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Minority ethnic domination of the military in Ethiopia

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By Neamin Zeleke

Several Ethiopian scholars and political commentators alike have argued in the past that the TPLF regime in Ethiopia has been promoting the domination of a minority ethnic elite, i.e., the Tigreans, in all spheres of the nation’s life — economy, military, intelligence and security services, foreign affairs, etc. Much has been said and many have commented upon the blatant nature of the drive to ensure the domination of Tigrayan elites who claim to represent only 6% of close to 80 million Ethiopians.

Dr. Berhanu Balcha, a member of the Network of Ethiopian Scholars in Scandinavia (NES), wrote an article under the title “Minority domination and Ethnic Federalism.” In the article published by many of the Ethiopain Websites, Dr. Berhanu aptly argued:

…according to the principles of its own ideology of fair and equal representation of ethic groups, the TPLF, which represents the Tigray province with its 6 percent of the Ethiopian population, should have assumed a minority role, if its intention has not been a minority ethnic hegemony via ethnic federalism. Because it has operated contrary to the rule of its own game, the TPLF is operating as an instrument of coercion and domination rather than equality and freedom.”

He continues:

…as a result, the ethnic federal arrangement in Ethiopia has been characterized by economic monopoly, militaristic domination, and brutal suppression of the rights of the majority of the Ethiopian people, by the TPLF. In a nutshell, the ethnic federal project in Ethiopia has become a device for the implementation and protection of the hegemonic position of the tiny minority Tigrayan elites who have been aiming to have a dominant control of resources that the Ethiopian state controls and generates…”

In the name of a ridiculous notion of “organizational solidarity,” almost all of the ethnically drawn regions under the TPLF ethnic federal arrangement are controlled by Tigrayans running the show. In fact, the pattern has been dubbed in Amharic as “tako”. There are Amharas, Oromos, Southern, and individuals from the plethora of ethnic groups of Ethiopia holding formal positions, yet the real decision makers, movers, and shakers are Tigrayans deemed loyal to the ruling party, the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne).

It is important to note what is written in a recent statement released by AFAR MOVEMENT (AM) – QAFAR UGUGUMO. The statement mentions a UN Report 2002 that indicates that about 98% of directorial, managerial, adviser, technician and engineering positions in the State of Afar are all occupied by non-Afar speaking people. The statement discloses quoting an ex-cabinet member of the Afar state that “All advisers and expertise are all Tigreans.”

So much for the so-called “equality of nations and nationalities” under the TPLF ethnic federal arrangement that purports to ensure the devolution of power and self-government to the ethnically drawn regions.

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.

If one is curious enough to examine the military composition during both Emperor HaileSelassie and the Derg regimes, dubbed as “Amhara ” regimes by the TPLF, it is extremely doubtful such a blatant phenomena where 95 percent of the command posts in the military of both regimes were held by Amharas. In fact, the best and ablest, and also the most powerful generals hailed from all ethnic groups of Ethiopia. Gen. Mulugeta Buli, Gen. Jagama Kelo, Gen. Aman Andom, Maj. General Demissie Bulto, Maj. General Regassa Jima, Gen. Woldeselassie Berka, Maj. General Merid Negussie, Gen. Tesfaye HabteMariam, Gen. Teferi Benti and scores of others who come from various ethnic backgrounds come to mind.

Here, the reader should be cognizant that we are not talking about the rebel army the TPLF was back in the days when it was in the Dedebit desert, but 18 years later and right now — and claiming to rule Ethiopia, telling us that there is a national “Ethiopian Army,” or the so-called “Ethiopian Defense Forces”! Only the tribalist regime and its mindless mouthpieces abroad would have the shameless audacity to argue to the contrary — that what we have in Ethiopia is an equal and proportional representation of the major and minor ethnic groups in the military. Therefore, they have been claiming “equality among nations and nationalities hitherto absent…” assured and ascertained, as they deafen us with their endless mantra, day in and day out.

