The Abduction of Endargachew Tsige, and the Nature and Reality of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Opposition

By Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis,

1. Introduction

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Andargachew-Tsige

Endargachew Tsige was kidnapped on June 23rd, 2014 at the Sana’a International airport  while on transit to Eritrea by Ethiopian security agents with the active connivance and collaboration of Yemeni intelligence services. After denying his abduction for more than two weeks , on July 9th,, the TPLF gangs were seen to be parading their victim on Ethiopian Television. The freshly tortured and humiliated Endargachew Tsige is seen being displayed on Ethiopian television and desperately telling his torturer; “I am at ease with myself. For me it is a blessing in disguise. I am in no rush. I just want to rest. I am really exhausted. I have no resentment, no anger and no despair. I am totally in control and stable.”

In the end, we see Endargachew shaking hands with his torturer and showing a sardonic smile, while the face of his coward interrogator/torturer remained hidden from  public view. The TPLF gangs ruling Ethiopia today, are well known for savagely and routinely torturing their victims to extract information/confessions, and as a means of humiliating, and inflicting maximum pain on their victims. Torturing political prisoners apart from being cruel and inhuman, is also illegal in all its manifestations under international law. However, the TPLF political gangs can get away with their crude violations of international law and norms because, as allies in the war against terrorism, they are politically and diplomatically shielded by the dictator friendly American and British governments.

2. The purpose

The  purpose of this article is to raise awareness of the kidnapping of Endargachew Tsige, and the nature and reality of the Ethiopian and Eritrean opposition groups. The article raises, among other things, some basic questions of common interest for both Eritreans and Ethiopians engaged in the struggle for justice, democracy and human right. It also discusses how Eritrean democrats should respond to his abduction. It is written from the perspective of an independent Eritrean democrat, engaged in the protracted struggle for democracy, justice and human rights in Eritrea against the rotten dictatorial PFDJ regime.

3. Who is Endargachew Tsige; and who entrapped him in Saana?              

Endargachew Tsige is a well known Ethiopian opposition leader and Secretary General of Ginbot 7. Before he joined the opposition, Andargachew was a former member of the ruling party –the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and had briefly held the position of  Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa. To be sure, Ginbot 7 is an opposition Ethiopian political party, officially launched in 2008 in the aftermath of Ethiopia’s fraudulent May 2005 national elections. The founders of Ginbot-7 are Berhanu Nega and Endargachew Tsige and other like minded Ethiopians. Its declared political objectives are to overthrow the semi-fascist TPLF regime in Ethiopia and create a democratic government in its place.

In 2011, three years after its birth, Ginbot 7, along with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), who are fighting for the Ogaden people’s right to self-determination, and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), who are also struggling for the right to self-determination for the Oromo people, were declared terrorists by the semi-fascist Tigrian rulers of Ethiopia . It should be remembered here that, in the aftermath of the May 2005 rigged election, more 200 unarmed protesters were murdered in cold blood in broad-day-light by the TPLF security forces. It should also be remembered that in 2009 and 2012, Mr Andergachew Tsige was among those opposition leaders sentenced to death in absentia for allegedly planning to overthrow the tyrannical Woyane regime.

4. The Big Question

The big question is-how did the intelligence agents of Ethiopia and Yemen know in advance the travel itinerary of Endargachew Tsige? In other words, who could have informed them about his travel plans in advance? In my opinion, it could only be either his close comrades, the airline or the travel agency which made the travel arrangements for him,  British intelligence, or an Eritrean double agent operating from his base in Eritrea, with whom Endargachew might have had an active contact who  betrayed him in the end. In any case, these are some of the most important questions which require exploring and scrutinizing by all concerned to determine how his enemies knew about his planned travel via Yemen to Eritrea and kidnapped him.

