The betrayal of the Tigray Region by Abiy Ahmed

In April 2018 Abiy Ahmed the new appointed Prime Minister of Ethiopia came to visit Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, with a message of hope, cooperation, and development. As a teenager in the Ethiopian Army he had served in the Tigray region and learned Tigrinya, the native language. He watched a circus show, sat with Tigray People Liberation Front leaders, and talked about a future together. Before his visit he had stated that it was time for a new era for all regions to work together. That the country should look forward and not be focused in the past.

Abiy Ahmed sits with TPLF leaders at the Mekelle Monument to Martyrs

He talked about infrastructure development including hydroelectric dams, a railroad project, the Mekelle water problem, giving support to private sector development , loans for investment, export support from the national bank, improving tourism,  bringing public meter taxi for Mekelle,  and a short lease proclamation for agriculture. None of these things ever happened.

Instead after his visit there came to be a movement in Ethiopia about the need to deal with the past.  In late 2018, the Prime Minister created a Reconciliation Commission “to maintain peace justice, national unity and consensus as well as Reconciliation among Ethiopian Peoples.”

Discussion began about injustice under the Monarchy, the Derg, and the Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Front under whose auspices Abiy Ahmed came to power as a compromise between Amhara and Oromia factions. Soon however, this effort which lacked any clear mandate, become a mechanism for consolidating power. 

By the 2019 budgets for the Tigray state which were calculated by population formulas used for all regions were beginning to be cut. Many former political leaders including those of the TPLF were sought out for arrest. Ethnic identity in the Amhara region, and other regions as well,  which normally had about 10% Tigray became an issue. There were pushes which began subtilty but then became open and forceful causing many Tigray to leave other regions and move back to Tigray.  Abiy Ahmed was using the usual formula for dictators by creating a Tigray strawman. He began to turn on even those who facilitated his rise namely Jawar Mohammed from Oromia.

On the occasion of the 2019 harvest and women’s festival Ashenda , Abiy Ahmed sent a message that Tigray culture was an important and vital part of Ethiopia. In a speech to Parliament he stated that the TPLF and Tigray leadership were examples to follow for other regions in Ethiopia. 

The Tigray Ethiopia conflict which was the end result of almost two years of escalating actions against the Tigrayan ethnicity was touted as a “law enforcement action”. That the Ethiopian government was going to free the Tegaru people from the crimes committed against them by the TPLF. Instead with its expatriate Eritrean allies it looted, killed, raped, and stole from the very people Abiy Ahmed said he would “liberate”. Finally he sarcastically complained that he had to remove his army from Mekelle because the Tegaru were helping the Tigray government too much. 

Today more than 300,000 Tegaru are suffering famine. Aid is being actively blocked by the Ethiopian government.  Revolts are now active in Beningshagul, Afar, Oromia, Agew, Somali, and Gambella who also feel betrayed.  Hope has been replaced to a fight for survival against a great betrayal. 

 

 

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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