Policemen in Mekelle have today roughed up and arrested people who took to the streets to call for what they call a radical change.
Prominent leaders of opposition parties and journalists have also been reportedly arrested by Tigray security officers.
Covenant for a radical change
A coalition of three opposition parties – Tigray Independence Party, Salsay Weyane Tigray, and National Congress of Greater Tigray – on August 30 wrote a letter to the Tigray interim administration to notify it that they would hold a protest in Mekelle on September 7.
The letter stated that the protest – themed “a covenant for a radical change” – would be the first of its kind and would call for radical change in Tigray politics.
The Tigray administration promptly replied saying that although it agreed with the principle of protest, it wouldn’t be able to provide security as the police would be overstretched owing to the fact that the date chosen was around the eve of new year’s celebrations.
The opposition parties said it was a deliberate attempt to prevent the protest from happening and said that it would go as planned anyway.
There have been simmering tensions between the two ever since.
In what appears to be an attempt to scare potential protesters off, Tigray security officers had arrested some of the organisers ahead of time. As though to diffuse the tension and mollify potential protesters, the president of the interim administration, Getachew Reda, yesterday appeared on TV to say that the organisers should consider holding a protest another time.
Tension boil over
The government’s determined attempt to quash the protest seems to have partially worked, as it does not appear more than a couple of dozens of people have made it to the protest site. But still, those who have made it appear to have found themselves at the receiving end of police brutality. One of the people who have been beaten up by the police is Zemas Tsigab, an activist and a journalist. Another one is Tedros Belay, an activist and staunch critic of the interim administration. A footage doing the rounds on social media shows policemen beating him up with batons despite him not threatening to be violent. Makda Akelom, who says she was at the site of the protest, said she too was roughed up by the police and has posted a picture with a bruised leg.
The opposition parties have been saying that the interim administration has failed to deliver on any of its promises, from returning Tigrayan territories under the forceful occupation of Amhara and Eritrean forces to reining in on the deteriorating law and order. They attribute the alleged failure to a corrupt and paralysed political system. They having been calling on people to take to the streets to bring about what they call a radical change. Today’s protest was a part of that effort.