- Ethiopia’s Painful Wounds
Ethiopia, a country with a proud history, has been in trouble since the ascendency of the TPLF-led EPRDF regime into the helm of its leadership. TPLF, from its very inception was a rebel group which fought guerilla fighting against the Ethiopian State. Though Ethiopia’s history under the predecessor of EPRDF, the Derg regime was dismaying, it had entered into a new chapter with horrible Ethnic-centered federalism. The system acquired a constitutional legitimacy which itself falls short of social legitimacy as it was drafted and adopted without the meaningful participation and representation of the people. TPLF’s manifesto was moored on Anti-Amhara and the party considered all the previous regimes as the Amhara ruling class. By extension, it characterized the Amhara as an oppressor and the rest of ethnic groups as oppressed. But TPLF’s characterization was unfounded and a mere fabrication.
TPLF's characterization of the Amhara people as such transformed into the institutionalization of the Anti-Amhara ideology and the people under the banner of such group went through an unprecedented state of massacre, discrimination, humiliation, and disregard. This has continued for the last thirty years. In the early days of TPLF’s rule, the Anti-Amhara project was done in collaboration with the OLF, another Anti-Amhara group who characterizes historic Ethiopia as a colonizing empire.
As OLF pulled out of the political playground and lived in exile, TPLF remained the exclusive actor in the state of Ethiopian politics. But this is not without denying the fact that other puppet ethnic-line parties were co-opted with TPLF’s mission. Controlling the economy and all the state machinery TPLF has turned into a villain and curtailed the state with an authoritarian system. Ethnicity is used as an instrument for genocide, ethnic cleansing, crime against humanity and internal displacement. The rights of ‘nation and nationalities’ under the cover of ‘self-determination’ was just a play card for the exploitation of the nation’s resources for few ruling class members and their affiliates. No ethnic group benefited from the system but there were some who were ruthlessly attacked by it.
Though an independent and deeper investigation has never been made over the atrocities caused by the TPLF-led regime, there have been continuous atrocities of all kinds perpetrated by officials and security apparatuses. Genocide, crime against humanity, ethnic cleansing, torture, war crimes, and illicit financial flows were amongst the core crimes being committed by the regime. No single person was brought to justice on the count of those crimes. Criminality and impunity have become the unwritten principles of the regime, past, and present.
For an average minded person who could evaluate the evils happening against Ethiopia and Ethiopians due to the barbaric ethnic-centered federalism s/he might wonder the strength of the country and its unflinching foundation for not falling apart like Yugoslavia, Syria, Yemen, and the likes. The social fabric and the obedience of the larger public for religion, morality, and culture lent the country their saving hands from collapse. This has to be recorded as the century’s miracle.
The TPLF-led EPRDF collapsed by the coming into leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a nobel peace prize winner for his effort for the Ethio-Eritrea peace rapprochement, in the year 2018. The external public protest and unrest against the then regime and the internal inter-party struggle have made the change in leadership possible. The PM’s inaugural speech and his promises galvanized millions of Ethiopians in his support and the generation went through an unprecedented euphoria for the first time in the 21st century. The PM seized the political stage with a totally different tone and rhetoric unlike the inherent mantra of the TPLF-led EPRDF regime. But all the promises remain a daydream and the expectations of the public proved wrong. National dialogue and negotiation over the incumbent Federal Constitution were the first among the checklists of the public expectations that were never brought to fruition. The PM remains reluctant towards the call for a constitutional change through a meaningful national dialogue.
TPLF, once its hegemony is attacked, made a stronghold in the Tigray Region and kept defying the federal government in all strongest terms possible. The defiance got to its peak when Abiy transformed the EPRDF into a Prosperity Party with which all ruling political parties of the regional states except the TPLF have joined. TPLF started to express its anger at the dissolution of EPRDF and characterized the decision as a unitary move. And then, TPLF courted pseudo-opposition political parties in Mekele and named the gathering as a federalist force. The force has condemned Abiy’s move as unconstitutional and anti-federalism. Meanwhile that collection has faced a fracture.
The story keeps unfolding and the tension escalated into a rude wars of the word while the house of federation decided to postpone the sixth national election due to COVID-19. TPLF, the exclusive ruling party of the Tigray Regional State, opposed the decision and decided to administer the election at the regional level and administered the election through establishing a regional electoral board.
Administration of the election at the regional level seemed the last-ditch of the legal-politico morass of the Federal-Tigray feud. Taking this development as an immediate cause, the Federal government started to take measures in the direction of the house of the federation. The inevitability of the measures might have propelled the TPLF to speed up the starting of a war and the party started the war with its obnoxious forms of betrayal of Ethiopia. TPLF massacred and looted the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force. That heartless action of TPLF set the fire to an already brewing flame.
Taking note of the evilest doings of TPLF one can fairly conclude that Ethiopia’s wounds are primarily harbingered by TPLF. Now TPLF is facing a law-enforcement operation by the Ethiopian National Defense Force, with the heroic assistance of the Amhara special security force and militia. Anticipating the demise of TPLF in the body politic of Ethiopia, asking a question ‘would healing Ethiopia be possible in the aftermath of TPLF’s demise’ is as fair enough as the necessity of exterminating TPLF. Would Ethiopia’s wounds be healed in the upshot of TPLF’s death is the question that deserves a proper response.
Ethiopia’s resilience of its wounds and pains will no more be enduring unless TPLF and its remnants have vanished forever. But to heal Ethiopia from its painful wounds the following preconditions should be satisfied.
