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Tigray Leadership Failure to Learn from Consequential Mistakes and a Way Out



By  Yemane H Gebre

I.  Introduction

Tigray has been going through ruthless pandemonium of biblical proportions in the past two years. As a society, we have responded expeditiously to the crisis irrespective of our political differences. But one problem has remained constant. The reluctance of the political leadership and its unconditional supporters to learn from mistakes. This problem that got us to the crisis continues. As a result, the people of Tigray are paying the ultimate untold prices. This paper will discuss this problem and attempt to suggest solutions. 

For decades, the political leadership has made numerous poor choices that taxed Tigray indescribable costs. A few examples to showcase the poor decisions made by the political leadership that had a direct impact on the Tigray genocide include, but are not limited to: the tragic abortion of the Ethio-Eritrea war, which has given a second chance for President Isaias Afwerki to destroy Tigray, and the abhorrent handling of the political differences within the TPLF in 2001, which was precipitated by policy differences about the war. This mishandling irrecoverably decimated the TPLF leadership.  The ineptitude of what was left of the political leadership of the TPLF was in full display during the 2016-18 public insurrection: instead of encouraging and leading its allies in the ruling coalition toward offering political reform and political space to the opposition, it tried to hold to power through violence arrogated by the State of Emergency. Finally, it vacated the political center and returned to Tigray, leaving the state to be played with by forces hostile to Tigray and its people.  As if these were not enough mistakes, the political leadership entered the genocidal war without reasonably assessing the region’s emerging geopolitical order. It failed to identify regional forces that may participate in the war, predict their roles, and prepare accordingly. As a result, less than ten thousand soldiers faced the joint defense forces from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Amhara regional forces, support from the United Arab Emirates, etc.

The cumulative effect of these gross mistakes enabled the invaders to control Tigray quickly and inflicted broad destruction and catastrophic genocide. The explanation given by the political leadership for the maleficent preparation was, “we didn’t expect this level of involvement.”  What other more vital duty could a government have? This language speaks volumes about the quality of the political leadership. This is a typical textbook definition of recklessness.

Despite this, there has not been any remorse or appetite from the political leadership to think again. Instead, amid a broader appeal to the political leadership for inclusive governance and improving the quality of the decisions, it continues to pay deaf ears and resolves to do business as usual. The reluctance to learn from mistakes persists. It continued even after the people of Tigray achieved a miraculous victory in about eight months, effectively evicting the invaders from Tigray. The political leadership claimed it was elected and should be the sole leader of the struggle. Most Tigrayans (including myself) have not been disputing the fact that it was elected. However, citizens have been asking to adjust course due to the poor decisions causing unspeakable damages. Most importantly, citizens have been asking the government to act like an elected government of all, by all, and for all – not only an inclusive government where leadership positions are held based on merit, but also by constituting a unique inclusive leadership arrangement that can provide better leadership. 

Unchecked, these kinds of repeated mistakes will compound and may reach a point of no return. This is not sustainable and needs to be addressed with utmost seriousness. This is particularly important in the context of Pretoria’s current hope for peace. We must assess where we have come from and stipulate a viable trajectory to navigate the current landscape effectively.

II.  The factors sustaining the problem

The political leadership has refused to learn from its mistakes and past successes. It has simply become a burden to the Tigray people. The repeated mistakes are costing Tigray beyond imagination. It may not be surprising to fail to learn from the experience of others, but not learning from one’s recent and current mistakes is inconceivable. It doesn’t listen to citizens, subject matter experts, friends, and even its members. If the political leadership refuses to listen amid genocide, then when? What could be the main factors sustaining this problem? I see at least five plausible factors.

  1. Lack of popular resistance:  Our society is traditional. It is religious and hierarchical and has preserved its culture and identity for thousands of years. This culture may not necessarily bolster speaking to power. On the contrary, this kind of society is more suitable for building mighty military power where centralized decision-making, a chain of command, and unity of command are essential. Our successful military tradition is a case in point. 

    Because it is religious and hierarchical, it tends to stick to what it trusts once.  This reality in our society is reflected by a Tigrinya saying, “it is better to believe in a familiar Satan than an unfamiliar Angel.” This implies that the culture of our society is more favorable for perpetuating the status quo than adapting to change. Unfortunately, it seems that this culture favors the political leadership. Hence, due to resultant little public pressure, the political leadership has missed many opportunities for rethinking and reflecting on past mistakes. 

    Our recent history, particularly the practice of the past twenty years, has not done any good to our culture either. Very corrupt networks of different clusters have poisoned our longstanding values for truth, hard work, and justice. The corrupt practices of the recent-past reward cutting corners over integrity and creativity. Further, ideological monolithism has dominated democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, and freedom of the press. Meritocracy has been shunned by patronage. Nepotism has become the norm in the appointment of officialdom. Party and group interests have dominated national and public interests. The intoxicating effect of such corrupt practices on our values, coupled with the essentially dogmatic culture, has given the political leadership the license to ride freely at any cost.
  2. Neutralizing justifications: The political leadership enjoys support and justification from interest groups interested in promoting political patronage and protecting group economic benefits. This is part of the political patronage network extended from Tigray to the diaspora. The members of these interest groups have inserted themselves in many organizations to obstruct any call for meaningful discussion to assess problems at any level. These interest groups are composed of party members, supporters, and others with vested current or future economic and power interests. 

