The Tweets the motivated this thought bubble.
In my eyes, if you still need any more proof that the international community KNOW who Abiy and Isias are and what they do, then please read this wikileak, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08ASMARA543_a.html . But for the remainder of this thought bubble, I wish to discuss why this knowledge I think can help shape the advocacy plans of all diasporas wanting to help their people.
It has been 13 years since that profile was published. It goes through the very intimate fears and plans of Isaias Afwerki and his own characteristic short comings. Yet, Isaias’ fear that that an American Assassination attempt will take place, has not come true.
And I used to, when I was in my 20’s, ask why? Why in the world are such horrible tyrants allowed to rule? Why don’t those who defend my lands, stop the people who are killing millions? Why don’t they act when they see general Butt Naked of Liberia regularly committing cannibalism? Or the likes of Robert Mugabe ruling with entirety over his people, who are too afraid to speak out against his actions are still in power? Or why does the silenced bubble of North Korea even exist? If we are living in a free world, why do those people have to march through the streets in straight lines like an army of ants?
I questioned the nature of humanity and God him self and was stuck in a loop of despair, that is, until I got to my 30’s. Now I don’t wish to discuss my own personal spiritual journey here, but the explaining of certain life events I feel is important. So please bear with me a little longer.
By the time I was 30 I had started a family and was left to be a single parent. I was trapped in a job that I truly hated and in some ways was facing a spiritual trauma by the actions of my employer.
But despite how awful I felt it was, I could not leave. I was earning way too much money and I had responsibilities. I learnt to enjoy the privilege of what felt like enslavement to my employer, as it allowed me to be economically sovereign. I was losing my integrity in one way, by compromising my values and moral beliefs on what makes a happy and healthy life, but I was gaining my dignity in another way as I was self sufficient and not reliant on anyone else or the welfare institution to pay the way of my family. Through protecting my own sovereignty, I was able to make all the necessary choices I required, without having any one twist my arm in a direction they wanted.
With that covered off I want to now explain the parallels between this personal life story and how this applies to economic policy and foreign diplomatic relations during the Meles era and what we can use from this knowledge to advocate for the people of the Horn in a way that is customised to the unique environment that they share.
During times of despair, it is common to seek for help, to encourage us to get back up and keep going. And that is a very noble and relevant call to make. When we cannot clear the fog, its wise to ask others to shine the light. So, during the late 80’s accepting the help of the west to assist in peace negotiations was very important. But once the stability was set, I would say the edging out of that hand was also vitally important to maintain the ability to grow at a rate that was acceptable to the country. I am not an expert on ERPDF or Meles policy at all. I offer my observation based on the parallels of maintaining one’s own ability to persevere and using resilience over victimhood.
Had Meles chosen the path that ensured massive debt was to only one lender or a few that contribute to the major western capital system and not spread it over the likes of other world lenders plus paired that with no industrialised plans to improve the internal capital growth via the slow introduction of industrialisation, Ethiopia would very precariously be able to claim the title of non-European-colonisation till this day. You only have to listen to other African scholars to learn, many state the extensive loop of debt and interest repayments have left them in a cycle of colonisation despite their political freedoms. Now, in my eyes and simple understanding, the choices to have the market partially closed off to the western money funds, was in fact in the interest of maintaining the sovereignty of the country’s economy and is what allowed it to grow and reinvest in the people. Which, I personally see as a plus and is comparable to my own situation of pulling my self out of a mess, but still ensuring that my life, was in my hands and no one can tell me how to fix it, but ensuring I was not a client to any patron empire. If you need a more historical reference to this modern example, the roman client states of the 1st century BCE onwards saw many previously independent kingdoms at the mercy of the Romans for protection in return for reinforcements, money and loyalties. These previous smaller entities were reliant on the greater power to ensure the safety of their people. I argue, had Meles/ EPRDF allowed the debt to be in only ones hands, the sovereignty would be compromised much like those ancient client states of the Roman empire.
The lack of submission into a client/ patron like arrangements with the western capital system not only shocked the world, as it was not a common occurrence for a post-war state, it made them angry and various leaders had been tapping on the EPRDFs shoulders for decades to be able to expand their piece of the pie. Now, as I said, I am no expert, so please, take the time to look up the interviews that John Young has participated in over the last few months, and he will explain it better.
