Meles Zenawi or Not, Self-Deception is Futile
Recently, an article entitled OPPOSITIONS DURING EPRDF ETHIOPIA: POLITICS AND DEMOCRACY authored by a certain Mathza appeared on the internet. The Indian Ocean Newsletter (ION) informed us that it was written by Meles Zenawi whereas the website www.aiga92.org where the article appeared refuted ION’s information and said that it is unfounded. Nonetheless, it stops short of telling its readers who Mathza is if the writer of the article is not Meles Zenawi. Not too long ago, it was reported that Meles Zenawi, under the guise of Abebe, made a call to interject in a debate about the border demarcation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. If the article is his yet another disguising message, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Interestingly though, he questions the private press and radio to respect the “public’s right to know the truth” in his criticism of the reports of these media. As he is telling this to his readers, one can’t understand why he thinks that the people do not have the right to know the truth about who that Abebe or this Mathza may be, especially if it is likely that he is in fact the prime minister.
Whether Meles Zenawi wrote the article or not, self-deceptive persuasion is futile. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is caught between the old forces that attempt to go back in time and the freedom forces who are struggling to bring freedom to their respective peoples. It can not be farther from the truth that the country was held together by force but that should not give the TPLF any right to take hostage and rule the peoples in Ethiopia mainly through its former war prisoners. There should be no illusion that the country is currently under a tight grip of the TPLF but facing resistance from different directions. The TPLF, which “represents” a less than two digit number of the population in the country, has no other means to be in power in Ethiopia. As he asserts, Ethiopia’s situation is likely to explode anytime with dire consequences. There should be no doubt that resisting the people’s quest for freedom has a cost sooner or later, which we have witnessed already. Apparently, Ethiopia’s political establishment is a malfunctioning system with the TPLF in the middle of it, not an enviable position to be in. It can not keep the country under its grip control for ever and seems confused about how to get out from where it voluntarily and unilaterally put itself. The two forces are withering it out but the TPLF still has the conviction to react compulsively instead of critical soul searching.
Starting out with the list of problems Ethiopia finds itself in and promising to gage the relevance of the arguments and complaints of the oppositions against government policies, it would have its readers believe through his conclusion that what the government is doing are blessing and what the oppositions are doing are destructive. His list in the opposition camp includes separatists, parties, organizations, groups, private press and individuals, thus unwittingly exposing the fact that there must be something gravely wrong with the government if such a spectrum of entities is against it. It throws all sorts of rocks it can to both kinds of forces mentioned above by lumping them into the same camp. The writer even goes to the extent of insulting his oppositions as ignorant who condemn without investigation as if thirteen years of TPLF rule in Ethiopia is not long enough to expose its true nature. The one credit it gives the oppositions is the adoption of peaceful resistance by the United Ethiopia Democratic Front (UEDF), and even that is with questioning this coalition’s adoption of the term “Front” in its name, perhaps both the TPLF and EPRDF are fronts.
After taking Ethiopia hostage and ruling it for over a dozen years, the TPLF tells us that it is obliged to limit access to some crucial information, leaving us to speculate what the crucial information may be. Is it crucial to the peoples in Ethiopia or Meles and TPLF’s agenda? Does it have to do with the country’s policy or its implementation? Does it make a distinction between the two? Certainly, deciding behind closed doors on the fate of the peoples in the country is a serious business. For a non-popular government such as the TPLF government to claim to be withholding crucial information from the peoples is the very crucial reality. In his book titled “Politics in West Africa”, published about 40 years ago, W. Arthur Lewis gives meaning to democracy by stating that all who are affected by a decision should have the chance to participate in making that decision. Making decisions without consultation with the people such as changing Oromia’s capital from Finfinne to Adama without any consultation with the Oromo people is true height of ignorance.
