Calls for unity in Ethiopia’s Tigray as anti-Abiy sentiment swells



In this videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup. PHOTO | HO | ETHIOPIAN TV | AFP

In his cramped studio, Ethiopian reggae singer Solomon Yikunoamlak plucks his guitar and reads over his latest ballad, a strident call for unity in his native Tigray during a time of national upheaval.

It is unusual material for an artist who rose to fame singing love songs, but Solomon expects it will resonate with Tigrayan listeners who have witnessed their authority fade under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leadership.

Since coming to power last year, the 42-year-old leader has loosened controls in long-authoritarian Ethiopia and shaken up decades-old power arrangements, angering some Tigrayans who feel sidelined as other ethnicities jostle for influence.

“Nowadays everybody becomes activists, and everybody becomes politicians,” Solomon told AFP, reflecting on the fevered political climate that has taken hold since Abiy assumed office.

“This is because of the current problems.”



In Mekele, the regional capital, Tigrayans complain they have been scapegoated by the prime minister, who is an ethnic Oromo, for Ethiopia’s woes in recent years.

Anti-Abiy sentiment in Tigray was spotlighted following the killings last month of five high-ranking government and military officials — violence Abiy says was part of a coup attempt in Amhara state, neighbouring Tigray

Two of the victims, including the army chief, were from Tigray, and their funerals in Mekele sparked an outpouring of grief, with some mourners denouncing Abiy as a traitor.

“There is a huge frustration here in Tigray,” said Nebiyu Sehil Mikael, a writer and lecturer at Mekele University.

“There is a sharp opposition against the federal government.”


Yet anger with Abiy was a feature of daily life in Mekele before the June unrest.

Tigrayans grumble of a central government hostile to their interests.

Though they make up just six percent of Ethiopia’s population of 100 million people, Tigrayans were long seen as wielding outsized authority.

After toppling the brutal communist Derg regime in 1991, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front transformed from a rebel movement into the strongest political party of the ruling coalition that remains in charge today.


But the TPLF was undermined by several years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power.

It remains part of the ruling coalition, though it has been weakened further under Abiy.

Tigrayans have been stripped of top positions and in some cases jailed on charges of corruption and human rights violations.

Some of those targeted under Abiy have become Tigrayan heroes.

Clothing vendor Zayid Meles said one of her top sellers these days was a T-shirt declaring “I am Getachew Assefa” — a reference to the powerful Tigrayan former spy chief who Abiy fired last year.

Despite being the target of an arrest warrant, Getachew remains at large and is believed to be hiding somewhere in the region.

Zayid said the T-shirt — which includes a rendering of Getachew’s face shielded by a scarf, hat and sunglasses — is a way of signalling to Abiy that Getachew will never face trial.

“All Tigrayans buy it,” she said. “Getachew is a hero.”

Tigrayan fears for their future override other concerns about the TPLF’s shortcomings in promoting democracy and fighting poverty, said Mahari Yohans, a prominent Tigrayan political commentator.

“The politics of Tigray is the politics of security,” he said. “We are under threat.”


The situation has become so polarised that Tigrayans are increasingly entertaining the idea of secession, said Wondimu Asamnew, a Mekele native and longtime Ethiopian diplomat.

“It’s very sad,” he said. “They have started even to question whether or not they belong to the country.”

Even if secession is a far-fetched prospect, it’s clear the tensions are colouring everything from Tigrayans’ Facebook posts to how they watch football.

Fans of Mekele’s Ethiopian Premier League club, Mekele 70 Enderta F.C., were dismayed earlier this year when supporters of a rival club tore down a poster of Tigrayan former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during a match in Addis Ababa.

The teams’ supporters skirmished again at a follow-up match in Mekele, prompting the Ethiopian Football Federation to temporarily suspend the league.

The TPFL has seized the opportunity to turn support for Mekele 70 Enderta F.C. into a regional cause.

Party officials were on hand Sunday to watch the club win its last match of the season at Mekele Stadium, securing the league championship.

As jubilant fans jammed city squares and set off fireworks late into the night, Twitter posts praised the team for its triumph and for overcoming what one user called a “corrupt” federation that “tried all it could to deny them”.

For some fans in Mekele, though, the politicisation of football was too much.

“The so-called politicians need to focus on their politics,” said Asmelash Nigus. “It would be better if they don’t involve themselves in football.”


  1. አማራ እራሱን ችሎ መቆም አይችልም አቅም የለውም ሁሌ ለፓለቲካው ግብዓት ባላ እንደፈለገ ነው:: አሁን በዚህ ዘፋኝ ሥም ዓብይን መቃወም እና የፓለቲካ allies ለማግኘት ነው ከትግራይ ህዝብ ጋር ኢትዮጵያ የምትለዋን አጉዋጊ ስም እያነሱ::
    ጉራ ባይኖር እና የእራስን ሀቅ ይዛቹ ብትቀርቡ እንዲህ ጅላል አትሆኑም ነበር:: በቃ የፓለቲካ ጫዋታው የራስን አቅም ይዞ መቀላቀል እንጂ አጉል የበላይነት ሥሜት አይሰራም:: ግዜን ወቅትን ዘመንን ማጤን ግድ ይላል:: እንደ አይጥ ሁሌ በአንድ መንገድ መጉዋዝ ከአይጥ ጉድጉዋድ ውስጥ ብች ነው የሚያደርሰው:: ሁሌም እንደተለመደው መሸምጠጥ አይቻልም ምክንያቱም ሌላ የአበላል ዘዴ አለ ዘመኑን መሠረት ያደረገ:: it’s so imperative taking into consideration the idea of survival of the fittest adopting a new way.

  2. Never, never, never trust Neftegna Amhara again .Ethiopia is now a chaotic place and some may urge the Tigraay state to intervene and bring the situation under control. The way ahead for Tigray is to declare independence and focus on development.
    The tegaru investments in Ethiopia have been moving the country forward but anti-development groups in the Oromo and Amhara regions have destroyed them. Instead of learning from the disciplined and hard working tegaru investors, these groups made uprisings and damaged their own economies. Oromia is on the move. We have all our marbles set in positions. The next few decades is the time when Oromo will emerge as the force to recon with in HOA. We are the larger majority and we will determine our own fate regardless of what others may think or do. The Oromo lions are roaring as we speak. We thank TPLF for being a loyal strategic partner. The Abyssinias are only trying to temporarily derail our march to the eventual Oromia State…the only viable state to be risen out of the ashes of the Neftegna empire.
    Nephtegna are flexible their muscles to destroy everything on their path and they’re in full swing by murdering Tigrean people I mean who is next? As Debretsion said it well the killing is not going to stop it’s only the beginning and if Tplf chose to compromise concerning any territorial issues it’s going to be the political slander ever in history of Tigrean people. I hope Tplf see what world is understanding the situation in Ethiopia. Abiy is paid Arab mercenary and don’t let him fool you when he was crying At murdered generals viewing for that act Abiy deserves academy award. He got lots of things to do with our heroes generals murder. I’m just worried now who is going to get murdered? Please Tplf protect your own hell with Ethiopia, from now on Tigray first. Amara lost God given right to rule Ethiopia for ever, I also understand We have to face the reality and stop lying to ourselves, there are new sheriffs in town ‘Oromo people’. Imagine for thousands years not even having a voice in your own country where you are the majority. Talk about oppression and injustice. One can question the government motives or the way they are ruling the country, but most people are mad or can’t believe that Oromo is in power. It’s time for majority rule and minority rights.

  3. In the recent communique released by the TPLF states that ‘TPLF will be unable to work with ADP. That does not sound good and it is not right. I also heard that the ADP has responded in similar scathing terms. All I can say to these two fools is ‘stop it!!!!’ It once again proves to me that the part of every region is not as healthy as it is wished to be. They are infested by grand-standing connivers and those who are poisoned by bigots. We all know that the TPLF, the organization that was founded for a noble cause, was hijacked by sweet talking ruffians a long time ago.

    After smart alecks managed to expropriate the house the noble people Tigrai built up with blood and sweat, they were able to change those gallant people into their beasts of burden. They don’t allow the slightest criticism. If you do that you will not know what has hit you. It was told that they had gone as far as to slip in doses of lethal poison in meals to eradicate those who showed any signs of dissent. It was also told by one of their former comrades how every resident of that region was(is) left to always look over his shoulders. I did not make this up. I had read it in one of the interviews given by one of their former army commanders. Such is the environment over there as we speak. Just look at what they have done to one of the founders of their organization last week. He was extremely lucky to come out alive. Dare if you speak up! Dare even if you think about joining another group!!! Now is this the act/behavior of the common/woman of Tigray? Absolutely not!!!

    Such environment is not confined to Tigray. It has existed in every region even though they are showing a reform here and a reform there. And all these ruffians and smart alecks are not going anywhere thanks to the ineptness and divisions of the opposition. They have also garnered unprecedented prestige and accumulated unthinkable fortunes to die for. They send their children to prestigious/exclusive schools when a Tigrayan farmer is ravaged by swarming fries and fleas dying from an epidemics of cholera just as that poor farmer/city dweller in other regions. They drive their children to schools in government supplied cars when the child of the poor farmers of Tigray walks on foot for hundreds of miles in hope of making it to the Arabian Peninsula or Europe and losing his life in the process. His/her family doesn’t get the chance to give their son/daughter a dignified burial. I didn’t make this up either. Just ask every top official of every region with school going children which school they are attending or attended. This is how hypocritical these sweet talkers are. Their mentors use to tell ‘Workers of the world unite!!!’ What they meant by that is ‘you just be one and united so you will be strong enough to carry me around with ease’.

    What is very worrisome to me now is the danger of these smart alecks going after each other in full scale wars. The best advice of the day to all of them is to cool it!!!

  4. In addendum….

    All I can say to the leaders of these two noble people is ‘zip it and shut up!’ But in one way, it may be ushering a new era. May be it is a sure thing that the ruling outfit, EPRDF, which has been a den of connivers, bigots and depots is beginning to tatter at its seams. It is high noon for those peace-mongering groups and individuals with iron clad conviction in democratic way of life to come in together and be ready to save the country. These smart aleck ruffians have a lot to lose of unseen prestige and financial fortune that have blinded them completely. They are leading good neighbors on a path of destruction. They are inciting their hapless youth for a bloody conflict. These are know-it-all, stubborn and reckless individuals. Just look at this pissing contest they are involved in. When the time is when everyone must always have thick skin and rather concentrate on working for the good of the people, these irresponsible individuals are slinging insults so vile at each other. It is just sickening.

    Those of you who are fanning a smoldering flame from your comfy homes here in the USA, Europe or Oceania, you must be ashamed of yourself. I wish you were not even born. You are a disgrace to that harmonious and glorious people who produced us all. It is low down dirty shame that you call yourself an Amhara, Oromo, Tigray and even worse an Ethiopia. You are of a sick mind!!!! When I see you spewing poison on the social media and websites among the Diaspora, it makes me wonder if any devil is left in hell. All the devils are here among us slinging pejorative ethnic slurs just because such abhorrent behavior gives you that jolting high.

    That was why I made clear clarion call to owners and editors of various website and forums among us more than once before. Once again, I am kneeling down in front of you, begging you to not let these bigots and destructive individuals rain on their poisonous diatribes on your esteemed websites. That old country has been on the edge, primed and ready to go off. These heinous individuals seem to realize this scary environment over there very well and are having a fit to strike the flint to start it off so they can enjoy watching it go up in flames from the safe distance and their comfy homes here among us. Some of them have clear indications that they are not even from the old country. They are letting their steam off on us for the mess they have created in their own country. Please expunge such evils from your website which should be the waterhole of those who try to say something for the good of humanity. Please! Please! Please!!!!


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