By A. Techane –Nothing seems to change in Ethiopia except the worsening natural environment. Those in power unfailingly work overtime to keep the people in permanent subjugation and slavery; to sideline, if not eliminate, any possible contestants; to loot the national treasure and squander the economic and cultural resources for ostensibly group but, in reality, personal purposes; to curry favour with foreign masters for crumbs and arms to sustain their repression. All these have been amply demonstrated during the Dergue and under the current TPLF controlled government.
The façade of democracy fools no one
After the ten years it took him to attain total domination of all affairs, political and economic, military and ideological, the first military dictator in recent Ethiopian history, Mengistu Hailemariam, busked in the glory of his achievements while millions perished through ‘red terror’ and starvation; the political space vacated by the collapse of the feudal order was soon filled by the establishment of a one party system that left no room for dissent, even innocent questions from ordinary folk; the ‘land to the tiller’ scheme was transformed into a means of state control over peasants and the countryside; proceeds from the nationalisation of industries, including small mills and workshops, were diverted into financing the civil wars in all corners of the country. The adulation of his servants and Soviet assistance did not however help him overcome the rising wave of hostility and resistance to the regime throughout the country. The diverse attempts on his life and to unseat him bore deep holes into his stay in power. His overthrow in 1991 was but the final episode in the gradual erosion of his authority over the bankrupt and reviled system he masterminded for 17 years.
It had seemed that the new guerrilla group, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ascended the ‘throne’ since 1991, would depart significantly from the failed policies and operations of its predecessor. In the first instance, it was expected, at the very least, to undo the systemic repression installed by the military junta while parading itself as an elected popular regime. The hope was that it would dismantle the apparatuses of the state such as the networks of spies, death squads and secret prisons that terrorised the people. Secondly, it was considered not to miss the basic point of ‘change’ of government, namely to unleash the genius of our people by recognising and, PUTTING INTO PRACTICE, the fundamental human liberties and freedoms. In particular, many wished that it would remove the censorship regime, open up the state media to the public, allow a free press to flourish as well as enable a multi-party system to emerge. Moreover, the business community aspired to enjoy a free hand in their operations and not suffer from corruption, bureaucratic control and red tape.
How far fetched all these hopes and aspirations were started to emerge almost overnight. The initial contacts of the population with the TPLF and its retinue (‘teletafi’ organizations) bred suspicion and apprehension among the former. The rag tag army that practically invaded the towns throughout the land did not show any sympathy to the plight of the population which still smarted from the nightmarish rule they suffered under the previous regime. The TPLF was intent on dealing severely with any signs of opposition or resentment towards their ‘conquest’ expressed by their host population. The heroic resistance of the Ambo people on the eve of their entry into Addis Ababa did not produce in the new rulers any thoughts of being sensitive to local needs and wishes. Instead, they relied more on the military hardware at their disposal than any appreciation of what the nation wanted in the wake of their imminent capture of the chief prize, the Menelik II Palace in Arat Kilo, and their declaration of total victory over, and undisputed claim on, the state. In one short sweep, they had gained the monopoly of power they had aspired for and meant to keep it that way–except that the small matter of numbers and provincial origins of the troops they deployed to occupy the country exposed their story of ‘liberation’ as one of ‘invasion’ and ‘colonial occupation’. The dominant role of the TPLF army, supported by their Eritrean counterparts in the first five years, was so evident that no amount of aggressive denial dissuaded the population, still less the power elites elsewhere, of such a perception. A section of the fledgling press picked this up and courted danger by expressing the erroneous expectation of a popular backlash against the entrenchment of a minority ethnic group (Tigrayan) in the state. While the falsely projected, even desired, face-off of the populace with those in power did not materialise, the TPLF found enough warnings to instinctively regress to age-old warlordism and schizophrenic rants of ‘anti-Tigrayan’ plots and conspiracies.
The first major step in the regression was the elimination of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) from the coalition government the TPLF sought to maintain, all be it as a façade for its uncontested control over the most important arms of the state: defence, foreign affairs, home affairs and national security, the National Bank (treasury). The OLF and similar elements had been allowed to play second fiddle by occupying nominally important ministries (information, education, transportation) as the second in command in each was a TPLF member labelled as an assistant, deputy or whatever. This phenomenon soon descended into the preferential appointment of Tigrayans to lower and lower echelons of the bureaucracy both at federal and regional levels. A commentator in The Guardian [London] of 18 May 1999 wrote, “Tigrayans dominated the administration, security services, police and army.” This view has been affirmed recently (2009) by a US representative in the United Nations Human Rights Council: “Independent observers have noted…that most senior government positions are overwhelmingly represented by one ethnicity”.
