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Woyane Tigray: 39 Years and Still Standing

By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Onlne - February 09, 2014

Long live Lekatit 11 the birth date of TPLF
Woyane Tigray: 39 Years and Still Standing

Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which started as Tigrayan National Organisation (TNO), was established in Dedebit, Western Tigray, on February 18, 1975. This fearsome nationalist organisation was formed by a handful of university students who were determined to extricate their people from decades of abject poverty, humiliation, and wanton neglect by successive Ethiopian rulers that dates back to the reign of Emperor Menelik. During the Emperor’s era, Gebrehiwet Baykedagen, a political economist, stated in his book that Tigrayans were ridiculed as a result of their rampant destitution. 

In September 1974, seven members of TNO convened in a small café in piazza, Addis Ababa, and drafted a two page political programme that would facilitate the elimination of unremitting repression by establishing a liberation movement. This was how the TPLF came about and with the exception of Asfaha Hagos and Agazi Gessese, the other instigators of TNO are still with us; Abbay Tsehaye and Seyoum Mesfin are still members of the TPLF; while Aregawi Berhe, Hailu Mengesha and Giday Zeratsion left the organization before the conclusion of the struggle and are now living in Europe and America.              

It is extraordinary that the TPLF which begun life with seven antiquated weapons managed to vanquish EPRA, TLF, Teranafit , EDU, ELF and the Derg  which had the biggest well endowed defense force in black Africa. TPLF succeed where others failed because it had solid peasant support, disciplined fighters, dogged determination, self-belief, legitimate grounds to initiate an armed struggle, and the capacity to circumvent numerous stern challenges that could possibly have brought an end to its existence.

Documented evidence indicate that one-thousand TPLF fighters defeated EDU which had ten-thousand strong bandit army that was financed and equipped by America, Europe and Sudan. During the numerous intense battles with EDU/Terenafit, the TPLF lost three-quarters of its best fighters including Sehul and Mussie. The former was a member of parliament during Emperor Hailesellaise and the first leader of the TPLF, while the latter, who was of a Tigrian origin, joined the TPLF from EPLF at the beginning of the struggle and became its maiden military commander. Although the TPLF decimated EDU and forced the vestiges out of Tigray, the prolonged battles left the front in a very precarious and perilous state. The EPRA took advantage of this difficult moment and flexed its muscles but was heavily routed and the remnants were forced to flee to Eritrea, Sudan and Gondar.

The coast was now clear for the battle-hardened movement to join hands with other organizations to form the EPRDF and face the junta head on. In May 1991, the entire country was liberated from a fascist military government and a transitional government was put in its place for a duration of two years. This paved the way for the formation of federalism after the proclamation of a new constitution. Since then, numerous general elections have taken place and the political and socio-economic changes that have occurred over the last twenty-two years are short of a miracle.

At this juncture, the nascent democracy, peace and stability are firmly anchored in the country and without a shadow of a doubt these will continue to induce an uninterrupted flow of Foreign Direct Investments from all over the world. As a result, the phenomenal decades-long double-digit economic growth is set to persist for many more years to come. No doubt the Ethiopian people will, as always, remain vigilant and jealously shield the hard earned achievements from minority destructive adversaries wishing to scupper federalism and re-instate authoritarianism that caused the creation of copious liberation movements.

Unity, based on equality and respect for ethnic diversity is the norm in today’s Ethiopia. Recently, the Somali region hosted the 8th nations, nationalities and peoples’ day in a spectacular fashion, close to where the Al-Shebab is engaged in chopping the limbs and legs of its citizens. Prior to 1991, Ethio-Somalis were treated as second class nationals and they never consider themselves as Ethiopians. This has been overturned since the advent of federalism and, on so many occasions, they have unambiguously expressed their paramount loyalty to their country. If proof was needed, the colorful festivity that took place in Jigjiga on December 8, 2013 was a glaring instance to cite.   

For obvious reasons, Al-Shebab considers Ethiopia as its main enemy and the terror assemblage has been desperate for a considerable period to inflict maximum damage at the heart of the metropolis. Numerous stabs to cause havoc were made, but to no avail. Al-Shebab massacred many innocent civilians in Kenya and Uganda but the vigilant watch of the people and safeguards by the security services and the police have effectively prevented a similar fate in Ethiopia.

Al-Shebab’s planned suicide mission during the game between Nigeria and Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, didn’t proceed as intended. Due to the tight security inside and outside the stadium, the terror unit that came all the way from Somalia had no choice but to hurriedly retreat to its hide out in Bole Rwanda. Fortunately, the terrorists shredded themselves by accidently setting off a bomb they had meant to deploy at a packed world cup qualifying football match. Soon after, their accomplices were captured by the police and shortly they are expected to face trail as they have admitted their involvement in the failed suicide assignment.         

