Eritrean Opposition and Ethiopia’s Fast-Changing Politics – by Mahmud Saleh

 Mahmud Saleh Ethiopia's political situation is deteriorating by the day. All indications reveal that EPRDF, the ruling party in Ethiopia is in crisis. Intra-party crisis (in fights) and external pressure (mass uprising) have shaken the grip

 Mahmud Saleh

Ethiopia’s political situation is deteriorating by the day. All indications reveal that EPRDF, the ruling party in Ethiopia is in crisis. Intra-party crisis (in fights) and external pressure (mass uprising) have shaken the grip of the EPRDF/TPLF, an organization that once seemed invincible. Grievances of marginalized communities have been seething for years, albeit disconnected and less organized. However, now, the resistance has coalesced into a national storm engulfing the nation. Local demands based on the mismanagement of their land resources, identity issues, and rights of proper political representation have now matured into a national political demand that TPLF must shrink to its actual size.

The current wave of popular resistance has indeed effected some changes. The PM was forced to announce his resignation, the government was pressured to release thousands of prisoners; government officials acted in uncoordinated manner, sometimes contradicting each other; a state of emergency was re-imposed, Ethiopian mass and their leaders/activists have been emboldened by the gains they registered; they are more coordinated and more unified;  and the events keep unraveling.

Instead of taking corrective measures at its earliest stages, the junta kept characterizing the mass uprising as activities instigated by “foreign forces,” implicating Eritrea and Egypt. It dismissed critics of its misguided policies and labeled peaceful activists as sellouts and terrorists. Ethiopian prison industry sprawled throughout the country housing civil right activists who wanted to use available constitutional tools. In a country where the TPLF is the author of the constitution, the implementer and interpreter, there was no chance for the peaceful activists to defend themselves. International condemnations have met deaf ears mainly because the USA views Ethiopia as an anchor country for its hegemony in the region.

Now that the mass uprising has reached a critical point, the factions making EPRDF are trading the blame.  EPRDF is made up of four partners of differing weights, and TPLF has always been the dominant partner. Many Ethiopians describe EPRDF as TPLF’s Trojan horse, because, as an ethnic group that represented only 6% of the Ethiopian population, it used EPRDF as a cover to subdue Ethiopia. TPLF’s most prominent mistake was its reluctance to Ethiopianize itself. It failed to transform itself from a regional player to a national government that welcomes inclusiveness based on fair representation.

To the eyes of most Ethiopians, EPRDF is just a synonym to TPLF. To them, the government is not Ethiopian but TPLF, commonly known as Wayane, an organization that still operates based on its old mindset, as its unchanged name suggests- Tigray people’s Liberation Front. The army, security apparatus, the legislative branch (which is controlled 100% by EPRDF/TPLF), and the court system are referenced to by Ethiopian commoners as Wayane instruments.  Greed blinded TPLF to morph into a national political organ that resembles Ethiopia’s diverse political and ethnic landscape.

Thanks to TPLF’s sinister motive, it introduced ethnic federalism to cut Ethiopia into parts of its size to rule it unchallenged. It has become clever in copying European style of divide and conquer. Despite its diverse ethnic composition (over 80 ethnic groups), Ethiopians have lived in harmony. All of the ethnic groups are proud of their Ethiopianness. The only entity that had an uneasiness with Ethiopianness is the current junta. Accordingly, TPLF and its supporters are positioning to manipulate the current upheaval to their benefit; they are characterizing the current democratic demands of Ethiopians as ethnic cleansing targeting Tigrians while at the same time keep inciting ethnic conflicts among non-Tigrian communities.

The victims of all these mayhem are poor Tigrians who have been targeted by some hooligans simply because of their ethnic affiliation. An Ethiopian friend explained that those hooligans don’t represent the theme of the uprising. He continued, “Tigrians’ identity and their future are inseparable from other Ethiopians, but they have to take the lead in condemning TPLF’s predatory policies because they are TPLF’s power-base.”

Indeed, Tigrians  owe it to their martyrs. Unfortunately, the government seems to have not learned from the past. It still blames the crisis on maladministration. Nonetheless, the voices from the streets are ahead of issues of capacity and corruption. They are calling for fundamental political and constitutional changes and the end to TPLF dominance. Unless the government takes genuine and fundamental measures, quickly and orderly, for its own sake (highly unlikely), the situation could spiral down to chaos. And that is going to be unchartered territory for Ethiopia for the current confrontations could easily be manipulated by warriors.