The exit of the OLF from the transitional arrangement was but a formal acknowledgement of that organisation’s humiliating support of the TPLF for no gains, political or strategic, in return. The virtual surrender of its armed detachment to the TPLF overlords and their imprisonment (dubbed ‘encampment’), killing and disbandment put an end to its ambitions for a quick resolution of the ‘Oromo Question’ under the auspices of the transitional government. How on earth an ultimately democratic question can be resolved without instituting democracy in Ethiopia in the first place remains the Achilles’ heel of OLF politics to this day. The ridiculous policy of smashing the ‘Abyssinian Empire’ through a coalition with the Abyssinians who merely gave lip service to the idea of ethnic equality and rights ended up in bringing grist to the mill of the Tigrayan ethnocracy! Elements of the TPLF who had opposed even the nominal coalition with the OLF found no time at all in cementing their stranglehold over the entire state. Overnight, not just members of the OLF but any sympathisers and gradually other Oromos who expressed no support to the ethnocracy became targets for incarceration, killing and exile. The leadership of the OLF was allowed to go into exile on Ethiopian passports!
The departure of the OLF from the coalition government robbed it of its main basis of legitimacy and palpable support from the population. Having shut out other forces and sections of the population who might have reinforced the grounds for legitimacy of the coalition in the same manner as the OLF, the TPLF found it myopically convenient to get rid of the OLF. Thus the TPLF failed the first true test for the ethnocratic arrangement it sought to concoct. Instead of gaining support from the respective population groups, even ethnic ones, together with their political organisations, the TPLF rushed to clear out any possible mass-based contestant for power. Even the relatively smaller group of the Sidama Liberation Front led by the late Wolde Amanuel Dubbale was viewed as a threat to their domination and hounded out of existence. By the time the new constitution was issued in 1995, the TPLF had graduated into the latest power mad gang in our history. Nothing mattered to the gang than running every opposition to the ground. The country has consequently been littered with secret prisons, death squads, a countrywide network of spies and informers as well as an administrative system with key positions filled by Tigrayans. Arbitrary detentions, on site shootings and stabbings, intimidation and full-scale repression of the entire nation have become hallmarks of TPLF politics; so much so that people have for years expressed a fondness for a return of the murderous Mengistu regime.
TPLF’s repression intensifies
In spite of the systematic and continuous repression of the TPLF, movements of all kinds invariably expressing allegiance to ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘market economy’ have mushroomed on the back of the quixotic assurances of the regime to provide space for a democratic experiment. The proverbial strong but ‘loyal opposition’ the regime kept repeating as wanting in Ethiopia and therefore encouraged to emerge pushed urban-based elites into a false sense of getting into power through the ballot box. The pursuit of acquiring foreign backers for this drive, parallel to that achieved and maintained by the power gang, seemed to be the only part missing in the jigsaw of the political game they sought to engage in. This in turn led to further self-delusions of the easy transfer of power from the ‘anti-Ethiopian’ ethnocrats to all-Ethiopian democrats under the umbrella, and therefore with political and financial support, of Western powers. The more they succeeded in setting up their offices, addressed the crowds, gave press releases and interviews to the public, in particular the foreign media, the more they embarked on, often foolhardy and reckless, activities to oust the former. Supported by the fledgling press that both imitated and motivated the opposition movements, the latter declared their views openly and sought to garner support for their eventual confrontation with the powers that be, mark this, at the ballot box!
