Ethiopia’s vicious deadlock

The much-hyped democratic transition is not only dead but buried deep. It would need a miracle to exhume it in the near future.

Last year, Tigray’s leaders underestimated their weaknesses. The region’s security forces were swept away in the conventional conflict and largely unprepared to shift to guerrilla warfare after Mekelle was captured on 28 November.

Even the grassroots party-state apparatus has vanished. In a 27 March phone discussion with Alex de Waal, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) veteran Mulugeta Gebrehiwot, who has joined the armed struggle, said: “the former administration of the TPLF has collapsed… The administrators just ran away.”

He added that four and half months after the war started, “there is a zonal army that is organized in several places,” which means this is not the case everywhere in Tigray.

The Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) and TPLF leadership have since avoided being wiped out, thanks to the resistance against the “invasion” which has been spontaneously and autonomously built from both the civilian and militia grassroots and among scattered TDF units.  The Tigrayans then came back to their age-old structuration: the villages’ self-organization.

“The farmers in each locality asked [the administrators] not to return back; they said ‘we don’t need you, we will choose our own,’” said Mulugeta. “So, at the village level, they have a committee of seven, sometimes without any former cadre.”

In Tigray, the power pyramid was top-heavy. That top has been broken and is under reconstruction. At this stage, the most solid part of the pyramid lies at its bottom.

The main Tigrayan war force now is the village-level popular resistance and the TDF military apparatus, which has been progressively regrouped from the remnants of the regional security forces and defected Tigrayan federal soldiers. This resistance will not be crushed even if the top leaders of the “junta” are killed or captured.

Waiting game

Sadly, it took Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed five months to realize that this war will be “difficult and tiresome,” something that was entirely foreseeable. The question now for his government is:  the “law enforcement operation” aimed at eliminating the TPLF leadership; if the war will continue even after this objective is achieved, what are the war’s other aims?

On the other side, the Tigrayans will have to choose between three endgames.

They will never accept less than full self-rule inside the federation, as stated in the constitution. But they could also decide for independence, “probably the most viable option,” according to Getachew Reda, or for the “Agazi project,” pushed by the radical opposition parties in Tigray, to build a trans-border Tigrayan nation-state, like the European nation-state building in the middle of 19th century.

Many Tigrayans remember that TPLF won the war against Derg not because of military might but as a result of the Derg’s exhaustion-induced unraveling of its army.  They could expect the same will happen this time as they are reinforcing their armed forces and because time is on their side as a result of their higher resilience

It is also apparent that the scorched-earth policy of the intervening forces has made many Tigrayans thirsty for revenge. In this context, how uncompromising might they be if they are presented with a ceasefire deal? Also, assuming they stay in the war zone, who will negotiate on their behalf?

Time is needed for the emergence of a new representative Tigrayan leadership. Potentially, this will include young, fresh local frontrunners, well-known civilians, and representatives of the Tigray Defence Forces.

Time will also be needed for the popular endorsement of the strategy this leadership will devise because the Tigrayan civilian population is in a position to demand a strong say. The referendum Getachew Reda implied cannot be organized overnight.

Beyond Tigray

Ethiopia’s civil war in Tigray is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conflicts ravaging the country.

It has put in the shadows another dirty conflict in Oromia. Given that the region ranks well above Tigray when it comes to population, size, and wealth, the intensifying insurgency/counter-insurgency occurring there is more critical.

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) has waged a blitzkrieg over the last few months. Starting in Wollega and expanding quickly into Arsi and Bale, “OLF/Shane rebels are now present in Amhara region,” stated Agegnehu Teshager, president of Amhara regional state.

Agegnehu probably wanted to exaggerate the threat so as to make his appeal for federal government intervention more pressing. Be that as it may, the OLA has now reached the Shewan part of Oromia, near Addis Ababa. If it continues to expand as fast as it did during the last few months, it could become strong enough to temporarily blockade the capital, if it decides to do so. Leader ‘Jaal Marro’ has said the OLA will prevent elections taking place in Oromia.

The OLA’s final goal is known: complete self-rule of Oromia, at the very least. But its strategy to achieve this is uncertain, and so is its willingness and conditions to come to the negotiation table.

More local confrontations, categorized usually as “ethnic” or “communal violence”, are spreading and escalating across the country.

The last one occurred in the eastern part of the Amhara region (South Wollo, Oromo Special Zone, and North Shewa), which resulted in more than 300 deaths until now, tens of thousands of refugees, and mass destruction.

It involved local Amhara and Oromo population and militia, the Amhara Special Forces, and the federal army. OLA stated that those who fought, the Oromo farmers, only carried “AK-47s as part of their tradition” and denies it was involved in these fights. But several Amhara witnesses said Oromo forces used “heavy artillery.”

While more than half of the country is under a de facto state of emergency managed by martial law (“Command Post”), basic order is still far from prevailing in these zones. Barely a week passes without a massacre, or pogrom, with dozens of victims.

At the heart of many clashes are border conflicts, which hit all regions with no exception. The borders have historically always fluctuated, and are still under negotiation in many places. The last one has been between Afar and Somali region, which led to “at least hundred deaths.”

To prepare for such territorial disputes, the regional states have pursued militarization since late 2017, when rifts inside the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) moved the country into the unknown.

In addition to their regional police and militia, they bolstered their “Special Forces,” paramilitaries. A foreign military expert estimates they consist of around 30,000 men in Oromia and little bit less in Amhara. To put into context, the total number of special force members in these two regions is perhaps around half the total number of Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) members before the beginning of the Tigray war.

