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News: Referendum in Western Tigray not feasible amidst demographic changes, persistent displacement: Tigray interim admin

Getachew Reda, President of the Tigray Interim Administration (Photo: Tigray TV)

Addis Abeba – During a media briefing held yesterday, President Getachew Reda of the Tigray Interim Administration conveyed that the current alteration in the demographic makeup of western Tigray, combined with the persistent displacement of its inhabitants, precludes the feasibility of conducting a referendum.

Getachew’s statement came after the conclusion of a meeting led by him and consisting the top leadership of the interim administration, along with senior officials of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), engaging in discussions with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his cabinet.

It took place in Addis Abeba in the backdrop of a series of accusations and counter accusations between the two sides concerning the full implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA), in particular the unresolved status of Western Tigray, and the response to the ongoing severe drought that is claiming the lives of hundreds in the Tigray region.

The two sides were engaged in assessment reports of the advancement in the implementation of the Pretoria Peace Agreement signed between the federal government and TPLF in November 2022.

“In particular, within the western Tigray area, where a substantial influx of settlers has transpired and federal institutions are actively involved in demographic modifications, the feasibility of conducting a referendum is unattainable,” said Getachew.

It is recalled that the US State Department had determined in 2023 that members of the Amhara forces have “committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray.”

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Despite the Pretoria peace agreement, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and several media reports including by Addis Standard, documented continued ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses and forcible expelling of Tigrayans from Western Tigray.

In his statement to local media last night, Getachew underscored the importance of adhering to the constitutional process as delineated in the Pretoria’s CoHA. He emphasized the requirement specified in the agreement, which mandates the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their respective original locations and ensuring their peace and security.

Responding to reports of allegations by the federal government that the interim administration was “collaborating with forces such as the Eritrean government, as well as with other regional elites, with the objective of undermining the federal government’s authority.” Getachew said that “the foremost agenda for the Tigray people is focused on the restoration of peace, with no alternative objectives beyond the repatriation of internally displaced persons to their homes.”

The other major issues discussed during the meetings is the legal status of the TPLF as apolitical party by the National Election Board has created problems for the activities of the interim administration.

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In January 2021, the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) cancelled TPLF’s legal registration as a political party citing the party;s engagement in “armed violence against the government”; it also prevented TPLF officials from operating on behalf of the party. In the same decision the board had also requested the Federal Attorney General’s office to investigate TPLF’s movable and immovable assets and after the party’s debts were paid off, for its remaining assets to be utilized for civic and voter education programs.

The board had referenced Proclamation number 1162/2019 article 99/3 of the Ethiopian Electoral, Political Parties Registration and Election’s Code of Conduct Proclamation for its decision.

Despite the de-listing on 22 March last year of the TPLF from terrorist designation however, and TPLF’s request to reverse its decision, the electoral board upheld its decision to revoke the legal status of TPLF as a registered party. Tigrayan officials long argued that the decision has left the federal government without a legally recognized counterpart to implement the CoHA.

Getachew has stated that the matter was formally addressed during the meeting with PM Abiy and his cabinet. “The issue will be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice to expedite the resolution of the legal discrepancies associated with the registration process of the TPLF.”

He further indicated that follow up meeting is scheduled for March 2024 with the aim of assessing the progress of the Pretoria Peace Agreement. In addition to the interim administration and the federal government, participants include representatives from the African Union, the United Nations, the United States, and South Africa. AS

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