‘The Greater Tigray’ Saga

By: Agazi G. PhD

For years we have been bombarded by complaints from the chauvinist camps of some Eritrean elites and narrow minded Ethiopian opposition members about the TPLF’s ideation of creating a Greater Tigray state. Most of them refer to the TPLF manifesto of 1976 which was later revoked in the second congress held in 1979.

More than the TPLF it is the above mentioned group who wish to babble that part of history repeatedly. It is a paradox to see a group, which denies and nullifies TPLF’s vowed goals which are on the open, but believe the party is deliberately working on an agenda which it officially has discarded. But as they are known to believe only what they wish to believe, we don’t deny them their freedom of delusion.

The idea of Greater Tigray State, AKA Abay Tigray or Tigray Tigrigni (Tigrigna), is not a novice idea. Its root is laid way back in the forties. Its proponents are personalities like WeldeAb WeldeMariam, known for many as the Father of Eritrea. It had gained a significant support also from people like Raesi Tessema. There were few but prominent leaders in the Tigrean side as well who supported the idea.

Why are people campaigning now against that concept of unity? The answer is different when we deal with different parties as they have their own goals.

The Unionist, Ultra Nationalist or chauvinist groups in the opposition parties in Ethiopia vehemently oppose this idea because a Greater Tigray means a more powerful State in the north. Their fear is based on the concept that once this state is formed it will secede from Ethiopia. But their real fear is that if such Union is formed it may compete with their ‘historic’ rights to lead the country unopposed.

This fear seems unfounded because of two reasons. The first is; can’t that state continue to be federated with the larger Ethiopian territory? Secession is only a solution for systematic oppression and lack of equality. If the right of the people is met I can’t see any reason why anyone would seek separation from the country they have shed their blood like no other.

The second reason is that in a modern era like today there is no so called ‘historic’ right. Every Ethiopian national should have an equal opportunity to lead the highest office. The struggle should be in creation of a functional democracy which safeguards the rights of every citizen.

As all Amharic speakers and Oromifa speakers are administered under the same regional governments, for example, I failed to see why the Tigrigna speakers shouldn’t enjoy the same rights. When the Amharic speaking parts of Wollo, Shoa and Gondar were joined with Gojam to form the Amhara regional state no one uttered a word saying the government in Bahir Dar is grabbing lands from the previous Kifle Hagers.

But when the Tigrigna speaking people of Wollo and only part of Gondar (not all Tigreans got the same chance) were put in the same administrative region everybody was talking at the highest of their voices. This is a double standard.

In fact Tigray has lost significant territory in the East to the new region of Afar and in the south to Amhara region. But no one cares to mention this.

All they want to see is the poverty stricken, miserable, destitute Tigray, as this is the legacy of the last two kings. To see a stronger, United Tigray is a nightmare for any immoral chauvinist.

The reason of the Eritrean extremists, which includes the majority in the government and opposition is quite different. With a defunct governance and extreme tyranny in the politically locked country in one hand and the 30+ useless opposition parties in exile in the other, all share one thing in common.

That is their vowed hatred for Ethiopia in general and Tigray in particular. Their failures are all due to the ‘malicious’ deeds of Woyane but their success is due to the superhuman nature of Yike’alo.

As there is no greater insult for a Greek than to be called a Turkish, for the Eritrean there seems to be no greater evil than considering an him a brother of the Tigreans. The non existing identity they are trying to forge is based solely in their anti Tigray sentiment.

If they fail to draw a redline and distanced themselves from the Tigreans, they believe all that sacrifice was for nothing. That will dismiss the Raison d’être for thirty year long bloody struggle for independence.

All that was needed was to struggle for equality and justice. The pre and post independence brainwashing an entire population in the hatred of one’s kin just to secure a plausible reason for separation is leading to ultimate identity crisis.

Talking about unity and brotherhood with the misguided Eritreans is thus partly questioning about the legitimacy of their three decade long struggle.

The ultimate goal of the separation was to grab all the sea frontier and leave their southern kins in utter poverty and to put themselves in a patronising mood by appearing as a better off country in the impoverished East African region.

As the result of the illegitimate referendum has shown almost every single person who was allowed to participate favoured independence. As though having a separate flag or a thousand kilometre long sea coast is by itself suffice for one’s progress they were anticipating to see unprecedented development.

But when their government failed to live up to its promises it took no time to ignite an all sided war and thereby putting a nail on the coffin of brotherhood with their Mereb Milash kins, suppress any move towards democracy and quelling any internal uprising.

The current hidden crisis of Eritrea which is boiling just under the surface is not too good for the future of that state. From what had previously been a religious historical foe of the Highlanders and Lowlanders now it has gone deep down to the Awraja level, furthering the disintegration of the almost nonintegrated population.

If one capitalises in difference then there is no point when or where to stop it. Once you start thinking you are the best race in Africa then it is natural to believe your Awraja is better than the next one, and your sub zone or county or family is better than your neighbours. No brake will function well in that slippery downhill road. It is hard to find a brother love among hate mongers.

As there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how small their current number is we are witnessing a courageous and wise Eritreans who know their history well and are not victims of the evil Shabiya-Jebha screwed mentality. It is that seed which should flower in the future and culminate the half a century long madness.

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