TPLF: 42 Years Young Architect of Ethiopia’s Resurgence from Pits to Economic prosperity
By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online, Updated February. 9, 2017
Forty-two years ago, the TPLF launched an armed struggle in Dedebit, Western Tigray, with five outdated ordnances and very few exceedingly resolute and staunch university students. The first Seventeen years were used-up fighting a powerful military regime that was conclusively defeated in May 1991.
Following the elimination of the junta, a transitional government was created which went on from 1991 to 1995. Subsequently, the FDRE constitution was promulgated paving the way for a number of general elections that were won by the TPLF and its affiliates. So what is the situation like in Ethiopia today nearly 26 years after its liberation?
When the TPLF led alliance took over, the coffers were empty and the country was on the brim of a civil war that could have prompted its fragmentation. Starting from year zero, the Horn nation has now become a member of the fastest growing economies of the world recording successive double-digit growth over the past two decades. No other African country has achieved so much in such a short span of time.
Ethiopia, with a budget of 223.3 billion for 2105/16, is now the 4th largest economy in sub-Sahara Africa just one place below Angola which happens to be an oil producing nation. In 1994, the country’s GDP was only $ 6.93 billion but in 2015, this was elevated to $61.54 billion. Wealth creation will no doubt continue to grow as a result of the conducive economic climate and presence of illustrious foreign multi-national firms such as the Blackstone Group, KKR, General Electric ,Orange, Etur Te Group, PPC, Starwood Hotels, BGI/France, Nestle, Dangote Group, Heineken , SABMiller, Diageo, Uniliver, H&M and Tesco to name but a few. Investors from other countries such as China, Slovakia, Korea, Japan, Turkey and India have also poured huge amounts of money on their ventures and their involvements in Ethiopia would certainly encourage potential investors to make their way to the hub of East Africa.
These companies seem to be in Ethiopia for the long haul and many of them have made their intentions clear by spending millions more on expanding their businesses. And their engagements in such enormous ventures is owing to the stable political situation and availability of good infrastructure, investment incentives and trained work-force graduating from hundreds of vocational schools and over thirty universities that were built since the TPLF and its affiliates assumed power. The effect of the economic prosperity on the nation has been phenomenal. Poverty level has been slashed from 44% in 2000 to 29.6% in 2014 and net enrolment rate in lower primary school has almost reached 100%. Social housing construction is at an all-time high and within the life of GTP II, 700,000 more condominiums would be allocated to those in need of housing resulting in improved quality of life for hundreds and thousands of citizens.
Access to primary health care has increased from 57% in 2004 to 92% in 2013 causing mortality rate, under-5 ( per 1,000 live births) to be reduced from 200 in 1991 to 41.40 in 2015 according to the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. Nigeria, the number one economy in Africa with $500 billion GDP, has life expectancy ration of 54.5 years whereas Ethiopia’s was 64.8 in 2015. In 2012, the BBC reported that 69.9% of Nigerians were living in absolute poverty in 2010 which is far bigger than the Horn nation’s figure which stood at 29.6% in 2014.
Expecting increased economic development and prosperity, billions of dollars have been invested on various infrastructures including the new railway network linking the capital with the ports of Djibouti with an outlay of $3.4 billion. This project which is expected to slush journey time from three days to about 12 hours has replaced the railway line that was built by Menelik more than 100 years ago. Moreover, rail constructions to connect various regions of the country with Djibouti have reached completion stage. There is also a plan to build a 5000 km-long rail network that would join Ethiopia to Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan by 2020.
In addition, Industrial Parks in major economic corridors will be built in the coming ten years at a cost of $10 billion. Already, there are several of them in operation in various parts of the country which were built with an outlay of millions of dollars. The intention of this is to make Ethiopia Africa’s industrial powerhouse by emphasising on low-tec manufacturing industries rather agriculture as the main driver of the economy.
And on the air transport side, the national flag carrier, Ethiopian, has been transformed into one of the most successful airlines in the world winning all sorts of awards in Africa and beyond. Ethiopian, which is a member of Star Alliance, made a net profit of $148 million in 2015 and currently stands as the 3rd best airline in Africa with South Africa and Egypt occupying the 1st and 2nd positions respectively. Communication set-up which plays a pivotal part in economic development has also moved on after an expenditure of $3.1 billion over the last decade. In three years’ time, there will be 103 million mobile users and 56 million internet subscribers.
Another major infrastructure development described as the largest in Africa is the construction of the hydroelectric power plant known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The public/state venture is anticipated to cost US $ 4.8 billion, and upon completion, the gigantic dam is expected to generate 6000 MW energy to meet the demands of present and incoming industries, as well as for public consumption and export to Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan, Somaliland and now Tanzania.
This massive project openly challenged Egypt by ignoring Article III of the 1902 treaty that was signed between Great Britain and Menelik acquiescing not to use the’’ Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sobat except in agreement with the Britannic Majesty’s government and the government of Sudan.’’ In addition, the 1929 and the revised 1959 Nile Water agreements which were signed excluding Ethiopia when Empress Zewditu and Emperor Hailsellassie were in power respectively; were also defied when the late Premier Meles Zenawi gave the go ahead for the construction of GERD.
It is pertinent to mention here that Menelik also signed the Treaty of Wuchale on 2 May 1889, two months after the death of Emperor Yohannes defending Gonder from Mahdists, relinquishing Eritrea to the Italians. Fana Broadcasting Corporate recently reported that Amhara regional government has allocated 19 million birr to make the area where the treaty was signed a tourist destination. Two years earlier, Menelik also signed the Convention of Neutrality agreeing to remain neutral in the event of a confrontation between Emperor Yohannes and the enemy of Ethiopia, Italy, in return for 5000 Remington rifles.
