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Ethiopia : Paul Kagame got it wrong about TPLF

by Dimetros Birku
February 22, 2015

L-R; Uganda's Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, President Kagame, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tigray People's Liberation Front. (Village Urugwiro)  Via- The New Times Africa
L-R; Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, President Kagame, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. (Village Urugwiro)
Via- The New Times Africa

Usually, Sudanese leaders are regular attendees of TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) yearly festivities in its ethnic base in Mekelle, Northern Ethiopia. Those who are oblivious of the role of Sudan during the guerrilla years of TPLF might wonder why it so. But for those who know Sudan’s all out support to the then guerrilla forces who were wagging what seemed back then was a war against “Derg regime”, not against Ethiopia, the TPLF-Sudan warm relation sounds only expected.

Yet again, why Sudan-TPLF relation has not gone bad the way TPLF and Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF), a political force that crafted the state of Eritrea and whose leader turned out to be one of the few non-conformist and defiant leaders in the continent, did is explainable in terms of Sudan’s paranoia of strong Ethiopia and TPLF’s paranoia of possible rebel movement in areas adjacent to Ethio-Sudan’s border.

As TPLF marked its 40th anniversary this past week, it has managed to draw, oddly enough, the attention of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In light of Paul Kagame’ stance on ethnic politics in his own country, how and why Paul Kagame ended up accepting invitation to attend an ethno-supermacist political bonanza in Mekelle is perplexing.

As a leader of a country that has suffered the worst ethnic genocide not just in Africa’s history but also in the history of the world, and as a leader who helped craft a constitution that outlaws political entities on the basis of ethnicity in Rwanda, it is beyond my imaginations why he wanted to give recognition to a political entity with deeply held sentiment for ethnic-supremacy, which is manifested in all sorts of way in Ethiopia, by way of attending their ethnic party. Kagame could have asked himself a simple question: 24 years after power why is it that TPLF remained intransigent to even change its ethnic name while leading a nation of 90 million people with iron fist under the cover of coalition and while looting the country to the bone? Which African political party owns what is estimated to be well over $6 billion worth of investment, not to mention the loots in the personal accounts of relatives of TPLF leadership?

Worse, Kagame’s comment, from the article I read on The New Times, is polarizing and offending to millions of Ethiopians.

He is quoted as saying:

    “You faced the military might of superpowers. Famine was used against your people, as a weapon of war. Your national unity was under constant assault. But nothing could break the Ethiopian spirit, and you have not only prevailed, but continue to thrive,”

His point about the use of famine against what he seemed to be referring to ethnic Tigray is a big slip of the tongue and certainly many Ethiopians will find the comment fundamentally wrong and very offensive. The reverse is true. TPLF was plotting in the name of Tigray speaking Ethiopians and has even caused an airstrike in a market place for the purpose of manipulating positive sentiment towards its cause. This is a recorded fact and former member of TPLF who claim to have insider information during the guerrilla war have given their testimonials

I cannot help questioning the material Kagame consulted to in regards to that part of Ethiopia’s history. He is fundamentally wrong.

As well, Kagame did try to echo a remark that could relate to the notion of “African solution to African Problem” – something he should not have used in reference to TPLF as an entity. It’s proven fact that TPLF leaders are the leading recipients of aid, in the whole of “Sub-Sahara Africa”, from the western world in the name of Ethiopia something unrealistic without being vassal to the donors in some way. And the point that some of what are perceived to be “African problems” are either artificially created or not African at all. So are the “solutions” that are applied to these “African problems.” It is very sad that person like Kagame is not aware of the time bomb that TPLF has planted everywhere in Ethiopia. In fact, other African leaders seem to be deceived too about the sugar-coated effort of TPLF while what is really happens tally with ethnic-chauvinism.

Kagame does not seem to have a clue about the political genealogy of core TPLF leaders either and what their intent was initially. Most of the leaders were from families who fought against Ethiopia during the war with Italy and they were brought up anti-Ethiopian sentiment. Initially, the intent of TPLF was to create Tigray Republic. Even the strictly ethnic Federal administrative structure they are using now is pretty akin to what Fascist Italy did try to use during its five years of occupation in the 1930’s.

Perhaps Kagame was into a game of diplomatic tit for tat. But surely, his mere presence in an ethnic party Bonanza and his uninformed and flawed comment about what TPLF fought for is a disservice to Africa.



  1. Nice article ! How do presidents visit another country ? Guess protocols require the leader should be informed about t he country at hand. Otherwise he or she will visit Hitler and enjoy the gala. I have seen Kagame with Sbhat negas son, a drug trafficur and criminal family . But Kagame still remains popular in Rwanda and Africa at large! He definitely did a fantastic job in Rwanda !


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