EthioPoint: Ethiopians Analysis | Research Articles

Negotiating With the TPLF is Negotiating With the Devil: I Told You So in 2017!

22 mins read

Alemayehu G. Mariam
November 16, 2020

Devil 3

“The very idea of negotiating with the TPLF is simply laughable. It is like hyenas negotiating with antelopes about dinner. Zero sum negotiation game. Total win for hyenas, total loss for antelopes.

As I argued in my 2009 commentary, for the TPLF negotiation means playing a “zero-sum game”. They win all the time, everybody else loses every time. They have two negotiating strategies: “Might makes right. My way or the highway, jail or death!”

The T-TPLF will negotiate in earnest only and only if they are guaranteed they will remain the only dominant political and economic force in the country.”  Alemayehu G Mariam

Author’s Note: This commentary is an excerpt from my July 2, 2017 commentary “The Zero-Sum Negotiation Games of the TPLF”.

In that commentary, I used principles of “game theory” to examine the negotiation of strategies of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a historical perspective and the futility and impossibility of negotiating with the TPLF. Negotiating with the TPLF is negotiating with the Devil. All who have negotiated with the TPLF have lost their lives, liberties and properties.

Those who urge PM Abiy Ahmed to negotiate with the TPLF should consider the evidence I presented in July 2017.

An excellent summary of that commentary in Amharic has been prepared by FetaDaily, forward clip to 7min. 56 seconds.

I invite my readers to read the full commentaries here and here.




I see the T-TPLF on its last legs.

I am reminded of a poignant remark by Teddy Roosevelt in a speech (a worthwhile read) he gave on Labor Day in 1903: “The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.”

So, it has rung for the TPLF and its special class of apartheid government beneficiaries.

In November 2020, it is apocalypse, doomsday now for the TPLF.

In the lyrics of my song for the TPLF:

TPLF, the end is near
It is simple and clear
You have a choice to surrender
Or go six feet under!

 The “zero-sum” negotiating strategy of the TPLF

Fighting in the bush decades ago, the TPLF leaders perfected their negotiation strategy: Weaponize “negotiations” to annihilate your enemies.

In the bush, the TPLF would invite leaders of opposition elements, dissidents within its ranks and others it suspects of disloyalty to a “negotiation”, wine and dine them and literally slaughter them overnight.

On November 4, 2020, that is exactly what the TPLF did to the leadership of the Ethiopian Northern Command. They invited them to a discussion over dinner and overnight slaughtered them.

Hours before the slaughter in the Northern Command headquarters, TPLF junta leader Debretsion Gebremichael negotiated with PM Abiy Ahmed to send money to the region. When PM Abiy airlifted 1.2 billion birr to Makele Airport, Debretsion had already launched is attack.

Few seem to appreciate the TPLF used “negotiations” to seize and remain in power for 27 years!

In 1991, the TPLF used “negotiations” in London to swiftly install itself in power.

What a “negotiation that was!

The TPLF hoodwinked Herman Cohen, then Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, at the negotiating table into announcing “the rebel leadership has assured us that they plan for a broadly based provisional government leading to a democratic constitution for Ethiopia.”

That plan proved to be an apartheid state totally dominated by the TPLF.

For decades, every time the TPLF found its rear end in the ringer and boxed in, it cries out, “We are ready to negotiate! We are ready to talk!”

For the TPLF, negotiations, discussions, elections, etc. are all games.

Deadly games.

Zero-sum games.

That means the TPLF always wins 100 percent of the time and everybody else loses 100 percent of the time.

Here is the evidence.

In 1984-85, when Tigray was undergoing severe famine, TPLF set up a scam organization called “Relief Society of Tigray” (REST) and negotiated with international NGOs for food distribution. TPLF leaders diverted $95 million of that aid for weapons purchases and other activities unrelated to famine relief.

In 2000, the TPLF negotiated to settle the dispute over Badme in a “final and binding” international arbitration. When Badme was awarded to Eritrea, the TPLF reneged and demanded further negotiations.

In 2006, TPLF leader Zenawi negotiated in “a hand shake” with US General John Abizaid to wipe out Al Shabaab in Somalia. That handshake led to billons of dollars in U.S. military and other aid to Ethiopia. What is less known is the fact that Zenawi had also negotiated with Al Shabaab to continue minimal military presence so that Zenawi could use them as a boogeyman to milk the U.S. aid cash cow.

In 2008, in “elections for regional parliaments”, the TPLF won 1,903 of 1,904 seats. The TPLF won by 99.999 percent.

In May 2010, the TPLF “won” all the seats in “parliament” by 99.6 percent.

