November 25, 2020
Ralph Webster, the author of “A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other,” once said about his life in Nazi Germany, “I can’t explain the reasons or defend how we lived our lives. What I can tell you is how the events…sowed the seeds that fundamentally changed our future … that circumstances were beyond control… I can tell you…that the unbelievable became believable and, ultimately, the normal.” Like Ralph, many decent and righteous Tigrayans who survived the horror of the last four decades can’t explain how their beloved ancient kingdom and the beacon of Ethiopian and African freedom fallen to the vicious and cruel group called TPLF. How things spiral out of control?
Before the birth of the self-proclaimed Tigrayan liberation front in the 1970s, the distinction between Tigrayans and the rest of the Ethiopian population was just Geography. Before 1975, Tigray enjoyed prestige as the land of Ancient Ethiopian civilization because of Aksum and as a symbol of Ethiopian military supremacy over European colonizers because of the battle of Adwa. Their leaders were respected members of the royal family and many Tigrayans were successful businessmen around the country. They were loyal members of the Ethiopian military elite and diplomatic corps as well.
However, all these changed after the fateful decision of a few disgruntled university dropouts who falsely believed Tigrayans were oppressed by the central government and liberation was the only feasible way forward. They formed the Tigrayan People Liberation Front (TPLF). Supported by a communist ideology and the western world determined to chase out the Soviets from Ethiopia, TPLF exposed Tigray and its people to one of the most horrific civil wars in Africa that lasted for two decades. The majority of Tigrayans blindly or fearfully followed TPLF like the Germans did in the 1930s and 40s.
As a result, Tigrayans were labeled traitors, separatists, bandit lovers, and above all, enemies of the Ethiopian state. They lost the respect and the prestige they enjoyed for centuries. Being a Tigrayan and speaking the language became a source of suspicion and they were prime targets of the security services and the military intelligence of the communist government. When the civil war reached its prime in the 1980s, the region was hit by a drought and almost all Tigrayans were exposed to famine. To make things worse, TPLF stole and sold the food aid sent by the international community and used the money to buy weapons. Tigrayans died in thousands because of hunger, thousands more were forced to flee their homeland and ended up in refugee camps in neighboring Sudan, and thousands more become victims of the civil war as fighters or bystanders. Tigrayans were offered as a sacrificial lamb for TPLF’s propaganda. The massacre of hundreds of Tigrayans at the Hawzen market had shown the people of Tigray were and still are a means to TPLF’s end.
In the meantime, TPLF prospered at the expense of the Tigrayan people and scored consecutive military victories against the communist regime at the end of the 1980s. These victories attracted the attention of some high-ranking American diplomats such as Herman Cohen who personally visited TPLF’s rebel base in Tigray and offered full-fledged US government support for the group’s cause. Ambassador Cohen did this with a full knowledge that the rebel group adapted a communist ideology from its birth. Many observers believed TPLF deceived the ambassador. However, the ambassador’s continued support for the group up until 2020 proved the support he extended to the group in his official capacity in the late 1980s was based on his personal conviction for the group. Hence, he is complicit in the group’s human atrocities and the genocide recently committed in many parts of Ethiopia. He also acted against America’s firm diplomatic principle of not lending support to communist leaning and authoritarian regimes. Ambassador Cohen is not alone in this complicity.
In fact, Ambassador Susan Rice has also been an ardent supporter of TPLF and its long-time communist leader, the late Meles Zenawi. She recently renewed her support to the group through a tweet pledging her unwavering commitment to the group’s survival in the current conflict with the Ethiopian people.
Although TPLF’s victory in 1991 brought some hope of peace for the Ethiopian people and excitement for the Tigrayan population, the peace lasted only a few years since making peace was not in the group’s playbook. The group divided the country into Ethnic groups and started a hate campaign against each other. The constitution devised took away the rights of many Ethiopians to live in their own country. The group even refused to acknowledge the existence of Ethiopia as a country and so many people were arrested and exiled for being loyal to Ethiopia. Some ethnic groups were targeted and prosecuted for being historical oppressors and others were hailed as the oppressed. People were shot and literally slaughtered only because they were members of TPLF invented oppressors.
Economically, TPLF established his own business enterprises and everything was designed to flow to Tigray. On the surface, it seemed the Tigrayan people were the main beneficiaries of TPLF’s economic scheme. Underneath, the group’s leaders and their families were building their empire inside and outside the country. The only benefit TPLF brought to Tigrayans is enmity with their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. In every other way, the majority of Tigrayans still lead a meager lifestyle like their Ethiopian counterparts. They still must scratch their land for their subsistence and they still have to walk for hours to reach a medical facility while the children of TPLF’s leaders fly to Dubai for their weekend.
For Ethiopians, a peace they hoped for in 1991 turned out to be a nightmare and the camouflaged peacemaker they allowed into their land showed its true vicious nature. The people rose and chased the bandit back to its rat hole as they did with Italians. But for Tigrayans, the self-professed liberator who grew up sucking their blood turned out to be a curse, and its self-serving political and economic scheme recently backfired. Tigray and its people are back to ground zero where it all started 45 years ago. Only this time the liberator is the occupier and their Ethiopian brothers and sisters are standing by their side to break the curse.
Nothing lasts forever. Whether a curse or cancer, TPLF’s blood-sucking teeth would be pulled out of Tigray’s flesh. It would be cast out and disappear into the abyss. The group would be scrapped from the history books. The group would end up being a time filler in the chronology of Ethiopian history like Yodit Gudit. Ethiopia would stand united again. A new era of love and prosperity would usher on the mountains, in the valleys, and on the rivers of Ethiopia.
May God bless Ethiopia and its people!