Ethiopia: the Trouble with the Political Oppositions “The Situation and Direction of Ethiopia after Formation of Ginbot 7 Popular Force, and Will Ginbot 7 Popular Force become TPLF or ONLF of Amhara?”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and large percentage of the population lives in absolute poverty. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, and one of 51 original members of the United Nations. For decades, Ethiopia has been affected by famine and drought, conflict and political instability. Since the establishment of Ethiopia, the state has been associated with the Abyssinians (or Amhara/Tigray) socio-political leadership, and formation of one clan domination on all government issues. Ethiopia’s political transition began in the early 1990s with the fall of the socialist military regime, the Derg. Under Haile Selassie and Mengistu Hailemariam, there were some efforts by students and grassroots movements to bring meaningful social and economic reforms.
After 1991, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) / Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) made radical changes to the institutional structures of the Ethiopia through writing new constitution. The TPLF/EPRDF has controlled the political process since that time. Some of the largest ethnic communities, particularly the Oromo and Somali (Ogaden), have been marginalized by Abyssinians (Amhara/Tigray) with little participation in the political representation, and are subject to regular and violent human rights abuses. Due to poor governance and political conflicts, many people as well as farmers and pastoralists were driven from their homes.
Therefore, politics and trouble with the political oppositions in Ethiopia are connected with the Amhara and Tigray ethnic clans. Most of the presidents, senior government officials and positions are filled or occupied by politicians from these ethnics. However, after 20 years of peaceful integration and good friendship between Amharas and Tigrians in killing and displacing Ethiopians and looting their resources, the Amhara leaders and politicians decided to establish their own rebel group. The Amhara leaders and politicians believe that, peaceful change of leadership and power sharing has been made impossible by TPLF, and the only language TPLF understands is Kalashnikov gun, and violent change should be inevitable.
2. Ginbot7 Popular Force Formation
In 20 December 2012, the Amhara leaders and politicians and their friends officially announced Ginbot7 Popular Force Formation, and called on the oppressed people of Ethiopia to join the resistance and rise up in arms against the Tigrai People Liberation Front (TPLF) led dictatorial regime of Ethiopia. GPF believes that all civilised options for peaceful political engagement in Ethiopia are firmly shut by the regime in Addis Ababa. the Amhara leaders and politicians said, GPF is committed to the forcible removal of the dictatorial regime of the TPLF, usher the condition for peaceful and democratic transition, play a part in the creation of a strong and capable national defence, security and police force whose only allegiance is to the constitution of the land, thereby, bringing an end to the existing affiliation of these institutions to the political forces in the country.
It’s not clear the vision and future plan of the Ginbot 7 Popular Forces and whether the base of the fighters of this group is in Amhara region (Ethiopia) or Eritrea. TPLF/EPRDF cadres see the formation of Ginbot 7 Popular Force as a new risk and threat, so they lost sleeping and direction on what to next. Some Tigrains raised questions about this and the picture of the fighters on its website, and they believe the picture was taken from somewhere in Texas (USA) and not in Amhara region of Ethiopia. No matter whether this group operates in Amhara region or the picture is from somewhere in Amhara or Texas, but the key concerns are the vision and things with this group, the situation in Ethiopia after formation of the Ginbot 7 Popular Force, the demand of the Ginbot 7 Popular Force, the cooperation of the Ethiopian opposition groups and the way and direction they move, the possible changes “both positive and negative aspects” in the government positions and policies on dealing with the opposition groups, human rights and rights of the ethnic groups, political reform and power sharing issues, impact of these things on the war situation and peace negotiation in the Ogaden region, the Ethiopian Diaspora community, and role and reaction of the international and regional communities on these issues.
3. Reactions from the Main Groups in Ethiopia
3.1. Ogaden Today (ONLF)
Ogaden Today raised questions about possible and future collaborations between Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Ginbot 7 Popular Forces “Fighters”. The Ogaden Today statement said “The formation of Ginbot 7 armed group was good news for many Ethiopians, many questions were raised, but one of most important question was “will Ethiopian rebel groups (i.e. ONLF, OLF, EPLF and Ginbot) unite for new armed struggle against Ethiopian Federal Government? There are many challenges ahead uniting Ethiopian Armed Rebel groups, one of them is the vision of each political rebel group, second is the geographical diversity, and third are lack of supporting western countries which are an ally of Ethiopia”. This is a positive reaction from ONLF Ginbot7 Popular Force Formation.
