Ethiopia On the Brink: The Politics of Strange Bedfellows

Prime Minister Abiy
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Beleagured Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

[Aluta Continua!]

Harold Acemah

What began one year ago as a rule of law operation with “clear, limited and achievable objectives” as Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed called it has sadly degenerated into a fully-fledged war in which both sides have been accused by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of committing heinous and shameful atrocities and crimes against humanity.

The fratricidal and vicious civil war raging on in Ethiopia, which started as a conflict between Tigrayan forces and the Ethiopian Federal army, has spread like bush fire and taken a turn for the worse. An unholy alliance cobbled by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and seven briefcase outfits of no consequence appears to be waging a relentless war to overthrow the Government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. It’s a sad and tragic development for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development  (IGAD), Africa and the international community.

On November 5, a coalition of nine Ethiopian rebel groups was formed. TPLF, OLA and seven assorted armed gangs of bandits met and signed an agreement for the formation of United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces (UFEFCF) to dismantle Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government by force and thereafter form a transitional authority. I tell you, it’s easier said than done. The agreement was strangely signed at the National Press Club, Washington DC, USA.

This unholy alliance which consists of strange bedfellows and former sworn enemies includes the following groups: Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front, Agaw Democratic Movement, Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement, Gambella People's Liberation Army, Kimant Democratic Party, Oromo Liberation Army, Sidama National Liberation Front, Somali State Resistance and Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Except TPLF and OLA, the rest are mercenaries, fortune hunters and briefcase types.

UFEFCF coalition reminds me of the Moshi Unity Conference attended by 22 Ugandan exile groups, including Uganda People’s Congress (UP, Democratic Party (DP) and FRONASA, which met in Moshi, Tanzania in March 1979 at the behest of President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to form Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Mwalimu Nyerere in his wisdom used the Moshi conference to forge a temporary unity of purpose among Ugandan exiles and establish UNLF and UNLA as a cover to launch and wage war against the notorious military regime of Gen. Idi Amin despite objections from the OAU the predecessor of the AU. The war against the Amin regime was waged successfully by the Tanzania Peoples Defense Forces  (TPDF), but Mwalimu allowed UNLA to take credit for a job well done by Tanzanian forces.

It’s amazing and intriguing that TPLF and its allies met and signed a rather dubious deal in Washington, DC, which has not surprisingly raised concern and dust in Addis Ababa. One hopes that TPLF and allies will learn some lessons from UNLF. I am skeptical that they will do so.

TPLF is basically an ethnic outfit formed to advance and pursue interests of the Tigrayan people of Ethiopia. TPLF reminds me of some organizations in our neck of the woods which claim and pretend to be nationalist, patriotic and pan-Africanist, but deep down they are in fact shamelessly pursuing an ethnic agenda.

The challenges and problems facing Ethiopia are fundamentally political in nature. Ethiopia is not faced with an internal military problem. As a scholar of politics, I know for a fact that there is no lasting military solution to political problems.

Against this background, I would like to appeal to IGAD, AU and the United Nations to intervene urgently and engage all Ethiopian parties in a dialogue and negotiations for the purpose of finding a lasting political solution to the Ethiopian quagmire and save Ethiopia from anarchy, chaos and disintegration. The gallant people of Ethiopia deserve a lot better.

Arua, Uganda.

November 9, 2021. 

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