5. Some Questions Requiring Answers

So far, I have stated the basic facts related to the profile and kidnapping of Endargachew. Let me now raise some relevant questions related to what should be the stand of Eritreans on his abduction. The first question which requires an appropriate answer is thus: can the Eritrean opposition groups have a common stand on his abduction? And what does it mean to Eritrean and Ethiopian democrats when opposition groups claiming to be struggling for democracy and the respect of human rights, go and ally themselves with tyrant leaders? I will answer now the questions I have posed here as objectively and honestly as I can.
To begin with, the answer to the question can the Eritrean opposition groups have a common stand on the abduction of Endargachew is a definite no! Why? Because Eritreans today are sharply divided between those on the one hand ,who support and entertain the Eritrean dictator and his oppressive government, , and those on the other that oppose the Eritrean regime supported by the TPLF oppressive government of Ethiopia,. But this is not all. For Eritreans are also sharply divided between the opposition groups based in Ethiopia and those operating in the diaspora. For the Eritrean groups based in Ethiopia consider and propagate that the TPLF led government of Ethiopia is democratic and are the strategic friend of Eritrea and its people. Much to their discredit, these groups do not even have the political will to demand their TPLF paymasters vacate the illegally occupied Eritrean territories and  stop its crude interference in Eritrean internal affairs. There are therefore qualitative differences between the opposition groups nurtured and supported by the TPLF government of Ethiopia, and those independent Eritrean groups and individuals uncompromisingly opposed both to the semi-fascist PFDJ regime and the expansionist and anti-democratic TPLF led government of Ethiopia. Thus, unlike the puppet Eritrean groups based in Ethiopia, these independent Eritrean political groups and individuals portray the TPLF led government of Ethiopia as the strategic enemy of the Eritrean and Ethiopian people and consistently struggles and call for the overthrow of both the PFDJ led government of Eritrea and the TPLF led government of Ethiopia. In other words, these Eritrean opposition groups believe genuine peace, stability and the collective economic emancipation of the oppressed people of both countries will be realized only if we succeed in overthrowing the two oppressive governments in both Eritrea and Ethiopia through the joint struggle of Eritrean and Ethiopian democrats.

Having explained the existing division and qualitative differences within the Eritrean opposition groups based in Ethiopia and those operating in the diaspora, let me now pose the question: how do the independent Eritrean democrats opposed both to the PFDJ and TPLF regime view the abduction of Endargachew Tsige?

Before I answer the question , there are several other questions which beg for an appropriate answer. These are the following revealing questions: Are  Endargachew Tsige and his party a friend of the Eritrean people or a committed friend of the Eritrean dictator? Could a leader of a party allied with a demonic dictator, such as Issayas Afeworki, be trusted to be a friend of the Eritrean people? What is more, could he also be trusted to establish an accountable and democratic state based on the rule of law in Ethiopia itself? I will now attempt to answer my own questions by way of an example.

Some years back, I participated in a seminar conducted by Endargachew Tsige for Ethiopians living in London. The seminar was attended by Ethiopians opposed to TPLF rule of Ethiopia and by some invited PFDJ cadres. During the question and answer session, I asked Endargachew the following questions. How do you explain that your party – the party which has the declared political objectives to topple the oppressive Woyane regime and institute a democratic and accountable government on its ruins in Ethiopia- is allying itself with the tyrannical Eritrean regime tormenting the Eritrean people? Don’t you understand that Eritrean democrats are also struggling to overthrow the demonic PFDJ regime- just like Ethiopian democrats opposed to the TPLF government are busy doing – in order to construct a democratic regime based on the rule of law in Eritrea?

The following is the reply Endargachew gave to my question. “We are in Eritrea not by choice as such, but because Ethiopian freedom fighters cannot effectively fight and successfully defeat the Woyanne dictatorship without a base in Eritrea, and the cooperation of the PFDJ led government of Eritrea. For this concrete reason, we are in Eritrea to conduct effective operations against the TPLF dictatorship.”

Having heard his response, then I tend to believe that Ginbot 7 and its political leadership were operating from Eritrea for reasons dictated by the prevailing historical circumstances and the geopolitics of the region. However, in 2013 in an interview with the diaspora based Ethiopian Satellite television, I heard Engargachew praising lavishly and unambiguously, and lionizing the Eritrean dictator, defending the PFDJ government and its policies. He indeed spoke unapologetically and at great length as if he was a senior PFDJ cadre in charge of propaganda, and not as an Ethiopian who is in Eritrea dictated by unyielding historical necessity.