In May 2015, the TPLF “won” 100 percent of the seats in “parliament”.

Such total and complete zero-sum electoral “victory” occurred in a country where there are 79 registered opposition political parties.

In August 2007, the late TPLF leader Meles Zenawi “pardoned” 38 opposition political leaders to “give impetus to political negotiations in Ethiopia after more than two years’ crisis and stalemate.”

In October 2007,  “in spite of continuing negotiations between the government and the opposition, the political environment continued to deteriorate.”

In the 2007 “negotiations”, the TPLF had a double zero-sum game “win”. It validated the 38 railroaded opposition leaders were actually criminals because they accepted a “pardon”, and 2) forced them publicly to “admit” crimes they never committed to receive a pardon.

In 2009, the T-TPLF engaged in “negotiations” for the release of political prisoners, only after the political prisoners “had signed a paper admitting they tried to overthrow the government in an ‘unconstitutional’ manner.” Double zero-sum game win for the TPLF again.

In 2009, Zenawi led the African climate change negotiators to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen and delivered a zero-sum ultimatum: Fork over $40 billion or we will “delegitimize you!”,  Zenawi blustered. They ignored him.

In 2010, the TPLF negotiated for the release of Birtukan Midekssa, the first female Ethiopian political party leader and current head of the Ethiopian Elections Commission, after she “apologized for denying being granted a pardon in 2007” and “imploring the prime minister to grant her a second pardon for her to be able to see her aging mother and child.”

In 2010, the TPLF engaged donors in “negotiations” to allow them to send election observers and called their election report “useless trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage”.

In 2013,  TPLF head honcho and current leader of the attack on the Northern Command Debretsion Gebremichael said, “Ethnic federalism is equality. TPLF supremacy is nothing but a conspiracy. To say Tigreans are supreme (everywhere), that is not the reality. That is a zero. Zero.”

True. It is a zero.

It’s all a zero-sum game for the TPLF played in an apartheid state.

In 2016, after the Addis Ababa Masterplan faced popular opposition, the TPLF said they wanted to negotiate the plan. Not a chance.

In 2016, when the first state of emergency failed to control the popular uprising,  the TPLF again said they want to negotiate. No one was interested.

In October 2016, the TPLF showed their entire negotiating strategy when they massacred 800 plus people celebrating the Irrecha Festival in the town of Bishoftu, some 45 miles southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

In 2017, when the second state of emergency failed to control the popular uprising, the TPLF pleaded they want to negotiate. Too late.

Whenever the TPLF talked about negotiations, it also always tightened its political grip and continued its massacres, mass arrests, mass detentions and mass torture of innocent citizens.

Why does the TPLF always talk about negotiations when it faces stiff opposition?

For the TPLF, negotiation is an elaborate game. It is political drama as well as a deadly strategy that has enabled them to destroy their opposition time and again.

The TPLF has weaponized the word “negotiation” to seize power and keep it for 27 years.

The TPLF has used negotiations as a strategy to:

divide and make a separate peace with Oromos, Amharas and other ethnic groups to keep itself in power.

wage a war of attrition against their opposition.

neutralize and delegitimize their opposition and publicly make them their lackeys.

stall for time until they can cook up new tricks.

hoodwink the donors and loaners because the word “negotiation” perks up their ears.

blunt legislative efforts in the U.S. House and Senate aimed at sanctioning them.

bring the international community and opinion to their side.

Clean up their international image put on a kinder and gentler face and conceal their blood-soaked hands in a white glove.
Remain in power for one more day. One more week. One more month. One more year.

And NOW, to weasle their way out of criminal prosecution for treason, crimes against humanity, war crimes and a host of other charges.

The TPLF does not believe in a non-zero-sum, win game in negotiations. They must win 100 percent of the time.

They sneer at good faith bargaining, negotiation, compromise and conciliation. Negotiation for the TPLF is about one-upmanship. It is about hoodwinking and crushing their adversaries.

The real problem with the TPLF is that they negotiate with zero-think mindset.

They see anyone else winning in any matter small or big (political or economic) as a devastating loss to them.

They have a mindset of losers with a deeply ingrained conviction in their collective psyche that political opponents committed to democratic principles are mortal enemies, not merely political competitors.

TPLF’s 11 doctrines of negotiations 

Negotiate without negotiating. For the TPLF, negotiations are essentially elaborate public relations games. That means window dressing negotiations and going through the motions of negotiations. The TPLF’s cardinal negotiation tactic is: Negotiate without negotiating and bargain without bargaining.  In other words, pretend to be negotiating and bargaining but in the end take everything and give nothing.

