Monday, March 5
The Killing Fields
Just before the 'election' of 2005, Ethiopia's dictator had a conversation with a few EU Parliamentarians interested in the election observation process. Remember, American observers were turned away as "CIA agents of Imperialism", Ethiopian observers were subjected to arrest, intimidation and death, while FIVE EU observers accompanied the Prime Minister to his own uncontested vote / propaganda opportunity.
Anyway, the following exchange occured around the whole "Rwanda Genocide" accusation by the 'tribal divide and rule' regime against the opposition. From EthioMedia:
Mr. WIJKMAN - We all know too little to really make a judgment. We discussed with one of the opposition about the Rwandan thing. He said that they were being accused of pushing the Tigrayans out. He said how can they do that when they have thousands of them as members.Thus is defined the essence of the regime and its relations with all Ethiopians - lies swallowed whole by the true constituency of the regime in the form of foreign aid givers, tribal / regional / religious divide and rule, and land policies guaranteed to cause eternal poverty and oppression.
H.E. the P.M. - If they get 1% of the Vote in Tigray, you have got a thousand dollars.
Mr. WIJKMAN - If I win that bet, I will return it back to Ethiopia.
H.E. the P.M. - There is a history for this. Many of the senior leadership of the opposition are people who were associated with the Dergue. Much of the resistance to Mengistu came in the form of an armed struggle mainly for Tigray and Eritrea. Eritrea is no longer in the equation.
But the Tigrayans remain to be part of Ethiopia. So the issue of the war on self-determination and land which we thought was settled by the constitution is still being fought over, fortunately without bullets.
EthioMedia also has an account of an interview with Ethiopia's dictator conducted by Professor Donald Levine. He asked Ethiopia's dictator why there were Tigrayans in the opposition and why Tigrayans in Addis voted for the opposition if they were to be victims of a planned genocide.
(Indeed, every district nationwide where foreign observers where present overwhelmingly voted for the opposition - no final vote tally has been released almost two years later for any districts. This even for districts where observers could be shot at will.)
The response of Prime Minister Zenawi was to say with a practiced, repulsive glibness that in Nazi Germany's concentration camps that some victims were forced to attack each other. The Professor's response was appropriate
When I heard that, honestly, that churned my stomach.Thus, is further defined the essence of the regime and particularly its relations with the Tigrayan people. The notion that all Hindus in Uttar Pradesh or all Puerto Ricans in Harlem agreed with one man or one party would be manifestly offensive to all civilized people. Yet the notion that all Tigrayans agree with Meles or else risk or deserve suffering and scorn is supposed to be just fine with all.
What Meles is describing is not a relationship with Tigrayans based on loyalty or common interest or affection but one based on coercion, fear and contempt. That is the only way that such absolute obedience can be rationally expected from any community and the only way that any opposition from any quarter takes on an apocalyptic tone of genocide.
Meles is not just telling lies in the above quotes - the threats against any opponents, particularly Tigrayan ones are clear to any observer who does not need facility with 'wax and gold' but who only needs to pay attention.
In essence what he is saying is that political power for him is a matter of life and death and total war that goes beyond the platitudes of democracy that the message is wrapped up in.
To Meles, to be Tigrayan is by definition to be loyal to him and his minions unto death. The threat was based on decades of brutally remaking Tigray in his own image and the hatred he hoped had been created against Tigrayans by his own policies. He has power for now but the hatred bit has not worked and never will.
Tigrayans were just the first victims of Meles Inc. just as Russians were the first victims of the Bolsheviks. Tigrayans had the tragic misfortune of having to bear the weight of both Meles and Mengistu in the competition to see which band of Marxist-Leninists would get to wreck Ethiopia with a system that always produced streams of refugees, hunger and oppression.
The current ruling party has always abused the good name of Tigrayans just as Mengistu abused the good name of all Ethiopians. Both distorted the history of their victims, purposeful dismantled their traditions, criminalized their culture, and attempted to erase independent thought to justify the creation of the two most bloody and greedy aristocracies in all of Ethiopian history.
The book Mao: The Unknown Story is about one of the most bloody figures in human history whose 70 million Chinese victims perished on the very same path that both Mengistu and Meles gladly chose for Ethiopia.
Mao was an inspiration to both Mengistu and Meles. From 1974 on both dictators made the people of Tigray suffer in killing fields for the interchangeable purposes of 'Scientific Socialism' and 'Revolutionary Democracy'.
