Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s miscalculations that helped TPLF, the lucky bunny, get off the hook

6 mins read

Asmelash Yohannes (PhD
Mekelle University School of Law)

The popular uprising against the ruling EPRDF party since 2015 was turning deadly. Among other things, it resulted in the abrupt resignation of the then prime minster Hailemariam Desalegn. However, no one has seen the coming to power of a new replacement prime minster, Abiy Ahmed. Above all, what he was going to do and how he was going to treat the old guards of EPDRF remained a puzzle. But the wait did not last long. He misspoke and miss-stepped right from the onset. He was applauded by political pundits with the way he managed to get rid of the former national defence force chief of staff, General Samora Yonus. Moreover, he cannily and systematically dismantled the security apparatus that served well TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), the oldest party within the coalition of movements that formed EPRDF, for more than two decades. His measures also included rounding of dozens of security officers. Some of these measures were believed to have been done with the blessing of the West. At first, these measures seemed to tighten the screws on TPLF leaders. Moreover, these measures on their own didn’t turn ordinary Tigreans against the new prime minister.

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However, his approach towards Tigray and Tigreans as a whole was not well-orchestrated. There was fatigue even among the core supporters of TPLF in Tigray and a reform was long overdue. Instead of trying patiently to build support, his public speech at home and abroad angered many people in Tigray. After the failed attack against him at a rally in Addis Ababa in June 2018, he made a very regretful speech. Out of anger or a deliberate attempt to use the occasion to galvanize support in Oromia and Amhara, he appeared on national TV and uttered words that shifted the opinion of many people in Tigray. He called the perpetrators የቀን ጅቦች, an offensive word that translates into “day light hyenas.” This word was picked up and repeatedly used by social media users to attack not only TPLF officials but also ethnic Tigreans. The hate campaign waged on social media was beyond magnitude and it resulted into killings and displacement of ethnic Tigreans from Amhara and Oromia regions. The prime minster was within his right to denounce the attack but his choice of words had brought unintended consequences.

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To add an insult to injury, his speech in July 2018 in Minnesota was not taken positively in Tigray. His response to simple questions raised by a person named Lilit Gebru had alienated many people in Tigray. Instead of answering her seemingly innocent questions, he appeared to castigate her for being a mouth piece of TPLF’s old guards. Moreover, the way the former head of METEC (Metals and Engineering Corporation), General knife Dagnaw, was arrested and publically humiliated was another incident that intensified opposition to prime minster Abiy in Tigray. Furthermore, his unsuccessful attempt to capture the main airport in Tigray by sending military commandos was also an ill-conceived plan to say the least.

The combinations of the above missteps of prime mister Abiy have created bewilderment and unease in Tigray.  TPLF’s old guards, who were retreating from their comfort in the capital Addis Ababa and trying to re-group from Tigray, had seized his missteps to solidify their base as well as turn public sentiment against him. TPLF veterans have the media machinery and the money to unleash their campaign against Prime Mister Abiy’s new administration in full swing. They have skilfully skewed public opinion and they turned public anger to their own advantage.  PM Abiy has to blame no one but himself for losing the support in Tigray. TPLF leaders were in disarray and confused after he took power. Abiy could have given it ago to loosen TPLF’s support in Tigray had he had put in place a well-coordinated strategy to deal with his new found power. However, he was rather carried away with emotions and populism had blindsided him from thinking ahead of his opponents. TPLF, the lucky bunny, got the time to re-group and it managed to survive Abiy’s onslaught.

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The questions that remain lingering are these: would PM Abiy give it a last try to use force to crash TPLF and settle his feud with its leaders once and for all? Or would he rather resort to a ‘battle of waits’ until TPLF is cracked under pressure from within?  How about if Abiy and TPLF brush their feud under the carpet and extend an olive branch reciprocally for the sake of the country? Would that be a win-win solution for both? Only time will tell how the political quagmire will end.


