The ethnic game of TPLF in Ethiopia

Asress Mulugeta

The Ethiopian government is now faced with unprecedented rebellion from the Oromo, the Amhara, Ogadenis, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Afar  and other ethnic groups that are deeply dissatisfied. The Ogaden national liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden is waging an insurgency. Similar insurgency rages in Oromia led by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). In Amhara region, the Amhara Freedom fighters, have organized themselves in the typical traditional Ethiopian resistance form and are clashing with the army in parts of Gojam and Gondar. With ethnic discontent reaching a new high and the tendrils of insurgency growing exponentially, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, TPLF’s rule faces the greatest challenge.

In Ethiopia, the minority ruling class, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led by the late Ethiopian Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, achieved power in 1991 as “the first among equals” in a ruling coalition. After the 1998-2000 “border war” with Eritrea, Meles institutionalized one-party rule of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and his Tigrayan inner circle, with the participation of other co-opted ethnic elites who were brought into the ruling alliance under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The EPRDF consists of four groups: the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the South Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Front (SEPDF) and the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF). The role of OPDO, ANDM and SEPDF is simply to rubber stamp TPLF’s agenda.

TPLF’s violent crackdown on the 2005 demonstrations protesting the widely believed rigged election was a clear indication of his determination to hang on to power. In the 2010 elections, the EPRDF won 546 out of 547 parliamentary seats and all but one of 1,904 council seats in regional elections. In the 2015 elections, the EPRDF won 100% (547 out of 547) parliamentary seats. It is clear that Ethiopia is under a one-party rule with a vengeance, ensuring the triumph of repression, the squashing of dissenting voices and the shutting down of independent media. Elections in Ethiopia are shenanigans to show complete EPRDF control rather than engagement in democracy. There is a clampdown on internet access, and the arrest and sentencing of political opponents, journalists and bloggers.

Currently, the country is still under state of emergency rule which was imposed in October 2016 during the worst ethnic violence in 25 years that Ethiopia has seen.  The Oromiya and Amhara regions of Ethiopia were like war zones since protests began in November 2015.  From October 2015 till January 2017 more than 3000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested by security forces of the minority ruling party, TPLF.

The Tigrayan People liberation Front, (TPLF) has been too stubborn in reforming the country’s ethnic political system which has been the main problem in creating one political and economic society in Ethiopia.  It is also unlikely that TPLF will change its iron feast rule strategy fearing reforms would encourage even more protests aiming to overthrow the minority regime. To conclude, if the TPLF dominated EPRDF government does not change its iron feast rule and continue on its unwillingness to reform the ethnic political game, it could lead Ethiopia to prolonged conflict and instability that looks like the Syrian situation.





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