TPLF’s Psychological Warfare: A Longstanding Practice and a Deadly Weapon of its Political Existence – Part III
By Fessehaye Kidane, Asmara
- TPLF’s Plagiarism and Distortions of Historical Facts and Evidences
To date, the TPLF as a political organization seems to have ended its political tenure; be it in Tigray or Ethiopia. Had the international community not saved it to its little resuscitation through the Peace Deal of Pretoria, it could have been even eradicated from the face of the earth once and for all. In this case, no one denies that its days were numbered had the Ethiopian Defense Forces and its respective Allied Forces been not deterred from marching towards the political capital of Tigray. Granted that it was made to control only a quarter part of the Tigray region at the disposal of the AU and its Western allies, it is, however, no more an existential threat both to Ethiopia and other neighboring countries; as it was purportedly feared so before. However, while it is at the brink of death, at the same time, it is now changed to a beggar: the TPLF’s media outlets and its political mouthpieces seemed to intensify the art of their ‘Pseudo-Narrative’ machineries more than ever. In fact, such art of lies and fake propaganda of the TPLF dates back to its history as of its inception. Moreover, such a talent and experience seemed to emanate from its clashes of visions and ideology. The practice and culture of depending more on ‘Pseudo-Narrative’ was ostensibly attributed and accumulated due the TPLF’s bankruptcy of confidence and controversy in its political objectives as of its birth date.
Right from 1975, the declaration day of the TPLF’s commencement, the TPLF as an organization was founded with a vague and narrow political vision. Inevitably, it was well declared in its Manifesto that the TPLF started its armed struggle to establish an Independent Tigrayan Republic; secession was its declared goal. From a hypothetical point of view, it is still a public secret that the TPLF’s long-term vision was to take Kuomintang (KMT) or the former National Party of China as its model of its secessionist policy. According to history, after the loss of the Chinese Civil war (1945-1949), the KMT retreated to an island of Taiwan where it formed and declared a de facto state of the present Taiwan. If it could, the TPLF’s island of retreat was, however, nothing but to snatch some fertile lands from other parts of Ethiopia notably the Amhara region including grabbing a seaside from Eritrea’s coastal areas in order to create a new island of Tigray in the Horn of Africa. Nonetheless, even according to a Tigrayan scholar, in the course of time, secession was diluted by a vaguer objective: the goal slipped into a Pan-Ethiopian agenda (1998, 7: 196, Almeseged Abay, Identity Jilted…). In other words, its declared motto changed into a “true Tigrayan can be a true Ethiopian’.
On the other hand, unlike its ideology, it is also worth noting that the TPLF’s military strategy was more of dependent on the Eritrean National Movement aka EPLF. On the other, nor was the goal of the TPLF clear to its ally, EPLF (ibid). Nonetheless, upon examining the narrow vision which was bereft of historical facts, not long after the EPLF rejected its objectives and thereby distanced itself for a brief years till 1988. It was only after the battle and capture of Shire, in 1988, that the TPLF leadership restated its ‘second objective’ that its struggle was meant towards the whole of Ethiopia with the aim of fighting and ousting the Dergue regime. At the same time, this was the period where the EPLF defeated the large and strong army of Ethiopia which was based in Afabet town and its environs; undoubtedly the ultimate victory of the EPLF in defeating its black colonial regime was eminent by this time.
At this point of time, it is also reminiscent that the Dergue regime for the first time recognized the Eritrean armed struggle and thereby was obliged to enter into a Peace Negotiation with the EPLF in Atlanta and Nairobi respectively via a mediation effort of the USA, former president Jimmy carter; lest the then regime of Ethiopia feared that its downfall was no longer remote. As such, according to EPLF veteran politicians and combatants, victory of the TPLF, under the military support of the EPLF, came before the TPLF made its objective clear, be it to its combatants or to the Tigrayan people at large.
Given such rock-solid facts on the ground, the TPLF, however, didn’t feel a shame to change the history of its armed struggle to its benefit through its Pseudo-Narrative. Moreover, soon after it assumed power in Ethiopia, it has also been attempting to seize the heroism and patriotism of Eritreans to itself by way of its false chronicles of recent history. As of day one of its governance in Ethiopia, it never felt guiltiness to intensify its Pseudo-Narrative by way of various means: through dozens of publications, documentary films, media hype and name them. In this juncture, it may suffice enough if some cases in points may be cited.
