By Sophia Tesfamariam
Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, former Chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC), has in the past aptly described Meles Zenawi’ regime as being:
” … an ethnic-based federation… dominated by the minority ethnic Tigrayans… the federal structure in effect divides and rules larger ethnic groups such as the Oromos and Amharas and bars non-members of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front…”
Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam was not biased when he said that the Meles regime was dominated by the minority ethnic Tigrayans. He was just stating the facts as he and other Ethiopians know them to be. As if Ethiopia has a shortage of qualified and capable sons and daughters, the key and most important government posts were held by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) members.
The Prime Minister was Chairman on TPLF, for 19 years the Foreign Minister was a member of TPLF, and for 21 years the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chiefs of Police and Security, and Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church were also Tigryans. Arkebe Okbay, another TPLF member was once assigned by Meles Zenawi to be the Mayor of Addis Abeba (even though he was voted out of office). Abay Tsehaye a TPLF member also served as Minister of Federal Affairs. In the diplomatic arena, most important Ambassadorial posts were held by Tigryans or were deliberately staffed by hand picked Tigrayan cadres to act as de facto Ambassadors.
A new form of Apartheid was imposed all over Ethiopia. TPLF members and their families controlled the transportation, manufacturing and several other industries in Ethiopia . Tigray region was also the single highest beneficiary of the massive aid and loan guarantees that was given to Ethiopia by international donors and partners. Schools, colleges, roads, airports, factories, and other infrastructure projects were carried out in the Tigray state while other regions were ignored and marginalized.
For further evidence, the author recommends that the readers re-visit the “Complete list of Ministers and State Ministers” published by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after the rigged May 2005 elections. What was interesting about the list is not who was on the list, but the fact that it went to a great length to try to prove it was “ethnically” and “gender” sound in its mix. It might have fooled some gullible and innocent individuals, and it may have served the million dollar Ethiopian government lobbyists as they set out to spin and counter spin on behalf of Meles Zenawi’s regime, but I am sure it did not fool the majority of Ethiopians and other Ethiopian observers.
Meles Zenawi’s calculated maneuver, designed to fool Ethiopians and exploit (pillage) Ethiopia ‘s wealth for the benefit of a handful of Tigrayan individuals, was exposed on 13 and 14 October 2005. His diplomatic and political ‘bag of tricks’ was stripped naked.
Medhane Tadesse, a Tigrayan “political analyst” and Meles’ front man, pretty much acknowledged this fact when he stated:
“…Some of their top people have lost their ministerial portfolios because they have been taken to strengthen the party rather than the government… Maybe the lesson they have learned from the election is that the party needs to be strengthened…The same people, however, remain at the top…”
As a result, most of them were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office as his “Advisors with Ranks of Ministers”. They wielded more clout and more power and solidified and consolidated and “strengthened” Meles’ Menelik Palace clique.
Beyene Petros, chairman of the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces was not duped by Meles’ deceptive shenanigan. He knew exactly where Meles was heading and speaking to Allafrica.com on 13 October 2005, Beyene Petros said:
“…The criteria [Meles] used were party loyalty rather than competence, which has been one of the main reasons implementation of the policies has been poor in the past…”
In addition, expressing his disgust and noting that Meles and his Tigrayan clique were in the process of consolidating power, Bulcha Demekesa, head of the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, made the following statement to AllAfrica.com:
“…I think the cabinet has actually been weakened with this reshuffle…everything is now under the control of the prime minister. The control seems to be tighter than before with new rules and regulations for the ministers and ministries..”.
As was predicted and anticipated by all Ethiopians, the deceptive “appointment” of Ministers on 13 October 2005 with the right “ethnic” and “gender” mix, was exposed on 14 October 2005 when the TPLF Chairman, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi unabashedly appointed his loyal party members to key Federal posts under the cover of “Advisors” with full Ministerial status. These appointments practically consolidated the power of the Tigrayan clique under the full command of one person-Meles Zenawi.
In short, real power in Ethiopia during Meles’ time was fully in the hand of key TPLF members. Suffice it to mention the following facts and allow the readers to make his/her own analysis and conclusions:
- Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan Prime Minister, as Commander in Chief of the Ethiopian Armed Forces with the Tigrayan General Samora Younis as the Army Chief of Staff, had absolute control over the Ethiopian army. In addition, Tigrayans dominate 95% of the military’s leadership and rank and file.
- Abay Tsehaye, a founding member of TPLF, as a former Public Organization and Participation Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister, had full control over the Ministry of Federal Affairs.
- Mulugeta Alemseged and later Tsegay, both senior members of the TPLF, as National Security Affairs Advisors with the Rank of Minister had full control of the entire police and security apparatus in Ethiopia.
- Newaye Gebre-Ab, a Tigrayan from Meles’ village of Adwa, as Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister had full control of all Ministries associated with economic matters.
- Seyoum Mesfin, another Tigrayan and a trusted Meles disciple, served as Ethiopia ‘s Foreign Minister for nineteen years and run the Ministry as if it was his personal fiefdom.
- Bereket Simon, (listed as an Amhara), but more TPLF than TPLF itself, as Public Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister had full control over the Ministry of Information. During Meles’ time it was Bereket not the Minister of Information who was interacting with the international media.
Meles Zenawi, as the Chairman of TPLF, EPRDF, and Council of Ministers, took every issue first to the TPLF Executive Committee. TPLF’s decisions were then taken to EPRDF Executive Council for simple endorsement. EPRDF’s blind endorsement was then taken to Council of Ministers. Last but not least, to give it a semblance of legality, the decision was tabled at the rubber-stump Parliament for approval.
Therefore, the decision making structure and modus operandi of the Meles Zenawi’s regime was undemocratic, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of the international community in general, and that of the Ethiopian people, in particular.
“…By changing nothing, nothing changes…” -Tony Robbins