November 13, 2020
Today, November 13, 2020 africanarguments.org published an article by Nick Westcott of whom it is said, he has an over 40 years experience in Africa as a diplomat and academic of the region.
I am in agreement with Mr. Westcott that ‘it’s unlikely Ethiopia will fall apart’ and the current crisis should not be allowed to degenerate into a civil war and all should make an effort to make a stop to it as soon as possible.
While agreeing with the general thrust of his article and about the need to stop the conflict, I would like to point out a few items that I disagree with and some in which their accuracy I have serious disagreements.
(a) Though in general Ethiopia’s history might be used as a reference to explain the current crisis, one need not go back too far, but should focus on the near past to comprehend it more properly.
To begin with what occurred after the 2005 elections was not a simple ‘clampdown’ by the TPLF/EPRDF government as Mr. Westcott wants us to believe. Over 290 people were murdered by specially trained snipers and over 10,000 people were rounded up and sent to concentration camps where hundreds more died. The EU Representative at the time Tim Clarke acknowledged this fact, and his plea for humane treatment of prisoners was met with derision. Further we remember the Election Report put out by the EU on the 2005 elections criticizing the conduct of the elections aftermath was said to be “trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage” by strongman Meles Zenawi.
(b) The statement that says ‘. Throughout government, Tigrayans found themselves removed from positions of influence’ is quite misleading.
The TPLF fought hard to prevent Abiy from being at the helm of EPRDF preferring Shiferaw Shigute. When their efforts failed, and it became clear that Abiy will be the Chairman and also the Prime Minister, Getachew Assefa, Head of National Security; Major General Kinfe, Head of METEC , Major Teklebirhan, Head of INSA and others immediately resigned their positions and retreated to Tigray, without so much as conducting a smooth transfer to whoever was going to be assigned to their positions, once they resigned.
(c) ‘In concentrating power in his own hands, Abiy has actually weakened the centre. Who are now his allies? Primarily, it seems, the Amhara who benefited most from the TPLF’s withdrawal.’
In what way Abiy concentrating power in his own hands would benefit any one particular ethnic group in Ethiopia or weaken the center is not quite clear. But this statement not only betrays the bias of the writer towards a particular group, but more importantly denies the inclusiveness within the ruling group that was ushered in by incorporating what for 27 years euphemistically used to be called ‘allied parties’ such as the Afar, Somali, Beni-Shangul and Gambela, after Abiy came to power.
(d) With regards to the current crisis, Mr. Westcott asserts ‘Abiy ‘has chosen to do so by force rather than co-option or negotiation’, this is quite disingenuous.
For the past two and half years continuous efforts have been made by the central government, the EPRDF and later the Prosperity Party as well as traditional elders group and the National Reconciliation Commission to bring the TPLF to the negotiation table which was arrogantly rebuffed.
(e) How Mr. Westcott makes light of his statement ‘Tigrayans took control of federal military equipment’ is mind boggling. The reality was that Special Forces of TPLF and rogue elements within ENDF coordinated an attack on ENDF’s Northern Command, massacred soldiers, murdered commanding Generals, took control of military equipments and declared their intention of using them in an offensive and as he says with the intention of ‘regime change’.
If such a treacherous betrayal of the ENDF by a regional force does not provoke a response by the central government, I do not know what would.
By the way the Derg fell in 1991 and not 1987.