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"What would the TPLF do if it were faced with the choice between submitting to rule by a popular, nationalist Ethiopian political party or leading Tigrai to independence with Eritrea standing at its side as a strong ally?" (Commentary: Renewal of the EPLF-TPLF alliance: what prospects? By Dagmawi, July 15, 2000)

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Interview - Prof. Tilahun Yilma (University of California, Davis)


In the long term, my strategy will not only regain Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity, but it will also prevent Tigreans and Eritreans from destroying Ethiopia and themselves...

Prof. Tilahun Yilma:

By Elias Wondimu

____________________________________________________   Q. In the February 1996 issue of Ethiopian Review you suggested that
   Ethiopia should secede from the provinces of Tigray and Eritrea, to
   save the country from disintegration. When and how did you come up
   with this solution?
   A. Before I answer your questions let me define some terms that I will
   use in this interview. Mereb Melash is the historical name for the
   northern territory of Ethiopia, a colony of Italy from 1890-1941. The
   Italians renamed the region "Eritrea" on January 1, 1890, and called
   its inhabitants "Eritreans". "Ascaris" (Ashker), meaning servant or
   slave, is the Italian word for the Eritrean soldiers they used in
   their campaign to colonize Ethiopia. I have proposed that Ethiopians
   abandon use of this colonial (or slave) name and return to the
   historic name of Mereb Melash (ER, May 1996). I will define Eritreans
   as those Tigrigna-speaking peoples whose origins are from the
   highlands of Hamassen, Serae and Akele Guzai, comprising about one
   third of Mereb Melash. Ethiopians (non-Tigrigna speaking) who are
   natives of Mereb Melash include Afar, Saho, Beja, Bilen, Kunama, Nara,
   Tigre, etc. Similarly, when I refer to the province of Tigray, I am
   only referring to the region occupied by Tigrigna-speaking people. I
   am not including the non-Tigrigna speaking Ethiopians and their
   regions, which include members of the Raya, Azebo, Shire, Agame,
   Temben, and Endirta, etc. The Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF)
   is an organization of Tigrigna-speaking people of Mereb Melash who
   fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. The Tigre
   Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) is an organization of
   Tigrigna-speaking people of the Province of Tigray, organized by the
   EPLF. EPLF/TPLF fought for the independence of both Tigray and Eritrea
   from Ethiopia. Their stated intent was to form a new country called
   "Greater Eritrea." They are now bent on destroying Ethiopia, their
   claimed arch enemy. Kilil, the Amharic word for a restricted zone, is
   the equivalent terminology used by the TPLF/EPLF for their apartheid
   concept of tribal homelands for their colony of Ethiopia.
   Interestingly, advocacy of kilil or ethnic policies in Eritrea is a
   capital offense.
   Now let me answer your question. About a year and half ago, after
   observing the actions of the TPLF/EPLF since taking power in Ethiopia
   in May 1991, I had occasions for extensive conversations with
   prominent TPLF/EPLF officials in Addis Abeba. These included former
   Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Tamrat Layne, the current
   Deputy Prime Minister Kassu Yilala, the personal physician of Prime
   Minister Meles, Dr. Muli Tekle, and other officials of TPLF/EPLF.
   During my numerous travels to Ethiopia over the past 8 years,
   undertaken on behalf of projects funded by the United Nations and the
   British Government, I was contacted and asked to official meetings
   with these people (with the exception of Dr. Muli, who sought me out
   at the Hilton Hotel where I was staying). These conversations as well
   as other personal observations have made it crystal clear to me that
   the TPLF/EPLF's immediate and overriding goal is the building of
   Tigray and Eritrea, without the least concern for the concomitant
   enslavement and impoverishment of 50 million non-Tigrigna speaking
   Let me quote some of the typical conversations with officials that led
   me to conclude that the TPLF/EPLF's agenda for Ethiopia is its
   destruction. As a first example I will remind readers of the selection
   of Alemaya University, because of its long and distinguished
   background in agricultural sciences as the site of a World Bank
   project on semi-arid agriculture in East Africa. That undertaking was
   cancelled by the Meles regime. When I asked Ato Kassu Yilala about its
   fate, his response was: "since we felt that the provinces of Gojam,
   Gonder, and Wello are also semi-arid, we chose Mekele in Tigray
   Province as the site for this $10 million project." Further, let me
   also quote from a lengthy conversation with Dr. Muli, who stated: "We
   will never allow Ethiopia to use the free port of Djibouti instead of
   the Assab port, since that would bankrupt Eritrea." There is no
   concern for bankrupting Ethiopia. In fact, they know a weakened
   Ethiopia is advantageous to their ambitions.