But the facts and figures in the table below and many hitherto scattered data speak otherwise. Thus vindicating what has been known for so many years, i.e., the grossly blatant and far reaching drive for ethnic hegemony of a minority Tigrayan elites over the rest of the Ethiopian people. Of course, for those who are quick to show a handful of non Tigrayans with rank of a Lt. General, Brg. General, etc, yes there are coteries of yes men from other ethnic groups all around the Tigrayans. The nominal and feeble so-called generals, the likes of Kassa Deme, Bacha Debele, and others from Amhara, Oromo, and other ethnic groups — who have lost or do not have any sense of self respect — do exist. They go through the motion of sheepishly scavenging crumbs from their masters table. These puppets do not wield any real power in addition to the often encountered humiliation of being scolded by not only Tigreans with much lower ranks, as many have exposed, including the latest by Tesfaye Gerbeab’s “The Journalist’s Memoir” who laid bare the extent of this phenomena.

Ginbot 7’s latest statement recounts the thousands of high ranking officers, line officers, NCOs and privates from Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups purged by the TPLF mafia in the thousands in recent years. In effect, an ethnic cleansing within the military enclave. On a related story, the purge carried out by the Tigrayan gang is characterized by inhuman torture and suffering the victims are subjected to. Tesfaye Gebreab, in his rent article about Ginbot, mentions the brutality of a woman torturer named Col. Biraa, a former TPLF commissar and now in charge of prison, where military officers are held incommunicado and tortured, some until they are disabled for life. For the latest purges and repression carried out against officers and privates alike in the military one can also refer to a recent report by Finote Democracy [pdf].

Captain Teshome Tenkolu’s story, one of the ablest air force pilots and trainers subjected to inhuman torture is a yet another case among perhaps the untold thousands of others subjected to cruelty and inhumanity carried out by the Tigrayan mafia within the military establishment. The stories told about Capt. Teshome and his late friend, Maj. Daniel say much about the brutal and inhuman ways used by the tribal mafia regime and its henchmen to punish members of the armed forces suspected of any “wrongdoing”. Both were forced to spend two years in underground dungeon under extremely gruesome conditions, forced to sleep and live literally on human remains until they were released after being told by the shameless Woyanne that their country needs them to fight their war with Eritrea — to save their skin in that war with Eritrea which consumed 70,000 Ethiopian lives with no relevance whatsoever for Ethiopia.

The two were asked to return to the air force as pilots. It gave Capt. Teshome the chance to escape to Eritrea with an air force plane. He is now living in Canada. While his friend Maj. Daniel who stayed behind was less fortunate. Several years later, just barely two years ago, he was found dead in Ethiopia under extremely dubious circumstances. Who else could have killed him except the usual suspect, now that he has done his “service,” he could be disposed off.

According to Capt. Teshome’s account of the extreme suffering and inhuman conditions he was forced to endure, the captors who took him from his office at the air force base were Tigrayan officers (former TPLF cadres mentioned by name); the interrogators torturing him, for reasons that he has yet find out even today, were also Tigrayans. It is yet another story of the judge, the jury, the police, were all being played out by individuals belonging to the same ethnic group — Tigrayans — at the service of the TPLF mafia. The full story of Capt. Teshome could be found here.

The minority ethnic domination has far reaching implications for Ethiopia’s future peace and harmony that must exist among the various ethnic groups, including the people of Tigray region. Such facts and figures must come out to show the world the bankruptcy and total recklessness of the TPLF regime and the cabal controlling it.

Below one can find partial list of the names, positions, and ethnic compositions that exist in the current so-called national military in Ethiopia. For a full list of names by rank, ethnic composition and key positions held, one can check the six page report in Amharic release here.

