When I saw in Nairobi that civil and military leaders of Tigray and Ethiopia were at ease with each other, seemingly chatting informally, and having a coffee rendezvous I was stunned for a moment, felt a few minutes of discomfort, and spent the rest of the time trying to make out what was going on in the minds of the Tigray delegates. However much bitter I feel about it I did not allow myself to draw similarities with the fun comrade Napoleon was having with Mr. Jones of Manor farm in the Farm House: “There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the seat of honor at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in their chairs. The company had been enjoying a game of cards but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the animals that gazed in at the window.”George Orwell in Animal Farm.
For the last two years there are some images that have been cutting out flesh from my body. I am not talking about the snapshots and videos of bombed homes and civilians in them, the horror scenes of Tegaru burning alive, the cruelty of throwing youngsters off the cliff, and the floating bodies of young Tegaru on the Tekeze River. The feelings I have been having about these gruesome images has been immeasurable; but what I am referring to now are the pre-war photos and videos of handshakes, exchange of warm smiles, and other body languages between Abiy Ahmed and Debretsion Gebremichael. I did not dislike the photos and videos before the war started; I had some vague hope of peace and reconciliation coming soon. After the start of the war in Tigray and the brutalities that followed the photos and videos became my frequent irritants and I could never get used to them. The PP and PFDJ activists were posting them on social media with the intention of mentally torturing Tegaru. To my utter dismay, even Tigray-friendly channels were flashing the same images for reasons that they only know. After all the carnage in Tigray, some Tegaru media outlets were seemingly nostalgic about the images of deceptive rapprochement before the war.
I don’t want to engage in unhelpful hasty generalizations but in many cases it comes close to the truth with the disconcerting frequency its repeats itself. This is the inherent forgetfulness of Tegaru however harshly they were treated in the past. I am not against forgiveness; that is God’s advice for us enabling harmonious social life. What if the offender misreads the repeated forgiveness as a weakness and never hesitates to strike again more severely than before? ‘It needs two to tango’ says the English wisdom. Peace is always a pair; never a singleton. There is a fascinating but educative story of cats and mice among the Enderta society of Tigray. Mice became tired of running away from cats to avoid predation. The former decided to convince the cats to stop chasing them and marry them instead. For the cats this was a windfall; they can have their delicious meals without effort. Some of the wiser mice knew that the decision of the congress of mice was a disaster for the micedom. Instead of proposing cancellation of the wedding ceremony the wise mice suggested an exit strategy in case the wedding party of cats turns violent on the mice ‘in-love’. Plan B proposed by the suspicious mice was to dig holes to jump into as soon as the cats start snarling. The rest of the mice were full of enthusiasm and trust so much that they failed to listen to the warnings of wise mice. The wise mice did not join them in their folly and dug their own escape holes. As predicted by the wise mice the wedding party of cats started to jump at the mice and the wise mice retreated into their holes as the unsuspecting mice wailed: “Ata tewedaena tewedaena ye” (the cats are finishing us). The wise mice safe in their holes sung back: “Eleb (gezmi) bezihuna do tebeleken ye” (Has the dowry become too much for you?”.
There have been several experiences of betrayal of trust on Tegaru through the ages. Ras Mengesha Yohannes surrendered to Menilik peacefully; he failed to listen to Ras Alula’s warning about the fate that could befall on him if he does not declare the Ethiopian throne for himself. He became the ash, a son of the fire, as the Amharic saying goes and surrendered to the arch enemy of his father. Who expects Menilik will spare him except his foolish self? The lack of wisdom became generational. Ras Seyoum, the son of Ras Mengesha Yohannes, surrendered his rebellious son Aba Yilak Kasa to Haile Selassie and had him slaughtered. Even in a peaceful relationship always put the safety belt on. The British say “Love thy neighbor but don’t pull down thy hedge”. Among many other such Tegaru victims the most recent are generals Seare, Gezae, and Wedi Necho. Who expects to outsmart political killings when Seyoum, Abay, and Asmelash were unable to?
