TPLF vs EPLF and the Opposition

By Dr Biri Yaya (PhD) / October 31, 2013
My idea of this topic reflects the current on-going discussion about Ethiopian opposition groups' alleged support from the Eritrean regime, aka the EPLF/Shabiya.

There was a time that the EPLF was mainly about alliance with the TPLF under Tigre-Tigryne access on the basis that the struggle was against an alleged Amhara dominance or Shoan rule. The OLF was seen as the natural ally within that assumed antagonistic lineup.

We now know that the alliance faced its major rift in the wake of the 1998-2000 border war.

The TPLf emerged as a TPLF/EPLF ruling junta after the purge of the Seeye Abraha group. In the reformed TPlf/Eplf group, Isaias Afeworki found a much more sympathetic clique in Addis albeit a more confident and assertive one, after escaping the EPLF's patronage.

The OLF had paid a heavy price for exaggerating an assumed Oromo-Eritrean similar destiny.

Meles Zenawi became the supremo of the Horn of Africa for the western security interests.

He used that rare window of opportunity to crash any sense of democratic pluralism, with the Kinjit phenomena being put out of existence.

With that ended any hope Ethiopia might struggle towards a gradual reformation and the establishment of governance based on the rule of law.

What followed is the rethinking of centrist forces in Ethiopia(kinjit,Patriotic Front, Ginbot 7...) Whereby the emerging Eritrean statehood may become a partner for adjusting the Ethiopian political governance and the new bond between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

However, Ethiopians are divided as to the viability of this option for two reasons:

  1. Eritrean regime's minimalist precondition that 'historic Ethiopia' and her rights are no more legitimate

    This is to say that whether in opposition or the Isais govt in action, Eritreanists assert that Ethiopians should come to terms with the loss of everything(territorial issue or otherwise). This is understandably difficult for Ethiopians even for those within the moderate wing of the OLF as it is totally unfair and a difficult to promote to Ethiopians regardless of backgrounds. The smartest among Ethiopian strategists such as Dr Berhanu Nega and General Kemal Gelchu wish to overlook this blocker hoping that Ethiopia by sheer prominence of built in cultural advantages, size and wealth would win over the Eritreans at large over a period of time.

    They use the old saying that once you let someone be fed, they tend to lose their wildest nature. This is to say, Ethiopia would prevail through economic muscles and peaceful co-existence to tame the Eritrean elites and more importantly the Eritrean populace who at heart are Ethiopians.

    Hence, Ginbot 7's new paradigm regarding working with the Eritrean regime.

  2. TPLF/EPLF clique

    The regime in Ethiopia is called the TPLF/EPRdf. But in reality its make up and essence have been TPLF/EPLF. The propaganda about Eritrea as an enemy is a convenient ploy to attack Ethiopians. Nobody used this cover most effectively than the late Meles Zenawi while protecting the Eritrean state's interest next to his drive to dominate Ethiopia.

However, with MZ dead and regional fragmentation creeping in, the TPLF/Eplf has lost momentum and its dominance. It would be a miracle if the current group makes it five more years let alone existing as the cohesive political unit.

The EPLF knows this factor very well and is looking for an alliance broader than the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend!'

There is a convergence of assessment between EPLF and Ginbot 7 in this regard.

The short-coming of this approach is a common one among Ethio-Eritrean elites, I. E. Under-rating The role of the people, the significance of grievances arising from misery, sudden changes in international thinking and shift in international power hierarchy.

In short, the elitist way of overthrowing regimes and making revolutions cannot lead to a long term dynamics of creating a different viable socio-political systems.

What next?

Ethiopian and 'Eritrean' democrats should understand that the only viable alliance is that which is based on unity in diversity through the rule of law. A game based on TPLf/Eplf(Addis group) versus Eplf as an Eritrean regime and second guessing as to which one is to our tactical advantage is a misleading political simplicity.

The doctrine that the centrist and regional forces should see each other off at a war footing is a time tested and failed strategy.

The doctrine that a peaceful struggle is only acting as a 'legal' opposition or someone totally hiding in the jungles is a self-defeating end game.

I argue that we learn from our failures and call for a broader alliance for the good of the nation, horn of Africa region and of the future generations!