Well, well, well… Why I’m I not surprised? Deki-Ere – it’s happening again. History is in the making. It is a brand new day in Eritrea; and it is a dawn of a new era in Ethiopian politics. In Addis deep from its inner core, the ground is shifting along its geological fault lines. And as a result of this massive underground tremor, a brand new landscape is emerging in the Ethiopian political terrain. While the wind-vane on top of the newly formed landscape is decisively pointing south, Mekele is mute; and for a good reason. The Woyane revolution as a Tigrean ethnic revolution is buried with Meles Zenawi. Yes – the dream of Greater Tigray, the dream of Tigrean dynasty, the dream of independent Tigray nation state…. are all gone. Meles the revolutionary, Meles the face of Woyane, Meles the pride of Tigray is buried in Addis wrapped-in Ethiopian flag. Yep, you heard me right, not in Tigrean flag but wrapped-in Ethiopian flag; not in Dedebit, not in Adwa, not in Mekele, not even in Tigray but in Shoa. The Tigrean safety net: Article Thirty Nine is null and void. The Tigreans have crossed the Rubicon. Now, it is safe to say, the Tigreans are Ethiopians.
Meles and the Woyane bigwigs in Addis have giving-up power and their Tigrean playing-card in exchange for political immunity. The phone call from Washington is not ringing in Woyane’s office. The foreign-aid check is not coming in Woyane’s name. The fork is on their back and the knife is on the hands of those who are signing their check. Any wrong move on their part would be fatal. And they know it. Lost in the midst of all the political wrangling are the people of Tigray. The people of Tigray are shocked by Meles’s untimely death. The people of Tigray are confused. The people of Tigray are kept in the dark. The people of Tigray are duped. The people of Tigray are so overwhelmed by the whole thing they didn’t even know how to react.
Heralding dawn of a new era - “There is no change in policy….” said Hailemariam Desalegn the new Ethiopian prime minster, referring to his country’s ‘no war no peace’ policy towards Eritrea. But he was roaring from way, way…. way distant South. Eritreans could barely hear his Tuta, Zeraf, Geday roar from way up North. Of course Mr. Hailemariam is not the real man. How could he be the real man if he doesn’t have the organizational infrastructure, a strong power base and a dominant personality to be one? He is just a placeholder. But for sure, he was roaring on behalf of the new powerful. Yes, on behalf of the soon to be advertised and marketed as “democratic” and “visionary leader/s” for the next ten to twenty years by their handlers. If you read between the lines, Mr. Hailemariam was not roaring to warn the PFDJ regime when he said “there won’t be any change in policy towards Eritrea”. Caught between a rock and hard place, he was just trying his best to juggle three giant iron-balls without having a bad throw that would end-up in mid-air-collision and eventually the unfortunate dropping of a ball on his foot. He is trying delicately, to lure the Woyane bosses to accept reality and live life as a second best, to assure the Tigrean people from panicking; and all these and more without stepping on the toes of the new-powerful. Quite a task, isn’t it?
Through Hailemariam Desalegn and through every media outlet in Ethiopia, the deceptive new powerful and the cunning Woyane hardliners are busy spinning Ethiopian politics like never before. They are busy selling the Woyane revolution as an Ethiopian revolution. They are selling Meles the Woyanay, as an Ethiopian hero who fought to liberate all Ethiopians from tyranny, poverty and backwardness. They are professing their love, respect, and admiration for Meles the “great visionary leader”. They are promising their fellow Ethiopians that they will follow his programs, his vision and his policies. They are showing sound-bites from Meles’s speech 24/7 to assure his base. They are selling Meles as an Ethiopian hero and as a black African icon who changed the politics of his nation and the politics of the African continent. And mark my words – soon, they will lobby to erect a statue of Meles, a thousand times his actual size in front of the African Union Hall.