While the opposition movements took to heart the promise of democratic transition in good faith and supplied to the state all the vital information the TPLF needed to keep tabs on their membership and their respective activities, the TPLF was running rings of spies around them, readying themselves for any forthcoming confrontation. The symbiotic relationship between the state and the TPLF ensured that the latter could easily locate and round up all their potential opponents, not just those organised in parties or whatever. The fact that the political movements had to operate ‘openly’, to prove that their activities were legal and above board, provided the TPLF the best opportunity to monitor the depth of their popular support as well as to plan and execute tactics of spreading dissension among their ranks and factional infighting. To that extent the TPLF valued the open nature of the political activities of their opponents while not being in a position of submitting to any legal standards themselves. Thus the requirement for legality of the opponents was not matched by any significant supervision by any one over the activities of TPLF and its front organisation, the EPRDF. The only possible avenue for this, the Electoral Board, was in no state to even raise serious questions of an administrative nature let alone about propriety, ethics and law against the TPLF. As everyone knows, the Board was staffed and led by the TPLF without any compunction or shame.
In that sense, the veneer of democracy the TPLF instituted in Ethiopia was aimed, most of all, at managing potential threats to their multi-faceted, that is not just political, hegemony over the length and breadth of the nation. Where the political opposition sought to translate their legal operations and activities into a level of popular support to challenge the TPLF for seats in the national and local parliaments, alarm bells always rang. A couple of rounds of elections passed by while the opposition sought to but failed to get clarification of the electoral rules and force through a transparent—open and fair—system and consequently withdrew from them. The fear of being portrayed as lackeys of a dictatorial regime by showing up in the hollow elections prevented many from any participation. Still, the persistent pressure of the Western powers and the general public in Ethiopia on the political opposition to make concerted efforts to transform the political shape of the country produced a level of urgency. Much as the political opposition sought to become a real force for change and to effect it peacefully, their strategy for this was confined to garnering widespread support that would end in casting votes in the ballot box. That approach was singularly manifested during the 2005 elections.
The idiocy of attempting to remove a virtual fascist power gang through the ballot box alone was demonstrated in full view of the global media in 2005 when upwards of 30,000 power were incarcerated, thousands were wounded and nearly a thousand unarmed protesters killed point blank after the opposition declared the votes were fraudulently taken from them. Since then, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that any notion of a fair and free election seemed to have become a pipe dream. The principal prop of the regime, the USA, put the records of its satellite (or as Seeye Abraha called it ‘outsource’ client) on human rights in its report of 2010 as the conduct of “unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, often acting with evident impunity.” Again, according to the March 2010 report of the Human Rights Watch, “The ruling party and the state are becoming one, and the government is using the full weight of its power to eliminate opposition and intimidate people into silence.”
Moreover, the entire countryside was caught in a web of administrative, political and economic blackmail and repression of a type never seen even under the Dergue. The interwoven nature of the local party, police (militia) and administrative structures as well as the deployment of state loans, allocation of food, fertilisers and seeds to cut off supporters of the opposition guaranteed silent acquiescence to the re-election of the TPLF and its hangers on. It was abundantly clear then that the latest round of elections was inherently more tilted towards creating an absolute control over the legislature than even affirming the status quo where scores of opponents of the regime were represented in the rubber stamp parliament. Some of the household names in the opposition who have become familiar to the entire nation, not just among their own constituencies, were suddenly threatened with a total wipe-out. While, in the past, government functionaries in charge of voting stations relied more on stuffing ballot boxes either before the stations were opened or after the declared hours of voting, this time the approach was to avert any likely votes for the opponents from being cast at all. The same functionaries had sorted out in advance who might or might not vote for the ruling group and therefore exerted pressure on those who might not to avoid any surprises.
As a consequence, elections 2010 minimised any public outcry despite the complete farce it produced the very next day: all seats except one were won by the ruling clique! The public knew well in advance the outcome of the elections as they were made to understand, in innumerable ways, that any other outcome would have been to their peril—loss of any rights and benefits flowing from and under the stewardship of the state. The TPLF’s paymasters, the US and EU in particular, were so ashamed of this charade of an election and blasted its hold on power through such self-deception. Only the opposition was left in an inexplicable daze while onlookers and the public at large were in a state of shock that what they had known all along did turn up as an ugly reality! Save the occasional shrill voices of dissent that surface through the private press largely confined to Addis Ababa, no doubt courtesy of the rigorous state control, intimidation and machinations, the other podium of nominal value, the parliament, will be off limits to them, henceforth. And how would they manage without it? Who would recognise them as potential statesmen devoid of any membership of such an outfit? Now that they have all lost any seats they previously held in that institution and deployed it as an indication of their future worth, who would take them seriously?
