Ethiopia: A Critique of Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay's Article
Dear Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay, I hope this article would find you safe and sound.
I read your alarming article titled የሃገራችን ፖለቲካዊ ሁኔታና የመፍትሔ ሃሳቦች which is about the problems Ethiopians are facing due to all branches of the government, the economy and the media being controlled by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (the TPLF/the EPRDF) – an ethnic minority political party which is led by a few Tigrayan elites who champion their personal interest and agenda in the name of their ethnic group.
The solutions you provided are to segregate the government’s - the TPLF’s - power by checks and balances system and to develop a culture of peacefully transferring power in the next election which is about four years from today by a free, fair and transparent election that is monitored by a would be Ethiopian independent election commission, including credible international election monitors.
To vanguard the process of reorganizing the government’s functions (restraining the TPLF), to make the next election free, fair and transparent, to facilitate an orderly transfer of power from the TPLF (the dictator) to a democratically elected party, the TPLF (the hatemonger) would remain in charge of the government, including the military, the security, the economy and the media. At the end of the process, if the TPLF (the tyrant) faces an election defeat, it would peacefully surrender its power to the democratically elected party.
I liked your tone in your article because you were distressed, critical, naive and persuasive. I think you made your case pointblank by rehashing what other Ethiopians have been persistently explaining about the alarming danger of the TPLF’s ethnic political ideology to the world for more than twenty years. As I read your article, while being aware about the ongoing unrest across Ethiopia, I thought you put gasoline on the fire to hasten overthrowing the TPLF, the oppressor and the looter. For that cause, I think you contributed your fair share.
I believe you wrote your article from your gut. To explain, I loved your articulation about the Tigrayan people feeling concerning their national identity that “የትግራይ ህዝብ በታሪኩ ራሱን ኢትዮጵያ ለምትባለው ሃገር መመስረትና በታርኳ ውስጥ በተለያዩ ውድቀቶችም ይሁን ድሎች ዋና ተዋናይ አድርጎ ነው የሚያስበው። ከዚህ ውጭ በሌላ መንገድ አያስብም። አሁንም ችግሮችን ስናነሳና መፍትሔ ስንፈልግ በዚህ በታሪክ ሲወርድ ሲዋረድ የመጣው አስተሳስብ ውስጥ ሁነን ነው።”
I absolutely agree with your opinion because I also think Tigrayan are a key part of Ethiopia’s history. Most importantly, history proves your verbalization is accurate. And also I think you articulated and substantiated your opinions well with some notable exceptions. For example:
1. You falsely claimed that the Ethiopian constitution was approved by the people; For example, you said that “በከፍተኛ የህዝቦች መስዋዕትነትና ተሳትፎ የፀደቀውን ህገ መግስታችንን”. (I noted your attempt to qualify your assertion about the constitution in other sections of your article.)
2. You belittled Ethiopians by asserting that they weren’t ready to knowledgably elect their leaders although you proudly stated the TPLF was a democratic party when it was in the mountains waging guerrilla warfare against the murderous dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime.
3. You think your party, the TPLF, can be reformed while I think it can’t be reformed because its Ethnic political ideologies failed it to obtain support, and it’s too corrupt. To illustrate, the current unrest in various parts of Ethiopia about a year and half after the TPLF shamelessly claimed that it democratically won 100 percent of the parliamentary seats is a prime example.
After accepting your article at face value, you appeared to me that you are a decent Ethiopian soldier who had the sudden courage and urge to ring the alarm bell to get attention from anyone to share your grave concerns and to find solutions before our country reaches a point of no return resulting a civil war that would be caused by an ethnic conflict which the infamous TPLF activated.
You also sounded to me that you are biased in favor of the TPLF’s leadership (I guessed some of them are your dear friends) because I noted that you avoided discussing major political, economical and social predicaments the notorious TPLF’s hatemonger leadership unleashed on Ethiopians; for example:
1. You didn’t share your view about ethnic politics, the TPLF’s trademark, and by extension yours.
2. You said that the TPLF has never been only a collection just democrat, but you fall short of telling who are the antidemocrats and who are the democrats.
3. You were silent about why Meles retired you from your top military post while he let other top military leaders of your age with little or no education maintain their position. You also didn’t say a word about your current association with the TPLF.
4. You said that the TPLF’s worst personalities were uncovered when it made Meles its unbridled tyrant. And you supported your opinion by three historical facts namely: How the TPLF handled the departure of the OLF from the coalition; how the TPLF resolved its top leadership split, and how it dealt with Kinijit’s decision not to join the parliament after it won one third of the parliamentary seats in the 2005 election.
However, you remained silent about your stand concerning the circumstances that molded the behavior of the brutal TPLF, and by extension the butcher Meles.
In my view, you were in a position to be an eyewitness of his worst personalities that unfolded over a period of more than three decades. I think if you had shared a flash of insight in your article by including your opinion about who was right and who was wrong regarding the reveling moments of the TPLF’s hidden personalities you would have given your readers a chance to know your stances about those tragic historical events instead of deferring the judgment to history by saying “የትኛው ወገን ትክክለኛ፣ የትኛውስ ስህተት ነበር የሚለው አሁንም ለታሪክ እተወዋለሁ”
To summarize, I liked your article’s theme and tone. I think you made great points, but I believe some of your points are a lie, unrealistic or belittling. For example, your claim that “በከፍተኛ የህዝቦች መስዋዕትነትና ተሳትፎ የፀደቀውን ህገ መግስታችንን” is nothing but a lie and is malicious misinformation. Your expectation that the hatemonger and the blood trusty monster TPLF would respect the universal human rights as stated in its constitution; it would facilitate the means for a free, fair and transparent election while it is in power, and it eventually would surrender its power for a democratically elected party is extremely naive.
I found your remark that Ethiopians are now more ready to knowledgably elect their leaders democratically than they were before, is highly offensive because it is the TPLF’s coward leadership that never had the courage to face the people’s verdict in the ballot box because it knows it would be defeated; Ethiopians would vote overwhelmingly against it.
In passing, before reading your article, I was vaguely familiar with a face as being one of the TPLF’s top echelons. I don’t remember reading good or bad press about you. Maybe I didn’t take time to learn about you because: I thought perhaps you were inconsequential in the bloodthirsty monster Meles’ leadership. And/or I may never saw you as a loyal soldier of Ethiopia but as Meles’ hired gun.
Anyway, I wish I wrote my critique of your article in Amharic because it would make the communication efficient, and I might be able to articulate my points more easily. Moreover, it would definitely help my article to get more readers. I wrote it in English because I lost my Amharic typing skills. I am sorry about that.
Finally, for sharing your concerns about our beloved country, I salute you!
The writer, LJDemissie, can be reached at LJDemissie@yahoo.com
Ethiopia: A Reply to Gen. Tsadkan’s Reply: Narrowing the Gap
By Messay Kebede
Below is my response to Gen. Tsadkan’s reply to my review of his article.
