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Dr. Aregawi Berhe is entitled to his opinion; BUT…

Dr. Aregawi Berhe is entitled to his opinion; BUT…

Yohannes Aberra, PhD


I am glad to see you alive and well after over 40 years. We were all young, energetic, and starry-eyed. We were convinced beyond any doubt that our motherland, Tigray, will throw war and poverty into the history books. Of course, as young people we all had the potential for shining achievements and disastrous mistakes. TPLF was founded by individuals who were full of enthusiasm not full of experience. It was like trying to find a path to the other side through a thick and frightening jungle. It is only those who passed through it that could know exactly how difficult it was. None of them had the blue print. They were engaged in often fatal and discouraging trial and error all though. There were times when hope was nearly lost and they had to courageously walk on a thin and weak thread.

The 17 years of TPLF led-struggle and the hardships endured by the people of Tigray seem very easy to talk about, but close to a miracle to live in and emerge alive from. While history was in the making as it never did before, the leaders of TPLF, who were largely university dropouts, were frequently clashing on ideas. The difference sometimes took a violent and at other times peaceful forms. Resolving contradictions in the context of armed struggle, where everyday life and the future are uncertain, horrible things could be done that may form permanent scars in the minds of those involved. In the midst of fear of uncertainty about who is an ally and who is a spy in the ranks of the fighting force, and in the face of a formidable enemy as big as the Derg it is human to make terrible mistakes. As long as the goal is a prosperous future for the people of Tigray it should be the net gain that must be at the center of everything.

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It was in the middle of the course of the trial and error that Dr. Aregawi Berhe (Berihu), the founding chairman of the TPLF, found himself in a difficult position whether or not to continue with the TPLF. One of the major causes of the feud with his comrades was the formation of a hard-core ML party within the broader TPLF. Those were testing times for Tigray and TPLF. Near dead-end was reached, which required innovative methods to replace the harmful business as usual. The most radical, probably the most realistic elements in TPLF were convinced that breakthrough can be achieved by radically restructuring TPLF into a highly regimented and iron disciplined force. That was how they felt the war could end in the victory of the people of Tigray. This is absolute truth because democracy is for the palace not for the bush. MLLT is seemingly no more after 1991 because it had already accomplished its mission: winning the war. Democracy was attained by way of tyranny. This may sound like a paradox but it is the bitter truth. The young TPLF leaders were testing their wits, fortunately they were right! It could never have been otherwise.

The bottom line is, as a founding chairman Dr. Aregawi should never have abandoned the organization. TPLF was his brainchild. He nurtured it for nearly a decade, but suddenly it was no more his! An ordinary person like me could leave the organization without any effect; but it must have been devastating, for his co-leaders and the rest of the fighters, for a founding leader to leave so easily just like leaving a hotel room. Although it can be said that it is his right to leave, but it was not only a right he had. He had the responsibility to finish what he started and led many into it. It must have been very difficult for the remaining leadership to lose two senior leaders (including GideyZeratsion) in those bad years. This must have had a huge morale boost for the Derg. A psychological defeat is more damaging than losing a battle. Dr. Aregawi did not seem to have realized that by his action he defeated the mission he was ready to die for. He was a senior university student, with a potential for a successful career. It was this bright future that he abandoned in favor of the noble goal of delivering the people of Tigray from centuries of misery. He must have endured the difference and helped in its implementation. No one can be right and no one can be wrong in a trial and error. This was what exactly happened that unacceptably angered Dr. Aregawi. In a trial and error the end result is the judge. The result proved Dr. Aregawi wrong. He must have waited patiently (work hard as well) for the results whether or not they were his idea. In several commentary articles I have criticized TPLF on this or on that. Inside me I feel that I must have been in their shoes to experience rather than engage in what is the easiest of all to do: talk and write.

Dr. Aregawi left for Europe: the land of milk and honey. He left his classmates and comrades to survive on popcorn. He continued his education and got his PhD in the prosperous Netherlands. While he was attending classes in palace-like classrooms and enjoying himself with what Netherlands can provide his comrades were jumping from one rock to the other and crossing deep ravines and steep scarp slopes accompanied by tank mortar shells and air bombardment. He continued to use what he abandoned while in the comfort of Europe. Obviously, the best he can do to the satisfaction of the Dutch professors was the history of the TPLF. Tragically and criminally his PhD dissertation was on the history of the TPLF. The bloody struggle, with a death toll in tens of thousands was bread and butter for Dr. Aregawi. He abandoned the struggle of the people of Tigray, but he used it for his own benefit. I am talking about a founding chair of TPLF not about an ordinary person like myself!

