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Abiy Ahmed tells TPLF “if you repress in Tigray, demand not democracy in Addis Ababa”

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed offered TPLF to come forward for a live or discreet discussion but the offer is not without a warning. If you repress in Tigray, you can not demand democracy in Addis Ababa – is his key message.

PM Abiy Ahmed and Addis Alem Balema

Sunday May 3, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about a political complication to Ethiopia. It is now clear that the election can not take place in August 2020 as scheduled before.

The Ethiopian Parliament has approved on Thursday Ethiopia’s Electoral Board’s decision to postpone the election The problem is that the government could lose legitimacy as the parliament’s terms should end at the end of September 2020.

Ethiopian government still has four legal playing cards to constitutionally arrange an election outside of the constitutional timeframe for election. But all the options do not seem to be an easy fix – perhaps the reason why the government has found it necessary to continue to engage the opposition.

On Thursday, April 30, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had a meeting with opposition parties in the country but the exchange with Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the leader of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) had a different tone.

Addis Alem Balema (Ph.D.), former deputy president of Tigray regional state, represented TPLF during the meeting. Most of the TPLF leaders are now confined in Mekelle, Tigray after they lost dominance over the Federal government, and are not comfortable to show up in Addis Ababa as many of them fear that they might get arrested. 

“We are attending this meeting in consideration of our respect for the institutions in the country, and because of the challenging situation [in the country],” Addis Alem Balema said. he implicit message is, “we do not respect you Abiy!.” One TPLF general said last week, “We used to laugh at Abiy Ahmed when he said that he wants to be the prime minister.”

Mr. Addis Alem Baleme went on to criticize Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government in connection with the election. “Government was working half-heartedly on the next election. Now the Coronavirus complicated it,” he said.  Moreover, he criticized Abiy Ahmed’s administration that the rule of law in the country is, in his words, messy.

Concerning the step to be taken to address the situation, he said: “My party believes that the measures to be taken[about election] need to ensure the rights of nations and nationalities, and foster the federal system.”  Consultation has to continue and the upcoming election has to be free, fair, and credible (In the last election TPLF claimed that it won all the parliamentary seats.)

“If Prosperity Party dares to lead the election [process] on its own and take it, the result will be bad,” Addis Alem warned Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, with a smiling face. He also added that the process has to be democratic and inclusive, and done in consultation with the opposition.

Abiy Ahmed rebutted TPLF’s argument in connection with the election. “Our position was that the election should take place. We had neither interest or belief that the election should take place,” Abiy Ahmed said. And he pointed out that the COVID 19 changed the situation.

 Then Abiy Ahmed reminded the TPLF rep as to what TPLF did to leaders of opposition parties – trying to portray that his government is much better than what its predecessor.

Yet, he offered TPLF  an opportunity to discuss with the government if there is anything that they think the government is doing wrongly. We can discuss it live (in a way accessible to the media)  or discreetly. But the offer came with a warning from the Prime Minister. “Practice democracy on your turf. You can not repress in Tigray and demand a free and open forum in the Federal government,” he warned after referring that opposition parties in the Tigray region are unable to operate freely to carry out their political works. PM Abiy Ahmed went further to claim that the country is facing possible war over its sovereignty and pointed out that some are working with enemy forces.  He called them banda.

The meeting between the government and the opposition was a point of discussion among Ethiopians. Some say the country is facing a constitutional crisis. Others say Abiy Ahmed’s government is trying to maintain the legitimacy of his government until the next election but there is no guarantee if the next election is going to be free and fair.

The meeting on Tuesday brought to the fore the political struggle between TPLF and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Mesfin Aman is a political analyst with political science academic background at Addis Ababa University. He was also during the 2005 Ethiopian election as a member of CUD. He told Borkena that “Prime Minister Abiy is trying to engage the opposition to make them change their position in regards to a transitional government. He doesn’t want a transitional government”?

And “TPLF wants to use every opportunity to regain dominance. If that is not possible, to destabilize the country,” he said.


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