Beyond the legacy of Meles Zenawi: The fundamental problems of the TPLF and Why it continues to create obstacle in the new era of peace and cooperation.
Serawr Information Centre 08 September 2018
The face of the Horn of Africa region is changing fast. Another joint cooperation agreement has been signed among the key three states of the region- Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. In a matter of a few hours, the high-level joint committee that was formed to coordinate efforts, visited Djibouti to sort out the problem between Eritrea and Djibouti.
With the aim of speeding up the implementation of the agreement that was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Prime Minister, Abi Ahmed, visited Eritrea for second time accomplishing several tasks. On the home front, the Ethiopian government is making great strides in stabilising the country.
Despite all these progresses, there is still a special interest group that is working to reverse the changes in Ethiopia and the new era of peace and cooperation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That group is none other than the TPLF – an organization that ruled Ethiopia and created havoc in the lives of millions of people across the Horn of Africa.
The TPLF has been employing covert and overt tactics to undermine Ethiopia’s new prime minister, and the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Appointing itself as a vanguard of the interest of Tigray people, the TPLF has been engaged in holding the Tigray people hostage in a state of no-war no-peace through fear-mongering and setting preconditions to the peace process.
Recently, a Pentecostal Pastor released a video message claiming that he could bring back Meles Zenawi to life, if Meles’ wife allows the digging up of his grave. In the same way, the leaders of TPLF organised an event to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the death of Meles Zenawi with the aim of resuscitating the destructive ideas and practices of the TPLF, which are as dead as Meles Zenawi, and that have been rejected by the Ethiopian people and the region at large.
This report addresses questions including why the TPLF is commemorating the legacy of Meles Zenawi this way? how accurate are the legacies that are being presented? Beyond the legacy of Meles Zenawi, Why does the TPLF oppose changes that can bring lasting solution to Ethiopian internal problems and the implementation of the border ruling on ground? or Why does it prefer temporary or half solutions to problems? What are the fundamental problems of the TPLF?
At a first glance, the event seems a simple commemoration honouring an influential leader; but a closer look at the main papers that were presented by the senior TPLF officials, reveals the event is aimed at maintaining the status quo, or creating obstacles in the changes that are taking place in Ethiopia, and on the improving relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Mr. Asmelash Woldeselassie, a member of executive committee of the TPLF, presented Meles Zenawi as a man of the people, whose values and practices were purely centred around the interest of the people. This was backed up with many specific claims that include securing the rights of all Ethiopian ethnic constitutionally, and the economic and the social improvement the TPLF achieved.
Asmelash described Meles as a man of peace. It was only because of Meles’ democratic nature that the war with Eritrea progressed to all out war. He claimed that Meles was forced into continuing the war with Eritrea by EPRDF executive committee.
He also presented Meles as a very strong leader, who stood up to the IMF and World Bank. He described how Meles stood up to the foreign investors in Ethiopia by telling them to treat Ethiopian workers the same way as they treated their citizens in their own country. He praised Meles’ international standing and the leadership he provided for Ethiopia and Africa at large.
Similarly, Mr. Getachew Reda, a member of the the EPRDF executive committee, gave emotionally charged talk focusing on the legacy of Meles Zenawi to Ethio-Eritrea relations. The target audience for his message was clearly the Eritrean people. He spent much of his talk forcefully arguing that Meles Zenawi has always stood for the interest of Eritrean people. He even went as far as claiming Meles cared about Eritrean people more than an Eritrean person.
Getachew argued that the TPLF and Meles have always respected the choice of Eritrean people to have their independence and never viewed the relationship in terms of the ports that Eritrea has; unlike the Amhara who are only interested in the Eritrean ports.
The TPLF has clearly run out of convincing ideas that can reverse the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace breakthrough. They are still sticking to their worn-out term “people to people” relations that they use as a precondition to peace. Much of Getachew’s talk on the legacy of Meles was, used to undermine the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He deliberately belittled the ongoing peace process.