The universal quest, among all strands of politicians in Ethiopia save those in power, for the introduction of democratic ideals and values into the Ethiopian body politic has therefore come to an emphatic dead end. The former guerrillas now partly in civilian clothes and partly in military uniforms but deafeningly spouting ‘developmental politics’, ‘developmental state’, ‘developmental journalism’ and ‘developmental’ everything have achieved their dream of cutting all their opponents to size and dangling before them the choice of extinction by passing through the front door (periodic nominal elections just as during the imperial and Dergue days) or facing excruciating intimidation, gangsterism and the death squads if they choose to attempt any ‘colour revolution’.
The incarceration of Birtukan Midekssa has been conveniently portrayed by the thugs as the fate of all opponents of the regime who might persist in trying the apparently impossible task of installing a democratic regime in Ethiopia. As Jonathan Manthorpe of The Vancouver Sun put it on May 26, 2010, “Meles has not buried her under his office floor [as Mengistu had done to Emperor Haile Sellasie], but he might as well have done. Last year he said she will never be released and she is ‘a dead issue.’” Would the ‘heroes’ who failed to gain seats while leading their supporters at the 2010 barricades (sorry, elections) take their cue from this and avoid becoming ‘dead issue’? We hope not! The political opposition has come such a long way in recognising the harsh reality of having to confront the brutal regime of the TPLF that they cannot miss the only path ahead as being to stay the course. Surrender is no option.
Battles lines of the future
The manner in which the TPLF has sought, in its 19 years of unbridled dictatorial rule, to maintain a façade of democracy all the while deploying fascist tactics and pushing all forms of dissent from the public sphere into private households, local gossip venues such as tej/tela and draft bet, close knit families and among friends has dashed the hopes of democratising the Ethiopian state it raised on assumption of power in 1991. It has exploited the peaceful, legal and open means of struggle available to its opponents by virtue of its own constitution to harvest names and identify roles of its opponents for any punitive actions it deems necessary to maintain its brutal rule. In the meantime, it has merged the party and security apparatuses at its beck and call with that of the economic and administrative functions of the state; by that process it has transformed its activities in the fashion of the Gestapo. The arrest of anyone at sight for no apparent reason, the invasion of private residence at any hours of the day, the secret graves and prisons, the stealth with which it operates in gunning down or bludgeoning to death its opponents, the speed with which it metes out kangaroo justice to dissenters in the disguise of stamping out tax evasion, corruption or some other breach of the law have become hallmarks of its style of dictatorship.
In a distinct departure from the Dergue, which it derided as foolish and careless, the TPLF constantly destroys evidence of its decisions, activities of a criminal and extra-legal nature. The Dergue left behind lists of youth swiftly despatched to their deaths for the simple crime of distributing leaflets attacking its misrule; the TPLF gave efficiency a new name by disavowing official documents whatsoever and leaving no trace of opponents it has summarily dealt with. Hundreds have disappeared without anyone, including their close families, knowing what had happened to them.
The Gestapo tactics and other evil deeds of the TPLF dictatorship and its lackeys to thwart the democratic movement are only part of the problem of the political opposition in Ethiopia. The other, arguably more important, part is the fact that the undoubted bravery of the oppositions in their confrontation with TPLF’s armed thugs and spies has not been matched by the requisite breadth or clarity of vision, still less by the appropriate strategies to muster the forces that support their respective organisations. The opponents are organised in small groups of ethnically segregated batches, bickering more among each other than collaborating to fight the common ‘enemy’. When even the most expansive integration, if not union, of opponents could not conceivably begin to make a dent on the stranglehold of the dictatorship on all affairs of the nation, the small groups find it convenient to play politics in their respective yards. The joy each has in applying their distinct language to the spectrum of politics of their choice, potentially preparing them to be able to fly their respective flags in the sector of the country they claim, is foreshadowed by the common tragedy of living under the jackboots of the ethnocratic dictatorship of the TPLF.
It stands to reason therefore that the first real step of challenging the ethnocracy is to commit to creating an all-embracing association of opponents of that ethnocracy for the single purpose of instituting a democratic state, above all else. Questions as to how to address differences on the fundamental issues pertaining to the transformation of the society and the economy should be relegated to subsequent discussions and agreements among the partners in the association. In the past, some set up stumbling blocs by refusing to budge until others gave way to their idiosyncratic aberrations whether on issues relating to official languages, ethnic rights or front seats at the high table of the future state they dreamt of establishing.
