Why is TPLF releasing some bloggers and journalists now?



By Kirubeal Bekele

This is not a difficult question to answer. However, we still need to inform our people why TPLF all of a sudden is freeing a few journalists. The fact that TPLF is releasing them now without the so-called TPLF-style “judicial process”, that TPLF usually claims when arresting and putting journalists on trial, is suspicious.

Their release is good news for their families and to some extent for all of us. But since it does not have any legal basis for their release, it is even more doubtful and may even be more dangerous increasing the likelihood of being arrested again. One reason we know for sure is that TPLF is not releasing the bloggers and journalists because it wants to or as a sign of compromise. Based on our experience, this is unlikely. We and TPLF know each other too well for so long, we can speculate easily why TPLF released them.

There are mainly two or three possible reasons.

President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia

There is a lot of pressure on President Obama from human rights groups and even the US media to stay away from visiting Ethiopia which is well-known for human rights abuses within the country. It is possible Obama may have demanded Ethiopian authorities the release of journalists as a pre-condition to visit Ethiopia. President Obama may have done this to silence his critics and find a face saving way to legitimatize his visit. In addition, President Obama may be looking to get the Ethiopian American votes for the democratic candidate in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections. Right now, it does not look like Ethiopian-Americans will vote for democrats in this election.

Arbegnoch-G7 armed Confrontation in Gondar

We all know TPLF will not be defeated in a day. But the fact that Arbegnoch-G7 has launched an offensive on TPLF positions in Gondar is a long awaited paradigm shift in the history of the Ethiopian Opposition. Since TPLF is already politically bankrupt, the armed confrontation in Gondar can quickly gain momentum and catch fire throughout the country. That is what TPLF is afraid of at this point. TPLF may have released the journalists for now to stop this momentum. TPLF can always imprison them again in the future when the momentum subsides and it feels comfortable to do so.

In the meantime, TPLF can use this opportunity to divide the opposition as usual in the hope of convincing a few naïve and coward members of the opposition who may be considering to negotiate with TPLF. And as usual, TPLF will use this situation to release the pressure it is under at this time. Zenawi used this tactic during the Kinjit days. But Zenawi used it to prepare himself for his merciless imprisonment and killing spree against the opposition members in 2005 elections. Will TPLF do the same when the Obama visit is over? It remains to be seen.

TPLF may be seeking to rally support in its possible war with Eritrea

TPLF has been preparing itself to launch another war against Eritrea for a while. And it may have decided that this is the moment to declare war on Eritrea to stop the Arbegnoch-G7 and other freedom fighters operating in Eritrea. TPLF hopes to defeat Eritrea and set up a new government from the Eritrean Opposition that TPLF has been organizing and funding for years. Of course, the West may also help TPLF in providing intelligence and possibly covert military support via air power and surveillance to overthrow Isiyas Afeworki.

The reason(s) for releasing the journalists and bloggers may be any or all of the above. But for the Ethiopian opposition, it is not necessarily that important to know the reason(s) for the release of the journalists and the bloggers. Compared to the thousands of prisoners of conscious including Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, and others who are languishing in prisons throughout the country, the release of a few journalists and bloggers means nothing. It is too premature and even downright disgusting to see how some of us are rejoicing over nothing. Rejoicing does not come that easy. There will be more fights, more sweat and blood ahead before we really rejoice once and for all. What TPLF did was simply a propaganda ploy to fool the West as well as a few naïve individuals within the opposition possibly eroding their resolve and determination to fight TPLF tooth and nail.

Patriotic Ethiopians and the Ethiopian Opposition should ignore this premature rejoicing of the release of the journalists and bloggers. Instead they should redouble their efforts as well as their resolve to bring real democracy to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is still a prison. There is no guarantee that TPLF won’t arrest the released journalists and bloggers again at any time. As a matter of fact, TPLF is arresting Semayawi party leaders in different regions of the country even as we speak.

The wise thing to do for Patriotic Ethiopians around the world is to aggressively support Arbegnoch-G7 fighters, ESAT, and whatever is left of the legal opposition in Ethiopia. As some of us like to think, TPLF won’t give up with just a one time fire fight we witnessed this week. Even though, TPLF is a politically bankrupt ethno-fascist mercenary organization, freeing Ethiopia is not going to be a cake walk. Get ready for the bitter and lengthy struggle in front of us. It takes a lot of bloody fights and a lot of support from Ethiopian patriots in the Diaspora primarily in finance, diplomacy and skills contribution in order to throw TPLF into the museum of history.

The writer can be reached at kbekele@myuw.net
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