Getachew admitted that he did not take part in the armed struggle, but he talked about historical relations between TPLF and EPLF with unbelievable level of inaccuracies and arrogance. He said that TPLF’s relation with the EPLF was tactical. Like all TPLF leaders, he bragged about the contribution of the TPLF made in the battles that took part in Eritrea, but is forgetful about the contribution of the EPLF.
Much of Getache’s talk was an emotional outburst and more closer to fiction, but it is helpful in understanding the state of the TPLF leaders and the direction they are trying to lead the Tigray people.
Both of the TPLF officials tried to present Meles Zenawi as Mother Teresa of Africa by outright lies and twisting history. In trying to portray Meles Zenawi as a man of peace and people, they had to claim that he was forced into war by the EPRDF executive committee. They also tried to explain away the deportation of thousands of Eritreans from Ethiopia by blaming it on the same committee. On one hand, they say that Meles was a strong leader who stood up for the people, on the other hand, they say he was forced into the strategic mistakes by EPRDF.
Of course, the main purpose of the event was not to defend the legacy of Meles Zenawi, it was rather to use the occasion to continue mounting challenges against changes that are taking place in Ethiopia and its relations with Eritrea.
Moreover, what the central message of the event reveals, is that TPLF is unable to come to terms with the new reality, and is beyond repair. The fact they are delusional enough to think that they can revive ideas that are as dead as Meles Zenawi, should worry the Tigray people.
The legacy of Meles Zenawi is nothing but a disaster. He made huge strategic mistakes that will continue to have tragic consequences for the people of Ethiopia and the region at large for years to come. Meles was a sharp-tongued man with great communication skills. But he was not a strategic thinker. He was a self-serving political maneuver, which made him feel untouchable.
Meles considered himself so smart that he thought he could outsmart and dominate the Ethiopian people through institutionalising ethnic divisions and total control of the key powers for ever.
Meles was not a man of peace or people as the TPLF officials claim. The TPLF’s expansion policy resulted in the death of so many people across the region. He never stood up to the most powerful, he was their stooge that carried out the dirty work in return for financial aid and political support to oppress the Ethiopian people and to carry out its agenda of regime change in Eritrea.
Contrary to the claims of the TPLF officials, Meles was praised as “one of the West’s staunchest allies in Africa”. As the West’s policeman in the horn Africa, TPLF created chaos and great suffering across the region.
The two TPLF officials also repeatedly talked about the values of Meles, but they could not point to a particular values that he had or upheld. In the deceptive world of the TPLF, a man who sent thousands of young Ethiopians to death through the human wave tactic of the First World War, is a man of peace.
Equally, a man who created and institutionalized catastrophic ethnic divisions in Ethiopia, is credited for restoring and respecting the rights of people. Selling off land to doggy foreign business entities and forced removal of people from their own land, is now celebrated as “the great leader” standing up to exploiters.
The reality is the catastrophic legacy of the extreme concentration of economic, political, military and security powers in the hands of Tigray elite, and their violent policy towards Eritrea, has left the Tigray people isolated, and a hostage of leaders, who have no vision or courage to adapt to the ongoing changes for the interest of millions of Tigray people.
This raises an important question, since the only dead man in the equation is not just Meles Zenawi, and that the TPLF is also dead as an idea; why are the TPLF leaders talking business as usual? Making threats and declaring war such as the latest speech of the chairman of the TPLF at the cultural celebration in Mekele, and the attempts to revive rejected ideas in the name of commemoration of Meles Zenawi.
One of the most fundamental problems of the TPLF is its political culture. The TPLF can not be a partner of any one in anything due to the loss of its credibility. The TPLF is viewed with great mistrust by the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Moreover, none of the political organisation in both countries trust the TPLF.
The TPLF leaders have no one but themselves to blame. What they say and do practically, are contradictory. They are hostage of their own short-term thinking. Distortions, deceptions and fabrications are the norms as long as they serve them to get by from one end of the day to another.