For example, in the early days of the Chinese Communist Party a frequent weapon used by Mao to kill enemies among the party and people was the charge of being Anti-Bolshevik (A.B.). This means that daring to consider Chinese interests without giving primacy to those of the Soviet Union (or just being accused of the same) was rewarded with a death sentence. Millions died in the AB purges.
In Mengistu's Scientific Socialist Ethiopia being an AB was also cause for capital punishment. At first the AB purge hit Dergue members, then other ranks of the armed forces and finally all of Ethiopia. The punishment hundreds of thousands got for not having a sufficiently 'Internationalist' perspective and and being overconcerned with Ethiopian interests was death.
In the earlier days of Meles and his Revolutionary Democratic Tigray all the way through 1998, being an AB was not an issue since initially the Bolsheviks were supporting Mengistu and later they lost the Cold War. What did get tens of thousands of Tigrayans from fighters to cadres to civilians killed was overconcern with Ethiopian or Tigrayan issues while not displaying sufficient loyalty to the cause of the EPLF.
In another essay, Professor Levine had this to say about the roots of the tribal / class divide and rule origins of Ethiopia's current dictatorship
[E]thno-Marxist sentiment drove the most ambitious elements of the TPLF movement. It led those who took political control of the TPLF to turn against Tigrayan political elements who did not support Eritrean independence. Before long that led, evidence suggests, to a policy of liquidating those elements.That convenient ideology served the fearsome will to power of a few who systematically tore down Tigrayan culture, tradition, history and identity and and tried to rebuild it in the service of Meles Inc. At some point the EPLF decided that independence depended not only on defeat of Ethioipa but its destruction.
Tigray became, survivors of those horrific years aver, a "killing field." According to many reports, which must be investigated further by future historians, Tigrayan civilians were slaughtered right and left–in many cases following gruesome torture, according to eye witnesses.
During the First World War, Germans “transported Lenin in a sealed train like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia” with the express purpose of weakening Russia - and it worked. The war ended with the Bolsheviks signing away vast swathes of their country in exchange for their party's rule.
Communist upheavel in Tigray according to Levine
became a heady brew that induced the committed TPLF ethno-Marxists to murder great numbers of civilians and to perpetrate slanders against Amharas and Ethiopian patriots.Note that the 10,000 figure was EARLY during the purges in Tigray. In the post, On the Origins of the TPLF we discussed how the party was very careful to avoid mention of any Marxist topic because it was certain that the people of Tigray would reject it. It is also as Meles Inc. became more secure in its grip on the people it supposedly spoke for that it forced through the anti-Ethiopian agenda at its core.
One veteran of those killings confesses that when he told another, early in the fighting "the number of people we have killed thus far has reached 10,000," his comrade replied: "So what, Red China had to kill a million people in order to become victorious."
Attitudes of that sort, be it noted, were shared by other Ethiopian revolutionaries of the time.
This despite the facts that Tigray has traditionally always had the strongest property rights in Ethiopia and that Tigray was the most unwavering center of Ethiopian unity throughout history.
For Meles to become legitimate everything before him and in opposition to him had to become a spring of simple evil - and the first targets were in Tigray. Revolutionary vanguard parties are not places for compromise. Mengistu also held the identical view, opposition could only be destroyed and after cowing urban Ethiopia he also turned his appetite for destruction towards Tigray.
Indeed, the conflict in Ethiopia back then is most accurately described as a contest to see which band of Communists would rule Ethiopia - military junta scientific socialists or student tribal revolutionary democrats. Their respective plans for Ethiopia and/or Tigray were identical.
As long as power was gained or kept - all was justified. Normal values and rules of tradition or morality be they cultural or religious were viewed with contempt. The problem is that there is so much value in Ethiopian / Tigrayan history, tradition and culture that can not be tossed aside without an enormous price being paid.
Meles has failed in his attempt to create an ersatz Tigrayan identity centered on his own personal interests that makes that proud people his least free subjects. The vile and bloody revolutionary culture of Meles Inc. is no more authentic to Tigray than the vile and bloody culture of crack dealers is authentic to African-Americans.
We will run through the Mao book and make other comparisons to the recent Ethiopian experience in a Killing Fields series because the story provides clear and present parallels to the price Ethiopians have paid to tyranny.