TPLF is repeating the Same Fatal Mistakes (Part Three)
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! Two years ago, TPLF was betrayed by Team Lemma, the self-proclaimed Team Oro-Amhara, when it pretended it had reached an understanding with TPLF regarding EPRDF’s collective guilt and mismanagement of the country. Unfortunately, this group ended up using TPLF and “Tigrigna-speakers” in general as scapegoats in its rise to power.
But, it did not stop there. For the second time in less than two years, after the clique pretended to have seen the error of its ways, it once again betrayed TPLF by moving ahead with its divisive party unification agenda, intended to eliminate ethnic representation within EPRDF, dissolve TPLF along with the other parties and install an authoritarian national party rule. Such party unification is obviously worse than “democratic centralism” which the clique in power has been publicly deriding. The proposed unification scheme is, therefore, totalitarian in its manifestations as well as its end goal. And, PM Abiy and his team will be the sole dictators in such party apparatus. What do we expect will happen if all parties within EPRDF are dissolved and the PM is granted full authoritarian control over the party? As is evident now, Abiy has been taking unilateral action with adverse consequences and bloodshed across the country. Things will only get worse.
Given this, TPLF cannot bury its head in the sand pretending Abiy and his team will somehow change their minds. For certain, unless TPLF finally admits to itself about the covert strategy that has been adopted by the ruling clique and takes appropriate action immediately, the third and final betrayal is not too far off. They are just stalling.
As we all know, the current EPRDF leadership – which has been fully captured by foreign operatives and mercenaries – has intentionally withheld its roadmap from Ethiopians. Still, its ultimate agenda is now coming into focus. The plan is to:
First, use the Election Board and electoral procedures to disqualify and then run the clock out on TPLF. This will be done by effecting EPRDF’s party unification at the last minute, denying TPLF the legal standing to participate in the election using the Election Board. They will then run the clock out so TPLF will not be able to organize a new ethnic-federalist coalition party. The Election Board has been using this same tactic over the past 18 months to run out the clock on Lidetu Ayalew’s Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), another party Abiy sees as its natural rival.
Second, install autocratic rule through forced ethnic assimilation at the party, regional and national levels; and,
Third, dupe Ethiopians of their assets and selling it to foreigners, ultimately ushering in neocolonialism.
Has anyone wondered why PM Abiy and his team never directly defend Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism? In fact, we find evidence to the contrary. They’ve repeatedly said they want to change the constitution. Have Ethiopians stopped to ask themselves just what in the constitution Abiy wants to change? The only two constitutional provisions in contention are the ethnic federalism and article 39, which guarantees us all self-determination. The rest of the Ethiopian Constitution has been copied from the West and contains state-of-the-art Bill of Rights for individuals, minorities, women, children and even the environment. So, what else could the PM want to change except ethnic federalism?
Fool me twice, shame on me! The next betrayal will be TPLF’s last. And, if that ever comes to pass, not only will it destroy TPLF but also the people TPLF purports to lead – the blameless people of Tigray. So, if TPLF is serious about defending the rights of Tigray and Tigrayans:
1) TPLF must act now;
2) It must act to prevent the Oro-Amhara clique from implementing party unification and locking it out from the election process through electoral technicalities. If TPLF thinks this cannot happen, it better think again. Abiy and his team are cornered and such trickery is their only option;
3) TPLF must continue to expedite its preparation to defend Tigray by all means. If it is confident of its preparedness, it should double and triple its efforts;
4) It must prepare Tigray for the worst case scenario which could very well be full and complete separation from Ethiopia. Sitting on your hands and wishing for the best has never solved anything, and TPLF is sitting still while Abiy and clique are going ahead with their party unification. Team Lemma/Oro-Amhara and the foreign operatives currently dictating strategy to them are well-known for their connivance. TPLF and Tigrayans must learn from history;
5) TPLF must pass legislation today to protect Tigray’s right to self-determination, including preserving its prerogative to invoke article 39 of the constitution;
6) It must immediately begin forming strong alliances with other ethnic federalist forces across Ethiopia as well as strengthen its alliances in the Horn of Africa and internationally. It may need to begin the process of forming and registering a new party as fallback solution.
After TPLF takes these necessary steps to secure Tigray and prepare for all eventualities, it must swiftly move from victimhood politics to renaissance politics. After all, a society without dreams and aspirations is a dead society.
The core elements of Tigray’s renaissance in order of priority should be: (1) national unity among Tigrayans; (2) security; (3) political pluralism; (4) quality public education; (5) technological advancement; and, (6) the developmental state economic philosophy, without the corruption.
In this article, I will only focus on the first three: unity, security and political pluralism.
Tigray’s National Unity: Tigray’s elite class must forge a strong unity of purpose. And, that purpose must be to cement a strong, secure, free, vibrant and prosperous Tigray. However, unity of purpose must never be confused with unity of beliefs, ideas, ideologies or political parties. Tigrayans must be afforded different options through which their unity of purpose can be realized. A diversity of ideas, institutions, civic groups and political parties have to be actively encouraged so the best ideas could be identified and implemented. Unfortunately, we are seeing mixed signals from TPLF. Some TPLF leaders have shown strong commitment to these ideals, while others are openly sabotaging TPLF’s own efforts. Some cadres fully understand the existential threat to them personally, to TPLF as a party, and to Tigray as a whole and are acting accordingly. Yet, others are still advancing their own cliquish self-interests. This must be corrected immediately as it is a dead-end!
