TPLF During The Initial Stage Of Armed Struggle
Rising from the various clashes among different political organizations in the Tigrayan fields in 1975, the TPLF leadership went on for more than a year without a clear political program or policy. However, since the clique as a political entity had to clarify its programs and objectives, in February 1976 the TPLF issued a ludicrous statement known as ‘Manifesto 68’. Some of the nonsensical points presented in the ‘manifesto’ are stated below.
In explaining the question ‘Who is a Tigrayan?’ the 1976 TPLF manifesto had stipulated that the identity of being a Tigrayan applies to all Tigrinya speakers, Afars, Erob as well as the Agew and Baza (the Kunama). Although the location of the peoples just referred to is not clearly stated, the boundaries of the ‘oppressed’ Tigray region as per the manifesto runs from the Alowha River (Wello) in the south, the Mereb River to the north and encompasses Tselemti and Welkait from the west. As to the basic national question of the Tigrayan people, the infamous manifesto states that ‘since the oppressed peoples can no longer tolerate co-existence with their oppressors, it is neither possible nor necessary to continue this subjugated existence. Thus, realizing that the idea of mounting a united opposition struggle is not only impossible but impractical and unlikely as well, the objective of our struggle is to establish an independent Tigray Republic that is free from imperialist exploitation and oppression.’
After being advised by the Eritrean Liberation Forces that the ‘Manifesto 68’ is an unrealistic approach, the TPLF leadership withdrew it from official stages with out delay, or to be more exact the TPLF put on hold its program until the opportunity to take it out again presented itself. Hence, it was no secret that the TPLF had always remained secretly faithful to its initial manifesto all along. Leaders of the clique had made it clear in no uncertain terms that they don’t believe in Ethiopian unity or a united struggle of the Ethiopian peoples. The ‘Manifesto 68’ is adequate concrete evidence that the TPLF had from the onset expansionist tendencies as regards the borders of Tigray.
Nobody can claim that the Tigrayan people had no justifiable cause to wage their struggle or that their question had not been right. However, it had become clear from the beginning that the oppressed Tigrayan people’s just cause and struggle lacked a prudent leadership that could steer it into the right direction. One only has but to take a single look at the TPLF’s vengeful and impetuous political program to understand the afore-mentioned fact. It is crystal clear that the clique had set out to secure its economic monopoly by exploiting the suffering and plight of the Tigray people and satisfy its dreams of vengeance at the expense of the lives of young Tigrayans.
In short, the TPLF had from the outset intended to exploit the Tigrayan people’s passion for fighting to secure their rights and use it to serve its own factional interests. Rising from this devious and weak foundation, the clique went on without a clear or astute political philosophy, wasting no time in roaming from Tirana to Langley, changing principles with every new breeze and adopting multi-faceted stances.
The agenda of the TPLF as well as its unrealistic objectives lacked acceptance from all especially from the EPLF. Eventually it was forced to replace its objective which focused on “Establishing an independent Republic of Tigray” into “Respecting the right to self-determination of the people of Tigray”. However, even if the TPLF seemed to exercise the latter objective in its official demeanor, from within it kept its subtle agenda of secession. And in many different ways, this hidden agenda no matter how much the TPLF tried to conceal was evidently noticeable. During the early stages, it declined the recommendation forwarded from the EPLF with regard to working together with the national and multinational Ethiopian opposition movements, and this was a reflection as to how much the TPLF was intent on its own plan. In 1976, the EPLF’s suggestion that the TPLF struggle side by side with the EPRP didn’t get much approval. The TPLF gave a deaf ear to this appeal due to its covert intentions.
The multinational EPRP organization in parallel with the TPLF began its armed struggle in Tigray. However, in addition to its other mistakes, the conceited feeling of “Greater Ethiopia” which largely imbued the ruling aristocratic classes of the Amhara was visibly present in the EPRP. Hence, these two opposition forces were obviously not able to merge. In order to suggest a remedy to their skewed progress, the EPLF leadership invited a meeting to propose a means on how to settle their quarrels. It also recommended that they plan realistic objectives and work together towards their goal. Due to their different views, however, they failed to accept the plea. Especially the TPLF was expecting that the EPLF would change its stand and align with it skidding from its principled conviction. Hence, the TPLF was not happy with the balanced and unbiased view of the EPLF. The leadership of the TPLF which was not pleased by the impartial statement of the EPLF opted to abandon the EPLF which had nurtured it from the cradle.
Hence, the TPLF didn’t take long to befriend some other parties which it never trusted much before. This is because its stand is founded not on principles but rather on interests!