By Mohamed Garad
On June 28, 2021, the regime of the 2019 Nobel Peace Laureate, Abiy Ahmed Ali, had suffered a determinantal, swift, fatal and shameful defeat. Forces loyal to Abiy’s rival foe and the most vocal opposition to his government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have recaptured the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and ‘liberated’ almost all of the Tigray region’s territories from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF).
Ethiopian soldiers and their allied Amhara regional state militias who can escape have fully retreated from the Tigray region. Four days later, on July 2, 2021, the rest of the Ethiopian soldiers who were luckily alive were paraded in thousands on the streets of Mekelle to prisons.
Unable to understand the difference between defeat and ceasefire, PM Abiy Ahmed has claimed ‘a unilateral declaration of ceasefire’ on his side as the grounds of his shameful defeat. Jubilant and now victorious, the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) are on the offensive against Abiy’s soldiers and their allies. They set seven preconditions for a ceasefire, among them: respect for the Ethiopian constitution and making the constitution as the ‘sole bases of any negotiations going forward.’
This is happening in just less than eight months after the Nobel Peace Laureate has declared a war on Tigray and quickly declared victory after waging a war campaign whose atrocities could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanities. International human rights bodies are asking for an independent probe to investigate these war atrocities. Abiy’s pretext of the war was the fact that the Tigray region did go ahead with a regional election without his approval and his never-proven claim that the rulers of the Tigray region did attack a military base in the region.
Now defeated the war on Tigray and never enjoyed genuine public support nor the legitimate control of the other peoples and regions, Ethiopia’s central State power is an empty skeleton which is deprived of its traditional existential genesis of violent coercion. Its military, political and economic clusters are suffering major disorganization, and its defeated leader is in panic mode and running out of options. So, how did Ethiopia get here? Expelled from its birthplace and the hereditary vanguard of its Abyssinian State, the Tigray region, while facing implosive social, political and economic upheavals in its fiefdom regions, can Ethiopia continue to exist, in where and how? What are the possible outcome scenarios of the ongoing turbulence? Where is the path forward?
Since its formation, Ethiopia has never rested in peace and calmness. Conflicts, wars, and State predation have always been ruining any chance that Ethiopia could have become a place of peace and stability. So, in reality, the current crisis of Ethiopia is a continuity which is old as Ethiopia exists. An un-redressed dark history, unjust State structure and perennial State autocracy are the sole and fundamental genesis of Ethiopia’s endless wars, rebellions and tyrannies with all their miseries. This led to the perpetual deprivation and oppression of the population Ethiopia calls its citizens by itself.
Unresolved dark history
Ethiopia’s un-redressed dark history which fuels wars and violence starts with its formation. The country’s formation is a byproduct of conquest and colonialization. In a rare incidence around the world, at the dawn of the partition of Africa, a king of what once was a small kingdom known as Shoa Dynasty of the northern plateau of the president day Ethiopia, Menelik II, had secured an alliance with the European imperialists, obtained modern weapons and conquered and forcefully occupied neighboring medieval African nations. In this colonial expedition, he left behind the famous statement of “if powers at distance came forward to partition Africa, I don’t want to be an indifferent spectator,” and formed the Ethiopia we know.
Before Menilik’s expansion and conquest, the conquered nations namely the Somali, Oromo, Afar, Gambella, Beninshangul, Sidama, Hadiya and so on who comprises more than 69% of Ethiopia’s current population had each a unique history, defined territory, culture, and polity that dates back as far as the 3rd century A.D or earlier.
The successful conquest expedition led to the formation of the vast multi-culture, the multi-nation empire we now call Ethiopia. However, the empire builders had failed to serve justice and equality in their newly formed empire, a sinful act that the successive Ethiopian rulers have so far failed to redress. Lethal subjugation of the conquered people based on a crueler feudal structure had been employed as the rule of governance. Dispossession of wealth, including the land, destruction of polities and deprivation of the basic human rights were targeted against the people of the forcefully occupied and incorporated nations.
The Wallomo proverb of “Menelik gave the land to the Amhara and other people to the birds those died for hunger and their body eaten by the wild birds,” tries to catch some of the economic plights which the people of the conquered nations had suffered under the new imperial rule. Among many other miseries, such oppressive rule produced one of the largest slave populations in Africa in the late 19th century who were mostly owned by the conquering Menelik and his satellite local rulers.
This sadistic and dark history ignites violence as the successive Ethiopian rulers have so far failed to redress it. Ethiopia’s dark history demands redemption, not a continuity. Disavowing and condemning this ugly and dark history is a morally sanctioned duty on the Ethiopian political class as well as the international community. Ethiopia must liberate itself from the shackles of its past mistakes. Yes, States are not infallible and no country is free from past state mistakes, but countries learn from mistakes and redress them which gives cheerful peace, stability and prosperity. Western democracies are the best example.
