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Ethiopia: 15 arrests in Tigray before a local opposition demonstration

Ethiopia: 15 arrests in Tigray before a local opposition demonstration
Tigrayans gather to see Tigray's president Debretsion Gebremichael speaking in   -  
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Around fifteen members of the opposition in Tigray were arrested on the eve of a planned demonstration against the “autocratic character” of the TPLF, the ruling party in this region of northern Ethiopia, which has just emerged from conflict, an opposition leader announced on Wednesday.

"Sixteen people have been arrested since yesterday, including the three presidents of the three parties" organizers of the demonstration - Salsay Weyane Tigray (SaWeT), the Party for the Independence of Tigray and Baytona - Hailu told AFP by telephone Kebede, a SaWeT leader, said the three presidents were finally released on Wednesday.

The presidents were arrested along with party activists and employees as they called for demonstrations from vehicles equipped with loudspeakers, equipment which was confiscated, he said.

These three parties announced at the end of August the formation of an "Alliance for radical change" in Tigray and the organization on September 7 of a demonstration in Mekele, the regional capital, denouncing in particular "the incompetence of the TPLF" and its “ autocratic character”.

They claim that the Mekele municipality - run by the TPLF - refused to authorize the demonstration, citing the lack of available security forces in the run-up to the Ethiopian New Year on September 12.

“The TPLF does not want other voices to be heard (...) it does not want the international community to see an alternative” to the TPLF “in Tigray,” declared Mr. Hailu, assuring that “the demonstration will take place”.

"We only need to inform the authorities, we don't need authorization (...) it's the law."

Hegemonic in Tigray, the TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front) also led the ruling coalition in Ethiopia for 27 years with an iron fist, until the arrival of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018 at the head. of the federal government, against which he took up arms at the end of 2020.

The two years of conflict have triggered a humanitarian catastrophe in this region of six million inhabitants (5% of the Ethiopian population).

Since a peace agreement in November 2022, the TPLF has renewed the region's interim administration (IRA).

“A popular and democratic government”, “Enough of the one-party system”, “the TPLF regime must be replaced”, are some of the 38 slogans of the demonstration communicated by the organizers.

Others are calling in particular for the liberation of areas of Tigray occupied by militias from neighboring regions or the resumption of the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray, suspended since May due to massive diversions, a decision subsequently extended to the whole of Ethiopia.

“This is not a demonstration to blame a single actor for the problems in Tigray,” Mr. Hailu continued, “everyone has a responsibility, the IRA, the federal government, the international community.”

An IRA spokesperson did not respond to a message from AFP.

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