Dear Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay:
I thank you for sending me your reactions to my review of your article on the political difficulties of Ethiopia and of the solution you suggest to overcome them. Your response constitutes a very welcome clarification, not only for me, but also for the many more readers who have questions about your article. I have received many emails from various circles. Some of them agree with my assessment of your article; others reflect the opinion that my review was unnecessarily harsh and missed the core of your argument, which is the necessity of taking the constitution as a framework of a broad agreement to avoid chaos and conflicts. Still others consider your article as a misleading attempt to prolong the life of the existing ruling clique.
Let me affirm from the outset and in the most categorical terms that I do not share the view of those who maintain that your article is an exercise of deception. Your article reflects a genuine concern for the future of Ethiopia and suggests solutions that appeared to you most realistic and feasible. As to the view of those who accuse me of missing the main point of your argumentation, my reply is that I did not miss it. On the contrary, as I will try to show, my criticism was setting the conditions for the constitution to become a framework for all parties concerned to work together.
Your clarification begins by stating the basic agreement that I share with you, namely, that Ethiopia is going through a deep crisis that threatens its very existence and that the only way to counter the danger is by implementing democracy. There is no other solution than the democratic one, given that the use of force will only aggravate the crisis to the point of making it unsolvable through peaceful means. Where we disagree is that the implementation of democracy means for you the unrestricted application of the constitution.
Here I need to specify what I mean by “disagreement.” For me, the problem pertains not so much to the core features of the constitution as the people who are supposed to implement it. If the present ruling clique is the implementer, 25 years of experience tell me that it is not going to happen. Those who are ruling the country went to the extent of claiming a parliamentary electoral score of 100 percent even as deep frustration was looming everywhere and flared up in Oromia after only a few months. I have used the term “naivety” to express this reality. Yes, our solution must be realistic, but equally realistic must be the possibility of implementing it.
What does “realistic” mean? No more no less than the imperative necessity of cleansing the ruling clique of all those elements opposing the implementation of democratic principles. Without this prior measure, no rapprochement between the government and the opposition is thinkable. In particular, your call for a “structure where all political forces and the populace at large through various forms of organization, shall participate and reach consensus on the way forward including revising some of the laws and reorganize some of the institutions, especially those related to elections,” cannot see the light of day unless the TPLF undertakes the purge of die-hard ethnicists and anti-democratic forces from its ranks. In addition to an internal reshuffling, measures to build up confidence must be taken, like the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the lifting of the ban on demonstrations, free speech, etc., as well as the unambiguous abrogation of the infamous anti-terrorist law.
My understanding is that the cleansing of the EPRDF can be undertaken legally if enough members wish to do so. Be that as it may and whatever means are used, there is no possibility to organize fair elections so long as the present ruling clique remains in power. Better yet, things would move decidedly in the right direction if a transitional government of national reconciliation in which all parties, community leaders, and important civic organizations would participate, is established. This would dismiss the present parliament, a move that simply acknowledges that the total electoral victory of the EPRDF was illegal because it was obtained by undemocratic means.
At this stage, I would like to deal with your major argument, which is the necessity of taking the constitution as a basic framework if the country is to change peacefully. I have already acknowledged that you do not reject the alteration of the constitution provided that it is supported by the majority of the Ethiopian people. I agree with you on both accounts. However, given the undemocratic nature of the EPRDF government since it came to power, it is untenable to state that the constitution was approved by the Ethiopian people. It is not an exaggeration to say that the constitution was fundamentally the work of the TPLF and OLF. This is so true that many groups were deliberately excluded and, most of all, there was no open, public debates on the spirit and content of the constitution. Without open debates, there is no democracy. Rather than being democratically established, the constitution was an imposition by the victors on the vanquished.
How can this breach be corrected? The agreement to take the constitution as a framework, a point of departure must be accompanied by the understanding that one of the major tasks of the transitional government or the forum, as you suggest, is to organize official and public discussions on the constitution and gather suggestions and amendments, be they structural or functional. The second step is to put the suggestions and amendments to the test of popular verdict. If a majority of the Ethiopian people decides that the major provisions of the constitution as they are now are acceptable, then this ends the debate once and for all. However, if the majority decides to include amendments, the amended constitution will be the final one.
A crucially important note is that the main condition for this kind of open debate and democratic procedure is the removal of article 39. The threat of secession will polarize and radicalize various groups, thereby preventing any move toward mutual concessions. For pro-unity forces, article 39 amounts to negotiating with a gun to one’s head. By contrast, my belief is that a clear majority will support the principle of decentralization and self-rule if the threat of secession is removed. The deletion of the article will also open the possibility of changing the structure of the government so that any hegemony of one ethnic group over other groups is definitively excluded. Moreover, alongside the fortification of self-rule, measures that integrate all ethnic groups into a national unity could be designed and given the necessary political tools.
These amendments should facilitate mutual concessions and the formation of a representative government. If both national unity and self-rule are protected, only extremists on both sides will find a reason to oppose the proposal. In a democratic system, one cannot eliminate by force extremist positions, but precisely the effectiveness of a true democracy is to isolate them and turn them into a negligible minority.
I hear you when you argue that perfect democracy cannot be established given the conditions of our country. I also admit that the TPLF’s option of armed struggle against the Derg was not conducive for the development of democratic culture and methods of work. My issue is not TPLF’s inability to establish a perfect democracy, but its abysmal failure to put democracy, however limited it may have been, on the path of growth and expansion. Worse yet, it rolled back on its declared democratic intent by effectively moving toward a dictatorial system of government.
The failure and the betrayal are no accidents. You recognize it, the TPLF has followed Leninist principles from its inception. Allow me to add that it never got rid of those principles. Leninism is an anti-democracy ideology based on the goal of establishing a hegemonic party in all political, ideological, and economic spheres of social life. A party cannot be governed by Leninist principles and be as the same time democratic, any more than a square can be a circle at the same time. I really have trouble agreeing with you when, after admitting that the TPLF was a Leninist party, you write: “This is why I say the TPLF was democratic and revolutionary. But it was not without defects and challenges.” The essence of Leninism is not to limit democracy; it is to exclude it by the practice of “democratic centralism,” the addition of “democratic” being nothing more than a deceptive adjustment. The truth is that the TPLF must be demystified for Ethiopia to advance in light of the fact that it rejected the content of Leninism but retained its spirit. My criticism was a call for self-criticism, which is the primary condition for renewal. Needless to say, renewal is also highly dependent on a complete critical assessment of Meles’s rise, methods of government, and actual outcomes.
I welcome your clarification about the issue of developmental state versus liberalism. You bring out the “dilemma” between restricting freedom and leaving the whole economy to the forces of the free market. I applaud that you reject the use of coercive methods while not turning a blind eye to the danger inherent in the principles of the free market when they are applied to an undeveloped economy. Agreed, the debate is raging and the final truth on the question of knowing which one is best for developing countries is not yet in sight. However, it is clear that Ethiopia under Meles has taken the path of the developmental state. The intention of my criticism was not to take side for or against developmental state: I was merely pointing out that Meles used the ideology partially, that is, to justify authoritarian methods while ruling out and neglecting the other conditions, without which the model of development cannot work. Hence my suspicion that he did not choose the path to accelerate development, but to justify authoritarianism. In the end, Ethiopia ended up with nothing, that is, with neither development nor freedom.
