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The Basis of Ethiopia’s Phantom Federalism

by Muluken Gebeyew

Since May 1991¸ Ethiopia has fallen under the rule of TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) following the demise of the former regime under arms conflict. This minority regime which claims to represent 6% of Ethiopian People ( Tigray region) manufactured new political organisations  to appear as multi-national  political party in the name of other major ethnic groups in Ethiopia to rule as national front as EPRDF (Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front).Ethiopia's ethnic-based federalism

TPLF was led by hard line Marxist Leninist League called MLLT (Marxist Leninist League Tigray) in the model of the poorest European country of former Socialist Albania led by Enver Hoxha. Meles Zenawi (aka Legesse Zenawi) was the first General Secretary of MLLT. Prior to MLLT¸ the Front had no known political leading party but groups of individuals led by the notorious Sebhat Nega with mind set of the liberation of Tigray and Secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia under the motto of killing the ‘Amhara domination’.

TPLF was established in 1974/5 by few ethno-nationalist university students who gathered with aim to create Tigray Socialist Republic from the rest of Ethiopia. It was nurtured and developed by anti -unity Eritrean forces (EPLF and ELF) which were fighting the Ethiopian government at that time with secession agenda. The TPLF leadership was and still dominated by Pro Eritrean secession groups.

After 10 years of guerrilla war with former Ethiopian regime which resulted less success¸ TPLF´s new leadership under Meles Zenawi changed the whole strategy to achieve their aim. He convinced the Front élites that by manufacturing other ethnic political organisations (Amhara, Oromo etc.) which would implement   TPLF´s ideal¸ the war can be won as multi-ethnic appearing front. He purged out his opponents in the Front and lay down the blue print that led them to power in 1991 under the name of EPRDF.

Meles Zenawi was clear in mind that by declaring war torn¸ poverty stricken and dry land Tigray as independent republic would be fatalistic as there was no resource to sustain as independent country. He argued his colleagues that by dominating the political¸ economic¸ military¸ security¸ major aspect of the resourceful, relatively rich and bigger country Ethiopia¸ their ambition can be achieved. He convinced them TPLF would be the ruling regime for millennia in Ethiopia and or declare Republic of Tigray (ROT) once enough wealth¸ infrastructure, productive land and resource that can sustain the republic as independent country is achieved by looting Ethiopia and leaving a time bomb (Ethnic Federalism and Article 39 of the Constitution) that would detonate every time and destroy the remaining Ethiopia. This was the blue print that has unfolded in the last 26 years and the next few years.

TPLF leadership are ruthless¸ ethnocentric and paranoid of `Amhara´ people. The leadership `massacred´ even the  Tigray people it claim to represent  during 1983/1984 great famine when TPLF denied the starving millions of Tigray  people the fund given  to them which was  raised by  “We are the World”   music concerts organised by Bob Geldof and other music celebrities across the globe. As result, hundred thousands of poor starving Tigrayan Ethiopians died of starvation. That fund was used to organise their MLLT, buy weapons and served as the starting capital of EFFORT (blood money) along with the looted properties of former government¸ collective organisations and people during the war.

Once it came to power, TPLF has led ethnic based politics instead of democratic and human right consideration. It justified the political history of the nation on the basis of ethnic superiority and inferiority instead of class oppression. TPLF has made long standing false and irresponsible campaign before and after it seized power that “Amhara Superiority” was the cornerstone of all ill in Ethiopia. Following seizure of power¸ TPLF has promoted and implemented an ethnic policy with an emphasis of `anti–Amhara´ sentiment. It established an ethno-language based phantom federalism where TPLF divided the nation with artificial boundary and its apparatus breath under TPLF lung with anti–Amhara policy.

The Amhara people have been target of brutal killings in the early 90´s¸ displacement from different regions in the later years.  The TPLF policy led to disposition of the lands, businesses and significant economy of people labelled as Amhara and their friends. The use of Amharic language in different part of Ethiopia officially banned as working language and other ethnic groups encouraged for adoption of Latin alphabet instead of Ethiopian based Geez alphabet. The Ethiopian history is re written as the whole previous regimes being oppressor run by Amhara ethnic domination. New curriculum crafted for school with this notion and propaganda.

TPLF’s leadership are paranoid by its nature. It is flexible enough to appear accommodating change and others. It agreed to form transitional government in 1991 with OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) but used it to promote the anti–Amhara campaign and purged it out as rival. It liquidated any other legal rival ethnic organisations in Ethiopia. Any pro unity or non-ethnic based party have been dismantled from operating in legal way. As it beliefs and define the political history in ethnic superiority than democratic rights¸ TPLF has reigned as Tigray Superiority camouflaged under the phantom ethnic federalism and governing party EPRDF.

TPLF´s elite leaders crafted this ethnic federalism experiment as the minority based party (TPLF) can not rule the majority Ethiopians ruthlessly unless the majority is divided¸ weak and engage in micro conflict. That is what TPLF put on practice since 1991 when it assumed power under the cover name of EPRDF. TPLF has ruled the whole country for more than a quarter of century with complete domination of the politics¸ economy¸ military and all aspect of the state and society. The leadership has masked its nature and tricked some ethnic member of Ethiopia and the international society including the Super powers which helped it to be dominant force in Ethiopia.

In recent years, large sector of Ethiopian population suppressed by TPLF are resisting it on different corner of the country. TPLF continues its craftsmanship as ruthless regime by killing¸ imprisoning¸ displacing and inciting inter-ethnic conflict throughout the country.

This phantom federalism experiment applied on Ethiopians as guinea pig resulted in pain and distress to the majority of Ethiopian people. The outcome is division and conflict among people. Ethiopians are not able to sit and discuss the common problem let alone solve it. The paranoia¸ hate¸ rivalry and feeling of vengeance instigated in Ethiopians heart and mind by TPLF through unending day and night propaganda on national media outlets to the public¸ fake fabricated history lessons at school and overt favouritism on practice. The inter-ethnic conflict and rivalry among Ethiopians   has enabled TPLF to rule as Police, Prosecutor and Judge.

This phantom federalism championed by TPLF as “respecting people’s right and freedom” is shaking the fundamental structures that hold Ethiopians together. It is approaching to be beyond TPLF’s control. This can lead to enormous chaos¸ destabilisation and fragmentation which can cost significant human loss¸ suffering and displacement.

TPLF has plan B¸ it has collected enormous wealth since 1991 at the expense of other Ethiopians. It has established new map with multiple fertile land grabbed illegally (not known historically belonging to Tigray)¸ it has established the  necessary infra structure, military basis that serve an independent nation; it has legal framework in the constitution it imposed on Ethiopian people with Article 39 `self determination  up to secession´. TPLF will go for the establishment of the `Republic of Tigray´ (ROT) if it fails to control the phantom ethnic federalism it created.

TPLF’s elite leaders and their subordinates in EPRDF should be aware that this experimentation is out of date. The consequence of using expired experimentation would result in death and destruction including the originator and dream of ROT. They better make significant measures that facilitates unity among people instead of division, fair treatment instead of favouritism, and justice instead of injustice that can hold the whole country together by ditching the phantom federalism and their divide and rule policy. The regime should facilitate peaceful forum where the Ethiopian people freely discuss and choose the way they are to be governed.

This failed experiment is a danger to neighbouring African countries which can give false hope of self-governance. Once the conflict goes out of control¸ it would spread like fire in the region and Africa. The Western power and China should exert pressure on the regime to make the correction before the Pandora box open all over.

ETHIOPIANS, WE SHOULD WORK TOGETHER TO SAFE OUR COUNTRY FROM THIS DISASTER.

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