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Ethiopian Diaspora Politics and the People of Tigray

                                                Ghelawdewos Araia  

IDEA Viewpoint

February 2, 2013

The purpose of this viewpoint is to address the current campaign unleashed against the people of Tigray by some diffident and disgruntled Ethiopians and to suggest a safe exit from the political morass of negative energy.

This is not the first time I have defended the people of Tigray. I have done it back in 2003, and every time the negative campaign is sharpened, I have attempted to provide countervailing ideas in the defense of Tigrayans. However, it should also be known that I have accorded same defense to the Oromos, Amharas, and other Ethiopian nationalities. I do not prescribe to nationality politics as a prime agenda in any given setting; I am a pan-Africanist and pan-Ethiopianist and for more than three decades, I have embraced an overarching ideology that unifies rather than separates respective ethnic groups in Ethiopia, although I also support the self-determination of cultural and ethnic groups within a unified and indivisible Ethiopia. There is no need for me to elaborate further on what I stand for; thanks to information technology, interested readers can google my works and see for themselves.  

In 2003, when some disgruntled Diaspora Ethiopians against the people of Tigray worked virulent and incessant campaigns, I was compelled to sharpen my pen and write on behalf of Tigrayans and I managed to produce an essay entitled �Hail the People of Tigray, Defenders of Ethiopian Sovereignty and Custodians of its Civilization�.  The essay, by and large, rendered justice to Tigrayans� contribution in the defense of Ethiopia and in brief this is how I put it then:

�It all began in Tigray. Tigray is the cradle and hub of Ethiopian civilization. In Tigray, Ethiopia�s future seems to contend its past while the present testifies cyclical historical events as constant reminders of the distant and near past. In Tigray, the modern period seems to tend the requisite touch of antiquity, as if to deliberately endure uninterrupted Ethiopian political state. After all, this quintessentially Ethiopian northern regional state is the plain field of ancient civilization and unparalleled conventional wisdom, and as a custodian to that epic African ingenuity.�

In 2005, there was another attack against Tigrayans by a British journalist Michaela Wrong, who incidentally had no clue whatsoever of the history of the people of Tigray and their Ethiopian brethren, but she somehow mimicked the Eritrean bias and stereotype toward Tigrayans. I was again compelled to utilize my only weapon, the mighty pen, and here is how I vented then:

�Humbug ignoramus people as well as those who are frightened and challenged by the magnanimity of Tigrayans (quintessential Ethiopians), not surprisingly will try to underplay or undermine the Tigrayan initiative and achievements.� I continued by saying, �They simply don�t know how proud the Tigrayans are of their heritage and how solidified their integrity is; how the Tigrayans are full of themselves; how humble and generous they are. Tigrayans exhibit resilience and determination in the daily encounter of their social life, and when it comes to the enemy they very much are like a provoked lion; unlike some of their provocateurs overwhelmed with infantile emotions, they are highly calculated and when necessary they make the move when they are sure they [will] win the day or are poised to overcome difficulties.�

In 2009, one former Derg member by the name Brigadier General Haile Melese contributed an article in Amharic and questioned whether the people of Tigray are pretenders or are suspended in silence in cross roads, and it was posted on Ethiomedia. Although the General�s remarks were full of curses and his analyses were very low by all measure, I had to respond so that others can learn. He claimed that the people of Tigray are exceptionally benefiting from the current state of affairs in Ethiopia; he told us that the Ethiopian Air force was relocated to Mekelle and furthermore he attempted to support his fantastic ideas by reasoning that Ethiopia�s resources were being diverted to Tigray and as a result even the caves in Tigray were filled to the brim.

In my response article entitled �who is Ethiopian?� (Amharic) that was then intended to counter the false stories that the former Derg member tried to fabricate and establish it as truth, I had to critique the wrong perception some Ethiopians have on the definition of �Ethiopian�. Some of his made-up stories mentioned above were devoid of common sense, not to mention lack of integrity on his part. But what is astonishing is when innuendos are used as tools of campaign against the people of Tigray, the websites that serve as platforms for such fabrications are in full accord with the Tigray bashers, just for money.

The latest barrage and curse against the people of Tigray is fomented by a group of Ethiopians who run and manage the so-called Ethiopian Satellite Television or ESAT. This media, almost always, attacks Tigrayans and it looks that its mission is to mobilize other Ethiopians against Tigrayans, but ESAT is more of an empty kettle than a mobilizing force.

As far as I am concerned, the ESAT group is simply pandering in Ethiopian politics without any foothold whatsoever in Ethiopia. I personally would have liked to dissuade the ESAT managers and news anchors to rethink their negative campaign against Tigrayans, but it would be an exercise in futility on my part, because they seem to have chosen to attack the people of Tigray on purpose. They are coward hypocrites who seem to enjoy in singling out and cajoling Tigrayans, at least in their verbose TV programs. In some instances, however, they were clever enough to manipulate some gullible and na�ve Tigrayans to indirectly reinforce the objectives of ESAT.

