[OPINION] By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – It was about a year ago, I visited a village in Tigray Region of Ethiopia to report on a certain agriculture story. The pace is called Agere Selam. Later I come to find out that area used to serve as headquarter of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) during the civil war concluded in 1991. I went to Agere Selam with some foreign nationals and local researchers who are working to help the people grow improved variety of durum wheat.
Like many Tigray people living in the rural areas the villagers of Agre Selam have sacrificed their children and whatever they have for the arms struggle that aimed at liberating the Tigray people from the Derg Regime. Perhaps more than other parts they were instrumental in hiding the operations of the TPLF and feeding the rebel fighters, among others.
But what amazes me is that the severe poverty levels the people in those areas. It is similar to those farmers I have seen in other parts of the country. To my surprise because these people don’t even have proper clothing, the foreign researchers have brought to them bags of used clothes as gift.
Before reaching Agere Selam, I have been listening to the grievances of the people over the administration in Mekele. From drivers to other professionals, who are in Mekele University, they all talk about the lack of good governance and chronic corruption with examples of failed and stuck government projects.
After observing all these and the poor living conditions of the people in those rural areas, I asked myself a few questions such as:
- What is the attachment of the TPLF with the people of Tigray?
- What is the relationship between the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is the child of TPLF?
- Where is the money being generated by the party companies EFFORT is going to?
- Who has been benefiting for the past 27 years after the TPLF led forces have taken power?
After a year today I decided to reflect on those issues; thanks to the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed whom I consider as Moses of the Old Testament Bible, who was grow up in the house of Pharaoh to finally liberate the people of Israel from Pharaoh.
Back to the topic, what is the relation between the TPLF and the people of Tigray and beyond?
From my experience as a working journalist for the past 15 years with several trips to Mekele, the TPLF and the people of Tigray are not always one and the same. For many they seem one because the TPLF, which has been showing the people of Tigray the actual movie of its war with the Derg for the past 27 years, has kept the people in captivity of fear of other people of Ethiopia. A kind of threat such as, “we are not on power, it is the end of the Tigray people; promises such as becoming a nation called the greater Tigray like Israel, etc…”
That is why we don’t see many people of Tigray living in Ethiopia opposing the TPLF – dominated EPRDF regime. In fact I remember one of my colleagues saying, “Those in Tigray region are captives of fear other Ethiopians as portrayed by the TPLF, while those people of Tigray in the diaspora are busy managing the stolen money of by some of the corrupt TPLF members and their affiliates.”
But the reality is that the people of Tigray and the TPLF are not the same even though the later has been working day and night to prove that. If that was the case, we couldn’t have seen the people of Tigray receiving those used clothes from the foreigners.
Like any other people, the demand of the people of Tigray in the rural areas is to get access to finance; access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, among others. In general they struggle day and night with Mother Nature to earn more from their farm and live a better life.
I have also heard and seen that the TPLF dominated EPRDF helping SOME of these rural farmers to meet their demands.
The problem comes with the word some above. Why is the front helping some and not all? Is it because of shortage of resource or other hidden agenda? No! Ethiopia has more than enough resources for not the currently 100 million people but also for 300 million people. That is a whole different topic and the issue is about how these resources are managed including the human capital, which I will talk about it in a different article.
In my opinion, sorry to say, helping SOME and not helping others perhaps even making them poorer deliberately has been the basic strategy and governance model of the EPRDF for the past 27 years. It (favoring some) is derived from its unwritten but openly practiced ‘divide-and-rule policy’.
By the way such favoritism of SOME approach has been in practice all over Ethiopia from college students to teachers, rural farmers, civil servants and the business community, etc…It doesn’t matter if one is from this part of the country or another. Of course things became uglier and most businesses are dominated under one tribe after the death of the late Prime Minister Zenawi.
Therefore the main goal of the regime is not to solve the problem of ALL the people. In my opinion, the main goal of the TPLF dominated EPRDF had been to stay on power at any cost – with resources legally or illegally controlled.
That is why it has been intimidating, arresting, torturing and killing any Ethiopian with a different view. If one deems to stand against that main goal, she/he will be subject to the above harsh treatment – it doesn’t matter from which tribe or region that person is.
Over the past 27 years, the country also had no place for independent mind professionals who say no to their politically appointed bosses.
That is why tens of thousands of independent professionals have left the country, while some decided to keep quiet and become part of the poor quality and fake development, which is registered by those SOME either politically or ethnically affiliated people. Who dares to be critical on an issue while seeing her/his colleagues ending up in jail as terrorist for writing or expressing a different opinion?
That was the relationship of the child of TPLF with the people of Ethiopia including the people of Tigray for the past 27 years. It was the new reformist Prime Minister who gave us a glimpse of hope coming to power a few months ago and automatically turning most of the TPLF godfathers into a new opposition group.
TPLF, the mother and father of EPRDF is converted to opposition because it has lost its economic and political power, which has allowed it to make captive ALL Ethiopians who opposed its iron and fist rule and those chose to become independent citizens of Ethiopia.
The fatal mix of politics and business
Most of the businesses in Ethiopia are controlled by the following groups:
- State enterprises,
- Party businesses (endowments) such as, EFFORT,
- Al Amoudin’s companies
- Affiliated billionaires engaged in multiple sectors ranging from real estates, banks, insurances, commercial farms, factories, hotels and trading.
In my view the remaining businesses are private businesses done for survival with perhaps big vision of having a personal condo or villa ad car or saving money to migrate to another country for a better life.
What I witnessed during the last 15 years of my experience as a journalist with encounters ranging from government officials including the former two premiers, dozens of the so-called developmental investors, to street cleaners and poor farmers as well as city dwellers, most of what the regime has been doing was injustices to all those who are independent minded Ethiopians and those who have a different view from the child of TPLF.
Today we say, Thank God! For raising our Mosses in the house of Ferro to set free all Ethiopians from all those injustices. Here comes the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been swiftly acting on different frontiers to make us forgot all those pains and forgive and love those who literally stolen 27 years from SOME of us.
Like Moses, who was grownup in the palace of Egypt’s Pharaoh to set free the people of Israel from Pharaoh, so does the EPRDF raised Ethiopia’s Moses, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, to set the people of Ethiopia free from the 27 captivity of EPRDF.