The Chutzpah of the TPLF Foreign Minister and his Criticism of Israeli ‘Police Brutality’
The headline on Jewish Business News“Ethiopian Foreign Ministry expresses concern over ‘police brutality’ in Israel and ‘years of discrimination of Ethiopian Israelis’.” When I saw the headline initially I thought it was some kind of joke written as a satirical column. However, as I read through the article, I realized that in fact it is actually a serious piece by Ynet Columnist Itamar Eichner.
The Israeli government often gets a whole host of criticism and condemnation, and rightly so, for its policy vis-à-vis the rights, safety and security of the Palestinian people, or for the lack of social and economic mobility of Ethiopian-Israeli Jews who came to Israel through the Aliyah. These criticisms, most of the time, originate from those who abide by and respect the basic tenants of freedom, justice and appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of human life. What I found startling and what forced me to gasp at this story is that the criticism and the demand for an explanation came from the ruthless and authoritarian regime managed and operated by TPLF. It is beyond audacity for a regime to speak of ‘brutality’ and ‘discrimination’ by Israeli police while subjecting the people of Ethiopia to terror and brutality for more than two decades. This kind of audacity doesn’t even register on the Chutzpah chart. In its blatancy and irony, it defies even the fundamentals of public relations stunt.
First and foremost, the TPLF regime has stripped Ethiopian citizenship rights of those who acquire another citizenship. Effectively denying people of Ethiopian origin (including Israelis of Ethiopian origin) from participating in the political discourse of their country of birth. The obvious reason for this, as is well known, is that vast majority of members of Ethiopian diaspora does not support or ally itself with the TPLF regime. Thus, blocking the political participation of the members of Ethiopian diaspora by denying them citizenship is a political strategy to minimize the potential electoral power of opposition groups.
In the 2003 Proclamation on Ethiopian Nationality, No. 378 of 2003 that offers detail to the Ethiopian ConstitutionArticle 6 on Citizenship, the regime explicitly stipulated, “Ethiopian citizenship is only allowed to be retained or acquired if the individual does not possess or acquire the citizenship of another country.”2 Given this fact the TPLF regime does not have the legal mandate or right under international law to speak on behalf of those it calls ‘foreign’.
In fact, the TPLF seems comfortable meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state in this case the state of Israel. This is perhaps an indication of the utter ignorance of the elites of TPLF and their unfamiliarity with the law they have promulgated, let alone the international law surrounding citizenship and the responsibility of the state. There was a ‘story’ I was told long ago, and it goes like this: When TPLF entered Addis Ababa the leadership and the foot soldiers realized that Mengistu Hailemariam had fled to Zimbabwe prior to their entry. Their immediate response was “why don’t we continue our military operation on to Zimbabwe until we capture or kill him.” They had to be reminded that, first, Harare is 4311 Kms from Addis Ababa, and second, they have to enter the sovereign territories of three African countries before they get to Harare.
Secondly, the TPLF regime doesn’t have an inch of moral ground to stand on and criticize the human rights record of the Israel government or Israel police force. Human Rights Watch in its 2015 World Report summed up its assessment of TPLF regime – “The Ethiopian government during 2014 intensified its campaign of arrests, prosecutions, and unlawful force to silence criticism, Human Rights Watch said in its Report. The government responded to peaceful protests with harassment, threats, and arbitrary detention, and used draconian laws to further repress journalists, opposition activists, and critics.”3
Amnesty International further elaborates in more explicit language outlining the brutality and lawlessness of TPLF security apparatus: “In April and May, protests took place across Oromia region against a proposed “Integrated Master Plan’ to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia regional territory. Security services, comprising federal police and military Special Forces, responded with excessive force, firing live ammunition at protesters in Ambo and Guder towns and Wallega and Madawalabu universities, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 people, including children. Hundreds of people were beaten by security service agents during and after the protests, including protesters, bystanders, and parents of protesters for failing to ‘control’ their children, resulting in scores of injuries.”4
There are a slew of reports from global and national human rights organizations detailing the suffering and injustices the people of Ethiopia facing under the rule of TPLF. Almost all Ethiopians inside and outside the country do not see the TPLF as the guardian and protector of their rights and freedoms. In fact the opposite is true; the primary threat to the Ethiopian people is the Gestapo like security apparatus of the regime. It perpetrates almost all of the human rights violations in the country.
The behavior of the government is demonstrated clearly in the recent demonstrations initially called by the regime in response to the ISIS beheadings of Ethiopian migrants in Libya. The demonstration turned into a rallying cry against the government itself. It must have been apparent to those present why these young men left Ethiopia in the first place, as so many have in the past two decades.
Human rights violators cannot be human rights defenders. The TPLF regime wants to have it both ways. It is also apparent that the Ethiopian people and those who stand on the side of the oppressed and marginalized are not buying it.