    The interest groups are on standby to provide justifications to suppress citizens’ right to express their ideas and hold the political leaders accountable. They spread fear in the society using several scare tactics. They use tactics such as our unity will be endangered, now is not the right time, you don’t change a horse while crossing a river, it is finger-pointing, this is opportunism, come up with solutions, etc., to silence citizens. When these scare tactics don’t work, they start the real work of destroying the very unity they claim to protect by labeling fellow citizens as members of the opposition, PP, traitors, and other forms of naming and shaming. This reveals they have no public purpose other than securing their interest and escaping accountability. Neither do the interest groups accept any alternative modalities for discussion and learning.

    Further, the interest groups use the culture of TPLF for scrutinizing its limitations, called ‘Gemgam’ in Tigrinya, as a defense to undermine any demand from the public. They argue that these are problems already assessed by the political leadership and being worked on. Nevertheless, following any promises by the political leadership, we don’t, almost always, see practical plans and actions to fix the problems. On the contrary, the problems continue to exacerbate.  This implies that the aim of such self-assessments or ‘Gemgam’ by the political leadership is self-preservation and to contain further demands from the public. The objective is not genuine learning; it is just another manifestation of corrupt conscience to hold on to power at any cost. 

    By the standards of the interest groups, there is never a suitable time for expressing ideas. There have always been excuses of different breeds to choke legitimate public demands; only the reasons vary. 

    The current reasoning is that our unity will be endangered if we conduct inclusive discussions.  Doesn’t our common cause for survival achieve the present unity? At other times, when citizens ask for democracy and the rule of law, these interest groups would preach that democracy is a process that requires patience when they know that we are not even on the right track toward democracy. At different times, when citizens complain about the lack of good governance and responsive local public service, the interest groups would lecture that poor people should not be encouraged to demand good governance and justice until economic development is achieved when they know that interest groups are embezzling the economy.

    These networks of interest groups thus make the political leadership immune to learning from its mistakes. What remains tantalizing is the rampant nature of this reckless proclivity; it manifests itself unashamedly, even in the face of genocide. 
  3. Fear of balkanization: As a society, we have become victims of the fear-mongering or scare tactics of the interest groups discussed. Many people are afraid that our unity may be compromised if we discuss critical issues. We are too afraid to face reality, irrespective of the devastating consequences. However, the people need to challenge the political leadership, interest groups, and the unconditional supporters. The bigger question for the society remains, is shutting every door for assessing our limitations a worthy idea, or is it a prohibitively expensive experiment? 

    I have yet to come across any experience or literature that advocates concealing mistakes as a viable way of addressing problems. The effective way to address issues is through robust discussions and action. Fear of balkanization should not stand in our way to address pressing issues. In fact, silence would divide us and threaten our survival. The writing is on the wall of every Tigrayan. Look where this culture of complete complaisance has brought us to. We are on the verge of collapse. 

    Another simple yet profound logical litmus test to see if complacency is in our interest is, would any reasonable person keep postponing facing a challenge in one’s personal or family life? I don’t think so, if commonsense is any guide. However, one thing is unequivocally visible; we are responding to the collective conundrum with less seriousness than what we would do in case of a family or personal life. Is this a rational response? No, it is not.

    The ongoing collective conundrum that has affected almost every child, woman, girl, boy, youth, and elderly that has claimed about an allegedly million lives illustrates that our collective well-being is a precondition for family and personal well-being and must be protected with greater care at all times. Thus, we cannot keep complaining about the political leadership; at one point, we must step up collectively and take ownership of our destiny. This urges courageous leadership at all societal layers capable of educating the society and providing direction.
  4. Lack of exemplary leadership at all levels in our societal strata: This ranges from the government to many other societal institutions. We need leadership that inspires, guides, and educates the public toward a common goal. Unfortunately, many institutions at home and in the diaspora do not enjoy leadership that believes in critical debate. Hence, there is a greater need for courageous leaders with the right attitude, training (qualification), experience, and moral integrity at different layers of our social structure.  

    Qualified people need more space to guide our people during this difficult time.  Undoubtedly, every citizen shall have the right to participate actively in all political endeavors. But, politics, like any other disciplines such as medical doctor, engineering, and mathematics is a specialized field of study that requires rigorous training and practice. Therefore, people with the proper qualification (training) and experience should come to the front in all societal institutions. These leaders would be essential in building public awareness about pertinent issues and influencing the political leadership to change course. 

    The lack of leadership at many levels of the social strata, coupled with the interest groups’ orchestrated disinformation efforts, would undoubtedly hamper the society’s ability to make a knowledge-based response to vital issues, leaving the politicians and the government unchecked. An unchecked government is like an undisciplined child; there is no limit to the obliteration it can do.
  5. Society’s ill-informed understanding of the inherent behavior of any government and its relationship thereof: It is common in our society to believe that the government shall not be questioned. There is a saying in Tigrinya that goes like this, “As the sky cannot be plowed, a king cannot be prosecuted.” The truth is that no government is a sacred entity. It is, instead, a necessary beast. And it must be kept in check if it has to work for the people’s interest. Further, it is inherent that politicians work to consolidate their political power and maximize their economic benefits.   