An aspect of this weakness of the opposition is that the role of traditional, in other words long established, social networks like hager shimagele has not been sufficiently examined, still less exploited, by them. As a matter of fact traditional means of conflict resolution have been ignored for years by the political elites who sought to democratise the nation. The rising importance of social networks established among peer groups largely aimed at the provision of mutual support and assistance for their respective members has yet to be recognised among the same groups. In all the talk about peaceful forms of struggle in the democratisation battle, no serious recognition was given to this phenomenon. While the necessity of building up genuine support for democracy is made out by the political opposition, no clear understanding, not to talk of practice, has emerged of how the population might be mobilised by means of traditional social networks.
The view is widespread that ‘peaceful struggle’ is equivalent to keeping to non-confrontational ways whether in terms of exercising constitutional rights, in demanding the state to enforce them or in subjecting it to scrutiny under the law. Those who hold such views display a morbid fear of provoking the dictatorship into frenzy. This fear was manifest at junctures where the gross violation of human rights triggered mass protests against agencies of the regime who took no time in punitive responses of one kind or another while the opposition chose to distance themselves from those protests as well as from condemning the state for their atrocities. The creation of mass concentration camps, indiscriminate killings and incarceration of political leaders by the regime in the aftermath of the 2005 elections has seared this fear into their consciousness.
On the other hand, opponents of such a view of ‘peaceful struggle’ go to the extent of vilifying it by portraying it as passively waiting for the gradual opening of the political space by the regime as a matter of gratuitous gesture of good will; in other words, as a grant to be given or denied as the regime wishes. They argue, and repeat ad nauseam, that the only language Woyane understands is sheer force as if it is cursed with a rare illness. In truth, no repressive state lets go its grip on the population under its control without a fight. If that population is not ready to give it the fight it deserves, democracy will remain a fantasy.
Still, working out the appropriate balance in the mix of ‘peaceful’, in other words, legal, means with extra-legal ones is a matter of political strategy. No one can foretell in advance what proportion of ‘the fight’ should go into the first or the second. History has shown that the key factor in this is the role of the army; hence in all recent people-power uprisings—the Philippines in 1986, Ukraine in 2004 etc.—the incumbent power groups were ousted as soon as the army declared loyalty to the uprising and disobeyed orders to move against it. In essence, the repressive state could fall without a single shot being fired so long as the opponents of the establishment have mobilised and organised behind them the entire population together with the overwhelming section of the armed forces.
One of the excuses spouted in dismissing the value of peaceful forms of struggle is the intransigence of the dictatorship to allow basic freedoms. Is that not what repression means and why we remain in the doldrums 19 years after the fall of the previous dictatorship? Would we have otherwise chosen to engage in a ‘fight’ rather than to compete had there been a fair and level playing field? No one should discount the multifarious nature of the repression and as a consequence the multi-faceted forms of resistance required to build a movement towards total and irreversible changes in the form of governance our people have suffered from for centuries.
Another excuse manufactured to fool the public, especially the youth, is the assertion that no military victory is possible over the dictatorship unless we have arms delivered through Eritrea and elements of a new army are trained under Isayas Afeworki’s gaze. Clearly, this neglects two principal truisms of military campaigns mounted by guerrillas in the cause of popular resistance. Firstly, you get hold of your arms from your opponents. Secondly, so long as you have a nucleus of armed combatants who operate within the selected theatre of operations—and not just on leisurely walks on the streets of Asmara waiting for the leader’s signal to start the war of liberation—the embrace and support of the local people is more powerful than any foreign base. Moreover, as pointed out already, the deployment of military campaigns to overwhelm the state apparatus is not dependent on the existence, or otherwise, of arms or foreign support. It is entirely a function of the effort of the resistance to win over the army and of any resulting success or failure.
