Two Arena Party leaders, Amdom Gebreselassie and Haftay Gebrerufael, had a long interview with Bekalu Alamrew of Awlo Media. Amdom was Deputy Head of communication affairs in the interim Tigray admin until he was recently fired for speaking about the situation in Tigray. Haftay was based in Addis Abeba. The interview reveals a lot about the situation in Tigray, and the rivalry in the prosperity party. We summarize the main points here.
What is the situation in Tigray?
Amdom said Tigray is in an extremely dire condition. Many actors are taking part in the war. More than a million people have been displaced, properties destroyed, civilians massacred, women raped. War is still raging.
Who is the war on Tigray fought with?
Haftay said the reform failed and it eventually targeted Tigrayans. Even outside Tigray, Tigtayans from maid to high-profile professionals have been subjected for ethnic profiling and firing. Haftay said Arena Tigray members in Addis have been targeted and fired because they are Tigrayans. Haftay said the war is now with the people of Tigray. Amdom also said the war was indeed with the people of Tigray. “We did not expect the war would target the people of Tigray”, said Amdom. The two said they agree with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s recent assessment that the TPLF has been decimated, but war is raging. They ask who is the war with then? It is with the people of Tigray. Both said that it has become a people’s struggle for survival, and the many people whose family members have been raped, maimed, killed and massacred are joining the struggle en-mass. The interviewees said that since there is no difference whether one joins the struggle or not (people are killed anyways), the people have chosen to die fighting.
About Looting and Aid
Amdom said efforts have been made to provide aid to the 4.5 million people in need of aid, but it is not like what the government claims. Haftay said talk of aid being delivered to Tigrayans is wrong. The people are not getting aid. Obstacles are:
- Eritrea army presence which not only obstructs aid delivery, but also diverts aid and medicine to Eritrea. Haftay said that the Eritrean troops have even snatched food aid from the people’s hands in Adigrat.
- Looting and taking to Amhara (Wollo and Gondar).
- Administrative problems
- Not enough aid
- Looting in Tigray
- Obstruction by federal command post generals including refusing to accompany aid conveys
- Federal government bureaucracy and rivalry between the Oromo and Amhara PP wings who compete to control the Tigray interim admin.
Amdom said the interim Tigray admin complained to the federal government about the command post generals’s obstruction of aid delivery. He said “we realized it is the PP in the federal government that is alsi a problem. They don’t want the interim Tigray government to serve the Tigray people. Amhara and Oromo PP wings compete to control Tigray interim admin. Those of us that opposed such interference and said Tigray must be respected were accused of being ‘junta’ and selected for firing. They want us to be their servants, to say later as they did before ‘we were just servants’. Amhara PP wants a Tigray admin that accepts the annexation of western and southern Tigray by Amhara. And indeed, there are people in the interim gov that accept Amhara’s annexation.”
Amdom on his firing
“We joined the interim admin as individuals, not as parties. First. we started telling the truth on the ground. That was a problem. Second, Arena had a press release. PP got angry and they called us, told us why we say we are not PP. I gave interview to media and PP said we were undermining them. Then came March 8. We asked women [from the Bureau of Tigray women’s affair] to visit raped women in Ayder and to hear their stories. Then the interim admin prevented them saying such act would expose us [the interim admin]. But I gave a speech saying that rape is a crime and that perpetrators need to be held accountable. This was, apparently a crime, as Dr. Mulu told me later.
“Third, international Media came and it was said that they caused huge damage by exposing us [the interim admin]. Then it was said that efforts must be made to rectify that. I together with another man from the defence forces was assigned to coordinate for journalists to visit Hawelti school where IDPs are staying. Journalists had badges and people saw one was from UAE. Then they said your country bombarded us with drones causing all the damage on us, and you cannot report on our pain. He stayed, and the other media crew went in. When they were interviewing, women started crying. And the cameramen focused their cameras on them. The colleague of mine from the ENDF tried to stop them, but the journalists refused saying he was not to decide what they should film. Also the people got angry. We could not bring order. Then we said ‘do whatever you want, but we don’t want disorder’. I was accused of causing image damage by letting this happen. They want us to lie. Another evidence against me is Arena’s statements. Alula Habteab, Head of the Bureau of Construction, Road and Transport, was also fired for telling the truth. He spoke about the looting of cars and machineries. We are also fired to scare others from speaking the truth. Dr. Mulu told us it was federal media committee (led by Daniel Kibret and Redwan Hussien) that decided to fire us.”
On the Scale of Destruction
The two interviewees said Tigray outside Mekelle has been totally destroyed. From spoons to factories and universities. EFFORT companies, universities, factories, construction machineries have been looted and taken to Eritrea and Amhara. Crops have been looted and distributed in Gondar.
Amdom said that the federal government has so far spent a total of 41 billion Birr for the war on Tigray, and Tigray’s destroyed wealth has been estimated by the interim admin to be 130 billion Birr.
On the way forward
The two said only inclusive dialog can solve the crisis. They stressed that war wont solve it. Asked about who can sit for negotiation on the Tigray side, they replied everyone including the forces that are fighting, civil societies, political parties and anyone who is concerned. They stressed Tigrayans need to be compensated for the destruction and that Amhara and Eritrean forces must leave Tigray. They also said a national dialogue is needed for Ethiopia to move forward.