Senior Command Posts

1. Chief of Staff, General, Samora Yunus, Tigre
2. Training Department, Lt. General Tadesse Worede, Tigre
3. Logistics Department, Lt. General Geazi Abera, Tigre
4. Military Intelligence Department, Brg. General Gebredela, Tigre
5. Operations Department, Lt. General Gebre Egziabiher, Tigre
6. Engineering Department, Lt. General Berhane Negash, Tigre
7. Air force, Brg. General Mola Haile Mariam, Tigre

Heads of the four commands

1. Central Command, Lt. General AbebawTadesse, Agew
2. Northern Command, Lt. General Seare Mekonnen, Tigre
3. South Eastern Command, Maj. General Abraha W. Gabriel, Tigre
4. Western Command, Brg. General Siyoum Hagos, Tigre

Division Commands
1. 31st Division Commander, Colonel Tsegaye Marx, Tigre
2. 33rd Division Commander, Colonel Kidane, Tigre
3. 35th Division Commander, Colonel Misganaw Alemu, Tigre
4. 24th Division Commander, Colonel Work Aieynu, Tigre
5. 22nd Division Commander, Colonel Dikul, Tigre
6. 14th Division Commander, Colonel Woedi Antieru, Tigre
7. 21st Divison Commander, Colonel Gueshi Gebre, Tigre
8. 11th Division Commander, Colonel Workidu, Tigre
9. 25th Division Commander, Colonel Tesfai Sahel, Tigre
10. 20th Division Commander, Colonel, Teklai Klashin, Tigre
11. 8th Mechanized Division, Colonel Jemal Mohamed, Tigre
12. 4th Mechanized Division, Colonel Hintsaw Giorgis, Tigre

44 thoughts on “Minority ethnic domination of the military in Ethiopia

  1. Thank you for this.We have to make sure that this information is dissiminated throughout Ethiopia by any means avialable.We are getting very powerful and persusive information but if this could not reach to the wider Ethiopian community at home it will be little help. May be media outlets like VOA or others might be helpful in this regard
    Thank you

  2. People: I am not surprised more than the author. Look, during the Italians occupation, did they give key positions to Ethiopians? I did not expect Graziani to be an Ethiopian. No way! Fight for your freedom and write how to be liberated. Enough with rhetoric and preaching to the converted. I am completely overwhelmed.

  3. My friends I can only say the evil mission of this weyane mafia family toward Ethiopia and Ethiopians are clear and here are some of the tools they are using to distroy this beautiful nation and people, 1- the guns- to kill and kill, 2- the prisons- to humiliate and to kneel down the ones who can challenge them through knowledge and diplomacy, 3- the media- to confuse the 80% peasants with in Ethiopia with empty promises as the world becomes one village, 4- the diplomats- including the lier, killer, deceiter, and butcher who has no shame to call himself a leader of the greatest country in Ethiopia. I feel this mafia family damage to Ethiopian people will be felt for many generations to come ones they are eradicated from the face of the planet.

  4. Gud Bel ager…
    this is good info. and must by any means be known to Ethiopians at home.
    Actually this has been obvious long time ago but the thing is we must take a measure… As Dr.Birhanu said”Talking days are passed”now it is time to act.

  5. For those who doubt the evil intentions of the organization that started with the claim that it is a tigrayan liberation front and most tigrayan fighters of weyane supported is bent on dominating all aspects of Ethiopian institutions be it military,economic or religious.Weyane leaders dangerous and illusionary dream is not only aiming at creating tigarayan ruled tigray nation,but the gangsta weyane has to be the superior of all organizations that are part of the people of the greater horn.To fullfill this dangerous path of being superior of all,but representing a tiny minority of the Ethiopain population weyane chose to be a mercenary of foreign powers specially of the right wing U.S powers like george Bush and Dick Cheyney,because this non-sense that has been master minded by the psycopath Meles Zenawi and his mentor old ultra tribalist Nega W.sellassie is an illusion that is been dreamed by this unpredictable sick pycaopaths weyae leaders.The time will come when the people of Ethiopia realize that weyane intentions of disinegrating their aspiration to live together as one people peacefully is being subotaged and decide to get rid of mafiose weyane and its webs(hodamotch for that matter).

  6. If that is the case,the soldiers from other ethnic group should complain to their bosses.I think it is not only in the military field that the minorities are dominating but also in the economy(investment,trade,import &export),technology(communication centers,transportation,academy including scholarships…),political and Social activities.
    In the diaspora also,there are business owners of the minority group who bring goods as much as they can from Ethiopia as well as send whatever they like to send while other ethnic groups are not allowed to do so.

