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Narratives Matter,

Setting the Record Right on the current Ethiopian crisis

Selam Nur


Ethnic violence in Ethiopia is on the rise as predicted by local and international observers. The nation is morning the massacre of innocent lives based on ethnicity. Our organization, TPLF knows firsthand what it is like to be oppressed because of ethnicity and fought for 17 years to liberate its region. It championed ethnic equality and self determination even if it meant cessation.

A coalition of four parties, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF): the Amhara Democratic Party, the Oromo Democratic Party, the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement and the Tigrai Peoples’ Liberation Front ruled the country for over 27 years. The hallmark of the EPRDF rule was peace, stability and rapid economic growth.

In the Last four years, Ethiopia has experienced instability and ethnification. After a non-transparent steps towards reform and better governance, prime minister Hailemariam stepped down and EPRDF elected Prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Unfinished party desires and individual ambitions about Unitarian and federalist models of government floated around.

In a non-participatory process, PM Abiy created a new “Prosperity Party” and coerced groups to join the Prosperity Party, a Unitarian party. TPLF voiced its strongest objection and warned the nation that the process is without precedence and that it will eventually lead to the country breaking up because it will open old wounds of suppression and inequality. This was not heeded and chaotic scramble for party consolidation and anarchy reigned. Leaders even those invited from abroad to return and participate in a democratic reform were jailed when they disagreed with the prime minister’s policy.

Eventually, the regional governance has deteriorated to series of military occupations and dictation. Tigrai, which is ruled under the TPLF has defied the “prosperity party” orders, warnings and retributions. Since PM Abiy could not have his army march into Tigrai nelly willy and take over leadership, he decided to declare war. The war started under the fabricated claim that the TPLF “attacked Northern Command bases”. Witnesses on the ground tell a totally different story. Immediately after the massacre of Amharas at Gawa Qanqa as a result of troop withdrawal from the area, Abiy needed deflection or coverup. At the same time the Northern Command in Mekele met with TPLF and agreed that they will defend the Norther Border as a coalition. The latter was a threat to Abiy, but more importantly provided the cover he was seeking to destruct public attention. He thus declared war on TPLF and Tigrai under the claim that TPLF attacked the Norther Command bases.

At the heart of the conflict is Abiy’s shift of partnerships to Eritrea + Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Ever since the Ethiopia-Eritrea War of 1998-2000 when Isayas and his “invincible army” were soundly defeated and Ethiopia constructed the Great Renaissance Ethiopian Dam, Ethiopia had created two formidable enemies. PM Abiy soon after his election changed alliances and chose to join the Arab League. Under the guise of peace and reconciliation the handshake between Isayas and Abiy was embraced and internationally applauded. Norway recognized incompletely framed peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia to award PM Abiy Peace Noble Prize. I do not believe that Norway ever saw the contents and scope of the deal. It was supposedly meant to encourage the young African to pursue a road map to peace.

It is an ultimate irony that Abiy would resort to the most repulsive assault on Tigrai with air raid on Mequele (Mekele). Emperor Haileselassie used air raid with planes flown by British pilots from Aden to put down a protest against atrocities committed by soldiers from Shoa who were left to pillage central Tigrai with impunity. The uprising is known as woyane, the popular name of TPLF in Tigrai. The despicable act of air raid on Mequele lives in the minds of young Tegaru who had listened to a shameful history passed from generation to the next. Even though Tegaru had no capacity to retaliate militarily at that time, they vowed that it shall never happen again without appropriate and proportional response.

Mengistu repeated similar atrocity in 1989 in Hawzei and Sheraro in 1991. That galvanized Tegaru across the region who marched to Addis Ababa and ended Mengistu’s reign. This air raid as a deterrent to scare TPLF is reminiscent of a dictator whose days must also be numbered.


The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed declared war on Tigrai region which had challenged the legitimacy of his administration’s governance that had sidelined the constitution. The prime minister has deliberately sought tighter relationship with Isayas Afeworki, who was at war and continued conflict with Tigrai. The prime minister of Ethiopia advised by Isayas has followed a pattern of regional military occupation and imprisonment of those who disagree with his policies. He has jailed more than 2500 opposition leaders, countless journalists and activists. Over three million people have been displaced internally and those who cannot flee have been massacred, every time because there were no law enforcement officers or troops had been deliberately moved.

The TPLF that liberated Ethiopia from the gripes of the brutal junta in 1991 is better organized and armed to resist the Prime mister’s threats which escalated over the last one year and half. Punishments rose to isolation and finally declaration of war based on tramped up TPLF transgressions. It must be noted that Isayas wants nothing less than the disintegration of Ethiopia and cannot achieve that without the complete destruction of TPLF. He declared “Game over” on TPLF after the Abiy shook his hands. Abiy then insulted the people of Ethiopia by reciting a narrative of peace between Isayas and himself. Close to 100 Ethiopians had martyred themselves to defend the borders of Ethiopia against a mad man who in a drunken state had believed that he had an “invincible army”. Because of his arrogance and narcissism, he had conveniently forgotten that Ethiopians have never and never will surrender to foreign enemies.


a.      Ethiopians can exercise their rights and challenge the legitimacy of what Abiy is doing as a self-perpetuated prime minister. Note that Abiy was elected by EPRDF as its leader and PM of the country. He formed a new party, the prosperity party by dissolving EPRDF. He also sidelined the constitution which he swore to defend. Absent those, he has the right to campaign and get elected. He cannot continue his reign without constituency. The parliament likewise is EPRDF’s parliament and not Abiy’s.

b.      The massacre at Gawa Qanqa, regardless of hard Abiy and his cronies try to cover it up must be condemned in the strongest terms. It is ethnic cleansing and crime against humanity. Silence is complacency. Ethiopians should not keep quite when atrocities like this are committed because they will be the next victims.

c.       A nation divided cannot stand. Ethiopia, you are better than the road map sketched for you. The basic tenant is freedom expressed as individual right. You must find a way to rise above dogma and ethnicity. Realize the beauty of the mosaic of over 80 different ethnic groups woven together.

d.      International authorities have very little time to obviate a catastrophic civil war and tsunami of refugees from the Horn of Africa. After all, Ethiopia’s population is close to 120 million and previous population displace will pale in comparison as swarms of humanity engulf neighboring countries, the Middle East and Europe. The disintegration of Ethiopia must be prevented at all costs.


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