by Tekleab Shibru (PhD, Associate Prof. of Geomatics, Chicago State University)
The emergence of Team Lema within the ranks of EPDRF and the appointment of new PM has marked an end of a reign for TPLF Hardliners and Old Guards. With the end of the era, exercises of excessive power, extraordinary lifestyle, massive wealth accumulation, prestige and sentimental privilege were all lost. This was an authority to hire or fire, arrest or release, feed or starve etc…; and a splendid life full of extravaganza not just in the country but around the world. Also it is an ability to erect multiple story buildings in Addis Ababa overnight, embezzlement of billions of public dollars with impunity and entitlement to nation’s services and other resources by virtue of ethnic background. The loss is a blow of gargantuan proportion, by far more earth-shattering than a loss of the loved ones by death. Any significant loss of this magnitude would incur predictable and progressive emotional experience best known as grief process, effectively modeled by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 .
According to Kubler-Ross, Swiss psychiatrist, people’s grief process undergo through 5 phases, namely: denial, anger, bargain, depression and acceptance. This article applies the model to help understanding the current and future emotional state and dynamics of TPLF Hardliners and Old Guards following the loss.
Although, the model is originally referenced to loss of death, it has also been applied to all kinds of loss such as but not limited to break-up, layoffs, divorce, and etc… It has also been proven to transcend cultural differences and varying religious affiliations, although individuals may experience varying durations as well as intensities of pain at each phase. Besides, individual’s progress may not go through all phases or follow the laid out sequence.
Denial is a phase at which people emotionally respond, to their loss, with disbelief and shock. It is as if the loss has never happened, doesn’t hurt and / or redeemable. The phase is a primary defense mechanism of numbing emotional pains and buffering the shock of loss.
We have seen TPLF hardliners and old guards gone through this phase in the first few weeks of PM Abiy Ahmed’s appointment. The denial was based on their sentiment that they can remote control reformists. For this they arrange to:
a) remain in charge of government’s security, and military apparatus;
b) blackmail the economy through currency manipulation; and
c) become enduring troubleshooters and problem solvers considering the inexperience of Dr. Abiy and his group on economy and foreign policy.
On the other hands, the denial was also based on a belief that the change is not permanent. Country’s command centers (such as air force and ground force) were moved to Tigray, to be able to reverse the reform anytime. There was also efforts to lure veterans of Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) to unseat Gedu Andargachew, split OROMARA and bring the downfall of the reform agenda.
Oromara, being the powerhouse of the reform, is always considered threat. Similar attempts were also conducted in the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), although not pursued as vigorously, since without OROMARA split, SEPDM proposition alone may not deliver the deemed crash or reversal. However, with the loss glaringly looking real and permanent, denial could only last so long. Instead, the inevitable feelings of loss, with its pain, swamped with signs of frustration, resentment and anger.
Anger is a strong emotion of annoyance and resentment. It often leads to an intense behavioral eruption of hostility, aggressiveness, and violence. At this stage, people are angry at the thing that is lost as well as others whom deemed to have contributed to the loss. Sometimes, anger can also be at oneself commission or omission and even circumstances or things that have nothing to do with the loss.
Anger phase best explain the current emotional state of TPLF hardliner and old guards. As a clear sign of anger, rant is expressed against EPDRF, the institution helped them rule the country for 27 years. A fume at EPDRF, by the former INSA’s General Director, M/General Tekleberhan Woldearegay, is a good example. According to him, EPDRF is not un-TPLF, impotent, non-functional and rotten organ that needed to be characterized as enemy so as to be fought decisively .
Another sign is the furies aimed at the reformists deemed to have contributed to their loss. For instance, Mr. Demeke Mekonnen is on the receiving end of their rage and charges of treason for not competing for PM; and so is Gedu andargachew, as Ginbot 7 troll, anti-federalist and creator of anti-Tigray extremists (i.e., National Movement of Amhara). The most damaging sign of anger, if proven, is the orchestrated violences all over Oromia to discredit Lema and Dr. Abiy. Through networks that had been put in place, ethnic clashes have been instigated against residents of Moyale; on the people of Gedeo, Amaro and Burji by Guji Oromos; on “highlanders” in Beneshangule, Tigreans in Amhara and Gurage in Wolkite. There is speculation that the bomb blast on the public rally to support the PM is also a demonstration of this anger as it is coincided with sophisticated power outage and telecoms disruption.
