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A Political History of the Tigray People's Liberation Front
Revolt, Ideology, and Mobilisation in Ethiopia
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A Political History of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (1975-1991): Revolt, Ideology, and Mobilisation in Ethiopia is a comprehensive and critical study that seamlessly integrates the theoretical issues of ethnic self-determination with real life events, processes, and empirical observations of the complex history of the TPLF. Its author is also one of the founders and a former commander of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the revolutionary movement that overthrew and replaced the Dergue—the military dictatorship that ruled Ethiopia. In this book, Aregawi unpacks the history of the TPLF and discusses its origins in the Ethiopian student movement, its organization in Tigray and the mobilization of its inhabitants, the creation of a peasant army, the factional struggles within the TPLF, its relations with other liberation movements, and, ultimately, its success in capturing state power. Using this history as a guideline, Aregawi handles significant areas of theoretical dispute regarding ethnic self-determination and its various interpretations, which he deftly articulates with a critical and comprehensive discussion of the complex issues that arise from the protracted struggle to overthrow a repressive military regime (the Dergue) with a peasant-based guerilla movement.The book discusses, among other things, the question of ethnicity and the conflicting interpretations of ethnic self-determination; the issues raised by the competing and overlapping claims of the various liberation movements; the tension between a radical elite ideology and the beliefs and expectations of the peasantry; the political mobilization of the peasantry and the creation of a peasant army; the relevance of the Marxist notion of the universality of class-struggle in the context of ethnically-oriented politics; the TPLF’s transformation from a regional ethnic movement to a political party that spearheads a pan-Ethiopian coalition of ethnic liberation movements (The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front); and its transition from a guerilla movement to a political party that governs Ethiopia—the second most populous country in Africa. Descriptively rich, well documented, and subtly argued, this is a book that challenges its readers to reexamine the recent history of Ethiopia in a new light and forces them to consider the momentous political tasks and the uncertain future the country now faces.
This unique study by the founder and former commander of the TPLF is a must read for all those wishing to better understand the background to Ethiopia’s political regime today. Dr. Aregawi Berhe presents us with an informative and insightful insider’s account of the origins and development of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, including critical divergences on objectives and strategy that have played a key role in shaping its course.—Prof. Martin Doornbos, Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands Readers of this book will be exposed to a rigorous analysis of issues such as ethno-nationalism, self determination, and secession. Those interested in the history of the TPLF, the leaders during its inception, its encounter with different organizations, and the “controversial role” of the current leaders in power in Ethiopia will find the book informative. This book is timely, comprehensive, insightful, and balanced. It is an important contribution to the study of secretive guerrilla fighters assuming state power and grappling with the complexities of governing a country.—Dr. Getachew Metaferia, Morgan State University, USAA few works have already been published on the TPLF. But this book stands out as a first hand account of the movement’s history, especially of the early years. Written by one of the founders of the movement, it reflects a perspective that we should at least listen to and understand. Very rich in content, this book is bound to be controversial, especially given the author’s history and profile. Undoubtedly, it will introduce a serious debate - hopefully a healthy one - that will go on for a long time to come. Aregawi Berhe’s work is a pioneering contribution in the realm of scholarship on the history of the organisation reigning supreme in present day Ethiopia.—Prof. Dr. Tesfatsion Medhanie, University of Bremen, Germany
Aregawi Berhe, Ph.D., a former student at Haile Selassie I University, left school to join the TPLF as a founding member and combated the emerging military dictatorship in post-1974 Ethiopian Revolution. Until he was forced into exile, he served the Front as its Commander. Currently, he is involved in ongoing efforts to advocate political reform and democratization in Ethiopia. He is a founding member of the TAND political party (Tigraian Alliance for National Democracy, active also in the Ethiopian Diaspora) and member of the Ethiopian opposition coalition the United Ethiopian Democratic Front (UEDF), a “wing” of which has seats in the current Ethiopian parliament. He lives in the Netherlands.
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