For instance, the TPLF except with hundreds of male combatants, women fighters have never joined its sides till 1977. However, three Eritrean women combatants who are still alive were portrayed and posted in the TPLF’s official Newspaper known as Woyeen in 2018. In this footage, what is laughable is that the photos represent the Eritrean women while only the flag which they hoist along with the caption which accompanied them were coined and misquoted as TPLF veteran women fighters. As a matter of fact, it is worth reminding that such a famous photo of the EPLF heroic female combatants were taken by an EPLF cameraman in the mid 19980’s at the highlands of Eritrea around the village of Zaghir. Needless to say, one of the female combatants is also still alive and is well known by all and sundry since she was a very famous cadre of the EPLF whose name is Semainesh also nicknamed Trinidad. Far beyond that, among others, if one comes across a book entitled ‘Oh Massawa!’ which was published in 2018, it is full of naked lies. The reason is that the book narrates that it was the TPLF which captured the port city of Massawa in 1990. Among others, two infantry generals and one marine captain serve as credible sources that they were captured by a ‘TPLF battalion which had a determinant role’ in liberating Massawa. It seems that the author who was a prisoner of the EPLF himself is either sponsored or coerced by the TPLF’s censorship to sell and humiliate himself for such a dirty authorship. Anyway, you can call it nothing apart from ‘plagiarism’ of Eritrean history and heroism.
In this connection, it is evident that the TPLF had only nominal mechanized brigades till the capture of the Ethiopian capital in the mid-1990. However, the TPLF’s documentary films during the 2000th also felt no sense of conscience to show EPLF’s tanks camouflaged with TPLF legends. Besides, one of the cheap scenes in such a documentary film is the fact that fake eye-witness narrators of the TPLF combatants are portrayed as if they were heroes of motorized battles in various battle fields. From this, one may only conclude that ‘plagiarism’ seems the TPLF’s sanctuary as far as its comparative history with regard to the EPLF is concerned.
In a strict sense of the word, plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s work or idea and passing them off as one’s own. That’s what the TPLF has adopted and developed from its birth. In any case, one may question or wonder as to why the TPLF has been and is still snatching or misquoting historical facts of the Eritrean National Movements notably the EPLF’s contexts of history not least its artistic pieces as well. As far as such misquotation of historical contexts is concerned, one may forward at least some speculations, if not sound evidence.
First and foremost, one may argue that seemingly it seems it stems from the fact that the TPLF is not proud of its history. That’s why it may use plagiarism as a sanctuary of its history. Secondly, it may arise from the reason that the TPLF deliberately preferred to give its back to the military support of the EPLF though it is an undeniable fact that the EPLF had a significant role in giving hands as from the seizure of Shire all the way up to the center of Ethiopia. Thirdly, there seems no doubt that the TPLF wanted to deny or not to outshine Eritrean heroism and patriotism when it is gauged from comparative perspectives. Last but not least, the TPLF’s main objective seems to be that it wanted to intimidate and terrify the Ethiopian people at large. In other words, such psychological weapon may help the TPLF elite to brag and bluff on the Ethiopian people that it is a ‘death-defying’ organization which had contributed a lion’s share in toppling the Dergue regime; it may serve the TPLF as a vengeful sabre-rattling in case any native of Ethiopia manages to tempt in venturing the TPLF’s governance of Ethiopia. In a word, the tacit or naked aim of the TPLF’s psychological warfare apparently aims to foretell and intimidate that the invincibility of the TPLF with regard to other organizations, not least the EPLF is always unchallengeable.
The later scenario and analysis may be substantiated with what the TPLF polit bureau once said in his interview with one Eritrean Diaspora TV Network. Quote un quote, in 2018, Mr. Ghetachew Reda, spokesperson of the TPLF, unashamedly said that ‘when it comes to changing Ethiopia’s political map, the former regime was totally defeated by the TPLF while the EPLF’s fare-share of victory, as far as oppressive Ethiopian regimes are concerned, it is only limited in Eritrea.’ In stark contrast, unlike such distorted evidence, history has recorded well for its own sake that a lion’s share of Ethiopian two respective regimes were ousted by two Eritrean National Movements. In this case, the TPLF ideologue seems to forget that had the Soviet Union not intervened to support the Dergue regime, the ELF and EPLF (Eritrean National Movements) have already reached at an arm’s length of Asmara in 1978 weakening the regime, since 1961-1978, before their strategic withdrawals. Indeed, no one denies that the TPLF was only a three years old child till this time if added to that the TPLF was under the EPLF’s auspices taking its training and getting ammunition from its patron organization.
