The Last Gasp to Impunity and Dominance: Defeating the TPLF clique

26 December 2020

Ethiopia’s history of modern political struggle largely revolves around democracy, economic gains and equality. In pursuit of these interests and principles, competing parties engaged in a struggle though none of them, so far, achieved a comprehensive and lasting solution that could bring Ethiopians together in their quest to a viable nation-state that is democratic and prosperous.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)—a coalition of four parties—Oromo Democratic Party, Amhara Democratic Party, Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement, and Tigray People’s Liberation Front—that ruled Ethiopia for 27 years (1991-2018) was not an exception. The popular protests against the EPRDF which started in 2015 had seen the end of the domination of the TPLF in the EPRDF in 2018.

Spurred by popular protests and internal dissent the party underwent major changes in multiple political, social and economic fronts. This however met overt and covert resistance and sabotage by TPLF.

This paper presents the reality on the ground beginning with reform process in Ethiopia, followed by the genesis of conflict between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF. It clarifies the clear objectives of the law enforcement operation in Tigray and the current status. With lots of fake news circulating on the matter, the paper aims at informing the general public to understand the facts on the ground to ensure peace and security prevails in Ethiopia in particular, and Horn of Africa in general.

TRANSFORMATION PROCESS

On April 2, 2018 an unprecedented game-changing power transition heralded in Ethiopia when Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed took over the premiership from the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Since Dr. Abiy took over, all exiled political opponents were called to return home, thousands of prisoners of conscious were released, the blocked media were unbanned. The successful rapprochement with Eritrea has ended up earning Dr. Abiy a Nobel Peace Prize.

As a process of ensuring inclusiveness, enhancing peace dividend, and creating social, political and economic synergies, the Premier endeavoured to unite the constituent parties and its allied partners. In one of the biggest political milestones in decades, the Prosperity Party was realized on December 1, 2019.

THE GENESIS OF CONFRONTATION

In a twisted miscalculation, the TPLF, which in the past had been championing the unity of the parties, refused to join the new Prosperity Party. Systematic and relentless efforts to reconsider its position had been vigorously pursued—by the Federal government, the Prime Minister, religious leaders, eminent elders and diplomats. TPLF however rejected the call and fully engaged in unlawful preparations. Its actions however moved from opposition to confrontation and then outright sabotage and destabilization of the country. The following major points illustrate its behaviour:
1. Served as a safe-haven to suspects of massive corruption and serious human rights violations;
2. Conducted illegal regional election without constitutional mandate that was unanimously rejected by the National Electoral Board, the Federal Government, the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of Federation;
3. Engaged in fuelling more than 113 violent and destructive conflicts across Ethiopia;
4. Committed a heinous and cowardly attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces ( ENDF), slaughtering the army and soldiers while asleep, triggering the armed conflict; and
5. Perpetrated the Maikadra massacre as established by Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

OBJECTIVES OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OPERATIONS

From the outset, the operation had limited but clear and achievable objectives: (1) disarm the TPLF Junta; (2) restore legitimate administration in Tigray, and (3) enforce law and order in the region primarily to bring the fugitives to justice.

1) Disarm the TPLF Junta
Under Article 52(2)(g) of the 1995 FDRE Constitution, states within the Ethiopian Federation are granted powers to, inter alia, “establish and administer a state police force, and to maintain public order and peace within the state.” However, since the TPLF lost dominance, and largely confined to Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, it had been openly and covertly plotting to grab power including building a full-fledged military force in the words of the leader of the TPLF Junta “comparable to or exceeding the firepower of the Federal Government”.
Although the Federal Government repeatedly and consistently declared its commitment to resolve all differences by peaceful means, the TPLF Junta pursued multiple acts to return to power through criminal and illegal means including: (1) recruiting, training, arming, financing, sponsoring and directly perpetrating violence against innocent Ethiopians across the country (2) building irregular forces; and (3) launching an all-out pre-emptive attack on the Ethiopian National Defence Forces stationed in Tigray while pursuing coordinated attacks in all parts of the country.

2) Restore a Legitimate Administration in Tigray
Since the TPLF Junta embarked on an illegitimate election in Tigray, the region have had no legitimate government. Following the crushing of the illegal rebellious forces there, the region is brought back within the Constitutional order with further operations in law enforcement as well as re-establishing a legitimate administration.
It is to be recalled that the TPLF Junta embarked on an illegitimate election that was however annulled by the House of Federation, which also suspended the Regional Council and the Executive organs.
From this perspective, the second key objective of the current law-enforcement operations is to root out the last vestiges of the rebellious force and create conducive conditions for the interim administration to operate until the general elections, anticipated by mid-2021, are conducted and legitimate bodies are restored.

3) Enforce Law and Order in Tigray and Bring Fugitives to Justice
Since the new leadership took over in April 2018, the TPLF has effectively turned Tigray into a safe haven for criminals charged with massive human atrocities, extra-Judicial executions, corruption, money laundering and embezzlement. Hence, the third key objective of the ongoing operations intends to bring the fugitives that camped in Tigray to justice, and end perpetual impunity.

CURRENT STATUS OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OPERATIONS

The law enforcement operations in Tigray has advanced as planned with the Federal forces in full control of Mekelle since November 28, 2020 which marks the conclusion of the ENDF operations. During the operation, the Federal forces a) secured the release of thousands of Northern command officers held hostage by the TPLF Junta; b) secured heavy artillery and armaments looted from the Army camps; c) took control of airports, public institutions, regional administration offices and other critical facilities; d) undertook precision-based operations with utmost care for civilian safety and security.

A chief Executive has been appointed and a provisional administration across the region is being set up in pursuant to the decision of the House of Federation on the account of the relevant articles of the Federal Constitution. Already, resettlements, rehabilitations and other humanitarian assistance to citizens are underway. Similarly, restoration of powerlines, communication, airfields, transport and other infrastructure and services, destroyed by fleeing criminal clique, is vigorously proceeding.

CONCLUDING REMARK

The Ethiopian Constitution guarantees a robust arrangement between the federal and regional governments. This arrangement has been however massively abused by the TPLF Junta, which happens to be one of the key architects of the very Constitution.

The remnants of the TPLF Junta, its loyal networks and operatives are currently invested in a sustained and coordinated campaign of misinformation and disinformation in all aspects of the conflict, humanitarian condition, ethnic profiling, mediation, constitutional order, and legitimacy of the government, to mention some.

However, the Ethiopian government, which has enjoyed unprecedented support primarily from its citizens and the larger global community, has effectively and successfully crushed the attacks on multiple fronts. The last gasp for impunity and dominance has been fatally defeated, law and order have returned to the region—and the Constitutional order has been fully restored.

The international community, which has expressed concern on the conflict, rightly so, may need to realize that major operations in the region is over; a provisional authority in the region has been established; peace and stability is returning; humanitarian activities are well underway; and normal life is returning.

Embassy of Ethiopia in Pretoria, South Africa