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11:46 pm - Tuesday October 23, 2018

The Mekele Issue (Jawar Mohammed)

The Mekele Issue

 Jawar Mohammed

There seem to be concern about speeches made , slogans carried and symbols displayed at the Mekele rally. Some are going as far as suspecting TPLF is threatening to break the region away from the federal system. While the concern is understandable, I think it is an exaggeration. What I saw was leaders and ordinary people expressing support for the reform but also expressing their concern.

– I have not seen a slogan that denounces the ongoing reform and transition.

– Many people were carrying pictures of martyrs. The message I read is that they want the rest of Ethiopia to identify Tigray with its sons who paid the ultimate price in the fight against past dictatorship, not just but few thieves who looted the country in the name of Tigray. ( Chairman Debretsion wearing a hat with Meles’ picture might be his way of sending subtle message but that hat has been common tradition within TPLF/Tigray gathering since the passing of Meles). Expecting support for the reform to be expressed only in waving the PM’s pictures and repeating his words is not correct. One can support the reform agenda without being a fan of the leadership.

– Many people carried slogans in defense of the federal system. This is understandable given the emergence of loud anti-federal voices and the ambiguous position of the prime minister. Generally there is feeling of uncertainty about the direction of this transition across the country. It should be a surprise if this uncertainty has reached a level insecurity in Tigray for the obvious reason. What is needed trying to listen to them and reassure them that trying to discredit their concerns.

-Debretsion apparently said ‘we either live together by respecting each other or we will fall apart.’ Some took this as if he was threatening secession. He is not. This a statement many leaders from different region have said before and it is meant to encourage tolerance by indicating the alternative is disastrous.

Therefore, we should not over analyze or condemn this rally. The people of Mekele used their new found freedom to express their support and concern like any other region. Their voice shall not and cannot be silenced.

My concern is not the rally or what was expressed there. My worry is Mekele has become a refugee for military, intelligence and political figures who have been removed from federal post. Almost all of the officials who resigned or fired left Finfinne and staying at hotels in Mekele. The federal authorities appear to suspect them of gathering to conspire against the center. Debretsion himself alluded to this in a speech at conference held in Mekele recently. Therefore, unless solutions are found to ensure Mekele does not become a staging ground for those displeased with the ongoing change, Finfinne and Mekele could be heading to collusion course. What should be done?

– The federal government should try to reassure these officials that they they will not be targeted by just being Finfinne. Any action should be done through the legal process and should not be political motivated.

– While the Tigray regional government cannot prevent these former officials from residing in Mekele, they must be clearly told that the state will not shield them against legitimate legal action by the federal authorities and they will be handed over if there is warrant for their arrest. Moreover Debretsion needs to make it clear that they cannot use the region as staging ground for undermining federal authority.

– TPLF and OPDO/ANDM need to engage in backdoor talks and negotiations to defuse the tension and reduce the visible insecurity being felt by TPLFites. The PM and other officials should be careful with their choice of words and narrative in describing the deposed officials. ( He has been toning down in recent weeks which is good). These parties need to contain war of words among their cadres on media. Unrestrained social media attacks particularly by individuals officially affiliated with the parties is exacerbating tension. Cool it off.

Bottom line. TPLF officials should accept reality that they have lost political domination and they will not regain it. Attempt to derail the transition will not lead to bringing back the old days but makes them loose even more and endanger the country. OPDO/ANDM should also act like a benevolent winners rather than threatening and beating an already defeated adversary. Cornering a wounded beast usually pushes it the the desperate and extreme end.

Lets hope and pray for the best.

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