Minority ethnic domination of the military in Ethiopia
By Neamin Zeleke / May 28, 2009Several Ethiopian scholars and political commentators alike have argued in the past that the TPLF regime in Ethiopia has been promoting the domination of a minority ethnic elite, i.e., the Tigreans, in all spheres of the nation’s life — economy, military, intelligence and security services, foreign affairs, etc. Much has been said and many have commented upon the blatant nature of the drive to ensure the domination of Tigrean elites who claim to represent only 6% of close to 80 million Ethiopians.
Dr. Berhanu Balcha, a member of the Network of Ethiopian Scholars in Scandinavia (NES), wrote an article under the title “Minority domination and Ethnic Federalism." In the article published by many of the Ethiopain Websites, Dr. Berhanu aptly argued:…according to the principles of its own ideology of fair and equal representation of ethic groups, the TPLF, which represents the Tigray province with its 6 percent of the Ethiopian population, should have assumed a minority role, if its intention has not been a minority ethnic hegemony via ethnic federalism. Because it has operated contrary to the rule of its own game, the TPLF is operating as an instrument of coercion and domination rather than equality and freedom.”
He continues:…as a result, the ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia has been characterized by economic monopoly, militaristic domination, and brutal suppression of the rights of the majority of the Ethiopian people, by the TPLF. In a nutshell, the ethnic federal project in Ethiopia has become a device for the implementation and protection of the hegemonic position of the tiny minority Tigrean elites who have been aiming to have a dominant control of resources that the Ethiopian state controls and generates…”
In the name of a ridiculous notion of “organizational solidarity,” almost all of the ethnically drawn regions under the TPLF ethnic federal arrangement are controlled by Tigreans running the show. In fact, the pattern has been dubbed in Amharic as “tako”. There are Amharas, Oromos, Southern, and individuals from the plethora of ethnic groups of Ethiopia holding formal positions, yet the real decision makers, movers, and shakers are Tigrayans deemed loyal to the ruling party, the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne).
It is important to note what is written in a recent statement released by AFAR MOVEMENT (AM) – QAFAR UGUGUMO. The statement mentions a UN Report 2002 that indicates that about 98% of directorial, managerial, adviser, technician and engineering positions in the State of Afar are all occupied by non-Afar speaking people. The statement discloses quoting an ex-cabinet member of the Afar state that “All advisers and expertise are all Tigreans.”
So much for the so-called “equality of nations and nationalities” under the TPLF ethnic federal arrangement that purports to ensure the devolution of power and self-government to the ethnically drawn regions.
Ginbot 7's latest statement provides a comprehensive list of the key and commanding positions held by Tigreans in the military. By any stretch of imagination, it is not possible that 6% of the population have the unique capacity to command and control 95% of the command posts in the military. It is not possible by any kind of qualitative measurement for promotion — merit, experience, education and other criteria — that a single and minority ethnic group would have what it takes to hold 57 out of the 61 key and mission critical positions within the national military. Nothing can be further from the truth; the only thing that they have is their ethnicity and political loyalty to be able to totally dominate the military in such grossly disproportional ratio. This is the penultimate and most central point that comes out very loud and clear indeed.
If one is curious enough to examine the military composition during both Emperor Haile Selassie and the Derg regimes, dubbed as “Amhara ” regimes by the TPLF, it is extremely doubtful such a blatant phenomena where 95 percent of the command posts in the military of both regimes were held by Amharas. In fact, the best and ablest, and also the most powerful generals hailed from all ethnic groups of Ethiopia. Gen. Mulugeta Buli, Gen. Jagama Kelo, Gen. Aman Andom, Maj. General Demissie Bulto, Maj. General Regassa Jima, Gen. Woldeselassie Bereka, Maj. General Merid Negussie, Gen. Tesfaye Habte Mariam, Gen. Teferi Benti and scores of others who come from various ethnic backgrounds come to mind.
