Since my childhood, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan have been torn apart in a senseless and brutal conflict. It was a war between brothers and sisters from the same womb who regard one another as adversaries. By any criterion of the 21st century, such a protracted and unreasonable confrontation cannot be viewed as bravery, but rather as an indication of backwardness and primitive thought.
Any political and economic grievances can only be resolved through dialogue utilizing the widely accessible rule of law at the local, regional, and international levels. It is common knowledge that the majority of conflicts in Africa are supported by nefarious intentions, regional and global powers, interest groups, and those seeking to profit from such brutal wars.
It is essential, however, to acknowledge the role that elites with political and economic interests play in fanning the flames of these confrontations. Without elites and interest groups, foreign powers are unable to exploit and inflame local politics to their advantage.
During the same period, there was civil war in Africa; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Central Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, and Mali. In addition, conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir were constantly in the news worldwide. Still, while some bring peace, others keep trying to get out of the vicious cycle.
As a result of these battles, millions of people were uprooted, hundreds of thousands were killed, and millions more were emotionally and psychologically traumatised. These horrific wars amongst brothers and sisters led to the creation of two new countries, Eritrea and South Sudan, and Somalia’s breakup into a number of “de facto” states.
Given the complexities of bringing about lasting peace in the Horn of Africa, it is vital to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia from an empiricist perspective. I am convinced that the Ethiopian civil war will continue to be fueled by three leading causes: the victory of Adwa over imperial power; water politics; and geopolitical factors. It is essential to analyze the justifications objectively, without fear and fever.
Without “us versus them”, it is essential to ask why this war persists, claiming the lives of thousands of young people and displacing women and children in affected areas. The question is, how can we define and establish peace? As the Horn of Africa continues to be plagued by internal strife and various types of all-out war, systematic discrimination and backing from its historical adversaries are exacerbated. How can we continue to foster peace if we refrain from pointing fingers?
Pursuing peace entails reflecting on collective failure and examining erroneous motives and ego. Thus, I would like to impose systemic questions in the hope that one or both sides would realize that they are fighting a nonsensical war and ask them to be humane.
For the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)
Ever since the beginning of the Woyane movement in 1942, the TPLF has been a significant source of violence in Ethiopia, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people on both sides. The innocent people of Tigray continue to be subjected to unjust scarification to keep a small group of elites in power. When/how many deaths do you think are necessary before you decide that enough is enough?
During your tenure as a ruling party and government from 1991 to 2018, you claimed to be a champion of marginalized voices and ethnic and tribal minorities. In contrast, you were busy silencing all sorts of opponents’ groups, including formations identical to yours, such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Gambella, and Benishangul. In addition, you engage in a border conflict with Eritrea, participate in the internal affairs of Somalia, displace almost half a million Ethiopian soldiers, and have nearly wiped-out opposition groups.
To refresh your recollection, after ruling for 28 years, you were thrown out of the central government by your own comrades. Then you classified every Ethiopian as an adversary. What sort of insanity is this?
To Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party and government:
While accepting and defending the constitution, is it not paradoxical to fight against a structure? When will the administration be ready to fix the party program written into the constitution based on a Eurocentric, Stalinist view of the question of the nation and nationalities? When will the administration correct the governance structure that was meant to split the country along linguistic and ethnic lines?
When will the government begin to correct erroneous narratives that assert the existence of an oppressor and an oppressed, despite the fact that all Ethiopians are of the same negroid race?
What peacemaking choices are available since the Tigrayan people and the TPLF cannot be identical? The peace proposals should be disclosed to all Ethiopians on a consistent basis. The government is obligated to offer the Tigray region all necessary services without conditions.
Why does the government not employ local dialogue channels to prevent bloodshed by dispatching elderly people throughout Ethiopia? The approach is a great way to solve “Ethiopian problems by Ethiopians” because the people involved understand how both sides think.
To the people of Tigray:
When will the Tigray people say enough to the TPLF’s aggressiveness towards their brothers and sisters on the other side and demand peace so they can live in harmony with the rest of Ethiopia? I implore the people of the Tigray region to voice their concerns about the central government in a manner befitting Ethiopian culture and tradition.
To the people of Ethiopia:
Ethiopia is known as the “cradle of humanity.” Its ancient civilization gave a lot to Africa and the world as a source of philosophical wisdom and as a nation that defended the imperial force, as well as a source of pride for all Africans.
In these matrixes, the people of the Tigray region have made substantial contributions to Ethiopian collectables. Hence, the rest of the Ethiopian people should refrain from alienating the people of Tigray. There should not be an “Us vs Them” mentality since we are “them” and “they” reside within us.
To the international community:
As an African and an Ethiopian, I appreciate those who have reached out out of genuine concern. However, it would be preferable for all parties concerned in the conflict in the northern corridor to appreciate a local resolution.
The “so-called media” and those who intentionally sow discord for benefit will be shut out of every possible outlet at some point. Ethiopians have a settlement process when all sides come to their senses, and I can tell you that you will be excluded, as was the case at the Battle of Adwa in 1896.
To the African Union:
The African Union has all legal and moral rights to be involved and take all necessary action on both sides without prejudices. At the end of the day, it is all about the people who are victims on both sides, not the few elite on either side.
However, the intervention and the solution should be purely African without involving any foreign powers whatsoever, whatever the case may be. Otherwise, history will judge you harshly.
To African scholars:
I got the opportunity to view and study a number of publications concerning the struggle between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF insurgents.
Some, in my opinion, are the victims of propaganda and the mainstream media’s misrepresentation of historical and on-the-ground facts. Some uninformed academics have drawn parallels between the conflict between Palestine and Israel and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
Thus, it is preferable to recommend reading and conducting a thorough study without favouring any viewpoint. Anything we write today based on false premises will come back to haunt us by setting a bad precedent for African unity, peace, and development in the long term.
Finally, the fact that both sides know each other from their time spent working together under the umbrella of a single party complicates the bargaining process.
In the TPLF era, the current government officials rose through the ranks to their current positions. Therefore, the TPLF tends to dismiss or minimize the efficacy of the established government order. From the government’s perspective, the revolt is also being undermined.
Regardless of either side’s capacity, they must be aware that distraction does not necessitate sophistication; instead, a wicked mentality can cause you to oppose any force on earth. History has taught us, and we have seen how Somalians and Iraqis destabilized the superpowers on the battlefields.
I earnestly urge both parties to set aside their egos and seek a civilised resolution. And it is my hope that this will mark the end of the era of Ethiopian conflict. As a society, they must put an end to the brutal conflicts and move forward with economic progress and political reconciliation.
I wish everyone in Ethiopia a Happy New Year in 2015. And I hope the following year, which begins on September 11 this week, will bring peace and tranquility to all of us. I hope this pointless and brutal war is behind us and that the region is stabilized and continues to enjoy peace and prosperity.
Contributor: Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD), a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute of Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC).