TPLF/ EPRDF the past and the future in Ethiopia
By Ermias Hailu
Tigrai Online, June 8, 2018
Recent visible rifts within EPRDF could create instability and breakup the coalition with huge risks consequences to peace stability of Ethiopia.
From its humble beginning on “የካቲት 11, 1967”, the Tigrayan People Liberation Front (TPLF) has evolved as the undisputed and formidable driving force behind the renaissance of Ethiopia. The TPLF won many bloody wars against its various rivals and came to power in 1991 as hard core of EPRDF coalition. Though, all of the three EPRDF coalition strategic partners (ANDM (from Amhara), OPDO (from Oromia) & SEPDM (from South)) were born, nurtured and grown out of the womb of TPLF, recent visible rifts within EPRDF could create instability and breakup of the coalition with huge risks and consequences to the peace and stability of Ethiopia. It looks ANDOM and OPDO are pushing for radical changes and liberalization of the Ethiopian political system, as they have been under pressure by the riots that have been going on at their respective regions, whereas the TPLF is resisting radical change. SEPDM looks sandwiched in between and is trying to narrow down and contain the rift.
In the meantime, Egypt and neo-colonialists funded rivals of EPRDF from diaspora have been launching intensive attack on the EPRDF for the last seven years (mainly starting from the start of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam(GERD)) and are currently rewriting their tactical move toward complete annihilation or submission of the TPLF/EPRDF.
The purpose of this article is to forward some ideas that I believe will help the EPRDF member parties to resolve their differences in peaceful and timely manner. One important fact is that all EPRDF party members should understand that disagreement and rift among themselves will destroy all of them. None of them will be immune from the consequences of their failure to address their differences and shall be accountable for any subsequent instability in Ethiopia and Horn of Africa caused as a result. Hence, four of them should equally and responsibly play their respective part to avoid fall out and in transforming Ethiopia to a vibrant democracy and through that assure its sustainable peace and stability, and its fast-economic growth to lead the renaissance of Africa.
I was recently in Ethiopia and witnessed live the revolt in the streets of Oromia in person as well as the tension and nervousness among peace loving Ethiopians and the devastating and ugly face of the riots. I went to various regions of the country (Gondar, Tigray, Oromia, Addis Ababa, Awassa, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, etc.). I hid my Tigrayan identity while visiting Oromia and Amhara, as innocent Tigrayans were hunted (never happened in the history of Ethiopia) for their life thanks to the genocidal hate and poisonous propaganda sown by the various media outlets in diaspora who are funded by the enemies of Ethiopia.
I have strong conviction that EPRDF has to and will stay in power for years to come if it successfully develops and implements a “radical transformation strategy” on itself as soon as possible. I have branded the radical transformation strategy as “Rebirth Strategy”! The Rebirth Strategy is completely different to the “renewal and deep renewal” strategies that EPRDF have been trying to implement for some time without any visible result except the further deterioration of government services to the public, increasing greed and hyper corruption, and worsening instability of the country. Rebirth Strategy is about to be born again with regenerated and brand-new organs that will give the nation brand new values, culture, attitude, and spirit. It is about uprooting the growing greed, envy, deceit, and immoral tendencies of each Ethiopian and planting and nurturing selflessness, love, forgiveness, hope, resourcefulness, self-awareness, innovation, morality, purposefulness, hard work etc. on each citizen.
One may ask how can rebirth be achieved in EPRDF? The starting point is that the aging EPRDF has to delete all its old mindsets (not easy but possible through effective and participative change management process) and has to come up with zero draft brand-new strategy that is acceptable to Ethiopians. EPRDF has to stop pushing its irrelevant ideologies, policies and values on the throat of Ethiopians. Rather, it has to start with the dynamically changing needs, aspirations, and demands of Ethiopians and work backwards to develop relevant ideologies, policies and strategies. Today most of EPRDF members are obsessed with wealth creation through corruption, whereas, the born again EPRDF must have zero tolerance to corruption and be obsessed in meeting the dynamic needs of each Ethiopian citizen.
At the center of the new strategy should be establishing a true and equitable democratic Ethiopia that no longer kills, persecutes or arrests Ethiopians due to their political, religious views or other differences while assuring fast and sustainable renaissance of Ethiopia and playing a facilitating role in the renaissance of Africa. Rebirth Strategy requires unbiased strategic analysis of the current internal and external environment by challenging the status quo, identifying strategic issues and establishing brand new vision for the future, development of radical oriented strategy that uproots the old mindset and culture and replaces them with new ones. If we consider the new “Rebirth Strategy” as a new wine it would require a new wine skin (new blood/ reborn/transformed/regenerated mind set).
I would like to illustrate further the practical aspect of Rebirth Strategy using what happened in Ethiopian Airlines from the year 2000 to 2010 as a case study.
From 1991 to 2000, Ethiopian Airlines did not have a relevant, clearly communicated strategic direction and strategy, whereas its competitors from Africa, Middle East and Europe were getting stronger and stronger. As the result, the airline lost its competitiveness and was operationally loss making for two consecutive years (during 1999 and 2000). During the years from 1996 to 2000, Ethiopian Airlines was paralyzed, and was in an intensive care facing a life and death condition. In fact, experts in the aviation industry at the time included it among those airlines that will not make it to the 21st century.
In the Year 1999/2000, one of the young executives branded as “naive and arrogant” and his team conducted a detailed 30 years historical analysis and current and futuristic strategic analysis of the airline and developed various scenarios that could happen in the airline industry over the coming 20 years. They also coined the following three core strategic directions for survival and sustainable growth of the Airline.
- It is recommended that Ethiopian Airlines follow the path of very fast (profitable) growth by feeding on the growing and liberalized African market while strengthening its competitive position through joint venture /alliance with a reputable global airline or global airline groups, with the objective of becoming the biggest airline in Africa & one of the top 25 to 50 airlines in the world over, the next 15 to 20 years. However, fast & profitable growth requires that the airline to radically transform itself (to be born again) to offer a competitive service with cost leadership of at least 15% to 20% against its existing & upcoming competitors. (at that time Ethiopian Airlines was the 116th airline from top world 200 airlines by revenue and the 6th airline from less than 10 top African Airlines)
- The Airline has to transform itself from an Airline Service provider, which was focused at that time on providing passenger and limited freight transportation service, to Aviation Business Group that provides various aviation related services (this was a diversification strategy to deepen the foundation of the airline).
- The Airline has to also address employees’ compensation & motivation issues timely & progressively. Otherwise, it will continue to lose skilled workforce & eventually this will result in its demise
In the year 2000, Ethiopian Airlines was aged being more than 50 years old, with demoralized employees, bitter conflict between management and labor union, shortage of cash, no clear strategic direction, aged aircraft, old culture and mindset, and aged internal processes and systems. Most of its top executive management were living in the past (Ethiopian Airlines pre-1991 glories) and fiercely resisted proposed change making it too difficult to boldly champion the adoption of the above futuristic rebirth strategy (the then CEO ultimately resigned). However, the Board of Management at the time accepted the new vision and the following three radical change and fast profitable oriented coherent strategies were developed and implemented one after the other and have brought the Airline to where it is today.
(i) Strategy for Year 2001 to 2005(doubled revenue from USD 250M to USD 500M)
(ii) Strategy for Year 2005 to 2010(doubled revenue from USD 500m to USD 1 billion)
(iii) Strategy for 2010 to 2025(brought the airline to #1 position in Africa)
Ethiopian Airlines has successfully transformed itself and regained and sustained its competitive advantage and has grown very fast( profitability), transformed to aviation business group( built the largest Aviation Academy, Catering, Maintenance, and Cargo Business units in Africa in addition to its passenger transportation business), has become a member of the global Star Alliance and established multiple joint ventures in Africa( currently the airline looks taking unnecessary risks by investing on multiple small airlines in Africa instead of focusing on few regional anchor points). The ultimate result is, Ethiopian Airlines is currently the biggest and best airline in Africa and among the top 50 airlines in the world.
