The Rise, Rule & Fall of TPLF in Ethiopia


By – Birhanu M Lenjiso

1) Executive Summary

It took TPLF 16 years to rise to power in Ethiopia. For nearly twice as long, they used extraordinary cruelty (iron fist strategy) to maintain dominance in Ethiopian political and economic life. The fall of TPLF however was dramatic and shocking that it has taken only less than 30 days after they attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Force.

2) Inspiration

It was in 1943 that Raya Peasants (aka Qadamay Woyane) revolted against the re-establishment of the Imperial rule after the Italian occupation. The rebellions were ruthlessly defeated with the support of aircraft from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

3) The Origin of TPLF

The 1943 rebellion is believed to have sown the seed of regional identity among the Rayas & the Tigrays. In the 1960 & 70s students from the Tigray region of Ethiopia had established student associations in Addis Ababa university. These associations had later left for Dedebit to start a guerrilla fight against the imperial regime. They also named themselves the 2nd Woyane.

4) The Rise of TPLF to Power

They received training and other supports from the more developed oppositions in Eritrea and set themselves for armed conflict. In 1976 the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) has listed TPLF as a terrorist group on the Global Terrorism Database based on ten concrete atrocities it has committed by the time. But even with a dedicated help from EPLF & other forces, politicization of famine & use of food aid for purchasing massive weapons, it took the weakest TPLF 16 years & organizing multiple other political forces to rise to power in Addis Ababa.

5) The Rule of TPLF in Ethiopia

For twice as long as its age in the bushes, TPLF had used iron fist strategy to dominate the Ethiopian political & economic life. TPLF has established one of the most centralized political and economic models to keep itself in power. Although Ethiopia lived centralized political life, no part of Ethiopian political and economic history is as centralized as it was under TPLF. Through its charismatic and effective communicator leader Meles Zenawi, TPLF tried to make dictatorship acceptable on a global scale.

6) Revolution & Concession

However, with the death of their brain the only tool left in their hand was the iron fist strategy and they tightened it too harsh and too fast. That has only ripened the social condition for the take-off of public protests. The failure of TPLF/EPRDF to live up to the principles of democracy caused swift waves of protests that originated in Oromia Regional State, aka the #OromoProtests. The protest quickly expanded to other regions. The climax of the protest came in 2018, resulting in the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn and the coming to office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2019. The TPLF had relentlessly and restlessly campaigned against the election of Abiy Ahmed but failed. Consequently, the TPLF officials were either removed or resigned from their positions. They packed and took refugee in Tigray.

7) TPLF Rejections and an attack on ENDF

TPLF, who rejected the election of Abiy Ahmed as the chairperson of EPRDF and Prime Minister, his security & party reforms, later rejected the postponement of election due to COVID-19. And thay increased the tension between the federal government and TPLF. Later, the house of federation cut budget from the regional government. Finally, TPLF committed treason by attacking the Northern Military Base and that has forced the Federal government to start military offensive to enforcement law and order.

8) The Fall of TPLF

In three-weeks time, the National Defense Force controlled Tigray region & declared completion of the military operation. The hardcore TPLFties were either captured, killed or still on a run. The ruminants however have continued to attacked the neighboring Amhara region, Eritrea and even tried to drag UAE into the conflict to get international attention. The USA, EU, UN and AU denounced their act of attempting to internationalize conflict. The conflict however has led to serious humanitarian crises in the region and the ruminants of TPLF used this situation to attract international and to put pressure on the Ethiopian government.

9) Lesson to be Learnt

The operation obviously involves multiple unfortunate casualties and both the government of Ethiopia and the international humanitarian community should address the humanitarian crises carefully and as soon as possible. But the fact that TPLF is a conflict & humanitarian crises entrepreneurs should be underlined and made clear to the world. Their ruthlessness is to the extent of bombing school kids and organizing victims of famine to get international attention.They have also used food aid to buy weapons. TPLF has over 45 years of experience playing the International community. They fooled the international humanitarian organization on the ‘food aid’ that they used to buy weapons, they bombed school kids in Hawzen to get attention, they played the west when they suddenly shift their ideology, they portered the Oromos and the Amharas as anti-white and potentially terrorist. In the same fashion their ruminants are back to the same game. They are blocking humanitarian assistances and committing atrocities only to blackmail the Ethiopian government. They are using moms and children as human shields.

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