Wishing you success in your endeavors
By Al Mariam
Beware what you wish for, you may get it…
Meles Zenawi, the late thugmaster of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) used to taunt the opposition that if they don’t like his rule they can go into the bush and fight their way to power like his rebel group did in 1991.
“Be careful what you wish for; you may get it,” teaches the old saying.
The events of the past year unmistakably point to the fact that the T-TPLF is getting its wish.
The people of Ethiopia are fighting back T-TPLF rule by engaging in mass demonstrations and protests, acts of civil disobedience, other nonviolent actions and outright-armed resistance.
Open defiance to T-TPLF rule is observed in urban and rural areas. Just yesterday, a massive demonstration against T-TPLF rule was held in Gondar. There are also reports that yesterday the T-TPLF massacred citizens protesting in the town of Awodai, Hararghe, in Eastern Ethiopia.
The T-TPLF’s generic and typical response to peaceful demonstrations and protests has been to engage in indiscriminate shootings and massacres with impunity. I got involved in Ethiopian human rights advocacy after T-TPLF thugmaster Meles Zenawi personally authorized the massacre of hundreds of people in the post-May 2005 election period.
On June 15, 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a major report on the T-TPLF’s handling of peaceful protests entitled, “‘Such a Brutal Crackdown’: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests.” The report concluded, “Over 400 people are estimated to have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested, and hundreds, likely more, have been victims of enforced disappearances.”
The T-TPLF’s preferred method of conflict resolution has been and remains to be massacres, butchery, carnage and murder.
I have long argued that unless the T-TPLF wised up and took opportunities for peaceful change, in the end it will have only one option to stay in power: Operate its killing machine 24/7/365.
The big question is whether the T-TPLF can remain much holding total power through its killing machine?
Can the T-TPLF use its “federal troops” to conduct massacres in every part of the country to ensure its grip on power permanently? It is highly unlikely that T-TPLF local lackeys will turn their guns on their friends and relatives to do the T-TPLF’s dirty work of murder and massacres.
The history of struggle against tyranny teaches some enduring lessons.
The T-TPLF can use its killing machine to remain in power indefinitely is determined by two, and only two conditions: 1) the capacity of the Ethiopian people to put up with T-TPLF crimes against humanity, corruption, abuse of power, election theft, massive human rights violations and divide and rule, and 2) the extent and rate at which the people of Ethiopia overcome their fear of the T-TPLF.
As the great American revolutionary Thomas Paine instructed:
Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
In his book “The Ethics of Nonviolence” (2013 at p. 226), Robert Holmes argues:
For power dissolves when people lose their fear. You can still kill people who no longer fear you, but you cannot control them. You cannot control dead people. Walk through a cemetery with a bullhorn, if you like. Command people to rise up, clean the streets, pay taxes, report for military duty, and they will ignore you. Political power requires obedience, which is fueled by the fear of pain to be inflicted if you refuse to comply with the will of those who control the instruments of violence. That power evaporates when the people lose their fear…
Using historical examples, in my September 2013 commentary entitled, “The Diplomacy of Nonviolent Change in Ethiopia”, I examined the relationship between nonviolence resistance and overcoming fear of tyrants and dictators.
I have consistently argued over the years that the history of nonviolent social and political change shows people lose the fear of their oppressors when the burden of their material conditions outweigh the fear of their oppressors. Simply stated, people lose their fear of their oppressors when they just can’t take it anymore. They come to a point where, regardless of risk to life, limb or liberty, they stand up and declare their fight song: “Enough is enough! We can’t take it anymore! We’re going to fight back!”
I believe the hour dreaded by the T-TPLF has finally arrived in Ethiopia.
The people of Ethiopia everywhere have declared to the T-TPLF, “Enough is enough! We can’t take it anymore! We’re going to fight back!”
I believe repressed societies and volcanoes behave in much the same way.
Volcanoes may remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest signs an eruption is imminent. A dormant volcano suddenly comes alive when extreme pressure and heat melts rocks in the earth’s mantle and pushes it upwards. In the process, if sufficient gas can escape from the core over time, a full scale eruption is delayed. When the pressure buildup reaches critical mass, a full scale eruption occurs.
Likewise, oppressed societies may remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest indication of the pressure and heat buildup of deep, widespread, sweeping and pervasive dissatisfaction, anger, resentment and rage. In time, these conditions fermenting and simmering deep in society begin to flare up randomly.
The precursory volcanic activity first observed on Mt. St. Helens in the state of Washington in March 1980 was completely unexpected. That volcano had remained dormant for 123 years. National Park brochures described Mount St. Helens as a beautiful and peaceful mountain to attract tourist attraction. But in March 1980, a series of small quakes were detected for the first time in over a century. On May 18, 1980, without any signs, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake occurred accompanied by a rapid series of events including a huge landslide at the time described as “the largest debris avalanche on Earth in recorded history.”
The precursory activities leading to the current critical situation in Ethiopia were not detected until very recently. The T-TPLF was doing business as usual kicking people off their land and handing it over to its members, lackeys, supporters and friends. The T-TPLF was operating Ethiopia as a Mafiosi-state or a thugtatorship. It did not expect the kind of determined, fearless, defiant popular eruptions that are visible in the country today.
The T-TPLF’s lack of anticipation of sustained popular uprisings is nurtured by hubris, arrogance and a delusional sense of invincibility.
I was once told by someone claiming to be a T-TPLF insider that the T-TPLF leaders’ worldview (Ethiopia-view) is shaped by two fundamental assumptions: 1) the T-TPLF organization, its leaders and supporters are heroic, gallant, courageous, daring and united and that is why they are so totally dominant of the society, and 2) the people of Ethiopia in general are cowards, spineless, selfish, easily bought and sold and naturally incapable of unity or collective action. In others, T-TPLF leaders believe as an article of faith that Ethiopians will talk the talk but never walk the talk.
Like the rosy description of the Mt. St. Helens by the National Park Service before its eruption, the T-TPLF and its poverty pimp allies have been proclaiming that Ethiopia under T-TPLF rule is the “fourth fastest-growing in the world… and what is more striking is that if Ethiopia sustains its current pace of growth, it will become a middle income country by 2025.” (Of course, as everyone knows, I have shown beyond a shadow of doubt that such claims by the T-TPLF and its poverty pimp allies are all a lie, damned lie and statislie.)
In May 2009, I wrote a commentary and detailed the “psychologic of the T-TPLF’s paranoia” of being pushed out of power and prophesied what we are witnessing in Ethiopia in July 2016:
They [T-TPLF] have been riding the Ethiopian tiger for nearly two decades. But one day they know they have to dismount. When they do, they will be looking at the sparkling eyes, gleaming teeth and pointy nails of one big hungry tiger!”
I am afraid that the volcano that has remained dormant for the last 25 years is “growling” and “grumbling” and the T-TPLF has come to the ultimate realization that it is sitting on the cryptodome of the volcano. The heat and pressure is increasing inside the Ethiopian volcano as the T-TPLF ramps up its oppression, repression, and brutality.
I am afraid the T-TPLF is now looking straight into the eyes of the tiger.
Behold the eye of the tiger! (Not a happy camper at all!)