Moreover, as a sign of anger and desperation, propaganda to fear-mongering is underway. Tigraionline commentators are floating an idea of drafting 10,000 youths from each 35 Tigray woredas. This, on top of an already existing region’s well trained and equipped Tigray militia, is to establish, 3rd generation Woyane, with a total of 350,000 military personnel. Its mission is to march to Addis Ababa and regain the lost power. To this end, active ground work of agitation has started to help create bravery among Tigray youths, though I call this just an angry bluff nothing more and nothing less.
Furthermore, signs of anger are even projected at circumstances or things that have nothing to do with the loss. An example being the anger at the United States, CIA and some western countries, who was allegedly found wrong of plotting neo-liberalization in Ethiopia.
Lastly, as a sign of anger at oneself, TPLF is now divided into two: a reformist group and old guards . While the old guards led by Abay Tsehay, Seyoum Mesfin, and Samora Yenus are to stay the angry course; Arkebe Oqubay, Abraham Tekeste, Getachew Reda and Debretsion Gebremichael represent a change of heart to join the reformists. It is most likely that in the coming months and weeks, this new reformists will lead TPLF into bargaining phase.
Bargaining is an emotional state when grieving person initiate negotiation for restoring aspects of the situation that is lost. It comes in response to feelings of powerless and vulnerable. While blaming others is the main characteristics of the anger phase, taking responsibility and culpability often characterizes the bargain phase. Therefore, in comparison with anger, this is a weaker line of defense designed to protect oneself and in effect settle the loss in a “win-win” solution.
In all measure, TPLF hardliners and old guards have not started the bargaining phase. However, should it gets started, there are areas of negotiation to void their extreme depression. The first is reaffirmation of the two fundamental settlements: dignified retirement and opportunity to retain all illegally acquired personal or group wealth, already offered, in the interest of smooth transition. However, the current intensity of angers are indications that the settlements were not enough or affirmative; and reformist, perhaps need to prepare for further concession, i.e., knowledge transfer.
The truth is that these TPLF hardliners and old guards have led the country for the last 27 years and during which knowledge (bad and good) have been acquired. Their good knowledge, in the areas of mysterious double digit economic growth, successful international diplomacy, and enhanced regional security and expanded Ethiopia’s sphere of influence, cannot be overlooked, as losing them would mean a ruin of vastly built capacity and archived experiences. Therefore, it is important to concede a facilitated intergenerational knowledge transfer, in the interest of the nation that shall need some forms of continuity.
However, prior to any concession, TPLF hardliners and old guards must assume full responsibility for the policies that the public is rejected. They should also remorse the sweaty, tearful and bloody process that the change had to endure, particularly the past 3 years. Surely, they must stop harassing Gedu Andargachew, Demeke Mekonnen, Abiy Ahmed and Lema Megersa for their own mistake of falling-out with the public and instead thank them for saving them and the organization from public wrath. Also affirmative commitment to the reform agenda must be demanded, including an all-encompassing political transformation and democracy, even if it means EPDRF losing power in the upcoming free and fair election.
Depression is severe emotional disorder of heavy dejection (sadness), hopelessness, inadequacy and guilt. Its main symptoms are lack of energy, increased fatigue and functional impairment; preoccupation with worthlessness; and difficulty concentrating or making sound decisions. This is a critical phase, especially when the loss is significant, and the bargain hasn’t settled in a win-win condition. It can be deep and durable, though intensity depends on individual’s attachment to the loss and vulnerability to the heavy feelings thereof.
Obviously, TPLF hardliners and old guards are still in angry phase and they have not gotten to this phase, yet. However, as the loss becomes permanent, influence and authority vanishes, feelings of dejected, and inadequacy will creep in. Additionally, as the extraordinary lifestyle disappear and the privileges taken for granted dissipate, helplessness and worthlessness will soon sneak in. The resultant will trigger what is known as late-life depression, as most are in the senior adult age-group. Late-life depressions can have serious health implications, including risks of chronic medical disorder such as but not limited to social-withdrawal, disabilities, schizophrenia, suicide urge and premature death.