   My political solution as proposed in the article "Ethiopia Should
   Secede From the Provinces of Tigray & Eritrea" grew out of these
   observations and careful study of the following realities:
   1) The independence of Eritrea under the EPLF was finalized by a
   referendum reportedly supported by 99.9% of the people of Eritrea, but
   with no participation of the Ethiopian people.
   2) The people of Tigray allied with Eritrea via TPLF to assist in the
   secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Like the "independent" nation of
   Eritrea, Tigray Province today has its own independent foreign policy
   and foreign trade ministries; no other province in Ethiopia is
   entitled to the same privileges.
   3) Ethiopia has been colonized and occupied by EPLF/TPLF forces:
   a) to plunder Ethiopia's resources for the exclusive building of
   Tigray and Eritrea.
   b) to destroy Ethiopia by waging ethnic and religious politics
   restricting Ethiopians to their kilil, and requiring that children be
   taught in tribal languages (of which there are more than 80), thus
   destroying the educational programs of Ethiopia and a unifying
   national language.
   c) to inflict irreversible environmental damage in Ethiopia through
   indiscriminate deforestation by fire, as well as the massive harvest
   of timber for shipment to Tigray and Eritrea. At the same time, the
   TPLF/EPLF has undertaken an extensive forestation program in Tigray
   and Eritrea with funds borrowed from the World Bank in Ethiopia's
   name: Ethiopia pays the bill and Tigray/Eritrea receives the goodies.
   This scorch Ethiopia policy is reminiscent of the crime committed by
   Sadam Hussein when he torched the oil fields of Kuwait. In both cases,
   it is a crime against humanity.
   d) to ruin the business community of Ethiopia by promoting unequal
   competition: Tigreans/Eritreans are allowed to market goods without
   the taxation imposed on Ethiopians. When that did not yield results
   quickly enough, the regime raised rents on Ethiopian business more
   than several thousand percent, the intent being to drive Ethiopians
   out of their shops and replace them with Tigreans/Eritreans. This
   process is designed to promote Tigreans/Eritrean businesses and
   effectively neutralize the boycott response of Ethiopians.
   Let me further elaborate my political manifesto. First, I believe that
   peoples should have the right to choose their citizenship. Thus,
   Eritreans and Tigreans should have the right to be independent, if
   that is the decision of the majority, and they must also accept the
   rights of self-determination for the non-Tigrigna speaking peoples of
   Mereb Melash, Tigray, and the rest of Ethiopia. However, that is not
   the case, as we all know. The people of Afar are being annihilated by
   the EPLF/TPLF because they want to remain Ethiopians while the EPLF
   wants to control the ports of Massawa and Assab, located in Afar
   Second, it is a general truth that Eritreans and Tigreans have never
   shown gratitude for the opportunities given to them by the rest of
   Ethiopians over the past years. Without giving undue significance to
   my ethnic origins, let me say I belong to four groups: Oromo, Gurage,
   Amhara, and Tigray. I am not aware of any of my Oromo, Gurage, or
   Amhara relatives that have ever lived in Tigray or Eritrea. However,
   my paternal grandfather, Wolde-Ab Felema, migrated south to Dukem in
   rags, hungry, and penniless--as did hundreds of thousands of Tigreans
   and Eritreans--and was given one gasha of prime land, probably
   confiscated from my Oromo relatives. Non-Tigrigna speaking Ethiopians
   have generally received Tigreans/Eritreans with open arms and
   generosity, providing land, homes, education, and work opportunities
   unavailable in their barren homelands. Eritreans/Tigreans have filled
   government and university positions; they have opened successful
   businesses, and then often excluded other Ethiopians in hiring and
   promotions. Meanwhile, Emperor Haile Selassie preferentially diverted
   money and other resources to Eritrea. Yet, their response has been to
   complain incessantly. They have defamed the name of Ethiopia globally.
