Ethiopia is one of the oldest nation-states in the world. Both written and oral history and recent archeological discoveries, despite regional rivalries, suggest the historical continuity of the nation. It was a Monarchy until 1974. From 1974 to 1991 the country was declared to be ‘Peoples Democratic Republic’ by the military junta, Derg, and went through a traumatic experience. The Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a guerrilla force from a minority ethnic group that led the rebellion against the military junta and captured the institutions of the State, has been in power for the past 24 years. The country is ruled as a one-party state under a façade of multi-party system since 1991.Launching an Effective Resistance against TPLF Tyranny – a tyranny which is the Real Driver of Instability and Civil Strife in Ethiopia
The state is characterized by an intensifying political repression, rampant economic corruption, denial of basic human and political rights and repeated sham elections. The top brass of the army and security organs of the state, including key diplomatic positions, are effectively mono-ethnic despite the claim of the regime to stand for the equality of all ethnic groups. The people have completely lost confidence in the government after the regime shamelessly declared itself to have won 100% of the parliamentary seats in the 2015 election. Ethiopians, with no other choice available to them for democratic transition, have now risen up in arms. And this is a credible threat of force to the regime. History has time and again proven that no government that denies freedom, justice and democracy to its people will not survive their wrath.
Against this background, Ethiopian democratic forces, reflecting the broad diversity of the Ethiopian society, have recently formed the United Movement for the Salvation of Ethiopia through Democracy (UMSED) as an umbrella organization. UMSED is committed to coordinate the people’s struggle for effective resistance against TPLF’s tyranny and to ensure the transition to true democracy and stable political order in Ethiopia. No one relishes the idea of armed conflict; but, there are times when armed self-defense becomes the only choice to resist the unbearable violence by minority against majorities and to bring about an enduring peace and stability in a society.
Ethiopians have given up on elections as they have become meaningless rituals: There have been five national elections under the TPLF. The first election in 1995 resulted in 3 opposition members being elected to the parliament that has a total of 548 MPs. In the second election of 2000, the number for the opposition members rose to 27. In the 2005 general election, which was monitored by the Carter Center, European Union and other observers, Ethiopians turned out in record numbers and voted for the opposition, mainly CUD and UEDF. The results were rigged; and the election was blatantly stolen. Furthermore, many unarmed and defenseless peaceful protesters demanding the respect for the vote of the people were indiscriminately gunned down in a broad daylight. Leaders of opposition political parties, civic societies, journalists and dignified and well-meaning Ethiopian citizens were jailed for two years. Members of the fact finding commission appointed by the government itself published the evidence that the government has cold-bloodedly massacred 197 Ethiopians on this day of infamy. Today, these fact finders are themselves in exile fleeing for their lives. Only one opposition member was able to win a seat in the parliament during the 2010 fourth national election. In the most recent election of May 2015, in which the regime claimed 100% landslide victory of all parliamentary seats, no credible outside/international observers, exceptingthose from the corrupt African Union, were allowed to monitor the election.
The Ethiopian government owns all land in the country, including most residential and commercial real estate in towns and cities like all other communist totalitarian regimes in the world. The industrial and service sector of the economy is also heavily controlled by Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), an endowed conglomerate parastatal serving as a front for the ruling TPLF party. Until recently it was managed by the wife of the late Prime Minister. Both were members of the TPLF/EPRDF politburo and the legislative assembly, making their work similar to the work of the late Romanian dictators, Nicolae CeauÈ™escu and his wife Elena CeauÈ™escu. The total grip on land and the economy is a source of much power to the regime and the accompanying oppression of the people in a country where eighty five percent of the population is engaged in farming and most city dwellers rely on the government for employment and housing. All land in the country was declared government property by the old communist military regime and the current regime has continued the practice. The monopolization of land by the TPLF and its surrogate administrators has been the source of wealth for some, but continued to stifle the production of food as in the communist era. Thanks to this land policy, today lives particularly that of children and cattle in the Afar, Amara, Gambella, Somali and Southern regions of the country are perishing due to a single season rainfall failure.
Ethiopians are tired of their voices being totally muffled: Independent media is not tolerated. The International Federation of Journalists has declared the regime to be one of the worst offenders of press freedom. Television, Internet, and major print media is owned and operated by the government. The state is the only Internet Service Provider and uses Chinese, Italian and British Internet hacking and intercepting technology vendors to spy, trap and intimidate its critics and opponents. The regime also spends precious resources on signal jamming technology to stop the free flow of information from the outside. Foreign based and independently operated radio and TV broadcasts by the Ethiopian Diaspora are jammed on regular basis as are broadcasts in Ethiopian languages by Voice of America and Deutsche Welle Radio.
Ethiopians can no longer tolerate an entrenched ethnic minority rule: The TPLF, the dominant party in the coalition known as Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), controls all aspects of life in the country, similar to apartheid South Africa, by installing its ethnic rulers as heads of major institutions across the entire state apparatus. Ethiopians and international observers including those who bend backwards to “apologize” for the regime know very well that ethnic Tigrayans control the army, security services, telecoms, foreign affairs, and other nerve centers of the Ethiopian state machinery. The TPLF party pits different ethnic and religious groups against one another simply to perpetuate its minority rule and monopoly on resources. The regime has no respect for religious freedom. It has created chaos in both the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahido Church and the Muslim mosques by interfering in the administration of their purely religious institutions through its political cadres. It has similar surrogates in Pentecostal Churches. Religious leaders who resist this interference are exiled (as the Orthodox Christian leaders) and imprisoned (as the Muslim community leaders). Ethnic minority domination has become a source of stress on the harmony of the people that is essential for peaceful coexistence in a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Ethiopia.
