Post-War Tigray region of Ethiopia Struggles with Internal Political Unrest

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After a two-year war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Federal Government concluded in a peace agreement, Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is grappling with divisive internal politics. The TPLF, once dominant, faces an uncertain future and it continues to impede the Interim Administration led by Getachew Reda, who was to usher in a new era of governance under the Pretoria accord.

New reports suggest there is overt opposition to the interim chair’s authority. This in turn risks the fragile peace. Tensions escalated in October, leading to the removal of key officials. The ousted officials belonging to the hardliner camp within the TPLF were accused of neglecting duties and not complying with official policy of the interim government. This highlight increasing governance challenges within the interim structures. There have also been death threats and near misses targeting interim government officials. A prison break in November was linked to sabotage efforts orchestrated by those opposing the the interim government.

In addition, opposition politics has become challenging for the interim government to manage. Opposition parties have also criticized the TPLF leadership for mistakes made during the two-year conflict, and the Pretorial agreement which reads like a surrender document for the TPLF. Unfortunately, the persistent power struggles are hindering Tigray’s recovery efforts.

The humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by international aid cessation, persistent drought, and displacement remains daunting. Despite recent announcements, there is no improvement, with a significant portion of agricultural land affected by drought conditions.

In what appeared to be a drive to curb growing factionalism, the region’s authorities have been clamping down on opposition politics. Opposition leaders emphasized ongoing restrictions on political freedoms, reminiscent of the old TPLF era, with instances of violent suppression of protests. Arrests of opposition figures and denial of protest permits underscore the oppressive environment, challenging the notion of a post-war inclusive political transition.

The confused politics of the region is perhaps a result of the interim administration’s move towards decentralized decision-making. This is all very new for Tigray, which lived under authoritarian governance for decades prior.  The challenge lies in the lack of clarity in power distribution and the lingering influence of the TPLF, fueling internal strife within interim structures.

Despite these uncertainties, an inclusive political transition as per the Pretoria Peace Agreement is something Getachew Reda’s team has been keen on maintaining. However, entrenched political habits hinder genuine representation, posing difficulties for the interim administration in removing the TPLF’s hardliners, who are undermining Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), a key pillar of the Pretoria peace agreement. Many of the same officials were also recently accused by the USAID for stealing humanitarian aid logistics. Interim leader Getachew Reda’s circle has tacitly blamed TPLF hardliners from diverted humanitarian aid, thus highlighting the growing splits within the region.

The post-war conundrum reflects unmet expectations for an inclusive political framework post-conflict. The TPLF’s failure to uphold unity and collaboration during the reconstruction phase adds to the challenges. Nonetheless, returning to the pre-war status quo, whereby the TPLF dominated Tigray seems unlikely. The political chaos in Tigray could see a power struggle in which the TPLF is completely sidelined, or another scenario, where interim leader Getachew and those around him exits the scene. This latter outcome would jeopardize the peace agreement.

A key disappointment has been the interim government’s inability to reclaim what has been referred to as “West Tigray”, although the neighboring Amhara regions would disagree with that characterization. The area in question is currently governed independently and has been relatively calm.  Moreover, the party’s continued complaints of ‘occupation by Eritrean forces’ further complicates Tigray’s political feuds. In the absence of real power to change facts on the ground, neither the TPLF nor the interim government exude confidence in the Public’s mind.

The TPLF’s past aggressions, its continued bellicose attitude and corrupt practices has alienated neighboring regions. Unless the interim government can overwhelm TPLF’s grip by dismantling entrenched single-party systems, the path forward remains uncertain. Opposition parties, often accused of weakness, need better organization and collaboration for effective multi-party governance.

The multifaceted challenges in post-war Tigray region demand comprehensive solutions. Urgent reconciliation and inclusive governance as well as dialogue with neighboring regions is needed to maintain stability and expedite the economic recovery and normalization of the region.

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