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Ethiopia VS Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)

TPLF _ Ethiopia
Graphic source : World Atlas

By Daneil Zeleke

The Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) took power by overthrowing the military regime in 1991. It was an army takeover, not a democratic transfer of power. The TPLF  formed a coalition of sorts,  composed of  groups from  Oromo, Amhara and other ethnic groups other than  Tigrayans.  The TPLF accompanied the group and ruled the country for 27 years with iron fist. It was forced to leave by the forces of change in 2018.

TPLF is characterized by  dictatorship and ethnic bias. All oppositions and dissident elements were subjected to harassment, jail sentences or elimination. The parliament of 540 members has no single  opposition member. The administration is biased towards Tigrayans. Most government officials are Tigrayans.  The business community of Tigrayan  ethnicity are favoured over others.

This was no secret. The international community has voiced their concern. Especially in 2005, the opposition won the election. But TPLF stole votes  and killed 200 opposition supporters. This was witnessed by European Parliament members, including Ana Gomez who was an election observer. Ana Gomez was mistreated, called names by Meles Zenawi, the then prime minister. 

The military  and intelligence machine  was  controlled  by Tigrayans.

Hence, TPLF over 27 years systematically built a country of rich and powerful Tigrayans. TPLF , as its name suggests , has always been a regional party and leader. But it was bleeding the other part of the country to rebuild Tigray. 

When TPLF came to power, its intention was clear for Ethiopians.  TPLF has attacked and eliminated Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRP)  when they sought refugee in Tigray in light of the rein of terror unleashed by the military regime.  EPRP was a national party joined by most of progressive youth and students all over the country. It was the main force fighting the military in the early days of the military 1977. It did not succeed.

When TPLF took power, Ethiopians were happy to see the military removed,  but they did not    embrace TPLF because of its history of ethnic based struggle.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed became the leader of the forces of change. Ethiopians never heard of Abiy before he came to power.  The first time he spoke to the people of Ethiopia, he got overwhelming support.

In the coming period after his leadership ,he achieved a lot; released all political prisoners, pardoned political prisoners convicted to death in absentia, made peace with Eritrea.

With regards to former officials, he called upon them to accept the forces of change and retire peacefully. He called out all outlawed organizations  that are free to operate in the country peacefully and join him in the political field to alleviate the problems of the country.

All his activities indicate he is in the right direction. He not only got full support from within the country but the international community overwhelmingly supported him. He obtained the 2019 Nobel Prize for Peace.

What happened in the aftermath of the Nobel Prize

The change has the full support of Ethiopians and international community for reasons it has ended the dictatorship of TPLF, released political prisoners, allowed free press and made peace with Eritrea and all dissidents.

But the change also had strong opposition from TPLF, the former leaders, for reasons clear to all. They fear they will be prosecuted for crimes committed,  for illegally  amassed wealth, and will lose all benefits.

TPLF  refused to accept the new forces of change and their relegation from leadership to opposition party. This is due to fear of prosecution for atrocities committed and illegally amassed wealth.

Instead they relied on their financial strength and tigrayans who benefited during their rule.

The TPLF denounced the federal government as illegal and unconstitutional and resorted to  subversive activities to weaken and ultimately topple the government. They organized, trained and led armed forces to attack all who stand by the forces of change.  They also convened opposition forces and requested them to join forces with them in overthrowing Abiy’s government.

When all their attempts to persuade other Ethiopians to join them failed, they resorted to hiding themselves in their ethnic group and calling all Tigrayans to rise up  and fight against the federal government.

On the other hand Dr. Abiy, all along,  for two years until  the outbreak of conflict, tried to settle the differences peacefully and by negotiations. He called upon TPLF to join the forces of change in the prosperity party or continue as opposition peacefully. 

  • He sent emissary to Tigray to persuade TPLF  to resort to peace, they are living witness
  • He also talked to the business community from the region to help him convince the TPLF to come to peace.
  • He went on public media calling all tigrayans not to be confused by some elements and think the change is against  you, but in fact it is for you too.
  • He went to the region and talked to various sections of the community.
  • He discussed with some  officials of TPLF personally 

But all in vain. TPLF relied on their accumulated wealth, and their network built during the 27 years disregarded his efforts. Taking all his calls as weakness, and claiming that the government is “begging”.

Looking at the  imminent danger of war, calling for peace and restraint and promised not to fire unless forced upon him from the other side.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) had been stationed on the Tigray and Eritrean border since the 1991 war with Eritrea.  The ENDF was held hostage during the period leading to the fight. The ENDF was paralyzed by TPLF insiders, denying them access to arms, ammunition, communications and others.

Tigray TV controlled by TPLF openly beating the drum for war, threatening the destruction of the central government, broadcasting hate speech against the amhara and in preparation for the imminent war.

On December 04,2020  the TPLF attacked the ENDF stationed in Tigray, the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Using militias and their men inside the ENDF, they killed many ENDF members and attempted to take control of the northern command. The army was taken unaware by the most unlikely enemy. The army has stayed in Tigray for 20 years, protecting the people from any attack, participating in every walk of life and living their life . But the army fought back and defeated TPLF, in three weeks from the start of the heinous attack.

It was a wrong calculation by TPLF and sheer ignorance. ENDF responded with vengeance, crushed TPLF forces, destroyed their network  and their capability as a force to reckon with.  The reign of TPLF was over.

TPLF and its sympathizers

The beneficiaries of the TPLF regime were not happy. They understood that they are no longer the favourites. Hence  the beneficiaries are now spreading all kinds of lies, negative propaganda and others against the federal government led by Dr. Abiy. and forces of change. In the meantime most tigrayans are confused by TPLF propaganda.

The western media and analysis is biased. Abiy as a person is peace loving and not at all aggressive. All his actions prior to the outbreak of conflict/war indicate that. The world has given him the Nobel Prize for his action. 

Then what happened ? Why all this ? One has to look inside  and find out. A person who has done all those good things, can not change to a devil in months. But TPLF’s activities all 27 years indicate what they are upto.

Now TPLF  and its  allies claim 5 million people are in need of food aid and at the same time they are invading neighboring regions. The government declared a ceasefire, while the “victim” said no. 

It is clear ,access to humanitarian assistance is better in ceasefire than in war


  • TPLF has never been embraced by Ethiopians. It was more of a regional party.
  • TPLF was biased towards the ethinic tigrayans. This is evident by the number tigrayan millionaires created after TPLF came to power
  • TPLF ruled Ethiopia with iron fist. No opposition, no dissent opinion. All key government positions were held by TPLF cadres and their allies.
  • The current forces of change were mainly aimed at removing TPLF from power.
  • TPLF wanted to side step but not to relinquish control of government. They tried hard and even went into war to remain in power.
  • TPLF uses humanitarian assistance to power their invasion of Amhara and Afar regions.


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