Similarly, as if it was meant to be an insult to the intelligence of Eritrean democrats opposed to the PFDJ regime, Elias Kifle, the editor of Ethiopian Review and an ally of Ginbot 7, and a regular visitor to the Eritrean Dictator, has gone to the extent of  selecting the Eritrean dictator, Issayas Afeworki, as the Man-of-the-Year in 2008. It is therefore crystal clear that Ginbot 7 and its political leadership are working hand in glove with the cruel and semi-fascist dictatorial PFDJ regime and its dictatorial leader Issayas Afeworki- the man who has transformed Eritrea into a giant prison. Ginbot-7 and its political leadership are therefore the friends and allies of the Eritrean Dictator.

There are therefore obvious similarities between the different Ethiopian opposition groups operating from their bases in Eritrea and the Eritrean opposition groups based in Ethiopia. In other words, the different Ethiopian opposition groups are operating from their base in Eritrea under the firm control of PFDJ officials, just like the various servile Eritrean opposition groups based in Addis Ababa operate  under the firm control of the TPLF rulers of Ethiopia. The Eritrean opposition political groups in particular are groups who do not and cannot even dare to say a word of protest when more than 200 innocent Ethiopian demonstrators were gunned down in front of their eyes in Addis Ababa. On the contrary, these Eritrean puppet groups who wine and dine with the Ethiopian government officials are defending and praising the Woyane regime unashamedly as the best government Ethiopia has ever had ,and portray the vicious regime as the strategic friend of Eritrea and its people.

As matters are today, the Ethiopian opposition groups based in Eritrea have put their lot and trust on the Eritrean Dictator; just as the different Eritrean opposition groups based in Ethiopia have put their faith and hope in the treacherous TPLF junta. However, in my opinion, and seen from angles of realpolitik, it is a tragic mistake to put trust and ally with Dictators. I think to entertain or expect to get genuine help from the despotic Eritrean leader, as Ginbot 7 and the leaders of other Ethiopian political groups based in Eritrea do, is a serious and a foolish political blunder and a pipe dream.

As far as I am concerned, the Ethiopian opposition groups based in Eritrea know just as much as informed Eritreans do that Issayas Afeworki is a leader who has an open contempt for democracy and people’s power. They know perfectly well that Issayas Afeworki has systematically robbed and denied Eritreans their birth right to be free and enjoy the fruit of their labor. Thus, as far as Eritrean democrats are concerned by allying themselves with the present repressive and most hated PFDJ government of Eritrea, the Ethiopian political groups based in Eritrea are jeopardizing and forfeiting any future relationship with a democratic Eritrean government that will emerge in the aftermath of the overthrow of the tyrannical PFDJ regime.

I therefore believe that it is high time now that the political leadership of Ginbot 7 and other Ethiopian political groups opposed to  TPLF rule in Ethiopia, critically and urgently reassess their overall strategy, especially so their ill-advised political alliance with the repressive PFDJ led Eritrean regime. Indeed, in my humble opinion, the abduction of Endargachew Tsige by the terrorist TPLF regime is a wake-up call to all the Ethiopian political groups based in Eritrea and their supporters, to mend their ways before they become politically irrelevant in Ethiopian politics, or are devoured by their Eritrean political hosts. The same goes to the Eritrean political groups based in Ethiopia and allied with the treacherous TPLF government of Ethiopia.

6. The Reality of the Eritrean and Ethiopian Opposition

As is the case, both the Eritrean and Ethiopian opposition groups loudly claim that they are democrats and they are struggling to bring democratic change in their respective countries. Paradoxically, however, the leaders of the Eritrean opposition groups based in Ethiopia are politically allied with the murderous  TPLF government of Ethiopia, while the Ethiopian opposition political groups based in Eritrea have  also allied themselves with the despotic PFDJ government of Eritrea. In other words, much to the dismay of  independent Eritrean democrats, the Ethiopian political groups opposed to the Woyane regime are unashamedly and openly fraternizing and collaborating with the most repressive and predatory PFDJ regimes in Eritrea, while the Eritrean opposition groups based in Ethiopia are also actively collaborating with, and operating under the control and direction of the Woyane rulers of Ethiopia.

