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Ethiopia: At a Decisive Stage Between Its People and the TPLF (Part III)

In the previous part it is noted that, in 1976, the EPLF leadership invited both EPRP and TPLF to a meeting to propose a means on how to settle their quarrels. The EPLF 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. However things were not as they were supposed to be for the TPLF leadership. Those which it befriended without much confidence never extended the desired assistance.
Besides the TPLF began armed confrontation with EDU and in November 1977 by changing its countenance it approached the EPLF and once again expressed its desire to renew its relationship and work together. It also requested a meeting to be conducted.

Even though the EPLF already knew that the TPLF is such a masquerader, it readily accepted the invitation. And in the meeting, the EPLF not only strongly reprimanded the TPLF leadership but also strongly advised it to make constructive amendment in its plan and pursue a clear agenda with regards to the request of the people of Tigray as well as on the issue of unity of the people of Ethiopia. And the EPLF promised unreserved assistance if the TPLF reforms its strategy and work by charting a realistic objective and action program. It accepted the plea and the relationship between the two organizations became normal once again. Moreover an agreement was reached to continue the assistance between both of them.

Based on this understanding, the EPLF, in order to boost the military capability of the
TPLF delivered sizeable amount of weapons and ammunitions. It also trained a number of TPLF fighters on operating heavy artillery, de-mining and other military activities.

The TPLF also secured a base in Mai-Idaga i.e. on Eritrean territories. A road corridor that would enable it pass to Sudan was also made accessible. Besides to upgrade the military capability of the TPLF joint offensives were waged against the enemy in Serona and other places of Tigray. In those times, the health service of the TPLF was below standard. For that reason, adequate health assistance was provided to war-injured TPLF fighters in the health centers of the EPLF. Consequently, this assistance enabled the TPLF to buoy up from its opponents and other competing militant forces.

The TPLF waged armed confrontation with EDU at the end of 1977, and in March 1978 with EPRP. And it not only managed to survive in that armed conflict, but also it won the fight and marched out victorious. And this enabled it to be master of the battlefields of Tigray. And this for no other reason but for the mere fact that it had a reliable supporter behind.

When it was conducting its first congress back in 1979, encouraged by this victory, the leadership of the TPLF expressed its desire to augment is military power so as to strengthen its offensive against the Derg regime. Declaring that its relationship with the EPLF is based on principle, the TPLF expressed its desire to further strengthen the bilateral alliance. And once again it said it is requiring more assistance from its ally. Based on this, the EPLF again extended to it considerable amount of weaponry, ammunition, health kits and other essential equipment. Besides, beginning in April, 1979 the EPLF allowed the TPLF leadership to transmit its radio programs via the “The Voice of the Broad Masses” in Tigrinya and Amharic languages. It was known as the “The
Voice of Weyane Tigray”, whose broadcast was aimed at the people of Tigray and Ethiopia respectively. Ironically, it later scolded the EPLF using the very dissemination tool it secured in assistance, while still in the liberated area of Eritrea.

Realizing that the Tigrayan people had endured innumerable atrocities at the hands of successive Ethiopian rulers and considering their historical ties with the Eritrean people the EPLF had always been supportive of the Tigray people’s just cause despite the TPLF’s ambiguous outlook and wavering stance. Just looking at the EPLF records of 1981, we can detect that the TPLF had received 1,750 different types of guns, 55 machine guns, four 8m.m. mortars, two B-10s, 5,000 grenades, over half a million of ammunitions, one x-ray machine and many other medical equipments from the EPLF. This being just one example of the assistances given before and after 1981, the TPLF was always given the armaments captured in joint military operations.

Besides these military and other assistances, the EPLF also tirelessly and continuously provided the TPLF with political advice to amend its deceptive and sinister ways, set a clear objective as regards the Tigrayan question and Ethiopian unity as a whole, and strive to lead the Tigrayan people’s struggle with integrity and perception. This is a historical truth that the TPLF would not dare deny. However, even then, whilst receiving genuine support from the EPLF, the TPLF’s hidden agenda had at intervals bubbled to the surface despite their efforts to seem as if they have reformed their political outlook and approach.

In October 1981, in a meeting held in Khartoum between the leaders of both the EPLF and the TPLF, the latter had raised a drawn out argument that the chances were very slim for the Tigrayan people’s question to find a suitable answer within a united Ethiopia. Records from the meeting also indicate that the clique, no doubt in an effort to present itself as experienced and knowledgeable, had tried out its hand in giving the EPLF a lecture as regards to military operation strategies. In the course of the Khartoum meeting, the EPLF leadership was able to realize that the TPLF’s untried and rash attitude was still in place. Still, the EPLF chose to continue its support to this organization in the hope that with time its leaders might become aware of their unrealistic philosophy and develop some sense. The EPLF had continued its support to the TPLF simply because it firmly believed that the question of the Tigrayan people was just and legitimate, even if they had such reckless and narrow-minded leaders.

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