The hallmark of TPLF’s politics is its claim that it is protecting the rights of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. However, what it does in reality is damaging their basic right such as evicting Oromo institutions and hence Oromos from their ancestral land, Finfinne, or shying away from the issue that divided the Afar people during Eritrea’s referendum. In fact, the writer tells his readers that EPLF wouldn’t have acceded to such a demand, leaving us baffled whether it is the will of the EPLF or the people of Afar that should be decisive in the policy of the Ethiopian government.
Calling upon the authority of the UN, the writer tells his readers that abject poverty and destitution of the Ethiopian population was reduced from 59% to 44%. What he didn’t tell his readers are how much of that is due to other factors including the remittance of substantial amount of money each year from the Diaspora communities he despises. How much of it is due to the change of economic policy from socialist system to the so called “mixed-market economy” system, which the previous regime implemented before the TPLF came to power. How much of it is due to generous grants and borrowed money from donor countries and institutions. He later tells his readers, perhaps inadvertently, that a $3.2 billion donation is projected to significantly reduce food aid dependency in 3 – 5 years. In the 21st century, to get above the level of begging for food should not take decades under a fully responsible government. It is a shame that while other peoples on this planet are making plans for tourism to the edge of the space, our people have to worry about what to eat the next day.
Drought has become a classic excuse for government failures in Ethiopia. It used to be more severe in the north than the south. Now people in the south are suffering from poverty more than those in the north. Did nature realign itself? Climate change or global warming, which refers to the same phenomenon, is put as two factors by the writer in his list of excuses for the government’s failures. The experts in the field of climate change believe this phenomenon may happen in the future if green house gas emissions continue at the current rate. The writer would have us believe that global warming is already causing a significant problem in Ethiopia, calling on the authority of Mr. Yves Gazzo, head of the European Commission Delegation in Ethiopia’s comment, whether substantiated or not, to convince the readers. Researchers in climate change may want to know about this assertion.
He labels liberation fronts losing separatists, knowing fully well that Meles himself is the chairman of the TPLF. Are there two kinds of liberation fronts? Sitting on Oromo soil as such, making all sorts of covert and overt decisions as it wishes including changing Oromia’s capital from Finfinne to Adama without any call from the Oromo people, and questioning why people are struggling to be free is tragic. He accuses his oppositions for the reactions of Oromo university and high school students in Oromia, which are part of the Oromo people’s general shock and reaction in every corner. Perhaps, he should read Addis Tribune’s editorial of March 26, 2004, which called those in the government “foolish leaders” who often rush in “where angels fear to tread”.
There is practically little improvement, if any, in the living standards of the peoples of Ethiopia between the time when the TPLF was formed and now. If there is any meaningful change, it is the status of the TPLF in the political landscape of Ethiopia and the power of its officials and members. From being hunted as separatists in the desert of Tigray, they became the hunters of freedom forces in Oromia and the south by calling them separatists. Their duty has changed from hiding to seeking, and some of their officials living environment has shifted from the desert of Tigray to the center of the diplomatic community in Finfinne. Now they find it mind-boggling to understand why some are struggling for freedom in the 21st century. The TPLF fails to make any sense out of the fact that the power of the olive tree may be as strong as the power of the Lexus, if not more. People are not ready to abandon their god-given freedom for the 21st century economy without any strings attached. Culture and identity are as old as humanity.
Some of the critics of the TPLF are those it plunged from the country who were welcome in other countries. The writer accuses their criticism as interference in Ethiopia’s politics. Freedom of speech may not be to his taste, but an attempt at exporting the suppression of the press in Ethiopia to other countries is interesting. It is because of this very fundamental freedom that the TPLF exploits its supporters and tools in other countries, such as aiga92 website, and disguise names such as Abebe and Mathza. If Meles gets his way, he would like to drag other countries into his game. In democratic countries, the message is valued. It is not where the messenger is eliminated in an attempt to burry the message, often in vain.
