Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again?

By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – Last week Mekelle University, which is found in the northern part of Ethiopia Tigray Region, has organized a conference. One of the papers presented at the conference was by Mr. Bereket Simon, the former rebel fighter, who later served as Minister of Ethiopian Government Communications Affairs Office.

After reflecting on his new book, the gathering began discussions on the current political situation of Ethiopia. The next day a six minutes’ video clip taken from that conference went viral on social media.

The clip shows one person criticizing the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) in the presence of its founders and godfathers who are now hiding in Mekele after the federal government began crackdown on people implicated in major corruption and committed crimes against humanity.

The guy in the video is Amdom Gebreslasie, the communication head of Arena Tigray – the only opposition party operating legally in Tigray Region, whose members have allegedly been attacked and arrested several times by the party which has been leading the region for the past 27 years – TPLF.

Amdom blamed Mr. Bereket for introducing tribal politics along with the late Meles Zenawi and Sibhat Nega. Amdom indicated that the ruling coalition, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has never been elected to lead the country. It has managed to stay on power “by stealing votes of the people”.

“…There was no such a thing called democracy or respect for the constitution in the past 27 years…Let alone to respect the constitutions of the country, TPLF has never respected its own rules…Like North Korea EPRDF has been claiming winning 100%,” Amdom said in the clip.

Amdom also tried to speak about the TPLF owned business conglomerate The Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT). He was trying to mention how EFFORT owns dozens of businesses in the name of Tigray people and how the TPLF hardliners have been using the billions of birr for personal benefits.

It was unbelievable for many Ethiopians to see someone opposing boldly in front of the hardliners of TPLF within Tigray territory. No one heard before such a different view reflected, especially in front of Sibehat Nega, Abay Tsehaye and the emerging hardliners like Gretachew Redda, who also at some point served as minister of Ethiopian Government Communications Affairs Office.

U.S. appointed Ethiopia PM
In another video clip from the same conference Sibehat said that it is the United States who appointed Abiy Ahmed to become Ethiopia’s Prime Mister. He in fact mentioned the former United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamato, as the person who appointed Abiy to become prime minister of Ethiopia.

Some people take his assertion as a deliberate attempt to associate his group with the competitors of the United States in East Africa, such as, China, Turkey and Russia. While some other people mock the old man.

“I wonder since when Mr. Yamamato became member of EPRDF central committee and voted for Abiy,” said, a former opposition party member and detainee speaking the next day on Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), the channel which has been critical about Ethiopia’s regime since its establishment in Washington eight years ago.

The TPLF lost its dominance in the federal government when the Oromo and Amhara parties, with cumulatively representing around 70% of the total population of Ethiopia, unexpectedly gave all their votes to Dr. Abiy Ahmed to become EPRDF chairman with additional votes from the Southern party.

Sponsoring ethnic clashes
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed admitted at the parliament soon after taking office that the EPRDF government was engaged in terrorist activities against the constitution and asked apology the people. He promised that forgiveness, love and bringing unity is his priority and his government has no plan to chase anyone.

Meanwhile, not long after he took power, ethic related attacks and displacements began to manifest in different parts of the country. The new premier has also escaped an assassination in Addis Ababa during the rally his supporters organized.

Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again?
Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again? – The current map of Ethiopia with 9 regions and two city administrations as introduced by the TPLF-led coalition after 1991.

Then people began pointing their fingers to the hardliners in the TPLF for financing such conflicts to sabotage the reform launched by the new prime minister.

Following the tribal conflicts here and there, the people have begun urging Prime Minister Abiy’s team to take measures against those who lost their power ad fuelling the conflicts. That public pressure has forced the government to launch investigations focusing on crimes against humanity, organized crimes ad grand corruption and theft of wealth of the nation.

Then the prosecutors announced finalization of investigations and began arresting the alleged criminals. This has followed by a series of documentaries on state TVs that show how billions of dollars has been stolen and left the country and people with different opinions were locked in secrete prisons while some including men were raped by some members of the security.

The testimony, which includes prisoners whose legs are chopped, are more or less similar to several years of human rights violations reports by international human rights organizations such as, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, etc.

Reports released a few years back by the High level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa and Global Financial Integrity have also indicated money laundering as a serious concern for Ethiopia while the amount of money leaving the country is increasing.

Grand corruption
One of the grand corruption cases, which led to the arrest of dozens of officials and their business affiliates, is related to the military owned Metal Engineering Corporation (METEC). The charges against them shows that over $2 billion dollars has left the country through nontransparent purchases of goods and services in relation to the construction of Ethiopia’s under-construction Great Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again?
Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again? – From Left- Sibhat Nega and Abay Tsehaye, among the founders of TPLF.

There were grand corruptions in every grand infrastructure development from rails to roads, according to Suleyman Dedefo, the former Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti.

Speaking in one of the documentaries he noted that he has been expressing his concerns in writing to the former foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Tewodros Adhanom, now head of World health Organization (WHO), about the illegal shipping business METEC has been conducting between the coasts of Somalia and Iran.

Compared to other unreported grand corruptions in Ethiopia, what METEC has done is insignificant, according to Ambassador Suleyman.

“The amount of money left Ethiopia illegally over the past 27 years through miss-invoicing reaches 1.8 trillion birr (around $65 billion at the current exchange rate),” says, Dr. Eyob Tesfaye, a renowned macro-economist who used to work at Ethiopia’s central bank.

Following the crackdown by the federal government led by Dr. Abiy, the accused hardliners implicated including, the former intelligence head Getahcew Assefa, his deputy and many others, began to hide in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, which some people now refer to it as, ‘Ethiopia’s Tora Bora’.

While some of the TPLF members are working with the federal government supporting the reform of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who is from the Oromo Democratic Party – one of the four members of EPRDF.

Spreading fear among Tigray people
From where they are hiding inside the people of Tigray, TPLF hardliners launched a campaign telling their people that the federal government is chasing them not because they are implicated in crimes, but because they are Tigrians. Two weeks ago, those hardliners have also organized mass rally in Mekele, the capital of Tigray Region opposing Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s reform.

“…Because you lost your power in Addis Ababa, now you came here and tell the Tigray people that they are endanger…Now you are spreading fear among Tigray people. This is not right. We hear from you that the people of Tigray and TPLF are one (the same). How could you say, Tigray people and TPLF are one and the same?…The people of Tigray are still in miserable condition and poverty, while the officials are managing and using billions of birr in the name of Tigray people…,” Amdom said, in the six minutes’ video clip.

The video shows that Amdom is forced to stop speaking by continuous clapping of people like, Mr. Sibehat Nega, one of the founders and godfathers of the TPLF.

Leaked map
When the former university students such as, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, went to the bush establishing a rebel group – the TPLF in February 1975, their intention was to liberate Tigray Region from the federal government of Ethiopia.

Meanwhile as they approach to the May 1991 victory over the Marxist Derg Regime, they decided to establish the EPRDF to take over the whole Ethiopia.

The reason they changed their mind according to some people is because compared to other parts of Ethiopia, Tigray is less rich in natural resources compared.

Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again?
Ethiopian former rebels going to the bush again? – Leaked map reportedely prepared by the TPLF hardlies when they were in the bush.

Hence the TPLF founders hold-back their Great Tigray Republic agenda for the past 27 years and ruled Ethiopia establishing EPRDF by bringing aboard loyal people from Oromo such as, Abadulla Gemeda, from Amhara such as, Bereket Simon and from southern part of the country such as, Abate Kisho.

Meanwhile leading Ethiopia was not as easy for them as they designed in the

bush, especially after the controversial and bloody May 2005 national election.

People also began to questioning the TPLF’s intention of fairly and equality leading Ethiopia after a leaked map of Great Tigray Republic they draw in the bush has also began to spread on social media some years back.

The map includes parts of Amhara Region and goes all the way from North to western part of Ethiopia involving all parts of the current Benishangul Gumz and Gambella regions.

As a result, some areas in the neighboring Amhara bordering Tigray, such as in Humera and Welkait areas, have been complaining and often fighting with the TPLF since the former rebels took power in May 1991 claiming that their fertile land is taken and included in the new Tigray Region map.

Representing not more than 6% of the Ethiopia’s population, the TPLF have been criticized for dominating the intelligence, army, federal police and monopolizing many critical economic and political powers.

Nature of criminals
“For the TPLF to lose its power in the federal government was like news of one’s mother death,” said Ermias Eshetu, a former member of EPRDF who exiled to the United States and popular for his books that reveals the secrets of the ruling regime and the applications of its ‘revolutionary democracy’ ideology.

Now some unconfirmed reports also show that those hardliners are also trying to recruit and provide military training to the youth in some parts of Tigray. A few days ago, Getachew Redda told Reuter news agency that they have been cornered because they are from Tigray ethic group and they will fight back.

“…This is the nature of criminals. They always look for a hiding place. None of these criminals (There is no one from these criminals who) have stolen or tortured for the sake of the people he comes from or the tribe he came from. His tribe is not interested to robe or torture,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, recently discussing with opposition party leaders.

“Without consulting his people when he tortures and when he removes nails of individuals, when you tell him that removing nails of human being [prisoners] is a crime, he says, ‘because I am from this tribe’. This is not right. This is [the attitude] a very dangerous thing,” Abiy said.

It is in the middle of this controversy that Amdom, who is also from Tigray ethic group, make furious the godfathers of TPLF, who are bragging to go back to gorilla war once again.

“Let me finish what I want to say. I think this is Mekelle University conference; it is not TPLF conference,” Amdom said, as the clapping continues and the video clip ends.

The question now is, ‘Are those in charge of the Tigray Region, who at times seem to support the reformist prime minister, deliver the accused TPLF hardliners to the federal government or let them organize a new rebel group?’