Ethnic baiting targeting TPLF and Tigrayans in connection with the protests in Oromia is a diversionary tactic, said Minister Abay Tsehaye Director of the Policy Study and Research Center.

Abay Tsehaye, who doubles as special adviser to the Prime Minister, made the remark in an exclusive interview with Horn Affairs.

The remark was prompted after the US based media OMN released an alleged leaked audio of Abay Tsehaye regarding the integrated development plan for Addis Ababa and surrounding Oromia areas, a.k.a master plan, and the protests against it.

The master plan was the rallying cause of the April 2014 protests that rocked Oromia for almost two months since mid-November 2015. OMN released an audio claiming it was recorded during a meeting in Gondar city on December 31 and that Abay Tsehaye was rebuking senior officials of Oromia region who were present in the meeting. The media had released another audio in February 2015 alleging that Abay Tsehaye declared the master plan would be implemented regardless oppositions.

Abay Tsehaye, however, denied the allegations. He said that he didn’t attend a meeting in Gondar, be it this year, last or the year before. He further argued some the statements attributed to him are not supported by audio and when they are it’s taken out of context and picking phrases rather than the full paragraph.

“The main point is in why they do such things” Abay Tsehaye stressed and pondered on the recurrent references to TPLF and Tigrayans in relation to the protests in Oromia.

Abay Tsehaye’s remark went viral on the world wide web prompting responses from several English and Amharic sites.

We have translated the transcript of the relevant section, which was published last Sunday on HornAffairs Amharic.

Photo - Abay Tsehaye and Daniel Berhane
Photo – Abay Tsehaye and Daniel Berhane

Ethiopia’s ruling party EPRDF consists four regional parties. TPLF is its Tigrayan wing, while OPDO is in charge of Oromia].
Abay Tsehaye is founding member of TPLF and veteran of the armed struggle. He was in the leadership of the EPRDF until last August when he resigned as part of the Metekakat (leadership replacement) process. He is in charge of the major think-tank Policy Study and Research Center – established in 2014 with the mandate “to study local and international issues and to formulate and propose policy and strategic ideas essential for the development of the country”.

Abay Tsehaye:

The main point is in why they do such things. It’s essential for the public to know why these forces, who hope to capitalize on chaos, selectively target me and others, to besmirch our names and relations with the public and divert the agenda.

The first reason is that there is a vast land seized and illicitly traded by some officials of the Addis Ababa surrounding Oromia special zone and Addis Ababa based businessmen – both Oromo and non-Oromo. There are even land plots illicitly traded twice. The seller is the local administration, not Addis Ababa Administration. The buyers are mostly illegal brokers, plus some legit businessmen.

The master plan was intended to integrate these towns and rural districts with Addis Ababa in terms of utilities, infrastructure and to ensure huge market access to the Oromo people in the surrounding areas. It was to develop agro-industry and create trade and market linkage, not to annex an inch of land from Oromia.

Why did they misrepresent the aim of the master plan, because – if it goes into effect – it would bring to light those shady land deals and the actors involved. To preempt that, some corrupt local officials and businessmen spread rumors that the master plan is intended to uproot the population and to annex Oromia territory into Addis Ababa. Their main reason is this. It is to hide their corruption.

The second reason is the government’s pledge to tackle the deficits of good governance across the country. It was announced at the EPRDF congress [last August] and then by the government. Aha! If this goes ahead, corrupt officials and those who ill-treated the population will be exposed. Hence, they hoped to preempt the good governance drive by creating chaos using the master plan as a smokescreen. This is the other reason for their actions.

Those being the fundamental factors, there is a reason why they selectively targeted certain individuals, including me. It is some few businessmen and officials of the Addis Ababa surrounding Oromia special zone who created all the mess and the plunder. They are the ones who siphoned off the compensation money allocated for those evicted from their land. However, in a bid to avoid public accountability, they try to shift the blame. They point to the master plan. They point to TPLF. They point to the Federal government. They are trying to blame entities that had no role in it. The culprits are trying to shift the blame to others.

What has TPLF got to do in this? TPLF doesn’t administer the Federal government or Addis Ababa. It administers the state of Tigrai. It partakes in the federal government just like other parties of the EPRDF coalition. Then why is it TPLF became a target? Why some TPLF officials are selectively targeted? They target Tigreans and TPLF in order to create ethnic hostility.

While the Oromo population is telling them that they are the ones who plundered the land and denied justice, these local officials try to mislead the people by shifting the blame to the master plan, to TPLF and to EPRDF. But the population is aware of the reality and is telling the woreda level, town level and other officials that they are to blame and that they should either correct their practice or else.

What the people are asking is for good governance, for them to return the land they plundered and the compensation money they siphoned off.
They are attempting to divert the public’s questions, which is directed at them, towards the federal government, towards TPLF, towards Abay Tsehaye…etc. This is the reality.

But the people know. The Oromo people know who robbed, who maltreated, who evicted them. The people are not letting them get away with it. The public is demanding answers from them, holding them accountable. There’s nothing they can do to divert. The people of Oromia is now very enlightened, knows its interest and rights, and knows what benefits or harm it. The people of Oromia is our witness.

The people are demanding answers from their administrators. It is also telling anti-peace elements that they should stay out of this and that they don’t serve its interest. The people are saying it is OPDO/EPRDF who worked for us and whom we are asking to correct its deficits. The people are demanding corrections from OPDO as its children.

So the motive for the targeting of others is to provoke ethnic hatred and to shift the blame.

Daniel Berhane

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