We Ethiopians are decent and no one must teach us, as to how we take-care of our elderlies. Especially, when we are now gathering our exiled elderlies (i.e., Ethiopian veteran politicians) from all around the world and floating the idea of Mengistu H/Mariam’s homecoming, to give them dignified retirement at home; not ushering the same to the ones already home is mistake. God forbid, us sit-watching them suffer from late-age depression, when only simple clarification, persistent reassurance, kind words, cooperation and recognition suffice to transition their situation into acceptance phase.
Acceptance is the last phase marked with a state of calmness and rebuilding. It involves charting one’s life, on a new ground, in the absence of what was been lost, with fierce commitments to let go of past hurts and envisaging a new destiny. Acceptance help restores people’s long-gone energy, optimism, peace, and interest, which are necessary for a fresh and new beginning.
TPLF hardliners and old guards need to be helped into accepting a bitter truth that their era is over. Luckily, Ethiopia’s ceremony of comforting the mourning is effective to help achieve this and the people of Tigray must lead, since comfort is more impactful if carried by close associates. In kind words, the people of Tigray must clarify to them that their 44 years reign over Tigray has come to an end and so is reciting martyrs to perpetuate eternal ruling.
Nothing is static, they must be told, including dreams of the people of Tigray, for the world is changing, and Ethiopia too. Contemporary problems of Tigray, in particular and Ethiopia’s in general can’t be solved with the same old tactics and political philosophy of divide, polarize, antagonize, incite conflicts, and engage arbitration to rule. Thence, cooperation in the interest of greater good, shall be asked for them to step aside and yield for new, young and fresh leadership of Tigray.
In the meantime, the people of Tigray and Ethiopia will reassure to be kind of their legacy. They will be remembered for their legacies of victory over Derge (the butcher), language-based federalism, and relative peace for the most parts of the last 27 years. Also legacies of helping EPLF to separate Tigreans north of Mereb from the south, giving-out Asseb and making a country of 107 million people landlocked will be remembered.
Moreover, records of the country’s multiplied universities, mega-hydroelectric dams; double digit growth in economy and increased global peacekeeping outreach will be acknowledged. History will document spitefully set-up massacres, millions fleeing the country, and ten thousands death from maliciously orchestrated ethnic conflicts.
The emotional state and dynamics of TPLF Hardliners and Old Guards follows the model put forth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. Accordingly, most TPLF Hardliners and Old Guards have passed a phase of denial and shock over the political power lost 3 months ago. Currently, they are experiencing anger as observed by their erratic and irrational behaviors expressed as aggressiveness, hostility, and violence. Signs like rage against EPDRF, fury on reformists, blames of the USA and the West, and infighting from within TPLF are indicators of this emotional state. None are ready for taking responsibility and culpability of events that lead to their loss and hence bargaining for a win-win solution has not started. However, as they learn that the reform is real and permanent, they will inevitably come to negotiation and reformists must be prepared for some concessions, in return. For any concession, TPLF Hardliners and Old Guards must repudiate their horrendous policies that the public rejected. They must also unambiguously affirm their commitment and devotion to the reform agenda.
A bargain that effect a win-win solution shall lessen the intensity and duration of their painful distress and depression. Given their senior adult age-group, we must be careful that they are not subjected to late-life depression, which can have serious medical implications such as physical disabilities, schizophrenia, and urge of suicide. I do believe in ideals of Ethiopians to revere the elderlies, and comfort the mourning. Hence, Ethiopians, especially the people of Tigray must champion comforting Hardliners and Old Guards to swallow the bitter truth. In a mildest tone, they must be told that Tigray need to progress with the rest of Ethiopia and the world. While being assured of their legacies to be celebrated, they need to be implored to yield for new, young and fresh leadership in Tigray.
Holding people’s dreams hostage, to the senior citizens in their 60s and 70s and martyrs of 30 and 40 years ago, is not right. Martyrs never sacrificed to eternality bound our future to their imagination, but to liberate us to progressively stretch forward and explore new frontiers. Most importantly, no one must be moved by these latest signs of anger expressed as irrational and erratic undertaking. It is never deliberate and thoughtfully processed action-steps to regain what is been lost, but to undermine and sabotage the reform agenda from taking its roots.
-  Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth; Kessler, David (2007). “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss”. Scribner. Retrieved November 27, 2016 – via Amazon
-  Interview of Former INSA’s General Director M/General Tekleberhan Woldearegay ON Pm Abiy accessed on July 6, 2018
TPLF divided into two irreconcilable camps: reformists vs. old guards accessed on July 6, 2018