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An open Message to TPLFGood governance and Battle-readiness are Complimentary not Contradictory

An open Message to TPLF

Good governance and Battle-readiness are Complimentary not Contradictory

Dr. Yohannes Aberra Ayele   4-10-19

There is a disconcerting squabble in Tigray in the last few weeks over an issue which should not have been an issue in the first place. Everyone knows that Tigray is in a situation where some people, with political though not with military capacity, wish to see Tigray hanging in a butcher’s shop. Is this a significant enough threat forcing Tigray to hold its breath, or is it a passing political ploy from all sides to keep their people fretting about a phantom of an imminent danger on their wellbeing? Whatever the answer to this question is, it is always good to be ready for any eventualities however small the probability of their occurrence may be. There are several countries in the world who have built strong national defense although they have never been involved in war or are less likely to be so in the future. Preparedness for war, disasters and other calamities is the right, duty and responsibility of people and governments of any political unit.

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The duty and responsibility of governments or ruling parties cannot be reduced to being mere watchmen. It is ridiculous to say the least to convert regions and nations into garrisons and the livelihoods of the people in them into regimented military service. However much external threats regions or nations may have their polity must be organized in such a way that a balance is maintained between battle readiness and good governance for a normal social, political, and economic life. Of course, there are some governments who panic at the slightest provocation for conflict and dampen the rest of their other duties and stand on their toes as long as the threat prevails. No one can fully measure the extent of a threat of war until it starts to happen. In most cases it becomes a matter of individual opinion. This is where the problem lies! There is a possibility that some could use the threat, however small it may be, as an opportunity to postpone good governance in the everyday management of the affairs of the people. They do so by making a “a mountain out of a mole hill”. There could be several reasons for this. One could be the lack of skill to harmonize good governance and battle readiness. Since it not feasible to drop the battle readiness in favor of good governance, those incapable of harmonizing both will have the good-luck to rub out the good governance side of the coin. Another reason is, in a war situation people will be required to shut their mouths tightly to prevent the enemy from enjoying a psychological advantage. A third reason could be, although the ruling party or government is capable of harmonizing battle readiness and good governance, some key individuals in the ruling party or government may see the harmony as a threat to the personal benefits they reap from maintaining a tense mood of war. A fifth possibility is, electioneering. It is unfortunate to realize that sometimes the only thing some politicians or parties think about is winning elections. Normally, winning elections is supposed to be winning an opportunity to serve the people. However, in many cases this may turn out to be winning elections for the sake of winning elections and whatever individual or group benefits that may imply. To the latter end, if ruling parties are engaged in bad governance and opposition parties or the public or individual activists expose the their misdeeds, the ruling party or government in power may belittle the concerns raised as wicked attempts by the opposition to get votes or demonize it as a sellout to the enemy side. Seen from the other side, the opposition may also be making “a mountain out of a mole hill” by inflating the problem of the lack of good governance beyond proportions. No one can rule out the possibility that those accusing ruling parties or governments in power of bad governance could have sinister motives of selling out or getting votes by fraudulent means.

I admit that sorting out the afore-mentioned possibilities and tagging each one of them to a list of who is who could require more than nuclear science. However, if one is working with an open mind and with honest intentions, the solutions can come from a simple arithmetic. To me all the above-listed five  possiblities could be true in the Tigray of today. Why are all possible? Because all involved are humans, not gods, with all their virtues and vices, with all their personal ambitions and dedication for public service, with all their blinded greed and self-sacrifice, with all their misanthropy and philanthropy, and with all their parochialism and nationalism.

