Undercurrents of the Eritrean-Tigrai Relation
The contemporary sociopolitical history of Ethiopia, Tigray, and Eritrea is informed by two undercurrents that appear to impact these tripartite entities devastatingly as each attempt to outmaneuver the other in that elusive race toward political hegemonic prominence. Chose to use a recent Tigrinya song that captures the foolishness of the war(s), interspersing it within the article at hand giving it a certain vibe as well as the inherent message conveyed by the song; it illustrates part of the problem that each of the political actors continue to play. So, how about listening to the song first, then, reading the piece that follows, eh. Here
The ‘Eritrea Problem’*
The Eritrean problem was borne out of its colonial history, which had gone into the rearview mirror since 1991. In the thirty years since its independence, however, EPLF-turned-PFDJ that continue to reign supreme in Eritrea, the ascendent body politics of which, has been unable to put its governing house in order. A recent lyrical rendition in a song captures the situation as it exists today. ዎ! ዓሻ ቲ’ጉዱ የ ቲ ጉዱ / ክስሕን ሓዊ ኣጒዱ / ከይስሓነሉ በቲ ሓዊ ነዲዱ.To lose so many young Eritrean and Ethiopian lives over inexplicably trifle issues boggles the mind. But the soloist has a metaphorical explanation for it as he lyricizes, እቲ ንጉስ-ጫካ ብእርጋንምስጠለሞ ምሓውሩ / ምስ ጽንጽያ ክቃለስ ይውዕል ካብ መስርሕ ሃድን ቦኺሩ: ኢድ ሸናሒት ግዳይ ትገብሮ / ኣደዳ’ዛብእ ወኻሩ…ከም ግብሩ::
ዓሻ ንጉስ ሕልንኡ ምስዝስለብ / ከም ኣንበሳ ስጋ ደቁ ይቕለብ. What’s even more mind boggling is TPLF-Turned-EPRDF’s mother of all colossal political mis-calculus. Neither Tigray nor the rest of Ethiopia mattered; the nation can go to hell in a handbasket, TPLF was not going down without a fight. It chose to go through the rabid hole to keep its political power. The azmari’s lament resumes to suggest that there could’ve been better ways the issues of concern for each participants that could’ve been handled without resorting to the destruction of a nation: መሶብ ኔራ’ንድያ ኣደ ፍቕሪ…ሰፋሕ መኣዲ / ሰብ ቤት ኣጽጊባ ተጽግብ… ሓላፍ መንገዲ /ነንውልቅኻ ምስ ኮነ ምዕንጋል ከብዲ / ንዓይ ንዓይ ክብሉ… በሪሳ ዓዲ.**
And then one hears in the echo chambers of social media outlets that want to hear nothing else but their own grievances about our region and its causal effects, something akin to those who are Holocaust deniers who perpetuate the facts so they may create enough social and psychological dissonance in the public mind, so much so that people begin to believe it. Gaslighting! The Holocaust Museum sums it up this way:
“Holocaust denial is any attempt to negate the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Holocaust denial and distortion are forms of antisemitism, prejudice against or hatred of Jews. Holocaust denial and distortion generally claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests…These views perpetuate long-standing antisemitic stereotypes, hateful beliefs that helped lay the groundwork for the Holocaust. Holocaust denial, distortion, and misuse all undermine the truth and our understanding of history.”***
Akin to this notion, the Eritrean anti-independence echo chamber is now magnified to the nth degree as they keep on harping that Eritrea’s independence was conceived by a bandit and completed by hooligans. The undercurrent message is clear, pluralism in Eritrea won’t work, the only way for this to work is if Eritrea and Tigray unite as one nation. As if that would change the reality as it exists today. Eritrea has been an independent nation only for 30 years but don’t tell that to these Eritrean Independence Deniers (EIDs). The illogic of this argument is on display when one would simply point out, the most powerful country in the world in which these EIDs happen to reside was conceived and founded by Slave Traders and Slave Owners. But they won’t deny America as a nation. The fact that Eritrea has had the misfortune of misgovernance, of which we are distraught about, but not to these EIDs. If Eritrea as a nation had made great strides in the 30 years of its existence, the Eritrean problem wouldn’t have been raised. Americans do not deny the existence of their nation, they work to perfect the problem they face in the ideals of their nation. They made do with what they have. They continue to struggle to make it a better place for all of its citizens. Back in the late 1800, The Atlantic had an article penned by the then prolific advocate of Black America, Booker T. Washington:
“this trial of the African as an American citizen is the most wonderful social endeavor that has ever been made by our own or any other race. If it succeeds, even in the faintest approach to a fair measure; if these men, bred in immemorial savagery and slavery, can blossom out into self-upholding citizens, fit to stand alone in the battle with the world, then indeed we must confess that human nature is a thing apart from the laws of inheritance, — that man is more of a miracle in the world than we deemed him to be.” (“The Negro Problem”)****
The ‘Tigray Problem’
The echo chamber gaslighting machination deserves no more than the aforementioned statement. Of course, if one does his/her due diligence it is not that difficult to find someone who would say similar things of Weyane as these echo chamber Eritreans keep questioning the foundation of Eritrea’s nationalism. Lo and behold, there is a Tigrayan scholar who calls Weyane merihnet nay shifatu (TPLF as no more than bandits)*****. One can easily see how unconstructive these kinds of conversations can be. Thus, let’s turn to the Tigray problem.