    The only way to make any government work for the people is through checks and balances, separation of powers, free media, and by enforcing stringent legal measures. So at the heart of any good governance is a vibrant society that understands the government’s behavior and exercises its rights to pressure politicians to do what is good for the people. 

    Moreover, how we conceptualize a government as an entity is very naïve. Our understanding doesn’t account for the immense powers bestowed onto the government that incentivizes politicians to be corrupt if left unchecked. Thus it is the duty of the citizenry to keep this powerful entity in check. The relationship between a society and a government is often exemplified as the relationship between a principal and an agent in a contractual agreement. Society, as the principal, has the right and the responsibility to check on the agent (government) and hold it accountable when it fails to deliver according to the contract. In our society, unfortunately, the understanding of this relationship is the reverse, even among the educated. As a society, we don’t feel empowered to hold the government accountable and pressure it to learn from its mistakes, making us all pay untold prices. 

III. Discussion:

The factors discussed above should prompt us to rethink and reflect. Covering up our mistakes, no matter the reason, will only exacerbate the crisis. Open dialogue is not optional; it is a necessity.

In reference to this, there is unfounded fear that discussing critical matters at this time may divide us. Nevertheless, this is contrary to our experience in the past two to four years, where we have been united around our common cause for survival. No entity preached about unity and achieved it. If suffocating citizens would bring about unity, why was our unity at its lowest point for decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power? I don’t also see any scientific reason why we will be balkanized if we don’t agree on all matters. There is no such thing as fully agreeing on controversial issues of paramount importance. We must “agree to disagree” yet still work together for the common good. As  Marianne Williamson said, “A healthy, vital society is not one in which we all agree; it is one in which those who disagree can do so with honor and respect.“

Similarly, the notion that now is not the right time and “you don’t change a horse while crossing a river” is an evasion. First, the current Tigray situation is not as brief as crossing a river. It is a long and extended journey. But even if it is brief, it is much better to risk changing to a stronger horse near you that you know will cross the river instead of sticking to a dying horse that you know will not make it. In the case of the stronger horse, you have at least a 50% chance to succeed, while it is a known dead-end in the case of the old dying horse. This is the stage where we are with the political leadership at this point. Tigray has lost everything due to a political leadership vacuum. Change in political leadership is overdue.

Moreover, other forms of naming and shaming, like: traitor, finger-pointing, opportunism, opposition, etc., are increasingly being practiced. For example, labeling citizens as traitors when they express their genuine concern is becoming common. But what does it mean? Does it even make sense to label a fellow Tigrayan, fighting on your side on a battlefield for the same cause, as a traitor? No, the aim is purely political: zip citizens up to guard group interests. Then the same people, who label citizens traitors, dare to preach unity. Besides, citizens’ right to question leaders is also categorized as finger-pointing by the interest groups. However, what else is finger-pointing, if not using pejorative language, like a traitor, to subdue citizens’ rights? These are only a few of the concerted tactics often deployed to spread fear that the society shall be aware of. What is exasperating is, if the expedition for power and economic benefits continues in the face of genocide, how cruel is that expedition?

As commonly said, for the past is the best predictor of the future, the  political leadership and its unconditional supporters may not show much appetite for open discussion, inquisitiveness, and rethinking mistakes in the future either. But as a society, we cannot give up and wait for a chance to present itself. We have to utilize our resources optimally to influence the political leadership and earn the future. The first step towards defining our destiny is to sit down and assess where we are now, why we get here and how we get out of this. If we don’t discuss this, we cannot have a common goal. If we have no common goal, we won’t know where we are going and cannot hit a target we haven’t set. The current generation has the duty to stop “history from repeating itself” in Tigray. 

If we keep procrastinating, however, we may hit a point of no return, for nothing is without limits. This would be tantamount to letting cancer progress to its final stage, where it cannot be cured anymore.  

Many organizations hire costly consultants as “Devil’s Advocates” so that all possible hard questions will be examined and mitigated before they have detrimental effects on the organization.  In our case, we have several experts taking the initiative to perform this function for free. Nonetheless, the political leadership and its unconditional supporters refuse to take advantage of this by presenting unjust excuses. 

It is time to come together, evaluate the current landscape, and craft short and long-term goals to secure our future. The short-term goal should focus on what needs to be done, how and with whom in Ethiopia in the near future to create a favorable environment for the effective execution of our long-term aspirations. The long-term goal should focus on achieving lasting peace and prosperity for Tigray and beyond.

I can understand any question on the modalities and the environment in which such open dialogue may need to happen. But to continue to ignore calls for such discussions and [un]learning from our mistakes is neither justifiable nor sustainable. If it is not managed appropriately and timely, it will inevitably manifest itself in a more invasive way, for no one can stop change from happening, which is said to be the only constant. If the political leadership remains resolute with its old habits amid the untold pandemonium, it may be an affirmation that it and its unconditional supporters are more interested in their narrow group interest than that of Tigray.  If the political leadership hasn’t learned to rethink and [un]learn from past mistakes when about an allegedly million people perish, what hope is left for us as a society? What can be done to reverse this reprehensible trend?

