Yes, there is Tigrean domination in Ethiopia | by Jawar Mohammed

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In their recent joint interview, chairmen of the EPRDF member parties went out of their way to say there is no Tigrean or even TPLF domination in Ethiopia. Given TPLF has been crying about alleged rise of anti-Tigrean sentiment in Ethiopia, it is understandable that the chairmen resorted to such methods. However, to say there is no Tigrean domination in today’s Ethiopia is not just false but also counter productive.

Yes, Tigreans dominate the economy, the security and federal bureaucracy. Tigreans make up about 6% of the population. Yet it’s a public knowledge that 9 out of 10 key military command posts are occupied by Tigrean generals. The intelligence service is almost entirely made of single ethnic group — Tigreans. When it comes to the economy, the domination is even more obvious. EFFORT is the largest corporation that owns several dozens of companies. It is an oligarchy that dominates trade, manufacturing, banking and so on. And, here it comes. It officially belongs to the Tigrean people. Ethiopia has some 3000 millionaires. Over 2/3 of them are Tigreans. In the federal government for every minister from another ethnic group, there is always a Tigrean occupying state minister or director general. For every ambassador, the second in command is Tigrean.

The chairmen tried to whitewash the obvious and clearly visible domination saying it’s a perception caused by few rent seeking Tigreans who want to pretend to dominate. That is just not the case. Tigreans did not dominate the military command, or get disproportionally rich by fluke through individual ‘rent seeking’ as has been claimed by the chairmen. It is by design. Tigrean domination is structurally embedded reality of the current regime. I understand that all Tigreans might not have benefited from the domination. Neither did whites as a whole benefit from the South African apartheid or the American Jim Crow. Today few dare to say there was no white domination under those systems. Yet History books show us that back in the days, Apartheid and Jim Crow apologists used to deny exclusion of blacks and existence of white domination.

Some friends are trying to be politically correct by saying there is TPLF domination rather than Tigrean domination. But what is the consequence of TPLF domination? In South Africa, it is the domination politics by National Party that gave birth to the apartheid system that favored whites and discriminated against blacks. Not all whites were members and supporters of National Party. Neither did 100% of whites benefit from apartheid. BUT while making up just 20% of the total population whites owned 70% of the country’s economy under apartheid. An average white person used to ear at least 5 times more than an average black person. What led to such disparity? Domination of politics by by the National Party that favored whites over blacks. Hence it is impossible to separate domination of a country’s politics by political organization representing one ethnic group from domination of power and wealth by that group as one leads to the other. Just as National Party’s domination lead to white domination in South Africa, TPLF’s domination of Ethiopia’s politics for the last 27 years have resulted in domination of wealth and real power by Tigreans.

I understand the political correctness the four chairmen and others exercised and the fear that bluntness might increase ethnic tension. However, trying to cover up a glaring reality does not serve the purpose of defusing ethnic tension either. In fact, it gives excuses for further domination and exclusion leading to increased disparity and intensified animosity. What is needed is to openly and truthfully confront the reality head on. Tigrean elites need to admit the existing inequality favoring their group. Others need to continue to expose it not with intent to inflame hatred but to force real and structural change that fosters fairness and equality among the various groups in the country.

5 comments

  1. That absurd narrative of whether or not Tigre domination exists, should irk every thinking individual.
    The cardinal point should have revolved around the question of legitimacy and number.
    1.Primarily, the Woyane Tigres are mercenaries. They fought along side Ziad Barre’s invasion army of Somalia in 1978/79 war.
    2. They have been part and parcel of the Eritrean secessionist army for the entire duration of their existence.

    3. TPLF was partly responsible for the very survival of the much-reviled Derg as TPLF and their Eritrean cousins secessionist agenda spurred Ethiopians to rally behind the Derg however much they hated it.

    4. Tigres are a very tiny minority. Only one out of 20 Ethiopians is a Tigre.
    In other words, in every government institution, parastatal organization, educational institutions, the armed forces, the law of parity and proportional representation should have applied.

    The reality is beyond anybody’s wildest imagination. The 5% Tigres have replaced 95% of Ethiopians.
    Traitor Tigres, a tiny minority at that, have appropriated 95% of the highest positions in the army, government,parastatals and other public offices, which should have been occupied by other Ethiopians.

