TPLF calls urgent congress amid difference with EPRDF, “Peace could be endangered”

TPLF has called for an urgent party congress to determine if party members are with the organization’s leadership and central committee members or with Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, EPRDF, leaders on the issue of merger

TPLF _ EPRDF _ Ethiopia
Debretison Gebremichal, Chairman of TPLF and acting president of Tigray region. Photo credit : TPLF

November 25, 2019

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has announced last week that three-member parties have agreed to form a single merged party. It was first decided during executive committee meeting of the coalition and six members, all from Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), opposed the decision.

Then the decision was passed at the EPRDF council meeting, again last week. 45 of the 180 members were from TPLF but this time all the 45 TPLF members boycotted the council meeting which means that TPLF, albeit it is no secret that it does not support the formation of a single party, at least at this time, was not part of the decision.  

On Monday, November 25 in the afternoon, TPLF chairman and acting president of Tigray regional state, Debretsion Gebremichael had a press conference with journalists in Mekelle in the aftermath of his organization’s executive committee and central committee meetings regarding the merger issue in the ruling coalition.

The party has shared the chairman’s key points during the press conference. The gap between TPLF and three other EPRDF member parties on the issue of the merger is wide. Unlike EPRDF Council members from three parties who unanimously approved the executive committee’s decision to form a single party, TPLF central committee members have unanimously approved their organization’s executive committee members’ rejection of merger agenda. 

The chairman, Debretsion, raised issues of difference with the rest of EPRDF leadership on the matter. “What is being done in the name of EPRDF member parties merger is the formation of a new political party,” he said.

“…The new party that is being formed favors ethnic groups with a large population number,” continued Debretsion, “it is something that will never bring about unity based on equality. It will create [rather] oppressor and oppressed people.”

“Some leaders could accept that based on their situation…,” However, “I do not think that Ethiopian people will accept again oppression and conditions of inferiority,” Debratision added.

He also portrayed as to what transpired, from the perspective of TPLF, during the ruling coalition’s executive committee meeting in the Prime Minister’s office in Addis Ababa a week or so ago.

Debretsion said, “When we were called to the meeting, we were told that the agenda was discussing the current affairs in the country. But that never happened and we were asked to form a merger. Those of us who participated during the meeting representing TPLF said it is not timely to discuss mergers under the existing situation of the country. What we have to discuss is about peace, national security, violation of security, displacement of citizens and the rising cost of living.”

But he admitted that the merger issue became executive committee meeting agenda with a majority vote although all TPLF members at the meeting opposed it.  “We respected the majority vote and entered into the discussion. But they said ‘let us merge’ without any discussion. Then we asked whether we are merging on the basis of the program we used to follow and bylaws. But we were told to merge without discussing details of it, “said Debresion justifying why his ethnic Tigray Organization declined to merge with the rest of the parties that decided to merge and form a single party.

For TPLF, the executive party and the council of the ruling coalition do not have the legal and political authority to decide on the merger. The ruling coalition leans to the coalition congress in Awassa which happened in 2018 but TPLF says that congress did not give the council a mandate to merge member parties.

Meanwhile, ethnic-based parties with no voting privilege while being considered as part of the EPRDF coalition are having their respective meetings approving the merger agenda.  So far the parties governing Afar region, Benishangul region, among others, have approved the merger.

TPLF claims that those parties who agreed to form the coalition were forced, politically, to do so. And TPLF tend to think, as stated through its chairman, the new party will lead to the oppressor and oppressed kind of relationship. Parties that were referred to as “agar” on the other hand claim that the relationship during the time when TPLF was dominating central government as a minority but powerful political entity as a time when there was no equality. 

TPLF has called an emergency organizational congress to see if members at large are supportive of their organization’s leadership position or the ruling coalition’s decision to merge.  That, apparently, will determine the next plan of actions for TPLF although the chairman seems to foresee that there could be a situation where peace will be an issue.

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