IV. Recommendation

Adequate characterization of problems is necessary, but providing a working (not utopian) solution is a different game. So, what practical solutions can be thought of? If I ask you (as the reader of this article) what may happen in Tigray in the next six months or a year, will you be able to envisage with reasonable certainty based on previous knowledge you gained through discussions guided by our shared roadmap? If not, doesn’t this show that we don’t have a clear roadmap guiding us toward a common goal? Doesn’t this kind of serious gap warrant a solution? If we agree on the need for a resolution, don’t we need an open discussion to [un]learn from our mistakes and craft a shared roadmap to guide our way forward? Although this problem is not a linear one, below are a few simple (but uneasy) recommendations identified as possible instruments to bridge this gap:

  1. Recognize the problem: the first step in solving any problem is to recognize a problem exists and have the resolve to face it. The next step is to understand the scope and depth of the problem and characterize it adequately. “A problem well stated is half solved.” It is necessary to make the public recognize the extent of the problem to produce significant public pressure on the political leadership. 
  1. Create inclusive executive political leadership: the ineptness of the current political leadership urges for a different type of leadership arrangement. It is time to instill new blood and fresh perspective in leadership to salvage what is left in Tigray. While the situation warrants a complete overhaul, it is equally vital to be practical and sensitive to the fragile situation. Hence, a more balanced and incremental approach may work better, which is how the new executive political leadership needs to be structured. 

    The new executive political leadership should comprise members from the current political leadership, the competing political parties, and prominent Tigrayans. The new leadership body should include current TPLF politburo members, three leaders from each competing political party in Tigray, and a minimum of seven scrupulous and prominent Tigrayans, particularly from former leaders of TPLF such as Mr. Seeye Abraha, General Tsadkan Gebretensae, Dr. Mulugeta Chaltu, Mr. Tewelde Woldemariam, Mr. Gebru Asrat and at least two members from the former TPLF Audit Commission. The merit of the particular focus on the former leaders of TPLF is their proven resolve and familiarity with the intricacies of the genesis of the crisis. I believe the people of Tigray also trust them. No political party or entity should possess more than 30% of the this executive political leadership.

    The duty of this new executive political leadership will be to provide leadership to the Tigray people through the current crisis and lead efforts to reform the government of Tigray. This body will work closely with the counseling board and assembly of stakeholders discussed below and take feedback and advice from these bodies. 

    Given Pretoria’s agreement, the Federal government, particularly Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, shall be consulted on the process. And the coalition of these leaders would be better equipped to discharge this diligently to the best interest of Tigray.
  2. Create an independent counseling board: this counseling board should constitute a team of subject matter experts with diverse disciplines. The members of the counseling board shall be elected based on merit. The criteria shall include independence, goodwill (integrity), previous service, achievement, qualification, and moral ethics.

    The duty of the counseling board will be to craft technocratic solutions based on the reality in Tigray/Ethiopia and employ international best practices to effectively assess the current landscape in Tigray/Ethiopia in its complete sense. The counseling board will continuously evaluate the political, social, economic, diplomatic, and psychological realities in Tigray/Ethiopia and provide professional advice to the new executive political leadership on alternative solutions and strategies to secure our short and long-term interests. Every necessary financial and material resource shall be available to the counseling board. 
  3. Create an assembly of stakeholders: this body will represent all vital segments of the society. The duty of this organ will be to check on the quality and relevance of the work of the counseling board, check if the new executive political leadership is making use of the technical advice coming from the counseling board while also serving as catalysts in the layers of the social strata to support the reform, and the work of the other bodies. 

    This assembly shall include representatives from different grassroots organizations, key government bureaus, religious institutions, universities, civic and civil institutions, the media, the diaspora, and scrupulous young Tigrayan professionals. The size of this entity should be large enough to become a force of check and balance and vigor of mobilizing the people and supporting the reform. It may constitute hundreds. 
  4. Create an independent diaspora leadership hub: Tigrayans in the diaspora currently lack representative leadership. Because of this, the diaspora has been working primarily in a fragmented manner where there is no agreed road map or wired processes. It has been reactive with little planning and re-strategizing, with no coherent narrative. 

    Currently, the diaspora is in disarray regarding navigating the current landscape. Most diaspora organizations continue doing what they have done during wartime without assessing the current landscape’s challenges, prospects, and implications for their diplomacy and advocacy work. This gap can be bridged by creating a diaspora leadership hub.

    Many highly qualified professionals in the diaspora can assume the role of leadership, bringing the diaspora together, facilitating in-depth discussions on important matters, prioritizing issues, crafting goals, and giving direction. Thus, the public in the diaspora shall come together, discuss the need, set criteria based on meritocracy, and elect leaders free of party politics and patronage. 
  1. Public engagement: create or identify ways and outlets for continuously engaging and educating the public on pertinent issues. The public won’t be effective unless equipped with the necessary information and knowledge to ensure effective [re]thinking and [un]learning on matters of paramount importance. Civic and other organizations should also be engaged in lobbying and influencing the political leadership. Leveraging existing media outlets and other platforms is also essential.
  1. Synchronization: we don’t operate in isolation. We are part of the bigger system in Ethiopia, the region, and globally. We live in an interdependent world. Therefore, the efforts for rethinking, [un]learning, and reforming need to be synchronized horizontally and vertically with other institutions and people in Ethiopia and beyond for more productive learning, experience sharing, and better outcome. A comprehensive approach that integrates the work of all the bodies proposed in the solution is also of paramount importance. 