The most important lesson from the Ethiopian Airlines case study is that if the Ethiopian government followed the advice of the then experienced top management of the Airline and did not support the new vision that was initiated by one of its inexperienced young executives, Ethiopian Airlines could have been history by now or it could have been a very small vulnerable and niche airline.
The recent decision of EPRDF to open Ethiopian Airlines for up to 49% private shareholding is the right move as it reduces the ownership risk of the government and raises fresh capital that could further fuel the fast growth of the airline. Mega global airlines could be attracted to invest and bring fresh technology and skill that will further sharpen and sustain Ethiopian Airlines competitive edge. Handle privatization project (starts from selecting the right consultant) with care to protect it from neocolonialists, that have been always unhappy on the success of the Airline. Ethiopian Airlines is the pioneer and model of renaissance for Ethiopia and Africa.
Let us come back to TPLF/EPRDF!
TPLF and EPRDF are currently living in their past glories and do not have a clear and relevant strategic direction and strategy to address the prevailing challenges and opportunities and to continue leading the renaissance of Ethiopia. That is why all the rhetoric of renewal, deep renewal, transformation, anti-corruption campaign etc. could not address what the people of Ethiopia have been demanding over the years.
After the split of its leadership in 2000, the TPLF became undemocratic and a collection of opportunist “yes men” around the late PM Meles and Tigrayans who had different views and independent thinking were rejected and persecuted (I am one of the victims). After the sudden death of PM Meles, both TPLF and EPRDF became brainless but TPLF has survived so far without its brain thanks to the unifying leaders such as Aboy Sibhat (I call him the soul of TPLF).
However, the blame goes to all aging leaders of TPLF for intimidating, demoralizing and persecuting those young Tigrayans that could have replaced them timely. In that aspect, they have discredited the innocent blood of our martyrs, and all the sacrifice the Tigrayan people (including themselves) have made over the last 44 years.
Fortunately, the God of Ethiopia has given us the right man at the right time: Dr. Abiy Ahmed! It is simply a miracle what he was able to achieve over the last two months for the people of Ethiopia! He is giving the country a new direction, has deflated the tension and hate, brought calm, stability, forgiveness, love, peace, unification among Ethiopians both from within and to diasporas. He released a number of high profile prisoners and effectively negotiated for the release of thousands of prisoners from neighboring countries. I hope our ambassadors will follow his steps!
As a conclusion, I would like to advise and warn the TPLF the following:
- For the sake of the innocent blood of your comrades who shed their blood during the struggle (I personally lost three of my brothers), stop living in past glories and be ready for the rebirth and regeneration of TPLF/EPRDF under the leadership of Dr. Abbey Ahmed.
- Considering the growing impatience of the Ethiopian people towards TPLF/EPRDF for failing to deliver promised changes, the TPLF and EPRDF will be thrown to the trash can of history if they fail to reinvent themselves.
My advices to Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his comrades who are ready for radical change and making history are also as follows:
- EPRDF will not survive without re-birth and regeneration - Please continue to boldly champion the change by progressively putting the new wine into a new skin. You may be called inexperienced, naive, arrogant by the EPRDF aging generation but you should win your comrades through dialogue, transparency, understanding, love, patience and persistence. They are the most important stakeholders for your success not the Egypt funded various political groups and/or so-called activists from the diaspora.
- Widen the scope of EPRDF by integrating Somalia, Afar, Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz representative parties.
- Develop and implement three to five years radical transformation (rebirth) strategy for EPRDF and its member parties with a new vision, mission, values and goals and programs. Identify the need of Ethiopians and work backward.
- Give top priority to unify and rally all EPRDF members behind you. Your political legitimacy, weight and strength and effectiveness emanates from united and strong EPRDF not from the diaspora or from the popularity you have among Ethiopians. Take note that: The crowds that laid their clothes on the ground to welcome Jesus Christ as he triumphantly enters Jerusalem were easily misguided/manipulated within few days by their leaders and shouted for his crucification, while demanding for the release of the notorious prisoner Barabbas.
