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Oromo-Tigray Alliance: A Necessary Historical Precondition for Fashioning a New Ethiopian Nation-State.

Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD                                      April 14, 2021

This article intends to discuss and thoroughly examine the strategic alliance of the Ethiopian federalist forces against the destructive alliance of the Prosperity Party (PP)-led Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF (henceforth PP-ENDF), the Eritrean mercenary troops, and the Amhara Militia. In the latter coalition, the Eritrean troops are the interventionist forces, paradoxically invited by Abiy Ahmed to engage in a dirty genocidal war in Tigray. This article will touch upon examples of alliances in history and discuss the significance of bigger and unified nations as well.

Ethiopians in general and particularly the Oromo and Tigray forces must first acquire history lessons of alliances in order to further promote their newly formed league for mutual defense and protection. The first ever made peace treaty and ultimately an alliance treaty was signed between the ancient Egyptians the Hittites in 1259 BCE, and during the classic period or late antiquity, the Greeks have learned a lesson from the Egyptian-Hittite pact and formed alliances of the various city-states which were dominated by Sparta, a grand coalition that Thucydides writes about. Later during the Middle Ages and the modern times, forming alliances had become a tradition, a rule rather than exception; and history is replete with such alliances. Some examples of alliances were forged during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal (1494), Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Russian Alliance (1882-1912), during the major wars of WWI and WWII, the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army and Kuomintang alliance against Japan in 1937, and in the 20th and 21st centuries, a good example of forging alliances or coalitions would be the various groupings and/or factions that have conducted wars in Syria by forming alliances.

Going back to the Oromo-Tigray alliance, these forces should underscore that forging coalition is not only replete in the annals of history, but it is also omnipresent in politics, and it is with this realpolitik in mind that the Oromo and Tigray forces should begin to construct their alliances, but better if they do it swiftly: Time is of the essence! Why ‘political exigency and expedience’ with respect to forming alliances? The obvious reason is death and destruction hovers over people as it happened and continues to happen in Tigray, and per force the Tigray forces should not fight alone the protracted war if indeed they want to be victorious and get rid of the Eritrean interventionist forces, the PP-ENDF, and the Amhara Militia; they must instantaneously build alliances with the Oromo and other federalist forces.

Foreign intervention in Ethiopian affairs is not new and back in 2016 I have attempted to address the issue of intervention as follows: “Throughout its modern history, Ethiopia has witnessed plethora of foreign interventions that threatened its sovereignty and territorial integrity, but the country has successfully thwarted those interventions and threats. Ethiopians have the capacity to retool their resilience, and this unique Ethiopian ethos was for the most part misunderstood by foreign interlopers.”1 However, I have now come to realize that I may have erred with respect to foreign forces understanding the Ethiopian psyche; I believe now that they have a good sense of Ethiopian determination and as a result, they may have sponsored a proxy war in Ethiopia now. This new revelation by itself could inspire the Oromo and Tigray forces to establish a strong alliance.

Mere intervention may not have a huge impact in the outcome of wars conducted between various forces, but when the intervening forces set up alliance with the government with a mission to surround, isolate, and destroy as their fighting tactics amply demonstrates in the Tigray war, it becomes a very dangerous and lethal force.

The Oromo and Tigray forces that are currently engaged in series of wars with the PP-ENDF cannot afford to be surrounded and isolated, and as a matter of historical necessity they should forge alliances against common enemies, particularly against the PP-ENDF and Eritrean mercenaries. This Oromo-Tigray alliance could ultimately result in the total liberation of their respective nationalities and salvage Ethiopia from disintegration and/or implosion by default.

In due course, the strategic alliance of the Oromo and Tigray forces must also include the Benishangul, Qimant, Agaw forces in order to establish a geographic corridor; an infrastructure, so to speak, that can boost their fighting capacity. The latter three forces, though relatively small can play a major and meaningful role in liberating themselves and in contributing to the salvation of Ethiopia from total breakdown. If possible, in this grand alliance (GA) the Afar and Somali Ethiopians should close ranks and band together with the Oromo-Tigray grand alliance.

The distinct advantage of forming such alliances and coalescence of the federalist forces is the fact that the conflict will not be confined in the Oromo and Tigray regional states only; on the contrary, the conflict will spread throughout Ethiopia and consequently the PP-EDNF and Isaias mercenaries will be forced to spread in all corners of Ethiopia and weaken their fighting resolve; the loosening the PP-ENDF forces also means they would become easy targets to the to the GA.