Be that as it may, apparently the Pseudo-Narrative of the TPLF might have deluded and victimized its subjects over the three decades. As it may be termed, the black propaganda, which is deceitful and attributed to sources not responsible for its creation might have mystified let alone to Ethiopians and even to the international community as well. Besides, the psychological warfare had even far-reaching targets including for generations to come, among others, notably both Ethiopian and Eritrean growing youngsters.
Moreover, as far as the psychological warfare of the TPLF is concerned, it suffices enough and is also worth referring to what one Ethiopian scholar proved in his findings of his study. The study of the Ethiopian scholar was regarding the TPLF’s armed struggle’s lies and false chronicles of stories all the way in the course of its history.
According to the Ethiopian researcher’s proofs upon examining all the sources of the TPLF’s archives and media outlets of four and half decades, when he calculated all the human loss and statistical data of Ethiopian soldiers which the TPLF purportedly alone killed till 1991, he came to the conclusion that the number amounted to the whole Ethiopian soldiers who were based both in Eritrea and Ethiopia (2020, Interview, Amhara TV Channel). In this case, even if one refers to circumstantial evidence, it is common knowledge that the challenging war of the Haile Selassie and Mengistu regimes were with the Eritrean Armed Resistance Movements, among others, especially with the EPLF. Hence, as far as ex Ethiopian regimes’ losses and tolls are concerned, it appears true that a lion’s share of the defeat goes to the Eritrean armed struggle. In fact, as one of a renowned British historian, Basil Davidson, eye-witnessed and testified at the time, the scale of victory of the EPLF and loss of Ethiopian army in Afabet battle in 1988, according to his terms, ‘amounted as equal as the victory of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam.’ Thus, pragmatically speaking, it was this victory plus the liberation of the port city of Massawa in 1990, which bodes well about the inevitable liberation of Eritrea and thereby regarding the downfall of the Dergue regime. In the other way round, it was a turning point both for the upcoming political trajectory of Ethiopia and through it to the change of a political map of the Horn of Africa; it was eminent about a rebirth of a new country, Eritrea. In par with this, no one may forget that the TPLF like other Ethiopian Resistance Movements had an ‘indirect benefit’ as far as such decisive victories of the EPLF were concerned. Never in the history of the TPLF had witnessed a military victory over an Ethiopian army which is paramount to the EPLF’s skill and feats. In this light, it is also unforgettable that such similar historical success stories and battle events of the EPLF were predominant even in the preceding years as well.
In the final analysis, unlike the TPLF’s pseudo-narratives, one may easily infer that the large portions of the Ethiopian army were defeated in Eritrea by the EPLF. In brief, in the first place, it has to be put into account that the largest Ethiopian army was based in Eritrea. Besides, it is important not to forget that such an army fought with the Eritrean National Movements over the 30 years of armed struggle. If one adds to the fact that the Eritrean armed struggle was 14 years older than the TPLF, the figure of the TPLF is found to be exaggerated far more than the actual reality. Last but not least, the TPLF had never started its armed struggle of Tigray while the Eritrean Resistance Movements alone fought with the Imperial army of Ethiopia which was backed by the US till 1974.
At the end of the day, when one puts into consideration all the testimony of the Ethiopian scholar including the plagiarism and distortion of the TPLF, it makes sense when one probably is keen to know regarding the TPLF’s false narratives so far disseminated via various channels. Certainly, he may no more doubt that lying, distortion of facts and evidence, inflation of figures and conceiting and bragging on its past nostalgia characterize the TPLF psychological warfare.