Now, pause and ponder for a moment and ask: who are the new folks (winners) that are wailing and grieving after Meles’s death? Who are the new folks that are calling the chief Woyanay their hero? Who are the new folks who are idolizing the Revolution he led? Who are the new folks that are claiming to revere his leadership and his decisions including his signature decision to let Eritrea go? And ask yourself, out of all these years why now? And the answer is crystal clear. Or let me put it this way: in politics when people who have nothing but utter disdain for you, start saying nice things about you, you are beaten badly. They are way ahead of you in the game. You’re not threat to them anymore. Simply put, all the crocodile tears, all the political charade and all the daily dramas by the new bleeding hearts is not intended to express deep love and admiration for Meles the Woyanay; but to send a clear message to the Woyane-Dinosaurs. And this is the message for the Woyane-Dinosaurs: for sure a strong new captain is coming; but let it be clear to all, we all are in the same boat; we all are Ethiopians; don’t even think about doing something foolish; you will have prominent position in future governments provided, you remain loyal to the union. And the move by the Woyane-dinosaurs is very predictable. There is no way in hell they will dare swim against the tide. The question is not whether they will relinquish power, but how difficult would they make the inevitable to get the best bargain in exchanging for giving-up power.
Well, folks, there is a lot to chew-on, on these arguments. To make sense of it all let me explain:
A. Why it is a brand new day in Eritrea
B. Why Ethiopian politics has changed forever
C. What Abyssinian war-culture is and the genesis of it
D. How the Woyanes lost their grip on power and who the presumed winners are
…and much, much more would be the argument of this article. Let’s roll:
Why is it a brand new day in Eritrea?
For starters, the wind-direction has changed. The dark clouds that were looming on the horizon are moving farther south leaving the Eritrean-blue-skies clear-off the “no war no peace” Meles policy. It is time for us Eritreans to realize the change in moment, and shift gears to lower the political temperature at the ground level. Today, there is no Woyane-dream of Greater Tigray. Today there are no vindictive-Woyane leaders at the helm who are hell-bent to, humiliate Eritrea and achieve ‘regime change’ to have it their way. Today there are only Tigrean-Ethiopians who do not benefit from the hostility between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Their political influence and their economic prosperity – is as strong as their relation with us; and our prosperity and our political clout on their policy makers is as strong as our relation with them. If handled and nurtured right, this special relation could serve as a solid foundation to achieve higher order of economic integration for the two people and beyond. Mind you: I don’t have any illusion about the pitfalls, landmines and bumpy-ride when you dealing with Addis policy makers. I don’t have any illusion, if there is going to be any full-fledged military threat to Eritrea, it is going to come only from one direction: South. I don’t have any illusion aggression is in the blood of Addis policy makers. But it won’t happen any time soon. The “no war no peace” policy that was echoed by Hailemariam Desalegn is not real. It is a rhetoric intended for domestic consumption. For those with a curious mind, and are eager to challenge – out of a million, here are few reasons why the new Ethiopian leaders won’t be interested on Woyane-style political/diplomatic/military offensive; at least for quite a while.
Reason #1. The ‘No war no peace’ policy doesn’t serve any purpose. Ask yourself, what is the objective of the “no war no peace” policy? Is it to reverse Eritrean sovereignty? Is it to bring the two people closer? Is it to punish us Eritreans until we crawl on our knees and beg Ethiopians for forgiveness? Is it for us Eritreans to love Ethiopians more? Is it to see Eritrea fail as a viable state? And for how long are the Addis policy makers going to keep this policy to achieve the desired objective – a year, five years, fifty years, for life…. for how long? In all honesty, not only the “no war no peace” policy is not a winning strategy, but also it hurts more to landlocked Ethiopia than it does to Eritrea. If the argument for it is, Eritrea is going to lose millions of dollars in revenue from transit fees, port fees and trade – it could also be argued, Eritrea could get a dollar for every penny it lost, from the Anti-Ethiopia Arab Region in trade, investment, grants, loans, aid and subsidies. Ethiopian hardliners might wish, hope, pray and do everything in their power to see Eritrea fail; but that has been proven futile. The policy that never worked for a decade and half isn’t going to produce any different result now. Therefore, if there is no rational reason to pursue a hostile policy, then why would Addis policy makers keep wasting time, energy, resources, and human life for something that is proven to fail – hoping to achieve, something they sure could achieve for free? Well, beats me. Listen: no matter how you slice it, aggression won’t do the job; love will.