- articipate! Participate……. Participate………. Participate all key stakeholders- a critical success factor for effective change management.
- Widen the political space for the competition but be innocent as a dove and wise and discerning as a serpent. We have so called politicians /activists from the diaspora who are agents of strategic enemies of Ethiopia including Egypt who plan to destabilize and/or enslave Ethiopia at any cost.
- On the shortage of hard currency look for quick wins such as mobilizing the diaspora and creating innovative incentives that compensate the difference in exchange rate between the official and parallel market ( reduced price condominiums, lands and duty free or reduced import tax privileges could be offered as a reward to the Ethiopians in the diaspora once their remittance reward points reaches to a certain threshold similar to the airline loyalty reward program).There should be also focus on tourism, minerals, precious stones, oil & gas exploration etc., to boost export revenue that will be used to fund strategic capital projects for sustainable development of the country. Inhouse production of fertilizer, increasing the production of wheat (by changing the land policy and progressively avoiding subsides on imported wheat) and increased awareness on the use of inhouse manufactured goods also could reduce foreign currency requirement. Over the last 27 years, EPRDF was blinded not to exploit the wealth underneath (to generate easier capital) because its agriculture led development strategy started with the assumption that the main resources the country have are only “land and cheap abundant labor”, which is completely not true. What about the uncolonized mindset that could transform Ethiopia and Africa? What about the unexplored wealth underground? What about the religious, historical, cultural and natural tourist attractions? What about the strategic location of Ethiopia?
- Continue with the fast growth strategy to position Ethiopia to lead the renaissance of Africa. Ultimately, Ethiopia’s renaissance will give birth to Africa’s renaissance which will also be the guarantee for sustenance of Ethiopian renaissance.
- Continue to build an effective and efficient lean military machine as deterrence to Egypt and its proxies that win war easily & quickly (if we are forced to defend ourselves/Please note that Ethiopia’s history is a history of defensive war and it shall continue to be so). Whether we like it or not Ethiopia sits on one of the most volatile, conflict and war prone strategic regions of the world. Egypt is the strategic enemy and rival of Ethiopia. When Egypt invaded Ethiopia in 1875, Egypt demanded to be given the exact region what the Italians later called Eritrea or continue with their invasion of Ethiopia. Emperor Yohannes rejected their demand and fought and defeated them until their government in Egypt was collapsed. Unfortunately, the Italians replaced the Egyptians and succeeded to curve out Eritrea. After the 2nd world war the UN decided to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia, though Egypt claimed Eritrea and strongly opposed the federation with Ethiopia. Thereafter, Egypt created the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) and funded the 30 years bitter war that caused untold death, destruction and suffering to the people of Ethiopia and succeeded to snatch Eritrea from Ethiopia to make it its de facto colony. Let me repeat it clear and loud again- Eritrea is the de facto colony of Egypt and a thorn in the flesh for Ethiopia. Do not expect lasting true peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea until the insecure President Isaias, who is the agent of Egypt, that transformed Eritrea to open air prison is judged by God. Allocate more budget to the military. Leverage on the geopolitical position and strategic location of Ethiopia and establish strategic cooperation with the superpowers that enables Ethiopia to build a military power that rivals Egypt. While most of the superpowers and the Middle East economic powers have established their military base at the door steps of Ethiopia can Ethiopia survive without strong army? The answer is a big no! When the late PM Meles came to power in 1991 on his first interview for the Ethiopian Television said “we Ethiopians do not need a big army, it is better we are recognized having big industry rather than a big army”. This was an innocent wish from a naive prime minister that was to be proven disastrously wrong after 8 years when Egypt backed Eritrea stabbed him from back and invaded Ethiopia. Contrary to what the Egyptians want us to believe that they do not need the GRED, the truth is that they badly need it as “free of charge reservoir” as far as their so called historic right is protected. All the money they have invested to create instability on Ethiopia is to enable them to arm twist the Ethiopian government to sign a water sharing agreement that legitimizes their “historic claim”. That is exactly what they did to Sudan decades ago and they want to repeat it with Ethiopia. PM Dr. Abiy beware of the Egyptians! They will try to deceive you directly or indirectly (through African Union, UN, superpowers, leaders of Middle East rich countries, etc. they know you have shortage of hard currency and they will offer you with strings attached) say no to their zero sum demands, like the late PM Meles who gave his precious life for his country.
