Last Friday, Abiy Ahmed released a few prisoners of conscience who posed a risk to his control of power. The announcement sounded as if Abiy Ahmed had pardoned the prisoners. In the first place, I don’t believe Abiy alone made the decision to imprison them; the Dergue and Haile Selassie clusters were part of it.
If a leader surrounds himself with yes men and women, and amateurish, yet vengeful lots like Abiy gathered around himself, he will always be forced to make decisions that saves your skin. Abiy surrounded himself with people who think they have a divine mandate to rule Ethiopia by freezing it in the medieval age. Though Abiy’s men and woman appear in western suits, they imitate the feudalists of the past who lorded over the peasants for centuries. Abiy has revived the Ethiopian theocratic rule control the faithful and secure their loyalty.
My issues with Abiy, and the Ethiopian civil war, are clear;they are Eritrean centered. I don’t wish anything good for any force that elongates the suffering of Eritreans, even if their role is secondary or tertiary. Watching tyrants give each other a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in frustrating. Abiy and Isaias have been doing that since 2018. And on Friday last, Ethiopia released some prisoners (not in Eritrea where “release” is not in the vocab of the PFDJ)
I always admired Jowar—-he’s resolute, his activism is exemplary, and his struggle is people-centered. Indeed, he proved to be a fine politician and he was among the most effective people who brought about change in Ethiopia, but unfortunately, he was instrumental in installing Abiy as a prime minister.
On Friday morning the Ethiopian television announced the release of Sebhat Negga, the octogenarian historical leader of the TPLF who is affectionately known as Aboy Sebhat [Father Sebhat]. The famous activist and politician Jawar Mohammed and his colleagues were also released.
Since he came to power in 2018, Abiy and his Medemmer party, planned for an all-out assault on Tigray to subjugate its people. A devastating war ensued and as a result, the Ethiopian economy that registered double-digit growth for decades is now in shambles. The material cost of Abiy’s war is unimaginable; the human cost is staggering. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed (still are being killed), maimed, amputated, handicapped; the shadow of the losses will hover over Ethiopia for a long time to come.
2. What really happened?
The war that Abiy launched on Tigray was planned over three years, since 2018. Obviously, a large-scale military campaign takes a long time to prepare and launch. And of course, if the targeted army discovers the plot, it will certainly not wait as a sitting duck until it’s attacked. Therefore, on the 3rd of November the Tigray forces took the initiative and made a pre-emptive strike against the federal forces stationed in their region. But Abiy wanted the world to believe that he mobilized tens of thousands strong forces on the borders of Tigray as a reaction. And on Noveember 4th, his forces invaded Tigray. It has been a slippery slope since then.
However, by August 2021, the Tigray forces (TDF) have moved south in a lightning speed and were breathing over the shoulders of Addis Ababa. Vested interests were busy shuttling, discussing, and threatening, to secure a cease fire agreement. And after so much pressure the TDF yielded and retreated to Tigray. But Abiy presented all of that in as his victory…
3. Promotional style copied from Hollywood
As usual, Abiy is obsessed with PR, and he exploits every opportunity to polish his image. A few weeks ago, when the TDF retreated, Abiy capitalized on the retreat and pretended his forces pushed the TDF to Tigray. He made it appear as if his appearance close to the now silent battle front, in ironed camouflage uniform, single-handedly made the TDF flee the scene. But foreign diplomates had pushed for the deal, and convinced the TDF to retreat. Abiy had agreed to control the Amhara territories and stop there. But he presented his presence in The Afar region and the evacuated surroundings of Dessie and Kombolcha, would confirm his military genius. But how about his supporters?
Abiy’s and Isaias’ supporters were and are obnoxious, they are not ready for peace, nor do they contemplate about the unknown risks involved in wars. They just wanted the war to continue, to eradicate the Tigray and subjugate it. Worse, the federal forces didn’t respect the ceasefire and their tone was not that of a force ready for peace. However, there was a comeback and the TDF restarted its campaign. Finally, it sunk in. Abiy delivered a somewhat reconciliatory speech that he should have made months ago.
That is the development that led to the release of the political prisoners who were thrown into prison in a corrupt manner.
4. The Elephant in the Room
As of today, there is no big elephant in the room, but there is a human elephant named Isaias, sitting in the middle. Eritrean forces are all over Western Tigray and it’s no secret they have been working closely with the Fano militia of the Amhara region. In his latest interview Isaias reaffirmed he will continue to get involved in internal Ethiopian affairs. However, talking about the Sudan he expressed his disapproval of foreign involvements. He has the nerve to condemn foreign interferences in Sudan, which he has been doing for decades, and is doing in Ethiopia. There is no explanation for the genius moves of Isaias’ never ending zero-sum politics that has not yielded any significant achievement for Eritrea!
Isaias’ intentions are no more a secret because he expressed them in many ways—through his supporters, his street activists in the West, and through the upper echelon of the PFDJ. It has also reached the Sudan where the PFDJ has a well-established intelligence network that has penetrated some Sudanese communities, tribes and political groupings.
Now, what concerns Eritreans should be the decades-old feud between the TPLF and PFDJ. Both are hellbent on exterminating each other—even if it requires eliminating a big chunk of Eritrean and Tigrayan population. Unfortunately, the regional traditions nor only embraces such a goal, it dictates it. As is stands now, there is little hope that foreign forces will prevent more bloodbath and restraint the elite warmongers of the region.
According to the deal, Abiy had agreed to release the wrongly arrested notable personalities. But he knew their release will anger the hardliners among the ultra-nationalist Ethiopian diaspora. Being into PR, he lured most of them to Ethiopia by offering cheap flights and state sponsored ego-massaging. And he got them in Ethiopia, away from their reliable internet connection in the rest of the world. And he calmly he released the prisoners. And as expected, some in the Ethiopian diaspora are furious—they might have expected to witness the hanging of the prisoners in person. Disappointed, their anti-Abiy criticism is already underway.
Proclamation No. 1
Since it’s the season of releasing prisoners and offering clemency, I might as well offer one: by the power not vested in me or the Negarit followers, I hereby pardon both tyrants, Isaias and Abiy from all the crimes they committed, and all the sufferings they brought to the region, provided they resign immediately.