Gebrehiwot Hadush, Mekelle University, PhD student at KULeuven, Belgium
(E) PP is an offshoot of the most ambivalent politics of ‘Wuhid’ party that has entertained big like by a unionist and big dislike by nationalists and advocates of strong states. The English version is even much controversial. The Abiy camp uses the term ‘United’ to mean a transformation from a front based party to a one national party having offices and braches in the regions. On the other hand, his opponent understands ‘Wuhid’ party as a nationalization of ethnic based parties and a covert move to a forthcoming shift from a self rule to centralization.
The idea of Wuhid party re-emerged as a hot cake amid recurring violence, intensified factions within the EPRDF, and untold internal displacement. However, it was not a new idea to the EPRDF. As most people agree, the idea of ‘Wuhid’ party was initiated by the late P.M. Meles Zenawi. No adequate document is available why Meles had raised it and why it had been dropped for such long time, though. In any case, Abiy well knows that the late P.M. Meles Zenawi was rather a bogy man to all EPRDF elites and his idea does not necessarily represent the strategic interest of TPLF.
Abiy had anticipated that TPLF will object his agenda of Wuhid party this time. As such, he had found it tactically important to give regard to the TPLF, not Meles per se, as the first party to initiate the idea of Wuhid party. Then, in his camp it was calculated that TPLF would be an easy target if it vilify their proposal of Wuhid party. Indeed, Abiy and his team were smart enough to sale themselves as candid and true owners of the Wuhid Party while portraying TPLF as an evil ghost behind the door.
The media has a lion share in the construction of such ‘indefeasible’ presumptions that Wuhid party will transform the already ‘dying’ EPRDF and bring an end to ethnic based violence. The media has deliberately bypassed sensible scrutiny over content and how it could redeem long standing political contradictions. Everything went as planned as its mastermind want it be just nothing but ‘judging a book by its cover’. TPLF did almost same. Both the state TV, and TPLF affiliated DW broadcast have made, almost non-stop, disparaging images against Wuhid party.
I would say TPLF was successful in making the public in Tigray simply hate the advancement of Wuhid party symbolized as a unionist flagship. Most of Oromia activist were also very vocal in denouncing the idea of Wuhid party, and seemingly there is strong resistance in Oromia. But no one gave it shit in the center. In fact, watching Addis Ababa and Mekelle based media remembers me what I have watched in a cold war documentary.
In his last briefing, the EPRDF secretary has announced the endorsement of Wuhid party while oversimplifying the objection of TPLF as if TPLF is six heads. The secretary has not addressed who will rule the country if EPRDF is changed and replaced by (E) PP. The anchorman was rather a passive listener and he did not put serious questions. Controversies whether the EPRDF can substantially change itself without lawfully dissolving the EPRDF, and whether we have to stay without government until next election like Belgium. That’s one million dollar question, apparently a tough test to the P.M.
Not arguably, Abiy and his team had only one thing in common just first to anger the TPLF and then, let it hit the road far north. Let’s assume that technically they won it. But nothing can be taken for granted that they have enjoyed their win over the TPLF. Abiy understands that TPLF has an overwhelming social base in Tigray more than any of the other elite front members at least at this moment. It must be pretty clear for him that (E) PP absent of TPLF doesn’t make any sense in the Ethiopian politics late alone Tigray where presumably everyone gives it a deaf ear. So would there be a political back-and forth?
It’s very difficult to understand the position of Abiy but it sounds that he couldn’t convince himself that TPLF is gone easy. In his latest interview with V.O.A, Getachew Reda has confirmed that Abiy has tried to persuade TPLF to stay by arranging a separate meeting. One may argue that Abiy just gave them crocodiles tears after once defeating them in the meeting. Time will reveal what the PM is up to. But it sounds that Abiy understands removing TPLF is very much costly and it could backfire. This is not because he likes TPLF to be there but he is worried that the time for election is fast approaching while his compatriots’ in Oromia are getting the highest elations to defeat his loyals in Oromia. Wuhid party has become the most important card for his foe to easily mobilize the public against him as much as it pleases Abiy and his team initially. Unless he is gone crazy with it, Abiy would keep himself busy lobbying TPLF and offer sensible compromises. This may include postponing Wuhid party till each FRONT member come to terms and form unity of purpose over political programs even for awhile as TPLF demands. Otherwise, Abiy should face polarization from TPLF and Oromo activist and opposition parties. I would not argue he would afford this not much because of legitimacy but because he knows Unity cannot be constructed fortnight; ADP and ODP would remain much divided over so many issues. In other words, Abiy would not risk his tenure as the PM just only for the sake of painstaking one and united national party, not to be realized at least in the short run.
But an interesting question is would the TPLF welcome lobbying by the P.M. for more discussion and compromises in the future? To make it sexy, would the TPLF say “the thrill is gone away; you know you done me wrong Baby; I m free, free, free now” (B.B. King’s song, 1969). By the pundits and activist based in Tigray and elsewhere, TPLF has had enough with the EPRDF and the present masters. They have already congratulated TPLF for refusing to participate in the upcoming meeting of the (E) PP. More significantly, the pundits and activist are even challenging the idea of dissolution of the TPLF for any cause. For most of them, TPLF represents self determination rights, most valued in Tigray. At minimum, they expect the TPLF to be more inward looking and at maximum to use it as a political platform for stronger states negotiation (comfederal form) or as a means for brewing and pushing further social movements for independent State of Tigray.
As such for most of the pundits and activist, no one expects TPLF to stretch its hand for further discussion or compromises with Abiy and other hostile elites mainly from ADP, the like Mr.B.Yalew. As it stands, the door seems to be closed!! But I wouldn’t say TPLF will remain a hard to break for political discussions and compromises. In the first place, TPLF has never disagreed to the essence of Wuhid party.
TPLF has already expressed declaration of intent to be part of it as long as Abiy keeps his promise to uplift revolutionary democracy and settle internal factions before it ever rush to kill the EPRDF. I think this is not problematic if Abiy really wishes to bring back TPLF on board. Everyone knows that they can make a fantasy resolution of good political atmosphere among each other like folks of the old EPRDF. In hindsight there is in essence a difference between the pundits and activist who are inward looking on the one hand and the TPLF which has an outgoing outlook and can’t help its fond for a role in the federal government. It is true that TPLF is increasingly coming closer to the pundits and activist. But, none of the pundits and activist is fearful, not much so like Jewar, and other influential activists in other parts of the country. Not surprisingly, TPLF will trump when an option comes to show. But, no one can expect TPLF to be easy going for lobbyists from the Abiy camp. TPLF if it does wish to return back, it would try to convince and reassure the pundits and activist and the people of Tigray at large that new discussions and compromises would be considered only in the interest of the people of Tigray.
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