One thing I noticed during my time on wikileaks, hunting for the truth, the USA came quite involved in the situation and pushed the mandate of “democratisation” to change the systems to allow for the opening of the market. I am not pointing fingers or stating claims to how they have been involved in interfering with political groups, but it does appear that certain unhappy members of the political opposition in the 2005 elections called on the help of them. Many reports of secret conversations with political informants and plans to “implement democracy” are all found in the leaks. And the door to reattempt the patron/client relationship formation opened. By those who were not in power inviting the west in, the stability and sovereignty had started to decline. Pointing this out however, does not mean that I think there wasn’t a need to change the political sphere especially in Oromia, where the population had never really had their freedom fighters represent them politically. I am yet to research the political space of the other regions. But from the current situation, I feel those from the Amhara state who knocked at the door of the west, were seeking control and power, not necessarily with the intention to improve the democracy. It is quite often in history, the driver for a war is power, money and territorial claims, but to gain the support of the masses, they need to sell a moral angle. The use of the ESAT media in creating this moral requirement and narrative is something that truly requires a native Amharic speaker to research in full.
Further on, the act of the political opposition asking the west for help, the sovereignty of the country had been compromised, the cracks of unity had been exposed and with patience, the opening of the market will be possible. No matter what happened after such an invitation, the Ethiopian State, whether Meles and the top officials of the EPRDF had realised it or not, they were now in theory a client to the west, well in particularly the USA. Trade-offs and deals will have been made and the foreign policy and stance on Ethiopia would have been mandated in the psyche of the senate and CIA, passed down from one leader to the next. The only thing left to do is wait.
Now onto how these things often play out, a dominant power group set their eyes on a place in the world. Back some kind of rebellions, wait for the chaos to be complete, sweep in and offer debt relief to the people, if they reject, back another internal actor and then wait again for them to submit to their rule. It’s a tale as old as time, if you can’t get the power legitimately. Wait for them to crumble and then come in as the saviour and the power and resources will be right in your hands.
I am sure many out there have witnessed this kind of relationship at least once in the friends or families lives. The woman wants to leave her over controlling partner, the man does not want her to, she puts up a struggle defiant on her own will and then by slowly breaking down her confidence and self-esteem, she stays, she has lost her ability to have an education, earn her own money and now, she has children to feed. He wins her sovereign psyche and spirit, and she is left a co-dependent mess, drained of her former self. Leaving her in battered state, blaming herself for the abuse and failing to get herself out of the guilt phase on her own, so the repetitive cycle continues. Unless of course, she has the patience and tenacity to wait out her abuse and leave at the right time!
So why is all this relevant now, to the atrocities in Tigray?
Flirting with the empire but holding them off, the Tigrayan super duo Yohannes IV and Ras Alula never entered a submissive marriage. They maintained Tigray’s integrity and dignity by ruling the Semitic and northern Cushitic parts of the empire, and never allowed Tigray to be ruled by outsiders. After Yohannes’ death, driven by the strength of Ras Alula and the many ethnic groups north and south of the Mereb river and the assistance of the Afarians the invading Italians were kept at bay from hitting the core of the Empire. The success of Adwa kept those in the boundaries of modern-day Tigray free of the European powers grip of abuse, but their capacity was limited by Meneliks signature on the treaty of Wochale. The result was the dividing of the lands and compromising their strength by having ½ of the population given to the Italians. The loss of the now Eritrean half of the community is I believe the pre-curser to the decisions made to enter a marriage with the “Ethiopians” and is when the Tegaru started becoming the battered wife. For decades the people were being abused and taken advantage of by the emperors. Tigray (and of course other nations) have been behest to the commandeering nature of the Ethiopian state formation machines and Emperors. They have been made to believe that if they forego their internal history and donate it to the cause of the Ethiopian Empire they will benefit. In the abuse cycke, this is known as the denial phase, so long as the threat was not from the outside then the abuse was not so bad.