ESAT claims that it is an independent media network and tells us that it is �the first independent Ethiopian Satellite service tasked to produce accurate and balanced news and information.� As far as I am concerned, and as any person whose mental faculty is in place would safely assume, �accurate and balanced news� must first and foremost capture the objective conditions, the realities on the ground, and events as they unfold in Ethiopia, without slicing, interpreting, or distorting. Short of this, no media outlet could hope to present �accurate and objective� analysis of any given situation. ESAT�s news presentation suffers from selective amnesia, a debilitating psychological disease. If ESAT claims �accurate and objective news�, it ought to present what the Ethiopian people are currently engaged in and what the government is doing, instead of repeatedly talking about the TPLF or Woyane. It should indeed cover the modest development projects initiated by the Government while at the same time criticizing the status quo.

Criticism leveled against the government, however, should be objective and fair. Ethiopians should have the right to criticize their own government and I strongly believe in the legitimacy of political and social criticism, but the latter could not become fair and objective if it is not supplemented by sincere motives and analyses; most notably, critical appraisals should be cemented in the construction of rational analysis. For instance, if an individual Ethiopian or groupings direct criticism or protest against the seating EPRDF government, it is expected of them that they should also acknowledge the achievements of the EPRDF, including the many development programs in education, infrastructure, industry, and agriculture.

When I say objective criticism, it should be clear at the outset that I am not doing this to paint a rosy picture and salvage the EPRDF from its weaknesses. I am saying this for the sole purpose of maintaining objectivity and integrity, which I believe are twin assets in any investigative discourse and/or discussion forums.

If Ethiopians could not see how Hawassa, Adama, Bahr Dar, and Mekelle have been transformed in the last two decades, they would not be able to see anything else, and if they are willing to remain myopic, that would be even worse. Ethiopians must open up and engage in objective analysis rather than distracting themselves by squaring on Tigrayans and distract other Ethiopians from focusing on pressing and timely issues.

Most importantly, why is it that these Diaspora Ethiopian groupings (which by the way are a minority vis-�-vis other Ethiopians in Ethiopia and outside Ethiopia) are so much focused on Tigray and Tigrayans? What could be the real cause for the Tigray phobia? The bottom line, it seems to me, is the power nexus, and the cynical Ethiopian Diaspora is troubled by the fact that Tigrayans have captured the helm of power politics in the Ethiopian state. But one may ask, �what is wrong in that, aren�t Tigrayans Ethiopians too�?  �Yes�but�� could be the answer of the Tigray phobia groupings. They may further elaborate by saying, �we campaigned during the 2005 elections for the deportation of Tigrayans under the slogan of �Nebret wede kebelle; Tigre wede Mekelle� and we still insist that they go back to where they have come from.�

The �Tigre wede Mekele� slogan of the charlatans, of course, is not uniquely of one isolated group. It is also presented in a different form in the weekend Amharic daily broadcasts in the Washington Metro Area, but what the na�ve charlatans don�t know is the fact that some of the radio hosts were either former Derg members or more specifically some of them were working hand-in-glove with Melaku Tefera in the murder of hundreds of Ethiopian youth in the Gondar Area. The other thing the gullible charlatans, who raise money for the radio/TV shows, did not know is the hosts of these shows are pathological liars who happen to be brilliant at deception.

Whether the radio/TV anti-Tigrayan sinister drama emanates from mere hatred or despondency, or whether the hosts of these shows are ruminating with disappointments is not clear. What is clear is, these self-proclaimed �Ethiopian patriots� are in fact anti-Ethiopian and they are not in a position to contributing anything toward the progress of Ethiopia. If at all, they could contribute to cultural and political fragmentation of the Ethiopian society, and because they are engaged in toxic activity, they are not only limited in fomenting string of curses, but also in countering their own interests. It may sound paradoxical, but they in fact are contributing to their own deterioration and obsolescence and to the self-perpetuating cycle of dysfunction.

By way of concluding, I like to underscore that I am not shaken by the Mickey Mouse politics of Ethiopian Diaspora, who are regretfully a spent force; on the contrary I am at ease with what the Ethiopian people are doing at Home, including the inspiring and hope elevating performance of Ethiopians in such events as �Ethiopian Nationalities Day� and in celebrating their Ethiopian unity. The Ethiopian people have reaffirmed to the world, time and again, that they are steadfast in their unity and their Ethiopian heritage. They have reiterated on many occasions that they would work in unison to transform Ethiopia. I would urge the Ethiopian Diaspora to catch up with Ethiopians at Home and refrain from campaigning against the people of Tigray. The Diaspora has still a chance to safely exit from its current mess and engage in concerted actions that could benefit their motherland.


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