A longtime Ethiopian friend summarized what ought to be done. He says the appropriate response would be for the regime to sit down with the opposition for paving a peaceful transitioning to meaningful democratic governance. But the government resorted to using the military, declaring a state of emergency. This is not done haphazardly. The TPLF controls the military and security apparatus, and there are plenty of indicators that elements in the military and security forces were pushing for the effective takeover of the state under the guise of national security imperatives.

Also, it is evident that the state of emergency is re-introduced to consolidate the overtaking of state powers and resources by the TPLF and those few around it who amassed wealth and prestige through its predatory policies. Therefore, in its real sense, this is a phase where Wayane is naked down to its true colors, reasserting state power using the same legal instruments it had implanted: the constitution, weak coalition, and military and security agencies that have been controlled by its cadres. As to where the situation is heading is anyone’s guess.

But how does Eritrean opposition square in the current struggle in Ethiopia? Does it stick with the forces of status quo or shift to the forces of change? Does it readjust its positions in tune with those who fight for fundamental human rights, inclusive political process and fair representation in Ethiopia or continues standing with the regime that is fighting back people’s demands brutally? If they choose to stick to the TPLF that has become anti-change and anti-inclusive politics, how does that reconcile with their prescribed mission that they stand for democratic change? Would not it be natural for them to align with the forces that are fighting for democratic change in Ethiopia? Part two will discuss the above questions.

ሰላም ለኢትዮጵያ ህዝቦች



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  • meretse February 23, 2018

    ሓው ማሕሙድ
    ይቅረታ ዋና ጉዳይ ረሲዔ። ሪእቶ— ብዛዕባ እዞም ኣብ ኢትይጵያ ዘሎዉ ተቛወምቲ ውድባት ክትብል ንዘልዓልካዮ ሕቶ — እንተኮነ እዚ ሕቶ’ዚ ሕጂ ክለዓል እዋኑ ኣይነበረን ፤ ካብ ኣልዓልካዮ ግን ቅድሚ ሪእቶ ምሃበይ ነዛ ሓጻር ዛንታ ከዘንቱ –ሓደ ሰብኣይ ኣብ ሓደ ዓዲ ንዓናይ ውካርያ ኣቃትለና ምስ በልዎ ዝሃቦ መልሲ – “ኣነ ምስ በዓል ጠል ጠል የብለይ ፣ ምስ በዓል ማሕስእ ማሕስእ የብለይ፣ ምስ ውካርያ ጽልኢ የብለይ በለ” ይብሃል ። እዞም ተቛዎምቲ ውድባት ከኣ ናብ መንገጾም እንተ ደቀሱ ይሕሾም ክትብል ዘልዓልካዮ ሕቶ ፡ ኣነ ብሪእቶይ “ጥንቕልዒት” ይመርጸሎም

    • MS February 23, 2018

      ሓው መረጸ፥
      Ver funny; ናብ ዝማእመኦም ይገምበዉ[ ንሱ ኣይኮነን እቲ ጸገም። ሰባት ንኩርኳሕ ኣደቓቕሰኦም እንተዘይፈተዎ እሞ እንተዘይሰዓቦም፥ ስለምታይ ንበይንና “ንህርስ” ኢሎም ከዕዘምዝሙ የብሎምን። ግን እዚ ፍረ-ነገር ወይ ቴማ ( theme) ናይ ዝመጽእ ጽሑፍ ክኸውን እዩ። ጥንቅልዒት እንተዝድቅሱስ ድቃሶም ጸጊቦም ቀደም ምተበራበሩ ‘ሞ እቲ ጉዕዞ ጥቕልል-ጥቕልል ምኣበልዎ።

  • rezen February 23, 2018

    Ahhhh…….. wonderful “ኣነ ብሪእቶይ “ጥንቕልዒት” ይመርጸሎም” ha ha ha ha ……
    Dear Meretse,
    You have a unique way of expression — so humorous and with depth. Ahhhh…….. that is what WE .are left with:, crying for MERCY and HELP.. We have nothing else left >> we squandered it ALL, a long time ago. .
    That is my interpretation.and that is the beauty of your writings. Please turn it into a BOOK (in Tigrigna >>> of course).
    Have a pleasant week end, Meretse.