This is an organisation that has managed to institutionalize lying. The memorable “two digits” economic growth of Ethiopia was a product of such a political culture. Ethiopia has been the largest recipient of financial aid in Africa that reached four billion a year.
After falsely presenting Ethiopia as a China of Africa in terms of economic growth, the legacy of the TPLF to the new Prime Minister turned out to be billions of dollars debt and empty foreign currency reserves.
In order to maintain the state of no-war no-peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the TPLF came up with many new deceptive phrases. When the international ruling of the border was announced in 2002, first the TPLF accepted it declaring victory. This was followed by outright rejection.
Few months later, after advice from the British, they accepted it in principle. Then they came up with a fancy words such as five point plan and dialogue. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too. While undermining the international border ruling, the TPLF attempted to dress itself up as the party desperately seeking for peace, and portraining Eritrea as aggressor.
Similarly, after Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, and the EPRDF accepted the border ruling fully and without any precondition, the TPLF, immediately released statements putting back preconditions and organised demonstration against the move. Not long after this, it came up with another statement where it claimed to support the move without removing its preconditions.
It eventually settled in the present position, which is not by no means new, because the TPLF has not changed its position on the border ruling. The TPLF pays lip service to the ongoing peace process, while at the same time it has come up with another fancy word “people to people” peace that the TPLF says, must come before withdrawal of troops and implementation of the demarcation on ground.
Naturally, the TPLF is against solutions that solve strategic problems completely. The state of no-war no-peace was a brainchild of the TPLF. The TPLF only wants half solutions or leaving things in limbo. That is why the TPLF is now putting obstacles to the structural positive changes that are taking place in Ethiopia, and to the ongoing peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The TPLF’s “people to people” precondition that it is using to divert and keep the border issue unresolved, has no ground to stand. However, as the leaders of the TPLF have no sense of shame, they are targeting the Eritrean people with soft messages – the very people they sentenced to death in the past two decades.
The fundamental questions that need to be answered is, why does the TPLF oppose changes that can bring lasting solution to Ethiopian internal problems and the implementation of the border ruling on ground? or Why does it prefer temporary or half solutions to problems?
This is the nature of the organisation and is not only limited to the above stated problems. As demonstrated by the so many conferences the organisation holds, the leaders of the TPLF are happy enough to talk about its non strategic and technical mistakes. They have even gone as far as admitting that they are liars and the organisation had decayed. However, these are only tactical moves to quiet down or silence critics.
In addition to the political culture of the organisation, the fundamental problem of the TPLF lies right at the heart of the purpose of the organisation. The publicly expressed purpose of the organization is to fight for the rights of Tigray people within Ethiopia; but establishing a Greater Tigray nation through expansion of territories into Eritrea and some regions of Ethiopia, is another purpose that is not said publicly, but one that the TPLF has been working on practically.
The TPLF created a fallback option in form of article 39 in the Ethiopia’s constitution that would allow it to secede in an event when it can not have its way in Ethiopia. Moreover, the TPLF transferred major bases of national army and weapons to Tigray.
However, the positive changes that are taking place in Ethiopia and the ever improving relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, are not conductive for the TPLF. The only fertile grounds that the TPLF can thrive are, where chaos, conflicts, divisions and hate, prevails in Ethiopia and in relations between the two countries. This is why the TPLF, in its present form, will not stop resisting the changes and is trying to create chaos. The hostile speech delivered by the chairman of the TPLF is a very clear indication of this.
The strategic mistakes of the TPLF leaders including Meles Zenawi, have left a catastrophic legacy for the Tigray people and the region of the horn of Africa at large. Now the people of Tigray stand to gain the most out of the wind of peace that is sweeping through Eritrea and Ethiopia, the question is, will the Tigray people allow the TPLF leaders to continue holding them hostage through deception and fear-mongering, or will they say enough to the TPLF and be part of the irreversible new era of peace, cooperation and development?