- The Healing Preconditions
TPLF and its handmade laws and institutions should undergo a major and significant revision, if not replacement with fresh laws and institutions. Ethiopia will neither be healed nor transformed into a constitutional democrat state with a camouflage remedial approach. An all-out remaking is a determining factor to the future of Ethiopia. Any measure less than this new-beginning is detrimental to the very existence of the state of Ethiopia and it would put the state to an endless trauma until the unknown days of doomsday. Making TPLF vanish; investigating and prosecuting the crimes committed by the TPLFiets; criminalizing the use of TPLF’s name, emblem, and everything associated with TPLF; criminalizing the denial of atrocities done by TPLF, as will be confirmed by the investigation and prosecution; negotiating and banning ethnic federalism; reparation of victims; truth and reconciliation are the healing preconditions that must be satisfied, If healing Ethiopia is indeed an overarching objective of the ongoing law-enforcement operation.
- Vanishing TPLF and its extensions
Ethiopia’s curses are mainly attributed to TPLF. No evil has so far been done without the knowledge of this monster group. TPLF has crafted the system which tarnishes Ethiopia and its beloved citizens. Any wholehearted and determined investigations of the crimes behind TPLF would certainly reaffirm the allegations made against TPLF. Hence, if Ethiopia is readying for healing, TPLF should have vanished through the ongoing law-enforcement operation. Vanishing TPLF, however, does not mean arresting or dismissing some of the wanted officials and military personnel by the federal government. Arresting those individuals is just the tip of the iceberg. Completing the mission and operation by arresting them would be a mockery to the men and women of Ethiopia who bravely fought the TPLF force. It is mocking over the natural concept of justice. Justice would only be served when TPLF is banned from the body politic of the country and designated as a terrorist organization. No government structure in the Tigray region would be headed by members of TPLF and its sympathizers. Letting any room for this is extending the period of prolonged wounds of Ethiopia. Furthermore, as TPLF has multiplied itself in different forms and shapes, its extensions created in such multiplications need to be targeted and brought to justice. Letting its extensions go free would put a stumbling block to the healing and transformation of the country to a brighter and better future.
- Banning Ethnic Federalism, Not Federalism
Ethnic federalism shall not remain alive while its architects are fading away. The very urgent and earth shattering move to heal Ethiopia’s wound is banning ethnic federalism as a political and federal system. Banning the ethnic system of federalism and politics is giving back Ethiopia to its citizens. Irrespective of his/her language identity everyone would become equal citizens of Ethiopia. The readers should be careful in the understanding of the assertion on the need to ban ethnic federalism. It is ethnic-based federalism which is badly requested to be banned, not federalism. Federalism can still be on the table as an optio . But the ethnic centered federalism which brought us to the edge of hell must come to end with the demise of TPLF. Doing so will not be a matter of choice but an existential issue as a country. If we get rid of this worst system we can create a stronger and united Ethiopia. A stronger and united Ethiopia will then be a country whose wound is healed in the upshot of tribalism.
- Serving Justice
All forms of crimes committed for the last thirty or so years by TPLF and its associates must be investigated and indicted. But the existing criminal justice system, which itself is hand-made by TPLF, cannot perform this huge task. Hence, a special arrangement needs to be designed. National, regional and international alternatives of investigation, and prosecution can be looked into and the efficient venue can be opted for. Special prosecution and the criminal tribunal should be established to investigate, prosecute and pass verdict over the crimes and criminals of the TPLF-led EPRDF regime and TPLF. For this to come true, the federal government may establish a special prosecutorial and criminal office at the national level if professionals with the highest degree of qualification, and moral integrity can be availed. If this option fails the government may resort to the regional option, establishing a mixed prosecution and criminal tribunal in collaboration with the African Union institutions. The last and estimable solution is referring to the prosecution office of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Doing so with determination will ring the bell against the end of impunity in Ethiopia and would herald Ethiopia’s healing from its TPLF generated painful wounds. Without looking for either of the working options the law-enforcement operation will remain an aborted one.
- Reparation of Victims; Truth and Reconciliation
But the healing of Ethiopia should start from healing the wounds of victims of the systemic and gross human rights violations and humiliations perpetrated by the TPLF and its allies. Reparation as part of a restorative justice scheme needs to be provided to victims of heinous crimes. A transitional federal agency for reparation can be established to that effect. No victim left behind the darkness and trauma of TPLF’s criminal project. Telling an official truth about the details of the atrocities to the public and the victims could also be part of the restorative justice scheme. Reconciliation will then be the finalization of the healing of wounds.
- The Grand Project ahead
We should then put a negotiated constitution that could transform Ethiopia into a strong, united, and democratic Ethiopian Republic. Citizenship will be meaningfully recognized and tribalism will be chased out of the political realm of the country. The establishment of a political party on the basis of ethnicity will also be prohibited by law. The regional states will be re-configured on the basis of administrative convenience and efficacy. By then Ethiopians will own their motherland and pay every cost to the integrity and well-being of their nation without any ethnic division. The project of downsizing of Ethiopia will therefore be replaced by the project of Making Ethiopia Great Again (MEGA).
Despite the optimism about the demise of TPLF and initiatives to heal Ethiopia, thinking of potential bottlenecks that could hinder the healing is sensible. The fears towards the realization of healing Ethiopia primarily rests on the Prosperity Party-led Federal Government. There is reasonable doubt on the determination of the prosperity party to perish TPLF and to establish a special prosecution system to investigate all heinous crimes committed by TPLF and its allies. But lack of determination to exterminate TPLF and reluctance to do the lists of preconditions suggested here above could cost us a lot and the public will not have any iota of patience. Hence, Abiy’s administration should get ready to address all concerns of the public and to realize the healing of Ethiopia’s wounds in the post-TPLF-era. Any compromised position could overturn the grand project from fruition and will drive the nation in an irreversible failing.