  • MS February 23, 2018

    ሰላም ስምኦን (Simo G)
    (Mighty…Mighty…Selam ):
    1. ሓንቲ ካብተን ተደጋጊመን ዝቐርባ መጎተ፥ “ዝኹሉ ጸገም ናትና ‘ኮሎስ ብዛዕባ ኢትዮጵያ እንታይ ኣእተወና?” ትብል አያ። ኢትዮጵያ ንውሽጣዊ ኹነታት ኤርትራ ይኹን ሓይልታት ተቓውሞ እትጸሉ ሃገር ኮይና ኣላ። ስለ’ዚ: and unfortunately, it will continue to be mentioned and factored in when areas binding both countries are discussed. ብጽቡቕን ሕማቕን ክትለዓል ግድን አዩ። እዛ ትስዕብ መልእኽቲ ንዓኻ ይኹን ነዝኾነ ኣብዛ ጽሕፍተይ ርኢቶ ዝሃበ ትምልከት ኣይኮነትን ግን መርገጸይ ከብርህ ትሕግዝ ስለዝኾነት ክብላ እየ።
    ኣነ ምስ ክልቲኦም ወገናት፡ ማለት ምስቶም ንኹሉ ገስረጦም ናብ ኢትዮጵያ ዝስልብጡ ህግድፋውያን ይኹኑ፥ እቶም ንግዕዙይ ስርዓት ህግድፍ ከም መከላኸሊ ናይ’ቲ ኢትዮጲያ ኣብ ልዕሊ ኤርትራ ዝተኸተሎ ጉጉይ ፖሊሲታት ፍጹም ከይንቀፍን ከይኹነንን ዝደልዩ ሰባት ኣይሰማማዕን።
    2. ብዛዕባ ሃይለ ወልደትንሳአ (ድሩዕ)፥ ኣይተኸታተልካዮ ትኸውን አምበር ኣብ ካልእ ቦታታት ሓዘነይ ገሊጸ እየ። እቲ ዝሕዝን ክሳብ ሕጂ፥ ድሩዕ ዝኣክል ሰብ ዓሪፉ ድዩ ኣይዓረፈን ብወግዒ ክንፈልጥ ኣይከኣልናን። You can check my entries under:
    b. []
    3.. Finally, dear Mighty, ብዛዕባ ጽልዋ ኢትዮጵያ ኣብ ልዕሊ ተቓውሞ ኤርትራን ኣዕናዊ ተርኡን፥ ሓንቲ መዓልቲ ‘ኳ ተጠራጢረ ኣይፈልጥን። ዝበዝሕ ሓሳባተይን መጎተይን ኣብቲ ኣብ Forum ዝግበር ክትዓት ኣሎ። እቶም ኣብኡ ዝከታተሉኒ ወላ ሓንቲ ከምዘይቀየርኩ ይፈልጡ አዮም። ስለ’ዚ፥ ልበይ ቦትኣ ኣይገደፈትን። ከምቲ ሓው መረጸ ዝበሎ ኣብ ቆፎኣ ጥንቅልዒት ደቂሳ ኣላ…haha…nice to see you again.

    • Simon G. February 24, 2018

      Selamat MS:

      Thanks for the response and also the link. I watched the basket ball game as well 🙂

      P.S. Just for the record, I follow you at UoAwatte.

  • amanuel February 24, 2018

    Eritrean opposition has been expired for almost 3 decades now. That is a little bit longer than the amount of period our “government” has been dead.

  • amanuel February 24, 2018

    Todays situation in ethiopia is tomorrows situation in eritrea. Marginalized people, deprived of their rights never stop from rising. The fate of shaebia/hgdf can not be d/t from that of tplf.

    • MS February 24, 2018

      I agree, Amanuel, any government that ignores the grievances of its people is a liability to the nation as a whole. The best way is for us Eritreans to reach out to each other and debate matters respectfully and with sincerity. That should not hold us back from commenting on what is going on in our neighbors, mainly, when their roles have a consequential impact on our political process.

  • Simon G. February 25, 2018

    Let me as blatant as possible:
    My wish is Ethiopia to disintegrate. Wait, wait don’t rush to judgement. Hear me out.
    I have never seen Ethiopia as developed as underf EPRDF. So, if Ethiopia doesn’t like it as a a developed country, I have another option for you:
    1. Oromia need to be independent, out of Ethiopia
    2. Tigray also nee to be independet
    3. Ethiopian Somali will also need to be independent

    What’s left is those useless TimHktenNa AmHara…with no resources.
    Eritrea will be a sunshine!
    Ethiopians who hate the current leaders…what can I say…good luck to you…….