In a March 2015 commentary, I repeated what I have been saying for years:
I believe the T-TPLF leaders know with absolute certainty that they are sitting on a powder keg. As I have written previously, the T-TPLF has built its castles in the sand. The only question is whether those castles will be swept up by a tidal wave of deep public discontent or blown away by the tornadic wind of the people’s fury. In either case, the T-TPLF will be vacuumed and deposited in the dust bin of history. There is an immutable iron law of history the T-TPLF should know if they don’t know it already. Mahatma Gandhi articulated that law. “There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.
I claim no power of prophesy in predicting the end of the T-TPLF. The T-TPLF itself has predicted its own doom long before I have.
In June 2005, a month after the 2005 election, Bereket Simon, a one-time T-TPLF communication minister in justifying the massacre of unarmed protesters that year accused the opposition of stoking the fires of ethnic antagonisms and predicted: “Strife between different nationalities of Ethiopia might have made the Rwandan genocide look like child’s play.”
In 2015, in a secretly recorded conversation which I discussed in my commentary, “The “End of the Story” for the T-TPLF in Ethiopia?”, Berket Simon and his comrade “deputy prime minister” Addisu Legesse, plainly talked about the end of times — the final days, the last days — for the T-TPLF to a group of their supporters. Legesse explained:
Looking at it from our situation, it is already getting out of our hands. There is no question about that. We can see that plainly from the way the teachers’ organizations are doing things. When 2/3 of educators are our members (of our party), and they are going out and demonstrating against us, that is the end of the story. I don’t think it is only Arena [party]. Ginbot 7 is also there. In Bahr Dar, I think, [anti-T-TPLF] flyers are being distributed. Haven’t you received any? Papers? [Others present at the meeting chime in response.] It is also [distributed] in Bahr Dar. But we do not know that, if you know what I mean. Flyers are being distributed and they are seen. So, I think they have gone down to the cell level everywhere. It seems like there is something that has organized itself. So I think it is coming from the Ginbot 7 area. (Emphasis added.)
My dreams of an Ethiopia at peace
I am not writing this commentary to recite the crimes, atrocities, villainy, wickedness and depravity of the T-TPLF. I do not believe there is anyone who has documented, exposed, unveiled and relentlessly opposed T-TPLF criminality more than myself.
I write this commentary for a very different purpose.
First, I see Ethiopia rapidly approaching the proverbial Rubicon River (if not in the middle of it), the crossing point beyond which there is no point of safe return.
I will say what everybody is afraid to say because I am in the business of speaking truth to power, to the power hungry and thirsty and the powerless.
I see a looming civil war in Ethiopia.
Second, I see the possibilities of nonviolent change, a personal mission I have undertaken day and night for over 10 years, evaporating before my eyes like the morning dew. Civil strife on any scale in Ethiopia will be a complete and total defeat of every effort I have exerted with every fiber of my being for the last ten years; and I am not going to let that happen without a fight. (Yeah, right. Like the fight of a humming bird is going to matter? Just a humming bird with a big heart!)
When I first decided to engage in Ethiopian human rights advocacy, I declared that I was the humming bird that will do everything possible to douse out the fire slowly consuming the Ethiopia House.
In March 2007, I wrote an allegorical commentary entitled “The Hummingbird and the Forest Fire”.
It was a story about a humming bird trying to put out a roaring forest fire by carrying water in its tiny beak. (Indeed, how absurd and delusional for a humming bird trying to put out a forest fire?!)
For the past ten years in my weekly Monday commentaries, I have tried to put out the “forest fire” of ethnic hatred and division and sectarian conflict stoked by the T-TPLF in Ethiopia and prevent political implosion. In this task, I have been as successful as the proverbial humming bird which tried to douse out the forest fire with droplets of water carried in its tiny beak.
The “forest fire” that I spoke about in 2007 is today a five-alarm volcanic fire fast approaching the “Ethiopia House.”
If good and patriotic Ethiopian men and women do not come together in aid of their country, there will only be no Ethiopia House; only ashes and dust.
When the T-TPLF did not have much to lose such an outcome would have been their dream come true. Now that they have become masters of Ethiopia –politically, economically, militarily – the prospect of the Ethiopia House burning down has become a nightmare of gargantuan proportions for them.
Third, I am extremely concerned about the politics of hate in Ethiopia and in the Ethiopian Diaspora.
I don’ like it! I don’ like it! I don’ like it!
The T-TPLF has spewed so much ethnic hate and sectarianism over the last 25 years, it now stands helpless as it is forced by circumstances to harvest the grapes of hate it sowed decades ago.
There is no question that the T-TPLF finds itself trapped in its own web of hate and loathing. The T-TPLF sees itself going down a descending spiral into an abyss of hate and violence.
As Dr. King said, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness… The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.”
T-TPLF hate has begotten more hate; T-TPLF violence has begotten more violence and T-T-TPLF toughness has begotten an iron-willed toughness in the Ethiopian people.
Fourth, I am scared like never before. I am told that if the T-TPLF regime were to collapse swiftly, things will be hunky dory. Opposition forces will come together and take over and set things right. I am not so sure! I am talking as a scared human rights advocate, not an all-knowing politician. My only concern is preventing loss of life in Ethiopia. Truth be told, I find myself standing in Esther’s shoes in Scripture asking, “How can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”
Perhaps some may say I am crying wolf when there is no wolf. Maybe I am mistaking a fox for a wolf.
But there is a wolf. I see the wolf in clothed in the wool of ethnic hatred. I see him dressed in sectarianism. I see him strapped in revenge, in rage ready to pounce and make waste of the innocent poor.
Yes, the wolf is standing at the door; and I will do everything I can as a humming bird to drive him away and never set foot in the Ethiopia House.
But I have always been hopeful. Despite the darkness of the T-TPLF in Ethiopia, I have always believed it will be morning time in Ethiopia when the darkness is finally lifted.
In my July 2012 commentary, I wrote at length about my “dreams of an Ethiopia at peace.”
That commentary was a birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela, my hero, who was celebrating his 94th birthday. I wrote:
To restore Ethiopia to good health, we must begin national dialogue, not only in the halls of power, the corridors of the bureaucracy and the military barracks but also in the remotest villages, the church and masjid meeting halls and other places of worship, the schools and colleges, the neighborhood associations and in the taverns, the streets and markets and wherever two or more people congregate. We have no choice but to begin talking to each other with good will and in good faith.
I have written about truth and reconciliation in numerous commentaries over the years.
In my September 2013 commentary, “The Diplomacy of Nonviolent Change in Ethiopia”, I discussed Dr. King’s lessons on achieving nonviolent change and reconciliation.
My purpose in this commentary is to restate with the fierce urgency of now the necessity for beginning to talk to each other with good will and in good faith.
Of course, as someone who has absolutely no political ambitions but as a relentless human rights advocate, I have the intellectual freedom to express my views; or as I like to say, speak truth to power, the power hungry, the powerless and anyone else willing to listen to me preaching.
We are at a moment truth now. And I will speak the truth.
As I see it, there is one and only one question we need to answer: What do we do to get out of the mess we find ourselves in?
We don’t need to rack our brains for the answer. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has given us the one and only answer to that question: “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”
I prefer living together as brothers and sisters to perishing together as fools.