  7. I wonder their future as thier down falure inevitable. You know what, one shamless former wayane from Tigre told me that thier evil plan , when I explained him the reiality that they are on the way to thier grave. His face became green.

  8. Time and again, we are counting there domination and control of every sector. But we did not step on even an inch to stop it. If we simply keep on talking and complaining about their wrong deeds and give them a free ride to do so, they will continue on what they are doing for aggressively until the country is ruined and no more hold them with the resourses they are looting.

  9. This is excellent information because it clearly states the Ethnicity of the individual generals (as “Tigre”). This will enable us to take action more precisely and effectively. Thank you for this information and please make research and let us know how the Tigres are blatantly controlling other ministries and institutions. One comment is that the Tigres are not 6%, this is what they wish to be by taking a large chunk of land and people from Noth Gondar, North Wollo, Erob people, the Rayas, Afar and from Eritrea. They have been also creating confusion by mixing their ethnic group with the Amharas so that they will be able to diminish the population of Amharas. The correct figure of the Tigre ethnic group is about 1.6 million, which is about 2% of the total population of Ethiopia.

    In our turn we will target the 99.9% Tigre criminals.

    God bless our innocent people of Ethiopia


  10. the reality is woyane needs some one supporting ethnic federalism to head key military positions. it is not really racism, but most of the amhara elites rightly don’t support the narrow ethnic federalism and are not willing to work for woyane regime. woyane cannot drag amara to be air force commanders knowing that that is risky. to be honest obama is doing the same: look how many jews are in key position even though they make less than one 6% of the US population. Chief of staff:Jew; Budget secretary:Jew; Director of Health Reform:Jew (brother of Ram Emanuel); I will get you the whole list.

  11. My only frustration is that there are tens of thousands of privates and non-commissioned Oromo, Amara, Wolayita, Gurage, Sidama, Kambata, Agnuak etc in the Army under this illiterate so called Tigre “Generals and Colonels” – why can’t the non-Tigres mentioned above take care of this Tigre thugs – of course you know what I mean!!!

  12. “…to be honest obama is doing the same: look how many jews are in key position even though they make less than one 6% of the US population”

    how “brilliant lemlem” is to compare tyrany with the world’s best democracy!!!
    don’t LOL, that is how woyanes think, skin depth, no see tomorrow. a dictionary of bad words does not suffice to describe them.

  13. This kind of absolute dominance by TPLF won’t help Tigrians in the long run in any way rather; it is up to Tigrians to oppose and correct this kind of total ascendancy.

  14. i did not say woyane is as democratic as the US. what i am saying is that the jews are eating the bigger slice of the pie under the obama administration. may be the jews make only 1% or less of the US population but they are over represented in the corridors of power in the obama white house. the reason is simple obama is comfortable with them and they contributed a lot in the civil right movement and it is now a pay back time.

  15. To lemlem #14:
    You don’t understand Ethiopian politics or what equal justice under the law is all about,if you will.Do you know what democracy is?First of all you are comparing USA and Ethiopia,two different countries which have nothing in common.No need of listing Obamas’s staffs.Ethiopian people is unwilling to work with woyannes because woyannes are lawless and don’t know equal justice under the law.They are doing every thing possible to build their region by oppressing others.

  16. lemlem:
    I don’t want to argue with you.I think the other ethnic groups like Oromo, Amhara, Sidama, Afar, Kefa, Anuwak… have the right to be leaders. Tigrians were not born with all the titles. They have got the opportunity and have been trained.If the other ethnic groups had the chance they would have been better than Tigrians.

  17. I guess any society gets leader that it deserves. For people who like to talk cheap and sit on their ass all day fantasizing, this could be a deserved government.

  18. By the way the writer seems to be illitrate about ethiopian ethnic names. Tigre is a respected and great ethnic that is in a nieghbouring Eritrea.