   The international presses are full of their imagined grievances: they
   cry that Ethiopia colonized Eritrea and made it an educational desert,
   and that Ethiopians have discriminated against them (New York Times,
   April 27, 1993; Africa Watch, January 12, 1993). In fact, however,
   they have always received a greater share of the national resources
   than has any other group.
   So we must ask what benefit for Ethiopia exists in the uneasy
   association with Tigray/Eritrea. They have brought only poverty, war,
   misery, and the cultural poisoning of the Ethiopian people by waging
   ethnic conflict. They are like a malignant cancer that has been eating
   away at our vital parts. If we don't excise this cancer promptly,
   Ethiopia will cease to be a nation. Tigreans/Eritreans have drafted
   into the so-called New Ethiopian Constitution articles allowing
   secession and requiring restriction of ethnic groups to their tribal
   regions or kilils. We now should demand that they be the primary
   beneficiaries of their own laws: they should be deported to their own
   kilil, and Ethiopia as a nation should secede from the
   Tigrigna-speaking regions of the Provinces of Tigray and Mereb Melash.
   Q. Assuming that you stand for the unity and territorial integrity of
   Ethiopia, how do you reconcile your call for the separation of a part
   of Ethiopia with your stand on Ethiopian unity?
   A. The unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia became a moot issue
   when the EPLF/TPLF "won" their war, and the Province of Tigray and
   Eritrea became independent. Tigreans and Eritreans are in Ethiopia not
   because they are proud Ethiopian citizens, but to rape the resources
   of Ethiopia in order to build their new country (Eritrea/Tigray) at
   our expense. Burying our head in the sand like an ostrich facing
   mortal danger is not going to make the TPLF/EPLF disappear. The sooner
   Ethiopians recognize reality, the better the chance to rescue a nation
   at risk. Under the present circumstances, my plan will eventually
   regain Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity when we accomplish
   the following objectives:
   First, we must remove Tigreans/Eritreans from Ethiopia and return them
   to their kilil, if the disintegration of the rest of Ethiopia is to be
   Second, our liberation fronts in the south should join hands with
   fellow citizens such as the Afar people in the province of Tigray and
   Mereb Melash. The Eritreans, who led a 30-year battle for their own
   self-determination, have shown absolutely no respect for the
   self-determination for the majority of non-Tigrigna speaking people of
   the region, including members of the Saho, Kunama, Hidarib, Rashaida
   Nara, and Afar. These people live in the region stretching from the
   ports of Assab and Djibouti in the south to Massawa in the north,
   including Danakil and Dahlak. The main purpose of EPLF's occupation of
   Afar Region is to generate income by taxing goods coming to and from
   Ethiopia; this policy also fulfills the colonial design to landlock
   Ethiopia and ensure its vulnerability and dependency on Eritrea. We
   should direct our full energy to helping our fellow citizens who are
   fighting to gain or retain their Ethiopian nationality and territorial
   integrity; then all Ethiopians would have a chance to become part of a
   political entity emphasizing democracy without tribalism, ensuring the
   rights of all by eliminating domination by any one ethnic group.
   Third, The Central Highlands should be designated a country for
   Tigreans and Eritreans exclusively. They have declined Ethiopian
   citizenship and have shown no gratitude for their opportunities in
   Ethiopia, instead choosing to regard Ethiopia as the arch enemy and
   bringing the devastation of a war for independence. Now let them enjoy
   their newly gained independence and the deprivations that will surely
   accompany it. All TPLF/EPLF members and their secessionist
   Tigrigna-speaking supporters should be deported from Ethiopia to the
   newly-formed country, which they may then call by the colonial or
   slave name of Eritrea if they wish. We can see now that Ethiopia's
   policy of appeasement towards Tigreans/Eritreans was a total failure,
   and it should never be tried again. We should learn from the Italian
   experience: they treated Eritreans as slaves for 60 years and never
   allowed them to be educated beyond the fourth grade. And yet Eritreans
   admire, glorify, and even revere their Italian masters, emulating the
   Italian way of life in mannerisms, food, and language while nursing
   hatred and disdain for Ethiopians.
