Multiple of critiques against Tigray government’s press release on Tigray opposition parties

“The Government of Tigray always tells us how the people know what's best for them and how the ultimate decision should be made by the people. So, they should allow the parties to express their ideas and concerns freely and trust the people to make the right decision.”

Tigray Communication Affairs Bureau has accused ‘some political parties’ in the region of hindering the struggle aka Mekhete, and providing a fertile ground for the continuation of the “genocide by the invading forces”. The Bureau called up on the people of Tigray to stop the parties from “continuing with their destructive act”.
The statement written in Tigrigna and posted on the official and verified Facebook page of the bureau this week reads “some political parties in Tigray have been making moves to disrupt our popular struggle. Even if the Tigray government was patient with them, they could not refrain from obstructing our struggle. They are making various accusations against the Tigray government”

The strongly worded statement from Tigray government continued that the parties “should not consider patience as a weakness and make any move against the vital interests of the people of Tigray”

Hailu Kebede, Foreign Affairs Head of Salsay Weyane Party, an opposition party that have been releasing weekly statements on current affairs in Tigray responded to UMD Media’s request for reaction regarding the government’s statement.

“I think this is a continuation of what they were doing for the last one year, except that it is now official statement from the government”

The statement called that “all political parties in Tigray should do their utmost to contribute to the struggle to secure the survival of the people of Tigray.” Emphasizing that “it is unacceptable to go out of line and violate the laws.”

Hailu Kebede who said there will be an official joint response from three Tigray opposition parties including Tigray Independence Party and National Congress for Great Tigray, Baytona soon added his take that the government is doing this “ to accuse and arrest opposition party leadership.” And it is a reaction on part of the government that “they believe our statements are undermining their authority.”
Salsay Weyane Party Foreign Affairs Head further shared with UMD Media his suspicion that “it is a coordinated effort” perhaps coming out of a backdoor agreement with Abiy Ahmed “to undermine the aspirations of Tigrayans for statehood” .

UMD Media has sent message through the communication bureau’s verified Facebook page for an opportunity to clarify on the released statement. We haven’t received response from them at the time of this reporting.

Approached by UMD Media, Getachew Reda, a senior official of the Government of Tigray was quick to respond regarding Hailu Kebede’s suspicion around the motive of his government’s statement that the suspicion is “plain nonsense”.

The government statement has as well attracted strong critiques from Tigrayans active on social media as was visible in the Facebook comments from readers posted under the statement.
Leake Zegeye a doctoral student shared his observation with us that “it definitely was absolute majority of the comments were against the content and substance of the statement from the government”.

A selected number of people were contacted by UMD Media for their views on the statement.

Fthawi Hiruy believes “that instead of answering the questions properly and expressing the government’s willingness to work together (with the opposition parties), issuing a statement full of threats makes Tigrayans’ future frightening.”

Mulubirhan Assefa has a “mixed feeling” as such “statements are expected on those who undermine the government’s legitimacy” while his preference is “not to be tightened “

“There is no logic or evidence to label the opposition parties as enemies or accuse them of undermining the struggle. The criteria used by the government seems whether the parties are opposing the TPLF or are a threat to its power ”, said Gebremichael Zeratsion (MD). He continued “the ‘patience as weakness’ warning is worrisome as it seems to point to the way ahead in terms of potential measures the government might take that will undermine the unity of the people.”

Hayelom Bizayene agrees that “calling for transitional government or coalition government” by opposition parties shouldn’t be considered as undermining the struggle.

Zemas Tsigab who is a journalist with Yabele Media went in detail to point out that the prevailing circumstance since the start of the war doesn’t provide for arguing based on the constitution which is not operational even in the way “the bureau calls itself”. It is therefore ”inconsistent to accuse the opposition parties of breaking the law”. He further said “the intent of the statement from the government goes beyond the opposition parties as it would be applicable to curtail individuals’ freedom of speech”.

For Tigisti, a well-known figure in the Tigrayan Twittersphere, the judgment should be left to the people of Tigray. She said, “The Government of Tigray always tells us how the people know what’s best for them and how the ultimate decision should be made by the people. So, they should allow the parties to express their ideas and concerns freely and trust the people to make the right decision.”

UMD Media also asked Getachew Gebrekiros and Mulu Beyene both with Law background for their view on the statement from the government.

“It is one example showing the longstanding pattern of undemocratic governance model of TPLF.”, said Getachew Temare.
“The party currently focuses on portraying opposition political parties who have considerable support in the youth, as enemies of the public because of the relevant demands of the society they raise.”
Getachew Gebrekiros’ fear is the next step might be a crackdown on the opposition and detention of “important political personalities” on political grounds. “It is all in all an unfortunate effort to shut down the movement for internal liberty which has been started soon after the war in some ways”.

A doctoral student in Europe, Mulu Beyene went into the substance of the statement expressing his shock after reading it. “ The allegations are pretty much differences in opinion and political readings. As such, the solution would be to understand the causes and address them. This path of painting political parties as forces detrimental to the struggle is unwarranted and only plays into the long game the enemy is playing. The course needs to be reversed. There is no other way, but to open the political space more and include these actors, not demonize them.”

UMD Media has made an effort to capture diverse views around the statement from government of Tigray with the hope of including them in this report. Some of the people we contacted have either declined or didn’t respond to our requests.

We will be waiting to hear back for a response from the government bureau that released the now controversial statement.

UMD Media

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