In a recent commentary written in Amharic, a former general of the T-TPLF, Tsadkan Gebretensaye, offered an extensive analysis of T-TPLF rule and concluded with what appears to be a “proposal” (?) to pull back Ethiopia from the brink of civil war, though he does not actually use the phrase.
After a recitation of well-established facts about the nature and practices of the T-TPLF over the past 25 years — including well-known facts about the T-TPLF lack of good governance, inequality, injustice, corruption, abuse of power, suppression of human rights, absence of the rule of law, mass discontent with regime, internal dissension in the T-TPLF, use of military to stay in power and the T-TPLF military industrial complex, etc.—Tsadkan identifies three scenarios that could occur with different degrees of likelihood, given Ethiopia’s current political circumstances.
In the first scenario, Tsadkan anticipates the dissolution and destruction of the T-TPLF regime because of the explosive volatility of the current political situation in the country combined with foreign agitation. He does not believe such a scenario is likely, only a possibility. He points out that the T-TPLF has managed to suppress recent uprisings in Oromia using federal troops.
In the second scenario, Tsadkan anticipates maintenance of the status quo in which the T-TPLF regime could undertake some cosmetic changes to buy time and prolong its rule. Tsadkan believes such a strategy could delay the inevitable but not prevent it. Indeed, he believes such a scenario could result in the political, social and economic problems taking deep roots making nonviolent change impossible with potentially incalculable consequences.
Tsadkan’s third scenario is the anchor of his proffered proposals. He argues the best option available now to avert disaster is “to work for a peaceful and orderly change diligently. That means accepting the fact that our country’s politics is in chaos, we must find a way to resolve the chaos by following the constitutional process.”
Tsadkan offers some “ideas as solutions”. He says it is necessary to open broad democratic space. He proposes that individual and political rights must be fully respected and observed. Citizens must be able to engage in free expression, political participation and open avenues in which the people could express their grievances. Such activities could lead to free and fair elections. He proposes that individuals with expertise in these areas should be engaged to draft methods.
I have no objection to these lofty ideals. After all, I have been hammering them for over ten years week after week, without missing a single week.
I have explained my views on Ethiopia’s transition from dictatorship to democracy and things that must happen to ensure a successful transition in my March 2012 commentary, “Ethiopia: From Dictatorship to Democracy” and April 2012 commentary “The Rule of Law in Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition”, among others.
There have been mixed reactions to Tsadkan’s “proposals” in the Ethiopian Diaspora.
Many commentators have been extremely critical of him personally as well his analysys and proposals for going forward. A sampling of the critical reviews could be summarized along the following lines. Tsadkan
is a T-TPLF messenger with a mission of sending a trial balloon to gauge public reaction to the ideas presented in his analysis.
is trying to throw a lifeline for the T-TPLF as the T-TPLF faces a tidal wave of opposition and resistance.
is making proposals in the twilight of the T-TPLF regime to prolong its rule and buy it more time.
is disingenuous at best and maliciously dishonest his proposal for peaceful and orderly change guided by the T-TPLF’s make-believe constitution which the T-TPLF routinely ignores and trashes.
is at best misguided and delusional in believing the core political problem in Ethiopia is the gross failure of implementation of the constitution.
is only pretending to criticize a regime of which he was and is a core member to gain credibility with the opposition.
is pleading for the untenable proposition of letting bygones be bygones and starting fresh without any mention of accountability for crimes committed over the past 25 years.
is unwilling to accept the brutal reality that the Franeknstein of ethnic politics the T-TPLF created and nurtured over the past 25 years is about to swallow it up.
unwilling to face the fact that the T-TPLF made its bed of ethnic divide and rule and now refuses to lie in it.
There are a few who have applauded his analysis and viewed his proposals favorably.
Those with a favorable view give him credit for seeking “genuine solutions for the numerous and serious problems besieging Ethiopia.” Others suggest that Tsadkan’s “assessment of current conditions in Ethiopia pertinent, and somewhat unique”.
I believe the critical reviews of Tsadkan’s analysis and proposals are cogent, legitimate and appropriate.
I see little added value in adding my own critique to the existing body of exhaustive critical commentary on Tsadkan’s piece.
But for the record, I want to register my principal objection to Tsadkan’s seminal proposal and bedrock position, namely his insistence that solutions to Ethiopia’s problems must necessarily originate within the framework of the T-TPLF constitution.
As I state below, the real solution begins with a simple act of compassion.
Of course, my views on the T-TPLF’s constitution are well known.
Most recently, I set forth my views in my May 22, 2016 commentary, “Does Ethiopia Need a Constitution?”. To quote myself, “The T-TPLF constitution is one of the slickest constitutional scams in history.” Need I say more?
But I do agree with Tsadkan in his view that, “As can be clearly seen, the current situation [in Ethiopia] is a matter of extreme concern. We must engage in civilized discussion [and resolve problems] before incalculable damage is caused.”
I must confess that hearing a plea for “civilized conversation” from a former or current member of the T-TPLF is just as disconcerting as listening to Atilla the Hun pleading plea for the establishment of the rule of law. Touche!
But I believe in open debate and conversation with my adversaries. I believe in the free expression of all ideas, including the ideas of my adversaries.
Many of my readers will recall that I defended the right of the late Meles Zenawi to speak at Columbia University in September 2010 despite vitriolic Diasporic condemnation for defending Meles’ right to speak his mind freely.
The late thugmaster Meles Zenawi used to say, “it is impossible to talk to the opposition”.
Meles was dead wrong. The truth is it is impossible to talk to the T-TPLF, unless of course, the chattering of machine guns is considered talking.
I have always believed that Meles when he was alive and the T-TPLF have always believed opposition leaders, dissidents and opponents are their intellectual inferiors. They believe they can outwit, outthink, outsmart, outplay, outfox and outmaneuver them any day of the week. They believe the opposition is hopelessly divided, dysfunctional, shiftless and inconsequential, and will never be able to pose a real challenge to his power. They have shown nothing but contempt and hatred for them. At best, they see the opposition as a bunch of wayward children who need constant supervision, discipline and punishment to keep them in line. Like children, they will offer some of them candy — jobs, cars, houses and whatever else it takes to buy their silence. Those he cannot buy, he will intimidate, place under continuous surveillance and persecute. Mostly, they try to fool and trick the opposition.
So I have no illusions about the T-TPLF and its modus operandi or the possibility of honest, forthright, honorable and sincere conversation with current or former T-TPLF leaders.
But as a hardcore believer in nonviolent change, I am steeped in the philosophy that one must necessarily engage in open, public, transparent conversation with an adversary.
First, a few caveats.
I do not know Tsadkan Gebre Tensae.
What little I know of the man comes from examination of “opposition research” and anecdotal evidence from those who claim to have first-hand knowledge of him.
“Opposition research” suggests Tsadkan as a T-TPLF general has committed war crimes and assembled substantial illicit wealth through his T-TPLF connections. He is said to be one of the majority shareholders in Hibir Sugar Share Company and owns other profitable assets.
I have reviewed Tsadkan’s undated CV posted online on letterhead bearing the name and logo International Chamber of Commerce Czech Republic.
In the CV, Tsadkan is listed as “Chairman of the Board of RAYA Brewery s.c, South Sudan”.
