Currently, the Ethiopian government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is tottering on collapse from a serious armed offensive led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Tigray is a region currently within Ethiopia that consists of about seven million people. For many years now, Tigray, like Eritrea before it, wants complete independence from Ethiopia to establish a sovereign country of Tigray. This has been a movement the Tigray people have developed since the creation of the TPLF in 1975. In 2020, the question was scheduled to come to a vote, but the national election in Ethiopia never happened. It was stalled due to a decision by Ahmed’s government and the Tigray people reacted by carrying out their own election before deciding to take this question further into their own hands by carrying out a military offensive against the Ethiopian government.
These types of internal explosions in Africa are not uncommon. The phenomenon can by explained through the analysis of that revolutionary Pan-Africanist Sekou Ture when he talked about Africa’s evolution from states into a nation. Ture discussed how colonialism divided Africa into states based upon the interests of European capitalist development. He argued correctly that this intrusive control of Africa was against the interests of the African masses (everywhere on earth) and that Africa, in her forward march towards justice, would utilize revolution to expedite the evolutionary process of unity for the African continent as our way of combating the efforts of our enemies to divide Africa and African people. In other words, on the surface, it may look like the struggle for division and/or the creation of newer states, is contrary to what Ture argued, but in essence, this phenomenon is further proof of his analysis.
The geographical areas surrounding the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea) were and are brutally exploited by colonialism from Belgium, France, Britain, zionist Israel, along with capitalist exploitation from the U.S. starting in full force in the 1940s. And, even though Ethiopia didn’t ever have a European government installed within Addis Ababa, it was challenged seriously and consistently by Italy to the point where many people in Ethiopia today speak Italian. As a result, colonial influence in and around Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa has been as definitive as anything else in determining political, economic, and social control of that region.
A brief history of Ethiopian politics is important in order to dissect the events happening today within the region. For forty-four years, Ethiopia was governed by Emperor Haile Selassie until 1974. There are a number of Africans worldwide today who continue to view Selassie as an immortal being. Although its not our desire to upset or offend any of them, we will just say that there are essentially three models of human governing in existence in the world today. Feudal or monarchy such as the model Selassie represented, military regimes, and societies governed by elections (whether bourgeoisie like the U.S. or actual people’s democracies like Cuba and Venezuela). In this reality, feudal/monarchies are clearly the lowest level of development, yet for almost a half century, this was the model in Ethiopia. After Selassie, a power struggle from several quarters erupted which led to the country being governed from the mid 70s until 1991 by a collective of people known as the Derg. This governing entity initially claimed to represent a socialist government after the fall of the emperor, but Kwame Ture taught us that we must always judge a system by its principles and practices, not the professions of the people leading and/or participating within it. And, although many people, including the usually correct Cuban revolution, incorrectly accepted the Derg initially as a socialist entity, it was soon proven once Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as the leader of Ethiopia within the Derg, that this government was anything except socialist. In fact, Mengistu closed out the 70s courting U.S. imperialism and zionist Israel for closer ties, largely to secure assistance in preventing the Eritrean people, led by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) from gaining independence from Ethiopia. The zionists in Israel wanted greater ties with Ethiopia because the EPLF maintained strong and principled relations with Palestinian resistance fighters. The U.S., British, etc., imperialism wanted those ties for those reasons and broader reasons for ensuring imperialism’s interests were sustained in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia wanted those ties because aid from imperialism would permit them to become a regional power in East Africa. Consequently, Ethiopia began receiving millions of dollars in annual military aid, training, equipment from imperialism. In return, Ethiopia would serve as the Horn’s enforcer against the Eritrean, Oromo, Tigray, and Somali uprisings, even expanding into Sudan and Chad, etc., to prevent further influence from the Libyan Arab Jamihiriya revolution throughout Africa.
As previously mentioned, In 1975, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was founded in an effort, like Eritrea, to bring independence of the Tigray region from Ethiopian control. The TPLF has been waging this struggle for independence from Ethiopia for the last almost half century and its this conflict which has heavily influenced the current instability within that region.
After Ahmed’s government cited the pandemic as justification for canceling national elections in 2020, the TPLF reacted because they were eager to use these elections as the potential for creating more regional autonomy which they felt would pave the way for future independence. After Tigray’s regional elections in August of 2020, the Tigray Regional Elections Commission called their election a success with 97% turnout calling for an end to Ahmed’s & Ethiopia’s authority in the region. For many in Tigray, Ahmed’s government represents nothing more than the continued brutal rule against the Tigray people that has been the policy of the Ethiopian government for decades. Even the imperialist supporters of Ethiopia, like the U.S., have had to acknowledge the systemic human rights violations against Tigray and it was the U.S. that was largely responsible for pushing Ahmed to present a much more favorable public face, which led to Ahmed winning the Nobel Peace Prize. We know that many an imperialist leader has won that award, so its meaning is ill relevant to true seekers of peace and justice. And his international accomplishments did little to diminish the efforts of Tigray to push against Ahmed’s government even harder.
