by Dawit W Giorgis
“The death knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.” President Theodore Roosvelt: (Labor Day speech at Syracuse, NY, Sept 7, 1903)
Death-knell is the bell that used to ring immediately after someone dies. Historically the first bell rung was called the ‘Passing Bell’ usually done to warn of impending death, and the last was known as the ‘lynch bell’ or ‘corpse bell’ which is essentially the funeral toll ( Wikipedia) Today the “The Passing Bell” has rung for the TPLF and people are anxiously waiting for ‘Lynch Bell”.
The lights are out for the TPLF as the first death knell rings in the form of a series of dramatic events that took place in the last two months: the culmination of years of bitter struggle for freedom, equality, justice and democracy. The sacrifices were huge but finally Ethiopia is on the edge of change. After 27 years of brutal minority rule the curtain is falling down for the TPLF. The TPLF had confronted a determined opposition for years while at the same time the world heard of hundreds being killed and hundreds more arbitrarily detained, heard new lies, corruptions and the amassing of the wealth of the country by a few Tigrean elites. The world heard of the murders perpetrated by the regime, about the indiscriminate killings of children and women. The outside world often accepted the narrative of the government and journalists who just saw the surface and not the abuse of power that routinely occurs beneath. The world heard and echoed the manufactured and manipulated information that Ethiopia has become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa as the majority of Ethiopians remained to be one of the poorest people on earth. Those in power manufactured data, manipulated information and designed rules and laws to their advantage to make it easier for them to do and get what they want. The EPRDF is the embodiment of evil. Though the driving force within the EPRDF is the TPLF, at this moment one should not make a distinction between the two, as the EPRDF has been a willing partner and tool for the implementation of the strategy carved out by the TPLF. Ethiopia should not rest in peace unless the EPRDF is dismantled and the country is run by national parties whose political programs are based on the interests of all the people of Ethiopia irrespective of their ethnicity.
For 27 years TPLF has systematically looted the country, destabilized the nation and introduced ethnic politics with the sole intention to create hate and hostility amongst the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia to be able to stay in power forever. The first item in this strategy was to distort the history of the Oromos and the Amharas, tell lies, spread the seeds of hate amongst them and ensure that Oromos and the Amharas wrangle over their history, borders and resources while the TPLF rules uncontested. The TPLF thrived on the differences it has created and the friction it orchestrated between the two ethnic groups. Today the first and the most important victory for the people of Ethiopia is that Oromos and Amharas have come together and asserted the unity that was there before the advent of the TPLF. The rug was pulled out of the feet of the TPLF. That was a shock to the TPLF. It knew then that it was the beginning of its end. Through this unity Ethiopians saved their country. Now they can be certain that there will be an Ethiopia stronger and more united than ever and successfully overcoming the challenges and evils perpetrated by the TPLF.
The second was the dramatic election of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, an intelligent visionary EPRDF cadre who grew up in the ladders of the EPRDF since he was 15 years old. He was elected because of his vision for a united and peaceful Ethiopia. He got 100% support from the EPRDF parties of Amharas and the Oromos and significant support from the South but none from the TPLF. That was a blow to the TPLF. For the first time in 27 years TPLF was not able to elect a leader of its own. It did not vote for Dr Abiy. That was not a smart move but good for the progressive elements within EPRDF because now they know that TPLF does not support the government of Dr Abiy. The battle line has been drawn.
And the final blow that gave the Ethiopians the confidence to ring the first death knell was the passing of the HR 128 by the United States Congress on April 10. It was a severe blow. No US ally has survived such a punishment by the US congress. With the implementation of this historic resolution Ethiopia is close to ringing the ‘lynch bell’. The US always monitors the power balance in the countries it considers its allies. Such a bill has been in the making for years. The US had always supported the status quo with active advocates like Susan Rice, Gale Smith, Jendayl Frazer and strong highly paid TPLF lobbyists urging administration to support status quo. Over the years there has been persistent calls to the US administration from human rights organizations, Ethiopian activists and scholars demanding that US stop supporting this ethnocentric brutal regime. There were as many evidences as there were to-day that were presented to the US Congress and administration. However US interest is always guided by the balance of power in a given country. Ethiopia was a powerful regional ally that was doing exactly what the US wanted it to do in the region. US supported it until the time came that TPLF was becoming more of a liability than a useful ally. In the case of Ethiopia it was clear that TPLF was collapsing. The balance of power was in favor of the opposition. The US therefore it was decided to withdraw support and look forward to working together with a new dispensation. So the tribute goes to the relentless struggle and the sacrifices of the Ethiopian people.
Today Ethiopia is also indebted to all those who worked hard to have this resolution passed by the US Congress. It is a powerful bill because it is bi-partisan. The first in my list are Congressman Smith and Congressman Coffman and their staff. The others are those Ethiopians and human rights organizations and activists who have testified in the Congress and exposed the human rights violations of this regime. The last but not the least are the Ethiopian human rights activists and organizations, civic and political organizations who did a remarkable job in their relentless pressure to make sure that this day would arrive. It is a remarkable demonstration of unity which goes across ethnic and political lines.
However there are hurdles ahead. One is the Senate which will I believe not be a big hurdle. It is believed that the bill will pass with ease. Ethiopians have now to start lobbying and pressuring the State Department to begin the implementation of the resolution. People and organizations who have credible information on the murders, torture, imprisonment, corruptions, fraud, illegal transfer of funds, bank accounts and properties of regime members in and outside the country and information on organized crimes and human trafficking committed by regime members, any conspiracy to loot and exploit Ethiopia, credible information on the resources looted by non state actors; need to be properly documented and submitted to the state department or to the US embassy in Ethiopia and to the United Nations. I believe that they might need this information to expedite the implementation of the resolution. The UN rapporteur which has been requested to send investigative teams to Ethiopia needs these information as well. These information will be need to be provided to the UN rapporteur when it arrives in Ethiopia.
While these are being done Dr Abiy should be very clear about certain issues.
First he should fully understand that he has been mandated by the great majority of the Ethiopian people and the international community including the US legislative and executive bodies, to lead the country to a transition period not through EPRDF but rather by dismantling the EPRDF. Dr Abiy as the Prime Minster is sitting on a power that Meles has established for himself. The only difference is that Meles did not have the support current PM has because he did not come to power through such a transparent EPRDF party election system that brought Dr Abiy to power. The PM should unconditionally embrace the HR 128 and promise to the Ethiopian people that he will abide both by the demands of the Ethiopian people and the request of the international community. The US position will soon be shared by the EU and the PM will have no excuse at all to avoid this universal call for change
Second Dr Abiy should call a national conference of all oppositions in and outside Ethiopia and all ethnic groups to chart the future of Ethiopia. The PM should face head-on the TPLF leadership and advise them not to try to thwart his efforts to dismantle EPRDF and transform Ethiopia in a direction that the people wish to. Autocrats fight for their survival. It would not be easy for the TPLF to abandon power and accept the dismantling of the EPRDF which has been used as its trojan horse. Non of us believe that it is going to be easy but when a leader has a universal support it will make his work for transition easier. TPLF might prefer to fight the PM and the Ethiopian people tooth and nail to maintain the status quo. The Ethiopian people are ready for that. The PM should be ready for that as well. If Dr Abiy has an idea to continue as EPRDF cadre and try to maintain the status quo through cosmetic changes he will be mistaken. We advise that he exercise courage with wisdom and reason or else he would face the wrath of people who have waited for change for too long.
Hitler of Germany, Stalin of Russia, Duvalier of Haiti, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Mobutu of DRC, Bokassa of the CAR, Mengistu of Ethiopia Charles Taylor of Liberia, Ghdaffi of Libya and the list goes on, have all been crushed by the popular wave of anger of the their own people. TPLF is now close to joining that list.
In the end success will depend on the crossing of a fear barrier by Dr Abiy and the people around him and his faith in the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian people have crossed that fear. The question now is ‘Can PM Abiy and his team cross that fear and take the bold steps towards democratic transition?’ If he fails he has no one to blame except himself. The people are more united than ever and they will not hesitate to continue the struggle for a final and lasting outcome.