(Letter to the editor-by anonymous)
Unsurprisingly, Lieutenant General Tsadkan’s suggestions regarding the ‘interim administration’ have been met with all sorts of responses and counter-suggestions.
Some are, apparently, postulating that General Tsadkan is, or maybe, advocating undue influence of the TPLF and that this must, under no circumstances, be allowed to happen.
Particularly the argument that ‘now it is time to finally break the dominance of the TPLF, abide by what is stipulated in the Pretoria and Nairobi agreements and have a real transitional government that is made up of different parties and individuals, from different sections of society, including academics and businesspeople, until regional elections can be held, when, finally, Tigray will be able to elect its government democratically’, seems to be a popular one.
However, it is certainly worth noting that, at this point in Tigray’s and Ethiopia’s history, one might just as well postulate that it is the TPLF that can claim to have at least some sort of popular mandate since it was elected to the Regional Parliament in 2020; and that it is this ‘so-called interim administration,’ that has no mandate. But, more to the point, it is rather misguided to now put one’s hope and trust in this process – which Tigray has been forced to accept by an autocratic regime that, evidently, has not negotiated in good faith – and to consider the Pretoria and Nairobi agreements to be noble political guiding principles that must be strictly enforced – as some seem to argue.
In fact, they must be viewed as conditions that Tigray rightly accepted for the sake of peace; they were essentially forced upon Tigray by an untrustworthy partner that itself had become too weak to continue the war and must, therefore, at best, be viewed with suspicion, even more so as long as the TPLF is still on the regime’s ‘terrorist list’. In reality, there is no actual guarantee that there even will be a regional election, and if so, that the Abiy regime would accept the results if it deems them to be a threat to its power.
But whatever one’s position, however one views General Tsadkan, the TPLF and its political legacy, and the Pretoria and Nairobi agreements, it is of the utmost importance that all whose intention it is to serve Tigrayan society must now endeavour, vow – as it were – to be pragmatic. Pragmatism – ‘whatever serves Tigray’s short-, medium- and long-term interest, that we must advocate’ – must be the guiding principle of this moment in history.
Accordingly, from a societal standpoint, various aspects of the General’s suggestions must be considered:
We may begin by remarking that, finally, we can – let us hope – praise and commend General Tsadkan – a true patriot, hero and servant of society – without risking persecution, intimidation, retribution, or being slandered as ‘terrorist junta operatives’ by an emotionalised mob.
After all, unlike other political and military heroes, General Tsadkan survived, is now safe, and clearly speaking common sense.
Turning to the content of these suggestions, from what might, perhaps, be considered a ‘pragmatic, pro-society perspective’: Of course, any reasonable person would have to agree, in general, and on balance.
But one must also take this opportunity to, once again, appeal at this juncture: Let us not fall victim to neoliberal ideas! Let us recognise and reject them! It can, for instance, be politically dangerous to give businesspeople and their lobbyists too much of a say, let alone too much political influence.
As we have seen from countless examples of non-Western and Western societies, depending on their implementation, concepts like “free media, free market, and investor-friendly situations” can also be extremely damaging – both in the short- and long-term. ‘Free’, according to the ‘neoliberal textbook’, after all, must be understood to de facto mean simply ‘deregulated’.
And as can be observed from countless examples – as diverse as ‘Ethiopians plotting genocide on Facebook’, ‘foreign companies controlling telecommunications markets’, and ‘the rise of right-wing, autocratic populists in the EU’ – the real-life result of deregulation is that inciters get platforms to divide society; foreign investors compete to make the most profits on what should be basic services owned by the government.
Donald Trump’s presidency and its lasting impact, Brexit, or genetically modified, highly processed, or other potentially unhealthy foods, have also been powerful examples of the very real damage that, ultimately, is the result of ideas like ‘unfettered market’, ‘government intervention is the hallmark of dictatorship’, or ‘the invisible hand of the market that will work in the interest of society and must be left free to do its work’.
Furthermore, “de-politicization of the civil services” must not mean that civil servants should have no political position or convictions, and work like automatons! It must be strictly meant in the sense of ‘not party political, technocrat, civil service, with an attitude of, “How can I best serve society, not party, government or my ethnic group?”‘.
Let us take care that, in all the excitement, we do not end up accidentally adopting a neoliberal kind of politics, where the (regional) government and its institutions have a reduced role, and deregulation and unregulated, or insufficiently regulated, privatisation, and selling out to foreign investors for short-term benefits (such as reconstruction projects), are considered desirable.
We would do well to remember that neoliberal ideas have long infiltrated every aspect of society, to the extent that they are no longer reflected or recognised as such, and have been deeply internalised – by all, from politicians to teachers.
As much as we may want to criticise the TPLF and its political failures – now taking a pro-neoliberal position cannot possibly be in the interest of this tormented society, either!
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of Yabele Media.