Resistance and counter-resistance wars
Ethiopia’s inhumane historical formation and governance had galvanized resistance in which the people of the conquered nations have been struggling to either regain their lost glory of independence or achieve the basic human and democratic rights in a just State system that all are equal.
People of the conquered nations, especially the Somalis, Oromos and Afar have been waging bitter struggles for freedom to this day. The reaction of the builders and successive rulers of Ethiopia has been a brutal, unapologetic and complete denial: unjust State structures and perpetual autocracies have been institutionalized to preserve the empire with its dark history and quell the resistance. However, the repressive denial approach has only galvanized resistance which made tyranny, wars, rebellions, poverties, and other man-made miseries inextricable from the footprints of every Ethiopian regime and the empire’s history.
The imperial regime (1889 –1974) reacted with an assimilationist State architect which tried to assimilate the entire population of the conquered nations into the Amhara national identity and culture to preserve but utterly failed. The successive Derg regime (1974–1991) established a tyrannical socialist state to subdue the resistance and preserve Ethiopia but suffered a violent and un-ceremonial downfall. TPLF/EPRDF regime (1991–2018) implemented a tyranny regime that contravenes its constitution and rule of laws to suppress the struggle for justice and freedoms but suffered the same fate as its predecessors.
The present situation
Ethiopia’s current political and security crises are very gloomy but defy the past conundrums in two main characters:
Firstly, while the basic factor of the conflict in the previous regimes was a complete rejection of the regimes’ State formula and national identity definitions, the bases of the wars and conflicts against the TPLF/EPRDF regime were mainly against its autocracy, not its state core principles and ideals. TPLF/EPRDF’s national redefinition of 1991 and adaptation of the current constitution which forms and underpins ethnic federalism has offered a new resolution to the historically oppressed nations and nationalities. All nations of the empire except its historically privileged Amhara elites have accepted and endorsed the ideas, principles and intuitions of the new ethnic federal structure. However, it was the TPLF/EPRDF’s rejection to uphold the principles of its constitution and its brutal autocracy which placed its regime at war with the people and eventually led to its split and downfall in 2018.
Secondly, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s regime has failed to understand an iota of the current political calculus nor the empire’s history which is causing new waves of violence which are threatening Ethiopia’s sole existence. Despite the PM’s widely admired initial domestic reactions which temporarily eased tensions and raised hopes, Abiy’s actions and ideological bid to lead Ethiopia sawed tensions that ignited violence and already led Ethiopia into a new deadly civil war. Things took the dark turn when PM Abiy Ahmed adopted a superstitious political fiction which regards Africa’s second most populous, multi-layer and multi-cultural empire as a single and homogeneous Nation-State that has no past evils. This superstitious assimilationist view was formalized as the grounding principles and ideological thoughts of Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party (PP). While doing so, the PM started to glorify the history of Ethiopia’s most tyrant rulers, built and renovated their statues, postponed and ran sham national elections in which he was already declared the single winner, and has shown a huge affinity to the anti-federalists hellbent to completely undo the current constitution and its ideas.
Abiy Ahmed’s ideological poverty and autocratic tendency placed him at odd with the ongoing political waves and the current evolutionary stage of the empire. The denialist approach hit a rock in the minds and hearts of historically oppressed masses of the empire who are now well organized, informed and morally free. The denialism invoked the historical mass sentiment against Ethiopia’s state brutalities. Abiy Ahmed’s reaction to the rejections of his ideological fiasco became the traditional norms of Ethiopia’s despotic rulers: violence and destruction. As an initial step, open war has been waged against the two most formidable opposition forces: the TPLF and Oromo opposition forces. In Oromia, prominent Oromo opposition leaders were violently cracked down and imprisoned while a bloody counter-insurgency campaign had been waged in vast parts of the Oromia region. Then, on November 4, 2020, the Nobel Peace Laureate declared the war on Tigray in which he was fatally defeated on June 28, 2021, after massive human and material destructions.
Elsewhere in the empire, Abiy’s regime has neither gained public support nor a legitimate and stable presence. For example, in the Somali region, Ethiopia’s third-largest ethnicity with the second-largest territorial land, a volatile peace and stability has only been possible because of the regional people’s patience and the political maturity of the key opposition leaders, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). While the region has been the first recipient of Abiy’s autocracy in which an unelected governor was imposed on the region following a violent removal of the region’s previous central stooge, Abdi M. Omer (Abdi Ilay), Abiy’s regime has failed also to observe the terms of the historic Asmara Peace Declaration between the Ethiopian gov’t and the ONLF signed on October 21,2018. While ONLF had fully and verifiably implemented its part of the agreement, Abiy’s regime hasn’t fulfilled its part of the agreement, rather it has been playing dirty schemes to provoke war, divide and dismantle ONLF and solidify absolute autocracy in the light of “Medemer” by using its satellite regional governor, Mustafa Omer.