It is important to note that armed struggle in the Cold War years was a permanent fixture of the east-west confrontation and that each side wasted no effort in fostering them and keeping them alive decade after decade. The likes of the EPLF, TPLF could not have survived, let alone get into power, for so long had there been no assortment of foreign backers, including the Cold War phenomenon, in the background. Now the conditions have changed somewhat. The major industrial powers find it more convenient and less expensive to cultivate their clients in power than grooming them from scratch and helping them arm to win over the power. As far as Ethiopia and the Horn are concerned it is still the intransigent Arab states that seek to continue to disestablise it by propping up any armed movement for that purpose alone and not by way of helping democracy gain a foothold. What, one might ask, is for instance the purpose of shoring up an ‘Ogaden national liberation front’ while Somalia itself is in tatters and needs mending other than to weaken the Ethiopian state? An independent ‘Ogadenia’ (over a segment of the Somali people!) is worse than the Bantustans that Apartheid South Africa tried to plant but failed. The ‘Greater Somalia’ project of the 60s-80s made more sense than this latest of pernicious concoctions.
Besides, the era of armed movements financed and kept under leash of foreign patrons as in the Cold War years has virtually come to an end. Since the collapse of the Cold War, many of these movements—the prominent ones being the IRA, PLO, Tamil Tigers, ANC and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines and the Free Acheh Movement in Indonesia—have folded or succumbed to negotiated solutions one by one. That is not to say that foreign intervention has stopped; proxy wars and insurgencies propped by foreign governments continue to pop up laden with limited motives of their perpetrators to push through religious, territorial or economic claims. Thus if the opposition in Ethiopia find military and financial support among the neighbouring states none of which is a democracy, it can only mean one thing—an attempt to promote and fulfil the claims of those states against the Ethiopian state merely as local collaborators, alias bandas. The frequent allusion to Eritrean support for the opposition to bank on is an effort in this direction and merits no serious discussion.
Imponderables in the Horn to watch out and prepare for
It is important to consider the new and still unfolding developments in the Horn of Africa particularly because of their conceivable impacts on the domestic struggle for democracy. Some of the developments in Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Djibouti are not as fortuitous as many think. The complications that might arise from developments in those quarters would therefore require the full attention of the political opposition in Ethiopia.
For a start, having dug itself a military base at Djibouti with an impending headquarter for the African Military Command (AFCOM) somewhere else, the US has sought to consolidate, together with the British, its virtual dominion on the Horn and seeks to lay down the law for all the adjoining states. No matter the suspicions of African states and the lack of progress in their quest in the Horn–as evidenced by the riotous state of Eritrea, the internecine warfare going on in Somalia, the unending division and conflicts within the political elites in Ethiopia– the grip of the Anglo-American axis seems set to grow stronger with their open but brazen encouragement of South Sudan to break away and form an independent republic in the midst of nowhere. It would seem that the Axis does not countenance any setback in its apparent plan for a long-term sway over countries in the Horn of Africa. Their purported aim of fighting ‘terrorism’ and helping the regimes in the area to attain stability and security has far been oblivious to the plight of the various peoples. The creation of another oil-rich mini-state in their shadow but squeezed between six countries is fraught with all kind of iniquitous permutations as regards its inevitable role as a staging ground for more interference and meddling.
Secondly, the Chinese factor in the Horn as in the rest of Africa will continue to exacerbate repression, corruption and the flight of capital. The immunity of China to any criticism and, above all, its reluctance to stop its interference by taking sides with dictatorial regimes as in Ethiopia provides those regimes with respite from internal and external pressures for change. It is incumbent on the political opposition to realise, and vigorously expose, the pernicious nature of their seemingly economic activities conducted under the ridiculous pretext that China does not wish to meddle with the internal affairs of nations whereas in fact it is doing so. The further the regime goes in its relations with China and envelops itself with their loans and other assistance the more prolonged the repression will be. Not that China is alone in sustaining the brutal regime of the TPLF; the divided and conflicting interests of the Western powers too has been instrumental in their stay in power. However, the possibilities exist of bringing various influences to bear on the Western powers and break their alliances with the dictatorship sooner rather than later while China appears impervious to such attempts.
The state of play in Eritrea and Somalia might change dramatically beset as both are with internal tensions that leave them open to Arab interests and forces bent on realising an Arabic Red Sea as well as a weakened Ethiopia (notably as regards the use of Abbay). The interference of the TPLF regime in Somalia and its permanent confrontation with its Eritrean counterpart could produce a backlash initially against the TPLF warlords but also against the entire nation. It is in the interests of the nation for the political opposition to create alliances with similarly motivated forces in the region to thwart any negative backlashes from occurring and to bolster their standings for mutual gains.