Elections eclipsed

The Pandora’s Box was opened when Amhara region annexed, without any legal basis, large territories in western and south-eastern Tigray. This set the distressing precedent that it is possible to take contested land with brute force.

Additionally, the arbitrary hegemony of the executive branch expands constantly, at least where it holds sway. The law is more and more flouted. The freedoms gained in the months after Abiy came to power are vanishing. The right to demonstrate is respected highly selectively, freedom of expression is regressing, journalists have been jailed, and self-censorship prevails for all.

If the situation remains the same, the elections planned for June will be at best meaningless, and, at worst, increase tensions to the point that they could be canceled.

Birtukan Mideksa, chair of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), stated that “only a week before the end of the voter registration period, out of the 50,000 polling stations planned to be established as per the electoral map, only 25,151 are currently registering voters.” As a result of such concerns, the board has just extended voter registration for two weeks.

These elections are largely perceived as being so artificial or useless that the population and the local authorities are apathetic. In particular, they don’t coerce people to register, or aren’t as effective at doing so, as in the past.

The main representatives and structures of one of the two major political currents— the proponents of true ‘multinational federalism’—such as the Oromo Liberation Front, Oromo Federalist Congress, and TPLF have been side-lined one way or another.

The main competitor to the Prosperity Party in Amhara, the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA), stated recently “the massive genocide perpetrated to terrorize our people (Amhara) is directly supported and led by the government structure.”  Its election participation looks increasingly doubtful. Different wings of the anti-ethnic federalism camp would therefore be the only ones really competing, though not in some areas, such as parts of Oromia.

It’s unlikely that the NEBE will help. In an interview with The Reporter, Birtukan stated she is satisfied with what the board is doing as the electorate have alternatives to choose from. Her goal is “to hold a different, participatory and representative election”. She hasn’t mentioned the phrase “free and fair elections.”

Most probably, the elections, if held, will not give Abiy the domestic legitimacy he runs after but reduce once more his credibility—and they will polarize Ethiopians even more for sure.

The ruling machinery in place for years has shifted from the EPRDF umbrella to Prosperity Party (PP) aegis. The latter was supposed to be a national, non-ethnic party. However, while the former consisted of a coalition of four established regional parties, PP reproduces the same structuration disguised in “regional branches.”

But unlike EPRDF, PP hasn’t been able to expand its effective authority below the wereda level in many regions. While EPRDF was a cohesive and disciplined party-state entity, by will and rather by force, it is common for PP leaders at the wereda and zonal level to turn a blind eye to, or even assist, fights against the federal and regional governments and get embroiled in inter-communal violence. The last meeting of the army and security leadership pointed the finger at “those who are embedded inside the government’s structure…conspiring to dismantle the country”.

Furthermore, PP is deeply divided, especially between its Oromo and Amhara branches, but also within other chapters. The two hurled public abuse at each other about the fights in the Oromo Special Zone in Amhara. The Oromo branch accused Bahir Dar of the attacks, using OLF-Shane as a pretext.

Agegnehu, the Amhara president, issued a stern warning to the federal government to seek an “immediate solution” to stop the killings of Amhara, while one of the leaders of Amhara-PP, Demeke Mekonnen, is the Deputy Prime Minister.

Hegemonic habits

The most worrying aspect of the situation is that the cornerstone of Ethiopian politics remains unchanged: Any power center aims to become hegemonic, and then to increasingly assert its hegemony. In both cases, the use of raw force is still the highway to reach these goals. Armed conflict is therefore unavoidable.

What is happening now could be the premise of the nth remake of a common Ethiopian historical episode: after the death of a ‘Big Man,’ different armed contenders fight until one clear winner emerges. Before, this confrontation was a raw power struggle. Today, the confrontation is also a path the contenders embark upon to ultimately decide between opposing political visions.

The most revealing display of this continuity has been the conflict between the Tigray and federal governments. By putting preconditions for dialogue that the other side obviously would not accept, they essentially chose war, and indeed prepared for it.

Now, Abiy offers little other than his intention to crush the “criminal clique.” The TPLF requests that Tigray’s government is restored and say they will fight until “the invaders will surrender”, which implies the departure of ENDF along with Eritrean and Amhara forces— in other words, Abiy’s capitulation.

The expectations for a “democratic transition” during the mid-2010s were sadly irrational. The Qeerroo and Fano didn’t shout “freedom!” or “democracy!”, but “down down Woyane!”. The former have disappeared or have been co-opted, including into the Oromia Special Force. The latter won fame for their inhumanity in the Tigray war.

The urban middle class was considered as the spearhead of democratization. At best, they remain silent or deliberately passive, but the great majority supports the war. Indeed, it seems like many consider that the atrocities committed against Tigrayan civilians are justified by the supposed privileges Tigrayans benefited from during TPLF’s time and the party’s unproven alleged involvement in recent ‘ethnic’ conflicts across Ethiopia.

Very lonesome and rare are those who are ashamed that “so many Ethiopians are not disquieted by the abhorrent, war-crimes riddled campaign prosecuted in their name”.

Even the damage to Al-Nejashi mosque and Debre Damo monastery “could not pique the conscience of the religious leaders. Not even a beep… They could not pass the political moral test in the Tigray region civil war”, writes a “theologian by training”. Addis Fortune adds: “Leaders of the main religious denomination were complicit in the war… They have lost the courage of their faith to speak out against the atrocities.”

The precarious religious modus vivendi is also shaken. As if it wanted to increase the religious tensions even more, the government maneuvers to gain control over the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. This revives the tensions between authorities and Muslims in 2010’. Growing ‘ethnic clashes’ foretell growing religious antagonisms.

Of course, fear of the ruling power prevails and contributes to this absence of disquiet. But the Orwellian regime propaganda would not achieve its goal of stirring up hysterical resentment if its audience was not so receptive.

Fragmented authority

In light of the civil war in Tigray and growing conflicts in Oromia and elsewhere, it’s hard to see which force could become strong enough to block, or even to restrain, nationally or regionally, the gruesome ongoing armed dynamics, whether from the political parties, the civil society, or the diaspora.

Wherever you look, if the possible gates to exit from the crisis exist, they are not realistically within reach.

Power is now multipolar, dispersed between four main forces: (1) TPLF/TDF; (2) OLA; (3) the Amhara leadership with its growing presence in the military command and the security services, but outflanked by more radical groups such as NaMA and Fano; (4) the Oromia-PP leadership, whose members’ position varies depending on the degree of ethnic federalism they advocate—the last two are supposed to be Abiy’s political base.

The first two don’t seem to coordinate even if their political objectives are very close. The last pair are linked by a tactical alliance that cannot last given that Amhara-PP struggles for a pan-Ethiopianism while Oromia-PP aims for a strong ethnofederalism. Also, they both desire a preeminent role in Addis Ababa. This constrains Abiy who has to divide himself—and thus diminish himself—to try and please them.

The signs of mounting antagonism are evident all around. And it does not seem like this escalation will stop. Instead, it could potentially bring Ethiopia into the eye of the cyclone—a full-fledged civil war.

In addition, Isaias Afeworki stepped into Ethiopian affairs again. His main goal is the same since the end of the 1970s: to become the godfather of the Horn. Given Eritrea’s smallness, he could succeed only by weakening Ethiopia, the historical pillar of this region, or by having a strong say in Ethiopia’s affairs through close cooperation.

The conflicts in Ethiopia are therefore a godsend for him. At this stage, it seems like the ENDF and its Amhara allies will not be able to contain the Tigrayan guerrilla movement, or engage successfully in fights on other fronts, without the Eritrean army’s involvement.

The Western powers and some intergovernmental organizations call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops. But when Abiy promised they will leave, he put his credibility at stake: the last word belongs to Isaias. In addition, Eritrea’s autocrat does not want to face a second military defeat after his 2000 debacle by withdrawing his troops from Tigray before they reach their objective: to annihilate the TPLF and its armed wing.

The more the conflicts and the disunity of the leadership amplify, the more room Isaias has to intervene.

The three groups that support Abiy—Asmara, the Amhara/urban elite, and sections of the Oromo elite—do so as long as he helps them achieve their respective agenda. It now seems he is being pushed more and more to the first two, increasingly driving his Oromo allies away, which strengthens those who oppose him, including armed groups.

Damaging dialogue

For years, the call for a “national inclusive dialogue” to tackle Ethiopia’s age-old structural problems has been presented as the panacea to overcoming the crisis. This was unrealistic, illegitimate, and damaging.

Unrealistic, because if this dialogue was possible, it would have been put in place during the euphoric 2018 spring. The visions at stake are too antagonistic to reach a middle way. In any case, this would need compromises. But who would make the unavoidable concessions when each participant could claim its vision is predominant without any objective measurement?

Illegitimate, because this “dialogue” would be essentially in the hands of the political leaderships and frontrunners of the civil society. But the fate of the country cannot be fixed by a small circle through a “grand elite bargain.”

Damaging, because there is a significant opportunity cost to the international community misallocating its energies by pursuing this unrealistic objective.

In line with Ethiopian history, a victory of one of the armed camps could temporarily stabilize Ethiopia under an authoritarian regime, but any sustainable and in-depth solution requires negotiations. National negotiations should start very modestly with how to proceed, a “process-focused dialogue”. Step-by-step, the ultimate goal of the first main phase should be to organize credible elections, which is not the case with the upcoming polls.

A credible vote is compulsory for an objective—and democratic—assessment of the weight of the diverging visions, and then to layout an indisputable basis for tackling the “structural problems” through a “grand elected elite bargain”.

Recently, the international community doesn’t focus on the “national inclusive dialogue” as strongly as before. It opts for vaguer—and more realistic—recommendations. The G7, for example, asked for “the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians… which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process”.

Mediating stalemate

The dynamics of the crisis are first and foremost endogenous. Its strength renders it very difficult for the international community, meaning mainly the Western powers, to reorient it in a more positive direction.

They should aim for a two-phased objective. At this stage, their goal should be to be prepared to limit damage mainly by scaling up their humanitarian aid as an intensification of the fights is probable and a sincere dialogue does not seem to be within sight.

For a more distant one, to get to the start of a dialogue, for which they should always push and could position themselves as credible mediators, hoping that the realization will eventually prevail that the current struggle leads only to mutual destruction. Their main tool should be increasingly making it clear that biting sanctions are a threat that will be made if necessary.

Contrary to common belief, the Asmara regime would also be in extreme difficulty if it was brought back to its previous seclusion and “self-reliance.” Isaias’ view may be that it helps him sustain dictatorship—but it would also cause such turmoil in his entourage and the public that his position would be endangered.

Back in Ethiopia, a combination of a growing militarization of the internal situation and of the growing impact of the international sanctions could become unbearable for the conflicting parties and so lead them to a U-turn to escape a mortal deadlock.

In this regard, the Gulf countries could be a key actor. It is not by chance that EU envoy Pekka Haavisto stopped in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi before landing in Addis Abeba. Indeed, the risk that Ethiopia becomes a fighting field for foreign countries, as in Libya or Syria, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Abiy recently implicitly condemned “counter-productive interference” by the US and the EU. After having praised the supportive role of Russia in Africa, he added, “we must revisit our traditions and certify our friendship and renew our time-tested solidarity.”

Finally, Abiy’s leadership record, three years after he took office, is disastrous.

He promised unity, togetherness, and forgiveness, but Ethiopia has never been so divided. He also said in the speech about solidarity with Russia that “identity-based politics” is one of Ethiopia’s “enemies within.” This pits him even more against a political current whose proponents are convinced it is dominant in the country.

It is well past the time for external actors to turn over a new leaf and cease to see Abiy as almost the only Ethiopian leader to deal with. The multipolarity appeals for multidirectional dialogues. Abiy’s premiership owes more to appearance than to his actual power. His allies could make him pay a high price for the vicious deadlock he has led the country into.

But these are at best medium-term objectives. The most pressing ones are to tackle the humanitarian crisis mainly in Tigray, try to reach ceasefires in Tigray and in Oromia, and break up the government information blockade so as to reveal the true magnitude of the horror taking place in Ethiopia.

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Main photo: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at a meeting with members of the National Security Council, an organ of the administration that advises the Prime Minister on security matters; 24 April 2021; Office of the Prime Minister

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About the author

René Lefort

René has been writing about sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s and reported on the region for French newspapers. He is now a researcher and publishes in academic titles such as The Journal of Modern African Studies.


  • Agree that dialogue is meaningless in this situation. Above all, it’d set a precedent. Itd be madness to dialogue with a force that attacked the national defense. Especially as they are rightly classified as terrorists now. Dialogue would’ve been a thing to pursue before the crisis. Woefully this happened right before the eyes of the international community if the latter has a true motive of avoiding a crisis. A good call for the western powers should be minimize damage by not meddling in an internal affair of a sovereign country. The west had chosen top turn a blind eye to the authoritarian iron fist rule of the TPLF for 27 years

    • Hi, I have read many of your articles for several years and I will just point out few of my observations.
      – your comments and possibilities outcomes you suggested before and immidiate 2018 didn’t come out the way you thought they would. These I would say is due to misunderstanding of the deeper issues, how the political machinations in these complex but less advanced political field works.
      – you have biases that you couldn’t shake of and you are still stipped in it that leads you to wrong conclusions and hence weakness to observe the realities. These could be due to the too common failure of foreigners which is hinged on information they arw feed by political hacks in Addis who speak English or French. The political hacks which espouse as scholars , journalists or social activists have motives they arw disingenuous and the information foreigners are fed are already tainted. The long term followers of the affairs in Ethiopia fail to understand the situation and are always surprised of the finalnoutcomes of political jostling and even wars because of failure to go and investigate deep with in the people.
      – In this article you have quoted the veteran TPLF fighter’s opinion that the TPLF run away yet you forgot the awesome battle field achievements of the TPLF and the actions the TPLF took to change after it was caught by “unprepared”. I think you failed to understand what it meant when the TPLF said they were not prepared for what prevailed. They knew Abiy and Isayas were preparing to invade Tigray and beyoned that they were trying to prepare for defence and also to thwart war in general by pushing for dialogue.
      With that in mind they had the capability to defend against Ethiopian & Eritrean armies and even vanquish them not by sheer force but tactic which was very effective in the first 2 weeks of the war until UAE drones were involved in the war and this what they meant when they said they were not prepared.
      You cheery peaked “unprepared” and applied it to help you come to a conclusion with out considering the facts and the whole weight it will have in your analysis.
      The federal goverent under Abiy is not functioning as a government due to Abiy’s ineptitude and poor understanding to the limitations of his power. He was accepted with almost 100% support in the whole Ethiopia which he lost almost completely save support from few with ulterior motives than similar view with him.
      It is easy to see how his government will fail totally which you seem not to understand and hence you have gone into a tailspinning analysis or word play instead of commenting on it.
      You seem to say dialogue is not possible and finally your recommendation is dialogue.
      You have also some suggestion on how the West should deal with it based only on the internal Ethiopian situation from tour prism of view. However we know the West doesn’t involve for altruistic reason even if it was to play a positive roll.
      The West have their interests that they want to secure and the Ethiopian people have also interests that they want to achieve mainly self admistration, respect of their language, culture and way of life.
      The Tigray, Oromo, Gumuz( whom you didn’t even mention in your article), Afar, Kimant, Somalia and other peoples of Ethiopia wanted unimpeded self admistration be it under loosely held federal system or confederation whose time has now passed and we are at a totally different stage.
      The people of Tigray will not accept any form of unity with Ethiopia. The war in Tigray is lead by the TPLF contrary to your reporting. The TDF is commanded by duely elected government of Tigray who are still in leadership. Yet in your article you seem to think they don’t exist.
      The reality on the ground speaks much different.
      Abiy has dismantled Ethiopia by conspiring with the Eritrean despot whose life goal was disintegration of Ethiopia.

  • Let me put you to test again if you post this comment you shy to post it earlier.

    From Getachew Reda (Editor Ethiopian Semay)

    All in all, René’s article is another eye opener analysis on the current situation in Tigray and so called
    “Oromia Kilili”. All those gun battle and ethnic cleansing going on in Ethiopia have no other reason but power monger criminal elites seeking power to rule the people when they have no capacity to rule themselves. TPLF, OPDO/Abiy Ahmed/ or OLF or any of the ethnic syndicates flourished in the country since 1970s are all seeds of tyranny.

    Besides all the BS propaganda out there, the conflict is not sourced from natural reason. No matter what is airing on media, it is however, as the Axumite Alemseged Abbay of Berklay correctly stated it in 1992 that “ethnic conflict is inherently artificial and it takes few differences to divide a population (Biting the Hand that Feeds- Alem Abbay, August 10, 1992, Berkeely California”.

    In fact, TPLF and Abiy Ahmed lead syndicates are both fascist. They have no political chromosome on their creation to drive them for give and take appetite with their adversaries. As Dr. Assefa Negash of Amsterdam precisely put it “Fascism defeated its enemies by force, not through negotiation”. True, Fascism does not believe in negotiation, but in destruction. These are fascists and pack of criminals who should have been rest in jail for the rest of their life for the 30 years crime they committed while in power. Unfortunate to the people of Tigray and Ethiopia, still continue creating a protractive war to create more social misery.

    As I said it above, there are fascist criminals who are competing for power and wealth to themselves. In particular, TPLF is not a political force that believes in give-and-take. Both the fascist organization and the government in power see their worlds as a winner and loser. These criminal elites now running all over the village like a rabid dog lead by DebreTsion are not new elites came from the moon. They rule Tigray and the Ethiopia people through deceiving or intimidating their opponents. The TPLF fascists, as a political force, have always been vigilant and prepared to destroy those who claim to be the enemies of their Weyane revolution. As a result, they were constantly on the lookout for enemies, thinking that they are surrounded by enemies. And they got what they were dreaming!

    “Today, Tigrayans are armed with more heavy weapons than any other Ethiopian citizen. Tigrayans in Tigray, from an early age, are being organized not only by propaganda but also by military training.” Says the psychiatrist Dr. Assefa Negash of Amsterdam. Unless, the peasants miraculously started to revolt or reject the thousands of thousands of ignorant educated Tigrayans inside and outside the country who are becoming a herd of animals, creating a serious threat to the survival of the people of Tigray and Ethiopia; the unthinkable prolonged misery is inevitable.
    Abiy Ahmed’s agenda together with TPLF’s agenda of destroying Ethiopia is the agenda of CIA. Both need to be removed from politics and tried in the international court for various crimes they committed! Thanks. Getachew Reda

    • Getachew Reda ( borrowed name to appear to the famous Getachew Reda of the TPLF)- fake name and one sided warped comment strewn with exerpts to appear intelligible.
      He has the same fascists way of dealing with issues when he labels might I say calls ligitmate political parties with derisive names.
      He fails to understand that the TPLF is not just a group. The TPLF is a popular party in the hearts of the people of Tigray and the principles of self administration is the core value of the TPLF.
      The TPLF was created for self admistration and the TPLF had unambiguously stated that more than in physical structure it will exist as a true value to the freedom of the people and had suggested would vanish as a party when the people own their fate and have full control.over their affair.
      That is why what ever force comes or goes the TPLF will exist asnit is a program, a discipline and a pure political view of the people.
      Sorry to bust your hot air filled bubble.

      • From GETACHEW REDA (Ethiopian Semay)

        Response to Derebew Dansa:

        My dear brother, okay, I never said I am intelligent, it is you who stated it as if I said so. By the way, a person who can’t spell right shouldn’t open a mouth to grant who is intelligent and who is not. Next time when you come here make sure spell those words right: (ligitmate, admistration, asnit, what ever, exerpts)

        Now, my turn to ask you. What is your intent when you said?
        (“He has the same fascists way of dealing with issues when he labels might I say calls ligitmate political parties with derisive names.?”)

        What does fascists way mean? Do you mean “fascists’ way, “fascistic way”? why do you referred the writer that way? What does fascist mean?

        You also stated,
        (“He fails to understand that the TPLF is not just a group. The TPLF is a popular party in the hearts of the people of Tigray and the principles of self administration is the core value of the TPLF.”)

        It doesn’t matter, group or party. Name mean nothing. It is the act that matters. A thug with a cross is not a priest. Is he? TPLF can be a popular party in the heart of the people of Tigray, Hitler’s Nazi party was also popular party in the heart of the people of Germany!

        TPLF is a fascist party. Self-administration never was the core value of TPLF as you argued. Never in the 17 years life in the jungle, never in its 27 years in power. TPLF has divided Ethiopian society on ethnic lines and views ethnic groups as natural divisions of human society like all ethno-nationalists and fascists of yore. TPLF perceives and understands human society in terms of one’s ethnic identity and the identity politics it has institutionalized in Ethiopia is proof to its commitment to this fascist ideology it has embraced. In short, TPLF is an ethno-nationalist organization which thrives on Tigrayan ultra-nationalism that views Tigrayans as innately superior ethnic group of Ethiopia. Good try though!!!!

  • Letter to the Editors of this website;

    Today, before several hours, I posted a short comment after reading Lefort’s post on this website. I didn’t see my comment posted until now. My past experience with this website has been fair regardless my serious opposition against the criminal TPLF syndicate. But, this time, it seems the editors seemed to dislike my comment against TPLF/OLF/PP. If the editors didn’t like my view, they are always welcome to battle me if they have something to say against it. Is this website now edited by TPLF men/women?

  • ” The Pandora’s Box was opened when Amhara Region annexed, without any legal basis, large territories in Western and South Eastern Tigray.” It could not be further from the truth. The Pandora’s Box was opened when in 1991 a tiny regional, secessionist, tribal party TPLF, seized state power by force and with the tacit approval of the West imposed on the Ethiopian people its and OLF’S political tribal manifesto. The boundaries between Tigray and Begemeder for centuries Tekezae River, even what European travelers wrote centuries past testifies to that. TPLF seeking fertile land fictioned a fake story seized the land by force, evicted half a million Wolkaitae/Amharas and settled Tigres from Tigray and the Sudan, those that flee during the 80s famine. Why the Tigre gang that murdered 1,100 Amhara civilians and fled to Sudan were named “Samre”. Their parents came from Samre town in Tigray settled there 30 years back. Nazi swallowing Austria because she speaks German does not stop Austria from being Austria. They took it by force, it was taken back by force.

    In 1991, everything that you operate on now as some legal basis, was imposed by TPLF/OLF, they wrote the fake constitution, they created the fake ethnic bantustan out of thin air. The people were never asked, no referendum held because they knew Ethiopians then will reject it. The idea was we will impose it, then preach our venom, create another generation that will follow them blindly. The committee that decided which wereda will be included into which ethnic bantustan was led by Abiyu Galataa, his deputy Lencho Lataa, both OLF veterans working with Meles and the main leaders of TPLF. Let me ask this, if they create Afar, Harari, Amara, Somali etc Region, can you show me where Oromo Region, or Tigre/Tegaru Region is? But TPLF worshipped the word Tigray and it stayed as such. And Lencho wanted Oromia, it was named so. Therefor, it was all a pack of lies, majority Ethiopians kicking and screaming it was imposed. Another question is….if that was a good solution for Ethiopia’s ills, did Ethiopians butcher, evict, and ethnically cleansed each other 30 years ago? Can you give me one example? Past couple decades it has become so normal people have become insensitive to it. Let alone the huge groups, even tiny once like Messenkka and Marekko killed hundreds. Its the ethnic bantustan stupid, wake up and smell the coffee.

    And I’m not even mentioning the silent majority of ethnically mixed people like myself, totally marginalized by the tribalist. I am a Shewan and noone will EVER take that away from me. OLF/TPLF viciously chopped up huge Shewa with 20 million folks most multiethnic that existed for a 1,000 years. Did the West or western experts shade tears at that? Now all this Tigray this Tigray that, Tigray that Tigray this, for a pile of rock that moves a vicious ethnic militia into our land tortured us for 27 years. But LOMI TERRA TERRA, now they ate weeping the blood we did for 30 years.

  • Analyst upon analyst keeps dissecting Ethiopia’s political arena but don’t go beyond the same old talking points of ethnicity, denial of self rule, historical injustice etc. Its critical that we focus on the fundamental truths that have, in other countries, broken the shackles of chain put on innocent citizens by revenge seeking, ideology and self interest driven myopic elites. What Ethiopia needs is democracy and acceptance that all citizens have equal rights under the law regardless of where they are born. For example there are Woredas in Oromia populated by majority non Oromos. Are the OLAs, OLF, OFCs willing to fight to give these people their right to self determination? Moreover, what the last twenty seven years of TPLF rule has made clear is that these unitary and ethnically parceled region we have now can’t be democratic by their very nature because they were created and given ownership to one group at the expense of the other. This is absolutely contrary to democratic ideals and it’s a total denial of Ethiopia’s diversity. They have to be unshackled from the boundaries set for them by radical narrow nationalists and made to cater to the diversity that’s exists within them and Ethiopia.

    Finally the problems that we see in Ethiopia today is due to Oromo civil war between separatists like OLA on one side and PP and OFC on the other. They are not fighting for self determination of their “people” but what role “Oromos” should be play in the bigger arena. OLA and their elk believe that the 500 year war waged by Borana tribes on Amharas, Gurages, Sidamas,Hadiyas should end by establishing a country on the land they have conquered. The other side believe they should work to redesign Ethiopia in an Oromo image and control all the levers of economic and political power and in the long term assimilate or squeeze out everyone else. Both these groups are ready to trample any democratic principles to achieve their objectives.

    The TPLF has squandered it privileged status by initiating a war when it knew that it was surrounded by enemies. Delusion of grandeur. Although it’s the seat of Aksum Tigray is going to be in shadows of Ethiopia politics for a long while. Continued war will just drive it deeper into abyss and make it more insignificant.