  • Duri Mohammed February 25, 2018

    Practically speaking , there are NO Eritrean opposition groups in Ethiopia let alone in other countries. They are expired long time ago. Their existence is no more better than the current regime. The so called opposition groups showed us our differences,which shouldn’t be . They lead us to disunity rather than unity. Currently they are engaged in power struggle among themselves. In Ethiopia alone there are about 16 groups, I am saying opposition groups not aid agencies! They don’t talk to each other to solve common problems. These so called opposition groups can’t bring change to the Eritrean people? I don’t believe so.

  • Gebretensae February 26, 2018

    መንግስቲ የኢትዮጵያ ሂወት ስለዘለዎ ብዙህ ምንቅስቓስ ይረአ መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ግን ምውት ስለዝኾነ ሰልፊ የለ ረብሻ የለ ምኽንያቱ ሂወት ስለዘይብሉ። ብዛዕባ መንግስትኹም ዘሎ ዕላል ፈለማ ወድኡ ናብ ጎራብቲ ቅድሚ ምኻድኩም

    • amanuel February 26, 2018

      100% right. Ethiopian issue belongs to ethiopians only, but u see….you are trying to steal badme from us. Although iseyas/hgdf is our enemy number one weyane/ tigray is enemy #2.

  • rezen February 26, 2018

    Quote: “Practically speaking , there are NO Eritrean opposition groups in Ethiopia let alone in other countries.” Unquote. Duri Mohammed, February 25, 2018

    I was thinking of writing an article surrounding that very topic. I contemplated using a Tigrigna word as a title: መርገም [curse] to explore the bizarre attitude of the Eritrean opposition groups around the Globe to the existing dictatorial leadership of the State of Eritrea. Duri Mohammed beat me to it elegantly with the simplest and effective words >>> “Practically speaking there are No Eritrean opposition groups”
    What remains to ask is: “WHY”? In the process of answering the question, one would be tempted to conclude that Eritreans do not have the guts to face the unchallengeable. THAT WOULD BE THE MOST GROSS EXPLNATION ON EARTH. The gallantry of Eritreans has been proven in many fields and on various occasions, for various causes. Hence, the answer to the “WHY” must be searched somewhere else.
    Perhaps Eritreans are internally divided sociologically, anthropologically etc . In this atmosphere, the problem of INDEPENDENT Eritrea is being looked at with a different prism. First and foremost, Eritrea is no longer fighting a ‘colonial’ force. Eritrea is now faced with internal prisms, too complex and difficult to handle. If the question is not handle delicately it would literally mean the disintegration of Eritrea by itself. So, here we go!!!
    Eritrea is in a dilemma: Would Eritrea be better off with a known devil rather than to face internal war of eliminating each other because of a number of sociological causes? For example: Christians vs Moslems for their respective prisms, crafted for so many years. We can deny the existence of such animosity with Hollywood-type of acting and keep on going the way we are at the present time. And that is why the written prophecy of Issayas Afeweki Abraha on a document , and consequential disastrous outcome, to some eleven of his top closest comrades comes to haunt us: “ትጋገዩ ኣለኹም።“ >>> You are making a mistake. And so, WE Eritreans must STOP deceiving ourselves and call ‘the spade a spade’’. We had/we have/we will have RELIGION problem to its disastrous effect unless miraculously the Eritrean people come to a quazi-sane wavelength and save independent ERITREA. By the way, the well known Eritrean Force for the Liberation of Eritrea didn’t blip a word of resistance to the Issyas Afewerki’s singular decision to destroy high officials of the country without justice. That says a lot!!!
    Let us go to another inherent problem, which is NOT unique to Eritrea [if it gives us any consolation] but, in fact, ‘popular’ in the entire “Dark” Continent of Africa — for that matter, in the entire Globe. In any case, concentrating on Eritrea, regionalism, tribalism, racism, are the cancerous sociological diseases that affect us all, though stoically we deny their existence in Eritrea. Hence, denial is directly proportional to increased insanity.
    Again, let us cry over another problem: The Highly Educated Eritrean Intellectuals. No matter how much and how long we cry over their shoulders, the Eritrean Intellectuals of the highest educational level with Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degrees form Ivy League Western Universities simply refuse to come to the rescue of their BELOVED ERITREA. Unbelievable as it may be, even these refined Intellectuals are not immune from the sociological problems of the common people discussed above. If it is a consolation, the phenomenon also applies in the rest of our beloved “Dark” Continent of Africa.
    Where do we go from here? May the Good Lord, up in Heaven, rest His Mercy upon our weakling souls and help us to see a flickering light towards our salvation. Amen, Inshalah (in alphabetical order)