Reason #2. The political maneuvering in Addis is going take years until a dominant leader emerges. And until a strong leader emerges, it is safe to assume Ethiopia will not flex its muscle towards Eritrea; and without military muscle, the ‘no war no peace’ policy is meaningless. Of course the Woyane hardliners would love to have some kind of military conflict with Eritrea, so they can keep their hold on power under the guise, ‘protecting the nation from foreign threat’. But that is not going to happen. In order to derail the transfer of power, the Woyanes hardliners have to start an all-out war. But the West is not going to fund their war adventure; and Ethiopia doesn’t have the power and resources to wage an open-ended all-out war with no exit-date in sight. Therefore, since they are incapable of changing Eritrean policy or its government militarily, I don’t see any wisdom, having confrontation with their northern neighbor. If you think about it, they have a lot of other fighting to do – poverty, religious ethnic regional and political issues, active wars to their East, to their South, and probably soon to their West due to their Renaissance Project. No doubt Addis regimes are known for their aggressive and reckless behavior, but they are not going to open another war-front to their north anytime soon.
Reason #3. Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is inversely-related to the distance between Asmara and the dominant ethnic in Addis. The further the dominant Ethiopian-ethnic from Asmara the more likely there will be peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. That being said, it is a sure thing the next prime minster of Ethiopia is going to be: non Tigrean, end-result oriented prime minster with a dominant personality. No offence to Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn but Mr. Hailemariam is too nice and too submissive to be that guy. And for us Eritreans, no non-Tigrean Ethiopian leader would ever bully Eritrea the way the Woyanes did; never. I believe the next prime minster is going to be different; and I believe the next prime minster will negotiate with Eritrea in good faith to resolve the Ethio-Eritrean problem. Remember: Ethiopian hardliners, even if all are hardliners – the non-Woyane hardliners are different from the Woyane hardliners. The reason: the Woyane hardliners had the burden to prove to the nervous Amaras and to the rest (a) that they were committed Ethiopians under Ethiopian flag; (b) that they were not working for Eritreas and didn’t had any tender-heart for Eritreans (c) that they were Ethiopians who would bring Eritrea to its knee to protect Ethiopian interest if need be. But the next prime minster doesn’t have that burden. The only burden the next prime minster will have is the burden to prove to Eritreans that, Ethiopia is not Eritrea’s enemy; and it doesn’t have any intention to harm the Eritrean people or to compromise their sovereign territory in any shape of form. If the next Ethiopian prime minster could successfully communicate this with the Eritrean people both in words and in-deed, then all the prime minster has to do is visit any place in Eritrea, and before he/she knows it, cheering crowd would line-up for miles to greet him/her with flowers and colorful dances. Again, I truly believe the next Ethiopian prime minster is going to be a good friend of Eritrea. And he/she better be. Because Addis policy makers can’t afford to have two unhappy “Tigrewoch” to their north chatting with the Arabs. I don’t think it went well, when the Amaras tried it last time. But hey, that’s my opinion.
Reason #4. The “no war no peace” policy hurts Ethiopians more than it does to Eritreans. For a decade and half, the ‘no war no peace’ Meles policy has been punishing mostly Tigreans more than it did to Eritreans. The only reason the Tigreans put-up with this nonsense was (a) out of respect for Meles; because Meles was their son who restored their pride and dignity as a people (b) because they were getting the lion’s share of the Ethiopian development aid – at least some people want us to believe that – but even if that is true, handouts don’t lead to prosperity but to poverty and dependency. And with the ‘no war no peace’ policy in place, the economic life of Tigreans is not going to improve. Now that power is shifting south, the Tigreans are going to fight hard for their best interest. And this is the reality: Not only the economic life of Tigreans, but the economic life of the entire people in Northern Ethiopia is not going to improve by trading with Djibouti, Somlia, Kenya, Uganda or South Sudan. People of Northern Ethiopia are going to prosper only when Gondar, Metemma and Humera are busy 24/7 trading with Gedaref, Um-Hajer and Tesseney – towns in Adiabo are busy 24/7 trading with Shambko, Barentu and Kessala – Axum and Adwa are busy 24/7 trading with Mendefera, Adi-Quala and Tserona – Zalambessa and Adi-Ghirat are busy 24/7 trading with SenAfe and Adi-Kheih – and when Mekele and Dessie are busy 24/7 trading with Tio, Assab and Djibouti. “No war no peace” will not improve the economic-life of Northern Ethiopians; cross-border trading with Eritrea and Sudan, and the multiple-effect of the cross-border trading in the northern regions would. I don’t think Addis policy makers would dismiss this reality to pursue their old rotten policy. But if Addis policy makers are still in love with their ‘no war no peace’ policy to punish Eritreans, if Addis policy makers believe their policy will improve the economic life of their people while Eritreans are living a life of hopelessness, poverty and destitution, they are dead wrong. Their people are getting punished by their nonsense policy more than the people of Eritrea. All things being equal, always, life for an average Eritrean will be a lot easier than life for an average Ethiopian of a landlocked country. And I don’t think you want me to waste your time explaining the obvious.