NEVER engage in real negotiations, only make-believe ones. For the TPLF, negotiation is a game of attrition and a process of wearing down the opponent and frustrating them to walk away. Then the TPLF will blame the breakdown of negotiations on them.

Negotiations should be used to bait and trap. The TPLF’s history of negotiations shows that it likes to use a prolonged process of enticing, delaying and stringing along the opposition until the moment the trap is sprung on them. The TPLF uses negotiations as one would bait a mouse with cheese into the trap. The TPLF will make all sorts of cheesy promises, commitments, assurances, etc., to attract the opposition to the “negotiating table” only to slam shut the trap on them in the end.

Throw crumbs at the opposition and watch them fight like dogs. In negotiations, the TPLF will use ethnic politics, sectarianism, regionalism, etc. to divide and conquer their opposition. The TPLF will throw crumbs to the various ethnic opposition leaders and watch them fight and tear each other up. It is like the master throwing a bone to a bunch of hungry dogs.

Negotiations are weapons of mass public distraction and confusion. By talking “negotiations”, the TPLF hopes to create an atmosphere of hope and optimism of a negotiated settlement of disputes. They use negotiations to hoodwink the people into believing that this time it is for real and will make the hard choices and make things right. The people’s hopes are always dashed.

Negotiations are for suckers (fools). The TPLF slicksters believe they can outsmart, outmaneuver, out-trick and out-finesse their opposition any day of the week. They believe they are invincible. They think of their opposition as a bunch of cowards, fools and idiots. Susan Rice captured the essential attitude of the T-TPLF leaders in her eulogy of Meles in 2012 when she said Meles “liked to call” his opposition “fools or idiots”. The TPLF guys believe that they are negotiating with fools and idiots when they sit down with the opposition.

Negotiation is a competitive blood sport. For the TPLF, that means take the easy way first to bring pressure on the opposition to negotiate a deal.  If the “opposition” wants to play hardball, offer them rewards, money, jobs, business opportunities. If that does not work, threaten or slam them in jail for violating the “anti-terrorism law”.  Alternatively, torture and kill them.

The purpose of negotiation is to cut down your opponent, not to cut a deal. That is the essence of the TPLF’s zero-sum game. The late Zenawi once said of the opposition, “We will crush them with our full force; they will all vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.” The T-TPLF will crush anyone who is foolish enough to sit down and negotiate with them.

In negotiations, use them and lose them. The TPLF will use and lose their opposition as soon as they feel assured the opposition has served their purposes and their grip on power is not threatened.

Always, always negotiate from a position of strength and victory is assured. For the past 27 years, the TPLF has been able to do that because controlled and owned everything: the political process, the economy, the civil service and the military.

What is there for the Ethiopian government to negotiate with the TPLF now?

Knowing the history of TPLF “negotiations”, what is there for the Ethiopian Government to negotiate?

The TPLF now wants to negotiate for one and only one purposeCut a deal that will absolve them of all the crimes against humanity and war crimes they have committed since they came to power in 1991.

The TPLF knows they are militarily defeated.

They are losing battles on all fronts. Ethiopian Defense Forces are tracking down and hunting them down. TPLF special forces and dragooned militia are fleeing the battle space.

PM Abiy Ahmed has set three preconditions for negotiations with the TPLF: 1) Release all hostages including federal troops, abducted citizens and other illegally held prisoners. 2) Turn over all weapons and implements of stolen from the Northern Command. 3) Apprehension and arrest of the junta leadership, some of whom decorate the “Most Wanted” list, and their supporters who are presently fugitives from justice.

Only a Faustian bargain to be gained in a TPLF negotiation

My views on negotiations and bargaining with the TPLF are well-known.

In my 2009 commentary, “Loan Sharking Ethiopia’s Future!”, I warned, “Don’t make a pact with the TPLF devil!”

I expounded on that theme in my August 2016 commentary, “Ethiopia: Beyond the Politics of Hate”. I reminded, “It is unfair to condemn the ordinary people of Tigray for the sins and transgressions of the TPLF Devils.”

The T-TPLF is willing, able and ready to make a Faustian deal with anyone, at any time and in any place!

Goethe’s Dr. Faust made a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for wealth, success, worldly pleasures and power.

The TPLF will also promise and deliver wealth, success, worldly pleasures and power to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc., who is prepared to sell his soul.

The TPLF does not give a damn who you are and will make a deal with you at any cost provided, in the end, it gets your soul.

Now, it is the TPLF’s soul that is headed straight to HELL! HELL! HELL!

My advice to anyone who is even thinking about negotiations: “The devil is in the TPLF details…”