News / Africa

    Tigray, a 'Battleground State' in Ethiopian Elections

    Ethiopian PM and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) chairman Meles Zenawi, center (File Photo)
    Ethiopian PM and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) chairman Meles Zenawi, center (File Photo)

    Ethiopia's sparsely-populated Tigray region is shaping up as the focal point for the May 23rd elections for parliament. Tigray contributes only 6 percent of Ethiopia's 80 million people. But, it could hold the key to the country's political future.

    Tigray might well be called Ethiopia's battleground state, in more ways than one.

    A homegrown rebel group, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF, waged a guerrilla war in the 1970s and 80s that toppled the country's Soviet-backed military regime. During the war, Tigray was the epicenter of a famine that killed as many as a million people. It was also the front-line state in a war against Eritrea from 1998-2000, which claimed another 70,000 lives.

    Today, the TPLF's leaders are Ethiopia's leaders. They comprise the core of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), starting with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

    But with elections 2.5 weeks away, Tigray is again a battleground. After 19 years in power, the ruling party is facing its first significant electoral challenge in its stronghold. Moreover, it is a challenge from within, led by members of a breakaway TPLF faction.

    The opposition's attack is aimed at two sensitive and emotional issues: the concept of Revolutionary Democracy that is the heart of the ruling party's ideology; and the troubled relationship with neighboring Eritrea.

    Opposition spokesman and candidate for Tigray's regional parliament, Berhanu Berhe, calls Revolutionary Democracy a Marxist-Leninist recipe for a one-party dictatorship.

    "Revolutionary Democracy is an ideology that categorizes society into class. Then some of the classes are enemies, the others are friends," said Berhe. "That is class analysis. And this class analysis is basically Leninist policy. Then this policy will crush the enemies using the friendly classes, and this does not work. The failure of the Soviet Union was this."

    Aregash Adane was one of the TPLF's top women fighters during what is known as the 'armed struggle'. She is the opposition candidate challenging Prime Minister Meles.

    Aregash once shared the dream of a revolutionary democratic state bringing justice and economic development to Ethiopia. She says 19 years of bitter experience has shown otherwise.

    "We have to learn from our experiences. This is not a short period. And I do not think this Revolutionary Democracy will bring basic change in our country," she said. "It has proved a failure. Do we have to stay another 19 years to understand there is a failure in our country by the leadership of Revolutionary Democracy."

    Criticism of Revolutionary Democracy infuriates ruling party officials. They call talk of dictatorship a 'ridiculous allegation' for which opposition leaders may be called to account after the election.

    TPLF political chief, Tedros Hagos, says the question of who is right and who is wrong will be decided by voters.

    "They have to prove why EPRDF is a dictatorship. It is an elected party. Ultimately, who's going to judge whether this government is a dictator or not is the people," said Tedros.

    Tedros accuses opposition groups of making outrageous allegations to whip up passions among their supporters.

    "They think allegation is a campaign tactic for their ultimate strategy, a strategy to instigate violence," said Tedros. "To remove the EPRDF through street violence."

    Opposition leaders categorically deny favoring violence. They say any outbreak would be a setback to their strategy of building a strong base in the ruling party's back yard.

    The ruling party has pledged to keep the peace, and authorities have invested in riot gear they hope will quell any threat to public order.

    Nevertheless, a drive across Tigray revealed clear evidence of rising tensions. Virtually every opposition campaign poster had been torn or defaced, even in areas considered opposition strongholds.

    A few scattered incidents of violence have been reported, one of them fatal. But police say they are prepared to prevent the kinds of protests the ended in violence following the last national election in 2005.

    Tigray is again a battleground, but as in the past, the TPLF is expected to emerge victorious. Given its near total control of the government, experts say the region's ruling party could sweep the boards.

    The opposition is hoping it can awaken a sleeping giant of anti-government sentiment. But even its staunchest supporters understand this struggle is about building for the future. They may dream, but the most they can realistically hope for is to live to fight another day.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora