Article from ROAPE Volume 30 Number 97
TPLF: Reform or Decline?

TPLF: Reform or Decline?
Vol.30 No.97 (September 2003), pp389-403
Founded and led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991, after a sixteen-year armed struggle against the military regime that had ruled Ethiopia since 1974. While not formally a marxist-leninist party, the TPLF nonetheless was devoted to these ideals and they figured prominently in the structure and functioning of the organisation. While the TPLF's base represented the peasantry of Tigray, its leadership was dominated by young, radical intellectuals. Itself representing an ethnic group of relatively modest size, the TPLF formed a coalition of ethnically based organisations, the EPRDF, in 1989, to give itself Ethiopia-wide political scope and legitimacy. Once it came to power, the Front faced serious problems of adjustment, but managed to overcome them thanks to the coherence of its programme, the commitment of its cadres, and the cohesiveness of its leadership. In the face of dramatically changed international circumstances, the EPRDF moderated its policies, abandoning marxism and embracing the free market. It weathered an insurrection by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in 1992-93, contained Islamist incursions from Sudan and Somalia, won the war against Eritrea (1998-2000), achieved a measure of economic progress, and took large steps towards state decentralisation and smaller ones towards democratisation.