Why dawn of a new era in Ethiopian politics?
This is a watershed moment in Ethiopian politics and there is no question about it. It is so, simply because the recent transfer of power in Addis defied the traditional Abyssinian-way transfer of power. The question and concern that is in every one’s mind is: will this positive trend continue to replace the old Abyssinian war-culture? Of course time will tell, but the recent transfer of power in Ethiopia – negotiated behind closed doors, was such unprecedented event in Ethiopian history – not only it made us all Ethiopians, Eritreans and Africans proud, but also it gave us hope. Yes, it is far from being transparent; yes it is far from being democratic; but still, changing government using political immunity as a catalyst for peaceful transfer of power is unprecedented in Ethiopian politics and something we all envy in a positive way. No doubt, from the control of information during Meles’s last hours to the selection of Hailemariam Desalegn and Demeke Mecconen, the whole process has Western fingerprints all over it. But this time, Western powers did the right thing. They showed to the world and to the Region, Ethiopia is their trusted ally. And we all commend that. I hope Western powers use their power and influence to walk us through peaceful transfer of power, not only for us Eritreans but also to all nations in the Horn, all countries in Africa and beyond.
Deki-Ere, there is something that I can’t stress enough – the secret for prosperous, peaceful and democratic Eritrea is continuous improvement while our Eritrea is anchored on a stable ground. And the secret for anchoring Eritrea on a stable ground is, mastering the art of changing government using political immunity as a catalyst for peaceful transfer of power. Our ability to build peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic Eritrea is predicated on our ability and our willingness to accept and to allow our current and past political leaders and their family, to live in the country they love and cherish the most, freely with their life, pride and dignity fully protected. And that includes Isaias Afwerki, his ailing and aging Generals and bureaucrats, and all their families. If our past and present leaders and their families are not free to live freely with pride and dignity in the country they served all their life, no one is free. The rational for political immunity is very simple: PFDJ or not PFDJ – all our past and present political leaders are imperfect. And no imperfect leader in his right mind would hand you his gun knowing full well, he will be shot in the head with his own gun. Very straightforward; isn’t it? Now back to our main argument.
To appreciate the Western brokered peaceful transfer of power in Addis, and to stress its significance to the people of Ethiopia and to the people of the Horn region, it is very important to understand the direct relationship between the Abyssinian war-culture and the human catastrophe that defined the Horn region at least for the past half century. Without going into detail history of the whole Horn Region misery, just for now, let’s focus on Ethiopia and see how dreadful the Abyssinian war-culture has been to all Abyssinian peasant communities.
The scars of the Abyssinian war-culture
The primary victims of the Abyssinian war-culture were and still are the Abyssinian peasant communities. And there is no better proof than seeing rich Ethiopia reduced to being synonymous with famine and hunger. And the story of hunger and famine in rich Abyssinia is not a story of four or five decades, but a story that has devastated the Abyssinian-peasant communities for centuries. I understand draught in some regions of Abyssinia was and still is a fact of life. I understand drought brings crop failure and crop failure brings food shortage and price-hike. But food shortage and price-hike doesn’t have to lead into famine and starvation. Food shortage and price-hike are problems that could be easily managed by subsidies and market adjustments. Famine is manmade. Famine is a manifestation of government failure. Famine is a product of misguided policies and misplaced priorities. Meaning – war over peace, beating war-drums over cutting deals at roundtable, investing on war machine over investing on infrastructure, farming and manufacturing machines; obsession with military hardware and military might over education and economic might….
