Tigray: Gebremichael and Situation Update

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The northernmost Ethiopian region, Tigray, earlier received a state of emergency declaration. Consequently, the country has found itself with electricity and telecommunication outage. The statement came after Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, sent government troops to neutralize the state.

Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Gebremichael

Debretsion Gebremichael is the leader Of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Tigray’s ruling party, which is on the war front in the battle with Ethiopian federal forces.

His names, Debretsion, meaning Mount Zion, and Gebremichael, meaning servant of Saint Michael, are attributed to his Orthodox Christian family.

Mr. Debretsion is not a newbie in matters of armed resistance. In the ’70s, Mr. Gebremichael quit his studies at the University of Addis Ababa to join the TPLF resistance against the then ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Derg.

He has a good understanding of Tigray owing to the fact that he underwent his military training in the mountainous, rugged terrain of Tigray. After the exercise, his comrade and close friend, Alemayehu Gezahegn, suggested to the TPLF commanders that Mr. Gebremichael be placed in the “technical unit” owing to his considerable technical skills.

“When he was in primary school, he used to collect old batteries, radios, electric equipment, and fix them. When no-one had electric power in our town, he made a lightbulb for himself from scraps,” Mr. Gezahegn recalled.

In the technical unit, Mr. Debretson could eavesdrop on the Ethiopian army and jam their radio. This gave them the advantage of developing relevant intelligence information that helped the TPLF freedom fighters win with ease.

Mr. Debretsion later traveled to Italy on a fake passport to improve his skills. Upon returning, he set up TPLF’s first radio station, Dimtsi Weyane, which translates to Voice of Revolution.

Dimtsi Weyane, now part of a multiplatform media based in Tigray’s capital, Makelle, is currently broadcasting TPLFs statements regarding its recent military battle with the federal forces.

Vicious criticism against Mr. Abiy was broadcasted by the media platform, leading to its signal jamming at the conflict’s onset. However, it came back on air the following day.

The rift

The defeat by Mr. Abiy in the 2018 elections appears to be what has caused the rift between the two. Speaking to the UK-based Financial Times newspaper in 2019, Mr. Debretsion indicated the fallout.

“I told him: ‘You are immature. You are not the right candidate’,” Mr. Debretsion said.

Earlier, Mr. Abiy and Mr. Debretsion had shown comradeship between themselves through the diplomatic issues they attended to together.

The recent attempt by Mr. Abiy to set up a new administration in Tigray further led to the current war escalation.

Situation Update in Tigray

In what seems as “erasing of TPLF administration,” civil servants are arriving from the neighboring Amhara region to assume administration of the conquered Tigrayan towns, according to AFP journalists.

Amhara’s Special Forces have assumed security provision in the west instead of the federal soldiers.

The Amharic presence is predicted to spread fear of occupation among the Tigrayans, who have continuously had land-related conflicts. This may trigger the Tigrayans once more.

Intense fighting has since drifted eastwards, to the mountainous regions and towards Makele, the regional capital.

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