  19. Hello Neamin,
    You did great. There is no need to go around the bush and you have strted to tell the true nature of TPLF – We should fight TPLF by telling the truth to the world and Africans how apparteid is instituted in Ethiopia in the name of Ethenic Federalism. We need to collect information and data on what they are doing on all sectors of the economy, their colonization of part of Wollo and Gondar, the genecide they conducted on ethinic bases especially in Wolquit and Humera (ask the Wolquit group). The tragic error of the Ethiopian intellectual was to go on writing about matters that are irrelevant for the struggle- I think we are now discovering where to focus the enormous intellectual power: on the crucial nature the Woyannes and their disgusting moral depravity.I hoped some Tigrean intellectuals will tell the secret- but to my dissappointment the overwhelming majority are either silent supporters of TPLF or people who are creating another copy of TPLF just to oppose Meles or outright-fascist-and-nuerotic zombies.

  20. I don’t think this is the right way to talk about the wrong deeds of EPRDF. If we discriminate or talk about ethincity we will not have a peaceful transformation, which may have one time in the future. Such an approach will make things worse. I think this is not the wise way.

  21. Lemlem,

    How come this “intelligent” generals happen to be exclusively from barbaric Tigre tribe? As an Oromo who have observed massacre of Oromo since 1991 by the murderous TPLF regime, I am afraid a situation akin to Rwanda is already on the making.

  22. This is for lemlem, First of all try to understand the US administration, there is no any region established in line of ethnicity, it is a united (one) nation. Second of all, the assigned people, whether they are Jew, china, India, or semetic, mongol, nigro so and so forth, whoever they may be they are doing everything for the peoples. Mind, not for the jew only, or for Ethio only, but for all. Last of all, would you able to tell me the founder ethnic group of US.


    In Ethiopia, everywhere in Addis Tor hailoch hospital, Immigration office, and some key poisition in Ethiopian civil aviation, I can tell you that there is few ( may be for their politics) or no other nation.

    The military force in the country

    1. They are working to fill their belly
    2.The experienced jangle fighter, if you look in to the journey of TPLF especially the tigria son and dau. are all killed.
    3.Other nations in the military at least they have 18 years of experience,if the time is important that the intellect.
    4. Take Samora, the experienced is the cause of >70,000 inosent ethiopian died in Eritrian soil for no importance. take the somalia case, even the PM said it is not important to talk about the ethiopian died in somali land, and I am not obliged to say anything. This is what you are saying the experience babe

    Think about it, it is not fear.

  23. Lemlem has the right observation about the Obama administration. I hope and pray for you that you will not be wrongfully labeled as anti-Semitic. Be very careful, sister. In the meantime, the set up in Ethiopia is quite literally different. There it is based on ethnic politics. Here in the USA it is rather based on accommodations, payback you will. They supported him during his campaign and he is paying back. But his pressure on Israel may create a fissure on this ‘uneasy’ alliance. We will see how it is going to play out. I don’t agree with him putting too much pressure on Israel. It is their homeland and they need space to live. As long Hamas is hurling killer rockets at innocent civilians at will, I will not have any problems with Benjamin Netanyahu building more residential houses for his people. Where is the place Arabs have constitutionally protected human and democratic rights? It is in Israel.

  24. The military is one of the major institutions of the Ethiopian government. This report confirms that the military is dominated by Tigrians, although the Derg was overthrown by the sacrifice made by all Ethiopians. Similar disproportionate power and influence of the Tigrians is witnessed in all sectors of the Ethiopian society today, which is the cause of resentment of many Ethiopians in all parts of the country, and the diaspora. The EPRDF/TPLF prides itself as a strong organization, because it corrects its own mistake as they are made. Here is this big blunder TPLF, and calls for an urgent correction before it’s too late. The Ethiopian people had enough of EPRDF/TPLF’s divide and rule policy, and its excesses. They are silently craving for a government that treats all its people equally, and place the country 1st before the party. EPRDF/TPLF ought to listen before its too late.