Hurrah, the Abyssinian war-culture of Tuta, Zeraf, Geday…that devastated the Abyssinian peasant communities and the Horn Region for centuries, is no more. At least I want to believe that; and I hope that is the case; because the old war-culture is a dead end road. Let me make my point very clear: there is something the Amara and Tigrean hardliners need to understand. The Abyssinian war-culture is unsustainable in today’s Ethiopia. The Amara and Tigrayan elite can’t maintain their war-addiction on a fast changing and fast-populating Ethiopia. One can’t be a gambler, extravagant, drunkard, lavish…..and, a good husband and a good father of a dozen children all at the same time. Or simply put, it is impossible for Ethiopia to keep its ethnic based marriage and satisfy the Amara-Tigrean elite selfish war-addiction all at the same time. Today, the Amara and Tigrean elite have two hard choices in front of them: to enjoy their Menelik’s Ethiopia, or to satisfy their tuta, zeraf, geday….war-addiction. And for sure they can’t have them both. Therefore, since they can’t have both choices simultaneously, the prudent choice couldn’t be any clearer. That’s why I believe it is dawn of a new era in Ethiopian politics, and that’s why I believe it is a brand new day in Eritrea and the whole Horn region; because every famine, ever hunger, every blood and every misery in the Horn Region (Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia) is directly related to or harbored by the Abyssinian war-culture.
The genesis of the Abyssinian war-culture
As absurd as it sounds, the whole history of Abyssinia is a history of two elites: the Amara and the Tigrean elite. The rest “don’t have history”. To make matters even worse, the history of the Amara and Tigrayan elites is a history of rivalry, war, betrayal, backstabbing and conspiring with foreign powers against each other with one ultimate objective in mind: the crown of King of Kings. To defend the crown or to win the crown (depending on their status), always the Amara and the Tigrean elites were, either preparing for a war or they were fighting a war. Of course the war was not always Amara vs Tigray; at times it was intra-ethnic-war vying for supremacy, and other times it was war against their neighboring communities; but still war. Due to this constant-war and constant preparation for war attitude, the Abyssinian culture become a culture of violence and a culture of a warrior – always Tuta, Zeraf, Geday….., all at the detriment of their peasant communities. The crown of king of kings being the ultimate prize, for centuries the Abyssinia crown (power) was won through:
A. Bloody war
B. Conspiracy with foreign powers and
C. Unbearable suffering of the Abyssinian peasant communities
And this is the reason why:
A. To defeat their rival in a battlefield they had to out-man and out-gun their rival.
B. To out-man their rival in a battlefield, they had to recruit a large army of warriors; and to feed and shelter their large army of warriors literally they had to tax their people to the brink of starvation.
C. And to out-gun their rival they have to conspire with foreign powers against each other in exchange for arms.
That is a fact. Case in point: the Tigrean Yohaness IV, not only he conspired against Tewodros with the British but also he cooperated with the British in defeating Tewodros in exchange for arms. King Tewodros died fighting the British, and Youhaness IV became the king of kings of Abyssinia. Then the Shoan Menelik II conspired with the Italians against the Tigrean Yohaness IV in exchange for arms. Fighting two fronts: the Italians in the north and the Mahdi army in the west, Yohaness IV died fighting the Mahdi army at Metemma. Immediately after the death of king Yohaness IV, Menelik signed a treaty with the Italians without firing a single shot to defend members of his ethnic rival (people of Midri-Bahri or Mereb-Mlash). And Menelik’s treaty with the Italians sealed the deal for an Italian Primogenito north of the Mereb River (Eritrea). Since the creation of Eritrea north of the Mereb River, a third of their kin on the other side, the Tigreans south of the Mereb River became so weak they never challenged the Amaras in a meaningful way. Just once, in 1898 king Yohaness IV son (Mengesha) challenged Menelik but he was no match for Menelik. Heavily armed by the British and French to fight the Italians, King Menelik II was too powerful for Mengesha.
Then in 1935, long after King Menelik’s death, the Amara rule was interrupted for a brief period of time by the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. But after the defeat of Italy at WWII, to the Amaras luck, the Allies installed an Amara lackey (Hailesselassie I) as the king of kings of Ethiopia. As a result, the Amara rule became a dynasty that lasted for well-over hundred years. Well, with no one challenging their dynasty, and armed to the teeth, thanks to the Cold-War world geo-politics, the Amara-elite became so powerful and so arrogant, they thought no language, no culture, no ethnic…. was as good as theirs. They even started telling themselves and to the rest of the world that they were chosen by God to lead the people of Ethiopia.
