News Analysis: Tigray Interim admin. deputy speaks of ‘deliberate’ attempts to prevent farming; says every part of the region affected by war

Abebe Gebrehiwot, the Deputy head of the Tigray Interim Administration. Picture: Tigray TV

By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane

Addis Ababa, May 12, 2021 – Abebe Gebrehiwot, the Deputy head of the Tigray interim Administration gave an interview to the state run media Tigray TV which was run on May, 10, 2021. In the interview he discussed a range of issues related to the unfolding humamatriant crisi in Tigray, these ranged from problems facing the agriculture sector, the IDP situation, issues related to territorial disputes and the region’s flag and the nature of the humanitarian response to the crisis in Tigray. 

Agriculture sector 

The deputy head discussed the issues facing the agriculture sector and projected a devastating effect if farmers miss this rainy season. Abebe explained that there is a need  to focus on the agriculture sector that requires seed, fertilizers and cultivation and land preparation equipment. According to Abebe the administration is working to secure tractors that would enable it to cultivate around 15,000 hectares of land through initiatives that involve the youth. He explained that public support is required to achieve agricultural goals, he said “If the people, the youth couldn’t support us on this and if the farmer could not benefit from this rainy season, it will leave Tigray in a condition that will make it difficult to survive.”

Discussing the issue of seeds needed for agriculture, he said “Thankfully, Oromia regional state has donated 5,000 quintals of seed, while USAID provided 22,000 quintals. The World Bank is assisting and Acacia Transport Agency will cover the rest” 

On the question of fertilizers he explained that the needed amount will be secured via a loan a loan but he said, “We have less than a month’s time to  the start  of farming season and if we are not supporting each other,  we may face problems with the distribution of fertilizers similar to  food aid distribution.” 

“Sadly, this campaign came from some irresponsible bodies within the law enforcement task force who want to pursue their personal interest.”

Abebe Gebrehiwot, Deputy Head Tigray Interim Administration

The deputy head pointed out that anti-farming campaigns are becoming another challenge to Tigray farmers and agriculture. Abebe Gebrehiwot, Deputy Head of the Tigray Interim Administration, in a recent interview on Tigray TV revealed that especially in areas of the Shire, Temben and Hawzen corridor, there are bodies emerging who prohibit farming and claim the areas. “Sadly, this campaign came from some irresponsible bodies within the law enforcement task force who want to pursue their personal interest,” said Abebe. 

News Analysis: Tigray Interim Agriculture & Development bureau head warns against looming starvation in the years to come

Abebe further explained that they had to go through an intense situation while transporting seed aid for farmers as passage was denied on its route around Qobo before resolving the issue.

The deputy head explained that if the farmer is prevented from farming, and seeds are not being delivered due to denial of passage, the result is going to be hunger. “These two incidents that looked to supplement each other have no other message than to let Tigray people die of hunger,” he said. He also pointed tha large farmlands in Humera and Raya should have been cultivated but the situation in these areas coupled with blockage of seed transport are aggravating the problems.  

The deputy head of the interim administration concluded by underlining the importance of supporting each other to overcome problems the  people of Tigray are facing by standing in solidarity with Tigrayans regardless of any political differences. This he said, “ Will help farmers make use of the rainy season.”

IDP Situation 

During the 22 minutes interview aired through the state-run TV, he described the IDP situation in Tigray and its consequences pointing that the IDP situation came following the onset of the war or the conflict leading to a huge influx of IDPs to flood in from different parts of the country.

According to Abebe, areas serving as hosting centers for the IDPs include Shire, Axum, Adwa, Abiy Adi, Adigrat and Mekelle, he also explained that the entire region is inflicted with an IDP situation. “Starting from West to Central Tigray, to the outskirts of Mekelle, Samre, Neqsege, Wajirat, Ofla and it extends to areas of Chercher. When we go up to Alitena, Atsbi and around Hawzen. This means that wherever a fight took place, people were displaced,” he said. He explained that displacement is created deliberately, causing people to displace into towns on the intent of saving their lives,  “Looking at the timeline of the conflict, it created displacement of people by placing emotional attack on the people leading to huge fear and frustration that created displacement,” 

“This means there are efforts to make the situation become beyond the capacity of the interim administration.”

Abebe Gebrehiwot

According to Abebe another alarming issue that needs attention, is the West Tigray IDPs situation that looks deliberate to grab the administration’s attention and distract its work. He explained that it is an agenda in which people are forcefully displaced from places where they resided for centuries. He said, “The IDPs we visited sheltered in schools included children that were injured.” He continued by explaining that the capacity of IDP hosting centers have exceeded its intended numbers, “In Shire hosting IDPs have exceeded our capacity while they keep flooding the streets,” he continues, “This means there are efforts to make the situation become beyond the capacity of the interim administration.” He expressed concerns that with the onset of the rainy season, the IDP population is prone to dangerous infections such as cholera and other water borne diseases.

According to Abebe, displacement cases have become a general issue of Tigray and based on current projections, 1.7 – 2.1 million people are estimated to have been displaced. He concluded this segment of the interview by highlighting the role the people of Tigray are playing to support each other despite the situation in the region, he also expressed disappointment at the IDP situation in Southern Tigray, one of the areas less affected, “Surprisingly, South Tigray, which is considered better, now have an IDP problem, around Michew, Adi Shoho.” 

Response to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray 

Discussing the international and local response to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Tigray, the deputy head of the interim administration said, “The international community must respond to this situation and it should be known that the Tigray people especially from the West Tigray are being displaced deliberately,” He continued, “What is worse than that is our knowledge that elderly monks are also being evacuated from the Waldeba monastery forcing them to undertake trips Shire and Mai Tsebri areas.” He complained that the political process in the region has fallen short of its responsibilities..

The Deputy Head said while speaking on pressure from unspecified groups,”The interim administration is deliberately being tasked with agendas and being forced to focus only on IDPs issue, while ignoring the public services sector or weakening the sector,” he continued, “We want the people of Tigray to understand the obstacles the interim administration is facing.” 

According to Abebe, the interim administration mandate is to execute administrative issues, to initiate a process to build peace and ensure stability, to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid and to restore a functional government in the region. He again emphasized on the importance of the people’s support, he said, “Pressure comes first from the ongoing conflict and the security apparatus engaging in guerrilla warfare in almost all woredas. This ongoing fighting resulted in the displacement of a lot of people.” He also highlighted efforts by the interim administration  in setting up shelters for IDPs sheltered to enable commencement of school. However, he explained that in Shire, with the IDPs population reaching 400,000, providing adequate shelter became difficult and he highlighted efforts done with the help of USAID to set up temporary shelters to accommodate at least 80,000 IDPs. 

The deputy head complained about the humanitarian response and said, “The humanitarian response in general is not that strong,” However, he pointed that Samaritan’s Purse and IOM have provided shelter while also highlighting the USAID support, including with food aid for 3.8 million people. He also highlighted the role of other aid organizations like Save the Children and CRS .

He concluded in regard to the response to the humanitarian crisis , “Proportionate to the situation in Tigray responses are very minimal, for example the response for the IDPs situation stands at 15%. For this reason, we are working to divert 258 million ETB from an earlier Safety Net program shifted to address the question of IDPs  and it is being done also in collaboration with the World Bank.”

West Tigray border dispute 

In connection to the West Tigray territorial issues, the Deputy Head explained that the Federal government is constitutionally mandated to resolve such issues and highlighted that there were efforts by the Federal government to address this issue. He said answering questions related to the issue, “The decisions are known, the aggressors have been repeatedly told to retreat but execution is lagging due to the incompletion of the ‘law enforcement operation’ and other important tasks that need immediate attention.” He again underlined that the interim administration is only responsible to administer.

“If anyone is to decide on the flag it must be the people. This flag represents Tigray and its people, not TPLF  and no one can lecture us about our flag and its history.”

Abebe Gebrehiwot

Tigray’s Regional Flag 

The Deputy Head in relation to the official flag of Tigray being considered by some as TPLF flag explained that despite change in the administration, Tigray is part of Ethiopia and entitled to choose a flag that represented Tigray and its people, He explained that the current flag was earned through endless sacrifices by the people of Tigray. The deputy head said, “If anyone is to decide on the flag it must be the people. This flag represents Tigray and its people, not TPLF  and no one can lecture us about our flag and its history.”

Earlier this year, The interim administration Agricultural development bureau head Abadi Girmay (PhD) discussed in an interview the need for the commencement of farming Tigray by the beginning of this rainy season and warned that there would be “unprecedented danger” in the next 3 to 4 years if the agricultural sector does not recover. He also detailed damage caused by the war in the region to the agricultural sector, the challenges faced by farmers and the current agricultural activities in the region and the efforts the administration is trying to mitigate the danger Tigray is facing in regard to food security. AS

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