Today, there is without question a serious human rights crisis in the Tigray region. Death, destruction, and the forced movement of hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, due to the military conflict between Ethiopia and the TPLF has created an even higher level of havoc within the region. Fingers are being pointed from all sides. The TPLF has been labeled a terrorist organization for committing atrocities against the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian government of Ahmed continues to be called a brutal regime from many sources. Even the imperialist U.S. government has moved away from its long time enforcer in the region (although this is probably because Tigray’s military advances against Ethiopia leads the U.S. to believe Ahmed’s days in power are numbered.. Often, within a worldwide leftist community that has been shaped largely, even today, by the politics of the cold war period of the forties through the nineties, where everyone in the world was consistently forced to “take a side (either the Western capitalist countries or the Eastern so-called socialist countries)”, people approach every political situation from this standpoint i.e. either Ahmed’s government is right, or the TPLF is right. We suggest here that the actual solution is much more complex than that.
Revolutionary Pan-Africanism has never bowed down to the cold war politics. As Kwame Nkrumah correctly stated 60+ years ago, our struggle is neither on the side of the East or the West. And, it was that philosophical foundation which has permitted us to always maintain an independent point of view of world events, obviously as it relates to anything happening at home in Africa. So, instead, we suggest that everyone look at the conditions in Africa, some of which we have detailed within this piece, to substantiate why these conflicts continue to happen in Africa. Whether its Sudan, the Western Sahara, the Horn, the Congo, etc., the common denominator is that people are fighting for rights, resources, and the ability to govern their lives with stability and the ability to reach their fullest potential. And, the reason this reality is necessary is strictly because of the dominance and control of imperialism in Africa for the last several centuries. No African anywhere on earth should have to struggle for food, water, shelter, stability. There is more than enough in only a small portion of Africa to take care of all of those needs for all of Africa so without question, the problem is that the resources Africa produces are not controlled by the African masses, but by imperialism. And, this control is so institutionalized and consistent that most people unwittingly accept imperialism’s strategy of convincing all of us that there is scarcity and therefore, we must fight each other for what we need when its them we should be fighting.
Revolutionary Pan-Africanism accepts the definition of liberated zones articulated by Kwame Nkrumah in the “Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare.” By liberated zones we mean territories that are under the control of the masses of African people. With international imperialism so dominant throughout the entire world, and the defeat of the Libyan Jamihiriya in 2011, at best, we can clearly agree on contested zones existing today in Africa, but no clear liberated zones. Since we know this is our reality, we know that no government in existence today in Africa is there to serve the interests of humanity. And, with the absence of organized political education on a mass scale, every so-called liberation movement that doesn’t institutionalize political education is suspect. And, by political education we mean the ideas and practices of proven principled revolutionaries like Nkrumah, Sekou Ture, Amilcar Cabral, Mangoliso Sobukwe, etc. There are certainly many entities struggling to institutionalize this such as the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa), the Azanian People’s Organization, African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC), and others. And, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party and others are working diligently throughout Africa to further cement these efforts, but this work is without question a work in progress and it will remain so as long as the majority of people are operating under the narratives of international imperialism. So, in the meantime, what we are left with is the scramble for resources, limited resources. Whatever imperialism has left for us to fight over. The solution to the problems in Ethiopia are not going to come from Ahmed’s government or any neo-colonial government in Africa. The solutions will only come from the people of Ethiopia. The people of the Horn of Africa. The people of Africa as a whole, and the two billion Africans scattered and suffering all over the world, crying out for our mother Africa. And this effort cannot come through individual consciousness, but only through the organized expression of the African masses. Without that Pan-African struggle, wherever we are on earth, we are like roaches scrambling for crumbs while doing our best to avoid being stamped out in the process.
A great way to push back against this somber reality is to make your own commitment to be a part of the solution and not perpetuate the problem. Be a part of an organization with a revolutionary Pan-African focus and an organized political education program. Commit to and develop this process and smash the backward concept of relying on imperialism to provide your world analysis, pretending that this is an objective approach to acquiring information. Without question, if even a slightly larger percentage of us committed to operating under this approach, the quality of our movement towards justice would increase substantially overnight.