5:18 pm - Tuesday June 15, 1993

The impact of TPLF’s strategies and potential solutions. (Wegene Demeke (PhD))

The impact of TPLF’s strategies and potential solutions.

Wegene Demeke (PhD)

When the TPLF enters Addis Ababa back in 1991, some TPLF members expect that the organisation will achieve its ultimate aim to create the free Tigray through referendum. However, TPLF chooses not to execute its goal but prefers to run the entire country. The foundation for ethnic based federalism takes shape and TPLF controls the political, economic, security and military organisations in the country. 

The six national elections just concluded, and the result announced by the National Election Board of Ethiopia. The result indicates that the Prosperity party wins a land slide winning 410 seats out of the contested 436 federal parliament. Ideologically the Prosperity party seems to be divided into two. The first is the old guard that aims to continue with the ethnic based federal system, while the other is against the old, but its new idea is not yet clear what kind of federal system it is aiming to achieve. Now Dr Abye has a mandate -it will be seen what direction he will take on the ideological path in the coming months and years. 

TPLF Controlling strategy

TPLF is obsessed about controlling all aspects of life including the control of people [ (one-to-five), where one TPLF member will control and manage five people is well established method] and organisations. The core TPLF’s strategy is to control organisations with its own recruits, or with people who support the TPLF. The TPLF selects these organisations based on the influence and impact they created on the national and international levels. One notable success is the appointment of Dr Tewodros to the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are others at various levels in many international organisations. There are media personalities in the national and international organisations that shape the narrative of what is happening in Ethiopia or in Tigray in particular, always linked to the interest of the TPLF. 

This strategy pays now when TPLF needs help from the international community, and it has secured much needed support in unprecedented manner. Every possible platform is used by TPLF representatives in high places to influence the narrative in the international arena. Anyone who is following the twitter channel of Dr Tewodros can see that he is the official ambassador of TPLF rather than the director general of WHO dealing with the unprecedented pandemic faced by the world. 

The bias of the media to accept any story without verification as long as it supports TPLF goal was unexpected by many Ethiopians, especially by the major international media outlets. The most distractive nature of TPLF resulted in corrupting organisations, destroying the independence and changing the culture of fact checking. The cronyism injected in many organisations by TPLF resulted in poor quality work as the people hired are not for their ability to do the job but to what extent the TPLF is supported by the individuals. This is also one reason for its decline of its influence, as cronyism did not generate new ideas to improve what is not working or implement a better strategy. 

Creating the narrative

The history of TPLF showed it will do anything to stay in power. For TPLF, the end justifies the means to achieve its hegemony in all economic sectors and politics in Ethiopia. The accusation and counter accusation of atrocities between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF is ongoing. The Mai-Kadra Amhara’s massacre verified by human rights has not got similar cover on the international media like other alleged crimes. There are many reasons for these differences; one reason is that the foreign correspondence who do not speak the local languages – their view is shaped by their interpreters. The interpreters are gate keepers they recruit for data collection, only those who are agreeing with the selected narrative. The interpreters are vetted by TPLF. An independent foreign correspondence will report the view of the TPLF. 

For some, the trust is very low when the source of the information is TPLF. This is mainly grounded in the history of TPLF. TPLF do not just report what happened or twist the narrative to fit its own political goal -it goes further; it generates the news itself to create the narrative. One good example to show this characteristic of TPLF is the paper from WikiLeaks indicated TPLF bomb its own people for gaining political advantage against Eritrea and the OLF. The aim was to convince the international community that the Eritrean government and OLF are terrorists.  

Trusting TPLF

The November 4 attack of the Northern command of the Ethiopian National Army by TPLF confirms that this group stops at nothing to secure political power by any means. The pretext by TPLF is that it is encircled, and the war is eminent. In any country, attacking the National Army will be considered a high crime punishable by death. The follow up battles between the TPLF and the National Defence Force change the dynamics further in East Africa. Eritrea is dragged into the conflict by partly when TPLF attacked the country. 

The TPLF plan was to march to Addis and assume the federal power and regain the lost position for TPLF. One can only imagine the level of destruction and death if the plan was executed as planned. 

Famine as a political tool

The Productivity Safety Net Program in Ethiopia started in 2005 and still going on, it supports 8 million people in 2017 supported by the World Bank. The annual report of 2020 from the US aid showed that it assisted 524,000 chronically food insecure people in 12 Woredas in the Tigray region. It can be envisaged these kinds of programs will be disrupted when hostilities break out between the TPLF and the federal government. The UN officials have now warned that 400,000 people in Tigray now in famine. There is an implication in this report to show that the famine started because of the conflict, but the problem is ongoing for years. The Ethiopian government is accused of using food as a weapon of war in Tigray. Back in 1985 there was a similar accusation against the Ethiopian government using famine as a weapon of war, but TPLF was the one who exploits famine as an instrument for its war effort. Ethiopia: Investigation reveals evidence that scores of civilians were killed in massacre in Tigray state

Ethiopia Tigray conflict: Famine hits 400,000,

UNProductive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), Ethiopia

|World Bank to Help Ethiopia Build a National Safety Net System as a More Effective Response to

Food for Peace Fiscal Year 2019 Ethiopia DFSA Fact Sheet – Relief Society of

The story was told by two TPLF founders; Aregawi Berhe and Gebremedhin Araya indicated that 95% of the $100 million raised to fight famine in northern Ethiopia in 1985 diverted by TPLF and spent on weapons as reported by the BBC world service’s African editor Martin Plaut. Currently Martin Plaut is a stanch supporter of TPLF. The current crisis and the accusations and counter accusation of using famine as an instrument of war is ongoing. One thing is clear here TPLF has the experience of using famine to its political advantage rather than helping the people of Tigray. 


The surprise ceasefire by the government of Dr Abyi caught TPLF off guard. But it gives TPLF a breathing space and an opportunity to claim of winning the war against the National army. For any party, it is difficult not to support the ceasefire; it saves lives, the money will be spent on fighting poverty. The war was going on for eight months and one of Dr Abyi’s reasons for bringing ceasefire is the high level of TPLF grassroot support in Tigray. In his own words, the National Army is attacked by what is considered ordinary Tigranes; the National Army is considered as an invading army, this is heart-breaking to other Ethiopians. This is a hard fact that many struggled to accept that the Tigray people support TPLF. The same sentiment was expressed by previous leader Mengistu Hailemariam; “the National Army is treated as an external invading army”. These seem to show that the support for TPLF is rooted before TPLF has the muscle and ability to intimidate or coerce the population. 

The contested area of Humera, Welkayt, Tegede and Tselemet are a flush point between Tigray and the Federal government. Similarly, Ende Mehari, Raya Azebo, Wefla and Alamata are annexed by TPLF in 1991 as the above areas. The TPLF recently announced that it will take over all the above areas. If the war breakout in these two areas, then it complicates matter more by making it impossible for the aid to pass through to Tigray. 

There is no trust between TPLF and the government of Ethiopia. In the coming weeks and months, this strained relationship will affect all aspects of life, particularly in Tigray. 

There is no reason to kill each other; war is ugly, it makes us poor; we are poor; we should not fund war; every Birr should be spent on reducing poverty. For now, at least there is a firm support for TPLF in Tigray. The Ethiopian government should accept this and search for a better solution. The government of Ethiopia should entertain the idea of providing a chance for the people of Tigray the choice of referendum. 

The author can be reached via email: wegene.demeke@gmail.com

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