Unfortunate to the people of the Horn-Region, it wasn’t only the Amara dynasty that remained undisputed for well over a century, but also the Abyssinian war-culture as well. Just in the past fifty years alone, due to the combination of Abyssinian war-culture and the availability of sophisticated weapons in the hands of the Amara-Tigrean regimes in Addis – the number of refugees and displaced people, the scope and magnitude of famine and starvation, the level of death and destruction, the pain and suffering of the Horn people has remained unparalleled both in terms of duration and severity to any suffering in recent memory. Of course the Amara and Tigrean hardliners would blame it on their victims; or they would say ‘we were doing it to our people too’. But such excuses could neither justify their barbaric act nor would it give any comfort to their victims.
Due to the Abyssinian war-culture, for the past fifty years, the story of the Horn people in world press has been a story of war, refugees, disease, famine and starvation. To this day, the scares of the brutality of king Hailesselassie, the Derg and the Woyanes are still visible and palpable on the people of the Horn region. In 1974, due to his brutality and misplaced priorities, Hailesselassie’s rule was ended by popular uprising followed by a military coup d’état. And during his last hours, the emperor’s four-decade reign was defined by the famine of Wollo. Then the military junta that ousted the emperor and accused him of brutality and misplaced priorities, themselves started their first day of business by killing violently the Emperor, his parliament, his ministers and his Generals on the spot without having their day in court. Exactly like the emperor they ousted, the Derg unleashed their barbaric act of violence and terror towards the people of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia; only this time around, it was a thousand fold compared to what the Horn Region has witnessed in its entire history. Well, finally, history repeated itself, again. During the last hours of emperor Hailessellassie, Ethiopians and the whole world was shocked by the news and images of the famine in Wollo. Again, a decade and half after the horrifying images of the famine in Wollo, the Derg chapters were closed with the videos and images of famine from Korem and with the song ‘We Are the World’ .( album that contained USA for Africa‘s “We Are the World” superstar charity recording for famine relief efforts in Ethiopia). Then, after the demise of the Derg, the Tigreans came only to do the exact same thing, what the Amaras were doing for a century. That is the legacy of the Abyssinian war-culture. And that is the cold truth. Now let’s see how the Tigreans came into the picture.
How the Tigreans came at the helm
During the century long successive Amara rule, unable to challenge the Amaras, the Tigreans south of the Mereb River were ended-up being the poorest of the poor. Under the Amaras, the Tigreans were denied economic and educational opportunities; their ethnic, their land, their language and their culture was ridiculed; and their region was systematically reduced into a tiny barren region. Then something unexpected happened. The Amara dynasty was challenged in a fundamental way. But this time, the Amaras were not challenged by their traditional Tigrean rivals but by people they never imagined even in their wildest dreams: the Eritrean Muslims. The Eritrean Muslims who lost everything in the Ethio-Eritrean federal arrangement knocked the doors of the Arab region for support; and they got positive response. Sovereign Eritrea as their ultimate objective, Eritrean Muslims defied the Amara rule by organizing an armed insurgency. Soon Eritrean ethnic Tigrignas joined their Muslim brothers. Then a decade and half later the Tigreas south of the Mereb River joined the fray. With a positive gesture from the West, material support from the Arab region and a lot of sacrifice from both sides of the Mereb River, finally in 1991, Eritreans and Tigreans fought side by side all the way to Addis, and put an end to the century old Amara dynasty.
Then, with a warm handshake, Eritreans and Tigreans departed their separate ways. Eritreans headed home to chart their destiny and started minding their own business. But the Tigreans had different plan. Though very reluctantly, they decided to be Ethiopians for a little while and stayed in Addis to govern. While governing in Addis, the Tigrayans wanted their hard earned victory to mark the beginning of a long Tigrean dynasty. And if things don’t work-out as planned, which sometimes things do, the Tigreans had back-up plans and safety devices put-in place that would assure them safe exit from Ethiopia: Article Thirty Nine. And with all their wisdom, safety devices, and backup plans, they thought they had it all figured-out; but, boy were they wrong.
When did the Tigreans get it wrong? And who is on the spotlight soon to shine?
Well, using logical deduction, I don’t think it is that complicated to figure-out who is about to shine on the spot light soon. Look: Ethiopia is a trusted Western ally. And it is trusted Western ally simply because of the loyalty of two ethnic elites: the Amara and the Tigrean elites. Therefore, if the Tigrean elites are booted-out, who else could possibly be shinning on the spot-light but the Amara elite stupid! Yes; the Amaras did it again. Thanks to the Western power-brokers, they did it and they did it with-class: behind closed doors. Of course the Amaras have still to tie few loose ends here and there in the coming few years, but make no mistake – Tigreans as their junior partners, the Amara-show is set in place for 2015. And that begs the question: where did the Tigrayans get it wrong? What happened to their safety devices and back-up plans?
Again, let’s use deductive reasoning to figure-out why and how power slipped from the hands of the Tigrean hardliners. And, let’s build our case from this premise. Fact: it is safe to say long before Meles’s death, Western powers had full knowledge about Meles’s deteriorating health. Now, using this premise as our base, it is safe to say, Western powers will not sit idle while their man is dying. Therefore, we can say with absolute confidence, the plan for Meles’s successor was set in motion while Meles was alive, and with full consent of Meles himself – of course with full counseling (pressure from behind closed door) from the West. Again, knowing full well Meles’s deteriorating health Western powers could have allowed Meles to groom a Tigrean successor. And with all the Tigrean political, security, and military infrastructure – selecting a Tigrean successor would have been a lot easier. But Meles didn’t groom a Tigrean successor. And the reason could only be either Meles-the-Tigrean didn’t want a Tigrean successor or the West didn’t allow him to do so. I’ll take the later. Therefore, the nomination of the two None-Radioactive top men: Hailemariam Desalegn and his deputy Demeke Mecconen (later) could only be intended for purposes of smooth transition of power without anybody being threatened. Meaning neither Hailemariam Desalegn nor Demeke Mecconnen will be the next prime minster of Ethiopia.
After Meles’s death, as expected, there was power struggle between the Amara and Tigrean elite. And this is the possible reason for the power struggle. When it comes to the severity and deadliness of Meles’s disease, it was kept so secret almost all of the top Tigrean leaders in Addis were not in the loop. Had the Tigrean hardliners been well informed about Meles’s health, they would have replaced him in no time. But instead, they were shocked like everybody else by the untimely death of Meles. After Meles’s death was conformed, part of the power struggle became winning Western support. On the domestic front, the Tigrean hardliners could have prevailed at least this time around. If push comes to shove, they could have used or threatened to use the safety-device they put in place: Article Thirty-Nine. But the Tigrean bigwigs in Addis had a problem. They didn’t have any leverage that would work in their favor to prevail. And let me explain why:
When the Tigreans entered Addis, they promised themselves that they will not be another Amaras. But after they stayed in Addis for a while they changed their political calculus. Not only they became another Amaras but they even became worse. To see – crushing defeat of Eritrean defense forces, failing Eritrea as a viable nation, and to humiliate Eritrea at IGAD, AU, UN and SC became their obsession. War and the threat of war to the North and to the East became their regional policy. Harsh ethnic and political suppression became their internal governing policy. A simple domestic insurgency for ethnic and regional rights was conveniently labeled war on Islamic Fundamentalism, just because the smell of Western-bacon on the table was too much to resist. They thought, if they successfully manage to have Western powers on their side, using their power and their access to Western powers as a fighting tool, they could vilify and crash anyone who stood in their way. They thought if they stood by the side of Western powers, other countries in the region didn’t matter. Based on that assumption they put all their eggs in one basket (the West). They betrayed every friend they had; and they destroyed every bridge they came across during their two decade-rule. Today, they are no friends of Ethiopian ethnics; they are no friends of Eritreans; they are no friends of Somalis; and they are no friends of the Arab region. A small minority (6%) in a nation of ninety million, with no friends and no strong alliances inside or outside Ethiopia to use as a bargaining-chip, the Tigreans didn’t had a persuasive argument to have another Tigrean as a successor to Meles. The only argument they had to the Western power-brokers was their good-resume (their loyalty to the West). Regrettably, that didn’t save the day. And this is the most plausible reason:
In all this power brokering business, Western Powers were not just honest power-brokers, but also stakeholders at the outcome of it all. Why stakeholders? Ethiopia is the only powerful and trusted ally they have in the volatile Red Sea/Horn Region. They have a lot of regional projects lined up for it. Make no mistake: Western Powers are not interested, and they are not in the business of laying the ground-work for checks and balances, divided government, messy democracy and political gridlock in black Ethiopia. Western Powers are not fishing for Jeffersonian democrats in Addis. Only an idiot would believe Western Powers are in the business of spreading democracy in black Africa. Only a stupid would believe Meles was praised by Western powers because he was smart, shrewd, seasoned politician who knew how to play the game. No, no, no – absolutely not. Having a brain is not a requirement to be liked by the West. In fact having a brain is detrimental to one’s nation and self; unless of course one wants us to believe, ‘one’s country is better served when its leaders are serving Western interest’. To cut to the chase – today, what Western powers are looking in Ethiopia is a charismatic, easy to sell, very reliable corrupted leader (dictator) who can execute regional policies with a single phone-call from Washington. Yes, exactly like Meles; but not Tigrean. Therefore, when Western power-brokers were busy brokering in Addis, not only they didn’t want chaos and fragmentation to ensue in Ethiopia, but also, they didn’t want another strong but hard to sell Woyanay to be the top man. Not that the Woyanes didn’t serve them well, but because they know full well, the Ethiopian public doesn’t have the stomach to take another decade of Woyane rule.
Think about it: if the Western power-brokers allow another strong Tigrean to govern Ethiopia for the next decade against the will of the Ethiopian people, it is a no brainer, an Arab Spring type public uprising against the Western-pampered government would take place in Ethiopia; and that would affect Western interest in a negative way. And the Western power-brokers don’t want that. Again, if the Western power-brokers allow the Tigreans to have Hailemariam Desalegn type submissive prime minster so the Tigreans can govern Ethiopia from behind, then the central government in Addis will be so weak, Ethiopian ethnic-regions would demand more ethnic-autonomy and some might even demand as far as ethnic-succession. With a weak central government, not only Ethiopian unity would be in jeopardy but also, Ethiopia’s regional power and influence would diminish as a result. And Ethiopia that is incapable of being the neighborhood Police-Chief is unacceptable to the West. Therefore, with no good option to choose from, Western power-brokers didn’t have any other choice but to do the obvious: pressure the Woyane bigwigs to relinquish power. And the Tigrean bigwigs didn’t have any other choice but to yield to the pressure applied on them by the Western power-brokers. Because the Tigreans know all too well, they could neither rule Ethiopia nor divorce from it without having Western blessing. Therefore, in order everyone to win some and loose some, Western power-brokers struck the right balance. They guaranteed the Tigrean bureaucrats and the Tigrean Generals, immunity from prosecution and secured place in future Ethiopia. And the Tigrean bigwigs agreed to give-up power and to co-operate in the process of peaceful transfer of power in the coming years. Today, the Tigreans are not fighting for the top job; because they know full well they are not going to get it. The Tigrayans are just causing all kinds of mischief to maximize their share of the pie in the coming coalition government that would be dominated by Amara and Tigrean heavyweights.
Final Note: Make no mistake – there is no looming threat for Tigreans from the Amaras or anyone else for that matter. The Tigreans have changed Ethiopia forever. Ethiopia is not and will not be your grandfather’s Ethiopia. The Amaras will never be the old Amaras again. The Tigreans will never be the Tigreans under Hailesellassie and Derg era again. The Tigreans will always be strong in future Ethiopian governments; not because of their numerical ratio to the whole, but due to the potential-power acquired due to their geographical position (proximity and relation to Eritreans) and due to the strong need for Tigrayans, by the Amaras. The 27% Amaras are nothing without the Tigreans. The Amaras are too small and too weak to herd ninety million Ethiopians. Ethiopia is changing so much and so fast, even with the Amara-Tigrean partnership, Amara-Tigrean domination in a fast changing Ethiopia is just a pipedream.