Part II of III
In his book that I quoted in Part I of this commentary, Prochaska refers to Ethiopian-Japanese cooperation for a reason. Japan is non-European and fiercely independent. It has similar attributes to Ethiopia. A long and unique cultural heritage is among these.
In the 1930s, Japan was a fast-growing economy, and a model for Ethiopia. ጃፓን እንዴት ሰለጠነች (How Japan modernized) was a tantalizing subject matter for Ethiopians, including me.
I have faith and confidence in Ethiopia’s durability as one country. I also have faith and confidence that Ethiopia will someday become a prosperous country.
At the same time, I do not dismiss the reality that Ethiopia’s durability and the welfare of its 116 million people are threatened by internal and external adversaries. The country’s strategic location, its remarkable history of independence, its land, water resources and rich cultures and its diversity are the envy of the world, especially the Arab world. These adversaries do not wish Ethiopia to succeed.
I remind the reader to fathom what Ethiopia has gone through. Had Ethiopia remained stable; and had the Imperial Government of Ethiopia made bold and decisive policy and structural changes, Ethiopia had a chance to transform itself into a modern economy in the same way as Japan. European colonial powers were, however, determined to keep Ethiopia fractured, weak and backward. Italy was determined to colonize and to “civilize” Ethiopia in the same manner that every part of Africa was colonized by Europeans. History tells us that Europe did not civilize Africa. On the contrary, it plundered and still plunders Africa.
Adwa is Our Magna Carta
As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Victory at Adwa, it behooves us to ask the question of whether we would have been better off under colonial rule like the rest of Africa. My own answer is unequivocal no. You can conquer poverty if you unite, mobilize resources, work hard and invest. Japan did. China did. You cannot, however, conquer and cure the debilitating psychological effects of racial subordination and discrimination that emanate from colonial domination that easily.
You do not have to look hard. The pitfalls of segregation, exclusion, and discrimination in the United States that triggered the worldwide campaign “Black Lives Matter” as well as staggering socioeconomic inequality in South Africa illustrate my point. In America, Blacks and other minorities are dying from COVID-19 at much more higher rates than Whites.
Freedom from colonial oppression and discrimination because of your race is priceless. Freedom is the single most important contribution Ethiopia offered symbolically to the entire non-European world, most prominently to Blacks. Therefore, many African nations adopted and shaped the Ethiopian flag as their own. You visit Jamaica and see Ethiopian replicas everywhere.
I treasure Ethiopia because it enabled me to go to any part of the world with my head up high. With freedom comes responsibility. Ethiopians do not manage this responsibility well.
I am elated to hear that supporters and family of the African American leader Marcus Garvey, who celebrated Ethiopia as a beacon of freedom will build a memorial in his honor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this year. This is a tribute to those Ethiopians who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom of all Black people across the planet. Adwa is a global victory.
Going forward, Ethiopians must celebrate Adwa by contributing their part in transforming Ethiopia: for example, by enhancing food, water and energy security as well as by protecting the lives of their fellow Ethiopians irrespective of where they live or who they are.
What hurdles does Ethiopia face?
Tragically for Ethiopia and Ethiopians, Prochaska’s book Abyssinia: The Powder Barrel was replicated in the form of a Manifesto by the ethno-nationalist and exclusionist TPLF. In 1976, the TPLF developed a Manifesto underscoring its hatred for non-Tigreans, especially for the Amhara population that Prochaska had described as “oppressors” and inimical to European interests. The Amhara are hated by Prochaska and his keen as well as by the TPLF and its ilk for several reasons. The one that is compelling to me is that Amhara commitment to Ethiopia and identity as Ethiopian is indestructible and cannot be contested.
At the time, the TPLF wrote its Manifesto, Ethiopian intellectuals and especially Amhara “leftists” completely ignored the sinister and dangerous nature of misrepresentation that engenders ethnic hatred. The chorus of international misinformation against Ethiopia today is a continuation deeply rooted in ethnic elite politics and in the legacy of the “left.”
