By Yene Gasha 4-20-19
Opposition leaders in Tigray and some members of the elite are determined to spread the scourge of “awrajawinet” across Tigray. It’s evident that behind this seemingly innocent movement lurks a dark and dangerous agenda which seeks to bring about disunity and discord across Tigray. Make no mistake, this is a campaign orchestrated from outside and aims to target Dr. Debretsion's relatively new government in particular and the Tigray’s elite in general.
The original plan of wresting full control of EPRDF to remake Ethiopia according to the wishes of foreign masters, including and up to dismantling the federal system, has not worked. So, some appear to have decided to use softer tactics of engaging local operatives to destabilize Tigray from within to force the removal of TPLF from power, which is the main organized and powerful vanguard of Ethiopia’s ethnic federal system.
The reason they want to dismantle ethnic federalism is so their foreign masters can have free reign to loot Ethiopia’s growing economy through various liberalization and purchase schemes. Ethiopia has the seventh largest and the fastest growing economy. But, for this agenda to work, they must eliminate TPLF first.
And, to destabilize Tigray, their operatives from within are raising seemingly innocuous questions like ‘local control’ for the sole purpose of sowing distrust and disunity among unsuspecting Tigreans. The hope is that Tigreans from different locales will turn on each other, rebel and plunge Tigray into chaos – weakening any hope for an organized resistance to the dismantling of the constitution and federal system.
We have seen this movie before. Following the death of Yohannes IV some 140 years ago, Tigray’s elite began splintering for various reasons creating a power vacuum. Others used this opportunity to subdue Tigray which directly led to our repression as a people for over 100 years. Today, some among our own political elite are attempting to repeat this same historical mistake.
Certainly, the request for “local control” seems innocent enough. But, is it really even remotely advisable? At the risk of oversimplification, allow me to address this by offering one example.
I’m a Tigrean living outside of Tigray. I have a degree in business management from a highly reputable university. I have over 25 years of extensive senior management experience with a large global corporation, managing a large global team and solving complex problems. The team I manage generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue and has a list of wealthy and stable clients.
Unfortunately, according to advocates of “awrajawinet”, if I decide to leave my current high-paying job with the hope of serving in Tigray, I would simply not qualify. And, this would not be because I was eminently unqualified for such a role. It would only be because I’m not a native of a particular locale where I may be assigned. Does this seem reasonable or advisable to anyone? Does anyone believe I’m inherently incapable of understanding and solving the challenges of a certain locale just because I’m not native to that locale?
By the same logic, Tigreans residing in Addis Ababa or other cities across the country (with extensive knowledge and experience in administration) could never serve in Tigray. Why? Simply because of awrajawinet? What about Tigreans born outside of Tigray who may have developed vast administrative expertise (e.g. Diaspora Tigreans)? No role for them either? This would be insane. We are one of the minority group in Ethiopia and in the world. We do not have any one to spare or exclude. We need everyone’s contribution if we are to rid ourselves of poverty and underdevelopment.
Most of all, all of us mustfight for a society governed exclusively by meritocracy. It’s fine if the government identifies and assignstalented and capable administrators from anywhere, as long as they give district-level residents the right to oppose and remove underperforming officials. I welcome vigilant campaign against poor governance. I would, in fact, actively encourage it as it is indispensable for Tigray’s development. But, all opposition to government officials must be specific to underperforming government officials, and such complaints must be backed by clear facts and evidence. Assigning group blame is unacceptable.
The government of Tigray, for its part, must provide the public multiple avenues to offer feedback about underperforming officials. It must actively encourage constructive feedback from its citizens. Dr. Debretsion and his team did an excellent job a year ago organizing a “listening tour” across Tigray. While it’s not productive or advisable to maintain such an outreach indefinitely, he must ensure that every government office in Tigray provides real and meaningful feedback mechanisms to citizens, including escalation options for unresolved grievances. And, from time to time, Dr. Debrets himself must face the public across Tigray and take question and hear from the citizens.
One hundred forty years ago, Tigreans faced untold repression largely as a result of our own disunity. A century later, thanks to TPLF, we overcame our differences and fought to gain our freedom. Today, some are once again trying to sow the seeds of discord among us. Except, this time our enemies do not just want to repress us. They want to eliminate us from the face of this earth. Every Tigrean must understand the nature of the campaign against us. We must all remember how our fellow compatriots, at the advice of their foreign masters, conspired to deprive Tigray of food and all other supply by shutting off our southern border. We must fully understand the campaign against us. As we do, let’s not fall prey to the latest tactic of “awrajawinet” that aims to divide us and leave us all vulnerable tooppression.
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