   Fourth, I assure you that Tigreans and Eritreans will not be able to
   survive in that arid land for long. They will soon return, begging to
   regain their Ethiopian nationality. Soon, after experiencing misery
   and hunger, they will be craving the gold (Ethiopia) that they have
   discarded as copper. That will be the time to define a relationship
   with them that will ensure they will never have another chance to
   threaten Ethiopia. In the long term, my strategy will not only regain
   Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity, but it will also prevent
   Tigreans and Eritreans from destroying Ethiopia and themselves.
   Q. Some Tigreans and Eritreans who read your articles have accused you
   of being extreme and a hate-monger. What is your response?
   A. What a coincidence--this problem must run in my family line! The
   Eritrean Ascaris and their Italian masters accused my great-uncle,
   Gebeyehu Gora, of being a terrorist and a hate-monger during the
   battle of Adwa, but to Ethiopians he was one of the most celebrated
   heroes of the war (Gebeyehu bimot teteka Balcha; Medf agelabach bcha
   lebcha). Similarly, they accused my father of terrorism during the
   Fascist occupation of Ethiopia. He bore service wounds from 13 machine
   gun bullets of Fascist Italy and the Eritrean Ascaris.
   A classic strategy of Tigreans/Eritreans, in addition to harassment
   and threats of physical violence, is to resort to character
   assassination and personal attack, hoping to divert attention from the
   real issues. They have used these techniques effectively to silence
   Ethiopians from speaking out. That reaction has now changed:
   Ethiopians are speaking out because they recognize now the TPLF/EPLF
   cancer (the enemy within) that is eating away at the vital parts of a
   3,000-year-old nation. They also know that "hatred" for an enemy is in
   fact a prerequisite if a nation is to rally its citizens in a battle
   for survival. But let us explore who the real hate-mongers truly are
   by providing a few examples of the many atrocities inflicted by
   Tigreans/Eritreans on Ethiopians:
   1) Who callously expelled 200,000 Ethiopians from Eritrea (mainly
   women and children, empty-handed after their homes and property were
   2) Was it not Netsannet Asfaw, Meles's spokeswoman, who demanded that
   these people be banished and removed from her sight when they arrived
   in Addis Abeba on foot? There was no sense of responsibility or
   compassion for these displaced persons, the "Unforgiven Ethiopians"
   (New York Times, November 3, 1993).
   3) Who advocated on the TPLF/EPLF media the ethnic cleansing of
   Amharas that led to the slaughter of innocent woman and children in
   the various provinces of Ethiopia such as Harer, Arsi, etc.?
   4) Who selectively instituted an apartheid policy of Bantustanization
   in Ethiopia, a first by Africans for other Africans? When the
   TPLF/EPLF marched in Addis Abeba in May 1991, Meles Zenawi discarded
   our national flag as a piece of meaningless rag and hoisted his
   TPLF/EPLF colors. Should we assume this was a gesture of love and
   goodwill towards the people of Ethiopia? This is the same flag that
   Fatuma Roba and many other proud Ethiopians waved in front of billions
   of people around the world during the Olympic games in Atlanta. This
   is also the same flag with which the great Emperor Menelik rallied his
   people to win the Battle of Adwa against the Italians and their
   Eritrean Ascaris. They struggled and sacrificed to keep Ethiopia
   intact as one of the oldest independent nations in the world, with its
   rich culture and literature and proud people. Yet, our Modern Eritrean
   Ascaris, Meles and Issayas, backed by their new masters, the US and
   Israel, will destroy Ethiopia if unchallenged.
   Eritreans have defined Ethiopians as the enemy in numerous press
   releases and publications, including the June 1996 issue of the
   National Geographic. In the same article, they state that they were
   able to beat Ethiopia only when they were able to overcome ethnic and
   religious conflicts in Eritrea. Now they are implementing policies of
   just such conflict in Ethiopia, fully realizing the consequences.