Hence forth, while peace on one side isn’t stable, the war atrocities and massacres that the successive Ethiopian regimes have been perpetrating against the people of the Somali region are vivid and fresh in the minds and memories of the population. Massive public rage and anger might violently explode in the historic and most contested region of Ethiopia as the pressure on the people continues and historical atrocities remain unresolved.
THE PATH FORWARD
Ethiopia is on the edge of collapse. Its new regime led by the 2019th Nobel Peace Laureate hasn’t only failed to free it from the ruinous legacies of its past despotic rules but is unable to hold it together. The historical wars, repressions, rebellions, famines, and miseries are once again emerging all across the empire while the entire region of Tigray, Ethiopia’s birthplace and hereditary vanguard of its Abyssinian State is forcefully liberated from the rest of Ethiopia for the first time in history. Now narrowly survived from a total extermination war perpetrated by the State they have been committing heinous crimes to protect it, hatred has taken deep roots in the Tigray people, and the Tigarus no longer have faith in their hereditary State but mostly want to be free from it, if not to dismantle it.
The empire has taken the deadly path due to Abiy Ahmed’s awful ideological poverty which exasperated its deeply decayed postulates of State existence. While inherited the never stable and war brutalized vast, multi-national and multi-cultural empire, instead of resolving it, the prime minister conjured up historical tensions and antagonism among the various nations and nationalities by neglecting their age-old genuine demands and preaching a superstitious ideological dogma which disregards and demeans even the primordial and inevitable ethnic, cultural, and historical differences of the very diverse people of Ethiopia.
Abiy’s denial and dangerous illusionary approach which despises diversities and cherishes absolute assimilationism has placed the Ethiopian State into a suicidal club and convulsed it into new waves of civil war, public unrest, economic bankruptcy and political turmoil which are threatening Ethiopia’s sole existence. Thus, as Abiy’s denialism and dilutional approach is souring massive violence, his unwavering desire for power and autocratic tendencies are crimpling the last vestiges of Ethiopia’s tyrannical state power against a highly determined, self-educated, and morally liberated Ethiopian masses who violence can no longer suppress or silence. Thus, fear of the worst will be real and the violent disintegration of Ethiopia is imminent if the followings aren’t done immediately:
1.Prime minister Abiy Ahmed must resign and a new consensus figure must take over as a caretaker prime minister:
Abiy Ahmed’s presence in power is too toxic and a danger that Ethiopia can’t afford. With no political legitimacy and already led Ethiopia into war and violence in which an entire region of Tigray is forcefully separated from his rule and massive public anger, rebellions, and ethnic strives against his rule are boiling all over the empire, PM Abiy Ahmed has neither the legality nor the coercion power to govern Ethiopia. His denialism and dilutional “Medemer” ignites violence and it’s a major source of conflict and present danger.
Any validation of Abiy’s sham election result and late presence of Abiy Ahmed in power is a direct threat to Ethiopia’s peace, stability and even existence. Any elected and enlightened national leader who has a bit of sincere love for his country or peace but led his nation to that gloomy path would have resigned instantly. The 2019th Nobel Peace Laureate must adhere to the common sense, humanistic values and go.
2.National Dialogue and Reconciliation:
With the help of the international community, the new PM must uphold and govern the country on the sole bases and principles of the current constitution, preserve the rule of law, release all political prisoners, secure the impartiality of the government institutions, like security, courts and other key institutions, then swiftly initiate a national dialogue and reconciliation conference in which the uncompromised participation of all political forces is guaranteed. The conference must address and redress the root causes of Ethiopia’s perennial problems: endless tyrannies and wars with all their miseries. Then effective transitional agreement with the timetable to establish a just, democratic and peaceful Ethiopia must be formulated.
Ethiopia’s core fundamental problem is a predatory tyrannical state which oppresses people on the basis of ethnic and cultural identities to preserve a dark history which in turn invites continuous oppression, tyranny, conflicts and endless wars. The affliction has reached the point of implosion in which the oppressive structure can no longer stand. Full devolution of state power to the historically oppressed nations is the effective redemption to prevent the violent breakup. Genuine self-rule for all the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia in which the central State power is limited only to foreign policy, defense and currency must be established. The result is a stable and thriving multi-cultural, multi-national democratic Ethiopia. The alternative is no longer the continuity of an oppressive Ethiopia but a violent disintegration.
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