The Tigray problem was borne out of Ethiopia’s inability to agree on where the center of political power should reside. The three thousand years of raid and counterraid continues to paralyze the political elites from achieving some semblance of modern-day nation-state status. In the twenty-seven years, the TPLF-turned-EPRDF that reigned supreme in Ethiopia, its governing body was never able to put its governing house in order; not in a sense that reflects the massively diverse society consistent with its population composition. The political principle of the TPLF appeared to rest on this: The only way it becomes part of Ethiopia is when it wields political power. This inflexibility has taken the people of Tigray to the abyss, the depth of which has become like a bottomless pit. As the same singing man calls it in his recent creative genius, ግዜ ዝሃባሓምሓም ቆላ / ዘይትኣርግ ዘይትስበር ይመስላ / ዓሻ ሹም ድኣየ ሓው ኣናኺሱ ይእለ… ሪኡ ከምዘይርኣየ / ዎ! ሹም ኮይኑብፍልጠቱ ብጉልበቱ / እንከይበቐቐ እንኮ ህይወቱ / ከም ዘንጊ ሙሴ ዋልታ ኮይኑ እንተዘይቆመ ንህዝቡ ንመሬቱ / ኣብውድቀቱ ምስ ስዓብቱ ናብ’ዛ ብዓቱ::
When former TPLF leaders lost the political power in the EPRDF party, they decided to retreat to their former selves, to the TPLF of yesteryear by packing all of their human capital as they concentrated in the region from which they all hailed, namely, Tigray province. This created an untenable position, the decision led to a confrontation between the federal government and Tigray region, the end result of which TPLF or what’s left of it has become like a dying light, flickering here and there until it goes completely dark, out of power, gone for good. Ethiopians, under the leadership of TPLF, were made to believe Eritrea was the cancer that should always stay on chemotherapy until it finally dawned on them that it was the TPLF turned EPRDF the real cancer that should be excised from power. Excised it was. Now, the cancer is localized, in a swath of land in the caves and mountains of Tigray somewhere with its handful old guards coming out at night like ghosts and Dracula to suck Ethiopians’ blood dry while trying to make the world believe they are the victims. In the azmari’s immortal words, ገፊፉ ዳጉን / ዓሻ ድኣየ / ምዃ ዘንጊዑ / ጉድጓድ ንፈሓሪኣየ:: The rendition of the lyrical man continues, not to put too finer musical note on it, ዓሻ ይፈሳህ / ክndi ዝንሳህ / ጽባሕ ምስበለ ጻሕ / ኣበይክብጻሕ::
Nobody plays the victim card to a hilt like TPLF does. To the rest of Ethiopians TPLF tries to make them believe Ethiopia can’t hold it together without them in power. To that end, it used its political power and clout to undermine the Oromo’s sociopolitical emergence by making them believe that it’s the Amharas who have been exploiting them. To Eritreans, it’s the Isaias regime that’s in the way of their freedom and prosperity and security when it actively undermined the opposition by funding any Eritrean group that wished to open an opposition shop in Addis. Now, the trio, Dr. Debretsion, Getachew Reda, and Gen. Tsadqan are taking turns to connive and sell their snake oil to Eritreans, Tigrayans, and the rest of Ethiopians along with the world as they come out from their hiding place playing the victim card. To that end, in Diaspora news outlets like Assenna and others have become the mouthpieces of HiwHat. This time, it is Tsadqan’s turn, the reaction to his statements by Eritreans have been swift. Taking two social media outlets will suffice to see the swiftness and the steadfastness of it all, in which Eritreans – apropos – appear to be saying, ‘fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’.
The media analysis will have to wait for another day
*The title of The Eritrea Problem and The Tigray Problem are inspired by “The Negro Problem,” the term that was popularized by Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) who wrote a book by the same title in 1903. The book in PDF:
** Arefayne, T. (2021)
*** Holocaust Denial
**** The Atlantic
***** Alemayehu, T. A friend from Awate Forum shared a link of the historian’s first interview. Upon watching the second part of the interview was when the term bandit was used in describing Weyane. Thus, the pertinence of the term was so important that it was added on the evening the article was submitted to Awate.com.