Mekelle fans demonstrated against Woldia over mistreatment but there is a different narrative, too.
Mekelle City soccer team fans took to the street in Mekelle to protest what they call mistreatment in Woldia, where they traveled to over the weekend to support their team which never happened as the match was cancelled following provoked protest in Woldia. Protests are rare in Mekelle as the city is within the a region of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) political support base – and of course ethnic Tigre.
As per Yohannes Gebregziabhier’s report, for DW, from Addis Ababa yesterday, the protesters started marching from Sheba College to Aksum hotel and then moved to Kebele 16 locality in the city. Then they attacked private and public business including banking centers. As the protesters began marching to Tigray regions radio station (Dimtsi woyane),Federal and Tigray region’s police forces intervened and the city was rocked with gunfire.
During the protest, they are said to have chanted the slogan “justice to Mekelle City soccer team fans.”
One Mekelle City fan is reportedly killed in Woldia on Saturday when Woldia City team fans and Mekelle City fans clashed. Among the issues Tigreans are criticized for by other Ethiopians is that they are silent when hundreds and thousands of youth are killed by TPLF loyal forces – Agazi.
Narrative from Woldia city
As reported by borkena on December 3, Mekelle City fans reportedly uttered ethno-chauvinistic slur against Woldia City fans. Then it took no time for Woldia fans to react to the slur to the point of where the entire city was swept by angry protests. Businesses owned by Tigrians in the city were attacked by protesters.
Then Agazi forces, these are TPLF loyal forces, opened fire on protesters. Three protesters are killed, according to social media sources from Woldia city but the regional government communication bureau head, Nigussu Tilahun, says only one person was killed. In fact, he did not mention that the person was killed by Agazi forces.
Background of the problem
The clashes between Woldia City Team fans and Mekelle city Team fans has little to do with soccer. It is not the first time either. Fans of Bahir Dar City team and Gonder City Team were attacked in Tigray region a few months back.
Many observers and political analysts seem to agree that the clashes are basically about politics. Particularly ethnic politics is a driving forces behind the clashes.
There is a sentiment in across Ethiopia that Tigray region has benefited a lot unfairly from the current system in Ethiopia, whose master,essentially, is TPLF. As well, there is a widely held belief across the country that Ethiopians of Tigray origin with relatives in the TPLF party have created wealth through illegal means at the expense of Ethiopia. The assertion is not hanging in the air. Key government sectors in the Federal government including in customs authority, security apparatus and military positions are under the control of TPLF while the ethnic group it represents constitutes only 6 percent of the total population. There were many cases a Tigrean identity has become like a pass for carrying out illicit trade in the southern,south western and South eastern parts of Ethiopia.
There are other forms of wealth creation for people in the region. Last year, Voice of America Amharic service reported ( was also reported by ESAT) that Tigrian investors who borrowed millions of birr for investment in agriculture sector in Gambella region were rather using the fund for constructing commercial buildings in the capital while not losing their land holdings in Gambella. To cover up the story, they complained of “discrimination” in Gambella. There many other cases of economic injustices against Ethiopians outside of Tigray.
Theoretically, Federal regions in Ethiopia are ethnic based. Consequently, soccer teams from a given city in any region are likely to be seen in light of their ethnic background. So when one city from one region plays another city from another region, the image that emerges for many who took ethnic politics seriously is as if one ethnic group playing other ethnic group.
Unlike history, ethnic violence has become a rampant problem in Ethiopia and the scale of it is quite frightening. In a recent ethnic violence between Oromo and Somali regions of Ethiopia, an estimated half a million people are displaced. Oromo region of Ethiopia, unlike before, has become a hell for people of other ethnic heritage.
Yet, TPLF party resolved recently that problems that are being observed in Ethiopia has got to do with failure of policy implementation rather than policy itself.
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