One of the best excuses for the government’s human rights violations is that it was so low before this regime and it will take time to come out of it. Mengistu has put the precedent for human rights so low that any elevation above the bottom of the pit is considered improvement by TPLF’s standard. Of course, when the TPLF comes out from the pit, it will be the end of the TPLF power grip in Ethiopia and it would be naïve to expect that level from the present government.
We are told about the improving democracy in Ethiopia and the 2000 elections were fair except in Hadiya zone. How can any one expect to genuinely evaluate this where most of the oppositions boycotted the government let alone the election? Where there was some opposition in Hadiya zone, the government cadres executed the opposition candidates and supporters in scores. The writer compares the election irregularities of a fraction of one percent in the United States’ 2000 election with that in Ethiopia. What the writer didn’t tell us is that the EPRDF won at least over ninety percent of the votes where it fielded its candidates. In Ethiopia where the political process is so young, as the writer himself asserts, to think the EPRDF won by such overwhelming majority under fair election is insult to the intelligence of his readers.
He also tells us that the government has trained persons useful in resolving ethnic conflicts through traditional mechanisms. What is the government’s training and what are the traditional mechanisms? Is this confusion or confusing? Of course, he doesn’t seem to get the fact that the TPLF regime is adding fuel to ethnic conflicts. The very presence of TPLF armies, say in Borana, which is the southern corner of the country and very far from Tigray, the northern corner of the country the TPLF was set out to liberate from Ethiopia, should be cause for concern to the government. He also talks about the problems inherited from the past, mostly culture and religious norms brought to the south from the north. The replacement of Amhara patriarch by Tigre patriarch doesn’t change the tradition imposed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
An unwittingly true reflection of the nature of the government is in the writer’s accusation of the opposition misinforming the people that 40 university students, instead of “hooligans”, as he writes, were killed in the April 2001 riot. Does the government have the right to kill anyone? Is it the governemnt’s right to kill the hooligans? How was it proved that they were hooligans? Is it not the government responsibility to protect and serve justice to all the peoples it claims to serve? Which one is more disgrace: taking out 40 lives in extrajudicial manner or reporting that they were students instead of hooligans? If this article was in fact written by Meles Zenawi, as the ION informs us, this self-admission alone is serious enough reason to bring him to justice sooner than later.
The writer also attempts to inform its readers with a certain degree of authority that Ethiopians in the Diaspora are welcome home without any strings attached. To assert that there is political freedom in Ethiopia is deceiving the world and adding insult to injury to the children who have been living for a decade now without knowing whether their father abducted by the government is alive or dead. After about a dozen years of Meles presidency and premiership in Ethiopia, the writer tells us that changing the prime minister would paralyze the government because of the instability and lack of continuity. That is the crux of his problem: treading for power at any cost.
One of the most senseless writing in the article is the claim that the prime minister requested the UN Security Council, by his letter of September 19, 2003, that the Ethiopia and Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) is in “terminal crisis”. Unless it is a memory loss, the opposition was the driving force in contesting the boundary issue. Meles was under pressure in doing that, not out of his free will, especially by the elders of Tigray as reported by ethiomedia.com. The elders have a better vision for their people’s future than the prime minister of Ethiopia. The writer painfully admits that signing the Algiers Peace Agreements is what Meles erred as a human being. To have his readers believe that decisions of this magnitude are a human error is a travesty of justice. The game of the process appears to be not Badme but Assab, the Afar land that neither Meles nor Isayas should have authority over. After all, what is the meaning of Mathza? Does it need any decoding to understand its meaning? Is it supposed to read math the?
To conclude, the writer failed
to understand the three dimensions of Ethiopia’s political landscape: the
government, the oppositions and the freedom forces. No one should deceive
his faculty and his readers that the system is working healthy under this
condition. Controlling such delicate situation will not be easy. The TPLF
can continue to do the job or let all the peoples become free from its
tight grip. It has put itself in this position by choice and getting out
will be tough. Either way, it is bound to loose.