Meles Zenawi and the New Republic of Tigray

JANUARY 9, 2012 |

The hegemony of TPLF’s minority regime in Ethiopia is not sustainable: Amb. Herman Cohen

By Amanuel Biedemariam,

In a recent interview with ESAT, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Herman Cohen made some startling revelations regarding matters that influenced the history of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. While I am not a fan of the Ambassador and mindful of the negative roles he played on the region over the decades, it was shocking to witness the candid responses to the barrage of questions hurled at him by a brilliant ESAT interviewer Abebe Gellaw.

It raises some questions. Why now? How does it factor into the political calculations of Meles, and ultimately what does it mean to Ethiopia?

Key: “The hegemony of a minority regime is not sustainable.” What does that mean?

It means that it is a matter of time until the minority regime crumbles. The role minority regime can play in Ethiopia is on life support. It is a dead man walking per se, a rejected system that could not be revived no matter what. Ambassador Cohen said that Meles failed to realize the vision of his constitution. Article 39 was meant to provide autonomy to the country’s various regions. Instead, Meles “imposed the same type of authoritarian regime that Ethiopians has always had.” Meles’ actions contradict the constitution and outright disregard the rights of the rest of the country.

For over 20 years, his reign accorded preferential treatment to the state of Tigray. The prevailing opinion is predicated upon the argument that the clique’s objective is to create an independent state, Abbay Tigray. But is there evidence to back this up?

Over the last 20 years, Tigray has had disparate advantages over the rest of the country. After the TPLF came to power, they have redrawn the internal Ethiopian map to favor Tigray to the dismay of Ethiopians in various parts of the country. Many reports accuse Meles and his clique of taking fertile lands from different parts of Ethiopia and making them the Tigray region. Resources are transferred from the Ethiopian heartland to Tigray. It included the banking, major industries, the air force, and over 80% of the country’s armaments using the threat of Eritrea as an excuse. In Tigray, there exists an international bureau. Evidence of building towards greater Tigray are plenty. Many Ethiopians believe Meles gave-away significant portions of Ethiopian land to Sudan to appease Sudan and ensure a friendly and non-threatening Sudan. There are regular flights between Sudan and Tigray daily. The transformation of Mekele and the state of Tigray is above the rest of the country, etc.

Key: “The TPLF was at the gates of Addis. We wanted to make sure that the war ended with what we called a soft landing in Addis, and there should be no destruction….We didn’t say takeover the government. We said to take over Addis.”

It is clear evidence that TPLF and Meles never enjoyed the support of the Ethiopian people. The US, in effect, was forced to accept the inevitable change at a crucial moment in history. According to the Ambassador, Meles promised change but failed to implement any of the reforms he promised.

Key: According to Ambassador Cohen, The US is primarily interested in its “Strategic Interests.” Human rights and other issues are secondary considerations, if at all. The question then becomes, does the minority Meles regime-hegemony serve US national interests? According to Ambassador Cohen,

“The hegemonic minority rule of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is difficult to sustain as Ethiopians are demanding freedom and democracy.”

Given that it is clearly understood that the agenda Meles pursues is unsustainable and because the US’s critical strategic interest in Ethiopia is a united Ethiopia, Ambassador Cohen’s campaign, albeit pushed by a personal motive to sell a book, is likely the modus operandi. Hence, it is clear to all, Meles Zenawi and co must go. Meles Zenawi can no longer ensure US strategic interests for many reasons.

Meles and co shunned goodwill towards any group, individuals, national organizations, or nations for twenty years. Meles played hardball. He used the War on Terror card against everyone. He used it against Ethiopians in the Ogaden, Oromo, Somalis, and Eritreans. He used every tool at his disposal mercilessly. He imprisoned Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, or any Ethnic group that he felt could get on his way. If one is to ask if there exists any group of people that supports the minority regime in the region, the answer is an emphatic no. Ask the Ogadeni’s the Somalis, the Oromos, Eritreans, or any group, and one will find no loyalty for this regime.

