By Alemayehu G. Mariam
Special Author’s Note: In this commentary/blog, I offer my full and unconditional support to the people of Tigray in their struggle against the reactionary leadership, cadres, supporters and bottom feeders of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
I am proud to say over the past decade and half there have been few in the Ethiopian diaspora who have relentlessly pursued and opposed the TPLF with greater resolve and unremitting determination than myself.
The TLF has pressed its boots on the necks of the people of Tigray for well over four decades. The people of Tigray have been quietly gasping, “We can’t breathe!”
To me, the “TP” in TPLF stands for “Totally Paranoid” and the “LF” for “Lie Factory”.
The TPLF has been scaring and lying to the people of Tigray for decades. They have been scaring them about an imaginary genocide. They have been lying about the crimes against humanity they have committed in the name of the people of Tigray.
Of course, no sensible and reasonable person would buy the TPLF’s scare tactics and damned lies.
Tigray is the cradle of Ethiopian civilization. Many of Ethiopia’s greatest national heroes came from Tigray. All Ethiopians gathered on the battlefield of Adwa in 1896 and proved to the world that no colonial power could defeat them. Ethiopians united and the colonial Italian army was decimated. That battle that lasted just one-half day!
When Egypt invaded Ethiopia in 1875-76 to establish its dominance on the Nile, it was King Yohannes IV of Tigray who decimated them at the Battles of Gura and Gundet. The bonds of family, marriage, culture and tradition between the people of Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia is unbreakable. This is a fact I know to be true in my personal life.
There is no reasonable Ethiopian who wants or even thinks about a war on the people of Tigray. But the hard core TPLF leaders think they can prolong their political lives by preaching gloom and doom to the people of Tigray.
Of course, the people of Tigray are not buying the TPLF’s load of political garbage.
But they cannot speak their peace because the TPLF has its AK-47s trained on their head.
Like Sam Cooke sang it, “It’s been a long, long time comin’, but I know A change gon’ come/ Oh, yes it will.”
No doubt about it. A magnificent change is coming to Tigray!
Today, the struggle against the TPLF in Tigray is gaining increased momentum.
My friends in Mekele tell me the TPLF is undergoing a tectonic shake-up.
There is a group coalescing around Deberetsion Gebremichael, Seeye Abraha and Tsadkan Gebremichael and others.
A reactionary group is orbiting around TPLF godfather “Aboy” Sebhat Nega and underbosses Seyoum Mesfin and Abay Tsehaiye and their ilk who are scheming to take full control of the TPLF.
The internal TPLF struggle is between those who want to live peacefully with their Ethiopian brothers and sisters and those who want to maintain their power by creating conflict between the people of Tigray and the rest of Ethiopians.
There are other groups and parties including Arena Party, Tigray Democratic Party and Fenqil Youth Movement who want to find solutions through the constitutional and political process and have their own aspirations for the people of Tigray.
But the struggle within and against the TPLF is about the future of the people of Tigray.
It is about whether the people of Tigray will live in peace with each other and the rest of their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. It is about their future development and progress.
There is no question that the vast majority of the people of Tigray want to live harmoniously and in peace with their other Ethiopian brothers and sisters.
There is also no question that there are people like TPLF Uber Boss Sebhat Nega and his lieutenants Seyoum Mesfin, Abay Tsehai and assorted minions want to maintain their power by making cannon fodder of the young people of Tigray.
So, all peace and freedom loving Ethiopians must make one and only one choice: Stand with the people of Tigray on the right side of history and against the TPLF and its long history of criminality, inhumanity and venality.
I want to declare my choice without condition or reservation: I stand with the people of Tigray and against the TPLF as I always have!
In one glorious day, I had a lifetime of experience in Tigray.
I was fortunate enough to witness the opening of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea at Zalambessa and Bure on Ethiopian New Year’s Day in 2018, after two decades of needless enmity.
That day, I was in the middle of a sea of tears of joy as tens of thousands of people in Tigray welcomed the opening of the border.
That day, I joined the people of Tigray in shedding tears of joy in tearing down the wall and the groundbreaking for the building a bridge to Eritrea.
That day, I shed tears of joy with the people of Tigray as they hugged and kissed relatives and friends as a new day dawned bringing the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia together.
That day, I shed tears of joy with people of Tigray as the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea resolved to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” and pledged “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
I was there. It was one of the happiest days in my life!
Today, I shed tears of sorrow for the people of Tigray as I watch the die-hard leaders of the TPLF trying to build a wall of hate, distrust and enmity around Tigray and make is an island of oppression.
Today, I shed tears of sorrow as the die-hard TPLF leaders prepare to make cannon fodder of the children of poor Tigrean farmers while their children are living in the lap of luxury in America and Europe.
Today, I shed tears of sorrow as the ruthless TPLF warlords terrorize the suffering people of Tigray by forcing them to prepare for an imaginary war.
Today, I shed tears of sorrow as the heartless TPLF criminals run an open-air prison for the people of Tigray.
Today, I call on all freedom loving Ethiopians to take a stand in support of the people of Tigray, elements in the TPLF who want to live peacefully with their brothers and sisters in the rest of Ethiopia and all progressive forces committed to toppling the evil empire of the TPLF.
In the following analysis, I aim to make my case in support of the people of Tigray. The people of Tigray, like the rest of their Ethiopians bothers and sisters, deserve freedom, democracy, rule by law and respect for their human rights.
I stand proudly with the people of Tigray in their struggle against the TPLF
Why do I stand with the people of Tigray?
Let the record show.
I have always defended the people of Tigray as victims of the TPLF:
My question is about the ordinary people of Tigray, the 85 percent plus eking out a living scratching the land? Are they also not victimized by the TPLF, which uses their name to legitimize its own corruption and criminality?
When Tigreans are moved around by the TPLF in other regions for apparent economic advantage and are viewed by their compatriots as TPLF militia and occupying forces, are they not victimized?
When the TPLF slices and cuts historically recognized territory and purports to transfer it to Tigray region causing deadly ethnic strife and enmity between Ethiopians who have lived peacefully for generations, does that not victimize the people of Tigray as much as others?
I have no doubts whatsoever that if the people of Tigray were given an opportunity to have a referendum on the TPLF, they would throw out those corrupt criminal rascals faster than you can say TPLF (Hewahat).
But they have never been given that opportunity!
The people of Tigray under TPLF rule today do not have the right to speak. To elect their own leaders. To enjoy basic human rights.
The people of Tigray are pawns in the hands of the TPLF.
The people of Tigray are used as human shields, hostages by the TPLF.
The people of Tigray are terrorized with propaganda they are in imminent danger of genocide.
In short, the people of Tigray are enslaved by the TPLF!
The adage is true. One cannot teach old dogs new tricks.
It is impossible to teach new tricks to the aging, long-in-the-tooth, stone-hearted leaders, cadres, henchmen and bottom feeders at the trough of corruption of the TPLF who today are finally facing the music before the people of Tigray.
I have always said the word “liberation” in TPLF is the greatest insult heaped on the people of Tigray.
That is because “TP” in TPLF stands for “Totally Paranoid” and the “LF” for “Lie Factory”.
I am proud to say I coined a new word in the English language, “thugtatorship”, to describe the TPLF.
A thugtatorship is a government of thugs, for thugs, by thugs. A thugtatorship is a dictatorship of thugs.
The TPLF is the sworn enemy of the people of Tigray and all Ethiopians.
Today, the people of Tigray are under the thumbs and boots of thug dictators. All Ethiopians must do all they can to help free them form TPLF bondage.
Why do I stand against the TPLF?
In 2016, I wrote:
The T-TPLF has long traded on the myth that its fate and destiny is in fact the fate and destiny of the people of Tigray. The truth is that the T-TPLF represents no one but its members, supporters and cronies from all ethnic groups and religions who feed at its trough of corruption.
To me, the TPLF represents the people of Tigray as much as the bloodthirsty Khmer Rouge represented the people of Kampuchea (Cambodia).
I have always opposed the TPLF for very specific reasons.
First, the TPLF is a terrorist organization.
The TPLF is currently listed on the Global Terrorism Database for documented acts of terrorism including armed robberies, assaults, hostage taking and kidnapping of foreign nationals and journalists and local leaders, hijacking of truck convoys, extortion of business owners and merchants, nongovernmental organizations, local leaders and private citizens and intimidation of religious leaders and journalists.
The last recorded act of terrorism by the TPLF was committed on August 26, 2016, although the yet-to-be documented acts of terrorism span decades.
Second, the TPLF is an organization that has committed untold crimes against humanity in the bush and for over a quarter of a century while it held the mantle of power in Ethiopia.
Third, the TPLF is a racketeering mafia-type organization involved in massive corruption schemes, money laundering, extortion, infiltration of legitimate businesses, tax fraud, brokering and enforcing illegal agreements and stealing business plans and appropriating it.
In 2014, I described the TPLF as cancer on the Ethiopian body politic.
Today, out of power and out of luck, the TPLF has become a virus, much worse than Covid-19, in the Tigrean and broader Ethiopian body politic.
Like any virus, the TPLF has no life of its own.
It survives and thrives as a deadly infectious agent replicating itself in other organisms in society.
The TPLF virus penetrated political organizations, the bureaucracy, the military, the security, regional and local governments, churches and mosques, schools and universities.
Fortunately, we have found the vaccine for the TPLF virus called UNITY, HUMANITY AND PROSPERITY.
I have always supported those who stood up to the thugtatorship of the TPLF
Let the record show (almariam.com) that I have always supported those who have mustered the courage to stand up to the thugtatorship of the TPLF.
When Seeye Abraha, the former defense minister of the TPLF, was released from prison in 2007 after serving 6 years on corruption charges, I was the first to come out and support him.
I have had various opportunities to speak with Seeye when he lived in the United States and especially when he was doing his graduate work at Harvard. I had the opportunity to edit his article “Election 2010: a Retrospective” for the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies.
As I wrote in 2007 and later confirmed in personal conversations, Seeye impressed me by his magnanimity in rising above his personal misfortunes to make an unequivocal public affirmation of faith and commitment to the rule of law, the need for an independent judiciary and uncompromising position on Ethiopian unity.
I was most impressed by what Seeye said after his release from prison. He said the struggle waged by his former party members was not merely to overthrow the Derg but build a just and fair society in Ethiopia.
In February 2018, less than six weeks before the TPLF was kicked out of power, I crossed pens with Tsadkan Gebretensae, a former TPLF general.
Tsadkan had warned “the current situation in the country is beyond the control and management capabilities of the current system”, and advised “only an independent commission, which is free from the dominance of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) can save the country from any unforeseen fate that awaits it.” He proposed an independent commission to transition Ethiopia to a peaceful change.
I was hypercritical of Tsadkan’s ideas. I doubted his sincerity and good faith in making his proposals. But in today’s Ethiopia, all are free to present their ideas for constructive change and engage in robust debate and discussion.
Let the best idea prevail! Let the people decide!
I stood up and publicly supported Amdom Gebreselassie in December 2018 when he declared, “The TPLF and their extremist allies living abroad are targeting the people of Tigray. These are people who hate and have an evil view of the Tigrean people.”
Amdom told TPLF godfather Sebhat Nega the naked truth:
When TPLF was chased out of Addis Ababa, you started agitating the people as if the people of Tigray are going to be destroyed. As if Tigray is going to be destroyed. As if it is the end of Tigray.
TPLF leaders keep talking about TPLF and the people of Tigray as if they are one and the same. How is it possible they could be the same? The poor people of Tigray have nothing to eat or drink. When TPLF leaders are stealing billions of dollars, how can it be said the TPLF and the people of Tigray are the same? Now, the people of Tigray are in a state of poverty, they are going into exile.
I had an opportunity to meet very briefly Debretsion Gebremichael in August 2018, when I visited Ethiopia after 48 years.
It was a chance meeting. He was coming out from a meeting hall by the Grand Palace with numerous other party leaders. I happened to be visiting in the vicinity with other visitors. When I saw Debretsion, I broke from the group and walked a good many meter to meet and greet him.
I approached Debretsion because I wanted him to know that I harbor no ill feelings towards him as a person, but I resolutely oppose what the TPLF organization has done all these years. I had to prove to myself that I could disagree with someone on policy and ideas without harboring ill feelings towards that person. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to talk much.
I don’t take things personal. When I robustly defended the late Meles Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia University in 2010, despite scathing criticism, it was about the principle of free speech. If I dd not defend Meles Zenawi’s right to speak freely and present his ideas in a civilized forum, then I truly do not believe in free speech.
That does not mean I do not have the greatest contempt and antipathy for TPLF leaders who preach gloom and doom to the people of Tigray.
Zenawi’s sidekick and step-and-fetch it, Bereket Simon, went one step further when he predicted in June 2005, “Strife between different nationalities of Ethiopia might have made the Rwandan genocide look like child’s play.”
T-TPLF godfather Sebhat Nega predicted the people will rise and wipe out their oppressor when they become “bitter”. The older boozer was manifestly unaware that he was making a final pronouncement on his TPLF.
Another T-TPLF underboss, Seyoum Mesfin, proclaimed there will a civil war after the TPLF is deposited in the trash heap of history but confidently declared his TPLF will crush all opposition and remain dominant.
In February 2018, when Seyoum Mesfin put out a call to arms to the people of Tigray to fight their brothers and sisters in the rest of Ethiopia, I called him out. He said, “Comrades, the glaring danger we are facing (today) is extremely, extremely alarming. Unless we are able to run and run fast and defend (against the danger) before sundown, our survival is doubtful.”
In September 2016, I crossed pens with Abay Tsehaye who was predicting Ethiopia will be like Rwanda soon. Tsehaye droned:
Similar things that happened in Rwanda are happening in Ethiopia. Two people called Tutsis and Hutus, one (group) was in power, the other was out of power. One group had tried to get advantage during colonial rule and using mass media, armed forces, with (political) parties coordinated a campaign. They separated (the Tutsis) by looking at their (facial) features, by their tradition. They mobilized Hutus to destroy Tutsis. That’s how so many millions were (killed) and so many driven into exile.
Then there is Getachew Reda who reminds of the Shakespearean character Falstaff, that drunken, boastful and buffoonish rapscallion windbag whose tongue does not wag until an alcoholic beverage courses in his blood stream. Reda thinks he is witty, but he is a nitwit. In 2016, I called him “Motormouth”.
The people of Tigray are at the crossroads. There those within the TPLF organization and in the broader Tigrean community who want to live in peace and equality with the rest of their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. We must embrace them. We must defend them. We must not hold grudges against them. If we don’t we will become the very thing we condemn: The TPLF.
It is the moral duty of all freedom loving Ethiopians to do their part and make sure the people of Tigray are an equal and inseparable part of the broader Ethiopian community.
All Ethiopians have a moral duty to help their brothers and sisters in Tigray free themselves from the TPLF yoke. We must help all progressive forces seeking to bring freedom, democracy and human rights to the people of Tigray.
I pledge to do all I can to uplift and free the people of Tigray from TPLF bondage.
My message to the people of Tigray is this:
You shall be free of the TPLF as the rest of your brothers and sister have over the past two years. Do not despair. Remember the darkest hour is just before the dawn. I will tell you today what I told all Ethiopians so many years ago in the words of Gandhi ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.’
BELIEVE THE PEOPLE OF TIGRAY SHALL RISE AND THE TPLF WILL SOON FALL!
To be continued…