V. Who would implement the recommendations?

Suggesting alternative solutions is important. But it is not often as easy to put them to work. The question is how and by whom would the solutions be materialized?  Who would take the first initiative towards these ends? 

Below are only a few entities with greater potential to take action on the recommendations unilaterally, bilaterally, or multilaterally.

  1. Alliance of prominent Tigrayans: the coming together of accomplished Tigrayan figures can exert meaningful influence in materializing the solutions. These figures include former leaders of TPLF abroad and at home, as well as highly educated and accomplished Tigrayans. Particular emphasis is given to the former leaders of TPLF, for they enjoy wider public respect and support. Thus, if these leaders organize themselves in greater numbers and lead such an initiative, they can galvanize the youth and become a real force of change in educating and mobilizing the public towards transformation. 

    This could be yet another stupendous contribution they can make in their lifetime to help Tigray resurrect from the ashes. In addition to their unique insight into the political culture within TPLF/Tigray/Ethiopia, most of these leaders have also pursued advanced education abroad and gained cutting-edge knowledge in leadership. Therefore, on behalf of the people of Tigray, I’m calling upon these former leaders of Tigray to come together and discharge this historical responsibility at this critical juncture, irrespective of ideological differences.
  1. The alliance of the stakeholders: this group’s members come from different existing institutions. Many members from these institutions, such as religious institutions, universities, civic institutions, etc., have gone through the agony of the pandemonium in Tigray and may have a strong incentive to change the status quo and try a new course. Thus, even the coming together of some stakeholders may become a powerful precursor for establishing the counseling board and the new executive political leadership.
  1. The coalition of political parties: the mission of competing political parties is to run for power. But at this critical junction, they have an even more important duty, saving Tigray. Therefore, they need to get to the grassroots, expand their presence and improve their working relationship with the public. It is understood that they will face stiff obstruction from the political leadership to prevent this. But they shall be ready to do what is right and earn public support. The first step towards this end is to come together and form a coalition.  Then it would be easier to galvanize the people and influence the current political leadership to listen and implement the solutions proposed in this paper. 
  1. The diaspora: Tigrayans in the diaspora are well-positioned to initiate changes like this. They have the economic and political freedom and the means, such as free media, to do so. The coming together of the diaspora Tigrayans in the past two years presents a unique opportunity to this effect. So if like-minded people in the diaspora, particularly professionals with the proper training, experience, and passion for the truth, come together, they can be a significant force of transformation and help to materialize these solutions.

VI. Conclusion:

The current political leadership has effectively become immune to learning and rethinking. It doesn’t even seem capable of salvaging itself.  The most viable way is for all of us to work together to reclaim the future. For all practical purposes, we may not be destroyed by our enemies as much as we may destroy ourselves if we continue making severe and often irreversible mistakes with no appetite for rethinking and [un]learning. How many calamities do we have to take for the political leadership and its unconditional supporters to start listening and learning from mistakes? Isn’t the destruction of Tigray and the massacre of about an allegedly million Tigrayans enough to revise the current approach and adjust course?  

This paper has demonstrated that cultural factors, deliberately orchestrated party politics to stay in power at any cost, societal fear of balkanization, acute lack of the right leadership at several layers in our societal structure, and misconception on the inherent behavior of a government are contributing towards the lack of appetite for listening and learning from mistakes by the political leadership. 

The current Pretoria’s hope for peace could be the last chance that we cannot afford to squander. Nevertheless, if we approach the current fragile landscape haphazardly like in the past four years, without thorough and inclusive discussion, defined shared purpose, and identified collective strategy, this may be it. Specifically, it would be preposterous if we approach it in a divided way where some segments become the ally of Addis Ababa and turn on their fellow Tigrayans. It will be a profound mistake if the political leadership takes such a divisive approach instead of ensuring that all Tigrayans, irrespective of political belief, are in this together.   

Therefore, it is in our common interest to have an inclusive discussion and devise short and long-term goals to navigate the current important but fragile landscape. This indispensable responsibility cannot be entrusted to any single group. Therefore, the inclusive solutions suggested in this paper shall be considered seriously and implemented to avert further catastrophes and achieve a predictable future. 

What is being argued in this paper is simple. Without risking an imminent deadly crash, one cannot continue driving at the same speed, irrespective of the road landscape. Therefore, it is necessary to change gears to drive safely. Similarly, we cannot continue operating the old way with no clear goal and roadmap without risking our survival. Therefore, we must pause, come together, assess the new landscape, learn from past mistakes and adjust the course to suit the current reality to circumvent further calamities and achieve our collective aspirations.

Finally, deploying the solutions suggested in this paper may neither be pleasant nor easy. But that is the only viable option left, no matter how painful it may be. As the author and thinker Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Therefore, we have two options to choose from. The first one is the agony of being disciplined now, paying the prices, and doing the right reform, and claiming the better future. The second one is the agony of regret: continue missing all opportunities for rethinking, become a failed society, and regret forever. The choice is ours.

Yemane H Gebre has an MA in Public Policy and Management from Erasmus University (ISS), The Netherlands, an MS in Information Technology from The Catholic University of America, U.S.A. He is actively engaged in Ethiopian and Tigray politics including in leading communities and diaspora organizations to support the Tigray struggle.

