Sinteya is a colleague from Central Africa, here in the country I live. We have roved around issues of genre from racism to humanity, sex, unemployment and Africa. Tunisia and the revolution was the most conspicuous of them. She says “I am not wondered about the revolution in Tunisia.” She posits that revolution was a result of modernisation and ‘neutral’ army. “As you saw, the high literacy rate and technological advancements and the refusal of the army general to shoot the people was the reason for the revolution’’.
She was also doubtful of the repeatability of the Tunisian case in other African countries as, mainly, the military is partial.
What would the military do if Ethiopians rise up tomorrow like the Tunisians?
Neamin Zeleke in his May 2009 article wrote:
“Ginbot 7‘s latest statement provides a comprehensive list of the key and commanding positions held by Tigrayns in the military. By any stretch of imagination, it is not possible that 6% of the population have the unique capacity to command and control 95% of the command posts in the military. It is not possible by any kind of qualitative measurement for promotion — merit, experience, education and other criteria — that a single and minority ethnic group would have what it takes to hold 57 out of the 61 key and mission critical positions within the national military. Nothing can be further from the truth; the only thing that they have is their ethnicity and political loyalty to be able to totally dominate the military in such grossly disproportional ratio. This is the penultimate and most central point that comes out very loud and clear indeed.”
Can a force of the above make up stand and say no I won’t shoot peaceful demonstrators? When will Ethiopia and Africa in general, have an army that is managed by civilians? When will it be accountable and free from monopoly?
G/Tsadkan Gebretensae formerly Lieutenant General was a ‘’liberation fighter’’ with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), first as a rank and file fighter and rose through the ranks to be a senior member of the TPLF leadership. During the armed struggle for over 15 years, he played a crucial role in building and commanding the TPLF army, until his transition to the position of Chief of the General Staff of the new Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) from 1991 to 2001. During this period he led the transition of the liberation army of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF still the ruling party) into a conventional National defense force, and commanded the Armed forces in the war against Eritrea. He has received his Masters in International Policy and Practice from the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the UK Open University. Since 2002 in a row that occurred within the party his military recognition was removed by Meles Zenawi. Since then he is just Tsadkan now. Currently he is in the process of forming the Raya Beer S.C. with Eyesusworq Zafu , the president of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations and chief executive of United Bank S.C.
Seventeen years ago, when Ethiopia was under a Transitional Government (I was just 11 then by the way) was in power Tsadkan presented a compelling paper, knowingly or unknowingly.
On the a symposium “on the Making of The New Ethiopian Constitution held Addis-Ababa from 17-21 May 1993” , General Tsadkan Gebretensae then Chief of the General Staff Armed Forces of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia had this compellingly smart vision of an Ethiopian army. As the paper was eight pages- I select and present some of his wonderful visions that had been lost in the air.
“I would like to preface my comments by stating that the views I am expressing are my own, and not the official views of either the EPRDF or of the Ministry of Defense of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. I hope that my comments, which I base on my own experience and an analysis of the role of the military in the past, will prove useful to the debate and discussion taking place at this Symposium. ” he kicks of his paper.
Tsadkan then envisioning the purpose of the national army says
“The purpose of the national army must be defined by the constitution. The future national army cannot be an instrument to suppress internal political dissent or to resolve political problems, within Ethiopia, that should be resolved politically and democratically. ”
The military must obtain its direction from the constitution, and the constitution should be the instrument for informing the social and political consciousness of the armed forces. The national army must be guided by and be loyal to the constitution. But to defend the constitution, the army must know and understand the principles and articles that the constitution upholds, he had viewed.
On the command of the army he viewed,
“The command of the national army must rest with the elected civilian authorities. The highest legislative authority in the country must determine the size, structure and budget of the army if civilian control of the armed forces is to be guaranteed… This understanding can be achieved by increasing the level of public understanding and debate about the military and military matters, and by ensuring that the national army operates with transparency.”
Regarding the issue of accountability Tsadkan’s spot was
“If the national army is to be credible, and to function as a guardian of peace in the eyes of the population, it must be accountable at several levels. In general, the national army should be accountable to civilian authorities in the execution of its mission. This means that, as stated above, the highest legislative body of the land would determine the army’s size, structure and budget…”
He said this accountability was critical for a number of reasons. First, it demonstrates to the civil society that the military is not above the law and thus cannot abuse its power. Second; it reinforces the understanding of legal and democratic principles within the army itself, thus ensuring better democratic practice and a commonality of purpose between the army and the civilian population.
Composition of the National Army
This was the section that grabbed my psyche. He said “The national army of Ethiopia must be broadly representative of the society.”
“This does not mean that its composition should be based on an ethnic quota system, but that it must be truly national in character and sufficient diversity to allow the people of Ethiopia to feel ownership. The army must be their army. Therefore, the army must be composed in such a way as to serve as a symbol of Ethiopia’s diversity and of its unity. To function as a national army, the military must be under a central command and can’t be composed of various ethnic armies. Rather, the army must involve and include all the peoples of the country and foster a relationship between and among them that is based on mutual respect and equality. If the military demonstrates, by its composition and internal life, that it respects the equal rights of all people, that it is representative of Ethiopia, it can also support the quest for unity with equality throughout the entire country.”
The following statements show how really visionary Tsadkan was and makes him the first Tigrean to criticise the army’s monopoly under one ethnic group.
“The existing army, which is mandated to serve during the transitional period, is not, for historical reasons, as representative as it should be. This fast has caused some difficulties during the transition, and needs to be rectified. In order to do so, it will be necessary to demobilize many Tigrian members of the armed forces and to re-shape the army to reflect the participation of all nations and nationalities. Demobilization is a process that must be undertaken carefully and with a long-term view towards providing former combatants with a viable economic alternative. It is therefore a responsibility that the government must assume, and the people must support. ”
Tsadkan summarised his vision paper of Ethiopia’s army with these bullets for a democratic Ethiopia:
1) The definition of clear purpose for the army.
2) A political awareness, within the army, of the constitution and of its role in defending and promoting that constitution.
3) Democratic internal management of the army.
4) An integrated relationship between the army and the civilian population.
5) Control of the armed forces by civilian authorities.
6) Accountability of the army to the people and their elected representatives.
7) An army of a size that is realistic and affordable.
8) An army which is composed to reflect the diversity and unity of Ethiopia.
The approach of building a barracks army has led Ethiopia to disaster in the past, and we should not repeat that failed experiment, he asserts.
“In the absence of such measures, not only will the army be incapable of contributing to democracy, but it will cease to function as an effective fighting force because the entire arrangement depends upon popular support for and confidences in the army which can only come from the democratization of society.” Tsadkan concludes.
I like Tsadkan’s hallucinations. Hallucinations that went with the wind.I don’t know why it was hidden and not much was written about his vision. He is one good fella that would ‘perhaps’ say no or grumble had he been asked to shoot peaceful demonstrators. Egypt is roaring in protests the most closest and likeliest nation is Ethiopia.
Will the real Tsadkan please stand up/back and help his/your people? Will you shift from business and use your amazing head to realise your vision?
Just a clarion call from a tiny compatriot.