The “professional skills/experience” listed in his CV are principally related to military operations although there are also references to “research” he has purportedly “done on the impact of HIV/AIDS on national security and implemented a program to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.”
I have tried to locate online any political writings or analysis Tsadkan may have done, without success.
I am a bit surprised to see his latest article at this particular point in time. I thought to myself, “What took him so long to come up with this analysis and “proposal” ? Where has he been all these years ?”)
I don’t know if Tsadkan in his analysis and “proposals” is speaking for himself as a private person, echoing the thinking of the T-TPLF echo chamber or directed by “others” to release a trial balloon.
I do not know if he is formally or informally representing the T-TPLF in his expressed views.
I have certainly not read any official commentaries by T-TPLF sources disapproving his view or even acknowledging them.
I do not know if Tsadkan is making his proposals in good faith or is having read the handwriting in bold letters on the wall.
I do not know if Tsadkan’s critical review of T-TPLF rule is genuine or if he is just shedding crocodile tears.
I don’t know if Tsadkan is making his proposals in a last ditch effort to protect his economic interests and the interests of the members and supporters of the T-TPLF.
I do not know if Tsadkan is engaging in elaborate rhetorical posturing or playing mind games. I am only all too familiar with T-TPLF’s zero sum games.
With all due respect, I must say that I do not know if Tsadkan personally wrote his article or affixed his name to a document written by a committee. (It is the professional lot of the lawyer to question the authenticity every document s/he examines.)
Suffice it to say that if Tsadkan is trying to engage in gamesmanship in his analysis and “proposals”, he has indeed wasted his time and ink.
In May 2011, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Ethiopia: Beware of Those Bearing Olive Branches!”. That commentary had to do with my response to Meles Zenawi’s offer to “negotiate” with the opposition following his 99.6 election “victory” in 2010.
If Tsadkan’s proposals are another batch of Meles-style olive branches, all I can say is, Nice try. No can do!”
I tend to believe it is probably hard to con a constitutional lawyer.
Having expressed only the tip of the iceberg of my doubts about Tsadkan’s motives and proposals, I offer my own simple, easy-as-pie proposal for having a dialogue.
If Tsadkan or any T-TPLFers want to engage in genuine conversation about saving Ethiopia (some might say “saving Ethiopia from the T-TPLF), the starting point is not talking (talk is cheap) big and saying nothing, but taking one very simple act that requires no more than a single signature. As they say, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
If Tsadkan and the T-TPLF want to talk, they should start talking not with words but ACTION. For action speaks louder than words.
There is one thing and only one thing that can serve as a decisive and irreversible breakthrough, a game changer, in the urgent need for coming together in solving the diverse political problems of Ethiopia: RELEASE ALL, ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, NOW! Stop massacring unarmed protesters. Stop arresting, abusing and harassing peaceful dissidents, journalists and opposition leaders and members.
There can be no conversation or communication without establishing minimal trust. No amount of silver-tongued analysis and argumentation could establish cooperative effort for the common good unless there is minimal TRUST between adversaries.
Tsadkan, T-TPLF, whomever: If you want to save Ethiopia, if you want to save yourselves, take one simple act which you can accomplish with the stroke of a pen: RELEASE ALL, ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, NOW.
There can be no conversation, dialogue or negotiation or even pretension to such when thousands of citizens are taken political prisoners and held hostage.
Let’s start with “hostage negotiation” to free the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Ethiopia.
Building trust is as easy as RELEASING ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA TODAY.
If Tsadkan can arrange the release of all, all political prisoners, I say “Game’s On!”
If the T-TPLF frees all political prisoners, it will then itself become free to sit in civil dialogue with the opposition to save Ethiopia and itself. Those who run a prison camp cannot expect to be free themselves watching over their prisoners. The prison guards are just as unfree as those whose freedom they have taken.
Of course, in articulating the foregoing position, I am strictly speaking for myself and for my cause of nonviolent social change.
I am a human rights advocate, and an unabashed and dogged one at that. I have absolutely no political ambitions which makes me free to say whatever I want to say; to say whatever my conscience tells me and to say whatever the truth commands me.
I am sure there will be some who disagree with me. I recall my critics back in September 2010 who said I was betraying my life’s struggle by defending Meles Zenawi’s right to speak unobstructed at Columbia University. Critics are free to think whatever they wish.
Personally, my love for my Ethiopian brothers and sisters boundlessly exceeds any criticisms against me personally.
Today, I feel like Esther in Scripture when she pleaded, “For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”
Speaking for myself and the cause of my struggle for nonviolent change in Ethiopia, I say to Tsadkan and the T-TPLF leadership, “If you want to save yourselves and Ethiopia, there is no better time to start than now. You can do it! You must do it! Release all political prisoners now and pull back our country from the brink of civil war. From the darkness of civil war. That is my proposal.”
The alternative is civil war, yes civil war. That is a matter of life and death!
Let me conclude with a story about a little bird. (I like bird stories, especially Humming bird stories.)
Gerry Spence, one of America’s great trial lawyers, once delivered a closing statement in a criminal case which captures my innermost feelings about what could happen to Ethiopia if Ethiopians, as usual, miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity:
Spence argued to the jury (as I would now to all Ethiopians):
Ladies and gentlemen: I am about to leave you, but before I leave you I’d like to tell you a story about a wise old man and a smart-alec boy.
The smart-alec boy had a plan, he wanted to show up the wise old man, to make a fool of him. The smart-aleck boy had caught a bird in the forest. He had him in his hands. The little bird’s tail was sticking out. The bird is alive in his hands.
The plan was this: He would go up to the old man and he would say, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” The old man would say, “You have a bird, my son.”
Then the boy would say, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?”
If the old man said that the bird was dead, he would open up his hands and the bird would fly off free, off into the trees, alive, happy.
But if the old man said the bird was alive, he would crush it and crush it in his hands and say, “See, old man, the bird is dead.”
So, he walked up to the old man and said, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?”
The old man said, “You have a bird, my son.” He said, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?” And the old man said, “The bird is in your hands, my son.”
I say to all Ethiopians and the T-TPLF, Ethiopia is in your hands.
Only you know if she is alive or dead or if she will be alive or dead.
Only you can ensure she lives forever!
But I am only a humming bird.
I will continue to do what I promised to do and have done every single week for over ten years, without missing a single week: I will continue to try and put out the Ethiopia House fire carrying water in my little beak.
That is all I can do without 100 million of my Ethiopian brothers and sisters joining me.
I do not complain. I do not grumble or gripe. Not one bit. It is a cross I have chosen to bear until I see Ethiopia free, free like the humming bird, and at peace with itself.
May we all be wise like the old man? Think about it: Don’t we have one and only one option: “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.” MLK
RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA NOW.