To bring about Tigray’s unity, TPLF must openly welcome constructive criticism and it must, once and for all, clean up its organization of corrupt individuals, opportunists and criminals. Relocating these criminals from one locale to another is not the answer. Such action is repugnant and puts the entire TPLF leadership in question. Get rid of them. Period! I hope TPLF leadership has already brought the Adi Daero perpetrator to justice. The entire world knows about this incident and TPLF must immediately publicize the action it has taken to address this issue before it further damages the party’s standing in Tigray and the world. TPLF’s leadership must put the people’s interests ahead of party. It must show the resolve to address Tigray’s challenges and it must quickly demonstrate strong improvements in this area. It is my hope that TPLF does not squander the last chance it has been graciously given.
Security: The key here is strengthening Tigray internally. Unfortunately, TPLF continues to claim that Tigray’s only viability is inextricably intertwined with Ethiopia. Such lack of self-confidence and self-worth is dangerous and will never free Tigray from the shackles of a dependency nor will it allow Tigray to develop and prosper on her own merit. It is true that Tigray or any other region is better off within a true federal system which respects Tigray’s autonomy, right to self-determination and right to prosperity. However, Tigray must and can stand on her own two feet to secure her peace and economic prosperity. Economic freedom is paramount to protecting the safety and wellbeing of Tigrayans.
If for some reason TPLF feels it is unable or unwilling to lead Tigrayans to true freedom and prosperity with or without the rest of Ethiopia, it needs to step aside and let other capable leaders emerge who have compelling vision for the future and the self-confidence to advance it. After all, Tigrayans built the Axumite civilization and are the first people to lay the foundation for today’s Ethiopia. It is disheartening that TPLF does not appear to show the level of confidence that is requisite to lead such humble yet great people. But, I’m still hopeful that TPLF is the indispensable political party to lead us to such renaissance. It has a strong organization. It has deep and long experience. It has the fortitude to see a mission through. And, it has repeatedly reinvented itself time and again. All it has to do is realize the historical responsibility it currently shoulders.
Whether we like it or not, Tigray cannot depend on other Ethiopians or Eritreans or anyone else for that matter to build a sustainable development. Tigray would not be the first to charter its own course as a landlocked small nation. For comparison, Rwanda – a nation state in our neighborhood – is a landlocked country half Tigray’s area size and double the population. Yet, it has three times Tigray’s GDP per capital. Rwanda has been able to build an independent nation state even after a traumatic experience with genocide. TPLF and Tigrayans must and can aspire for greatness; and given our long history, I am confident we can achieve it. In this regard, TPLF must first launch a “green revolution” to feed itself. Such a revolution will serve as a springboard to economic independence. Tigray’s leadership should leverage Tigrayans in Tigray and abroad to kick off an economic transformation and renaissance. Many educated, experienced and financially capable Tigrayans are ready and willing to help without any compensation or the aspiration to contend for political power. Such individuals need not be party loyalists. TPLF has the obligation to seek them out and bring them to its tent as independent contributors.
Political Pluralism: Tigray is home to an ancient civilization with its own customs and rules of governance. Without going too far back, it was Atse Yohannes IV who introduced a fairly democratic federal system of self-governance to the various regions in his Ethiopia. But, the structure he erected was dismantled by Menelik II to consolidate his grip on power. Tigray does not need to look to the West for examples of democratic structures or expertise. We have our own democratic values, mores and customs to draw on.
Similarly, the continued emergence of strong and free opposition political parties is indispensable for Tigray’s survival and TPLF’s future viability. As I’ve stated previously, this is not a sign of weakness, but rather a show of strength. That said, we all understand there are political parties and politicians in Tigray whose sole organizing principle is either (1) revenge politics (2) power-grab politics; or, (3) espionage politics. However, we also have excellent opposition parties that are poised to play constructive roles in Tigray’s renaissance. We must fully support loyal opposition parties like Wedib Baitona and Salsawi Weyane as they have a strong potential not only to influence Tigray’s political trajectory but to one day also become the governing party in Tigray. My personal recommendation to Baitona and Salsawi Weyane is to merge and form one unified party so their electorate is not divided. They have very similar philosophies and agenda. Thus, they would have a stronger chance of winning some seats in the Tigray State Council and present alternative solutions and serve as loyal opposition party. And, TPLF should welcome this as it will make it better and stronger as well.
Finally, we must also support civic organizations that have been struggling to expose the corruption and poor governance across Tigray. TPLF will be well-served to ensure their safety and independence as they operate across Tigray. Holding civil servants and elected officials accountable is not optional. TPLF leadership must immediately focus on this issue. The intimidation and harassment of civic organizations must stop.
In conclusion, it is my belief that TPLF is still the party that is best positioned to advance Tigray’s interests into the foreseeable future. It has most of Tigray’s backing today. However, it does not have a carte blanche to abuse this important public trust. While most Tigrayans have given TPLF a second lease on life, Tigray’s precious unity will not last unless the party changes its ways and reinvent itself. It has done it before. It can do it again. The request is simple. Eliminate corrupt or incompetent party officials and civil servants. Implement a participatory democracy. Allow non-party members to serve in public position so they can bring needed expertise as non-political functionaries. If TPLF heeds the call, Tigray will have a fighting chance to emerge stronger than ever. If it does not, the window of opportunity could close.