The Oromo alliance with Tigrayans – opportunities and risks

The Oromo alliance with Tigrayans –pportunities and risks

On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that the Oromo Liberation Army has struck a military alliance with the Tigrayan government. [Full report below]

This is a development which could be transformative. But it also holds risks and the details will be important.

“The only solution now is overthrowing this government militarily, speaking the language they want to be spoken to,” Oromo Liberation Army leader Kumsa Diriba, also known as Jaal Marroo, told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday.

He said the agreement was reached a few weeks ago after the Tigray forces proposed it. “We have agreed on a level of understanding to cooperate against the same enemy, especially in military cooperation,” he said. “It is underway.” They share battlefield information and fight in parallel, he said, and while they’re not fighting side by side, “there is a possibility it might happen.”

Talks are underway on a political alliance as well, he said, and asserted that other groups in Ethiopia are involved in similar discussions: “There’s going to be a grand coalition against (Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s) regime.”

The OLA leader acknowledged that agreeing to the TPLF’s proposal for an alliance took some thought. “There were so many atrocities committed” against the Oromo people during the TPLF’s time in power, he said, and the problems it created have never been resolved.

But the OLA decided it was possible to work with the TPLF, he said, though some doubts remain. “I hope the TPLF has learned a lesson,” he said. “I don’t think the TPLF will commit the same mistakes unless they’re out of their mind.” If they do, there will be chaos in Ethiopia and it could collapse as a state, he said.

Towards a “grand coalition”

There are already indications that the kind of much wider alliance described by Kumsa Diriba is gradually taking shape. Some Afar groups are said to have supported the TDF forces. So too have some sections of the Amhara. Others may follow.

Such an alliance is likely to be vital if there is to be a real challenge to Prime Minister’s hold on power.

This is – in the end – a clash of two contrasting visions of Ethiopia.

On the one hand there is the constitution developed under the TPLF and Meles Zenawi after they took Addis from the Dergue in 1991. This was a form of radical decentralisation known as ‘ethnic federalism’. At least on paper this offered Ethiopia’s ethnic groups the right to self-determination. Article 39 of the constitution famously declares: “(1) Every nation, nationality and people has an unconditional right to self-determination including the right to secession.”

On the other hand there is the centralised state that lies behind Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s vision of Ethiopia, which is attempting to reign in the powers of ethnic groups and regions.

So why is Kumsa Diriba hesitant about the TPLF’s vision?

Lessons from history

Ethiopian ethnic groups have not forgotten what happened when a grand alliance was last formed with the Tigrayans.

An alliance had already been formed between the TPLF and Eritreans of the EPLF during talks between the two movements in April 1988. Past differences were put aside in order to defeat the Derg.

By 1989 the battle against Mengistu and the Derg had left most of Tigray in the hands of the TPLF. Mengistu claimed the loss of Tigray was unimportant. His generals did not and he had to put down an attempted mutiny.

The TPLF decided that if it was to capture Addis Ababa it would need a wider alliance and established the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in early 1989. This is not the place to examine this process in detail, but it grew out of an earlier alliance with the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement.

However, when the Tigrayans created the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) out of Oromo prisoners of war this was a challenge to the older Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

By the time the EPRDF captured Addis Ababa in May 1991 – supported by EPLF troops – the EPRDF consisted of four organisations: the TPLF, the EPDM, the OPDO, and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers’ Revolutionary Movement (EDORM). They worked with the OLF.

But the alliance did not hold. Gradually cracks emerged and the OLF left the transitional government government, accusing the Tigrayans of wishing to control it. The Oromo Liberation Front renewed its fight against the authorities in Addis Ababa.

No-one has forgotten this history.

If it is not to be repeated the Tigrayans will have to approach their allies – current and potential – in a new spirit.  As Kumsa Diriba put it: “I don’t think the TPLF will commit the same mistakes unless they’re out of their mind.”


Ethiopia Armed Group Says it Has Alliance with Tigray Forces

1 thought on “The Oromo alliance with Tigrayans – opportunities and risks

  1. መርዝ ማብላት በአምሓራ ክልል የተለመደ ነው ትግራይና ኦሮሚያ እንዲህ አይነት ድርጊት አይታወቅም፥፥ኦኤልፍ ና ቲዲኤፍ መጡላቹ፥፥ኢትዮጵያን እናፈራርሳለን፥፥በኦርቶዶክስ የተሸገሸጉ እንደ ማህበረ ኩሳን ያሉትን ፀረ ሕብረሔሮችን ለሕግ እናቀርባለን፥፥አሁን ደግሞ ስለ አለም የጤና ድርጅት ተቆረቆራቹ ፥ቆርቆሮ ራሶች ልሙጣን ፥ከቻይና ካልሆነም ከቱርክ አንድ ዶክተር እንሾምላቹሀለን ትንሽ ታገሱ፥፥ትግራዋይ ዓለምን ያስደነቀ በሁሉም የሥራ መስክ በተመሳሳይ ጊዜና በአንድ የታሪክ አጋጣሚና ወቅት ትትልቅ ታታሪክ አሥመዝግቧል፥፥ወደ ሀገራቸው ገብተው የሚያገለግሉበት ጊዜ ደርሷል፥፥እናንተ ጥንተ በጌቶቻቹ ነጮች መገዛትን ትመርጣላቹ፥፥የታሪክ አተላዎች ለወገናቸው የማይሆኑ ቢኖሩ የአማራ ልሂቃን ናቸው፥፥ትግራይ ና ኦሮሞ ለሕዝባቹቹው የሚታገሉና የሚሰው መሪዎች አሏቹው አናንተ ግን ።።።።።።

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