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Mapping the TPLF evolving political strategy

By Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni
December 24,2018

1. The Menelik II Ideology and Its Narratives.

The TPLF framed its original liberation ideology back in the 1970s around fighting the legacy of Menelik II and overthrowing the Shewan centered Ethiopian politics. This narrative was built on the assumption that Menelik II of Shewa, together with the Shewan Oromo, was behind the illegal usurpation of political power from Emperor Yohannes, a Tigrean, and his lawful successors. TPLF mobilized the Tigrean people around this ideology and narratives.

2. How TPLF built Coalition around this Menelik II ideology

The TPLF built alliance with the OLF around this TPLF ideological frame by helping the OLF define Ras Gobana, an Oromo leader who founded modern Ethiopia with Emperor Menelik as the twin enemies of the Oromo people and as the starting point of the Oromo liberation struggle leaving aside all the political legacies of Wollo Oromos and Oromos who ruled Ethiopia since the Gonderian period.

The EPLF happened to be the natural ally and big brother of the TPLF in those days to pursue its own drive to liberate Eritrea from Ethiopia.

Other liberation movements elsewhere in Ethiopia were used by the TPLF to drive home its own agenda of dismantling the political center in Addis.

3. The failed TPLF governance strategy.

After the Derg failed following the failure of the Soviet Union, the TPLF, as the only organized group, entered Addis and ruled Ethiopia for the last 27 years. For the last 27 years, the TPLF followed South African Apartheid style divide and rule policy as its governance ideology.

The core strategy and objectives of this divide and rule policy were containing the Oromo and Amhara politics by pitting the two against each other and framing these two biggest population groups which constitute about 70-80% of the Ethiopian population as mortal enemies.

The TPLF established satellite parties and created the EPRDF to execute this TPLF divide and rule strategy. Other regional satellite parties were created outside the framework of the EPRDF in Somali, Afar, Benishangul and Gambella Regions with the same objectives.

TPLF stayed in Addis for 27 years laboring to shift the Ethiopian political center to Tigray and create Tigrean ruling class in vain.

Its false rhetoric aside, the TPLF never believed in the identity questions of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities. But it used the legitimate identity politics of various Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities as a convenient tool to advance the TPLF divide and rule policy and maintain its hegemony.

After 27 years, the TPLF divide and rule policy run its course and failed. To the dismay of the TPLF, the TPLF was removed from power and from Addis by the coalition of Oromo and Amhara progressive leaders led by Team Lemma.

4. The Re-emergence of the Menelik III ideology as a key TPLF Narratives:

The TPLF is back to its original narratives again, but it is more twisted than the first. Since Prime Minister Abiy come to power in April 2018, the TPLF was trying to brand him and call him names but nothing seems to stick.

But, recently the TPLF is trying hard to define and brand Prime Minister Abiy, an Oromo, as Menelik III. The TPLF is trying hard to sell the same narrative through its paid agents in the long dismembered and dismantled Oromo liberation front.

The substance of this Menelik III narrative is not any different from the Menelik II narrative. Just, like the first narrative, the cry of the TPLF is that Menelik and Amharas are back. The Amhara and Oromo alliance they thought won 27 years ago is back into the Menelik palace in the name and image of Prime Minister Abiy, a progressive and reformist Oromo leader, who chased the TPLF from Addis.

Unlike most Oromo leaders, Prime Minister Abiy is for Ethiopia and Ethiopians unity. The Prime Minister owns Ethiopia’s past, believes in redeeming Ethiopia’s present, and he is visionary enough to chart a bright future for Ethiopia to be. That is seen both as an opportunity and as a major headache for the TPLF. Opportunity, because it will help it to mobilize those who hate Ethiopia and the Ethiopia TPLF defined in the image of the Amhara. A headache, because if Prime Minister Abiy succeeds that is the end of the TPLF.

Thus, the narrative of Prime Minister Abiy to own Ethiopia’s past, redeem Ethiopia’s present and chart Ethiopia’s future as a great nation is not boding well with TPLF and its old satellite allies in the long dismembered and disgruntled members of the OLF on whom the TPLF is spending millions in cash and guns over the last eight months.

In this connection, the cadres of the TPLF and TPLF paid agents of long dismembered OLF have joined hands, and are trying to define Prime Minister Abiy as the rejuvenation and rebirth of Menelik II, Ras Gobana and Imperial Ethiopia. The cadres of both groups are telling their respective herds that the Amhara’s are coming. The spirit of Menelik II is back in Menelik Palace. A closer look at the propaganda and narratives of the TPLF funded and armed groups in Wollega and Borana and the rhetorics of the TPLF cadres on social media and on the ground are copycat.

TPLF’s current narrative is not that much different from its past narrative and ideological frame. TPLF is trying to mobilize disgruntled members and paid agents of the TPLF in the long dismantled OLF against the Oromo and Amhara progressive leaders under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy, their Menelik III, who removed the TPLF from power. The only difference between TPLF’s Menelik II and Menelik III narratives are, in the former, the TPLF mobilized the ethnic Tigreans to avenge the loss of power to the Amhara and Oromo coalition after the death of Emperor Yohannes while now it is trying to avenge for itself for losing power again to another Oromo and Amhara coalition under Prime Minister Abiy.