Skipping the guilt stage, the enlightenment phase commenced when the reality that this was not the case, the Woyane movements commenced, first in the 1940s and then again in the 1970s. Tigray was so close to getting to the final stage of freedom, the responsibility phase, where they often take the path to leave. However, the decision to stay together in the 1990s might be when the unjustified guilt phase set in. These abusive relationships are never clear cut and easy to end. Its often said, that when Meles lead the TPLF to Addis and saw the suffering of the other nations under the hands of the imperial powers, he changed his mind and donated his political and economic plans that he had for Tigray to the entire federation. Aware of the threat of returning to the denial phase of abuse or being taken advantage of in the their weakened state, he battered off the wests advances to also entrap the people in a new abusive relationship. Ethiopia would not be a dishonest wife and cheat even on their bad marriage.
Back to the situation in Tigray now, after the 8 months of gruelling war fare, Tigray has received its partial freedom from the abusive husband. And it was all due to the efforts of its own peoples capabilities, Tigray has won (almost) the right to self-determination. They have been battered and bruised and still suffering from the wounds of hunger. But they have not forgone their dignity! With all their might they have valiantly risen above the odds. BUT they are not free yet. They are vulnerable and at risk of opportunistic predators sucking the life back out of them if they pick their allies incorrectly.
One of the most delightful things I have learnt over the last few months is that the Ethiopian penial code allows for the internal prosecution of genocide. Those who conspired to commence and those who took great pleasure to enforce it CAN be held account within the home territory. And now with that knowledge it made such amusing sense as to why so many of the Derg’s cadres never took the risk to return to Ethiopia during the EPRDF era. They were waiting for someone to grant them impunity, EXACTLY what Abiy did.
I am writing this for you to all ask yourself in the diaspora, is there a better way than asking the west to the #StopTheTigrayGenocide #….MustActNow?
Tigray herself has stopped the initial threat; she has what it takes to completely secure her boundaries. IF we continue to ask the west to focus on stopping the genocide and prosecute the perpetrators through the ICC, that door of predatory patron client relationships is wide open.
I mentioned at the start of this thought bubble, the west knows who Abiy and Isais are, deep down into the core of their psychological makeup, much better than you and I do. The benefit of being able to mop up the economic mess is a pay off for their patience and retribution by human suffering on those who stood in their way.
I truly believe at the commencement of the war, the initiative to show the atrocities was greatly needed, the protests and twitter campaigns allowed for at least some coverage to be given by the media. But since the TDFs incredible actions and the return of the TPLF to Mekelle, I personally feel that awareness phase is over. And if it continues for much longer it will end up compromising the sovereignty of Tigray once more, just like that door knocking in 2005 put into motion the state of play of internal interference in democracy and placing the polity into another denial phase of battered wife syndrome. The kindness can be predatory. And the money used travelling around to make noise could be going to the people of Tigray.
Instead, my suggestion; think like Meles. Think of ingenious ways to get the help that the Tegaru need, the food and medication. I do not have the answers, but by knowing how closely aid organisations work with their political financial sponsors, push them my idea is email them on mass about why they need to advocate for the west to criticise Abiy’s campaign, in words more appropriate to the analogy given, call out his wife bashing behaviour. Ask them to be voice on the inside and encourage them to push for more financial help to airdrop all the aid. OR write briefing papers and roadmaps for healthy diplomatic relationships in the future, draft out pathways for the perpetrators to be held account, think of exit strategies to create better political alliances with neighbours, research the media of ESAT and the state sponsored media in the last three years to create a catalogue of abuse, re-write the history books from Tigray’s perspective, plan out business models that can yield the most from micro-loans within Tigray, look up environmentally sustainable solutions to power, learn about trauma recovery in indigenous communities and how they have been able to successfully heal from external tortures.
There is so much that you in the diaspora have in your hands in helping Tigray grow. Your voice at protests is not all.
In conclusion, I ask you all, be aware of what phase Tigray is in the battered wife cycle and look to how they can finally be free and allowed to heal in a new and more amazing life. See the potential predators around them and help get them some help, but not to push them back into an abuse cycle. Use the privilege of western education to give the people the best chance of maintaining their sovereignty and dignity with integrity in the future.