When the TPLF marketed its Manifesto on behalf of “oppressed nations, nationalities and peoples” and then crafted the ethnicity and language-based Constitution and Apartheid system no one that I am aware of anticipated the devastating effects of singling out and targeting the Amhara not only on this nationality group that is committed to Ethiopia’s sovereignty; but also, on other ethnic and faith groups; and on Ethiopia’s very survival. Unchecked, ethnic hatred, ethnic cleansing and genocide do not have boundaries. TPLF hatred became fatal as it solidified power in 1991. It empowered Tigreans everywhere; annexed lands; incorporated them in Greater Tigray; and stretched Tigrean boundaries all the way to the Sudan.
TPLF ideology is still intact
The core leadership of the TPLF may be smashed; but its ideological roots and the system it established are still intact. Ethiopia is more vulnerable to external threat today than it was a few years ago. Sudan invaded and annexed Ethiopian lands. The Federal Government has not even lodged a formal complaint to the UN Security Council. As I indicated in part I the African Union remains deadly numb.
This anomaly is hardly in synch with the celebration of Adwa.
The TPLF Manifesto haunts Ethiopia today
The ethno-nationalist and narrow minded TPLF defined a Tigrayan “as anybody that speaks the language of Tigrigna including those who live outside Tigray, the Kunamas, the Sahos, the Afar and the Taltal, the Agew, and the Wolkait.” This expansive definition augmented Tigrean lands. It allowed the TPLF to kill Amhara men and impregnate Amhara girls and women with the intent of enabling any child born to speak Tigrigna. In turn, this facilitated the demographic composition of the population in Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya.
Now that these lands are “freed” from their occupiers, it is critical that no deal is made to surrender them to Tigray. Surrender to the TPLF and or to its successors would mean reverting to degradation and dehumanization of indigenous people who identify themselves as Amhara.
TPLF adherents and their global champions have flipped the narrative accusing members of Ethiopia’s Defense Forces and the Eritrean military of “rape, theft, destruction” and other human rights violations. The intent of this relentless misrepresentation and defamation of Ethiopia and its national character is simple. It is to make the war regional. It is to elevate the treasonous TPLF to a status as savior of Tigreans that it does not deserve. It is to create mistrust between the honorable Tigrean-Ethiopians and non-Tigrean Ethiopians. It is also to make it hugely costly for Ethiopia to restore peace and security in Tigray.
Gone from reference in the incessant misinformation campaign against Ethiopia are the root causes of the war in Tigray; and the billions of Birrs expended by the Federal Government.
Why is the story line distorted?
The TPLF expanded the geographic boundaries of Tigray by annexing forcibly lands in Setit-Humera, Wolkait-Tegede and Telemt of the Gondar Region that extended the Tigray border all the way to the Sudan; and further annexing and incorporating lands of the Wollo region including Alamata, Ashengie, and Kobo, and Eritrean Kunama, the Saho and Afar lands including Assab that is now part of Eritrea.
Research shows that the final objective of this massive and unprecedented land grab by the TPLF was to secede from Ethiopia; and to establish an independent “Republic of Greater Tigray.” The TPLF Manifesto reflected Prochaska’s unfounded thesis that the people of Tigray have been oppressed and denied their political and human rights; and the right to self-determination including secession.
When it took power in 1991, the TPLF incorporated article 39 (secession) into the Constitution. Ethiopia became an amalgamation of independent nations, any one of which can, if it chooses, secede.
Dislodged from political power through public resistance, the TPLF garrisoned itself in Mekele; designed a strategy to restore its power using force; and triggered a war that still rages.
The point here is that the TPLF instituted a federal constitutional and administrative system that is divisive. Among others, the system diminishes Ethiopia deliberately. When it lost power to rule and exploit, the TPLF reverted to the provisions it crafted.
The TPLF is a treasonous and terrorist organization. Ethiopia does not have any other option but to dismantle its organizational structure and its ideology. Tigrean-Ethiopians must wake up and dissociate themselves from this cruel, brutal, morally, and ethically bankrupt and corrupt group.
From its inception, TPLF’s primary loyalty is not to Ethiopia or to the Ethiopian poor. Nor can anyone with intellectual integrity really claim that it is to serve ordinary Tigrean-Ethiopians who are still poor, underemployed, or unemployed. Its unbridled commitment is to TPLF extended families, friends and to loyalists, including foreigners.
Finally, the Federal Government of Ethiopia must designate the TPLF as a terrorist cell without delay.
February 25, 2021