During the construction of GERD, Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC), which was created in 2010, has been involved on the hydro- mechanical and electro-mechanical part of the dam in addition to making it possible to increase power production capacity from 5250 MW to 6000. Sixteen thousand people work for the corporation and this indigenous establishment has won government contracts to build sugar and fertilizer factories for the first time in the history of the country. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, stated that’’ the S-75 launchers modification that can be mounted on T-54/55 is the most sophisticated work known to have been carried out by the Ethiopian defence industry to date.’’
It is very gratifying indeed that the federal mode of governance that was conceived in the hinterlands of Tigrai and introduced in 1995, has brought Ethiopia to the attention of the world in a very positive light. Previously, it was synonymous with famine, hunger and bloody conflict but thanks to the sacrifices of thousands of Tigrian youth, the situation has been completely reversed. Now, a good number of foreign investors have moved to the country and launched businesses requiring millions of dollars. And all the nations, nationalities and peoples’ of the nation have benefited from the affluence created including Ethio-Somalis who were completely marginalised during previous successive regimes. But now, Ethio-Somalis consider themselves as proud Ethiopians and they have displayed their patriotic zeal by strenuously defending their country from deadly foreign enemies.
The Islamist terror group, Al-Shabaab, appears to strike various parts of Kenya without too much difficulties. In April 2015, the radical outfit attacked Garissa University College killing 148 students. Also in 2013, it carried-out similar action inside Westgate Shopping Mall murdering 67 innocent people. These are few instances of the odious and brutal crimes committed by Al-Shabab which is connected to Al-Qaeda.
Uganda also suffered at the hands of the jihadist when it lost 74 people in 2010. But nothing of the sort has occurred in Ethiopia simply because the Ethio-Somalis made it impossible for Al-Shebaba to inflict bedlam and blood-bath in the country they want to hurt the most. It was also Ethio-Somalis that have narrowed the space for Ogaden National Liberation Front and prevented it from undertaking murderous acts in its locality and beyond. And as a result of this, peace and stability has prevailed in the region resulting in the flow of external and indigenous investors to the area. Clearly, the Ethiopian Defence Force which is the 3rd strongest army in Africa ( 1st Egypt & 2nd Algeria) (Source: Global Fire Power) and makes a colossal contribution to peace keeping missions in various parts of Africa, would not have succeeded in foiling terrorists acts from being committed without the full cooperation of the loyal Ethio-Somalis.
Only a few decades back, over 1,000,000 people died of hunger but now the situation is completely different. Recently, the country succeed in dealing with the El Nino induced drought, which was described to be the worst the country has seen in 50 years, by using its own food reserves and allocating $800 million from its funds. Thousands of TPLF fighters died to make this possible; some died by jumping from cliffs and mountains to avoid capture by the enemy and some were simply mutilated beyond recognition with their corpse scattered in every locality of Tigrai and large parts of the country. How about those who were subjected to scorching heat in Serdo, Afar, and perished as a result of severe dehydration? It is estimated that over a 100,000 combatants have also been severely disabled and at present they are encountering enormous difficulties to make ends meet.
These altruistic heroes and heroines such as Keshi Gebru ( who aborted her child for the sake of the struggle), Agazi, Amora, Hayelom, Musse, Gesesse Ayele are the once that represent the TPLF and should be celebrated for taking the bullets for justice, equality and economic prosperity for the entire citizens of the nation. But elements within the TPLF have betrayed our martyrs by failing to stamp out corruption, bad governance, nepotism and not doing enough to improve the lives of the Tigrian people who paid a very heavy price defeating an awesome enemy. However, with all their problems, the people did not go on the rampage and destroy their own ambulances and potable water reservoirs as it happened in Amhara region. And when all the wanton destructions were taking place, Gedu, who grovelled at extreme diaspora’s feet and is still in power, was busy expelling Tigrians and organising the bandit ‘’Welkait Committee.’’
Ethno-centric fanatics loathe our martyrs and want to destroy their beloved organisation that was built with their bones and blood, by eliminating the Tigrian people as publically stated on ESAT television. This threat of pogrom was due to that fact that the gallant fighters of the TPLF dealt a powerful and irrevocable blow to 100 years of Amhara suppression, mismanagement of the country as well as discrimination and humiliation based on ethnicity that directly led to the proliferation of regional based liberation movements. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to equate G-7’s threat to exterminate the Tigrians with what transpired in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany where 6 million Jews were eradicated or the Hutu led massacre of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 causing 800,000 deaths in 100 days.
The consequence of the abolishment of century old tyrannical system has been the enfranchisement of the nations, nationalities and peoples’ of the country to manage their own affairs, demand their constitutional rights ( self-rule referendum for Qemant ) and defend their hard won gains in general. These feats were made possible because of the martyrdom of over 60,000 Tigrian youth who inherited their courage and fortitude from their forefathers. We shouldn’t let the longings of our internal and external foes which include Shabiya and Egypt be realised. Otherwise, it would mean betrayal of the mothers of the valiant Tigrians who lost their loved ones in the struggle to establish a federal system that caters for all.
But the recent alarming incident related to the near death cowardly and unprovoked assault of Gezaee Tesfu, by Oromo extremists seems to have galvanised Tigrians domiciling at home and abroad. The worldwide move to locate the perpetrators and bring them to justice in addition to finding out the well- being of the victim was truly a remarkable feat. We have to come out of our slumber; and in order to hamper similar instances from reoccurring in the future, the unity and resolve that have been displayed in this sad episode must be preserved at all costs. If we don’t, we will simply become sitting ducks for our arch enemies that have overtly threatened to annihilate us. The ferocious battering of a young man from Adi-Gudem who criss-crossed thousands of miles to reach an alien land and earn a living was just a taste of what’s in store for us.
Eternal honour and glory to our martyrs!