If the GA of the Oromo, Tigray, Benishangul-Gumuz, Qimant, Agaw, Afar, and Somali is realized, it can effectively weed out the PP-ENDF and Eritrean forces, and in due course of the scattering of the latter, other Ethiopians like the Sidama, Wolita, and Gambella will gravitate toward the GA; the GA, in effect, is a united front of liberation and salvation at the same time; a new kind of united front for the liberation of all linguistic groups from the deeply authoritarian and tyrannical twin regimes of Abiy and Isaias. But the objective of the GA, among its many political programs should be to save Ethiopia from total collapse.

Why is the survival of Ethiopia so significant for the Ethiopian nationality groups? The simple answer is that Ethiopia is the making of nationalities, but in a broader context, throughout history bigger nations did very well in terms of geopolitics and global political economy. Contrary to the “bigger is better” mantra, however, there are some scholars who argue that even small nations have done well, and they attempt to support their ideas by giving examples of Japan, Switzerland, the Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but they never have substantiated the distinct historical circumstances and successes of these smaller states. That of Switzerland has to do with the legacy and rich heritage of the Canton federalist system and the country’s neutral foreign policy that, in turn, enabled the country to find strong financial institutions; likewise, Singapore became a success story due to its financial institutions; Hong Kong, a city-state that inherited British capital, became hub of global trade; South Korea and Taiwan are the making of the post-WWII and the formative period of the Cold War; the USA devoted itself entirely to funneling billions of dollars to these countries with the sole purpose of keeping at bay, if not outshine, the communists of the Soviet Union and China. Without American aid, the success stories of both Korea and Taiwan and for that matter that of ‘Asian Miracle’ would have not been possible. That of UAE, in very simple terms, is equated to petroleum and the country floats on oil, an indispensable commodity for industrialized nations.

These small nations should be referred to as ‘exception to the rule’ in the context of ‘bigger is better’ economic and political successes. The word ‘big’, of course, is relative; while that of bigger nations mentioned above are known for their success, other nations like Nigeria and South Africa are also successful, although their success is not well documented; these two African nations are relatively successful, notwithstanding their ill-governance and corruption that are widespread. Ghana could not be like Nigeria and South Africa, but it is still better off compared to neighboring Togo. In the final analysis, thus, it is in the light of the above synthesis that the salvation of Ethiopia must be examined.

Furthermore, I like to make my position crystal clear in relation to the preservation of Ethiopian unity. At this juncture of Ethiopian history, and especially when majority of Ethiopians are bittered by the political system and have even began to resent the Ethiopian identity, quite frankly I too no longer accept the sentimental-cum-mythological sense of the Ethiopian nation. However, having taught political science and global political economy for nearly three decades, I have come to appreciate the achievements and successes of unified and great nations like the USA, Russia, China, and to some extent Brazil and India; except for China, all the above-mentioned nations are federalist, and in all of them secession is not acceptable.   

By way of concluding, it should be known that the priority of the GA is to liberate the nationalities and salvage Ethiopia as already stated above; the question of finding their own independent nation or find a new Ethiopia that celebrates the equality of all Ethiopians should follow the ‘victory party’ after they have vanquished the joint forces of PP-ENDF and Eritrean mercenaries. But if they decide to preserve Ethiopian unity, it is instructive to listen to the Oromo who are embattling the PP-ENDF: “We are against an Ethiopia that promotes ‘one nation, one language, one religion’, says Kumsa Derriba, known by his nom de guerre Jaal Morroo, leader of the Oromo Liberation Army…We are more than 80 nations and nationalities living in this country and we want an Ethiopia that treats all these nations equally.”2    

The central theme of this article, in fact, boils down to Jaal Morroo’s statement, but one more thing that the nationalities in the GA should seriously consider is the exploitation of the potential of some members of the alliance like the Afar and the Somali; the Afar are in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti but they all believe that their original home is Awssa in Ethiopia; likewise, the Ougaz in Djibouti identify with their kin in Dire Dawa and vicinity that they consider as their original home. The GA, thus, should exploit this potential by agitating the Afar of Eritrea and the Somalis in Djibouti, thereby creating havoc to the dictator in Asmara; creating havoc to Asmara means the downfall of the regime at Arat Kilo in Addis Ababa. The rest is history!



1.    Ghelawdewos Araia, “Foreign Intervention, the Politics of Burning Property, and State of Emergency Declaration in Ethiopia”:


2.    The Irish Times, “War in Tigray threatens to end Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s dream of unity” April 14, 2021; reported by Andres Schipani in Mekelle and David Pilling in London on April 12, 2021.  

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