Who Should be Voted out: The TPLF or Meles?


Gebru Asrat recently traveled from Tigray all the way to Finfinne to speak at a demonstration opposing the TPLF/EPRDF government’s so called five-point peace proposal. He made a call to the Ethiopian peoples to vote out of office Ethiopia’s current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. A few days before the demonstration, he declared the Red Sea coast as Ethiopia’s territory. He and his comrades preached to those who gave them their ears that the coast belonged to Eritrea that was a colony of Ethiopia. It was given to Eritrea with the blessing of the TPLF during Eritrea’s referendum in 1993 without any talk about the rights of the directly affected Afar people.


In Finfinne, Gebru stood without any shame in front of the people he and his group didn’t give ears to the quest for fairness from the TPLF prior to the recent war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The declaration that the Red Sea coast is Ethiopia’s territory sounds a precursor to start another war with Eritrea with the material and human resources of non-Tigrayan peoples, as he and his comrades did a few years ago.


Is it possible that he may also be on a personal mission for the seat of Meles so that the TPLF would continue to blunder the rights of the peoples of Ethiopia through a new Tigrayan ruler. The peoples of Ethiopia should ask if what is at stake for Gebru Asrat is taking Meles’ seat or if it is the quest of the peoples of Ethiopia. If he meant for the peoples of Ethiopia, he should have told them that he would defend the right of the directly affected Afar people instead of declaring where Ethiopia’s territory starts or ends. Defending the rights of the Afar people is the logical thing to do, as an Afar person, and his physique seems to say something about that, or as a friend of these people. 


Another point he could have told those present at the gathering should have been a call to vote out the TPLF instead of Meles Zenawi, who seems to be the least confused of those in the TPLF. Should the choice be between another TPLF member or Meles Zenawi, the people may be better off with Meles who is still standing on his ground, than Gebru Asrat, who seems ready to dictate where Ethiopia’s territory starts or ends, once for giving away and then for taking back with little or no regard for the people directly affected. Speaking of voting, can the peoples of Ethiopia vote freely yet?


Another individual in the crowd at the demonstration was former president of Ethiopia Dr. Nagasso Gidada who stated “We have no reason to give an inch of our territory and take an inch of Eritreans”. We are not sure of the definition, according to Dr. Nagasso, of ‘our’ territory and that of the Eritreans. As a historian, he has been teaching that Oromia was colonized by Ethiopia; his only difference with the OLF is how to solve the colonial question. One wonders how he would come out to defend Badme, a border land between Tigray and Eritrea, far from Oromia, the state to which he belongs. Or is it that he is sending a subtle message in the line “we have no reason to take an inch of Eritreans [sic]”. He may have been the wrong mix in the crowd that declared the Algiers agreement non-binding, which puts the definition of an inch of Eritrean land in question. As a historian and as an individual belonging to the Kushitic group of people, where does he put the boundary for an inch of Eritrean territory in Afar land? Or was he sending his coded message to Isaias Afeworki that he has Dr. Nagasso’s blessing to get what he wants, including arbitrarily dividing the Afar people, or the Tigrayans for that matter? What may have been lost to Dr. Nagasso is that it is not so much about Badme as much as it is what is called “the right of access to the sea” by some groups or human right issue for the directly affected people by other groups. This last reason may give sense to Dr. Nagasso if we were to think of a scenario where Gambella state becomes independent from Ethiopia annexing Qellem area and then tried to erect a wall between Dembi Dollo and Gimbi? As a historian, can he see social injustice worse than that?


Interestingly, the border raw that was the cause for this huge demonstration doesn’t seem to be positively received by writers for international news sources. Some of their writers who covered the news of the demonstration often mention that this border issue may destabilize the region, especially citing the fact that al-Qaeda tried to use the region as an operational ground in the past. A destabilized region should not be the wish of any group by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly, who will be affected the most are the directly affected local people. What all those concerned must do to help any propensity for destabilization is to remove the root cause of the problem. The root cause for any destabilization in Ethiopia is the Abyssinian political system that is confusing not only other peoples of the region and the world at large, but also the Abyssinians themselves. Disproportionate power grabbing by the Sunni’s in Iraq in the past is not helping solve the current crisis in Iraq. It only seems to hint at the fact that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We are now living in a world where we can’t safely say the problem of certain people in some corner of this world is only those people’s problem. 


Religious fanaticism in East Africa has a weak foundation that won’t be unmanageable by diplomatic pressure of the powerful countries. The pre-Christian and Islamic cultures seem to be at play on both sides of the Red Sea. What became religious fanaticism in the Middle East seems to be a continuation of the culture of the inter-fighting Arab clans before Prophet Mohammed united them. Although the two religions are loosely practiced in East Africa, the pre-Christian and Islamic rich hospitality culture of the people the Greeks called the Ethiopians seems to be still lively. Send any western journalist to Ethiopia today and you may not find anyone who goes back without observing or writing about the hospitality culture of the peoples in Ethiopia to which both the Bible and the Quran are excellent witnesses.


As for the Abyssinian groups in both countries, or Meles and Isaias for that matter, instead of pretending to be different and fight each other with both the material and human resources of the Kushitic peoples over their natural resources, these subconscious groups ought to talk to each other and sort out their problems and leave the other peaceful peoples in the region alone. All parties should bow to the will of the people, which is more powerful than armaments imported from Russia or China to fight out each other before even properly learning how to use the armaments. Bowing to the will of the people will save us the loss of another round of thousands of lives; it will make the people satisfied and settle the case for good when the people decide on matters that affects them the most; and it will make the region stable and peaceful.