  1. One couldn’t out it happening but their difference is irreconcilable at the moment. TPLF gang is too tricky and too greedy, not to mention power mongering. On the other hand, Abiye & too suspicious, novice and insecure to make a decent with them. The mistrust between them is too deep and multi-layered. I think Tigrain people and other Tigraian local parties have better chance in smoothing the relations.

  2. Not the miscaculation of the unmatured boy helped TPLF but their strongness and they do have a bright feature for Ethiopia that we analize at this time

  3. The uprising of TPLF is their base not the miscaculation of the unmatured boy. And the dead flesh he gathering from their grave (parties), becuse he is self centered boy of applouse

  4. The uprising of TPLF is their base not the miscaculation of the unmatured boy. And the dead flesh he gathering from their grave (parties), becuse he is self centered boy of applouse

  5. It is unfortunate to have Ethiopia to be taunted to alternate between two extremist,after all that huge sacrifice is paid. But one thing is sure ,this time,the people have no taste for any one of them.The only way out of the stalemate is free election.But prior to election there has to be institutional reform .Unfortunately the Abiy government is busy in intrigue and conspiracy of its won.With the absence of any reliable institutional reform in site.The conclusion is clear. The alternative course seem the nation will embark in uncertain course.After all this false promises,and lies no one will have any trust on an ethnically divided future.Added with this many intellectuals and patriotic Ethiopians have been systematically murdered through intrigue.There simply is no any interest on the part of the public to bear the imposition of the ethnic fascists rule.

  6. Debretsion gave power to Abiy not Demeke or Hailemariam as most people think did. Abiy adores Debretsion.Debretsion made Abiy become a Prime Minister of Ethiopia by grooming him from INSA for such a long time.

    Abiy was just talking bad about TPLF to lure diaspora activists such as ESAT , TAMAGNE and so on , to quiet them from making noise globally since there is no other way but to accept Oromos mighty justice for Anyssinians.

    We Oromos are not concerned about what this “Abyssinian” educators tell us about TPLF. TPLF didn’t give power to the Abyssinian educators so they are jealous because Oromos got the power not Abyssiains as usual, TPLF gave power to us Oromos as we intend to give it to our close partners the Ogaden Somali after Oromia declares independence from Ethiopia.

    Abyssinian educators donot tell us anything about our calculation, we already know what we want and how we get it. The only going around in circles aimlessly with no calculated steps are Anyssinians not Oromos. We got no need to go after TPLF only, we are going after centuries of colonialists. Oromo justice doesn’t go back few decades only , it goes back further back.

    We Oromos are immune to what the aimless confused bunch of chickens criticize us about how to carryout justice . The Oromo justice is in effect fully regardless what anyone says about our calculation.

    We Oromos order what to do, we Oromos do not be told what to do by Abyssinians. Not anymore!!

    The power is in our hands, all we Oromos need to do now is get ready for our independence from Ethiopia by developing our military and economy by any means including by taking back what the Abyssinians took from us , then we declare independence from Ethiopia , by not one hundred percent guaranteed but by most probably passing the power to Somali Ogaden to rule Abyssinia.

    We got the parliament after TPLF gave power to us, we finally are working into bringing our freedom by ending the Abyssinian colony.

    We Oromos want and are making it a reality for Oromia to become completely separate country from Abyssinians, just same as Eritrea had been free from Ethiopia for the last 26 years.

    All these other nonsense they talk about imposing donot deter our struggle from Oromia’s independence. We Oromos got our eyes set on the prize of free Oromia.Abyssinians are currently going in circles aimlessly knowing there is nowhere to hide from the mighty Oromo justice.

  7. Majority of Ethiopians had been constantly manipulated with Gondare antagonists Amaras who put words in our mouths. No wonder the decorated hero, Asaminew Tsige did what he did to the antagonists. Gondare Amaras are same as TPLF always twisting what we said to negative constantly antagonizing people. The Gondare got no other skill but to antagonize. Gondare loves to gossip and antagonize us, the only way left for us is to cut off communication with Gondares, that way Gondares cannot make up negative stories about what our children said or didn’t say. We are tired of being antagonized day in and day out always having to prove our innocence to the professional antagonizers who put words in our mouth.

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