Ethiopia’s House of Federation approved, on Saturday, the formation of an interim government for the country’s northern Tigray region, amid conflict between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the region’s local authorities.
The parliament also allowed the federal government to intervene in the region, in accordance with Article 62 of the country’s constitution, and dissolved Tigray’s legislative and executive council.
According to a statement by the Ethiopian parliament, a temporary administration will be established in the region until legislative and federal elections are held later.
Last week, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered for a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), after an army base was taken over by the front’s forces. The attack resulted in many killings, injuries and damage to property, according to the Ethiopian government’s statement.
In media statements on Monday, Tigray region President Debrestion Gebremichael said that the federal government was planning to attack the region as a punishment for it having organised its own election for its regional parliament.
The election for the Tigray regional parliament in September went against the federal government’s decision to postpone all local elections owing to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. As a result, Addis Ababa did not recognise the elections’ results, describing the process as illegal.
Following the attack, the Federal Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency for six months in the Tigray region. It noted that the situation there “has reached a level where it cannot be prevented and controlled through the regular law enforcement mechanism”.
Moreover, the federal authorities have shut down all facilities in the region, including electricity, telephone and internet services.
The TPLF was formerly part of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018, before current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power.
In recent months, however, there have been increasing tensions between the front and Ahmed, with both parties accusing each other of plotting to use military force. The federal parliament’s suggested designation of the TPLF as a terrorist organisation has also escalated the situation.
On Friday, the Ethiopian army continued shelling sites in the region, at a time when Ahmed pledged further air strikes. This came after reports said that the TPLF controlled important federal military sites and weapons.
The fight is concentrated in the north western part of the country, near the borders with Sudan and Eritrea, the latter of which Addis Ababa has accused of supporting the rebellions in Tigray. Asmara denied the Ethiopian accusation.
“The Federal Defense Forces are determined to bring an end to this criminal enterprise with the least possible cost to the civilian population in Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia,” the office of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said in a statement.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for de-escalation in Tigray, and to engage in “an inclusive dialogue to solve any differences through peaceful means”.