b) TPLF that unleashed all this mayhem and destruction on the country will not return to power in Tigray. Instead, the Federal government failed to comply with this arrangement by not completely disarming the TPLF and giving power to TPLF in the province. These unilateral actions have undermined the credibility of this government and smacks of a dangerous conspiracy against the people. No one can trust anything the government says anymore!!

What can be the reasons for such incomprehensible and potentially dangerous decisions by the federal government? One possible reason could be that the government is trying to get loans and grants from Western countries and multilateral financial institutions that may be conditioned on the return of Wolkait and Raya to Tigray. They do not understand the history of these regions and should not be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of countries. The government has to stop sacrificing important principles for financial expediency. The Tigray president recently stated that they have come to an agreement with the federal government to return Wokait and Raya to Tigray this summer. This is a betrayal of the Ethiopian people by this government. It is a complete reversal of the policy the prime minister has taken over the last two years.

What is the role of national parliament? This is an important issue that has serious implications for national security. They should recall parliament and challenge the prime minister. Parliament is supposed to be a co-equal branch of government but it has effectively abdicated its responsibility and failed the Ethiopian people. Moreover, the Prosperity Party should question such rush and dangerous decisions by its leadership. Under a parliamentary system, leaders stay at the pleasure of the governing party. If the leadership takes crazy and irresponsible decisions that undermine national peace and stability, it is their responsibility to take actions against the leadership. Leaders in true parliamentary democracies have been forced to resign for less important reasons such as high interest rates, or making false statements which are minor infractions. Liz Truss, the former British prime minister was forced to resign by her Conservative party for introducing tax cuts that increase the budget deficit. Boris Johnson was forced to resign by his party for not complying with Covid rules.

Strong institutions such as parliament, courts can save the country from a possible civil war. This is a self-created disaster and unforced error by this leadership. This also begs the question: what is the state government doing at this time? It is not time to disarm special forces. The government should stop taking actions to please the TPLF and harm national security. It is time for parliament and state governments to stand up to their constitutional obligations. At this point, they are missing in action.


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