Laying the Past to Rest

The EPRDF and the Challenges of Ethiopian State-Building

January 2020 9781787382916 376pp
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The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), founded as a small guerrilla movement in 1974, became the leading party in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). After decades of civil war, the EPRDF defeated the government in 1991, and has been the dominant party in Ethiopia ever since. Its political agenda of federalism, revolutionary democracy and a developmental state has been unique and controversial.

Drawing on his own experience as a senior member of the TPLF/EPRDF leadership, and his unparalleled access to internal documentation, Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe identifies the organisational, political and sociocultural factors that contributed to victory in the revolutionary war, particularly the Front’s capacity for intellectual leadership. Charting its challenges and limitations, he analyses how the EPRDF managed the complex transition from a liberation movement into an established government. Finally, he evaluates the fate of the organisation’s revolutionary goals over its subsequent quarter-century in power, assessing the strengths and weaknesses the party has bequeathed to the country.

Laying the Past to Rest is a comprehensive and balanced analysis of the genesis, successes and failings of the EPRDF’s state-building project in contemporary Ethiopia, from a uniquely authoritative observer.


‘A sharp and ultimately excruciating critique of the party to which [Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe] once dedicated his life.’ — Foreign Policy

‘A sympathetic yet thoughtful critical analysis … a remarkable case study.’ — CHOICE

‘Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand contemporary Ethiopian politics … a remarkable work of scholarship.’ H-Africa

‘This book deserves to be a reference book for everyone interested in the history of TPLF/EPRDF in Ethiopia … It is a highly illuminating book, filling a serious gap in the discourse about the TPLF/EPRDF.’ — World Peace Foundation

‘[The book is] a highly useful and relevant intellectual work [with] incisive insight and sound arguments.’ — Addis Standard

‘Will become required reading for academics studying rebellion, institutional development, transitions, and Ethiopian history and politics.’ — African Studies Quarterly

‘Celebrated or demonised, but rarely understood: the EPRDF is central to Ethiopia’s contemporary history. Mulugeta Berhe provides the crucial missing element to that story. A true insider’s account of how a rural revolution triumphed, transformed the country, and lost its way. Empirically rich, theoretically cogent, and incisively critical.’   Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and Research Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

‘Mulugeta’s book draws uniquely on first-hand accounts of key politico-military junctures, a treasure trove of primary documents and incisive personal memories to tell the story of one of Africa’s most remarkable state-building projects. A much-awaited and much-needed memoir of an important actor.’ — Harry Verhoeven, Associate Professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and author of Why Comrades Go To War: Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa’s Deadliest Conflict

‘A rare, first-hand, yet critical assessment of the TPLF/EPRDF’s military victory and subsequent transition to government in Ethiopia. This book makes an important contribution to understanding a crucial period in Ethiopian history, with much wider implications for Africa as a whole.’ Christopher Clapham, Professor Emeritus of African Studies, University of Cambridge

‘An absorbing and critical account of the rise of the TPLF/EPRDF, animated by the internal perspective of an author who fought in and served the liberation movement. Essential reading for students of Ethiopia, liberation movements, and democratic transitions in a post-communist world.’ Andreas Eshete, UNESCO chair for Peace, Human rights, and Democracy, and former President of Addis Ababa University

‘A poignant, critical and expert study of the TPLF/EPRDF through the eyes of an insider. Essential reading not only for students of liberation fronts, Ethiopia, and democratic transitions, but also for current and former members of the TPLF/EPRDF.’ – Abay Tsehaye, one of the founders, longest serving leaders and former chairman of the TPLF


Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe is a senior fellow at the World Peace Foundation. A veteran of the TPLF/EPRDF-led armed struggle, he headed the EPRDF’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme during its first decade in government. He was a founder and director of Addis Ababa University’s Institute for Peace and Security Studies.

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