Why are the Tigrean Ruling Elites in Power for so long?

By Ture Hirbe (Ph.D.) / May 17, 2012
 the culture of treason, serial mass murders, lies, deception, ethnicity, fear, hatred and corruption has become an integral part of the system of Meles ...
"...the culture of treason, serial mass murders, lies, deception, ethnicity, fear, hatred and corruption has become an integral part of the system of Meles..."Tesfay Atsbeha & Kahsay Berhe

The Tigrean ruling elites are in power for two decades now, and it looks as if they will be staying in power for more years to come. How do we explain their longevity in power? They represent a minority constituency in the country (six percent of the total population). Almost everything is going wrong for most people in that country, except for few people associated with them. About 14 million people live on food aid. Inflation rate is going up everyday making life miserable even for the middle income families. Mothers are feeding their children in shifts. Despite all these negative facts on the ground they ruled the country for twenty years, and they still expect, and even think entitled, to rule more years to come. One may wonder how on earth they stayed so long in power. What has kept them, and is still keeping them in power for so long despite all these ills and wrong policies?

Many political pundits and commentators give two most important reasons for their stay in power, and these include: (1) the opposition is too divided making it easy for them to divide and rule; (2) the West is behind the Tigrean ruling elites providing them financial, political and moral support for their own selfish national interests. Indeed, the above mentioned reasons are among the factors contributing for the longevity of TPLF junta, but these factors are not the determinant ones. According to my understanding, the Tigrean elites are in power for so long because of their political capability to maintain power. They have a leader who is capable of combining Marxist theoretical model with Machiavellian state crafts and apply it without hesitation. They plan all of their political moves and act very fast and decisively. The following points illustrate their smart and effective political moves that kept and keeping them in power.

The TPLF dismantled state structure and state machinery of previous regime. The Ethiopian state structure and state machinery of previous regime were completely smashed and completely destroyed.  This is a typical Marxist-Leninist theory translated into practice. It was a radical and fundamental transformation of the society. According to Marxist teaching social revolutions to be successful there should be a transfer of state power from one class to another. In Ethiopian case, a complete transfer of power took place from one dominant ethnic group to another emerging dominant ethnic group. A radical transfer of state power took place from then ruling Amhara ruling ethnic elites to Tigrean ruling elites. A Tigrean ethnic group emerged as undisputed dominant ruling ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Tigrean elites had no intention to share power from the very beginning; they needed a full-fledged dominance and reap the benefits. Indeed, they are reaping the benefits in full gear.

The Tigrean elites used both force and cooptation methods to conquer other regions. From the very beginning they understood that they cannot rule by only using force, and needed collaborators from other ethnic groups. They recruited dependable opportunists from major ethnic groups. They created forged “ethnic political organizations” (OPDO, ANDEM, etc…). These fake ethnic political organizations have served the Tigrean ruling elites very well and they are still serving them with dedication and devotion.

They totally controlled the economy of the country. They understood early on that the economy is the foundation to maintain political power. The Marxist teaching that the economic structure is the basis of superstructure was well pursued. They appeared to adhere to the principles of free market economy in order to hoodwink the Western donors. They successfully built TPLF Business Empire under the umbrella of EFFORT. Besides, the Tigrean ethinocrats allied themselves with the Saudi Business Magnet and the two together now control about 90% percent of the total production and distribution of the private sector. TPLF, a single ethnic political organization in power, controls a 100% government employment. Anyone contrary to the Tigrean interest, risks his/her job. A full acceptance of the Tigrean domination is expected from all government employees. Moreover, in Ethiopia land is owned by TPLF. They are the victors and the land of the vanquished belongs to them. It is “a victor takes all philosophy.” The Tigrean elites can give you a plot of land, can willy-nilly evict the farmers and sell it to “foreign investors”; they can give it as a gift to neighboring states to buy favors; and they can extend the borders of Tigrean region to any direction of other Ethiopian regions, particularly, to Gondar. The Tigrean elites are the masters of their destiny; they achieved more than what they have fought for; it is no more a tiny republic they toiled to establish in a barren tip of the country. Now they control a huge country with the immense and untapped resources.

The TPLF junta conducted and is conducting smart and very effective foreign policy. They took advantage of current international security concerns and are wisely using it in their favor. The US and its allies are bent to fight “global terrorism” and have formed anti-terrorism global coalition. TPLF leaders didn’t miss the golden opportunity and have joined the coalition from the very beginning. Anybody confronting their rule at home is condemned as a terrorist and being sent to jail. Their Western allies know what is going on in Ethiopia, but they have to keep quiet and give blind eyes to all wrong doings in order not to upset their unwavering ally in the Horn of Africa.

However, as smart as they are, the Tigrean elites are starting doing mistakes as all dictators before them. Their leaders and cadres have developed a sense of invincibility testing all venues that will bring them more power and more money. They are evicting thousands of poor families from their land and selling them for cheap prices to foreign investors. Particularly, the crime they are committing against innocent people in Gambella region is attracting worldwide attention and strong local resistance. They also started messing with the Muslim Religion. That might be the fatal mistake they have ever done. The Muslims do not hesitate for a second to give their lives for their religion. They are not cowards as others when it comes to their religion. These two mistakes might cost the Tigrean elites their power. Unfortunately enough, there is no any credible opposition force ready to take advantage of the situation. Ethiopian opposition forces are more of talks and less of actions; and they are only good at calling hundreds of aimless meetings. As TPLF is the only well-organized ethnic political organization and led by politically astute leader, the Tigrean elites might survive the current turmoil and remain in power for more years to come.

The writer, Dr. Ture Hirbe, can be reached for comments at turehirbe@gmail.com