The initial triggers of the squabble in Tigray were not issues to be waved as trivial. They included such grave problems of governance as: land eviction of the Enderta farmers around Mekelle with too little or without compensation, grievances with the alleged ill-treatment of the Enderta public in the hands of "non-native" TPLF appointed administrators, widespread youth unemployment, and the unusual elevation of crime in Mekelle City. Even in the middle of war, let alone under a fully unconfirmed threat of war, the ruling party of Tigray has an obligation to solve the problems without resorting to evasion and projection. The questions should be, are the grievances of the people real or fabricated? It should be easy for anyone, let alone the ruling party to distinguish between the real and the fabricated. The above mentioned set of expressions of bad governance is not too microscopic to be seen with an unaided eye. It has to be admitted with grace and benevolence that the problem is not a myth. Does it matter who is raising the issue? Does readiness to solve or not to solve the problem depend on the identity or intention of who is making it public? Is it fair to mix up real issues with the unfavorable intentions of political opponents? It does not at all matter who is raising the issue. It is enough for the issue to be a real not a fabricated one. If the ruling party doubts the veracity if the issue it has to use all administrative apparatus at its disposal to check on the ground reality without bearing unhelpful grudges. If it finds out that there are problems, then the next step is not lashing out at those who exposed the problems, but to engage aggressively in solving the problems. It is unacceptable to hear abusive terminology from highly positioned individuals (In Ethiopia and in Tigray) thrown at entire people with impunity.

The word “banda” has denotative and connotative meanings. In Ethiopia, its connotative meaning is more glaring than the denotative. The denotative meaning of the word "banda" may be to mean a betrayer. In Ethiopia the origin of the word is Italian. During the war of occupation Ethiopians dubbed those who sided with the foreign enemy as "banda". During the Derg the word was misused to mean supporters of the Derg. Still, in the typical Ethiopian mind, "banda" refers to betraying with a foreign enemy. This is the connotative meaning. So, whatsoever perception of betrayal there is in Tigray is related to siding with the current rulers of Ethiopia, who allegedly threaten the security of the people of Tigray. Should anyone engaged in such betrayal be branded as "banda" given the connotative meaning of "banda" as collaborator with a foreign enemy? I obviously don't think so. The alleged threat is coming from ill-advised compatriots not from non-Ethiopian enemies. It is wrong to inadvertently confirm to the delight of the tormentors by using the word "banda" in the above context implying that Tigray is a separate nation dealing with a foreign threat. "Think twice before you speak once". There are other words in the dictionary that can be used if at all the use of abusive terminology is so badly needed. In my view using insults like “daylight hyena” and “banda” are equally bad! We have to feel our own words as much as we feel others’.

The people of Enderta hosted Yohannes IV palace in Mekelle as a matter of historical accident. When Yohannes IV requested to build a palace in his “fatherland” (Tembien) the folks refused out of fear of too many “aliens” coming to their place as their place become an National Ethiopian palace. Yohannes IV's “motherland” Enderta accepted his request and Mekelle became capital of Ethiopia and next capital. of the Region. Now Mekelle is growing/expanding by leaps and bounds. People are coming from every corner of Tigray to settle in the City. This is quite welcome; but the lack of balance between the growth of Mekelle and other Tigray cities is causing an enormous burden on the city hinterland (Enderta). If Adwa were the capital instead of Mekelle Adwa wereda farmers would have faced the same fate as the Enderta farmers are facing now. Should they have refused their Monarch anticipating that they will lose their land a century later as an adverse consequence of their decision to allow Yohannes IV to build his palace? This is not the problem of Enderta farmers. Everyone else in the Region should have sympathies and try to solve the problems instead of pulling out backward parochial sentiments. The people of Enderta are kind and humble; above all patriotic. They had followed Yohannes IV to several battles against Egypt, Italy and Mahdist Sudan. The least they deserve is respect. The people of Mekelle and the surrounding countryside of Enderta have been so supportive of the beleaguered TPLF leadership by pouring into the stadium, in tens of thousands, on several occasions. This was a sign of wisdom: doing the right thing at the right time. However, it does not mean that there were no accumulated grievances other than the governance problems. Some individuals in the ruling party have been fond of abusing and belittling the people with impunity for a very long time. The ruling party did not care to penalize such people. No one can buy respect by paying neglect. The people of Tigray should remain united; there is no question about it! However, the unity should be based on mutual respect and social justice for all. People who are in a habit of insulting and belittling people should be removed from the party and shamed in public.

The best strategy in defense is not to install the best guns and put the most experienced troops in the trenches, but to put your back-side in order. The best governed people are the best soldiers! You can never have success in the battlefield when you have failed in the governance field. I say good governance and battle readiness are complementary not contradictory. There is a lot of experience in uniting governance with battle readiness. There was an excellent civil administration in the liberated areas of TPLF as the war raged with the Derg. Is it drowned in age or in comfort-induced carelessness?



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