    So, the gang of treasonous Tigres is illegitimate in the first place. But even if that was not the case, their minority status would never warrant their occupation of our country at the expense of the majority 95%
    Therefore, there is no alternative to dislodging the Tigre colonialists who need to be subjected to due judicial process. The onus of doing so rests on the broad shoulders of all Ethiopians.

  2. Anybody who has read the ‘Habesha Jebdu’ learns about the conduct of Tigres, that means the majority of them. Italians had been explicitly instructing Tigres to attack Amaras and Oromo patriotic forces which was followed by mercenary Tigres to the letter.
    It was then, that the brilliant boy, Abichu, who at an age of only 16 commanded over 200 fellow patriots emerged. This courage-incarnate Ethiopian of Oromo descent made history by punishing the Italians and the traitor Tigres alike over 80 years ago.
    The Tigrean hostility to Amara and Oromo unity has a long history. It was the Tigre prince in the Gondar palace, Sehool Michael, who had murdered Iyoas, the young king of Amara and Oromo decent. The assassination of the 11 year-old Gondar Emperor led to the near-fragmentation of Ethiopia three centuries ago. Tigres have never since relented from attempting from undoing Ethiopia and seeing Amaras as its avowed enemies. The Tigrean alliance with the British when that imperialist country invaded Tewedros’ Ethiopia is a case in point.
    That said, Tigreans have always been instrumental in the spates of massacres of Amaras from fascist Italian times to this very day.
    I wish the rest of Ethiopians would wish to forge a nation without Tigres. In any case, Amaras need to organize as a people in their bid to avert more genocides as long as there is a Tigrean threat.

    Fascist Italian archives made no secret that they had decimated over 800,000 Amaras although the figure is believed to overly undermined. General Nazi has massacred 0ver 300,000 in Begemdir and Gondar alone.

    According to the accepted demographic projections, the dead Amaras would have easily become at least between 8-10 million today.
    The Derg has committed a series of massacres aimed at Amaras in different parts of the country too.
    Since Woyanes usurped power, over 2.8 million Amaras have been declared unaccounted for by its own functionaries. Informed sources estimate this figure to be well in excess of 5.8 million. All in all, over 15 million more Amara would have been around today.

    Italians earmarked Amaras for their ‘singular sin’, their unyielding patriotism. Tigres and their Eritrean cousins were instrumental in spilling the blood of Amaras.
    The inferior breed of Tigre-speaking mercenaries had also targeted Amaras because of rank jealousy. Unlike Tigres, who are very ethnocentric and parochial, Amara nobility of spirit that has transcended primal tribal worldview disturbs them.
    Tigres envy Amaras and despise other Ethiopians. I speak from personal experience. These places were hell for my Selale mother. Having grown up in Kuhya (Tigrai) and Asmara barracks ‘ I know how primitive they are generally.

    For an average Amara, one’s ethnic background does not matter. I have not heard my reticent father from Menz say much about these people. But he hated his deployment there. That is why he turned his gun on himself when Mesiwa fell to the enemy Eritreans and their Arab allies in 1991. But my mother still has fond memories of Gondar and Negele Borena.

    Fairness is great Amara virtue, no doubt. But this enviable quality need not make them lose their guard in future. Many lessons have been learned to avert the sort of genocides of epic proportion in the future.
    The past realities will surely spur on Amaras to mount a firewall against similar genocides.