Although the Eritrean and Ethiopian opposition political groups may not have yet realized, the hard truth  that their chosen path is the path of self-destruction. For no political group, be it Eritrean or Ethiopian, allied with a dictatorship and repressive government, could ever conduct an effective and meaningful struggle for democratic change in its respective area. Indeed, such submissive political groups- groups that fraternize and uncritically collaborates with a murderous dictatorial government end up being used as a tool of the foreign policy objectives of the beleaguered rival dictatorial governments. Besides, historical experience shows that only groups that are organized within their own territory on the basis of the philosophy of self-reliance, and with a direct and organic link with the oppressed people can and do conduct effective and meaningful struggle for a democratic and societal change, and are eventually crowned with victory.

7. Conclusion:  What Should Be The Stand of Democrats?

After all is said and done, the question which still requires an  appropriate answer is this: what should be the correct stand of democrats on the abduction of Endargachew? First and foremost, it is very important that democrats clearly understand that his terrorist style abduction by the rogue TPLF government of Ethiopia is not a political question as such. It is rather a question of sheer and crude breach of international law and violation of human rights [u repeat yourself!]. Seen therefore from a noble human rights perspective and the sanctity of international law, and considering the fact Andargachew Tsige is a dedicated, active and engaged participant in the struggle to topple the terrorist TPLF regime, and bearing also in mind that his abductors are also the strategic dead enemies of Eritrea and its people, the independent Eritrean democrats must stand firmly on the side of justice, and on the side of all the Ethiopian diaspora based freedom activists demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Endargachew Tsege.

Crucially,, Andergachew Tsige is a British citizen, and a family man with a permanent residence in London. Hence, his abduction demands urgent attention.  Likewise, the most effective intervention on his behalf could come from, and be initiated by the British government. Because the British government is the major donor, and political backer of the tyrannical Woyane regime in Ethiopia, it has  massive leverage and influence to secure his immediate release from his TPLF abductors. It seems, however, the British government is keeping a diplomatic silence on Andargachew’s abduction . What could be the reason for this  guarded silence Could it  be because Andargachew Tsige is opposed to a regime allied with the British and American governments in the war on terrorism? Would the British government have reacted in the  disinterested way it has done if Andargachew was a white British man kidnapped in Yemen while on transit to another country? I don’t believe so. For the record shows whenever British citizens are arrested overseas, even on drug charges, the British government had intervened on their behalf and demanded immediate access to its citizens and their immediate release. The action of the British government in the case of the four British nationals who entered the sovereign Eritrean territory illegally and who were arrested in 2011 armed with sophisticated spying equipment and a cache of sniper weapons fitted with silencers, telescopes, and distance-monitoring equipment is a good example in this instance. In any case, the British government has a duty and an obligation to both demand a stay of execution (if required) and to firmly insist  that he be immediately released.

It should be clearly understood that the abduction of Endargachew while on transit to Eritrea is against international law and a terrorist act to be condemned by all law-abiding governments and democrats. Henceforth, the Eritreans in the diaspora, especially so the independent Eritrean democrats opposed to the murderous TPLF and PFDJ regimes, must condemn the criminal act, and join the worldwide demonstrations being organized by Ethiopians to protest the abduction of Endargachew Tsige and demand  his immediate release.

Finally, I like to remind my fellow Eritreans in general, and the politically conscious Eritrean democrats in particular, to bear in mind that in the era of globalization, democrats and human rights activists must operate and extend their activities beyond the narrow horizons of nationalism and backward sentiments. They need to show active solidarity to people in distress in the Horn of Africa in general, and with the oppressed Ethiopian people in particular. Indeed, the independent minded Eritrean democrats should never lose sight of the fact that, seen from strategic, economic and political perspectives, Eritrea and Ethiopia are like the Siamese twins. Thus, active solidarity and cooperation between the oppressed people of these two countries should be energetically promoted and strengthened.

On their part, the Ethiopian democrats must be courageous enough to kill big nation chauvinism and expansionist sentiments in all its manifestations, understand unambiguously and unconditionally accept that Eritrean independence is irreversible and that the colonial boundaries between Eritrea and Ethiopia are non-negotiable and unalterable and thus educate their own people accordingly.

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P.S: Reader views and comments are welcome. Email: Gtsegezab@yahoo.co.uk

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