By Ahmed Ugas Yusuf
EVERY revolution produces its own heroes, villains, highlights and pantomime moments that are etched in the collective memory of the affected nations long after the upheavals pass. Ethiopia, where the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is facing a crisis of political legitimacy, was never going to be an exception.
As a popular uprising by the majority Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups engulfs the country – in the process producing heroes such as Feysissa Lelissa, the Oromo Marathon runner, and Colonel Demeke, an Amhara ex military commander – two TPLF hardliners have become the undisputed antiheroes of this revolution-in-the-making. The first man is Getachew Reda, the Communication Minister, the second Abay Tsehaye, a veteran TPLF ideologue.
Minister Reda’s rants about Amharas and Oromos being “fire and grass” – implying that the two groups can’t live side by side let alone unite for a common cause – betrayed the callousness of TPLF’s ideology and political strategy. Reda lamented the joining hands of “chauvinists” and “narrow nationalists” – labels whose undertone and unsavory connotations even novices of Ethiopian politics do not miss.
“That we are witnessing a rapprochement between these inherently incompatible ideologies shows the work we did for over two decades has not produced the desired outcome”, he said. TPLF’s desired outcome was to foment endless hate, strife and mutual suspicion between these groups so it can continue to control every facet of public life in Ethiopia. This statement will remain for posterity as a shameful marker of the regime’s political behavior.
Another chilling reminder of the pitfalls of unchecked power was Abay Tsehaye’s secretly recorded threat against Oromos: “anyone who tries to stop the implementation of the Addis Ababa expansion Master Plan will be cut to size”.
It is hard to talk about every threat, gratuitous claim and conclusion that TPLF’s carping political claimants have said for 25 years or even in the last few months alone. They are one too many to address in this short article. I however felt it is important to react to Abay Tsehaye’s suggestion that Ethiopian Somalis are standing in Solidarity with Tigrayans in these testing times.
This claim is not only pushed by Abay Tsehaye but by the media of the regime: the state-owned national and regional TVs, radios, newspapers; by affiliated radio stations and websites (Radio Fana, Aigaforum, Tigrai online, etc.); as well as by surrogate bloggers on social media (Daniel Berhane and Abdulbasit Abdusamed to name but few). A $10 million dollars contribution from the nominally autonomous Ethiopian Somali Regional State to Tigrayan civilians allegedly displaced by protesting Amharas in the northern part of the country was presented as evidence of Somali succor to the besieged TPLF.
Prefacing his remarks by a phony show of sorrow for the “neglect and harassment” Ethiopian Somalis suffered under the DERG regime, Abay Tsehaye argued that Ethiopian Somalis are enjoying peace and self-governance under TPLF rule and that they are a model of the success of the “new Ethiopia” where Ethnic Federalism has ushered a newly found sense of inter-ethnic harmony and cooperation.