by B. Aklilu
The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front is a party that was created in the 1970’s and is the power house of the ruling coalition EPRDF that has been in power since the overthrow of the Derg almost 26 years ago. Since its inception the TPLF’s ideology has been anti- Ethiopian and anti-orthodox which are the two main fabrics that is holding the country together. The TPLF’s hate emanates from the belief that the Tigray people as a minority have been subjugated and discriminated against by the Amhara people who had been ruling the country in the previous centuries. While the TPLF does not give concrete evidence of any documented history that Amhara have subjugating the Tigray people specifically for their race. In fact we see time and time again that the two races cooperated in many instances historically with trade and fighting off common enemies. These unsubstantiated claims are perhaps propaganda that is used by the TPLF to gain power and to gain the support of the Tigray people.
The TPLF since its inception has desired complete control of the country and its resources and has determined that the Ethiopian Orthodox church and the Muslim community would be a threat to their ruling of the country and has been planning the infiltration and complete destruction of these prominent establishments that are the very fabric of Ethiopianism. To accomplish this aim, the TPLF members Meles Zenawi, Sibhat Nega and others set their eyes on the biggest Orthodox monastery in Ethiopia, the Waldeba Monastery.
The Waldeba monastery was organized in the 14th century by St Abune Samuel of Waldeba although sources point the monastery goes back as far as 4th century B.C. Ever since then, the monastery has gone through many ups and down. While Atse Zerayakob of 15th Century made laws to protect the monastery, the attack of Gragn Mohammed had severely damaged the monastery. The Waldeba monastery proving resilient has managed to revive and has flourished to be one of the biggest monasteries. People from all over the country come to this place leaving all the worldly things behind to come closer to God by becoming a monk. These monks are the most precious assets to the country and are highly regarded of by the Ethiopian Orthodox church followers as it is believed that their prayer is what is holding the country together.
According to an article by Gebremedhin Araya (who was a former TPLF fighter), the TPLF had set an elaborate plan to strategically and systematically weaken and ultimately destroy the monastery in the beginning of the party’s formation. Accordingly, in 1973 E.C. the notorious TPLF had a secret meeting to recruit and train deacons from the Tigray region who will be sent as spies to the monastery. From a group of recruits, a Berhe Mebratu was selected for the mission and given strict instruction to stay undercover and do reconnaissance operation in the monastery. Berhe Mebratu was given clear objectives to:
-Find and identify the monasteries resources
-Identify and document key leaders of the monastery and study their roles
-identify and study inventory of ancient books and artifacts of the monastery
Armed with these objectives, Gebremedhin Araya mentioned that the spy went into the monastery disguised as a monk with a hidden agenda and lived like a real monk going out of the monastery only once a year to pass on the information that was collected to high TPLF officials. The operation which lasted for 8 years gathered key information which allowed the TPLF officials to conduct targeted killings of monks in leadership position, nationalizing the monastery resources under pretext of development and theft of the monasteries books and financial instruments including gold. The government has also displaced the resting place of many monks and saints without seeking permission from the monastery or engaging the Orthodox Christian followers. These actions were a debilitating blow to the overall Orthodox Christian community and have forced many to voice their concerns. But the governments instead of negotiating and searching for solutions has continued to propagate its propaganda on the only state owned TV station emphasising the benefits of government actions but never addressing the real issues.
The government’s actions put itself in a path of direct collision with the people of Ethiopia. Officials should be held accountable for not upholding the constitution and going against the right of citizens to practice their religion of choice without the state trying to manipulate or control it in any way. But this cannot happen if followers are silent and do nothing. Followers should make their voice heard in a peaceful manner and call for the government to address the issue and start a dialogue to resolve this very sensitive and delicate issue. But to start all this, responsible officials like Sibhat Nega, the late Meles Zenawi, Seyoum Mesfin, Berhe Mebratu and all other responsible should be brought to justice. And this is a good place to start but the healing process will take a long time.