De facto state in North Ethiopia facing popular protest

De facto _ state _ Tigray

May 26, 2020

Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has been running Tigray regional state, in north Ethiopia, much like a de facto state. In the latest string of confrontation with the Federal government, it announced that it will run elections on its own – against the decision of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Coronavirus situation has made the scheduled election impossible to take place, argued the latter and the Ethiopian parliament has accepted it by majority vote. However, TPLF explains its intended action as one that is pursued in the defense of the Ethiopian Constitution. Furthermore, it said that it does not want to stay in power without an election. 

Against the backdrop of those circumstances, a series of protests this week transpired in several areas of the Tigray region. But the main centers of resistance were Wajerat and Asgede districts. In January 2020, there were similar protests in Hintalo and Adi Nebri areas. 

The immediate causes of the protests are linked to grievances related to administrative arrangements, according to a report by the DW Amharic report on Tuesday. There are 34 districts in the region and authorities are working to raise the number to 57. The new arrangement is believed to bring about opportunities in terms of infrastructure development and employment opportunities to residents. However, the way TPLF authorities are going about it has caused disenchantment in some parts of the region.

Residents of Asgede district have blocked the road leading to the Shire. It has been blocked since Sunday.  Similarly, residents of Wajirat district took to the street, despite the coronavirus situation and the state of emergency legislation in the region, to protest an alleged relocation of the district’s center to another area. DW Amharic said it contacted the authorities in the above-mentioned districts but declined to respond to the phone call.

Tigray regional denied that there was a protest in the region. In a statement issued on Monday, the Communications Affairs Bureau accused state-owned media outlets (like Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation and Fana Broadcasting Corporation, among others) and private media outlets of what it called “dissemination of unfounded,” information about protests in Tigray region. “Media that breathe with the same lung,” the statement called those media outlets.

“The truth is,” the statement said further, “there is no protest or security incident in any parts of the Tigray region.” It also called on the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority to investigate and take measures on state-owned and private media outlets that covered what it called “false news” about protests in Tigray.  Federal authorities have not yet responded to the statement from the Tigray region.

Images purportedly showing protests in different parts of the Tigray region have been circulating on social media like Facebook and Twitter.  Many describe the protests as part of a new youth movement, in the region, known as “Fenkel” – a Tigrigna and Amharic word that could translate to “uproot.”

Tigray Branch of Prosperity Party has confirmed that there were demonstrations in Wajirat and Asgede. The party vowed that TPLF will not have power in the region after September 2020.

Critics say the party that is governing the region has a recorded history of repression when it was dominating the Federal power. Last week, two young men were shot dead in Mekelle over the alleged violation of Coronavirus state of emergency measures in the region.

Meanwhile, the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) said, in a statement released on May 26 that it supports the “struggle of the people of Tigray for Freedom and Equality.”

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