Ethiopians have said enough to the regime’s oppression with impunity: In the last twenty four years, the people have been appealing to the regime to respect the fundamental political and civil liberties of the citizenry. Peaceful protests are disallowed. Countless petitions and protest demonstrations that were held in the major capitals of the world have ended in deaf ears. The response by the government has been more repression and more violence. Today there is no independent media in the country due to the wide spread practice of jailing and forcing publishers and reporters in to exile. Today there are no functioning independent political parties due to the practice of systematic disruption of their normal day-to-day activities, jailing of opposition leaders or forcing them out of their country. Currently, prisons are filled with thousands of well-known political, civic organization and religious leaders as well as journalists under trumped-up “terrorism” charges. Certain ethnic groups are targeted. These prisoners are tortured to confess and to corroborate the charges against themselves and their colleagues. In spite of this massive oppression, victims of the regime have no recourse to justice since the judiciary is made subservient to the political manipulation of the ruling party.
As presented above, Ethiopians are once again faced with a regime that is led by a group of people who oppress them in multiple ways; deny them basic human rights and are hell-bent on blocking the democratic process for self-rule. We are also aware that though the regime comes from Tigrai, thousands of Ethiopians that come from this ethnic group are victimized and have already started armed insurrection well over one decade ago. The predicament the Ethiopian people find themselves in currently is not unique. Under similar conditions, the founding fathers of one of the earliest democracies in the world have said it best in the Declaration of Independence by the Colonies from the Great Britain: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness’ A similar spirited paragraph is found in the preamble of African National Congress’s Freedom Charter. These words ring true today for the people of Ethiopia.
At this critical juncture, to facilitate the Ethiopian people’s struggle with able leadership, the democratic forces in the country are coalescing under the newly formed UMSED as a “broad church”. It is not lost on the part of these democratic forces that one of the potential obstacles on the road to the Ethiopian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy is the international community’s multifaceted collaboration with the TPLF dominated government with seeming indifference to the prevailing repressive political conditions in the country.
Following their new goal of making inroads into Africa, some countries have become major financiers of the TPLF repressive regime. This may be an expected behavior from these governments, given the nature of their systems. However, the West’s support for the rogue dictatorial regime is inconsistent with the values of freedom, justice, and democracy the West practices at home and espouses for the stable world order. The West led by the US has correctly and understandably declared terrorism as the number one menace to global peace while in a typical short-term calculus have also decided to consider dictatorial regimes like that of Ethiopia to be “allies” in its anti-terrorism effort and the disorder in the Greater Horn of Africa region. As a result, the West has made the Ethiopian regime a beneficiary of its substantial financial, political, diplomatic and even military support indirectly emboldening it to continue with impunity in its human rights abuse and repression of its own people. This policy on the part of the Western countries is not only short sighted and immoral but is more than likely to lead to greater instability especially when minority regimes collapse.
It is obvious that the repressive nature of the regime and its extensive human rights abuses are among the main causes of instability in the region. For all those who are willing to see the writing on the wall, the regime is internally in continuous conflict with its citizens; it uses scorch-earth military expeditions in the Ogaden region to the east and makes occasional incursions into Kenyan territory pursuing armed resisters. The regime is also locked in constant conflict with Eritrea in the north. This is the reason why the regime has one of the biggest standing army in Sub-Saharan Africa thus spending large portion of the poor country’s budget on the military while the danger of famine and lack of resources for basic needs of its population is always lurking around.
While this is the true reason for the TPLF regime to build an army that is beyond the country’s legitimate external security threat need, it cynically uses a fraction of this army in international peace keeping missions in order to get acquiescence from the West for its nefarious repression at home as well as use these missions as a source of hard currency income for its corrupt highest military brass. Recently, the Ethiopian government is even seen scheming to leverage its security cooperation with the West, hopefully in vain, for extending its repressive hand abroad by invoking the legitimate rebellion and resistance of Ethiopians as a terrorist act. The truth is that the Ethiopian people’s resistance is a very disciplined and well organized struggle that is focused only on a political goal of making Ethiopia a democratic country either by forcing the minority regime t to come to table or removing it if it continues to persist on blocking Ethiopians’ right for self-government. The people’s resistance movement is also very much aware of its responsibilities for the Ethiopian people, the people of the region and the international community. It is a resistance movement which is informed from the rich tradition of Ethiopian history. It is not a group of bandits and terrorists. It includes several members of the opposition who contested the ill-fated 2005 election. In deed it is a democratic force and represents a cross section of Ethiopians.
In their long history of existence, Ethiopians have shown no affinity for internalizing any sort of extremist ideology let alone to terrorist practice despite the persistent attempt to impose communism during the military regime and ethno-centric politics by the current regime on them. The history of Ethiopia is replete with building good relationship with its neighbors, peaceful coexistence and social stability. Ethiopian history also shows the courage and willingness of the people to lay their lives and honor to resist and prevail over colonialism and minority rule. Witness the Ethiopian people’s glorious victory in the battle of Adwa and their resistance against fascist Italy even when the world turned its face and gave them its cold shoulders.
To stay true to our forefathers’ tradition saying no to oppression and its own commitment for democracy, UMSED pledges to work hard and to pay the necessary sacrifice to put an end to the tyranny of TPLF dominated regime and to assure that the TPLF regime becomes the last dictatorship in Ethiopian history. The UMSED appeals to the peace loving people of the world and the international community to stand in solidarity with the Ethiopian people; for it is only by democratizing Ethiopia that a lasting stability can be achieved and the specter of terrorism can be dealt with effectively in one of the most volatile regions of the world. Anything else will further destabilize Ethiopia and turns the Horn of Africa into a hot bed of terrorism.
From the Foreign Relations Office of United Movement for the Salvation of Ethiopia through Democracy (UMSED)
September 25, 2015