   Recent coverage by Michael Scholar on Eritrea (July 18, 1996) in
   National Public Radio's Morning Edition program clearly shows who is
   the hate-monger. It was reported that the Eritrean Government has
   commissioned the writing of new songs and plays to teach their
   children, so that they will never forget the Eritrean "freedom
   fighters" who gained "independence" for Eritrea, and never lose their
   hatred for the Ethiopian enemy. Yet, Issayas and his Ambassador in
   Addis Abeba proclaim that Ethiopia and Eritrea are to be one country.
   They have legitimized hatred for the Amharas, and even made it a
   requirement for advancementjof course that is not considered
   As I understand it, it appears more likely that Ethiopia is to be
   condemned to remain a colony of Tigray/Eritrea, which they will
   dismantle at will to ship the resources to Tigray and Eritrea. Even
   Fascist Italy, once considered the arch enemy of Ethiopia, did not
   inflict the same degree of damage on Ethiopia in such a short period.
   Graziani and Mussolini built an extensive infrastructure--roads,
   bridges, and buildings--in Ethiopia, instead of bundling up our assets
   for shipment to Tigray/Eritrea. What did they expect the Ethiopian
   people to do when their plans became obvious? Are they offended that
   we do not reward them with medals for a job well done? This reminds of
   an old Ethiopian story about a bully and his victim, whom he beat
   unmercifully. When the police arrived, the bully started screaming,
   charging his victim of assault and battery. In amazement, the victim
   looked into the eye of the policeman, and said, Sir, this bully just
   stole my complaint (chuheten kemang). Similarly, I feel that my
   complaint has been stolen by Tigreans/Eritreans, including Hailu
   Mengesha and Tecola Hagos of TPLF and Mesfin Araya. I am accused of
   being a hate-monger, but other Ethiopians or I have never advocated
   that we go to Tigray/Eritrea to destroy the people, wage ethnic
   politics, or rape their resources. How could two peoples,
   Tigreans/Eritreans, without a trace of scruples (yulugnta) and the
   other, Ethiopians, culturally burdened with excessive scruples and
   magnanimity, live in harmony together? Right now, Ethiopians in their
   own country are victimized and abused mercilessly by
   Tigreans/Eritreans. Let us not forget that, for the Ethiopian people,
   there is no obvious benefit and only economic suffering and pain in
   the current relationship between Ethiopia and the provinces of Tigray
   and Eritrea. There is no southward flow of resources and goods, except
   for thousands of poor, rapacious, and ungrateful immigrants. None of
   my Oromo, Gurage, and Amhara family members reside in or benefit from
   Tigray or Eritrea. If the people of Tigray/Eritrea truly want
   independence, they should at least obey their own kilil policy and
   move back to their own tribal regions.
   Q. Several Ethiopians have expressed support for your idea by writing
   letters to ER and contacting you directly. On the other hand, others
   including well known figures such as Drs. Mankelkelot HaileSelassie
   and Mesfin Araya came out against your suggestion. Tsegaye Gebremedhin
   Araya of TOBIA magazine said that Ethiopia without Tigray cannot be
   called Ethiopia and warned that your suggestion is dangerous.
   Ethiopian Register magazine, a self-proclaimed advocate of Ethiopian
   unity, said that it would not even print such an idea in its pages.
   What is your answer to the critics? And how do you evaluate the level
   of support you have gotten so far?