  25. I agree to some extent with Lemlem, as it is most likely that the Tigrai generals fought for the Derg’s overthrow in TPLF, and this is their payback. Nevertheeless, Obama may have been helped by the Jews, but he also made a concerted effort to make his appointments reflect all America, as he was elected by all Americans. Likewise the Derg was overthrown by all Ethiopians, but only Tigrians seem to be the prime benficiaries. I myself have Tigrian parents, and relatives all over Tigrai. My family is ashamed of, and is puzzled by, the deeds of this TPLF-dominated, and corrupt Ethiopian government and its insecurity. While it’s doing well in certain areas, its exclusiveness disgusts my family, and a large segment of the Tigrai population.

  26. I know most of the above listed high rank officials and they do deserve the position. I do not believe wiz the question why all are from a single ethnic group. Merit matters.

  27. My message is not to tyrant Meles Zenawi. It is rather to the two majority ethnic groups. Namely the Oromos and the Amharas. Meles is laughing at you and makes a mockery out of you.The tyrant represents only 4-5% of 80ml.or so Ethiopian population. Yet two of you represent 74% of the whole population.Because of you fighting on past repressions turn by turn Meles is making to crowd the prison cell turn by turn. For the last three years it was only the Oromos who were targeted and have been facing torture and killings by Meles. Many Oromo lives have been perished as the result. 2009 is the Amharas turn the way observe it. As the statistics indicated All the major military and security positions are held by Tigrays who are supporters of the tyrants dictatorial regime. I see the name of two Agews which I do not have problem with though no one except the tyrant and his cronies who know how these two got into this high post. Here is where my message starts. How far or how many times the tyrant has to tell you for you to get it? From the very beginning he divided you along language line to control you. Then through its propaganda machine he continuously propagandized about the past repression in order to cover up his own repression on both of you turn by turn and made you to mock about the ethnic under attack forgetting that you turn on the corner. The tyrants plan even farther. If he could,to create Tigray elite to control the country foe many many years to come to control every thing that Ethiopia has. The economy The military the Social status and of course the political power which is the machine to execute all of the above. Among other things, even if it is very hard to bring down to minority the Oromos and the Amharas, he is doing exactly that by creating uneducated Amharas and Oromoos which he has already started. The evidence i.e. its education policy. So are both of you big ethnic groups waiting for God to come down and preach to you as the futurity of the Ethiopian society is risking danger?For the sake your people and the existence the Country I urge you work to gether and give the people the chance to hie or fire their Government Any time they find it necessary. Unless the Ethiopian peoples are in charge of their own Country The WOYANE lead tyranny will continue, so let specially these two ethnic s work together. I would like to end by saying HUNG togeter or YOU will be hung SEPARATELY by the Tyrant.

  28. Sirafet says

    This is for Lemlem. I totally agree with you that this is a deserved government for most of us including you who talk cheap and sit on our ass all day fantasizing and blaming/insulting others. However, if you were literate contrary to what you have said about the writer, you wouldn’t have said “Tigre is a respected tribe” because all tribes are equally respected. No tribe is less respected than others.

  29. I am an ethiopian who is every single second proud of to be an ethiopian. But i am ashamed of ths regime,infact i am tigre and oromo in my father side and tigre amhara and oromo in my mother side. i speak tigrign,and amharic. my parents speak,tigrigna,amharic oromifa.

    i hate regionalisime like weyane does and i hate ethinicisim like ONLF does: i like Birtukan who is nationalist.

    i do no how we can win the weyane and onlf,specialy weyane. i know them deeply they are selfishhhhh,OMG!

    please the tigrean ethiopians think over it to be in the side of ethiopian brothers and sisters to ficht against this regime,,,otherwise the same will happen as the Derg has done before.And this is bad for all. please wake up even the weyane didnt think about the whole tigreans but just collecting money,sitting on chair,laying,killing inoocent my and yours ethiopian brothers,sisters,fathers,kids,,,,how many of them. Alah knows….

    there will be time for all,but that day if God will not be as always with as my beloved country might go to the dark,hell,chaos,…. please wach out….

    May God remebers my lovely country as he does always!

    Ethiopia lezelialem tinur!

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