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HomeOpinionThe TPLF, the West and the war in Tigray (Ephrem Madebo)

The TPLF, the West and the war in Tigray (Ephrem Madebo)

“Despite TPLF’s “Developmental State” rhetoric and the diplomatic support the TPLF enjoyed from the west; the Ethiopian people fought the TPLF regime for as long as it stayed in power.” Ephrem Madebo

Ephrem Madebo (Photo : Screenshot from ESAT Video /File)


Ephrem Madebo

Ethiopia, a country of rich history and diverse culture, is the only black nation to humiliate European power and enjoy a unique non-colonial history. In the last 50 years, this unique country was ruled by two consecutive dictatorial regimes that have utter disregard for human rights, liberty and justice. The last of the two regimes, the EPRDF, ruled Ethiopia with iron fist from 1991 to 2018. The world knows EPRDF as a front composed of four ethnic organizations that shaped the Ethiopian history of the last 30 years. But, to most Ethiopians who know the anatomy of the EPRDF, the EPRDF is nothing but the Trojan Horse that carried the TPLF to the Ethiopian capital and gave it the authenticity it badly needed to rule the very nation it fought to secede from.

Ethiopia has no history of democratic leadership, but the TPLF is the only regime in Ethiopian history that belittled Ethiopia and everything Ethiopian, divided Ethiopia along ethnic lines, used its political muscle to loot a poor nation and had a visible hate to the very country it led.

Today, three years after the removal of the TPLF from power, ethnic riots are still raging in Ethiopia, and that same TPLF is still masterminding and fuelling the rage. The violent nature of ethnic politics has reached a critical stage in Ethiopia challenging the very existence of the country. Therefore, the Ethiopian people want to say good bye to their twins enemies, ethnics politics and its godfather that have posed existential threat to their country.                                                                                                                         

Between 1991 and 2018 the TPLF controlled the political, social and economic life of Ethiopia. In those 27 years, there was no difference between party (the TPLF), the state and the economic institutions. Such a total control of the nation’s key institutions gave the TPLF opportunity to control all aspects life in Ethiopia. Within few years of controlling power, the TPLF created a party controlled business conglomerate called EFFORT (Endowment Fund for the Development of Tigray). These are companies owned and run by the TPLF party members, their families and acquaintances that enjoyed preferential access to capital, public contracts, tax breaks and customs relief.

The 27 years rule of the TPLF is a story of mass arrest, torture, massacre, corruption, looting and nepotism. The Hawassa (Loque) massacre, the  Gambella (Anuak) massacre, the Ogaden massacre, the 2005 Addis Ababa street killing of over 200 peaceful protesters, the 2016 Bahir Dar and Gondar killings of peaceful protesters and the October 2016 brutal Irrecha massacre are some, but few of the massacres committed by the TPLF.

Despite TPLF’s “Developmental State” rhetoric and the diplomatic support the TPLF enjoyed from the west; the Ethiopian people fought the TPLF regime for as long as it stayed in power. Finally, in 2018, a force from within the EPRDF ousted the TPLF and changed the dangerous course architected by the TPLF since 1991.

When PM Abiy Ahmed came to power, he clearly displayed his eagerness to change the “Winner kills all” ugly political history of Ethiopia. He released all political prisoners, invited exiled opposition parties to come home and allowed hardcore TPLF criminals to go to Tigray and be contributing partners in shaping the future of Ethiopia. But, instead of accepting defeat like the previous two regimes, and appreciating the positive gestures of the incoming administration; the TPLF went to Mekele and started preparing for an all out war. Expelled, retired, old and young members of the TPLF assembled from all over the world and made it clear to the rest of Ethiopia that, the Ethiopia they don’t control or play key leadership roles should be dismembered.

In 2019, PM Abiy invited the four constituent parties of the EPRDF and shared them his vision of dissolving the EPRDF and creating a national party. The TPLF said no, and it continued its main agenda of war, brandishing heavy machineguns and RPGs on the streets of Mekele. The federal government of Ethiopia clearly saw what’s on the way and sent a group of influential people, the elderly and the clergy to influence the TPLF to come to the negotiating table. The TPLF said no, and it made it clear that it will never negotiate with the PM Abiy administration.  

When COVID-19 forced the Ethiopian government to postpone the 2020 election, the ever stubborn TPLF broke its relationship with the federal government, pulled the representatives of Tigray from the national parliament, held a sham election of its own and publicly declared that it will never take orders from the Addis Ababa’s government. Finally, on that gloomy night of November 3, 2020, the TPLF pushed the envelope a little too far by invading the Northern Command, the very force that protected Tigray for over 20 years.

Here are the words of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy on the Tigray conflict: “I want to make it very clear that this is not about Tigray. There is no equivalency here. This is not two sovereign states fighting against each other. This is a faction of the government running a region in Ethiopia that has decided to undertake hostilities against the central government, and it has not – in my view – has had the effect that they thought that they were going to get” Tibor Nagy’s statement unequivocally indicates that PM Abiy’s government was dragged into the Tigray conflict by the violent actions of the TPLF.

The unfortunate events of the war (any war for that matter) such as displacement, civilian death, and famine became the everyday news coming out of Tigray. The US, EU and their media institutions took their eyes off the real causes of the war and gave too much attention to the above manifestations of the war. This misguided and myopic view of the Biden administration and the EU, robed the international community the golden opportunity to find a negotiated way out of the Tigray conflict. Instead of focusing on the bigger issues of the conflict, the West wasted its time and resources launching a pointless propaganda campaign against the government of Abiy Ahmed, who is defending his country.

In May 29, 2021, the federal government of Ethiopia declared an immediate, unilateral cease-fire and pulled its forces out of Tigary. However, the TPLF and its misguided supporters took the good will of the federal government as a defeat, and called the cease-fire a total joke. The Biden administration showed its support to the TPLF arrogance by not saying anything. Emboldened by this blind and unconditional support, the TPLF took the war deep into Afar and Amhara regions and started killing civilians at will.

However, despite the unrewarding and biased support of the US; and despite TPLF’s aggression, Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace laureate Prime Minister gave peace a priority and patiently watched the West’s inequity and TPLF’s insanity for well over two months. On August 10, 2012, the patience ended when the TPLF warmongers killed over 300 school children and the elderly in Afar, shelled at the holy city of Lalibella and vowed to take the war all the way to Ethiopia’s capital.

The US and its allies who never uttered a single word of condemnation when the TPLF took the war deep inside Ethiopia and engaged school children in the process, once again started shedding their crocodile tears when the federal government of Ethiopia said enough is enough and started taking action to protect its citizens.

Instead of telling Ethiopians what to do, it’s about time that the US and EU try to understand the post 1991 political map of Tigray and Amhara, the history, culture and politics of Ethiopia (especially north Ethiopia), and agree with Ethiopians what to do for them and how to do it. 

It’s vitally important that the key players of the West have the background knowledge of how the TPLF was created, why it was created, what it wrote in its manifesto, how it solved interparty and intraparty political differences, how it came to Addis and what it did for 27 years in Ethiopia. Any attempt to solve the Tigray conflict that does not consider the above factors is fruitless, and dead on arrival.

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  1. Oh what an article Mr Madebo. May God bless you. Those of you who have access to the international media, please tag this wonderful piece to them.


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