   A. I would say that a majority of Ethiopians have been grateful for my
   words, since many have been intimidated by these bullies. Many have
   told me that I have spoken in public what Ethiopians routinely discuss
   in private. Printing of these articles has given many the courage to
   express similar views publicly. And yet many Eritreans and Tigreans
   who have been friends of mine for decades now consider me as the
   enemy. Some, including a member of TAND whom Hailu Mengesha uses as an
   envoy to send messages to me, have actually expressed death threats on
   the phone. It is interesting to note that not a single
   Tigrean/Eritrean has come to my support, although you find
   non-Tigreans on both sides of the issue. This is no different from
   previous observations that there has not been a single demonstration
   by any Eritrean/ Tigrean group protesting the activities of the
   TPLF/EPLF at home or abroad. If anything, they have wholeheartedly
   rallied in support of the TPLF/EPLF, with the lame excuse that
   anything is better than the Derg regime. During Meles Zenawi's recent
   visit, Tigreans and Eritreans residing in Washington, D.C., received
   him with flowers and cheers while Ethiopians of all other ethnic
   background held protest marches. At a reception for Meles in the
   Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, only Tigrean embassy staff members
   were allowed to be present. Other embassy staff members were given a
   day off because they are not to be trusted. Last January, four
   non-Tigrigna speaking embassy staff members finally resigned in
   Dr. Mankelkelot HaileSelassie and the others have their right to
   oppose my ideas. However, you should note that our disunity has become
   the greatest strength of the TPLF/EPLF, and accounts for the failure
   of Ethiopia to dislodge the enemy. You must also remember that many of
   these Ethiopian organizations were organized indirectly by EPLF's
   Issayas, and played a key role in the independence of Eritrea in the
   name of "the right of nationalities for self-determination." I do feel
   sorry for Ethiopia though when it has citizens more occupied with the
   rights of their enemies to destroy Ethiopia than of Ethiopia's right
   to exist; they need to rally behind their country at this time to
   prevent disintegration.
   Dr. Mesfin Araya is also entitled to his opinion. I suggest that he,
   as well as Hailu Mengesha and Tecola Hagos, should get the courage, as
   Meles and Issayas did, to go to Tigray and Eritrea and convince the
   people there to organize an army of even 1,000 persons that stands for
   the unity of Ethiopia. When and if they decide to take that course, I
   am sure all Ethiopians will stand with them. After all, the people of
   Eritrea have raised an army of 100,000 for Issayas and the people of
   Tigre have raised an army of 90,000 for Meles.
   Some say that I should not condemn all Tigreans and Eritreans as
   enemies, since many of them are for Ethiopian unity. Yet, I have not
   seen a single organization in Eritrea or Tigray fighting the TPLF/EPLF
   except for our fellow Afar citizens. However, I would no longer trust
   the direct participation of any ethnic Eritrean or Tigrean to fight
   alongside me; I would not risk the security and survival of Ethiopia.
   Let us remember that Haile Selassie and Mengistu trusted many high
   level Tigreans and Eritreans in their cabinets who turned out to be
   working with the EPLF/TPLF against Ethiopia. A classic example, among
   many, is the former high official in both the Haile Selassie and the
   Derg regimes, Dr. Berket-Ab Habte Selassie, who served as Justice
   Minister of Ethiopia, now an avowed Eritrean nationalist and Ethiopia
   hater. The TPLF/EPLF Ambassador in Washington dismissed non-Tigrigna
   speaking staff during the visit by Meles Zenawi because they were not
   to be trusted. I think Ethiopians should follow his example and be
   wary of including any Tigreans/Eritreans in their struggle against
   this regime.
   Some say it is unfair to treat Tigreans and Eritreans as a single
   package. Historically, they are one people; the division is a product
   of the Italian colonization of Mereb Melash. They share the same
   language and culture. Most Ethiopians cannot tell a Tigrean from an
   Eritrean, and they clearly and unequivocally demonstrated their
   homogeneity when the EPLF/TPLF joined in their struggle for
   independence of Eritrea and Tigray provinces. Last but not least, this
   alliance has announced publicly that Ethiopia is their arch enemy, and
   Issayas has boasted he will cause turmoil in Ethiopia that will last
   for the next 100 years. So we must deal with both Tigreans and
   Eritreans as one, not only because they have shown us it is a fair
   assessment, but also as a matter of security. How will Ethiopia
   protect itself from Eritrean enemies if they enter Ethiopia as
   Tigreans? Are we going to ask "loyal" Ethiopians such as Hailu
   Mengesha and Tecola Hagos of TPLF/EPLF and Mesfin Araya to guard our
   borders from infiltrating Eritreans? Is this not just the strategy of
   the hyenas guarding the donkey (adgi) farm?
