TPLF: From a Change Leader to a Hindrance

Recently Walta information center released a rare video that showed a heated discussion between the top leaders of EPRDF. This video showed a glimpse of a major shift in the dynamics of power and influence in EPRDF. The release of the video itself is indicative of the desire among the EPRDF leadership to be transparent and open political party. But it can also be observed that there are forces that try to maintain the status quo.

In all EPRDF’s history, TPLF has been the power house and the agent of every bit of change that happened to the front. TPLF had the moral and substantial authority to lead the front. TPLF had far more popular support in its base region; the Tigray region, when compared to the support that the other three parties in EPRDF had in their respective base regions. It also had a complete allegiance of the military. These substantial strengths combined with its leadership’s capability and strong will helped it maintain superior power and influence in the front.

But due to its unwillingness to change and adapt with time, TPLF is losing its substantial and moral strengths that made it stand out from the other sister parties. The most important source of strength was the unwavering support that the people of Tigray gave to TPLF. That support seems to start losing ground due to none but TPLF’s own poor performance in governing the region and more importantly its unwillingness to change. Majority of the people of Tigray, still committed to support TPLF, are expressing their desire to see a change in governance and in the leadership. This desire of the people is being voiced in different venues despite concerted effort by regional authorities to muffle the voices. The most impactful voice was that of the millionaire and philanthropist Ato Dawit Gebregziabher.

Ato Dawit, in consecutive interviews he held with Aiga Online Forum and Ethiopian Reporter Newspaper, expressed his frustration with the governance in Tigray Region and advocated for a leadership change. Ato Dawit was very loud and clear in stating that TPLF is still his favorite party, but also that he wants to see change in leadership and in governance. In no better way can the stand of the people of Tigray can be expressed than he put it.
This was a good opportunity for TPLF to show respect for the people and its willingness to change for the better. But TPLF’s response was a spit on a face to the people of Tigray. To the dismay of the people, TPLF in its 12th congress, elected the same president whose administration was the source of all the governance problems. And rather than gracefully addressing the complaints raised by Ato Dawit, TPLF leadership resorted to attacking his personality. It is imperative here to discuss the major issues Ato Dawit raised and how the regional leadership responded.

The Mekelle Project;

Ato Dawit requested a license to run a privately funded Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). But the City administration demanded that he transfers ownership of the NGO to the regional government when the construction of the building is completed. And Ato Dawit did not agree. Who is on the wrong side here? First of all why would the government want to administer the NGO? As the name indicates NGOs are Non- Governmental Organizations. This brings us to a more profound problem. In complete disregard

to the constitution, TPLF has made it its top priority not to allow any sort of civic organization that is out of its control in the Tigray region. Even the once vibrant Tigray Development Association (TDA) could not escape this mishandling by TPLF. Today TDA has become a mere extension of EFFORT rather than a grass-root organization by the people and for the people as it was once.

The Adwa project;

Ato Dawit and the residents of Adwa took the initiative to build a cultural center which would help the next generation learn about the history of their Motherland and particularly the history of Adwa. Ato Dawit volunteered to finance this initiative and even went to the extent of allocating the real estate that he acquired for business to this noble initiative. The proposal was prepared and submitted to the regional government. But the project was halted by the regional government for unknown reasons. The regional government has not given any official response to the open accusations of Ato Dawit. Instead the TPLF leadership resorted to attack the personality of Ato Dawit. TPLF leadership’s effort to attack Ato Dawit may help stifle Ato Dawit but will not hide the problem below the tip of the iceberg. Ato Dawit pointed at the tip of the iceberg, the people know that the problem is way bigger than that.

The recently released video that shows the discussion EPRDF leadership had regarding poor governance has brought a new twist to the issue Ato Dawit raised. During the discussion, Ato Sekoture Getachew of ANDM correctly reported the findings of the investigative committee and brought the issue the people of Adwa raised as an example. The key thing to note here is that, what the investigative committee reported is what it collected from the people in suggestion boxes and survey questionnaires. Accordingly, Ato Sekoture reported that the people of Adwa are not happy about the regional government’s decision to halt the Adwa project. Irritated by Ato Getachew’s report the deputy prime minister and vice chairman of TPLF Dr Debretsion utterly declared that the issue of Adwa is resolved by firing some administrators who cooperated with Ato Dawit and that the government has opened a corruption case on this issue. For those who can read between the lines, Dr. Debretsion is threatening Ato Dawit that the government will imprison him with a corruption charge if he does not stop messing. This statement declared that the initiative to solve the governance problem is dead on arrival for the people of Tigray.
In a graceful and diplomatic way PM Hilemariam Desalegn tried to remind Dr Debrtsion that this is the people complaining and even if the issue is resolved now, the fact that it took 4 years to resolve the issue is unacceptable. Kudos to Prime Minister Hailemariam for trying to push the EPRDF leadership to take the people’s complaint and internalize the problems. It ignites a torch of hope to see the PM trying to transform the front to an open and accountable political organization. What is saddening is to see TPLF being a hindrance to instead of an agent of such a change.

Mersea Kidan (mersea.kidan@gmail.com)

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