Review of Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay’s Article
By Messay Kebede
I read with great attention and interest a recently posted article [see here] in which Lt. General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay analyzes with a sharp critical eye the ruling government and party of present-day Ethiopia and gives us a blueprint of the various scenarios awaiting the country. Let me begin by admitting my surprise and admiration to see a top member of the leadership of the ruling party and a former Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Armed Forces undertake such a critical review of a regime that he had served for a long time. One cannot but wonder how deep the level of the deterioration of the political edifice has become for a top veteran and servant of the regime to feel the need to speak up openly in so alarming terms. Be that as it may, my review has two parts: in the first one, I present the undeniable virtues of the article and, in the second part, I proceed to some critical remarks, the objective of which is to encourage Gen. Tsadkan to go further in the critical assessment so as to get to the root of the problem bogging down the TPLF itself.
Without doubt, the article gives a candid, almost thorough and straight criticism of the regime. Almost nothing of what is detestable and faulty is left out: the absolute control of all the branches of government, the calamitous identification of the government with the ruling party, the heavy-handed involvement of government in the economy, the proliferation of corruption and clientelism, etc., are severely denounced. Gen. Tsadkan is not even nice to his former colleagues: he is highly disparaging of the involvement of army generals in the running of key sectors of the economy instead of focusing on their true job, which is to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country. In a word, the entire regime is put on trial and condemned without any reservation. One admires the courage and honesty of Gen. Tsadkan, given that his position will certainly ostracize him, perhaps even arouse the animosity of the leaders of the ruling party.
This much is undeniable: Gen. Tsadkan wants genuine solutions for the numerous and serious problems besieging Ethiopia. For him, the stake is none other than the survival of Ethiopia so that the solutions must be far-reaching enough to stop the dangerous trends toward which the country is moving. His proposal is clear and simple: the implementation of democracy and the rise of a political system based on the verdict of the people are the only means to tackle the deep problems of the country. The use of force repeats the mistakes of previous regimes and can only yield the same outcomes, but this time in a context that is much more explosive. Clearly, the author is genuinely concerned about the fate of Ethiopia. True, he does not hide his high concern for the people of Tigray and the TPLF, but one of the virtues of the article is that it understands that the fate of the TPLF is tied up with good things happening in Ethiopia.
According to Gen. Tsadkan, the regime has come to the point of recognizing the seriousness of the problems facing Ethiopia and is looking for a solution. Unfortunately, says Gen. Tsadkan, it is looking for easy and self-serving solutions, which are all doomed to failure because they all miss, deliberately or not, the core of the problem, which is the restriction of democracy and democratic rights. The restriction is all the more inexcusable as it violates the constitution, the very constitution that the TPLF and all its allies have sworn to respect and serve. All the problems of Ethiopia have one, and only one, source, namely, illegality, transgression of the constitution.
One admires the author for admitting that the case of Kinijit was not well handled in the 2005 election disputes. A similar mistake was committed earlier when a conflict broke out with the OLF. In both cases, force was used to settle disputes instead of the democratic means made available by the constitution. Similarly, I commend the author for spelling out the true interest of the Tigrean people, which is to work in concert with other people of Ethiopia to protect and advance democracy, as opposed to some leaders who orchestrate the scenario of Tigray versus the rest of Ethiopia. Last but not least, I applaud Gen. Tsadkan for being the first top member of the TPLF (to my knowledge) to acknowledge that the Ethiopians who fought under the leadership of the Derg lost, not because they were coward and Tigreans distinctly brave, but because their leaders betrayed the cause for which they were fighting and used them for a totalitarian and self-serving purpose.
Granted this positive side of the article, there remains the question of knowing whether Gen. Tsadkan’s explanation of the causes of the derailment of the regime away from the democratic path are equally pertinent. The analyses of the paper rest on one major premise, namely, the contention that the TPLF had a solid, deeply-engrained tradition of democratic methods prior to the seizure of state power, a tradition that was also free of secessionist agenda and the pursuit of ethnic hegemony. This is so true that Gen. Tsadkan ascribes the alleged derailment of the TPLF to the war against Eritrea whose major consequence was a deep split within the party and the rise of a non-democratic clique led by Meles who, by the way, is mentioned only once.
Without denying the importance of the split, one fails to understand how a party based on such solid and embedded democratic commitment and practices would go suddenly so off course as to empower Meles and his openly undemocratic clique. Is it not fair to say that the split and the outcome prove that democracy was just a façade, a hidden device of manipulation, something similar to the “democracy” that existed in the Soviet camp or, for that matter, in Ethiopia under the Derg? I can easily explain the rise of Meles to dictatorial power if I see it as a consolidation of a trend already existing in the party. By contrast, his rise becomes a complete mystery if I base my analysis on the assumption that the TPLF had a long tradition of democratic workings.
In vain does one look for the numerous blunders committed by the TPLF from the very start. For instance, the paper does not mention the momentous decision to land-lock Ethiopia. Nor does it denounce the ill-founded justification to disband the Ethiopian army––which resulted in many soldiers becoming beggars––as though it were a mercenary army, all the more so as Gen. Tsadkan, as already mentioned, recognizes that the army as a whole was not against any people. Gen. Tsadkan never questions the prevailing assumption of the ruling circle according to which the foundation of the Ethiopian state is sound and that many good things have been accomplished, even though he does not mention them. In so thinking, he turns the problems into an implementation issue, and so fail to see them as the step-by-step unfolding of a design that was originally very flawed.
As a matter of policy, Gen. Tsadkan opts for the developmental state as opposed to neo-liberal policy. The paper does not present strong arguments in favor of developmental state; nor does it indicate why the developmental state is expected to achieve better results in Ethiopia than liberal policy. Still less does the paper pose the problem of knowing whether the ideological and political setups of ethnic federalism go hand in hand with the requirements of the developmental state. Moreover, as stated previously, Gen. Tsadkan strongly favors democracy in the precise sense of multipartism, respect of human rights, including the rights of free assembly and free speech. Yet, this type of democracy does not square with the notion of developmental state, which precisely advocates the postponement of democratic rights to bring about faster economic growth. Equally noticeable is that the paper does not see that the dismal condition of education in Ethiopia, mostly due to politicization and the preference of quantity over quality, goes against a major requirement of the developmental state, namely, the production of a highly trained and nationalist technocratic and bureaucratic elite.
One key issue is that the author expects the appropriate solutions to come from and be implemented by the ruling party, since one need not look further than the already approved constitution to find the right answers. In Gen. Tsadkan’s view, the remedy lies in the restoration of the suppressed rights and in the development of a mindset approaching opposition parties with a spirit of dialogue and common interests. Not only does such an expectation look utterly utopian, but it is also contradictory. After having made this severe criticism, how does Gen. Tsadkan expect reforms and a change of attitude from such a rotten party? Is it not too late? Is not the party beyond redemption?
The danger of calling for an extremely unlikely change of attitude is that it lends itself to the interpretation that the paper is nothing but an attempt to prolong the life of the TPLF by reviving an already rejected hope. What is more, since the author admits that the difficulties are serious enough to rise to the level of structural impediments, is it not obvious that they require nothing less than structural changes? Evidently, change under the leadership of the ruling party will significantly fall short of being structural. In short, what is necessary in the face of failures of such magnitude is regime change.
As already noted, a leitmotif in the paper is the belief that the constitution provides the appropriate solutions to all the problems of the country. We just have to restore its democratic provisions and respect them. As a matter of fact, the paper criticizes everything, except the constitution and the ideological and democratic credentials of the TPLF prior to the capture of state power. Because of the reluctance of the author to critically examine the constitution, no attempt is made to connect some of the problems to its shortcomings.