   Ato Tsegaye Gebremedhin Araya of TOBIA magazine is entitled to his
   opinion as well. However, you should realize he has reconsidered and
   retracted what he wrote in his latest issue of Tobia. After receiving
   an avalanche of criticism by fax and phone from all over the world,
   including Ethiopia, in protest against his article, he is now bending
   over backwards to mend fences. I would like to encourage everyone to
   read an eloquent response to Tobia by Girma Bekele in the October
   issue of Ethiopian Register. There is also a response to Tobia by
   Professor Habte Giorgis Churnet in the same issue.
   Ato Tsegaye's original thesis is seriously flawed: 1) The idea that
   Tigreans and Eritreans as people are not responsible for the mess in
   Ethiopia is ludicrous. If Meles and Issayas have accomplished this
   single-handedly, it makes a better story than that of Jesus feeding
   5,000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Perhaps we should
   canonize both Meles and Issayas for these miracles, or at least
   nominate them for a Nobel prize in science: Meles has converted into
   90,000 Tigre soldiers and Issayas into 100,000 Eritrean soldiers. Is
   it not amazing that both have been able to shatter the laws of physics
   that declare matter or energy cannot be created or destroyed?
   Tsegay's second point is that all Ethiopians originate from the
   Aksumite Empire (Tigray). I know many Ethiopians whose origins (more
   than 80 tribes) include other provinces of Ethiopia. His other
   argument, that Ethiopia in not Ethiopia without Tigray, is wrong,
   since the Aksumite Empire also comprised most of Mereb Melash
   including Hamassen, Akele Guzai, Serae and the Red Sea port of Adulis,
   not far from Massawa. And I believe we still have a country called
   Ethiopia without Eritrea.
   In regard to Ethiopian Register's unwillingness to print my article on
   secession, let me point out that they have printed articles by Prof.
   Habte Georgis Churnet articulating his views of Eritrean nationals as
   enemies of Ethiopia (I wholeheartedly support his views, and
   congratulate him for his courage), and recently they asked me to
   submit future articles on other topics to them. More importantly,
   Ethiopian Register has not served as a forum for the propaganda
   machinery of the TPLF/EPLF, unlike Ethiopian Review which has
   published articles undermining the Ethiopian movement toward justice,
   including the one suggesting Ethiopia should mourn the passing of its
   hero Hyelom, a TPLF/EPLF military general, written by Tecola Hagos
   (ER, April 1996). It should not be assumed that I will write only for
   the Ethiopian Review. At the end of the day, I am more concerned with
   how the people of Ethiopia, currently under the yoke of the TPLF/EPLF,
   respond to my articles than I am with the reactions of
   Tigrean/Eritreans in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. And so far the
   response from Ethiopians in Ethiopia has been wildly positive, more
   than I could ever have imagined. The view of Hailu Mengesha, Tecola
   Hagos, and Mesfin Araya that this movement will blow over is clearly
   just a lot of wishful thinking.
   I can evaluate my level of support by the appreciative letters, phone
   calls, and speaking invitations that I have received. I have been
   overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for my ideas from Ethiopians all over
   the world. At Alemaya College, over a thousand students responded with
   astanding ovation at the end of my seminar, especially when I told
   them to discard the ethnic policy of our enemy, the TPLF/EPLF. They
   stood in line for hours to ask me to autograph their ID cards before I
   could leave the campus, even though we were completely surrounded by
   TPLF/EPLF soldiers brandishing machine guns.
   Q. How do you view the fact that members of other ethnic groups are
   collaborating with the current regime?
   A. This is not surprising; there are traitors (banda) in every nation.
   We had them during the occupation by fascist Italy, and during the
   Battle of Adwa. I assure you that there will always be traitors
   Q. Do you put forward this idea of secession as an immediate solution,
   or long-term solution? 
   A. This is an immediate solution, to be in force until Tigreans and
   Eritreans discover that without Ethiopia they will have very little
   food for their population. When they return begging for their
   Ethiopian citizenship, we will need a referendum on the conditions
   under which the Ethiopian people are willing to take them back.
