Ginbot 7: TPLF’s Minority Ethnic Monopoly of the Armed forces in Ethiopia
A revisit after four years
The monopoly of key government decision making positions in Ethiopia by individuals of one ethnic group, the TPLF led Tigrean elite, over the past twenty three years has never had precedence in Ethiopian history. This is even more an anomaly as the TPLF claims that it fought to champion ethnic equality in Ethiopia.
This monopoly of power is in staggering display particularly in the leadership of the armed forces of the country and the security agency. What is even more becoming increasingly disquieting is that even the small number of non Tigreans that were thrown in to show some semblance of ethnic mix is fast fading. Many Ethiopians today are not increasingly referring to the ruling political system in Ethiopia as an “ethnic apartheid” system without a good reason. When it comes to ethnic composition, the only lookalikes in history to the Ethiopian military today are only the armies of colonial forces and states and organizations under systems of apartheid. With time, the TPLF has even stopped pretending that it is ruling over a multi ethnic country and continues to maintain an apartheid regime without even considering the serious consequences that this will bear on the country’s future.
There is widespread discontent among the regular army as well as rank and file officers that is predominantly drawn from the large non Tigrean ethnicity some of whom are referring to themselves as becoming slaves to a Tigrean dominated system. For several years now there is widespread and simmering discontent with this domination but questions related to these issues are not normally raised or discussed in public. Routine evaluation sessions the TPLF refers to as the “gimgemma”, conducted at all levels periodically and supervised by Tigreans, are used to stamp out these criticisms of this dominance and monopoly. The TPLF would use one of its several labels – such words as hate politician, terrorist, ethnic chauvinist, narrow nationalist etc., on any one who questions the system or as they often call it, “exhibits a tendency” to oppose the status quo. Many have perished for raising these questions even in good faith. There have been several incidents of severe reprimands of individuals who raised these issues. Some members of the army who are now serving life in TPLF dungeons are those who raised such questions of the need to diversify the leadership. Many did raise the question in good faith and sensing the discontent in the rank and file. Some among the few high ranking non Tigrean officers have left the country and cited this slave like relations to even less qualified Tigreans superiors as their reasons for their leaving. Desertions by members of the regular army for this same reason are numerous and often remain unreported. Those who get the chance to tell their stories often speak of the indignity they underwent while in the army.
During the first few years of their rule, TPLF officials, including Meles Zenawi, tried to justify this monopoly of power by the dominance in terms of number and organization of the TPLF fighting force during the fighting to topple the Military dictatorship of Mengistu Hailemariam. The promise they often made was that the force will be ethnically diversified with time. Now nearly a quarter of a century later, what we see is a more intensified and ethnically purified monopoly of power. Merit and competence are forgone in favor of ethnicity so much that a good number of those in leadership positions have limited formal or technical education as compared to many of their subordinates.
Throughout the social and economic system, including the economy and key operations of government, we are witnessing an increasing dominance of the Tigrean elite. The existence of a government within the government that is exclusively lead by ethnic Tigreans composed mostly of the leaders of the armed forces and the mafia like security gang is now an open secret among Ethiopians. Even the very few non Tigreans that are in leadership positions complain that they have only become conduits though which decisions made by the TPLF cabal are announced and implemented. These include people like Hailemariam Desalegn, who holds the nominal position of Prime Minister.
This staggering level of monopoly over national military power and intuitions is however displayed more blatantly in the composition of the leadership of the armed forces than probably elsewhere in the civilian administrative force. For Instance, Figure-1 shows that among the total of 64 highest military ranks in four departments and commands, 49 of them are Tigrians, two Agews and one from Mixed tribe, while the remaining number of Ormos, Amharas, and SNNPR are eight, four, and zero, respectively (for details see figure 1 and Annex-1-table 1).
Furthermore, the Military Affairs Team of Ginbot 7 has meticulously surveyed numerous divisions, regional commands, training academies and the defense headquarters in Addis Ababa and around the country; as a result it developed a detailed list of military leaders based on the most recent date gathered. (See Annex-1:Table-1 &2). According to this survey, the existing military governance system is highly skewed to one minority ethnic group, TPLF Tigrians. In general, the survey indicates that the system being followed by the current TPLF government is comparable to the old colonial and apartheid military organization systems, which now have become relics of history.