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"Tigray people's destiny in their hands": In theory not in practice

"Tigray people's destiny in their hands": In theory not in practice

Yohannes Aberra, PhD 03-08-20

It is customary among TPLF leadership to make bold statements without caring a bit about what the general Tigray public opinion is. Such things as "We have evaluated and criticized ourselves for neglecting the people of Tigray, for rampant corruption and maladministration", implying that no more talk about it, "We will compensate!". Self criticism was introduced into Ethiopia by the Derg. It was also practiced by the EPRDF not only within its ranks but also very damagingly in the Ethiopian civil service until very recently. In view of basic human nature evaluating oneself objectively is one of the most impractical things on earth. It is not something you do willingly. If you do it either you are under physical or psychological pressure from external source or you want to use it as a convenient escape route from public anger.

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The statements were made by all the top echelon of the TPLF leadership that one would have to stop and think what was going on in their minds as they utter the words in the media. They all seemed to be saying something which is plain and normal without the slightest consequence. First of all who is expected to do the criticizing on the TPLF leadership for the failed promise of good governance and sustainable development? Isn't it the people of Tigray themselves that have the right to criticize the leadership for "forgetting" the mission? I don't think forgetting the mission for which thousands died and maimed in seventeen years could easily be said let alone done. It all started with the TPLF leader's statement to the people of Tigray: "your development with your own nails". By the time the statement was made the people of Tigray had no more nails. They have exhausted their energies in the war effort. This clearly implies that they needed TPLF leadership's day to day support until they are politically and economically empowered to walk on their own feet. Did this happen? No! not as expected.

TPLF leadership was divided into two right from the outset:The Sheger Group and The Mekele group. The former assigned to Federal responsibilities and the latter left behind to attend to the poor and war devastated Tigray. Admittedly the two groups had differences in capacity. The Sheger group was composed of most of the political, military and academic kernel of the TPLF, while the home group was more or less mediocre. It was the surprise of that end of century that the fundamental mission of TPLF was to be done not by the best of the TPLF. Sometimes there were cases where Tigray was made to be a penal colony. Those ejected from leadership were assigned to Tigray. Are the ejectees expected to worry about their own fate or serve the people without grudges? The decision to send the best of the TPLF to Addis Ababa was not accidental. It was a matter of unwarranted priority self set by the most able and the most influential. What is Addis Ababa worth? Everything! What is Tigray worth? Nothing! While those in Addis Ababa were enjoying those in Tigray were envying. Is it possible to do anything worthwhile for Tigray where such competition prevails? No! Looking in the TPLF leadership was much more common than looking out to the Tigray's helpless public. Even TPLF central committee meetings were held in Addis Ababa 800 km. away from its headquarters in Mekele. It was an opportunity for the home group to breathe some fresh air and attend to some personal projects in Addis Ababa. The Sheger group cannot prevent this as the home group is simply following suit. It is not only the Sheger group that was divorced from the affairs of Tigray. As the home group very frequently traveled to Addis Ababa the administrative service office hours got smaller and smaller. The lower level of the bureaucracy just dreamt of getting its share rather than serving the people diligently.

A critical question arises here: Was the neglect of Tigray by the TPLF leadership by design or by accident? To answer this question let us see the mental health status of those who "forgot" Tigray. To me they were healthy and active by then. Forgetting something as big as Tigray, which must give you nightmares about the struggle every hour of the night, cannot be an accident. It was done with full knowledge overwhelmed by self promotion and self enrichment. If the forgetting was an induced state of trance by some external force, how would it end only two years ago not much earlier than that or much later than now? You don't wake up somebody who has already woken up. The TPLF leadership did the forgetting with full awareness though not with full intention. Let's be honest here! Would the TPLF leadership have admitted, criticized itself and promised to compensate had it not been challenged by mass uprisings and intra-EPRDF crisis? Would the TPLF leadership ever have criticized itself for "forgetting" Tigray had it never been challenged and needed Tigray as a shelter in time of need? Was the self evaluation honest? I don't think so; Let me explain. First of all it is long overdue and also induced externally. Secondly, such a huge failure cannot end with self criticism alone. If not punishable by law it must mark the end of a political career. The leadership criticised itself, which was the job of the people. It apologized to itself and it prevailed. This was also the people's prerogative. The rule of thumb in democratic political leadership is that such a huge failure must be followed at least by relieving the offenders from political positions. The people's cause is much bigger than any individual or group. The problem has been TPLF did not empower the people to take such actions through independent instruments of their own. TPLF knows very well that the people are fully dependent on the TPLF. The people are put under the spell in the memories of the armed struggle by persistent and monopolized media and fine arts. There must have been a limit to this. The struggle was not meant to keep people lamenting about it everyday of their lives. The struggle was intended to help the people to see a bright future, while remaining grateful to the martyrs who made it possible. TPLF did not help the people to eye for political and economic alternatives, to penalize or reward its leaders at all levels. The people are not empowered to think differently from TPLF.

The dilemma the people are stuck in is the TPLF's Godsend threat on Tigray. The people could have started replacing those who evaluated themselves for forgetting Tigray (euphemism for betrayal). Now they badly need more experienced leadership. TPLF seems to be using the opportunity to continue and forge a dynasty that runs long into the future. Referring to the V. President as "Atse" and wishing him to "reign for thousand years"(printed flyer) is totally uncalled for while Tigray has to do the difficult catching up with the democratization process.

Recently a former high ranking TPLF official said "The destiny of Tigray is in the hands of the people not in the Politicians'." This is again another careless talk by TPLF leaders for propoganda consumption. The former official knows very well that he was responsible for disabling the people of Tigray from making even minor decisions let alone things as big as their destiny. This is how you exercise your political muscles to be empowered to be able to decide on your destiny: vote freely, create accountable and transparent leadership, reach a stage of people's empowerment that no political leaders feels above the people. Which one of these was done in Tigray to help decide on destiny? Why is Tigray frantically moving from one political corner to the other? Why is it unable to understand what is going on around it? The people of Tigray don't even realize that some of their threats emanate originally from TPLF's mishandling of politics with Eritrea and opposition parties in Ethiopia. The people had no idea about what was brewing on them and later revealed by nasty surprises. People of Tigray were getting all information they need about their destiny only through TPLF. Obviously deciding on ones own destiny is the highest of all democratic achievements.  In Tigray there has never been any empowerment to that end. TPLF leaders must refrain from free talk as if whoever is listening swallows their words without digesting. I don't blame them; this is the kind of audience they have moulded for their own convenience. Empower the people of Tigray first, like you let a one year old child to walk on its own. Like the child Tigray will walk perfectly after a few falls and bruises. TPLF, Don't be a nanny forever!

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