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  1. Tigrayan

    February 7, 2023 at 7:06 am

    Tigrayan government didn’t do this to us. abye ahmed, isayas afweki and millions of ethiopians and eritreans have blood on their hands. They did this to us. Don’t you dare blame Tigrayans. If you want to blame somebody how about blaming the lowlifes who joined PP.

    • nimintai

      February 18, 2023 at 7:22 pm

      Tigrayan: I have come a little late to see your comment, but I need to say this for the record. Thank you for your clear and concise response to the author. I find your assessment of what happened to be in alignment with the overall view of Tigray people at home and abroad. Earlier on, I also put in comments to express my disappointment in the article.

  2. Bethlehem

    January 29, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Hello Publisher,

    My name is Bethlehem. I added my comments yesterday on Yemane’s great article. But I am not seeing it posted. Is there any reason why my comment is not posted?


  3. nimintai

    January 29, 2023 at 12:11 am

    To say that the war against Tigray was the result of Tigray leadership failure is both simplistic and egregious.

    • Bethlehem

      January 30, 2023 at 12:46 am

      I have read the article. But I have not read any explicit or implicit statement that says the war against Tigray was caused by Tigray leadership failure. The article argues that the Tigray leadership has refused to learn from its consequential mistakes irrespective of the continued call for inclusive reform from the people. For example, the article states that the political leadership entered the genocidal war without adequately evaluating the geopolitical order. It didn’t say that the war was a result of leadership failure. So I find this comment not to be objective.

      • nimintai

        January 30, 2023 at 7:42 am

        The title of the article includes the words, consequential mistakes, which I understood to mean the war and its aftermath. I found it disappointing that the writer makes no mention of the obvious: the many years of political resentment towards TPLF, going back to the time of Eritrea’s cessation, and then the formation of the federal political order. This political resentment turned into a tribal animosity of Amhara against Tigray people, culminating into the genocidal war. Before the war, the political environment was saturated with threats and intimidation, road closures, and the military encirclement of Tigray. War was imposed on Tigray. This part of the story is missing from the article. It is for that reason that I find the assertion about Tigray leadership failure questionable.

        • Bethlehem

          January 30, 2023 at 6:22 pm

          I beg to differ. Articles are authored by writers for a specific reason. It is my understanding that the writer’s focus in this case was inward looking. To me, what you are mentioning was not in the scope of the paper. And to criticize a writer on something out of the scope of the topic is unfair, to say the least. If you look at the first paragraph of the conclusion, it states that “For all practical purposes, we may not be destroyed by our enemies as much as we may destroy ourselves if we continue making severe and often irreversible mistakes with no appetite for rethinking and [un]learning.” This shows that the writer has no ambiguity on the role of the enemies, which the writer called them ‘our enemies’. We should rather encourage solution oriented papers like this please.

          In fact, I find the writer of this paper very reasonable; the writer often includes oneself as part of the problem and the solution. The phrase ‘our enemies’ is a case in point. The writer didn’t even focus on enumerating the mistakes of the leadership as much as he enumerated the mistakes of the different segments of the society that he argued are enabling the political leadership not to learn. This makes the writer one of the most reasonable and thoughtful ones. So, I’m having hard time understand where you are coming from when you blame the writer on something that was never mentioned in the article. I have also seen the writer in the past 2 years on the Media, coordinating protests and making public speeches; he has been fighting the enemies more than anyone I known. It will be a disservice to truth if I don’t mention this fact. Finally, I encourage you to find a way to discuss your concerns with the writer, which could be a beneficial learning experience for both of you.

          • nimintai

            January 30, 2023 at 11:06 pm

            I think I wanted to see in the article more than a passing reference to our enemies, their unrelenting animosity, and the harm they have done to our people. But the article is more like an essay on ways and means of good governance, and I personally don’t consider that a matter of urgency under the circumstances. I want to close out my comments by saying, I appreciate it that you tell me the author was very active speaking up for Tigray in the public arena. And thank you for your thoughtful response to my comments. We are all guided by our concern for our people, the people of Tigray.

          • Bethlehem

            January 31, 2023 at 3:42 pm

            “But the article is more like an essay on ways and means of good governance, and I personally don’t consider that a matter of urgency under the circumstances.”

            Aren’t we now in the era of peace hope, and not on active war as it was the case before the Pretoria agreement? In the current peace hope sense, to refocus our language and rhetoric from war and animosity to peace and internal strength is I think consistent with the call of the time. Even the Tigray government is requesting all Tigrayans to support the peace process. And the article is emphasizing on the need to come together, assess the current situation, and strategize on how to navigate the current landscape. I don’t see it as an essay on mere good governance; it is rather a wholistic approach to the crisis. But yes, the article is forward looking. With this, I too close my comments. Thank you!

  4. Bethlehem

    January 28, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    This is an excellent and timely article. The dire situation in Tigray urges for more people like this who have the guts and the capability to explain the problem and suggest viable solutions. The question is, can the Tigyayans act on such genuine recommendations, and salvage themselves?

    I hope Tigrayans will not continue to let the incapable and corrupt TPLF leadership do business as usual. “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. If the current TPLF leadership is allowed to continue with little superficial or cosmetic changes, Tigray is surely doomed to perish.

    What happen to the Tigray people who are historically known as the pioneers of fighting against any form of exploitation? How can this great people be manipulated by a small group of incompetent politicians? When is Tigray going to claim what it deserves? Why is not Tigrayans using some of the best and brightest people it has to navigate through the crisis it is in today?