Worse still, he founded a new party to “fight for the people of Tigray”. He did not abandon his new party as he did to TPLF most probably because the party was in Europe: free from hardships and holding conferences in palace-like auditoriums not in cave shelters in Tembien, under the threat of bombardment. It could also be partly due to the fact that he has always been the chairman. Dr. Aregawi, as a chairman of TPLF in perpetuity, would never have left TPLF. It was much better and more acceptable if he had continued to support the TPLF from outside. He should have overlooked his differences with his comrades and help the people of Tigray in those bad days. The Dergairforce was throwing bombs on villages killing women and children (his mothers and siblings). There was no place for philosophy sitting in an armchair in those days! After the TPLF victory, Dr. Aregawi was busy allying with those forces that were not only against the TPLF but also against the people of Tigray. He was feeling important when treacherous opposition politicians were using him, as weapon for their own end, against the TPLF. As a founding chairman of TPLF he was considered as a big fish to weaken the TPLF.

As a person who claims to be “fighting for the people of Tigray against TPLF” he was allowed to return to Ethiopia by a political force that has become a thorn in the flesh for the people of Tigray. Dr. Aregawi should have been very careful about those who are around him. For them he is only an expendable sword against TPLF. This is not befitting for a senior politician like him to be at the service of people who have no love to spare for what he claims to be his own people(Tigray). He is far away from his constituency (Tigray) and expecting somebody to install him or get him elected. His only obstacle to this ambition is TPLF. He wants TPLF to be removed not by the people of Tigray but by an external force. He couldn’t wait until the next election when it would be possible to remove or not to remove TPLF by the people of Tigray. He does not realize that however bad TPLF may be it is elected to rule. It can only be legally removed by election. Other than this it would be a coup pure and simple. Dr. Aregawi expects the current TPLF leaders to embrace him as “a good old friend”! They must be angels! A person who abandoned them in a time of great uncertainty and never let them go afterwards cannot be a friend. They are acting like a human being by preventing him from conducting his political activities in Tigray. There should not be double standards on the part of Dr. Aregawi. He never tolerated dissent while he was the chairman of the TPLF. He penalized it brutally. When he points his index finger at his former comrades, three of the rest of his fingers are pointing at him. The people of Tigray are ready to forgive and forget; but when the lever of noise of “innocence” rises the truth must be told.

Although I had written a paragraph or two about Dr. Aregawi on a few occasions, this time, I decided to write in full because the frequent appearance of Dr. Aregawi in several TV channels and the way he expresses his views tests patience severely. Politics is not as spontaneous and rude as it sometimes appears to be. There are rules and all kinds of euphemism for every rude word and phrase in the political dictionary. In every TV interview he is involved in he becomes the most violent and foul-mouthed of all. He seems to go totally out of control when the name TPLF is mentioned. One interviewer saw Dr. Aregawi’s near insanity on a matter pertaining to TPLF and asked him blatantly: “Are you jealous that your friends became successful when you were sure that they would never be?”.

It is unhelpful, even damaging to the people of Tigray when a founder of the TPLF is behaving in such a bizarre way against the organization he founded.  We all know TPLF as an organization is neither a devil nor an angel. There are bad and good people inside it. What matters most is what TPLF stands for. What TPLF stands for has already been established 45 years ago with Dr. Aregawi as an active participant. Nothing has changed since then. The mission of the TPLF is not adequately implemented does not make the mission wrong. TPLF is a mission not a bunch of individuals, which one can love or hate. One can have problems with the individual leaders or members. They are not TPLF; they are only members and leaders of TPLF. They are not as permanent as the TPLF, which is a mission, a goal for the people of Tigray. Dr. Aregawi has to help in the attainment of the mission. Duplicating and triplicating organizations for the same mission results in a general weakness. May be the mission is not the same!? Through his interviews the only contribution Dr. Aregawiis making is to confuse the people of Tigray followed by misunderstanding his intentions. For a vote seeker this is suicidal!


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