5. What is the TPLF’s alliance-building strategy this time?

TPLF is retrying its old alliance-building strategy again with some variations. Its old big brother, the EPLF, is gone for good. The Agazian narrative it long invested on in millions is not holding water. Fortunately, TPLF has some handle on its paid agents in the long dismantled OLF. TPLF has some chance here since the Oromo liberation narratives and the iconic flag of the former OLF was not owned by other Oromo groups and remained in the hand of TPLF paid agents. Using the OLF narrative and the iconic flag, under which tens of thousands of Oromo heroes and heroines died, the TPLF is hoping to mobilize and arm Oromos who are in the dark about the TPLF strategy.

TPLF’s strategy to build a Janjaweed like Militia in Somali Region failed. Its attempts to build a similar group in Afar, Gambella, and Benishangul also failed miserably. Its strategy to mobilize minority groups in Amhara region against the Amhara is also not returning its investment.
There are also the so-called “unity groups” who are loosely allied with the TPLF who also thinks the success of Prime Minister Abiy in establishing pluralist, federalist, multilingual and democratic Ethiopia will also be their political end.

But, TPLF is still attempting to establish another EPRDF like satellite coalitions under its leadership and reemerge as a political power in Ethiopia or at least undermine the current transformative regime change in Ethiopia.

6. What is the TPLF end game?

The TPLF is playing with three scenarios as its end game. The first scenario of the TPLF is trying is to find a trojan horse that will take it back to the Menelik palace using the paid agents it long maintained in the long dismantled OLF. The TPLF is promising two things to these paid agents. First, it is promising to fund and arm these paid agents to overthrow President Lemma and Prime Minister Abiy to become 1) a sole ruler over the Oromo people in Oromia, and 2) to jointly rule Ethiopia with the TPLF. Alternatively, the TPLF is telling these paid agents that if they fail to jointly rule Ethiopia, they will dismantle Ethiopia by creating independent Oromia and Tigray.

The second scenario the TPLF is playing with as an end game is to make Ethiopia a failed state using this paid agents and its surrogates in Ethiopia. If TPLF manages to make Ethiopia failed state, that will keep Tigray safe in Somali Land style condition as Ethiopians suffer from its evil actions.

The third scenario the TPLF is playing with, if the first two scenarios fail, is to buy time for the TPLF old guards to die their natural death before they are held accountable for their crimes of 27 years, maybe more, by making the government of Prime Minister Abiy busy firefighting.
On what to do to contain, defeat and dismantle this devilish strategy of the TPLF, I will write more in the near future. Stay tuned!
Editor’s note: Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni shared the above article on his won facebook page yesterday.

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  1. Great insight. I can not wait to see your suggestions on how to ” defeat and dismantle this devilish strategy of the TPLF”. My two sense is create an alternative to TPLF in Tigre and kick these old bastards out. If that fails, get Eritrea and Ethiopia to squeeze the devilish Woyanes with force and capture and try TPLF leaders for crimes of genocide in Beneshangul, Oromia and other places, as well as for treason for plotting to overthrow Dr. Abiy’s government.

  2. Tribalism and Nationalism. How best to fight tribalism – academic perspective.

    Tribalism implies the control of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group. It is a precondition for members of a tribe to keep a strong feeling of identity for a true tribal society to form.
    Tribalism should not be acceptable to rear its ugly head in our beautiful country, Ethiopia. If tribalism thrives in Ethiopia, the consequences are too frightening to consider. Studies have revealed that we can only fight tribalism effectively through nation building. By nation building I am not talking about the common knowledge of shaping behavior, values, languages, social institutions and physical structures, but I am talking about nation building at the emotional, spiritual and psychological level. We should understand that nation-building does not only involve physical infrastructure development but rather fundamental principles of humanity that promote social equality and core existence.
    Studies have further revealed that a nation can only be built if the backbone of tribal powers of the state is broken. Get me well, I am not saying thrash the tribal authorities in Ethiopia, my argument here is reduce tribal powers to strengthen nation building. It becomes too dangerous for a state to function properly if some tribes or groups of people feel they are loyal to themselves than to a nation. The hard question that arises from this argument is what could a state do in a situation where a certain group of people feel differently than the whole nation? Well, studies have again revealed that we should introduce educational institutions to help council and educate the most radical members.
    Additionally, encourage intermarriage, encourage citizens to work in different parts of the country other than their own, restructure language policy in such a way that each learner is encouraged to take an indigenous language other than their own, as a minor subject – this should be necessary. If the above suggestions are fully implemented, nation building would be realized. And in the long run our democracy will become viable and stable. We need to stop internal conflict about unimportant issues such as tribalism, which do not grow us. We should rather focus all our energy in promoting development and equal economic opportunities for all our people regardless of their gender, ethnicity, cultural group, race and religion orientation. Capable young professionals should be given equal opportunities in the job market and they should not be judged based on the language they speak, surnames they carry or ethnicity.
    It is too painful and disheartening to note that such things are still happening in certain parts of Ethiopia. We must fight tribalism tooth and nail. Ethiopia has come a long way, we cannot afford to tribally divide ourselves now. Finally, I should commend the Ethiopia government for its wonderful efforts in establishing national things (national flags, anthem, holidays, army, national rings etc.) but a lot should be done to unite our people at the emotional and spiritual levels. [Johan Gebrezzi California Bay Area]


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