    This is just a mystery that Tigrayans, particularly those educated who are in Tigrya and the diaspora have to solve before it is too late. It is very sad to see this great people get itself into the trap of few incapable politicians who cannot even provide as good leadership as when TPLF was fighting the Dergue regime 4 decades ago. What we are witnessing with the Tigray leadership is a race to the bottom at an alarming speed.

    May God help Tigray!

  5. Maybrazyu

    January 27, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    I have read many articles about Tigray and Ethiopia; this is one of the best that I can say I read it all the way to the end with full interest. I want to acknowledge Mr.Yeman’s writing skill and passion to the topic.
    If any of current situation on the ground are changed farther, I am not sure having any kind of discussion are useful. In other word I am saying that we are too late to have this ‘have an inclusive discussion’ today. But we still need to start it today.
    For the most part of the recommendation It’s easy to say Agreed.
    It would be important to have this article in short form (not more than a page) In addition to the main article. This will help us to broadcast it easily for the wider audience. Even if we don’t like it, we know we are with in the period of short information and influence ear with TikTok, shorts, Instagram and even mass media are following the trend .
    It would be best if someone translate the shorter version of this article in to Tigrigna and Amharic. As tempting to have a scholar form or article, we need to be realistic with current sensational content TikTok an shorts era. I am not sure the full version of the article will interest the mass population to current audience. That is why I am signifying having this in short form and local translate.

    Thank You brother Yemane!

  6. The Awekened

    January 26, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    Very informative and time sensitive writing. It is very important & critical that we start medicating our political shenanigans and pave the road once and for all for the benefit of Tigray and only Tigray. Not for few politicians or few sole beneficiary individuals. Those types of people can’t hold the entire state hostage & at standstill.

    This article states very concise, good first attempt solution plan, not to mention clear & simple recommendations and raising critical criticisms that are wayyyyyy overdue. All Tegarus and lovers of Tegaru shall take it upon themselves to start rebuilding Tigray but must realize solving the political quagmire takes precedence above all.

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful article Yemane.

  7. Sahle

    January 24, 2023 at 12:44 am

    I strongly agree !!

  8. Berihu Kahsay

    January 22, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    I complitly agreed with Yemane’s assessment.

  9. Jim lee

    January 22, 2023 at 6:26 am

    It funny when the when the generic version of Eritrea 🇪🇷 start to speak about Eritrea FYI there is saying inheritors mesherefet adey temesker when it comes to poverty you are the queen and kings of that is why you live insid and still live in aid yes tplf have stolen billions of dollars from Ethiopia you started to copy your master Eritrean did remember when Mengustu call Tigray a province that for not have a budget tlo buy a chalk now you can make what ever change but still if you do go according Eritrea you will the region what mengustu described you As for Eritrean we will be your Dubai as it was back 1960,70

  10. Fmh

    January 21, 2023 at 10:05 pm

    Do you guys think this kind discussion or argument is right at this time?

  11. Eritreans out of Tigray and TPLF must step down

    January 21, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    በአማራ ክልል አርሶ አደሩ ለሴት ልጁ ተጠቦ ተጨንቆ ስም ሲያወጣ ምን ቢላት ጥሩ ነው፥፥ይግረማችሁም ሊያዝናናችሁም ይችላል፥፥ሁሉገርሽ የሚል ከስም ሁሉ የተለየ ስም አዉጥቶላታል፤፤፥ይህ ስም የዛሬዎቹን ተስፋፊ ኃይላት በደንብ ሊገልፅ ይችላል በሄዱበት ና በደረሱበት ሁሉ ያዩትን መንደርና ሀገር የኛ ነው ብለዉ ስለሚነፋረቁ ሁሉአገርሽ ፥ሁሉአገራቹ ፥እነ ሁሉአገርሽ ብንላቸው ይከፋቸው ይሆንን?? ምርጥ ስም ነው፥፥ይመቻቸው ይጠሩበት በዚህ ምርጥ ስም ይሞካሹበት፤፤ ካኒባሉ ነፍሰ በላው ፋኖና መላው የአማራ አንድ አድርገን አንወስድም፤፤አንድ ዘራፊ ሕፃናት ደፋሪ ፥ሰው አራጅ ወንበዴ ቡድን መላው አማራን አይወክልም፥፥ የጀሪካን ሌባው መንግሥትና ሠራዊቱ ለጠላቱ አራዊት ነው ሢሉ ራሳቸውን ያንቆለጳጵሳሉ፤፤አራዊትነታቸው መንደር ለመንደር እየዞሩ ሕፃናትንና እናቶችን መረሸን መድፈር ከባዳንውና ሌባው ፋኖ ጋር ሁነው ክቡር የፈጣሪ አምሣል የሆነን የሰውን ልጅ ከነሕይወቱ ፊጢኝ አሥረው ወደ ጥልቅ ባሕር ስለወረወሩ ጥቃቅን የኩሽና ዕቃዎች ስለዘረፉ በድል ተመለሥን ብለው እነርሱና ደጋፊዎቻቸው ሲዳሩ አመሹ፤፤ከተለያዩ ሀገራት የተበረከተላቸው ና የገዙት መሣሪያ በኢትዮጵያና ሶማሌ ሠራዊት ድጋፍ እንጂ ታሪካቸው እንደሚያስረዳው ሽንፈትና ቅኝ ግዛት ስደት ልመና ብቻ የተመላ ታሪክ ነው፥፥ጣሊያን ይመስክር፥፥ all eritreans out of ethiopia thieves , cannibals and beggars all over the world Fanos and their supporters like Debtera Habtamu Ayalew are Champions of ethnic terrorism

