By Ababiya Abalafa 1-25-19
To read articles about the alleged marginalisation of TPLF and the people of Tigray by the administration of PM Dr Abiy has now become daily news. Those who write the articles seem to be sympathisers who strongly feel and concerned about the people of Tigray. There should not be any ill feelings about that. However, in so far as I am concerned, none of the articles, I would with all earnest say, convincingly substantiated their alleged or perceived targeting of the party and the people of Tigray. In fact what is happing is that it is such perception based on emotion driven writings that create the sense of marginalisation and the feeling of alienation of the people of Tigrai from the rest of their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. Permit me to raise the question that is there any such marginalisation in the ﬁrst place? Secondly, assuming that there was one, why that target TPLF and Tigray community in particular? From the articles that I had the chance to read, I picked up few issues that writers attempt to justify their arguments.
TPLF and The People of Tigray
Allow me ﬁrst to make a point on the relationship between TPLF and the people of Tigray. Nobody in her/his common sense would deny the strong bond of relationship forged between the two during the armed struggle and afterwards. Since TPLF became the ruling party of the region, it continued to commend strong support from the people of Tigray until very recently. But how do we deﬁne the relationship between a ruling party and its electorate? Perhaps of the total population of Tigray, slightly over a million are members of the front. That leaves an overwhelming majority as non members. Secondly even if they are not members, there are those who support the party for one reason or the other reasons. Large or small or week or strong, there are those who vehemently oppose TPLF, its policies and strategies and governance. Some prominent members and founders of the front have left the party in protest and we have an opposition party in Tigray. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to equate TPLF to the people of Tigray. They are not one and same. Not only that the people of Tigray has long been complaining about lack of good governance, poverty and undemocratic practices in the region like in any other regions of Ethiopia. That strong bond of relation is no longer as it used to be. Nowhere in the world a party, how much support it may commend, would be considered as one and same as the people it represents. Party goes and another one comes. But the people always continue. That has to be clearly deﬁned. I therefore appeal to those in and outside the TPLF to refrain from making this wrong image that the people of Tigray as one and same as TPLF. That really undermines the dignity and identity of the people of Tigray. There should not, however, be any ambiguity about the sentimental and of course the sacriﬁces both made in waging the ﬁght against the military dictatorship. That is a legacy that should be recognised and respected.
For any wrong doing in the party, the people of Tigray should not take responsibility, nor should it feel that it is responsible and only the ruling party should bear the responsibility. On the other hand, the people of Tigray should not feel that any criticism labelled against TPLF as if it were targeting them. Absolutely not. Even within the party, there are collective responsibilities and individual responsibility and accountability. I think that is how we should look at things.
Boarder and Identity related issues
Regarding border issues and identity questions, obviously, these are not issues peculiar to one community. These are there in all parts of the country. Actually, it was the mushrooming of such issues that prompted the PM to establish the Boundary and Identity Commission. How on earth, this would possibly be taken as if it is targeting the people of Tigray and at same time taken as violation of the constitution? Honestly speaking to diﬃcult to comprehend. Whether it is against the constitution or not, the members of HOPR hotly debated on the issue pro and against and the majority had their way and the voice of the minority was adequately herd. This is perfectly democratic and the minority should now have to respect the decision of the majority and faithfully standby it. True, we have constitutional mechanism to address identity issues, however, there is no harm to carry out a study to determine the nature of a problem recurring and that has been haunting the nation for so long. Several other Commissions were established knowing very well that there were institutions that could handle it. And also the study will be used as an input to resolve identity related issues and Boundary claims and counter claims here and there. Lucky we will be if that study would give us the necessary recommendations to resolve the outstanding issues. What is a particular concern of the Tigray community while this is acceptable by others?
Respect for Rule of Law
The slogan chanted by the people of Tigray who made to the Mekelle stadium was quite democratic and it should be treated as such. That is in respect of their democratic right, nonetheless what the substance of the matter is? Which article of the constitution was violated? And who violated it? No clear evidence was presented. Violation of the constitution by any organ or person should not be tolerated and all of us should endeavour to respect the constitution and ensure respect of the law, since law is above all of us.
Arrest of suspects
With respect to arrest of suspected criminals and brining them to justice, again there should be no oﬀence at all because some suspected former oﬃcials who so happen to be from the community does not imply targeting the community itself. For that matter there others from another communities who were also brought to the court of justice! This has nothing to do with identity of the individual but it has everything to do with their actions. The logical and rational question would be did they break any law? Did they commit any crime? Is there due process of law? Are their human rights respected? These are the ﬁrst set of questions that need to be answered. In other words, to assume that they were arrested and brought to justice because they are Tigreans or the arrest targets Tigreans does not hold water. This essentially is no less than politicising the legal case.
