37 years of the TPLF and the footprints of Meles Zenawi


By Kahsay Berhe and Tesfay Atsbeha


Part two – March 2012


Why are we writing about Meles? Meles has absolute power as all his predecessors. He can decide the fate of more than 80 Million Ethiopians and probably the coming generations. As every major aspect of life of all Ethiopians is controlled by Meles, there is no possibility for Ethiopians to take their own destiny into their own hands without removing Meles. Since Meles, more than anybody else, has been committing so many crimes with impunity, it is Imperative to deal with the worst enemy of the people before everything else and hence expose his crimes.


When absolute rulers go down, they go down absolutely along with their followers as we saw these in the case of colonel Mengistu as well as Hitler, Mussolini and Pol Pot. Therefore the EPRDF will vanish as a political entity with the overthrow of Meles, while EPRDF members who have not committed crimes can be part of the solution by siding with their people.


It is of course a shame for millions of Ethiopians and a manifestation of the worst form of backwardness to be controlled by a single person and almost a miracle for a nation to be controlled and devastated by an anti-Ethiopian Person. Ignorance, the lack of an institutionalized democratic culture, the absence of economic independence due to poverty aggravated by the fact the citizens are deprived of the security of private ownership with the State having a monopoly on almost everything including land; and the fact that the state has become the biggest employer are the favourable conditions which are helping Meles to stay in power. Meles will maintain these favourable conditions for his tyranny as long as he is in power. Therefore there is no means of changing the status quo and ensuring the dignity of Ethiopians without getting rid of the tyrant.


Coming back to the birth day of the TPLF, let us see the things which are propagated and mystified continuously. It has become almost a legend that the TPLF started the armed struggle with 11 fighters on 18 February 1975 (11 Yekatit 1967 E.C.). Yes, there was also an Amhara fighter called Mikael (Abtew) Takele in the group, as mentioned in Fetehe[i]. Mikael (Abtew) did not join the TPLF in order to struggle for the secession of Tigray from Ethiopia and he, as many other members of the TPLF did not know that some elements were abusing the revolutionary fervour of the young people for their hidden agenda.


Mikael was a good hunter and friendly. He used to hunt and gather wild honey for the group. His Amhara origin caused no problem. Most members did not see secession as a solution to the Tigrayan question. Kahsay remembers how Mikael provoked by someone was angrily asking: “are you going to cut off the country – ageritwan litqortu new?” It is true that TPLF leaders and their cadres exclude those who reject separatism and stand for justice in Ethiopia from the list of the founders. Mikael is often excluded by some individuals from the list, but Kahsay is also excluded particularly by Seyoum.


Apart from the 11[ii], another group of about nine (9)[iii] men including Meles[iv]) also went to Eritrea for training by the EPLF (shaebia) in January of the same year. A third group of ten (10) [v]young peasants from the Shire region, mainly relatives and acquaintances of Sehul Ayele who were gathered and recruited at a short notice by Fitewi (Berhane) Ayele, a younger brother of Sehul Ayele were dispatched to the EPLF training centres. The young peasants were sent to Eritrea because the EPLF insisted on the inclusion of as many illiterate farmers as possible as a precautionary measure to avoid the dominance of educated critical elements. Therefore the 2nd and the 3rd groups completed their training at the same time and returned together to Tigray. If all groups are added up together, the number climbs up to around 30 individuals. Those who remained in the towns to accomplish organizational tasks and risked their lives more than those who went to the field should also be recognized as founders. If those who worked in the towns are added up, the number must have been more than 30. Taking the groups mentioned above into consideration, those people, who agreed to start the struggle should be considered as founders of the organisation. Mentioning the founders is for us simply stating the facts as they were, without attaching any special importance.


The annihilation of the TLF


In November 1975, while a few Central committee (CC) members of the TPLF were talking with members of the Tigrayan Liberation Front (TLF) to unite the TPLF and TLF, Meles was passionately agitating and warning other TPLF members of the danger of unity, that the TLF would be dangerous for the lives of the TPLF members. Meles was only a few months away from being appointed to be a deputy member of the CC. Both Fronts “agreed” to unite; they redistributed their weapons after mixing them up and the leadership was to be shared.


The inclusion of the TLF in the leadership meant the postponement of the promotion of Meles to the leadership. However, the whole theatre of unity talks was a deception by the CC of the TPLF to bring the TLF members under control when they fall asleep. Gebru Asrat mentioned in Fetehe No. 175 that some of the remaining TLF members continued their struggle with the TPLF; and we would add that they had no other realistic choices after their leadership was decimated. In a manual for political education to its members, the CC of the TPLF portrays the leadership of the TLF as a narrow nationalist, undemocratic and murderous group, but these descriptions also apply to the leadership of the TPLF as well. Meles and his group wrote the manifesto for the secession of Tigray three months after they destroyed the TLF. It is by taking his partially influential role in 1975, before he became a deputy member of the CC that we consider Meles to have been in power for more than 36 years. He formally became a deputy member of the CC of the TPLF in 1976, but he has been committing crimes since the autumn of 1975.


