By Abebe Gellaw,
Criminal records rarely go unnoticed wherever they are meticulously archived and preserved. Let alone leaders that hold state power, ordinary people are even required to go through criminal background checks for jobs that require high level of trustworthiness. Today one of the most serious criminal offenses in the world is quite obviously terrorism.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a center of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the University of Maryland, has made the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) available online “in an effort to increase understanding of terrorist violence so that it can be more readily studied and defeated.”
GTD is arguably the most authoritative and comprehensive open-source database on terrorism incidents from 1970 to date. The database also reveals “the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and–when identifiable–the group or individual responsible.”
The Meles regime has recently adopted a new strategy of crushing dissent by accusing famed and respected journalists, politicians and activists of committing acts of “terrorism”. It is for this very reason that I found it necessary to do some background checks related to terrorism on the accused as well as the accusers.
Using the searchable GTD online interface, I started entering the names of some of the “terrorists” accused by Meles Zenawi of committing acts of terrorism. The search result for Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu, Woubishet Taye, Andualem Arage, Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelisa, Debebe Eshetu, the two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye among many others, was negative. As some of those charged with terrorism were linked to Ginbot 7, it was also needed to check the group’s terrorism record. But as consistently as the suspects, the search result for Ginbot 7 was nill. According to the GTD record, there is no single terrorist act that has ever been linked to the group.
And then it was TPLF’s turn for the terrorism background check. It is an open secret that TPLF’s history is tarnished with violence, bloodshed, brutality, mass killings, genocide, robberies, corruption, mass displacement and kidnappings, to mention a few in the long litany of crimes the group has been committing since it started its armed insurrection in 1975 as an ethnocentric bandit group with a declared mission of seceding Tigray from Ethiopia. Along with the world’s most virulent and violent terrorist groups Al Shabaab, Al Qaida, Hezbollah, Basque, Islamic Jihaad, the drug cartels in Latin America, the Tamil Tigers, the TPLF’s the terrorist records are linked to committing mass killings, assaulting civilians, NGOs and hostage taking of foreigners. The GTD record on TPLF is not very comprehensive given the fact that TPLF became the government in 1991 and changed its terrorist tactics to state terrorism. It is a tragedy for Ethiopia that the terrorist group TPLF now controls Ethiopia abuses its power to crush innocent civilians like insects.
TPLF has obviously committed countless acts of terror before and after it seized state power in 1991. GTD only contained TPLF’s terrorism record from 1976 up to 1991. Puzzled why GTD does not contain acts of terrorism that the TPLF has been committing after it came to power, I called Erin Miller, Project Manager of the Global Terrorism Database.
Miller explained that despite the fact that in circumstances where terrorist organizations like the TPLF have succeeded in seizing state power, they automatically fall outside the domain of the GTD due to the fact that it only records and archives terrorist acts committed by non-state actors. “The rule of inclusion does not include state actors. Terrorism acts committed by governments are state terrorism,” she said.
The Tigray people’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has almost total monopoly over state power, the economy, the military, the security apparatus, and every key institution and public resources from 1991 to date. It continues to use the TPLF as the name for the main political party that controls the ruling EPRDF.
Meles Zenawi, the prime minister and the chairman of the TPLF, had a candid interview in Tigrigna with the Eritrean magazine, Hiwet some years back. The translated version was published in Amharic in Ethiop Magazine, Vol. 5 Issue No. 52. Answering a question on when he was first engaged in armed combat operations, he told the Eritrean magazine with a sense of pride that he took part in a bank robbery in Adwa, his birthplace. He also said that prior to the bank robbery effort in Adwa, in which he admitted to be one of the armed robbers that raided the rural bank; TPLF had also robbed banks in Axum and Shire. He referred to those robberies as “victories.” TPLF’s mindset of promoting every criminal and terrorist misadventure as a heroic act has been one of its chronic problems.
The former US Chargé D’affaires to Ethiopia, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, is widely known to be one of the hawks in US government circles that publicly declared that the Meles regime should not be abandoned or admonished by the United States as it is a key US ally on the so-called “war on terror”. Currently based at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Huddleston has played a key role in maintaining unqualified US support to the Meles regime. In an op-ed Huddleston and Tabor Nagi published in the New York Times in November 2007, she advocated on behalf of Meles that the US congress lacked wit when it unanimously passed HR 2003, Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, which eventually died in the US Senate.
Despite her support to the TPLF hegemonic rule in Ethiopia, Huddleston did not try to hide the terrorist acts of the regime. In the Wikileaks diplomatic cables, there is a very interesting secret cable that Vicki Huddleston wired to Washington.
On October 6, 2006 Huddleston reported: “A series of explosions were reported in Addis Ababa on September 16, killing three individuals. The GoE announced that the bombs went off while being assembled, and that the three dead were terrorists from the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) with links to the Oromo National Congress (ONC). An embassy source, as well as clandestine reporting, suggests that the bombing may have in fact been the work of Government of Ethiopia security forces.”
Despite the fact that the diplomat linked the TPLF regime with such a despicable terrorist act that is not expected of a responsible government, the regime chose not deny or admit the damenning accusation. One of the reasons why TPLF cannot argue with US officials about its terrorism records is due to the fact that the United States backs up its statements with accurate intelligence that it collects throughout the world using overt and covert means.
The Global Terrorism Database provides incontrovertible evidence that TPLF is indeed a certified terrorist organization that has seized state power two decades ago. TPLF has continued terrorizing the people of Ethiopia using the apparatus of the state. TPLF’s scandalous anti-terrorism law, which is being used to silence critics, only shows the great danger a nation faces wherever ruthless terrorist organizations like the TPLF seize state power. For those TPLF fans who puff up their chest when they try to sell the TPLF as a heroic liberation movement, we should only encourage them to visit the Global Terrorism Database, where the TPLF is permanently housed along with its peers such as the extremists Islamic Jihaad, Al Shabaab and Al Qaida. TPLF is nothing but an ethnic Jihadist group that has taken hostage an entire nation it has been terrorizing with arrogance and impunity.
So many ordinary Ethiopians and scholars are very puzzled with the TPLF. But the best way to understand it is in the context of its well documented terrorism for the last four decades and driven by not its mask of leftist ideology that it claims now to have abandoned but a virulent ethnofascist ideology.
In spite of the the fact that GTD does not document state terrorism, Genocide Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Boarders, local and many international organizations have been documenting the state terrorism that TPLF has been committing with impunity. No matter what TPLF says and does, one cannot teach new tricks to an old dog. TPLF is a committed terrorist organization that will not change at all.
Those Ethiopians who frequently take to the streets and condemn Meles Zenawi and TPLF as terrorists are not expressing their disdain. They are telling the truth which is certified by the United States Homeland Security, which keeps the most comprehensive database of terrorists around world. .
Given the weight of evidence, facts and figures against TPLF and its leaders, it is totally absurd and childish that Meles is still playing this terrorism and treason cards in its most outrageous form. It appears that terrorists are shameless.