The Gavel or the Gun?
Yohannes Aberra, PhD 8-9-19
I just returned from the grand conference of Tigraian scholars in Mekelle (Quo Vadis Tigray). It is heart-warming to discuss development in a besieged Regional Capital. One can never fail to admire the people, the scholars, and the leadership for making it possible. There seems to be a consensus among everyone that the only way forward is not the business as usual. Innovative pathways must be designed to ensure sustainable development in the Regional State. This is the only way the people of Tigray can be safe and dignified.
Tigray has become analogous to the “eye of the hurricane” where there is calm while violent storm rages around it. This should have been considered as a blessing for all Ethiopians because there is a place in Ethiopia where sanity prevails. In the rest of Ethiopia people and politicians are surprisingly engaged in denying themselves the peace they badly need for normal and productive life. While development is the agenda in Tigray, and there is caution but no tension in the streets of Mekelle, other regions are obsessed with the talk of power politics and a non-peaceful way of grabbing it. In the latter, development seems to have been archived for “later use” although it must have been the primary agenda. Development if forgotten has its own way of punishing people who forget it by cumulatively and irreversibly degrading capacities for resumption and rehabilitation.
Tigray is so peaceful and strong that it can serve as a refuge for all other Ethiopians who are displaced by conflicts. Any Ethiopian can go, live and invest in Tigray, but must refrain from insults, threats, and conspiracies. During my stay in Mekelle I was able to observe that ordinary people and scholars alike bear no grudges against the people of Ethiopia. In spite of the push to the limits they are still waiting patiently, and apparently endlessly, for the “Tigreophobic” frenzy to subside. I have even visited city corners of “night-life” in Mekelle where the youth drink and feel free to air their feelings. I have not heard a word of insult on other people of Ethiopia uttered except for happily dancing and singing all night long!. Why should one have a bad heart to hate such noble people with endless tolerance?
As a women of law Her Honorable Chief justice Meaza Ashenafi should have admired the peace in Tigray rather than proposing to end it. I did not write this article to ridicule W/o Meaza Ashenafi. I have no intention of doing that. I have my admiration for her. I know her when she was a fresh-women at Sidist Kilo Campus. She was energetic and assertive at that young age. She was a self-empowered women right from those years. In later years I came to know that the same Meaza has already become a National figure engaged in the most testing of social activities to liberate and empower women. When the PM appointed her to the post of chief justice it was not to be a baptism of fire for her as it is for many other ministers who get used to the job while doing it. I was stunned when I heard that she suggested action for rule of law to prevail in regions which have become “legal-outlaws”. It seemed to be a general statement referring to any region; but by cancellation there is no other region in Ethiopia considered by the central government as “rebellious” than Tigray. She did not need to mention the name of Tigray as there is no other region at which all spears are pointed. Many including ESAT and Dr. Aregawi denied that the statement was targeting Tigray. Many considered the reaction from Tigray as unprovoked nervousness. Such statements are only a matter of opinion and a matter of vested interest. There is no doubt that Her Honor Meaza had Ethiopia’s former spymaster in mind when she used the Eisenhower example. He is criminalized by the central government as a torture master rather than being celebrated as an undercover national guard. It is puzzling to say the least that he is accused of being professional by avoiding public view. Concealing oneself is a rule of thumb in the field of intelligence. It is silly to make oneself public while the enemy is concealing itself. Anywhere in the world the law turns a blind eye when it comes to intelligence activities. The job normally has a tendency to go sour on suspects who are trained to look innocent when apprehended. You cannot enjoy both national security and justice for the individual or group if both cannot exist at the same time. You don’t choose one from the two but the right tradeoff has to be attained wisely. The center should be security of Ethiopia not personal grudges.
I have no problem with her example. The example is a good example, but more appropriate to a different context. When in 1957 Governor Faubus of Arkansas State blocked the US Federal court order in favor of racially integrated schools US President Eisenhower sent the 101 st Airborne Division into Little Rock City to enforce the Federal Court Order. Well-done!! This is one of the noblest actions that can be taken by a president of a democratic country. No one should tolerate racial discrimination. Everything has to be done to end it. Since racists are lawless and violent you can only communicate with them in the same language they use. However, this is not applicable to Tigray and TPLF. Haven’t 60,000 Tigraians died and another 60,000 injured to bring about equality in Ethiopia? Haven’t they used violence like Eisenhower to end discrimination and oppression of the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia (this included racism on the dark skinned Nilo-Saharans)? Why? Armed action was the only language that oppressors of nations and nationalities could understand. So Tigray and its leaders are like Eisenhower not dissimilar. Aren’t Tigraian politicians engaged in a hard struggle to preserve the Constitution which ensures the equality of nations and nationalities? The loud and clear message from Tigray that is being persistently aired to the people of Ethiopia is “fight to protect your equality”.
Eisenhower did not send troops against civil right activists who fought for the equality of races. They were on his side when he took the action. In Ethiopia, Her Honor Meaza should change the direction of her arrow towards the chauvinists who still stubbornly believe that ‘some Ethiopians are more equal than others’. If she succeeds in identifying the right target every Tigraian soul will follow her to victory. I don’t blame her. She may have gone out of her own characteristic brave way to please some hate-blinded politicians. What she sung is the sweetest music to their ears: invading Tigray, catching and humiliating the spymaster of Ethiopia, and ending the autonomy, peace, and self confidence in Tigray. Otherwise, Her Honor Meaza is still the best fit to the post she is assigned to. Unlike most others she has earned it. However, she must avoid being distracted from her law books, which preach non-violence and identifying the right offenders. In the US the highest position in the list of social status is held by the chief justice not by the chief of staff. Why? Because people normally love to see a person enforcing the law using jurisprudence rather than using cannons.