The bloodiest war of the 21st century, which devastated Tigray, ended when Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a permanent cessation of hostilities in Pretoria. The Pretoria agreement ignited a glimmer of hope that peace may come in Tigray and in Ethiopia.
The Pretoria agreement includes establishing an interim regional administration (IRA) to take the place of the current administration, which the TPLF completely controls and the agreement deems illegal. The TPLF, after dragging its feet for three months, has started the process to establish the IRA.
One of the military leaders on the Tigrayan side, Tadesse Worede (Lt. Gen.), sent a press release to the Tigrayan state media saying that a committee of nine people had been set up to oversee the formation of the IRA.
The announcement was a surprise to all other players except TPLF insiders. Three of the committee members were TPLF executive members, three were military commanders handpicked by the TPLF, and the remaining three were scholars known to be TPLF loyalists.
No other political party members were included; neither the military leaders nor the scholars were elected to represent their constituencies but rather they were handpicked by the TPLF leaders.
Tadesse’s committee held several meetings with different segments of society, which were carefully selected to give their support and legitimize the committee. But, despite the effort to filter dissidents and gather only TPLF supporters, the committee encountered rejection in most of the meetings and was told by the populace that it needed to stop the illegal and illegitimate process and restart with a transparent, inclusive, and legitimate process.
On the other hand, Tsadkan Gebretinsae (Lt. Gen.), who is known to be an astute strategist with high integrity and a commitment to promoting Tigrayan interests beyond party lines, has come out with his recommendations to make the IRA a success.
After trying to internally influence TPLF leaders to commit to transparency and inclusivity, Tsadkan seems to have concluded that the TPLF has decided to maintain the status quo and a complete monopoly of power in Tigray. In his paper distributed to the public, he stated that the process of the establishment of Tadesse’s committee was not transparent, inclusive, and therefore not legitimate.
He says that the committee itself needs to be formed in a transparent manner and be inclusive of all Tigrayan political parties and all other stakeholders. The mandate of the committee, he recommends, should be limited to defining the process, not executing it.
Tsadkan also suggested the establishment of an interim regional council that is composed of fairly represented political parties and other stakeholders. He underlines the importance of the election of representatives by the bodies they represent, as opposed to selection by any other authority. He also proposed that the council should select the head of the IRA, who should be given full authority to select the cabinet members based on the criteria provided by the council. He says cabinet members should be assigned based on merit and capabilities rather than their political alliances.
Tadesse’s committee has continued a process that remains rejected by all sectors of Tigrayan society except by the ruling faction of the TPLF and its supporters. They held a conference, which was not attended by any other political party other than TPLF itself and its loyalists.
Tsadkan appeared during the conference and told participants that what they were doing was a historical mistake and walked out, showing his rejection of the process Tadesse’s committee is following.
The TPLF’s leaders’ avarice for power has the people of Tigray in awe and perplexed about what to do about it. The TPLF could have chosen a better route where it could smoothly transition power to an IRA that is inclusive. But like all authoritarian parties, the TPLF is showing no signs of opening up the democratic process.
Tigray faces a choice: to succumb to authoritarian rule following Tadesse’s plan or to transition to a democratic regime following Tsadkan’s way.
A passive response will only embolden the TPLF to continue its authoritarian rule and further intensify its control over power. Tigrayans might as well say goodbye to democracy if they let the TPLF continue its power monopoly in the IRA.
If Tigray is to transition to a democratic regime, it is crucial that all stakeholders reject the TPLF’s effort to maintain its foothold in the IRA and encourage Tigrayans to follow Tsadkan’s way. The AU, US, EU, UN, IGAD, and the federal government have a responsibility to save the people of Tigray from being taken hostage by the TPLF and reject its effort to monopolize power in the IRA. They should help Tigray reject Tadesse’s way and follow Tsadkan’s way.
Mersea Kidan is a community leader, an author, and a public speaker on subjects relating to Tigray, Ethiopia, and leadership. He can be reached at [email protected]
Contributed by Mersea Kidan