Ethiopia: Kilil Tigray – Twisting and Turning

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Ethiopia's trigger happy Tigray region barefoot militia bandits
Ethiopia’s trigger happy Tigray region barefoot militias

By Bereket Kidane,

Once again, Weyane (Ethiopia’s ruling junta) was caught with its pants down. It had been trying to confuse people by spreading rumors that the Sudanese were negotiating to reconcile Ethiopia and Eritrea when in fact there was no such thing going on. Nor is anything like that even remotely possible when sovereign Eritrean territories continue to be illegally occupied. It had tried that public relations gimmick once before. Only this time it substituted the Sudanese for the Qataris, both good friends of Eritrea. 

The Regional State of Tigray, a.k.a Kilil Tigray, seems to be twisting and turning in the wind these days not knowing what to do. It is caught between a rock and a hard place. It is in a very precarious position within the Ethiopian State and feels insecure due to its minority status numerically. It can no longer count on dominating the Ethiopian State politically while disproportionately leveraging its resources. Its political dominance of the Ethiopian State is coming to an end, possibly with the next election.

Uncle Sam (U.S) seems to have realized that TPLF will have to dilute its power and end its stranglehold of Ethiopian politics if the country is going to have any chance of becoming a stable democracy. Tigrayans make up one-twentieth of Ethiopia’s population. It is no longer practical for power to be concentrated in the hands of one small ethnic group, especially in a country that practices ethnic federalism, without causing deep resentment and becoming a sure-fire recipe for future disaster.

Tigrayans feel threatened by the impending dilution of their power and find themselves without good choices.

They have already destroyed their relationship with Eritrea. The 1998-2001 border war was a pretext for erasing Eritrea’s sovereignty and making it a satellite state of Ethiopia, thereby ingratiating the ruling Tigrayan elites to the Amhara by reclaiming Assab port for Ethiopia. The full scale invasion of Eritrea was going to have the added benefit of establishing the TPLF’s ultimate dream of setting-up a Greater Tigray, the holy grail of Weyane since its 1976 manifesto. To that end, TPLF gambled everything it had on the outcome of the full scale invasion of Eritrea only to end up losing all of the contested territory in court and become thoroughly despised by both the Ethiopian and Eritrean people.

Tigray’s ultimate dream is not a secret. It would love to be able to invoke article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution and become an independent state but with what resources? An independent Tigray would be economically bereft. It is not an economically viable entity. Hence, the existential crisis. It feels very insecure of its position within the Ethiopian State but at the same time it is unable to split and go its own way.

Weyane officials have recently taken to emphasizing Tigray’s linguistic ties to Eritrea in an outreach effort but it is proving futile. In fact, Eritreans are repulsed by it. They bought themselves the enmity of the Eritrean people for many years to come when they tried to push Tigray’s borders into Eritrea. A good place for them to start would be by respecting Eritrea’s sovereignty, vacating sovereign Eritrean territories and demarcating the blood-soaked international line.

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