I am not denying the importance of the Pretoria and Nairobi peace agreements. I am old and learned enough to know that a bad peace is better than a good war. The people of Tigray have suffered more than enough in the hands of stubborn enemies who have no sympathy for human misery. As if they are in a different planet, they deny basic necessities to entire millions and spend their days happily gardening, attending wedding parties, and playing soccer. As the whole world cries for justice the chief of justice pretends to be running a paradise state. It has been lunacy beyond comprehension that could test the expertise of even the giant of psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud. The struggle of the TDF has become just like the way Hercules fought the Hydra in Greek Mythology. Hercules attempted to cut off the heads of the beast but every time one was cut off, two more would grow back in its place. Hercules in the end succeeded to kill the monster with Athena’s Golden Sword; but remember this is just a myth. The TDF are humans with no regular supply of weapons and ammunition, going hungry and thirsty for days and weeks, little room for maneuver as they are encircled 360 degrees by massive armies with endless supplies of troops and weapons, a responsibility heavy on their shoulders of saving the lives of millions besieged and starving in Tigray but little time left for that. It is in this situation that you choose the better evil: “Meqnay tsebuq eyu wala hade semunye” (RIP my dear friend Kiros Alemayehu).
I am not warning against the peace agreement per se; my deep concern is about the mood Tegaru are in about it. Some are naively celebrating to the extent of believing that they will live with their “former” enemies happily ever after. This includes my own daughter, who lit a candle and danced to a Tigrigna tune in celebration a few minutes after the Pretoria agreement was signed and announced. Others are so adamant that they are not ready to give even a tiny bit of concession to gain as much as is possible given the unmanageable nature of the adversaries. Neither the former nor the latter moods are helpful to the Tigray situation. The formula should lie somewhere between the two extremes. Adopting “the-wise-mice-strategy” is the best option for Tegaru at this critical point in the history of Tigray. Unlike the long years before, this is the most defining moment for Tegaru. It is a historic crossroad the decision on which one to take is going to affect generations of Tegaru to come negatively or positively. Previous decisions of our fathers and forefathers have brought us to this misfortune. We don’t dare to curse out forefathers; we just have to avoid doing the same thing or worse! We are better positioned in terms of knowledge and skills than they were. We must use our resources for best effect. Tigray is unmatched in Ethiopia and beyond in terms of the human resource it possesses. With a unity of steel and enough awareness of the overt and covert bad intentions of its enemies Tigray will have little difficulties getting what it wants.
The “the-wise-mice-strategy” is defined by the title of this article: Will Tigray Trust Ethiopians and Eritreans Ever Again? Science fiction stories are told about how a human being turns into a giant eagle and flies off to another planet with a single press of a button. What we are dealing with as Tegaru is not a science fiction; I wish it were. The enemies are so determined to finish us off so much that they were the same, they are the same, and will remain the same (in all tenses) in this regard. Who is fooling around believing that the Professors, Archbishops, Deacons, Pastors, Business Tycoons, Generals, Party Officials, and ordinary citizens in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and in the Diaspora, who were breathless for two years condemning Tegaru into eternal hell, are capable of changing their nature as soon as the Pretoria-Nairobi agreements are signed?
When kind Tegaru hearts hear those who in the last two years were preaching genocide, reverse gear and talk noisily about how much they love Tegaru and condemn what is being done on them, they shower them with a lot of praise and become deeply grateful to them. Inadvertently such Tegaru are no doubt preparing themselves for the next cycle of what I would dub as ‘Tigricide’ at any opportune time in the long or short term. Even after the Agreements Daniel Kibret is still spitting poison about Tigray. The irony is the Agreement prohibits such hate speeches. The Deacon does not fear penalties because he knows perfectly well what the Peace Agreement is designed to achieve given his proximity to the political core in Ethiopia. Unable to hide the real intentions behind the Peace Agreement the chief signatory from the Ethiopian side and the communication officer of the executive branch are releasing messy press statements which confuse even the enthusiasts of the Agreement. It is a customary human behavior that if people have hidden intentions different from the content of agreements declared in public they become incoherent. This is how you detect a wolf in sheep skin; when you expect it to bleat it hauls.