Ogaden humanitarian crisis is the worst one in Africa and Middle East. Ogaden region is Ethiopia’s ‘own Darfur, where government runs military operations and blocks food aid delivery and trade as well as restriction of humanitarian access and operations. Ethiopian Government punished indigenous people (pastoralist community) of the region by accusing them that, they support ONLF. Women, children and older people are the most vulnerable groups to suffer abuse and violence and misuse of humanitarian aid in these regions. Government diverts and distorts food aid to feed military forces and militias in the region. Foreign missions, donors, media and humanitarian agencies have no access to operate in the region and not allowed to visit drought and conflict affected areas and monitor the situation on the ground. Because of the humanitarian crisis in the region, government targets humanitarian agencies and their staff. Ethiopia’s donors, UN and NGOs are aware of these problems, but have done little to address the problems or tackle their own role in underwriting government repression.
3.2. Tigray Online (TPLF/EPRDF)
TPLF/EPRDF regime or Tigrains were shocked with Ginbot 7 Popular Force Formation and started circulating accuses and cheap propagandas, sending warning messages to the Ethiopians, as well as Amhara people and their friends, and Tigray people, telling them not to join Ginbot 7 Popular Force, and blaming others (including some countries) for supporting this group. In 22 December 22, the Tigray Online published shocking article under title “Ginbot-7 announces formation of military wing, is it bluffing to fool its followers”, calling Tigray people to fight and protect their kingdom and resources from terrorist group, EPPF ragtag bandits. The EPRDF/TPLF regime has warned Amhara and Tigray people and others that they would take military actions if they support Ginbot-7 military guerrilla force.
Following are the reactions of the TPLF/EPRDF regime on Ginbot 7 Popular Force Formation “Ginbot-7 announced the formation of a military guerrilla force. The Washington DC based terrorist group has been trying to incite mayhem and bloodshed in Ethiopia for past few years. Ginbot-7’s leader … Dr. Birhanu Nega who is living comfortably in the United States of America… was an EPRP fighter until he left Ethiopia for America after thousands of Ethiopian youth lost their lives on the faulty mistakes of EPRP. Now Dr. Birhanu Nega wants to start the slaughter of Ethiopian young people all over again, but this time by a remote control from his uxorious home in America. He wants to send the poor Ethiopian youth to their death to fulfill his own ambitions and the Eritrean one man’s objectives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the desperate Egyptians are financing those traitors since they can’t invade Ethiopia. They have been threatening to stop any development in Ethiopia including the Ethiopian renaissance dam by any means. I highly doubt Ginbot-7 has gathered new recruits from Ethiopia, but it is using the left over EPPF ragtag bandits to claim it has formed a new force. A certain death is waiting for those who are naive enough to believe Ginbot-7 will succeed militarily against the Ethiopian gallant defense forces. Ginbot-7 on its announcement tries to beg the people of Tigrai to join it on their own destruction. It should be abundantly clear to the Ginbot-7 leadership that we the people of Tigrai will fight it tooth and nail until the last man standing falls and to the last drop of our blood”.
4. Feeling the Heat: The Human Cost of Poor Leadership for Disasters
The current news on the Tigray Online show that, the TPLF/EPRDF government is declaring holly war on Amhara people and people in other regions, were opposition groups operate, like Ogaden, Oromiy, Afar and Gambella. They warned “war with terrorists from these nations is imminent—that the terrorists “Amhara Rebels” are coming and will provide arms and support the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF),Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and other groups.
The conclusion of the TPLF/EPRDF is that, “…any young person who had joined this false group is going to be facing the highly trained, highly disciplined, and one of the most feared military force in Africa… We have proved it time and again before we can fight and win the only difference this time around is we are armed to the teeth… we the people of Tigrai will fight it tooth and nail until the last man standing falls and to the last drop of our blood”.
It’s clear from above statement that, there is no change in the position and policies of the TPLF/EPRDF government on dealing with opposition groups, political reform and power sharing, and human rights protection issues, and also the war situation in the Ogaden and other regions, and peace negotiation with ONLF, regional conflicts among the ethnic groups will probably continue, and human rights violations will be increased against indigenous people of these regions. Does this mean lack of political will in the TPLF/EPRDF regime? Many Ethiopians strongly oppose this war and suspect the TPLF/EPRDF of using young Ethiopian men and women to fight in a war inside and outside Ethiopia for its own political survival. They question the fact and the reality, and believe TPLF/EPRDF is adding fuel to the current political conflict and border impasse.
Responding to the conflicts and emergencies in the world’s poorest country is a major part of what good leadership does. Country like Ethiopia should be model for political reform, dialogue among the ethnic groups, religious tolerance, good governance and human rights protection. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is very far from this style of governance system. Each conflict belongs to those who are directly involved. In the Ethiopia case, there is a lack of a coherent government policy to deal with the ethnic groups and political oppositions. Ethiopians and international community should recognize the extent of conflict induced displacement and disasters. TPLF/EPRDF regime should change its attitude and mentality, accept the reality of the country, talk to others and allow them to manage their issues and participate in the federal and regional institutions. International and regional communities, donors and UN should support Ethiopians, encourage TPLF/EPRDF and oppositions to meet the demands of the society “especially indigenous people; pastoralists and farmers” and solve political problems and instability through dialogue and peace negotiations, so they have to avoid and protect new genocide and massacre in Amhara, Oromiya, Ogaden, Gambella and Afar regions.
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
Tigrains didn’t yet realize the establishment and agenda of the Ginbot 7 Popular Forces. Some of TPLF/EPRDF supporters raised questions on this group and its vision and direction, but went far by asking this question “how could a lesson be learnt if yesterday’s criminals are today’s freedom fighters?” It’s clear from the above statements by TPLF/EPRDF regime in Tigray Online, the Woyane regime and cadres see the formation of Ginbot 7 Popular Force as a new risk and threat, so they must take military and security actions against these groups and its supporters, and also other opposition groups in Ethiopia. The above statement and reactions by TPLF/EPRDF leads to the question; who are these people TPLF/EPRDF is “using” to fight this war? Are they not the same people TPLF/EPRDF has been terrorizing for years? How TPLF/EPRDF can ask young people to give up their lives for such a brutal regime? Why TPLF/EPRDF decided bloody war against the ethnic groups, particularly Tigray strategic partners; Amharas? Why TPLF/EPRDF is refusing any discussion and peace resolution with the opposition groups from big ethnic groups, like Oromo, Ogaden and Amhara? Why should Tigray people fight “their fight for survival” when their survival means more of the same oppression and brutality to the people of Ethiopia? How tremendous!
The human rights groups, humanitarian protection experts, and committee to protect journalists have listed Ethiopia as the world’s worst place for human rights and backslider on press freedom. TPLF/EPRDF doesn’t have the experience and leadership skills or the ingenuity to govern the country. They are against the federal constitution, rule of the law, good governance and human rights protection, and have damaged the image of the Federal Government and Ethiopian people. Therefore, the new Prime Minister should take urgent actions and hold the TPLF/EPRDF leaders and cadres accountable. The TPLF/EPRDF leaders and cadres, and everyone who run ethnic-based media (i.e. tigraionline.com, cakaaranews.com, etc) should be held to account and brought to the law for undermining the rule of law, threatening the security of the country and for sabotaging the efforts of the Federal Government and Prime Minister. Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Federal Affairs and Information should take immediate actions to close down these websites, TVs, Medias, and take managers and workers of these channels to the justice.
Genuine democratic progress is essential for ending current political crisis and human rights abuses in Ethiopia. All people in Ethiopia have the right of self-determination and establish their organizations. But, they have to avoid any type of social and political conflict, seriously concern about the direction Ethiopia is heading, and think impact of social and political conflict on the vulnerability and sustainability of the country and the Horn of Africa region. Enough is enough, and the gun language is not and cannot be solution for solving the problems. Ethiopia should be “better prepared to fight famine and drought, not pushing the nation and its resources into internal and regional conflicts”.
Questions for discussion
What are the key issues between Amhara and Tigray politicians; the differences, common goals, what went wrong, and what’s new? Will Ginbot 7 Popular Force become TPLF or ONLF of Amhara? How many Ethiopians from Muslim and Christian families are now locked up in prison? How many have been massacred, tortured or have starved to death when it could have been prevented? Do we have freedom, political reform and rule of law in Ethiopia? Are Ethiopians better off than when the Derg regime was in power – or than we were five years ago? Cooperation among the opposition groups and the way and direction they move? Roles and reactions of the international and regional communities and organizations (i.e. USA, UK, EU, UN, IGAD, AU, Eretria, Sudan, etc) on these issues? I will leave these questions for the Amhara and Tigray politicians and readers.