The war of words between TPLF and ADP

Jul 13 , 2019

The war of words between the two founding members of the ruling EPRDF - the TPLF and the ADP - has begun. Despite internal feuds and bickering that dates back to Hailemariam Desalegn’s time as chairman of the EPRDF, the rhetoric exchanged between the two in public last week, perhaps for the first time since the formation of the coalition in 1989, shows both have had enough, says gossip.

The latest spat of mutually inflammatory exchanges was a consequence of the twin assassinations of the senior regional leadership in Bahir Dar and top brass of the military in Addis Abeba. The TPLFites feel that ADP’s leadership failed to act in avoiding the catastrophe, while Asamenew Tsegie - an army General released from jail - recruited, trained and armed a militia with alleged hostility toward them.

A statement by Demeke Mekonnen, chairman of the ADP and also deputy prime minister, claiming that he suspects a “long hand” in the whole fateful episode, did help little to calm the tension. The Central Committee of the TPLF issued a statement urging the ADP’s leadership to stop externalising the crisis, own up to the problem that led to the tragedy and apologise in public. It was a controversial move on their behalf, which has cornered the ADP’s leadership in the face of its constituency, claims gossip.

Describing the response from the ADP’s political bureau as unexpected is an understatement. It was a condemnation made with the toughest, most extreme and ultimate tit-for-tat strategy the two organisations have ever seen. It was a moment of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” for the ADP. The act of public apology would have meant political suicide in a constituency that seems increasingly drawn to the new kid on the block, the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), which they fear could outflank them, according to gossip.

Responding in the manner ADP did may have put it at loggerheads with the TPLF, but its leaders have chosen to deal with the lesser evil, claims gossip.

Leaders of both parties have displayed their mutual aversion to working together on the same platform anymore. With their respective statements sounding uncompromising, both parties have reinforced their support base, gossip observed.

The TPLFites, however, showed their desire to cooperate with any “federalist and constitutionalist” force on the political landscape.

Leaders of the other parties in the ruling coalition - the ODP and SEPDM - now have the indispensable role of preserving the EPRDF or getting pulled in either direction, gossip foresees. The SEPDM has its own headache with the demand by leaders of the Sidama Zone for regional status, an aspiration that is fully supported by the TPLFites in their statement. That leaves those from the ODP, whose chairman, Abiy Ahmed (PhD), is also head of the ruling EPRDF, navigating this uncharted course, claims gossip.

It will be of little surprise to see the veteran and contemporary leaders of the ODP begin shuttling between Bahir Dar and Meqelle in the next few weeks with the hope of mediating between the two parties, gossip says. If not, arresting the tension from escalating any further and persuading leaders of both parties to sit next to each other at the EPRDF Executive Committee meeting to be called next week will be their goal, claims gossip.

Nonetheless, if there is anything the unfolding events of the past few weeks showed, it is perhaps that the EPRDF as it has been known for three decades is no more, claims gossip. Its ironclad organisational culture of “democratic centralism” is gone. It may not be in the best interest of leaders of all the coalition members to see the EPRDF fall apart in the immediate period, for each may have so much to lose now, claims gossip. But it looks inevitable for the prospect of the EPRDF under Revolutionary Democracy (its organising principle) and democratic centralism (operating principle) to last long, gossip says.

The Secretariat of the EPRDF has completed a study to forge the coalition members into one national platform before the coming national elections, gossip disclosed. It will amount to each party liquidating itself so that its leaders and the rank and file - estimated to reach seven million - become individual members of the new party on their merit, claims gossip. The most senior member among them, the TPLF, has decided not to accept this decision, gossip reveals.

Brace for formations and reformations of political coalitions in the seasons ahead, says gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 13,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1002]

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