  3. Jawar M. talks about “domination” throughout his opinion. I wonder why he did not call it “oppression”. That suggests to me he does not believe there is “oppression” which is systemic, deep – rooted and severe than “domination”. Normally, domination is dealt with resource redistribution while “oppression” can only be dealt with overthrow of a system. In our case, source of squabble over resources relates to economic disparity, ranks in the military and security, positions in the bureaucracy, etc. The way he expresses his opinion, it is about “oppression” than “domination”. Since a politically savvy guy like Jawar does not confuse “oppression” than “domination”, it seems he has settled for resource redistribution than overthrow of the system. It is good that he is not after state – government collapse in the country.
    The irony is Jawar talks of “Tigre domination” drawing examples from the worst types of racial oppression in history such as apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the U.S. These were not about simple “domination” (which is domination in economy, ranks in the military and security, positions in the bureaucracy, etc. ) but total occupation and oppression of one race by another including exploitation of egregious nature. By mentioning apartheid or Jim Crow, is Jawar suggesting those types of relationships exists in Ethiopia today? If they do not exist which I believe Jawar will also agree, are they appropriate examples to show what he calls “Tigrean domination”? Personally, I feel the examples are out of place intended to infuriate people whom he said are dominated. I find his claim that he does not want to “inflame hatred” untruthful.
    It is not uncommon for some ultra – unionists to characterize the federalism in the country as apartheid system. It is also not uncommon to hear some refer to the federalism as “ethnocracy” with Tigres running the show. Relating apartheid to the so called Tigre domination is endorsing a non-existent practice of “ethnocracy” in the country. Tigres as people are not ruling Ethiopia. In effect, this amounts to rejecting the existing federalism and an overture to replace it with ultra-unionist structure. It might be subtle but Jawar appears to move in that direction by abandoning his federalist rhetoric. His whole argument of Tigre domination feeds that line of thinking. If he has issues, it should be with TPLF rather than Tigres. As partner organization to OPDO that rules Oromia, it might have influence in OPDO’s governance of the region. Still, does this amount to TPLF domination? I don’t think so.
    I don’t know on what study he bases his views because he is not giving us numbers to how many Tigres prospered under TPLF/EPRDF rule. There is no doubt that the overwhelming number of top rank officers in the military and security are Tigre, but there were recent reports that they were working on it to change the imbalance. EFFORT might present itself as TPLF/Tigre enterprise but I have not read or heard anything important it has done for the people in the region. Including the two-third millionaires out of the 3000 in the country all Tigres in business and professions combined won’t exceed five thousand. Given that Tigres are seven million, five thousand is a fraction of the entire population. The six million plus do not know or share anything with the five thousand. So, why target Tigres as the enemy?
    Even the five thousand, should they be blamed for prospering? After 1991, Ethiopia was like Russia after the collapse of the USSR where everybody was in a rush to be ahead of everybody in the new economic order. Like some did in Russia, some have done it in our country too. They have taken advantage of the chaotic situation including using TPLF/EPRDF for their personal ends. If there is anybody to correct the situation using “resource redistribution” (as illustrated above) it is TPLF/EPRDF. I hope they will work on it.
    By the way, if OPDO, ANDM and Sothern organization have agreed that there is no Tigre domination, ask them why and under what measure they said that? Last week they were praised as reformers that will save the country and now they are co-conspirators to advance TPLF/Tigre domination? It does not make sense.
    There is one final point I want to mention before I close. Jawar talks about “Tigreans”. As to me, there is no such thing called « Tigreans » as there is no such thing called Oromians, Amarians, Afarians, Gambelians, etc. since you all belong to one country – Ethiopia. If “XXXian” does not show belonging to X country, you better make it clear for all to understand. As far as I am concerned, Tigray is not a country – not at least until now.
    Most Ethiopians used to call us Eritreans way before we achieved independence. It was implicit suggestion – admission to use the exact word – us being different from them. We accepted the “label” imposed on us and worked on it and became independent. What else can you do when you are being told you’re not one of them?
    The issue of “us and them” might appear trivial, but my advice to Ethiopians is not to call “Tigres” as Tigreans. If you have a hidden agenda to force them go – like you did to us – it might work, but your intention does not seem to be one. If you insist calling them “Tigreans”, they will have no choice except to act on it. If you don’t want them, they are welcome to join us. After all, we share common culture language being one of it, religion and border.
    I think Jawar still needs much thinking than react impulsively.

  4. Desta,

    Your anti-Tigre comments are counter productive. We can not hate all Tigreans. Jawar wrote a perfect article showing the reality of Tigrean domination but telling us not to inflame ethnic hatred. He is right.

    Please stop this historic nonsense! Yes some Tigres helped Italy but not all. Why do you think Adwa happened because of Tigres. And remember Ras Mengesha and Alula are iconic Ethiopian patriots

    Plus the Oromo king iyoas was not targeted only by Tigres
    also some amaras and Agew hated him. It was a nonethnic power struggle
    Tigres don’t hate us because of ethnicity. Yes Ancient Tigre Rases hate Menelik moving down the Ethiopian empire center to Shewa(Amara and Oromo) but remember that many raya and wollo Oromos allied with Tigres too. Actually the first Woyane Movement was started by raya and Tigres together. Our history is too complex. Stop trying to portray all Tigres as anti ethiopia traitors.

