Date: Wednesday, 09 January 2019
Defense Force contingent is detained in Tigray again ; this time in Shire. Convoys ordered to park at the stadium in the city.
A contingent of Ethiopian Defense force was blocked in Shire, Tigray, today as it was trying to move away from the region. Residents of the town blocked streets with big rocks and a number of Ethiopian Defense force convoys were made to enter the town’s stadium.
While the soldiers were moving with orders from Ethiopian government, and while it was residents, allegedly, of Shire town that blocked the mobility, it remains unclear as to who made the arrangement, and/or ordered, for defense force convoys to be parked at the stadium.
It happened for a second time in less than a week. Last week, soldiers and their commanders who were ordered to remove heavy weaponry from Zalambessa, a border town between Ethiopia and Eritrea which was closed by Eritrea on grounds of need to regulate cross border commerce and movement, were blocked.
Despite the blockade, the soldiers were ordered by government not to use force to open up the blockade and government representatives had to hold discussion with residents before the force was allowed to move towards the direction of its destination.
Residents in the region allegedly raised security concerns that Tigray might be attacked if the border is left undefended.
Prime Minister Abiy was asked about it when he had a meeting with teachers from across the country last week. He said people in Tigray have every right to ask what government is doing and Ethiopians would respond if there is any attack against Tigray. But, he continued, it is not right they blocked the mobility of forces as government is the only entity that has an absolute power to move around soldiers on the basis of security and defense needs.
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Defense force, Let. Gen. Berhanu Jula was also asked about the blockade today at the Ethiopian Parliament, where he appeared to present performance report of the defense force.
A parliamentarian used Amharic word with a meaning close to “detainment” to describe the situation of Defense Force incident in Tigray. But the Deputy Chief of Staff was not too happy about it.
“To use the language ‘detain’ is difficult. No one can detain the defense force. It is good to change the language. The people of Tigray did not detain the defense force. However, there is an entity that has been employing fear and concern as a strategy. There is a force that is using the people as a cover to bring about instability. They are not many and I am sure they will be exposed. Until then, we will not do anything that will bring us to a collision course with the people. We better feel bad rather than making the people feel bad.”
He also noted that the action does not have recognition from the regional state of Tigray.
Political pundits in the opposition, and social media activists alike, seem to think that the incident in Zalambessa and Shire is orchestrated by a TPLF faction that lost power in the central government and the objective of organizing blockage of the defense force was to create a serious political tension between people and government.