- Build strategic security alliance with USA and Israel, while maintaining strategic economic alliance with China and maintaining good relationship with India, Middle East, Europe, Russia etc.
- Deepen the security alliance and economic integration with Sudan.
- The Algiers agreement with Eritrea was misguided and was a mistake (may be Ethiopia was cheated through the hidden hand of Egypt working through Algeria's’ President who brokered the deal. I was surprised when I recently knew that Egypt and Algerians worked together to create the Eritrean People Liberation Front).
It should be the 1st stupid post war peace agreement in the world because “a defeated aggressor was appeased as if it was the victor”. TPLF and EPRDF have repetitively failed Ethiopians with regard to Eritrea as illustrated below and history will make them accountable for generations to come.
(i) The TPLF recognized the Eritrean case as colonial issue denying thousands of years history of Ethiopia
(ii) EPRDF supported the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia without securing the Assab port and reduced Ethiopia to be the most populated country on earth without sea port
(iii) Disgracefully ended the costly border war in the year 2000 with huge cost to Ethiopia but no gain (I feel very angry about those Ethiopian soldiers who died during the in harry and unorderly withdrawal from Eritrea after the defeat of Eritrea)
(iv) Signed the most stupid post war agreement which did not bring peace and caused major economic, security damage to Ethiopia particularly to the people of TigrayWhen is TPLF/EPRDF to apologize for all their mistakes on the issue of Eritrea?
What mistake should we expect next …. next? I hope you are not rushing to make again another concession without securing long lasting peace to the people of Tigray who have suffered the most during the last 20 + 17 years. Do not expect to reduce military expense as far Egypt continues its zero-sum game against Ethiopia and cost reduction does not justify rushed concession to President Isaias.
I hope Dr. Abiy to learn from history and never again to appease Shabia! Do not discredit the blood of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who died in the battle fields/mountains of Eretria from Emperor Yohannes to Emperor Haile Selassie, Derg to EPRDF time.
There should not be any border demarcation without comprehensive peace agreement that could bring a lasting peace! The aggression of Eritrea in May,1998 was never caused by border dispute, it was caused by economic related disagreement between Shabia and EPRDF and President Isaias’s political ambition to directly or indirectly dominate and rule the horn of Africa. The good news is Shabia’s days are numbered as its “judgement cup is full” and its demise is soon. No compromise on Eritrea and be vigilant as president Isaias is armed and dangerous and his spies have already penetrated the Ethiopian government structure.
- resident Kirr of South Sudan has failed his people and cooperated with Egypt to harm Ethiopia. He shall go soon!
- Do not forget the suffering of our brothers in Yemen, Ethiopia should play a role as neutral peace broker.
- Learn from the mistakes of President Morsi of Egypt and from President Gorbachev of the former USSR since both of them miserably failed while managing national changes.
- I have also included the link for four of my articles from last year as they are still relevant.
Least but not last, I would like to declare my strong conviction that God has given EPRDF a 2nd chance, as far as it is willing to be born again, and I would like to boldly restate the 1st ever message EPRDF repeatedly broadcasted on the Ethiopian radio 27 years ago to herald the rebirth of EPRDF as follows:
“የዘመናት የሕዝብ ብሶት የወለደዉ ጀግናዉ የኢሕዲግ ሰራዊት ደርግ ሲጠቀምበት የነበረዉን ሬድዮ ጣብያ ለሰፊዉ ህዝብ ጥቅም ተቆጣጥሮታል”
Chapter I for EPRDF is over, Chapter II begins under the leadership of Dr. Abiy Ahmed!
God Bless Ethiopia
God Bless TPLF/EPRDF! Amen!