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N E I G H B O U R S ethnically homogenous society. all the credit for the state of relations Besides the above, the issue of that exist with Eritrea. The governresisting the Soviet Union also ment of Meles Zenawi, although a cropped up between the two. While coalition of major ethnic groups in the Soviet Union supported the the country, is dominated by Dergue regime due to its ideological Tigrayans who represent just about 5 affiliation, it also recognised the per cent of the total population of Eritrean independence movement Ethiopia. The government has been simultaneously and provided materifacing a deluge of problems from the al support to it through the Cubans armed opposition of the Oromos and other allies in the Middle East.22 who constitute a majority of the For the EPLF, Soviet support was Ethiopian population and are essential, while the TPLF was fightdemanding more power and autoning against the Dergue, which was omy from the government, and supported by the Soviet Union. strong pressures from the Amharas Differences over this issue between who have for a long period monopthe EPLF and the TPLF became olized power. It should be mentioned The EPLF and TPLF overcame quite acute. By 1985, the relations here that the Amharas, being an their differences over strategy, imperial power with imperial ambibetween TPLF and EPLF were broken. tions, have not reconciled to the fact policy and method soon since These differences over strategy, that Eritrea has been given indepenthey were dependent on each policy and method were primarily dence. The strong and big power staother in overthrowing the responsible in the division of opinion tus of Ethiopia under the rule of the between the TPLF and the EPLF. Amharas has been weakened due to Mengistu regime from power. However, both overcame their difthe granting of independence to The origin of the war can be ferences soon since they were depenEritrea, it is believed.24 On the surtraced to the differences face, the ruling Ethiopian People’s dent on each other in fighting and overthrowing the Mengistu regime between the Eritrean leadership Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) seems to incorporate all from power. By 1988, reconciliation and Ethiopian leadership that the three major ethnic groups, viz, between the two organisations was emerged in the 1980s. the Oromo People’s Democratic based on the need and realisation to Organisation (OPDO) and the fight and overthrow the Mengistu Ethiopian Popular Democratic regime. In fact, as Patrick Gilkes and Martin Plaut write, the origin of the war can be traced to the Movement (EPDM) but actually it is not the case. The two differences between the Eritrean leadership and Ethiopian predominant parties, OPDO and EPDM do not actually repleadership that emerged in the 1980s. According to them, resent the Oromos or the Amharas but were creations of the “although both drew support from the same ethnic group, TPLF. Till date, the Oromos continue to fight against the from similar peasant societies, and from Marxist ideology, they TPLF-dominated government as well as the All Amhara differed in their objectives that while the EPLF was deter- People’s Organisation of the Amharas and other minor politmined that Eritrea would be liberated from Ethiopian rule as ical parties. The new constitution of Ethiopia formed towards a single, united state, despite its being composed of nine lin- the end of 1994 is aimed at avoiding the fragmentation of guistic groups and two major religions –– Islam and Ethiopia by decentralising into eleven federal states, each domChristianity –– the TPLF in contrast, fought for the rights of inated by one ethnic group rather than a centralised system, the Tigrayan people and its first manifesto called for an inde- which was followed until then. This type of political structure pendent Tigrayan state”.23 As explained above, it was with inevitably faced opposition from neighboring Eritrea, which reluctance that the TPLF was persuaded to fight for the over- follows a tightly connected centralised system with no role for throw of the Mengistu regime. Since the TPLF captured ethnic identities in politics. power at the centre, the secessionist tendency that powered it Therefore, the internal political squabble over ethnic nationearlier has been lying dormant. A negative impact of this has alism, which the Ethiopian constitution allows25 and the strugbeen that nationalism has been “reinforced” by the taking over gle for control of power between the different ethnic groups of power in Addis Ababa, from where considerable resources has accentuated the fragile political relationship with Eritrea. have been channelled toward the development of the province. The EPRDF government has had to relent to pressures to On the other hand, Eritrea, which enjoys a strong nationalism grant self-determination, even secession, due to its realisation and is proud of its recently acquired independence after years that all the opposition groups were responsible in one way or of enormous sacrifices, is equally sensitive to any intention of other in overthrowing the Dergue regime from power and giving no role to each ethnic group in government formation modification of its frontiers. The internal political structure of Ethiopia, therefore, bears would be meaningless and futile. In fact, the OLF support to


February-April 2007


February 2007-April 2007