    • Cannibalist Fanos modern day cannibalists ever exist

      January 21, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      Despite being considered repulsive by the majority of the world, Cannibalism, eating of human flesh by humans, is very much still alive today.
      1.Papua New Guinea-The Korowai tribe patrol a jungle in Papua
      2.The Naihehe Caves – Sigatoka, Fiji
      3.The Ganges River, India-The Aghori, a sect of Indian Monks The Aghori monks of India use herbal drugs, alcohol, and meditation as well as human flesh in their rituals

      4.The Democratic Republic of the Congo 5.Cambodia
      6. Ethiopia-Fanos(Amhara killing squads
      7.Eritrea-PFDJ(“Higdef”)and its army
      8.Nuku Hiva
      9.Liberia-Doctors Without Borders found evidence of cannibalistic practices while in Liberia

      10.Rothenburg, Germany-German Hannibal Lecter, Armin Meiwes, advertised for a victim he could eat
      11.Miami, Florida:A crazed, naked man was shot by police in Miami in 2012 as he refused to stop eating his victim’s face. Cannibal Rudy Eugene set upon unwitting Ronaldo Poppo on a Florida freeway, leaving him with only one eye and severe facial injuries.

      12. Australia-Arnhem Land, in the far north of Northern Territory,

      Fanos and eritrean regime are recently discovered human flesh eaters and anthroplogists must do further research.We sent a copy of this comment to anthroplogists for extensive studies.

  12. Abrihet

    January 21, 2023 at 11:56 am

    Im confused by this argument:
    a)TPLF made changes in leadership in 2018 that have allowed for, amongst other things, a closer relationship with the Anja. Tsadkans leadership role was heavily highlighted in the aftermath of the successful operation Alula, credited, as he was, with being the greatest military strategist in Africa. If he is accountable for the success, shouldn’t he equally be accountable for being the greatest African General that surrendered to Bacha Debele ? Siyes brother was officially made Devretsions envoy to the Horn and has participated in negotiations, both secret and public. Should he not shoulder some of the blame for the debacle that was Seychelles and is Pretoria ? Siye himself has several times mentioned Debretsions more ‘inclusive’ leadership style, which, he tells us, allowed him to also have a leadership role. Mulugeta Chaltu too has been Debretsions primary liason with the international community.
    B) if indeed the Anja did have such wide acceptance within Tigray, and the organizational and strategic capacities here touted, why did their party ARENA Tigray fail to make an impact? Why did its new leadership side with the federal government in the genocide against Tigray?
    C) it is not only the Eritreans but the Amharas, the Gojami business men made rich by Siye and Tsadkan, Birthukan Midekksa made famous by the bribe the Gojamis paid her to dismiss Siyes case, that took part in the genocide, does this mean they should be held responsible for it ?
    D)it’s ironic that Tsadkan, who’s made his come back based on his position that the international community should not have stopped him from engaging in perpetual war with the Eritreans in the 2000s, should then go on to claim not only that his offensive following Alula was aborted due to pressure from the international community but that his proximity to the international community is what qualifies him for leadership of Tigray.

    I have to say, recent turn of events really makes me wonder about the circumstances in which those opposed to this group during the Ethio Eritrea war were the only ones captured and killed during this genocide.

  13. Ethnic terrorist by fanos & ye jerrican leba named eritreans

    January 21, 2023 at 10:38 am

    ERITREA — The small East African nation of Eritrea has a population of approximately 5.5 million, of which 69 percent are estimated to live in poverty. Eritreans are told to bring jerrycans (jerrican), generators, jewelleries, and other valuable items as they have been heard of exchanging about their robbery via their telephone conversation. Videos are circulating in social media displaying eritrean army carrying the above goods in their trucks.
    Eritrean Skilled birth attendance remains low, between 35-60%, maternal mortality ratio high at 485 deaths per 100,000 live births and under-five malnutrition also high with 52% of children underweight.
    In 2015, youth illiteracy for Eritrea was 67,326. Between 2002 and 2015,
    Without food aid, 69% of the population would have been unable to
    consume the minimum basket of food and other essential commodities.
    ‘Multiple independent sources in Israel and the Sinai have identified General Teklai Kifle Manjus … as well as a string of intermediaries, as being directly responsible for the cross-border smuggling of humans and weapons from Eritrea,” it states. Eritrea’s military is trafficking the nation’s children, report says;Eritrean youths are being kidnapped by senior military officers, smuggled into Sudan and held to ransom, according to a report by Dutch and Swedish researchers.Basing their findings on interviews with 230 Eritreans who suffered this fate, the researchers conclude that between 2007 and 2012, some 25,000 to 30,000 people were trafficked.

    This extreme poverty , envy of ethiopain and Tigrayan development and eritrean defeat in ethio-eritrean war has lead eritrean invasion of Tigray .

    Eritrea out of Ethiopia and bring PFDJ to Icc.

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