   Frankly, I don't know that Ethiopians will be interested in inviting
   back such a source of misery. They may resort to the old Gurage
   philosophy, deciding that just like socialism, there is no profit in
   dealing with thieves. I believe Ethiopia should not give them
   citizenship status. They could, however, consider giving the territory
   a protectorate status under Ethiopia.
   Q. Are you planning to actively campaign for the secession of Ethiopia
   from the two provinces? How are you going to conduct the campaign? 
   A. Our campaign has two fronts: 1) to educate the people of Ethiopia
   to recognize their enemy, and to assist in every way possible to
   deport Tigreans and Eritreans back to their kilil. 2) to coordinate a
   united front between Ethiopian freedom fighters such as the Afars in
   Tigray and Mereb Melash with other freedom fighters in the rest of
   Ethiopia. As you are aware, the Afar people live in the region
   stretching from the ports of Assab and Djibouti in the south to
   Massawa in the north, including Danakil and Dahlak. How this might be
   implemented will not be discussed in a public forum, but we are now
   organizing a major fund-raising campaign for our fellow citizens, the
   freedom fighters of Afar.
   Q. Do you have any message to ER readers?
   A. Yes I do. But let me first say that the questions and issues raised
   in this interview are thoroughly discussed in my articles that have
   been published in Ethiopian Review, including "Ethiopia Should Secede
   from the Provinces of Tigray & Eritrea" (February 1996);"The
   Bantustanization of Ethiopia" (April 1996); and "A Strategy for the
   Reunification of Mereb Melash (Eritrea) with Ethiopia" (May 1996). In
   addition, I strongly recommend that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia
   interested in an in-depth exploration of the current Ethiopian
   national crisis read "The pillage of Ethiopia by Eritreans & Their
   Tigrean Surrogates" by Dr. Assefa Negash (Adey Publishing). My short
   letter published in the editorial section of The New York Times on
   April 24, 1996 sheds further light on the deliberate destruction of
   the Ethiopian educational system by Meles and Issayas.
   I offer the following advice to your readers, in particular to those
   who believe in Ethiopian unity: First, get involved. Every citizen has
   an obligation to defend the nation, and it is a great privilege for
   those of us who can help our people in their time of desperate need.
   You may never have another opportunity to make a difference, to help
   save your country from disintegration. If Ethiopia is destroyed, that
   chance is gone forever. Second, stop apologizing for Tigreans and
   Eritreans; they are doing a fine job of destroying our country without
   this aid and comfort. If you are unable to help, or are too selfish to
   care about your fellow Ethiopians, don't take the role of the banda
   (traitor) - at least have the decency to remain neutral. Finally, all
   the opposition groups must join forces. As you are aware, I have
   published a number of articles in Ethiopian Review challenging the
   opposition forces to unify. Please allow me to repeat: There will be
   plenty of time for learned discourse or expression of diverse views
   and political beliefs once we have rescued our motherland. It does not
   matter who has the right to sleep in the master bedroom of a house
   that is on fire. If we cannot come together and meet our obligations
   to solve a major national crisis, then we will have truly earned the
   scorn of our enemies and the destruction facing us, as well as the
   bitter legacy bequeathed to our posterity. 
   Let me close my interview by relating a true story of an Ethiapian
   mother who was diagnosed with a malignant cancer in one breast. She
   refused to have her breast removed, unable to envision living with a
   single breast and never believing that the cancer would metastasize
   and kill her. Many Ethiopians attended her funeral on September 21,
   1996 in San Jose, California. She lost not only a breast but also her
   life. In the process, she orphaned four children and widowed a
   husband. I pray we do not allow this fate for Mother Ethiopia!

Note by Aberra Molla The above English HTML document is not an exact copy of the original interview as published in the November 1996 issue of Ethiopian Review magazine. Some of the Amharic words in brackets were replaced by Amharic-English (Amharic in English alphabet) words and these may not make sense to those who do not know Amharic. These words will be typed in Ethiopic or non-Ethiopic Amharic characters at a later time.
Copyright (c) 1966 Ethiopian Review Magazine Comments to: Ethiopian Review or aberra@ethiopic.com

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