Even after the TPLF signed a ‘Peace Deal’ with the federal government of Ethiopia in Pretoria, on November 3, 2022, as a result of its humiliating defeat, its psychological warfare is more intensified than ever. At the moment, unlike in the past, the tone of the TPLF’s soft war is a little bit altered. Earlier, till the Pretoria Peace Deal, the psychological warfare of the TPLF had a tone of intimidation and bragging. Upon the Peace Deal, despite the fact that the language of the psychological warfare is still aggressive, the tone, however, seemed to tend towards ‘hypocrisy, pleading, and as before, misrepresentation and exaggeration of facts’ as well. Moreover, the psychological war of the TPLF seemed more to target chiefly to its Tigrayan subjects, and secondly to the international community at large.
Firstly, the TPLF’s hypocrisy is witnessed for the fact that it still calls itself as a ‘Government of Tigray’ which is in fact against the Pretoria ‘title and preamble’ of the Peace Agreement. Every now and then, the gambit of the TPLF media outlets tries to balance the weight of both peace signing parties. That is while one of them is a legitimate government and the other is an ‘illegitimate regional political entity’ which usurped power itself through an ‘illegal election’, the TPLF still clamors that “according to the peace agreement of the ‘governments of Tigray and Federal Republic of Ethiopia,’ such and such happened this week (e.g. unfettered aid is inadequate …” became like a daily bread; this stratagem, however, is only aimed for a domestic consumption, Tigrayan people. On the other hand, when the PR game of the TPLF is aimed at an international community, such as statements in the English version, a different gambit is used. In this junction, it is worth reminding that both the AU mediators and, if deemed necessary, including the Ethiopian Federal Government are expected to be cautious on the matter; it has to be noted that the spirit and the letter of the Pretoria Peace Deal Document is not respected by the TPLF leadership.
For instance, the last paragraph of the preamble in the peace document reiterates that ‘the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (the Government) and the Tigray Liberation Front (the TPLF) (together referred to as the parties) agree to the following terms. It is crystal clear, however, that as to why the TPLF preferred to misname itself out of the context of the agreement is simply aimed to domestic consumption; just to satisfy the hearts and minds of the Tigrayan people as they are questioning not about the ‘end result’, but about the ‘process’ of the war at large.
Secondly, the other key objective of the psychological war of the TPLF became ‘pleading’ with the international community through hype of lies mainly scapegoating Eritrea and Amhara Allied Forces. Day in and day out, the TPLF mouthpieces incriminate both parties as if they have committed atrocities in territories which the TPLF lost and does not govern at this time. Moreover, the TPLF acts as if it is governing the 70% areas which are actually under the control of the Federal Authorities. In this case, what is amazing and laughable is that it even creates and disseminates lies of crimes taking place here and there (Adwa, Aksum and Shire towns) referring to sources of its previous, but defunct governors. Indeed, such a provocative false narrative is against article 3 of the Peace Accord. Literally, article 3 which is entitled as ‘The Permanent Cessation of Hostilities’ says that ‘The permanent cessation of hostilities shall include the cessation of all forms of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech (page 3, article 3: 3). However, the TPLF is deliberately revoking the ‘terms of the Peace Document’ unless the AU High-Level Peace Panel brings it to terms.
Thirdly, it is also something important to note that the TPLF is not genuine, assertive and meek in terms of explaining ground erected facts as they are; still misrepresentation of ground facts and exaggeration of shortcomings are in place. As an expression of its frustration and humiliation of not administering large parts of Tigray, also add to that its defeat on military and political arenas, the TPLF is heard to agitate its Tigrayan subjects in different forms and media tricks. For instance, while the Ethiopian government is racing to fulfill its duty of social service provisions, the TPLF seems not to acknowledge the efforts and provisions of the government of Ethiopia. By this time, aid rations, social services like banks, telephone, potable water etc. are being provided and installed gradually by the Ethiopian government. Above all, the fact that a high-level Ethiopian delegation visited Tigray and was able to assess situations there is something to be appreciated; since it is helpful and important for a rapid course of actions and underpinning social provisions. However, the TPLF media outlets and authorities still favor to exaggerate little problems rather than focusing on the strong sides of the Ethiopian government. Indeed, if the TPLF genuinely accepted and internalized the Peace Deal, it shouldn’t have still treated the Ethiopian government’s efforts and readiness of implementation as an enemy’s operations.