For instance, there is no any reconsideration of the infamous article 39 affirming the “unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession,” a provision that an organization like MEDREK has rightly questioned as it carries the threat of the fragmentation of the country. Likewise, no prospect is envisaged for the privatization of land ownership through the removal of the stipulation that “ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia,” even though the dictatorial tendency of the regime can be traced back to the exclusive control of land by the state.
To be fair, Gen. Tsadkan does not reject the right to alter the constitution provided that it emanates from the democratic decision of the peoples of Ethiopia. The trouble, however, is that the respect of the constitution is presented as a sine qua non of all dialogue with opposition forces. A repeated injunction is that everybody must work under the provisions stipulated by the constitution. The condition excludes by definition any structural change to the system. Unless the opposition is given the right to organize and mobilize the people with the official intent of changing the constitution, I do not see how the stated condition does not amount to a serious restriction of democratic rights.
I cannot push aside the impression I have of a certain naivety on the part of Gen. Tsadkan. Indeed, for him all the problems of Ethiopia originate from a defective implementation of the constitution. The foundation and the principles of government are good, but they have not been properly implemented. May I remind that dictatorial regimes tend to write constitutions that are perfect? Their problem is in the application, not because they fail to apply them properly, but because they do not intend to apply them in the first place. They are written for two purposes: firstly, for external consumption to fool donor countries, and secondly, to manipulate their own people. Their constitutions are just ideological tools for make-believe, for the purpose of misleading by giving an ideal picture of their regime. What defines them is not the failure of implementation; it is the deliberate gap between stated principles and actual practice. One thing is sure: the leaders of the TPLF who drafted the constitution perfectly knew that the democratic provisions were not meant to be applied.
This is to say that failure in practice does not explain a regime like the one established by the TPLF. Instead, the real intent of the TPLF, as opposed to the fake one, must be given primacy. All what we know about the TPLF points to one overriding intent, to wit, the absolute control of state power to empower a furiously ethnicized elite by excluding other elites or by turning them into clients. Only some such approach makes everything clear: the rampant corruption, the dictatorial methods, the policy of divide and rule, the absolute control of all the branches of government are all means to empower a regional elite and sustain that empowerment through the complete ascendancy over the economic, political, and ideological apparatuses of the country. To paraphrase a famous sentence, in the analysis of Gen. Tsadkan, the TPLF “is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”
Is Ethiopia finally the next big thing in Africa travel?
By Joe Yogerst, for CNN
(CNN) In the late 1950s, Ethiopian Airlines launched an advertising campaign in the Western media that touted the ancient kingdom as Africa's "newest travel adventure."
More than half a century later, the huge East African nation has yet to live up to that lofty billing. But it might not be much longer.
The sights, the scenery, the culture are already there.
Ethiopian's ancient orthodox Christianity has endowed the nation with thousands of churches and monasteries, some of them enshrined as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A succession of empire and kingdoms added medieval forts, palaces and tombs like the Gondar citadel and the towering stone stele of Axum.
From Lake Tana and the Blue Nile to the red-rock Gheralta Mountains, the arid Danakil Desert and the lush Omo Valley, the landscapes are astounding and incredibly varied.
Ethiopia's wildlife riches are also diverse, from typical African savannah animals in the south to unique indigenous creatures like the gelada baboon and Ethiopian wolf.
The missing ingredient has always been infrastructure -- the kind of hotels, restaurants and service that tourism rivals like Kenya and South Africa mastered decades ago.
A turning point
"Tourism was on the back burner for a long time," says Solomon Tadesse, CEO of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO). "The country was going through major changes and the government's priorities were health, education, communication."
Not to mention drought, famine and revolution.
"There were fundamental reasons why tourism infrastructure was not in place."
According to Tadesse, the government finally decided in 2013 that tourism could generate jobs, income and wealth just like any other economic sector.
A tourism transformation council was established to provide direction to the industry and the ETO was created to handle marketing, promotion and product development.
The tourism push coincided with a massive upsurge in foreign investment from China, India, Turkey and other nations that boosted GDP to annual growth rates of around 10%.
With the Ethiopian economy going like gangbusters, tourism is slowly but surely moving toward the great expectations generated more than half a century ago.
Addis Ababa is in the midst of a building boom that includes a massive expansion of Bole International Airport and a number of new hotels including glitzy high-rise offerings from Marriott and InterContinental currently under construction.
The national capital has a new light rail system (the first in Africa) and the Chinese government has undertaken the $4-billion task of rebuilding and modernizing the old railroad line between Addis and Djibouti.
A brand new superhighway whisks traffic through the Great Rift Valley south of the capital while a nationwide road improvement campaign is rapidly improving land transport between other major cities.
Provincial capitals are getting new airport terminals, and in some cases (like Jinka), airports where there was nothing before.
Ethiopian Airlines is also bulking up.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the national air carrier is in the midst of a massive expansion that includes the latest Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
The route network is also growing, with New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Dublin, Cape Town and Manila added since early 2015.
Tadesse expects tourism arrivals to reach one million for the first time this year, doubling the number of visitors from just three years ago.
With so many new hotels and infrastructure improvements, Addis Ababa is ready for the rush. But doubts remain about whether the rest of the nation is prepared to become the next big thing in African travel.
Far and away the main issue beyond the capital is the substandard accommodation. Even the best hotels in celebrated destinations like Gondar, Lalibela and Bahir Dar hover just above a backpacker level.
The hotel situation in the south is even more dire, with only a handful of properties rising above a single star.
Problems range from lack of air conditioning, mosquito netting and basic bathroom amenities to lackluster service, less-than-stellar restaurant food and litter-filled hotel grounds.
Yet here and there you find a gem.
Like Gheralta Lodge in the mountains of the same name between Axum and Mek'ele in northern Ethiopia. Perched on a lofty ridge, the stone cottages overlook a stunning red-rock landscape redolent of America's Southwest.
"I spent six months going around Ethiopia with my wife making a list of 13 places that would be ideal for a hotel," says lodge owner and founder Silvio Rizzotti, an Italian citizen who was born in Ethiopia.
"We narrowed that down to three before deciding that Gheralta was the best place to create a modern eco-lodge."
New hotels are also in the works in the other places. Addis Ababa-based Jacaranda is developing luxury properties on the shores of Lake Tana near Bahir Dar, on a hilltop above the ancient stele of Axum, in Simien Mountains National Park and overlooking historic Gondar.
The properties will be managed by South Africa's AHA hotel group, one of the most experienced lodge, camp and hotel operators at the bottom end of the continent.
Expected to open later this year or in early 2017, Jacaranda's Gondar Hills resort is especially impressive, a $20-million mountaintop property. The environmentally friendly hotel will feature 110 rooms hewn from local stone and tucked beneath energy-saving sod roofs.
"Tourism is new in Ethiopia," says Jacaranda manager Andinet Feleke. "So you can't compared with Kenya or Tanzania. It wasn't a government priority until recently.
"But over the last three or four years, the situation has improved a lot. And there's much more awareness now that tourism is important to Ethiopia, that we can compete with Africa's top destinations."