  • René has, once again attempted to make sense of the senseless in Ethiopia politics. His criticism of the “national dialogue” is on point. Prime Minister Abiy would agree with him on this point. The call for national dialogue is often advanced when political progress reaches an impasse. It is no “panacea,” nor is there a realistic way of brining this about outside the political structure. It is similar to the idea of a technocratic government. Looks good on paper, but with no realistic chance of implementation.
    Generally, René has an enormous admiration for TPLF, Tigri society, culture, etc. If he has similar faith in the Oromos and “Amharas,” it does not often show in his writing. His introductory paragraph describing TPLF miscalculation or overconfidence is clinical and stated without bias, but the response to TPLF, is referred to as inhuman, shameful, etc. TPLF’s hand in triggering this disaster, subjecting the people of Tigri and the rest of Ethiopia to an ugly war, deserves outright condemnation. For leaders who have fought war and seen its impact, going to war should have been the last resort. We can’t say this war was initiated because Tigri “self-rule” was threatened. No one who had observed the behavior of the TPLF leadership in the two years prior to this war, would say their aim was to maintain their self-rule.
    Similarly, OLA’s mayhem is not for Oromia self-rule. It wants to rule Oromia as an independent state. Its quarrel with Oromia PP is not that Oromia self-rule is threatened, but that OLF did not wrestle the power its “deserved” from TPLF. It sees itself as the legitimate heir to TPLF.
    Abiy, elements of Oromia and Amhara PP, despite their conflicting approaches and ideology want the Ethiopian state to survive first and foremost. They know their differences in ideology have to be resolved through intra-party dialogue. Amhara PP faces the distrust of Amhara elites and the political opportunism of NAMA. NAMA poses the same challenge to Amhara PP what OLF poses to Oromia PP. The difference is that OLF is engaged in violent struggle for power with clever deniability (it blames Shene and “condemns” all form of violence by the government and Shene), and NAMA wants to use the ballot box to increase its power vis-a-vis Amhara PP.
    To me what René forgets is the sustained fury against TPLF within pan-Ethiopian elements and the “Amhara” people who live in a s state superficially carved by TPL F’s military victory in 1991. The people also rightfully accuse TPLF of propagating a false historical narrative that have made Amharic Speaking people the enemy of other ethnic groups. I doubt the peasants of Wollow, Gojam, etc have received one iota of benefit from successive governments in Ethiopia, but they are lumped together and made scapegoats for the oppression of past governments.
    TPLF is responsible for reducing politics to its most elemental level: A fight for resources between communities organized as ethnic enclaves. A Hobbesian State-of-politics in Ethiopia. Now, TPLF finds itself fighting another war. This time, Ethiopia has changed by TPLF politics. We should have advised to be careful of its wishes, as it may actually get it. The “Amharas’ – its bogyman are better organized and determined to survive. It may or may not come back to power, but it would find that all the advances made in the state have been squandered, setting it back by a generation. For this, it has no one to blame, but its own arrogance.

    • “René has an enormous admiration for TPLF, Tigri society, culture, etc.”. This opinion (in fact an accusation) is repeated again and again. Let me present you – and to those who share this opinion – the facts. I have pointed during years the authoritarian nature of TPLF dominated regime (in fact dominated by Meles Zenawi). Above all, I have tried to explain again and again that the previous regime was not sustainable, and that it will collapse one day or another. To the opposite from now, I was categorized as an unfailing opponent to the TPLF. So the TPLF was not happy with that. I have be denied by this regime a journalist visa for years. Even, when I got a researcher visa in due form, I was expelled upon arrival at Bole airport. Yes, I am very interested in TPLF. I made a lot of historical research about it, which I still haven’t published. The fact that a group consisting of 6% of the population could contribute do defeat the strongest African army starting with a dozen of totally unexperiented students, the fact that the elite of this group could dominate Ethiopia are worthy of attention. But I never “admired” the TPLF.

  • Thanks Rene for the insight and analysis. The central question in envisioning a better future for Ethiopia and for the wider Horn of Africa region is how to end the long-running conflicts which have also some historical dimensions. The inability to resolve these conflicts can be attributed to many issues: tradition of bullets vs ballots; misguided ethnically driven agendas; missed or lost opportunities for reconciliation ; and foreign, and currently, Eritrean involvement. In general, a lack of farsightedness prevails when it comes to a genuine willingness to renounce force and search for solutions through dialogue. There is both stubbornness on the parts of all sides (all the major ethnic groups) to recognize that the gains made through peace are far more than those gained through violence. Sadly, all the ‘leaders’ of ethnically driven parties come to the table not with the intention of arriving at a mutually beneficial solution, but of achieving their particular unilateral ‘ethnic’ agendas or continuing the conflict until victory is won. In reality, however, it is impossible to engage in a constructive discussion if the parties think in terms of winning or losing. If Ethiopia wins, we all win!!!!!

    • Fikre, who is not ethnically driven in Ethiopia? Small minority at best. I am also not sure if ethnic organisations are problematic per se. In any case one needs to work with what Ethiorpian history has generated and not what ones wishes should have been. Also how do we know what the ethnically driven parties would say in an all inclusive dialogue forum? No such meeting has taken place so far. I think the closest such meeting where all participated was the Destiny Ethiopia forum. As reported in the media at the time the result of that meeting was encouraging. I am not sure what happened to that process. I understand your concern, but the country needs to try a different route than the usual war and war in the name of Ethiopia.

  • Tigray is the story of a people betrayed. The promise of peace in the north converted into a military conspiracy to wage war on Tigray. A war of animosity and vengeance, atrocities, destruction, ethnic cleansing, all of this now being described as crimes against humanity committed in Ethiopia. A country losing its soul, an image of dystopia in Ethiopia.

