The Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party (EPRP) was the first political party formed underground in Ethiopia. The party was founded in 1972 at the end of a founding congress held from April 2-9. One of the major decisions made at the founding congress was to organize a revolutionary army and soon after the first recruits were assembled in the Middle East for training. The party emerged out of the decades long struggle of the Ethiopian masses – students, teachers, workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals – against the then reigning feudal system.
Members and supporters of EPRP came from practically all regions, ethnic groups, and religions of Ethiopia. The party fights for equitable distribution of economic resources such as land to the citizens, realization of good governance and rule of law in the country, the enshrinement and protection of all democratic and human rights, and equality of all ethnic groups, religions, and gender to mention a few.
The Ethiopian Revolution of 1974 took place two years after the birth of EPRP; and as a result, the young Party was not strong enough to assume power.In August 1975, the Party openly declared its existence and mass distributed its political program that were written in the various Ethiopian languages such as Amharic, Oromiffa, Tigrigna and foreign languages such as English and Arabic.
A military dictatorship that called itself the Dirg instead took power and subjected the country to untold misery over a 17 year period. Although the young party was not strong enough to assume political power, it played a crucial role in galvanizing the Ethiopian people around the slogans ofa representative government, democratic rights and decent standard of living for all its citizens. The Party's organ, DEMOCRACIA tremendously contributed to organize the people around the popular demands and slogans.
The unpopular military regime immediately resorted to violence and mass arrest in the face of mounting opposition from the civilian left and the democratic opposition at large. The EPRP called for a Provisional People's Government to replace the military dictatorship and outlined in a series of its party organs on the essence, composition and term of the Provisional People's Government. The junta, unwilling to contemplate giving up of power, unleashed its terror and intensified its violence against defenseless broad sectors of the Ethiopian people. This was what is now commonly called the "Red Terror" in Ethiopian history and took place from 1976 through the end of 1978. The Red Terror by most estimates claimed 150,000 to 200,000 lives. The majority were by any measure the best and brightest of Ethiopia's future generation. In response, the Party pursued self-defense operations in the urban areas armed struggle in the rural areas through the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Army (EPRA) that operated in the regions of Tigrai and Gondar simultaneously. The urban self defense operation was no match to the full power of the military dictatorship, and its pursuit resulted in heavy losses to the EPRP.
The dominant party in the current EPRDF regime in power in Ethiopia, the Tigrai People Liberation Front (TPLF), was at the time operational in Tigrai in the same geographic area as the EPRA.The TPLF kept insisting on demanding of the EPRA to leave its "natural" area of operation. EPRP tried to dissuade the TPLF from pursuing a narrow-nationalistic agenda, and firmly stated that as a multi-ethnic party, it was free to operate in all parts of Ethiopia, including Tigrai. TPLF would hear none of that, and after deceptively tying the hands of EPRP through a never-ending dialogue to resolve the dispute, it launched war and took EPRA by surprise. The party was forced to retreat into Gondar.
The Party suffered three major internal dissents between 1977 and 1980. The first factional problem of 1977 was in relation to the Party's urban self defense form of struggle and relationship the Party should have with the ruling military junta. That internal conflict exposed the Party's urban structures to the junta and severely compromised the security of many of its leaders and members.The 1978 and 1979 internal problems of the EPRA in Tigrai and Gondar had resulted in mass dismissal, defection, and resignation of many of its members in the rural areas.
The EPRP has paid huge sacrifices in facing the military-fascistic regime, and has lost many of its members and leaders during the struggle. Among many thousands of its martyrs Hibstu, Iabiyu, Dilai (f), Tesfaye Debessai, Yohannis Berhanie, Girmachew Lema, Seifu Tena, Berhane Iyasou, Adinew Keiro, Iyob Tena, Nega Ayele, Tselote Hizkias, Melaku Markos, Markos Hagos, Tekaligne W/A, Yosef Adane, Engineer Ousman, Woubshet Retta, Fikre Zergaw, Geleb Dafla, Haile Abai, Taye Tola, Benyam Adane, Mohammed Mahfouz, Memhir Belai, etc.etc are few.
In 1984, at its 2nd Party Congress inside Ethiopia at Quarra, the party changed its ideology from Marxism-Leninism to accepting multi-partyism, and a market economy, and changed its program accordingly. It also revised its position on the Leninist concept of "the right of nations/nationalities to self-determination up to and including secession" and dropped the later part of the position stating "up to and including secession".
The progressive and multi-ethnic forces in Ethiopia were weakened as a result of the massive beating they took at the hands of both the military dictatorship and the tribalist TPLF. This sad phenomenon cleared the path for narrow nationalistic forces to grow stronger and eventually defeat the brutal military dictatorship. On its way to the capital city and seat of government in the late 1980's, the TPLF aided by the Eritrean People Liberation Front and the Sudanese government, once again attacked EPRA forces in Gondar and Gojjam and killed many EPRA combatants and captured some of its gallant leaders and fighters. Those who were captured at that time and about whose whereabouts TPLF has been silent include: Amha Belete, Aberash Berta, Hagos Bezabeh, Azanaw Demille, Yishak Debretsion, Teklai Gebreslassie, Tamrat Gizachew and Tsegaye Gebremedhin (Debteraw).
After the TPLF took power in Ethiopia, it declared the EPRP illegal despite the Party's public declaration of a readiness to struggle peacefully and legally. In 1990-1991, the EPRP was instrumental in working with other Ethiopian political organizations to form an opposition umbrella front called the Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF). Through COEDF, the party was behind two significant opposition party conferences in the City of Paris. In 1993, again through COEDF, the party tried to lay the framework to resolve Ethiopia's political problems by holding a Peace and Reconciliation Conference inside Ethiopia. The regime refused to participate after earlier giving mixed signals, and aborted the Conference by jailing some of EPRP/COEDF delegates and refusing entry to others who were in transit.
Since then, despite the hurdles thrown at peaceful resolutions of our problems by the regime, the EPRP has continued the search for a solution. In 2004, the party was once again instrumental along with other Ethiopian opposition parties in the formation of the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). UEDF contested the Ethiopian election of 2005 and gained about 52 parliamentary seats. However, in the face of massive election rigging by the TPLF/EPRDF regime, most of the opposition decided to boycott the parliament, and this difference in position resulted in the division of UEDF.
On October 29, 2007, EPRP split into two camps during its Extra-ordinary Party Congress that was convened to resolve the ever expanding internal differences relating to democratic practices, the respect of collective decision, and priorities and areas of organizational operations. The group that constituted EPRP (democratic) held a separate congress of its own and affirmed to uphold the social democratic orientation of the party and to implement democratic practices throughout its structures. EPRP (democratic) affirms its commitment to continue the struggle for democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia in tradition with the perseverance of and the path blazed by our fallen comrades.