By Daniel Teferra (PhD)*
In a recent SBS Radio interview, Mr Tamrat Lynne, the one time Prime Minister of the TPLF regime, said that the leaders in Ethiopia have to change their thinking in order to resolve the current conflict. Mr. Tamrat Lynne was right although he did not explain the thinking of the TPLF leaders.
The TPLF leaders in Ethiopia espouse a limited world outlook. For instance, for them, Ethiopia is synonymous with the Amhara, especially Shoa Amhara. They think that Ethiopia’s problem is Amhara domination; and consequently, the solution, according to them, is the suppression of the Amhara by the formerly “oppressed nations and nationalities.”
Even if the foregoing is accepted, liberation does not mean the suppression of the oppressor by the oppressed. For instance, upon taking state power, the TPLF leaders treated Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s financial center, as their own fief, thereby doing anything they wanted to enrich themselves and their associates. They alienated land freely in the City and the surrounding areas as well as the provinces. They gave the northwestern territory of Gondar (which they call Amhara) to Tigray.
Early this year, the people in the Oromo regions held demonstrations opposing the Addis Ababa Master Plan, which threatened the neighboring Oromo towns. The security forces opened fire at peaceful demonstrators killing several hundred people according to many reports. While all this was taking place in the Oromo regions, a territorial dispute between the government and the people of Gondar had been brewing over the years.
The people of Gondar had been appealing to the government for a peaceful resolution of their case through their grievance committee and council of elders. However, the Committee was rebuffed by the government repeatedly.
Finally, a well-organized uprising broke out in Gondar on July 31, 2016. The people demanded the return of their territory as well as an end to ethnic division and TPLF rule. The Uprising immediately drew the support of neighboring Amhara regions of Gojjam and Wollo.
The Gondar Uprising espoused a broad world outlook for Ethiopia—unity of all the people and willingness to resolve disputes through peaceful means—something unknown in the history of the country. The Gondar Uprising is also different in the sense that it was not organized by customary politicians. It was an uprising of the people, by the people for the people.
The TPLF leaders have put themselves in a serious dilemma. On the one hand, the people of Gondar would like to see their northwestern territory returned to them. They are pressing their demand without fear because they have a lot to lose. On the other hand, the TPLF leaders have already settled tens of thousands of peasants from Tigray in northwestern Gondar. Therefore, they may not want to relinquish the territory.
The only way to resolve this dilemma is to return to the previous provincial boundaries and let people live wherever they choose. This will, of course, require a fundamental change in the thinking, held by the leaders presently. If the TPLF leaders choose to travel the same road, they could eventually take the entire country down with them.
*Emeritus Professor of Economics at FSU; University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, email@example.com.