Ethiopia is a historically significant and ancient country in East Africa. While it remains one of the poorest in the world due to several reasons, including lack of good governance, history tells us that Ethiopians have taught the world some valuable lessons. Those lessons include religious tolerance demonstrated by an Ethiopian king hosting and protecting Prophet Muhammad’s followers who fled from the persecution of pagan Arabs and being the first black nation to defeat white colonial power that came to colonize her in 1896.
Tigray is one of the regions in northern Ethiopia. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), is a political party in Tigray listed as a terrorist group in the global terrorism database (GTD) based on its terrorist activities between 1976 and 1990. In 1991, due to unfortunate historical circumstances, the same terrorist organization, which was fighting to secede Tigray from Ethiopia, assumed central power and became the government of Ethiopia. The group continued to terrorize Ethiopians until it was pushed out by popular uprisings and internal struggle by progressives including the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his deputy Demeke Mekonnen.
Since assuming power in 1991, the TPLF did all things terrorist to Ethiopians, including extreme human rights abuses, government sponsored ethnic cleansings, the killings of peaceful demonstrators, and carrying out heinous torture techniques on prisoners, including extracting nails and hanging up heavy objects on the testicles of political prisoners. When all that was happening, and despite having ample evidence on what the TPLF has been doing to Ethiopians western nations looked the other way, partly because the USA and great Britain played a major role brokering a deal for the TPLF leaders to control the nation they never felt they belonged to.
When pushed aside from central power in 2018, the TPLF was transformed from a terrorist government to a terrorist regional administrator. It sponsored ethnic cleansings, assassinations, burnings of religious institutions/schools, and terrorizing communities all over the nation. The TPLF has done what ISIS did to Iraq, focused on continuous destabilization of the nation with a goal to weaken and topple the central government.
As a former colonel in the army, Abiy understood one of Sun Tzu’s (a Chinese general, strategist and philosopher) famous quotes: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”. Abiy and his generals knew the fact that in order to get rid of those terrorists and give their beloved country a chance to continue to exist, they had to show some restraint and reorganize the military not as a mere ethnic military force as intentionally organized under the TPLF, but rather as a modern Ethiopian military force accountable for national causes. While reorganizing the military for two years, they knew the enemies were a bunch of hardheaded and arrogant looters who would never back away from trying to terrorize the nation.
For most Ethiopians who were extremely concerned about the fate of their nation, that day came sooner than expected. The red line was crossed when the TPLF attacked the Northern command of the Ethiopian National Forces. That force was stationed in Tigray for more than twenty years. The military command members were involved in building schools, helping farmers spreading seeds and later harvesting their crops, fighting locust invasions, and building schools, roads and hospitals for communities all over the region.
As payback for all the good the army did for the community over two decades, the TPLF decided to poison their leader and kill hundreds of their soldiers. Based on eyewitness accounts, some were taken hostage, tied up behind their backs and executed ISIS style. Some military members were forced to take their clothes/shoes off and walk towards the Eritrean border. Fortunately, Eritrean brothers and sisters did what any good neighbor would have done. They clothed the soldiers, fed them and allowed them to return to rejoin their command. Abiy and his generals knew it was time to face the terrorist power head on, with a sense of urgency, determination and bravery. They only had twenty-four hours to plan and execute an operation to save their country. Thankfully, they have succeeded in planning and implementing one of the most successful military operations against a terrorist force in the world to date.
It is appropriate to ask what the US government would do if the governor of Texas uses state and militia forces to attack Fort Hood US Military base and brutally kill hundreds of its members. While that scenario may be unlikely, the US army would have undoubtedly taken all measures necessary to make sure the governor as well as his collaborators are captured and tried for treason.
Since 9/11, the world has witnessed how difficult, costly (in life and treasure) and time consuming it is to fight a well-armed terrorist power that is in control of a region. With all their military might and resources, the US and its allies in NATO have been fighting the Taliban for twenty years. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in October 2001. Despite all the efforts by the west, the Taliban remains a major threat to the legitimately elected government of Afghanistan. It is also important to remember it took the US and allies five years to defeat ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) after it declared its Caliphate in December 2014.
Considering the TPLF terrorist forces were heavily armed and the TPLF had its own territory just like the ISIS and the Taliban, the fact that PM Abiy and his generals planned and executed a very effective operation against the TPLF within three weeks is short of a miracle. PM Abiy, his generals and the army are being applauded by the majority of Ethiopians who would like to see TPLF sponsored killings and ethnic cleansing activities in the country stop, and to see normal life continue.
It is time for the world to join Ethiopians in congratulating the administration and consider giving another peace prize to Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian army for effectively quelling a well-armed, well-trained and extremely cruel terrorist force that was working hard to destabilize the region and destroy Ethiopia.
For anyone having doubts about the TPLF being a terrorist group worse than Al Shabab, they just need to read the heartbreaking story on the Washington Post (24 November 2020) on the massacre of more than six hundred poor Amhara Ethiopians, including women and children, in Mai Kadra, by TPLF special forces and Samri (youth group trained and supported by the TPLF).
We believe Prime Minster Abiy and his administration have a lot of work to do in terms of healing a nation that suffered ethnic divisions, amending the constitution to address critical issues including human rights, limitations on regional special forces and ethnic politics, and effectively using the country’s resources to get out of poverty and build a strong nation. Despite all that, one thing should be very clear to Ethiopian friends and enemies alike. A dismantled TPLF is good not only for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia, but for the stability of the whole region of East Africa.
Long Live Ethiopia!
NY/NJ Ethiopians Task Force