Here, the reader should be cognizant that we are not talking about the rebel army the TPLF was back in the days when it was in the Dedebit desert, but 18 years later and right now — and claiming to rule Ethiopia, telling us that there is a national “Ethiopian Army,” or the so-called “Ethiopian Defense Forces”! Only the ethnocentric regime and its mindless mouthpieces abroad would have the shameless audacity to argue to the contrary — that what we have in Ethiopia is an equal and proportional representation of the major and minor ethnic groups in the military. Therefore, they have been claiming “equality among nations and nationalities hitherto absent…” assured and ascertained, as they deafen us with their endless mantra, day in and day out.
But the facts and figures in the table below and many hitherto scattered data speak otherwise. Thus vindicating what has been known for so many years, i.e., the grossly blatant and far reaching drive for ethnic hegemony of a minority Tigrean elites over the rest of the Ethiopian people. Of course, for those who are quick to show a handful of non Tigreans with rank of a Lt. General, Brg. General, etc, yes there are coteries of yes men from other ethnic groups all around the Tigreans. The nominal and feeble so-called generals, the likes of Kassa Deme, Bacha Debele, and others from Amhara, Oromo, and other ethnic groups — who have lost or do not have any sense of self respect — do exist. They go through the motion of sheepishly scavenging crumbs from their masters table. These puppets do not wield any real power in addition to the often encountered humiliation of being scolded by Tigreans with much lower ranks, as many have exposed, including the latest by Tesfaye Gebreab's “The Journalist’s Memoir” who laid bare the extent of this phenomena.
Ginbot 7's latest statement recounts the thousands of high ranking officers, line officers, NCOs and privates from Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups purged by the TPLF mafia in the thousands in recent years. In effect, an ethnic cleansing within the military enclave. On a related story, the purge carried out by the ruling Tigrean gang is characterized by inhuman torture and suffering the victims are subjected to. Tesfaye Gebreab, in his rent article about Ginbot, mentions the brutality of a woman torturer named Col. Biraa, a former TPLF commissar and now in charge of prison, where military officers are held incommunicado and tortured, some until they are disabled for life. For the latest purges and repression carried out against officers and privates alike in the military one can also refer to a recent report by Finote Democracy [pdf].
Captain Teshome Tenkolu's story, one of the ablest air force pilots and trainers subjected to inhuman torture is a yet another case among perhaps the untold thousands of others subjected to cruelty and inhumanity carried out by the Tigrayan mafia within the military establishment. The stories told about Capt. Teshome and his late friend, Maj. Daniel say much about the brutal and inhuman ways used by the tribal mafia regime and its henchmen to punish members of the armed forces suspected of any “wrongdoing”. Both were forced to spend two years in underground dungeon under extremely gruesome conditions, forced to sleep and live literally on human remains until they were released after being told by the shameless Woyanne that their country needs them to fight their war with Eritrea — to save their skin in that war with Eritrea which consumed 70,000 Ethiopian lives with no relevance whatsoever for Ethiopia.
The two were asked to return to the air force as pilots. It gave Capt. Teshome the chance to escape to Eritrea with an air force plane. He is now living in Canada. While his friend Maj. Daniel who stayed behind was less fortunate. Several years later, just barely two years ago, he was found dead in Ethiopia under extremely dubious circumstances. Who else could have killed him except the usual suspect, now that he has done his "service," he could be disposed off. According to Capt. Teshome’s account of the extreme suffering and inhuman conditions he was forced to endure, the captors who took him from his office at the air force base were Tigrayan officers (former TPLF cadres mentioned by name); the interrogators torturing him, for reasons that he has yet find out even today, were also Tigrayans. It is yet another story of the judge, the jury, the police, were all being played out by individuals belonging to the same ethnic group — Tigrayans — at the service of the TPLF mafia. The full story of Capt. Teshome could be found here.
The minority ethnic domination has far reaching implications for Ethiopia’s future peace and harmony that must exist among the various ethnic groups, including the people of Tigray region. Such facts and figures must come out to show the world the bankruptcy and total recklessness of the TPLF regime and the cabal controlling it. Below one can find list of the names, positions, and ethnic compositions that exist in the current so-called national military in Ethiopia. For a full list of names by rank, ethnic composition and key positions held, one can check the six page report of Ginbot 7 in Amharic release here.
The most senior Command posts of the Defense Ministry
Heads of the four commands
Defense Ministry Departments and other specialized Units