  • It is a riveting, informative, and remedial lecture that I find it helpful and interesting;but I wonder why you did not mention about the influence of the Ethiopian grand renaissance dam friction on our internal violence and killing spree.At the start of the Tigrai war,I predicted that the younger generations will replace the old ones, and eventually will realize their goals; it should be noted that Axum was the cradle and brain of the Ethiopian civilization. Both EPLF and the Ethiopian government made a tragic mistake in starting the devastating war;as the result, Ethiopia will never be the same.
    But then, why we are so backward, poor and one of the least developed countries in the world? because of our brain,our ignorance.our elites and intellectuals are not any better than us.Had they been intelligent and wise they would have taken us to a brighter world. Instead, they are pulling us into the darkest whirlpool of violence and genocide.All the violence, killing, anarchy and lawlessness that are occurring across the country are the brainchild of our intellectuals.It was Amara before, now it is the turn of Oromo to expropriate lands and resources of the minorities and the weaker ethnic groups.It should have been clear to the elites that hard work and education is the only basis for brighter life, and not killing, maiming,and expropriating of somebody’s land and rights.Of course, I know they don’t have ears for peace but only for war and violence. Sad for Ethiopia, sad for its people.

  • ” The most worrying aspect of the situation is that the cornerstone of Ethiopian politics remains unchanged: Any power center aims to become hegemonic, and then to increasingly assert its hegemony. In both cases, the use of raw force is still the highway to reach these goals. Armed conflict is therefore unavoidable.
    What is happening now could be the premise of the nth remake of a common Ethiopian historical episode: after the death of a ‘Big Man,’ different armed contenders fight until one clear winner emerges. Before, this confrontation was a raw power struggle. Today, the confrontation is also a path the contenders embark upon to ultimately decide between opposing political visions.”
    Exactly, it is race to bottom ad usual and the wnner-takes-all syndrome at all cost without reflecting future consequences. Things have been like that for generations without exception. It goes like why bother with pesky negotiations and compromise when you can have and eat the whole.pie momentarily by yourself. It’s tempting idea for the shortsighted and the greedy folks at their own risk and along with the nation as a whole.
    For those critics who complaining about the call for an urgent and intervention are debased or in state of dental. The state of Ethiopia has little or no chance now and then without foreign interventions. The French, English and Italians armed, manipulated and baby sitted Menilik and Yohanis in 18th century and at times in their own interests. Haile Selassie was
    directly parachuted into Addis after defeatt Italians in Second WW from Europe . Derg was baby-sitted and mentored by the Soviet Union and Woyane ,& co. came to the scene by same tactics. So why not now? Sorry to say it, but unless the society and its political culture matures a bit and evolved into higher status expect no miracle.

  • Thanks for your analysis Rene. This is how I understand your recommendation to the west though…. Wait until evolution take its course in Ethiopia and deal with those emerged powerful are the fittest and only after then talk about dialogue and democracy. Your recommendation continues …. it is the hunger game going on in Ethiopia and the west just has to make sure no additional weapons are thrown to the game from the spectators … provide bandages when people get hurt and bleeding..

    Ofcourse that was how it played in history when intervention is so remote and intervention tools were not devised… however recommending this today, at this time of age is so primitive.

    There are many actors waiting to jump in in Ethiopian conflict … especially after PM Abiy and his supporters crossed the line by inviting Eritrean solders to Tigray and allegedly deploying UAE weapons … the red line has been crossed. It is no longer taboo to seek help to survive by any group in Ethiopia to any international actor willing. This was actually the official rule of engagement of Ginbot 7 fighters during their rebel ages.

    So be proactive … seek innovative and humane solutions ….recommend something civilized for god sake before things deteriorate

    • Sorry, there is a misunderstanding. I don’t say that the Western powers should stand idly until – hopefully – a dialogue would start. I mean: 1. The Western powers should prepare for a worsening humanitarian crisis; 2. At the same time, they should tirelessly push for a dialogue and use the necessary pressure to try to obtain it; 3. This dialogue could be successful only by processing step by step and aiming at meaningful elections. The dialogue about the “structural problems” of Ethiopia could start only after the elections, because this is the only way the people can express what they want and because the importance of the different political currents would be known, even grosso modo.

      • Is there a single example in modern history where the involvement of the western world resolved? Look what they have done to 1) Iraq 2) Syria 3) Afghanistan 4) Libya 5) Serbia 6) Ukraine 7) Georgia etc. Is it not reasonable to think that whatever the west touches spoils?

        Given the above examples I understand your piece inviting the vultures to feast in Ethiopia. No! we do not need them here and please keep you recommendation to your France where there is a looming civil war between the French Muslims and the French pagans.

        • It is just tiering to see some Ethiopian urbanites insulting around westerns and playing the colonialism card . In Ethiopia, these people are full of prejudice against other ethnic groups while the other ethnic groups ask some basic rights such as administrating themselves and using their language.

          these urbanites (also most in the diaspora) like to listen songs about ‘Missing the smell of the dung from the cow in the countryside’. They will not do anything to change the lives of their families in the countryside…they rather prefer to leave them where they are and visit them once a year as vacation to enjoy the feeling of their relative financial superiority.

          Now fellow urbanite Ethiopians… lets get our shit together…lets use whatever help we get… as a matter of fact you are treated humane in the countries you insult than your own country.
          Here is a line of wisdom …only those with superiority complex at a place are prone to have inferiority complex at another place

        • You have a point about the countries you mentioned. But why would intervention in Ethiopia by Eritrea, UAE, and possibly Russia is good for Ethiopia. What has Eritrea done is still doing to the people Tigray? Clearly whatever Eritrea and its supremacist racist askari army touches turns dead.

        • What about Ruanda?. US refused to put their finger there, though they knew about the genocide…Almost 1 million people died there.

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