  5. The following is the exact copy of what is published above except change of format. It is easy to read and follow train of thought now because it is divided in paragraphs. The one above was supposed to be published as the one below. Thank you “Zehabesha” for re – publishing it.
    ________________________________________

    Jawar M. talks about “domination” throughout his opinion. I wonder why he did not call it “oppression”. That suggests to me he does not believe there is “oppression” which is systemic, deep – rooted and severe than “domination”. Normally, domination is dealt with resource redistribution while “oppression” can only be dealt with overthrow of a system.

    In our case, source of squabble over resources relates to economic disparity, ranks in the military and security, positions in the bureaucracy, etc. The way he expresses his opinion, it is about “oppression” than “domination”. Since a politically savvy guy like Jawar does not confuse “oppression” than “domination”, it seems he has settled for resource redistribution than overthrow of the system. It is good that he is not after state – government collapse in the country.

    The irony is Jawar talks of “Tigre domination” drawing examples from the worst types of racial oppression in history such as apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the U.S. These were not about simple “domination” (which is domination in economy, ranks in the military and security, positions in the bureaucracy, etc. ) but total occupation and oppression of one race by another including exploitation of egregious nature. By mentioning apartheid or Jim Crow, is Jawar suggesting those types of relationships exists in Ethiopia today? If they do not exist which I believe Jawar will also agree, are they appropriate examples to show what he calls “Tigrean domination”? Personally, I feel the examples are out of place intended to infuriate people whom he said are dominated. I find his claim that he does not want to “inflame hatred” untruthful.

    It is not uncommon for some ultra – unionists to characterize the federalism in the country as apartheid system. It is also not uncommon to hear some refer to the federalism as “ethnocracy” with Tigres running the show. Relating apartheid to the so called Tigre domination is endorsing a non-existent practice of “ethnocracy” in the country. Tigres as people are not ruling Ethiopia. In effect, this amounts to rejecting the existing federalism and an overture to replace it with ultra-unionist structure. It might be subtle but Jawar appears to move in that direction by abandoning his federalist rhetoric. His whole argument of Tigre domination feeds that line of thinking. If he has issues, it should be with TPLF rather than Tigres. As partner organization to OPDO that rules Oromia, it might have influence in OPDO’s governance of the region. Still, does this amount to TPLF domination? I don’t think so.

    I don’t know on what study he bases his views because he is not giving us numbers to how many Tigres prospered under TPLF/EPRDF rule. There is no doubt that the overwhelming number of top rank officers in the military and security are Tigre, but there were recent reports that they were working on it to change the imbalance. EFFORT might present itself as TPLF/Tigre enterprise but I have not read or heard anything important it has done for the people in the region. Including the two-third millionaires out of the 3000 in the country all Tigres in business and professions combined won’t exceed five thousand. Given that Tigres are seven million, five thousand is a fraction of the entire population. The six million plus do not know or share anything with the five thousand. So, why target Tigres as the enemy?

    Even the five thousand, should they be blamed for prospering? After 1991, Ethiopia was like Russia after the collapse of the USSR where everybody was in a rush to be ahead of everybody in the new economic order. Like some did in Russia, some have done it in our country too. They have taken advantage of the chaotic situation including using TPLF/EPRDF for their personal ends. If there is anybody to correct the situation using “resource redistribution” (as illustrated above) it is TPLF/EPRDF. I hope they will work on it.

    By the way, if OPDO, ANDM and Sothern organization have agreed that there is no Tigre domination, ask them why and under what measure they said that? Last week they were praised as reformers that will save the country and now they are co-conspirators to advance TPLF/Tigre domination? It does not make sense.

    There is one final point I want to mention before I close. Jawar talks about “Tigreans”. As to me, there is no such thing called « Tigreans » as there is no such thing called Oromians, Amarians, Afarians, Gambelians, etc. since you all belong to one country – Ethiopia. If “XXXian” does not show belonging to X country, you better make it clear for all to understand. As far as I am concerned, Tigray is not a country – not at least until now.

    Most Ethiopians used to call us Eritreans way before we achieved independence. It was implicit suggestion – admission to use the exact word – us being different from them. We accepted the “label” imposed on us and worked on it and became independent. What else can you do when you are being told you’re not one of them?

    The issue of “us and them” might appear trivial, but my advice to Ethiopians is not to call “Tigres” as Tigreans. If you have a hidden agenda to force them go – like you did to us – it might work, but your intention does not seem to be one. If you insist calling them “Tigreans”, they will have no choice except to act on it. If you don’t want them, they are welcome to join us. After all, we share common culture language being one of it, religion and border.

    I think Jawar still needs much thinking than react impulsively.

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