In their recent joint interview, chairmen of the EPRDF member parties went out of their way to say there is no Tigrean or even TPLF domination in Ethiopia. Given TPLF has been crying about alleged rise of anti-Tigrean sentiment in Ethiopia, it is understandable that the chairmen resorted to such methods. However, to say there is no Tigrean domination in today’s Ethiopia is not just false but also counter productive.
Yes, Tigreans dominate the economy, the security and federal bureaucracy. Tigreans make up about 6% of the population. Yet it’s a public knowledge that 9 out of 10 key military command posts are occupied by Tigrean generals. The intelligence service is almost entirely made of single ethnic group — Tigreans. When it comes to the economy, the domination is even more obvious. EFFORT is the largest corporation that owns several dozens of companies. It is an oligarchy that dominates trade, manufacturing, banking and so on. And, here it comes. It officially belongs to the Tigrean people. Ethiopia has some 3000 millionaires. Over 2/3 of them are Tigreans. In the federal government for every minister from another ethnic group, there is always a Tigrean occupying state minister or director general. For every ambassador, the second in command is Tigrean.
The chairmen tried to whitewash the obvious and clearly visible domination saying it’s a perception caused by few rent seeking Tigreans who want to pretend to dominate. That is just not the case. Tigreans did not dominate the military command, or get disproportionally rich by fluke through individual ‘rent seeking’ as has been claimed by the chairmen. It is by design. Tigrean domination is structurally embedded reality of the current regime. I understand that all Tigreans might not have benefited from the domination. Neither did whites as a whole benefit from the South African apartheid or the American Jim Crow. Today few dare to say there was no white domination under those systems. Yet History books show us that back in the days, Apartheid and Jim Crow apologists used to deny exclusion of blacks and existence of white domination.
Some friends are trying to be politically correct by saying there is TPLF domination rather than Tigrean domination. But what is the consequence of TPLF domination? In South Africa, it is the domination politics by National Party that gave birth to the apartheid system that favored whites and discriminated against blacks. Not all whites were members and supporters of National Party. Neither did 100% of whites benefit from apartheid. BUT while making up just 20% of the total population whites owned 70% of the country’s economy under apartheid. An average white person used to ear at least 5 times more than an average black person. What led to such disparity? Domination of politics by by the National Party that favored whites over blacks. Hence it is impossible to separate domination of a country’s politics by political organization representing one ethnic group from domination of power and wealth by that group as one leads to the other. Just as National Party’s domination lead to white domination in South Africa, TPLF’s domination of Ethiopia’s politics for the last 27 years have resulted in domination of wealth and real power by Tigreans.
I understand the political correctness the four chairmen and others exercised and the fear that bluntness might increase ethnic tension. However, trying to cover up a glaring reality does not serve the purpose of defusing ethnic tension either. In fact, it gives excuses for further domination and exclusion leading to increased disparity and intensified animosity. What is needed is to openly and truthfully confront the reality head on. Tigrean elites need to admit the existing inequality favoring their group. Others need to continue to expose it not with intent to inflame hatred but to force real and structural change that fosters fairness and equality among the various groups in the country.