From secession to manipulation


According to Gebru (ibid.) the aim of the struggle for the independence of Tigray as declared in the manifesto was replaced by the concept of self-determination six months later, after the fighters discussed about it .Ghidey Zeratsion said (on 7 August 2011, in Ras Alula Pal talk Room) that the change of the manifesto took place after ten months and added that there was previously a consensus on the manifesto of secession within those who knew about it. The manifesto was written in February 1976 and changed in November of the same year only within the CC of the TPLF. We don’t know, whether Gebru who was not in the CC at that time participated in the internal discussion. The authors of the manifesto did not have absolute control on the rank-and-file-members of the TPLF and therefore no confidence to tell the latter (including some from the eleven like Asfaha, Kahsay and even Aregawi who was in the leadership etc..) about the aim of secession. As the authors of the manifesto did not want to tell other members of the organisation about their aim of secession, they did not speak about any change of the aim.


This change was probably sent to the EPLF, but we know it was not distributed amongst the members of the TPLF. On the one side, the change in the manifesto was a reaction to the criticism of the EPLF and EPRP. Aregawi Berhe has also written that he opposed secession. On the other side, the CC of the TPLF could have without mentioning the manifesto, indirectly come to the conclusion that there was no support for secession amongst the rank-and-file-members and the people. The aim of the TPLF was declared to be the self-determination of the people of Tigray in the first congress of the TPLF in 1979 without any mention that it was secession before. It was only in the beginning of 1985, at a time when the CC of the TPLF felt strong enough to take over power in the whole of Ethiopia that the existence of the manifesto of secession was disclosed openly. The disclosure was made in the first issue of the TPLF magazine “Yetigil Tiri (a call for struggle) as a half-hearted self-criticism of, as the CC put it: “the narrow nationalist tendency” of the TPLF in the beginning.


The formulation: “the right to self-determination, including and up to secession” is generally, and as we know it particularly in the TPLF ambivalent and very dangerous. This has been the worst phrase in Ethiopia since the mid 70s up to now. Such an aim shows the insincerity of its Authors on two counts. In the first place, the authors insincerely try to look like a neutral body which would see to it that the right of the people to reach a decision is respected. Theoretically, the self-determination of the people in a referendum is a compromise solution when one force struggles for secession while another tries to maintain unity. It is historically a phrase for independence from colonialism and secession is inherent in self-determination. The dominant elements of the CC of the TPLF did not want to take a clear position. This position as we see it practically means that they wanted unity if they get power all over Ethiopia and the secession of Tigray if they don’t monopolize power in Ethiopia. Secondly, the CC of the TPLF has never been democratic when it comes to elections as well as democratic and human rights. The assertion that they would accept the decision of the people while they are oppressing and terrorizing the people is simply a white lie. The right to self-determination including and up to secession as used by the TPLF is a system of manipulation and nothing else, because the aim is intentionally unclear so that it can be interpreted one way or the other depending on the wishes of Meles. Any decision can be imposed on the people with the help of repression and declared to have the support of 99.6% of people by the dishonest tyrant.


Irrespective of whatever the nature of the TLF was, there is pattern of behaviour of the leadership of the TPLF and particularly that of Meles which we find in connection with the annihilation of the TLF 37 years ago. According to this pattern of behaviour the perpetrator deceives, takes cruel measures and accuses the victim of crimes which the perpetrator himself commits. This history has similarities with measures taken by Meles against the CUD in 2005. The manipulation in connection with self-determination is also part of the culture of deceit which is being used to erode unity as well as maintain the repressive regime with the help of the system of divide and rule.


[i] : The issue was raised under the title of “Amara Che Guevara..”  by Temesgen Desalegn in Fetehe number 175


[ii]: Sehul (Gessesse) Ayele (fallen in combat), Agazi (Zeru) Gessesse (fallen in combat), Seyoum (Ambaye) Mesfin (in power), Asfaha (Mulugeta) Hagos (exiled and dead), Ghidey (Fantahun) Zeratsion (expelled and in exile), Berihu (Aregawi) Berhe (expelled and in exile), Qelebet (Neguse) Taye (fallen in combat), Tsehaye (Arafayne) Kahsay (fallen in combat), Abitew (Michael) Takele (left the Front and dead), Misgina (Kahsay) Berhe (expelled and in exile) and Meley (no info available);Asgede Gebreselassie who had already contact with Sehul Ayele joined the group (expelled).


[iii]: Seye (Sahle) Abraha (expelled), Shewit (Atsbeha) Dagnew (murdered by those in power), Meles (Legesse) Zenawi (exercising absolute power), Awlaalom (Tikue) Woldu (expelled), Walta (Yohannes) Gebre Medhin (fallen in combat), Hailu (Alemseged) Mengesha (expelled), Oqubazghi (Rezene), Beyene (murdered by those in power), Teklemariam (Awote) Tesfay (murdered by those in power) and Abay (Amha) Tsehaye (in power)


[iv] : Meles fled from Asmera, but his flight was kept secret by his friends who held power simply because they are amongst the first to start the struggle.


[v] Fitewi (Berhane) Ayele (fallen in combat), Alemayoh (Dirar) Ayele, Mekete (Ayele), Yoseph (Huluf), Tadele, Bahre, Yibrah, Aregay, Tewolde (Meftuh), Gebre Hiwot (Dunkul) and Aradom.

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