The chairman of the Tigray party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has described recent arrests of senior military officials as being politically motivated and implemented along ethnic lines.
Debretsion Gebremichael, chairman of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accused prime minister Abiy Ahmed of conducting ethnic profiling in the name of fighting corruption.
He said the arrests of more than 60 senior military and intelligence officers in recent weeks was an attack on ethnic Tigrayans, a group that has long held disproportionate power in government and the security services.
While they should have gone after an individual, they went after an ethnic group and a party.
“The arrests… targeting individuals accused of corruption and human rights has veered from course and is being used to bring Tigrayan people to their knees,” Debretsion claimed.
The TPLF was a founding member of the long-ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in which Tigrayans have traditionally held the reins of power, despite accounting for only around six percent of the population.
“We do not compromise on the issue of rule of law, all of us should be accountable for our actions, but the mass arrests should not be used as a cover for political aims,” Debretsion warned.
Tigray’s resistance to Abiy
The appointment of Abiy, an Oromo, in April and his breakneck implementation of reforms has loosened the Tigrayan grip on government, stirring resentment in some quarters.
Debretsion claimed to discern “a hand of a foreign country” in the arrests, without naming the state he was referring to.
“There is a foreign involvement in the process. Thus, it is unacceptable,” he said, without giving further details.
Among those so far arrested are a former deputy spy chief and the former head of the military-owned Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC).
“While Kinfe was arrested peacefully, they tied him handcuffs. This is a political attack,” Debretsion told a news conference.
“While they should have gone after an individual, they went after an ethnic group and a party,” he said in comments aired by Dimtsi Woyane TV.