Thanks to the unwavering support of Ethio-Somalis, a number of potential terrorist threats prior to the unsuccessful stadium suicide mission have been thwarted; and no doubt they will continue to play a pivotal role as the police and security services on their own wouldn’t be able to keep the Al-Shebab at bay. After all, Al-Shebab is an affiliate of the sophisticated Al-Qaeda which avoided detection by the CIA & FBI and managed to cause the death of over 3000 innocent civilians in New York in September 2001.

It was also down to the resolute action of Ethio-Somalis that the ONLF has been pole-axed and is on the brink of extinction. Certainly peace, stability and the ongoing developmental activities would have been in serious jeopardy if it weren’t for the invaluable contributions of the Ethio-Somalis.                      

Federalism has brought the people tightly together which wasn’t remotely possible during the previous totalitarian regimes. As a result of this, the country which was routinely afflicted by ghastly famines and destructive conflicts has been averted from imminent disintegration. Consented unity and equality of nations, nationalities and peoples’ is proceeding from strength to strength, and has now reached an irreversible stage. No force can perturb the harmony and fervent nationalism that is prevailing right throughout the country. A conducive environment has been created for multitude of languages, cultures and traditions to flourish, and some that were about to die out as a consequence of years of deliberate inattention have been preserved and developed.   


 It is grossly erroneous to believe that federalism would simply crumble by incessantly attacking Woyane.  With or without Woyane, federalism is here to stay, as it has the full approval of the nations, nationalities and people’s of Ethiopia. Who would want to alter a mode of governance that is working and delivering stunning political, social and economic changes? Disloyal and unpatriotic opponents can try but they are bound to encounter stiff resistance from a significant proportion of the Ethiopian people that are witnessing the renaissance of their country. A case in point is the abandonment of the separatists OLF by the Oromo people who are benefiting from the economic prosperity of their region.  

Indisputable records point that Ethiopia is forging ahead and the economic momentum that has been gathering over the last 23 years shows no sign of lethargy. The bond between the nations, nationalities and peoples’ of the country is very much stronger than it has ever been before. Citizens have now reached a stage where they are able to fiercely defend and maintain their way of life, identity, culture, religion, history and hard won rights.

An unequivocal illustration of this was the concerted effort of a pressure group that forced Heineken to cancel the sponsorship of the controversial and divisive musician’s concert. He paid the price as a result of his audacious remarks that Menelik’s southward expansion resulting in the barbaric subjugation and massacre of thousands of Oromos and others was a ‘holy’ war.

This person, whose wife is of an Eritrean origin, made his name after he produced a song during the 2005 general elections denigrating the contributions of 70,000 Tigrian martyrs who gave their lives for justice and democracy. We have heard songs that lionise Emperor Hailesellassie and King Menelik but nothing of the sort for Atse Yohannes and Ras Alula despite their valiant efforts in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country form the Italians, Egyptians and Mahdists. Only two months after the death of Atse Yohannes in Metemma, King Menelik signed the Wuchale Treaty on May 2, 1889 handing over Eritrea to the Italians on a silver platter.

Furthermore, historical documents testify that Alual’s intelligence report that he had obtained from his undercover agents inside Eritrea, played a significant part in the defeat of the Italians during the battle of Adwa. Moreover, if the great commander had his way, he would have expelled the trounced Italians from a large proportion of Eritrea, according to Augustus Wylde’s eye witness account.

One would be compelled to surmise from this, that the composition of the Treaty of Addis Ababa that was signed by Emperor Menelik on 23 October 1896 after the conclusion of the battle of Adwa might have been utterly different. The warrior of Dogali, Gundet and Gura, is not receiving the accolade he rightly deserves simply because he happens to be a Tigrayan. Reverence for Belay Zeleke, who fought the Italians in Gojjam for a brief period, appears to be far greater than the hero of Africa. Unfortunately, the courageous Belay Zeleke was subsequently hanged by Emperor Hailesellaise upon his return from Bath, England, where he had resided after fleeing the country, leaving the people at the mercy of the Italian occupiers.           

In any case, let us leave the parochial artist to glorify his ‘neche saw’ and focus instead on the 39th anniversary of the TPLF, which is main theme of this article.

The journey of the doyen of Ethiopian politics has been gruelling but the preliminary two page manifesto that was approved by the seven TNO members has led to the removal of a military government after seventeen years of hard and costly struggle. In its position, a new democratic Ethiopia that belongs to the nations, nationalities and peoples’ has been formulated.

At this instant the country is rubbing shoulders with the best economic performers of the African content and beyond. World Bank, IMF and other reputable institutions have predicted that Ethiopia would be among the middle income nations of the world in the not too distant future.

Treacherous and rotting distracters have very slim chance of turning the clock back; thanks to our valor martyrs, Ethiopia is now comfortably sprinting and no foreign or indigenous enemy can hinder its trajectory.

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