I am well aware of the other side of the story that these are not the only ones and that law should equal deal with other cases. That is fair a question and if there were others with similar cases, by all means they should also be brought to the court of law. However, this should not be used as an excuse and as a pretext not to surrender any legally wanted person! This would be wrong on any account, be it morally, politically as well as legally. So the ﬁrst thing that should do is to clean our house and ask others to do their part. In that case one will not be alone but many would join that ﬁght. It is only fair that to expect the government not only to be fair but also consistent and just in applying the law without any favour, fear or discrimination. Corruption does not have nationality nor does it have a border and identity. Nobody steals from public coiﬀure on behalf its community nor does it share it with its community. Maximum it does, it will only enrich the individual and if at all, its families or friends.
Transparency in the process is of paramount importance so that the process remains credible not only in the eyes of those who are aﬀected but also in the eyes of the public and our partners. All legal provisions should be upheld. All the suspects are innocent until proven guilty. This presumption ought to be upheld.
Representation of TPLF in the Federal Institutions
One last point I kept on hearing is that the representation of TPLF in the federal institution is weekend. Again justiﬁcation was not given to that eﬀect. One of the top leadership position recognised by the constitution, namely, the position of the speaker of the House Federation is occupied by the politburo member of TPLF. Secondly, there are two key ministries headed by members of the Front, the ministry of Trade and Industry and ministry of Women, children and youth. It is not correct to think representation in terms of the position of Premiership and maybe in terms of the ministry of foreign aﬀairs or ﬁnance. These posts were occupied by TPLF for so long and it is time that others also get a chance as we are a nation of diversity. Nobody has a title deed on any given portfolio.
In my view we should go back to the drawing board of merit based representation, if we are so seriously committed to the transformation of our society. Ineﬃcient and ineﬀective appointments in the name of representation did a greater damage than good to the country in the past. Nobody would beneﬁt from representation for only its sake and the past practices should be avoided as much as possible. The fact that TPLF decided to move its best and brilliant to the region is not a problem in itself and it knows best where to deploy and invest its scarce and precious resource, human resource. I think commendation is in order for that meaningful and mindful move TPLF made to accord priority to its electorate and its base. Who are we to blame for that action?
One thing should also be made very clear here. Since EPRDF is a coalition, the question of a fair representation in the federal institution is legitimate. However, it should not be lost on us that there are so many nations and nationalities that are not represented in the cabinet. This however does not mean that their interests and demands would not be addressed because they did not have one of their own in the cabinet. It will be wrong for any community to think that their interest will be better served if they have someone in the federal cabinet. It is wrong assumption. The member of cabinet led by the PM is there to serve each and every one Ethiopian and not the group they belonged to. We have only one President and one PM. They are entrusted to serve us all equally, fairly and justly and not to favour any one group or the other. That is how democratic governance should be.
Moving Defence force from the Border between Ethiopia and Eritrea
The recent decision by the federal government to move some defence forces from the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has also become an issue in the region. I can’t help it but wonder why this becomes a source of worry to the people of the region? Is security concern? The border security between two sovereign states is the mandate of the federal government so is moving its forces from one station to another.
By way of conclusion
In this brief presentation, attempt was made to show that there is no conspiracy against the people of Tigray. As a matter of principle there is no reason to do so. The people of Tigray are proud Ethiopians like all of us and are an integral part of the Ethiopian community. This community has a prominent place when it comes to the history of Ethiopia. It is hardly possible to think of Ethiopia without Tigray. The talk of session of the region is just none sense and non starter.
The PM is on record expressing his respect to the people of Tigray. Tigray Regional State was among his ﬁrst priorities when he toured regions on a good will rallies. He spoke well in Tigreagna and thanked for the care they gave took during his military service in that party of the country. Out of respect, he paid a visit on war veterans in Mekelle. All indications, therefore does not corroborate any marginalisation of the region and the people by the PM and his administration. The border and identity disputes with neighbouring Amhara Regional State are not uncommon in Ethiopia. Instead of waging propaganda war both sides should resort to sober dialogue with the involvement of non political leaders on both sides. The people on both sides blame the political leaders for their failure to resolve the problem creating animosity between the two neighbours . The leaders should transcend their political ego and sit down for sake of the people they lead and for sake of the nation.