In this light, it is also worth noting that, according to the Peace Deal Agreement, everything is up to the Ethiopian government. On top of all, be it Eritrea’s or Amhara Allied Forces’ withdrawal or non-withdrawal, all the legitimate authority is in the Ethiopian hands. Similarly, whether humanitarian and social services are fulfilled or not, quick or late and the like, all is up to the Ethiopian government. Therefore, putting aside what the government of Ethiopia is attempting to do, appealing and roaring to the international community may bring nothing apart from complication of matters. Ultimately, what every peace loving individual expects from the TPLF is, of course, it has to stick to article 7 which is about ‘Confidence Building Measures’. This article (a) speaks volumes, as its first point refers to ‘respecting the constitutional authority of the federal government; halt any conduct that undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia (e)….’
To date, Tigray’s administrative authority seems like the 1940’s of Korea as it is partitioned between two political entities; Korea during the war time of 1940’s was also partitioned partly with the Western Blocks sphere of influence and partly with the Socialist Blocks’ sphere of influence which finally led to two independent nations respectively North Korea and South Korea, though the latter is an impossible scenario as far as Tigray is concerned. In this case, it seems worth noting that, according to article 6, the ‘disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Tigray combatants’ is expected to be conducted as smoothly as possible. However, the most controversial issue which seems too thorny after ‘disarmament’ is as to how to implement article 10 which is concerning ‘Transitional Measures’. What this article transpires is that ‘until elections for the Regional Council and House of Peoples Representatives are held under the supervision of the Ethiopian National Election Board, the establishment of an inclusive Interim Regional Administration will be settled through political dialogue between the parties (10: 1).’ In other words, as far as this article is concerned, it seems crystal clear that Tigray’s political administration will be out of the monopoly of the TPLF. It is thus this subject which may test the TPLF’s political integrity. Though it is something to be left for a question of time, the TPLF must refrain from creating and inciting false narratives for the sake of a stable political ground. Likewise, either in par with this or prior to this possibility, the Ethiopian government may also prefer to administer Tigray through forming a ‘Military Command Post’ at least for a while. Anyway, will the TPLF be ready for any possible scenario in this de facto state of emergency? In one way or the other, at large, it is up to the people of Tigray to be on guard as to what is feasible as far as Tigray’s durable peace and stability is concerned!
In a nutshell, it is worth noting to bring to light what Nicolle Machiavelli who was a Florence Renaissance man, statesman, diplomat and government official, and writer taught to the world. The wisdom he shared said “the end justifies the means.” It means that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of getting it is acceptable. In this regard, if one tries to gauge the TPLF’s political calculus, most often, it tends to justify its defeats, always tilting to the ‘ends.’ One case in point is that the TPLF-led government of Ethiopia misquoted the end result of its war with Eritrea and the border verdict that it won in both scenarios regardless of the amount of human tolls with regard to Eritrea. However, what matters then more was questioning the process: besides the cause of the war, even the casualties incurred on its armed forces were pretty big in vis-à-vis Eritrea. In the same manner, even now, the TPLF still seemed to derail the attention and wisdom of Tigrayans from questioning the process of the war no matter what the end result of the Peace Deal prevails. To the contrary, by this time, it is clear for every observer that the TPLF came out with a ‘zero-sum-result’ be it in the theater of the civil war or in the outcome of the Peace Deal. Even as many of the TPLF foreign campaigners termed it, eventually ‘capitulation and unbearable pain’ became its nemesis.
Writer’s Brief Note:
Fessehaye Kidane Melaky is based in Asmara. He is a cadre of education in the Eritrean Ministry of Education at the Office of the Minister. Besides being an author of one book in English (entitled Star Reader), he has also written dozens of articles both in English and Tigrigna (mother-tongue language) versions in the State-owned Newspapers namely Eritrea Profile and New Eritrea. As a case in point, the writer’s recent publications in Eritrea Profile and Hadas Eritrea respectively include ‘From Home Song’ to ‘Family in an Ordeal’ (Shabait.com, Feb 16, 2019) and (መጕስዕ ኲናት ስነ-ልቦና ኽሳዕ መኣስ፧ ጋዜጣ ሓዳስ ኤርትራ፣ ሚያዝያ 2022 or ‘Regurgitation of Psychological Warfare: For How Long Will It Last?’). Prior to that, he has contributed various articles regarding education, linguistics, book reviews and political history of Eritrea.
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