Ethiopia : Protests,Road Blockades in Tigray

Good governance issues and grievances related to local governance structural adjustment are said to be among factors that triggered protests in Tigray region of Ethiopia

By Bernabas Shiferaw
May 26, 2020

There were reports of anti-government sentiments and actions in some areas of Tigray on social media in the last four days. Some outlets, including government owned media like Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), reported that there have been demonstrations around Shire Enda-Sellasie and Wajerat. 

According to FBC, the questions raised at the demonstrations were mainly related to lack of efficient administration, unemployment, and request of their kebeles (the smallest administrative division) becoming a center for the district. 

The head of the Tigray Prosperity Party, Mr. Nebiyu Sehul Mikael, told the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that there have been demonstrations at Wajerat requesting that Wajerat become a district as it used to be in previous times. 

He described the event as a public movement and summarized its causes as “questions of freedom.” One of these is the practice of “true federalism” because the principle of self-government has not been implemented in the region so far. Rather, he said, the region is governed by a group of people from one area. He also added economic injustice and misappropriation of resources in some areas by government officials to the causes behind the movement. 

However, the Tigray Communication Affairs Bureau has announced yesterday that “there has not been any demonstration or breach of peace and security in any part of Tigray.” The Bureau, in its press release, has named several government owned and private media outlets, including Prosperity Party’s Facebook page, which reported demonstrations have taken place in Tigray and called their reports fabrications aimed at weakening the “strong relationship between the government of Tigray and the Tigrayan People.” It has also asked the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority to take legal measures against these outlets. 

But BBC Amharic has confirmed, from officials and inhabitants, that there have been protests and road blockages in various parts of the region that have been going on for days now. According to BBC’s report, the reason behind the protests and the road blockages is the request by two kebeles to become a center of the district they are in following a structural reform by the regional government. The kebeles have been named as Mai Hanse in North Western Tigray and Baheri Hatsei in South Eastern Tigray. 

In Mai Hanse, the main road has been blocked for 11 days now. Two inhabitants told the BBC that the reason behind the blockade is the decision by District officials to make another the kebele a center to the district instead of their Kebele. One of them said that the officials considered their own convenience in making the decision. Another said there is corruption behind the decision. 

The head of the district, Mr. Habtom Aberra, confirmed that the road has been blocked. He said that although the protestors had been told that they should go and talk to regional officials if they reject the decision by the district officials, they refused to go to the regional officials asking instead that the officials come to them. 

A member of the local militia said that they have been asked to disperse the protestors or to disarm themselves. However, the militia’s peaceful efforts to convince the protestors to disperse were unsuccessful. Afterwards, members of the militia chose to side with the protestors and refused the request by the regular police to disarm themselves. 

Similarly, in South Eastern Tigray, inhabitants of the Baheri Hatsei kebele have been protesting for four days now. The cause of the protest is, like the one in Mai Hanse, becoming the center of the district. Under the new structure, the old district has been converted into two separate districts called Wajerat and Hentalo. Baheri Hatsei used to be the center of the old district. However, under the new structure, it is being considered along with another kebele to become the center for the new district of Wajerat. 

The Protestors object to other kebeles other than theirs being considered for the role since their kebele used to be the center of the old district. The head of the Wajerat district, Mr. Darge Tsehai, told the BBC that no decision has been made so far. He confirmed that there has been a protest by the youth in the kebele. But, he said, no measure has been taken against protestors by the government. 

Mr. Amdom Gebresellasie, the Public relations head of Arena, an opposition party in Tigray, has confirmed the causes of the protests. He also confirmed that the government has not taken any forceful measure against protestors in these areas. “However,” Mr. Amdom said, “the government is also not doing anything to solve the problem. In fact, it is denying that there have been protests.”

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