There are many indicators that Meles is on his last legs. For over three years, Meles gambled on associating anything Eritrean with terrorism.

Everything seemed up and up when Meles proclaimed that the noose was now on Eritrea’s neck and bragged of what was to come. He invested a great deal of time and resources to accomplish what he could not through military and other subversive tactics. He gave away Ethiopia to China and others to get Eritrea and failed.  Meles tried to buy time by talking sanctions and Eritrea. He, in effect, muzzled the voice of the Ethiopian opposition because the focus was the sanction. However, he could buy all the time because Ethiopians are back with a vengeance, ready to devour him.

After the recent OLF announcement clarified a “United Ethiopia” position, it jolted the TPLF clique as if hit by a tsunami. To see how shaken they are, all one has to do is look at the recent headlines in the mouthpiece website of the genocidal regime Aigaforum.

The Ethiopian opposition’s incoherent frantic reactions and attacks only reflect how sensitive and fragile the TPLF is. And they are right to be concerned because Ethiopians are beginning to speak with one voice for the first time. They are talking a voice of unity to an organization that could only survive in a splintered environment, an organization that is truly afraid of a united Ethiopia. When all Ethiopian opposition and other groups come together to decide the future, guess who will be outside?

Meles and his genocidal friends! Meles and co, in turn, will run for their life if there is a haven somewhere.

Ambassador Cohen’s book, the primary motive of the US in assisting the TPLF was to “Save Addis from destruction.

The TPLF’s main agenda, however, was Tigray, not Ethiopia. That was the problem the TPLF faced. Twenty years in power later, Meles put the people of Tigray in a precarious position. He placed them in the middle and confused them because he could not out-rightly proclaim independent Tigray while leading Ethiopia and ripping the benefits of being a ruler of Ethiopia. Plus, his masters would hang him dry. His actions and statements reflected this problem. Meles showed no respect to the people of Ethiopia.

But, how are the people of Tigray faring, and how will they cope in the long term? That is the question Meles and the TPLF must ask.

The reality is no temporary gain is sustainable unless coupled with peace and stability. Meles Zenawi could not win any peace with any group or nation in the region. He could not unite Ethiopia, and indeed, he could not ensure stability for the people of Tigray.

The people of Tigray are surrounded by hostility because the hegemonic agenda Meles pursued in the name of Tigray did not promote friendly ties with anyone. Meles Zenawi is in a downward spiral, scared, and is likely to make erotic decisions as he recently did by “retiring” (expelling) many officers abruptly.

It is odd to see Meles firing officers en mass at the same time while involved in the military campaign in Somalia. The reality is that he is scared and feels that he is removing threats as he repeatedly does. Meles believes that the support he gets from the West is forever. He also thinks they will stick by him regardless of what he does.  However, Meles cannot ensure the US in the region if officers trained by the US are cut off their duties abruptly, as in this case.

When ESAT asked Ambassador Cohen if Meles was on good terms with him? Cohen replied,

“Meles got angry after I spoke out in the aftermath of the 2005 election massacre.”

Meles felt that the Ambassador spoke outside the scope of US Ethiopia’s strategic relations.

However, he bit the hand that feeds his madness. Think how mad Meles will be after the interview. The Ambassador added fuel to the raging fire that is consuming the regime. In other words, Cohen is telling Meles his time is limited.


Meles Zenawi would go down in history as one of the worst leaders for selling his people, Africa, and his soul if he had any. He should face justice for corruption, embezzlement, torture, genocide, and all the crimes he committed against the region’s people collectively. Meles uses climate change, war on terror, fear, economy, stability, hunger, etc., to sell his plan.

The people of Tigray need peace, stability, and development. The region also needs it. However, Meles has proven he cannot provide peace, stability, or sustainable development in cohesion with the area.

The West already knows Meles cannot ensure a united Ethiopia. These are the vital constituencies Meles will lose. And regardless of what he does, without them, he cannot stay in power for long. That is the stage we are in, and I believe Ambassador Cohen’s timing is not accidental. The Ambassador is telling Ethiopians it is time.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Leave a Reply

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x